Weird Tales: From Frying Pan to Fire

At the end of the previous episode of Weird Tales: A Sad Decline, publisher John Harlacher had taken down editor Marvin Kaye’s offensive editorial, made an announcement that Revealing Eden would not be excerpted in WT, and said that Kaye was traveling but would “make his own statement shortly”.

Instead of doing so, Kaye is apparently responding directly, and defensively, to subscription cancellation requests. Lisa A. Grabenstetter reprints one such email, which addresses her criticism of Hamlet’s Father (first published in Kaye’s anthology The Ghost Quartet, as longtime Genreville readers will recall from this blow-up last year) as well as Revealing Eden:

Your wishes will be respected; I believe the publisher will handle that, I regret your decision, and can only say that after reading the book, I found it a powerful attack on racism, just the opposite from the charges leveled at it. However, I only recently saw the marketing of this book, and find it in terrible taste; had I seen it, I would not have read the book. As it is, we have decided not to publish the story.

Regarding Scott Card’s story, I did not see any homophobia in it, or I would have objected, but for the record, I did not want to buy anything from him; the publisher, Tor Books, made it clear that if I did not include his story, they would not publish the book at all.


(While the ethics of reprinting personal emails are debatable, I would consider this a corporate response to a business-related request–though obviously Kaye is taking it on himself to inject the personal into the professional–and I see nothing wrong with sharing such a response with the business’s current and potential customers.)

Kaye had previously made similar statements about Tor bearing responsibility for the Card novella, but here he gratuitously takes the additional step of saying he “did not see any homophobia” in a book that has the blatant premise of a gay man molesting boys and turning them gay and/or insane. The homophobia in it is precisely as obvious as the racism in Revealing Eden–which, as Debbie Reese points out in this article, is extensive and continues throughout the book (h/t to Grabenstetter for that link). Kaye also clearly hasn’t read the many comments on Harlacher’s statement asking why there’s all this focus on the marketing materials for Revealing Eden when the book itself is so obviously problematic.

Like many people, I continue to await Kaye’s official public statement, but at this point I’m not really sure why. It doesn’t seem likely that he’s going to realize just how oblivious he is, or how tragic it is that he’s turned a reputable publication into a laughingstock.

8 thoughts on “Weird Tales: From Frying Pan to Fire

  1. Paul Riddell

    Is it just me, or should Marvin’s subsequent career moves be introduced by Johnny Knoxville? I mean, this just BEGS for the addition of Bam Margera and Wee Man kicking each other in the nuts, just to make everything a little less painful to watch.

  2. Saul

    Regardless of how offensive something may be to any person or group of persons, this is the US. Free speech is a right with which we have been blessed. Any publisher can publish what they like (assuming it doesn’t break any slander/libel laws) and the public in-turn can complain if it likes–as evidenced by “outrage” and articles like the above. But trying to bully any view out of the market, or urge apologies out of authors and publishers accomplishes nothing. And is, at best, counter productive to getting other people to consider new ideas, and treat one-another with respect. There is a time to fight, sure, but there is also a time to turn the other cheek and realize that there will always be views and people with which we will strongly disagree. Trying to eliminate those views, or attempting to force those people to recant is foolish and dangerous. Don’t misunderstand me as condoning hateful writings and insensitivity, but even if you do, in the end, I have to support your write to do so.

    1. Rose Fox Post author

      I would entirely disagree that public shaming of offensive views accomplishes nothing. Societal attitudes have changed quite a lot over the years, and that change comes about because people are willing to speak out against bigotry.

      There is a crucial difference between the constitutional right to say and publish what you like, which is a legal matter, and the expectation that no one will criticize what you say or publish, which is a cultural and societal matter. Don’t confuse the two.

      1. BJ

        It’s a grand sweep to equate “public shaming of offensive views” with “willing(ness) to speak out against bigotry”, in the context of changing societal attitudes. Especially as a counter argument to Saul’s valid point that it can be counterproductive. It loses on three levels.

        Firstly, it ignores the psychological phenomenon that strong arguments tend to entrench the already held beliefs of audiences, rather than sway them. Secondly, it moves the arguments away from the need to counter bigotry by edging on, and therefore introducing the element of, personal attack. This decreases the moral highground of the case, creating wriggle-room for the counterview to even claim a moral ground, let alone potentially vexing the centrist who is really your target audience (in view of the fact that they are the most likely to swing towards one or other view).

        Thirdly, it publicizes the book, introducing people from all points of view to it. I, for one, would not have heard about it except for the articles here, so, in that regard, it has been counterproductive because it tempts me to read it (on the basis of not quite believing it could be as bad as you say, and therefore could have a more subtle view of the issue than portrayed here, something that science fiction if famous for). It reminds me of the recent mX Magazine furore over Olympic medal tallies. (How much did the public outrage and shaming reaction to that incident accomplish?)

  3. JMS

    It boggles my mind to think that anyone could read Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden and find it “a powerful attack on racism.”

    Unless Mr. Kaye has taken the “fight fire with fire” analogy to heart, and feels that the best way to attack racism is with big ol’ wodges of racism?

  4. Saul

    To clarify, I mean that it accomplishes nothing in terms of affecting a change of heart in the offending person(s). Which is the societal impact that ultimate we should aspire towards. Changing mindset, not just policy.

    Say there is a man who loves eating rice, he thinks it’s just the greatest food there is. But every time he begins cooking his rice his neighbors shout and cause a fuss. “Your rice stinks!” they say, pretty soon the local super-market won’t sell the man rice anymore. So now he can’t get rice and everyone is happy. Because rice stinks and he shouldn’t be allowed to go on thinking it’s the greatest food there is. Trouble is, he still thinks it’s the greatest food, he’s just censored.

    Forgive me for smudging the line between law and cultural impact. It wasn’t my intention. Merely to point out that regardless of what people are saying, they have a right to express that opinion. Majority opinon on any subject (not just a controversial topic homophobia/pedophilia) doesn’t determine whether or not an idea is morally/socially/culturally right or wrong.

    For all we know, the publications were intended by the author to be offensive and they don’t represent an opinion at all, they could have been a gimmick all along. Maybe all they wanted was a rise out of the audience. As sad as it is, “some men just want to watch the world burn.”

  5. Laer Carroll

    It’s no surprise that he refuses to admit wrong-doing. It’s very hard to do so even to those who love us and are very willing to forgive us. And to do so to a neutral and often-hostile public – unbearable.

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