Tag Archives: QUILTBAG

A Dream Come True

Some kids dreamed of growing up to be dancers or doctors. I dreamed of being an anthology editor. (Not even kidding. I practically had an altar to Terry Carr and Judith Merril.) Now that dream might come true.

The anthology in question is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. As we all know, history is written by the victors, and that includes historical fiction. The goal of this project is to focus on and amplify the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins. What was it like to be a Mayan laborer when the conquistadors showed up? to be a newly freed slave trying to start a business after the U.S. Civil War? to be transgender in Elizabethan England? Stories like these will be told in Long Hidden, each with a speculative twist. We have an incredible group of authors lined up to send us stories, including Beverly Jenkins, Victor LaValle, Tananarive Due, Ken Liu, and Amal El-Mohtar. We’ll also be open to submissions, so if you’re a writer, start thinking about sending us a story!

The publisher is Crossed Genres, a fabulous small press that’s known for taking chances on unclassifiable and niche books that would otherwise never see the light of day. They do this by raising money through Kickstarter; advance fundraising means we can pay the authors well and be confident that there’s a market for the book. Here’s the Kickstarter page for Long Hidden. We’re over two-thirds funded already, which is tremendous for our first weekend and has me really hoping we make a few of our stretch goals, like interior illustrations or an audiobook edition. I’m obsessively refreshing the page like an author checking their Amazon ranking on launch day (which I’m sure I’ll do too when the book is actually published next year).

When I was a kid, people who knew my parents (both novelists) would ask me when–not whether–I was going to write a novel. Many of the PW staff have written books, and a year or two back, someone asked when–not whether–I would do one. But really, I will probably never write a novel. I’m not a writer; I’m an editor. So I’m pleased as punch to find my own editorial way to get my name on a book jacket, especially in service to such a great cause and in the company of such a great people. I really, really, really hope we can make this happen as splendidly as the subject matter deserves.

2012 Nebula Award Finalists

Congratulations to this year’s Nebula Award finalists! Summary of my impressions:

I think this is a very strong ballot overall. I’ve only read a small fraction of the nominated works, but I really liked all the ones I’ve read. I definitely don’t have any immediate “What is THAT doing on an award shortlist?” reactions, which is always nice.

There’s an impressive diversity of sex, race, and sexuality on all the ballots, especially compared to, say, ten years ago. (Warning on that link for a very bright yellow-and-red color scheme.)

Having one’s short fiction available online for free unsurprisingly appears to broaden one’s audience, and the folks at Clarkesworld and Tor.com clearly have their fingers on the pulse of the Nebula-nominating short-fiction-reading crowd. There is not a single story from Analog, ouch. I note that GigaNotoSaurus is the only webzine with a story on the novella ballot; are webzines not publishing novellas, or are they not publishing the sorts of novellas that get award nods, or do readers enjoy or appreciate novellas more in print than online?

Self-published works and small-press novels are nowhere to be found. I’d love to see a small-press, digital-first, and self-publishing revolution on the novel ballot comparable to the recent ascent of webzines on the short fiction ballots. I would be heartened by the appearance of a few stories from small-press anthologies and collections if there were such a thing as a large-press anthology or collection, but there basically isn’t, so I will settle for being heartened that anyone still publishes or reads anthologies and collections.

And now, the list. Linked short fiction titles are shamelessly stolen from John DeNardo’s post at SF Signal (thanks, John!). Book titles link to the PW reviews, where available. Statistics in my notes are to the best of my knowledge, and please do correct me if I’ve gotten anything wrong.

NOVEL

Rose’s notes: Four women. One queer person. One trans person. Two people of color. Four books that got starred PW reviews. Zero self-published books. Zero small-press books. Zero digital-only books.

NOVELLA

Rose’s notes: Two women. Two people of color. Two stand-alone titles, both from small presses. One webzine story. One story from a small-press anthology, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

NOVELETTE

Rose’s notes: Five women. One person of color. Three queer people. Four webzine stories. Two stories from small-press compilations (if you count the “Mammoth” books as small press, which I think I do), one reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

SHORT STORY

Rose’s notes: Five women. Two people of color. Five webzine stories. One story from a small-press collection, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

Viking Says Yes to #YesGayYA Book

Rachel Manija Brown reports that she and Sherwood Smith have sold their post-apocalyptic YA novel Stranger to Sharyn November at Viking, for publication in winter 2014. This is the novel that set off the #YesGayYA storm almost exactly a year ago, when Brown and Smith reported that an agent had offered them representation on the condition that they make their gay protagonist straight or remove all references to his orientation (and his boyfriend). Intriguingly, Brown’s post on the sale makes no mention of an agent–but the sale is certainly proof that major houses are not averse to publishing YA with major non-straight characters, so hopefully the agents who believed the book unreppable will reconsider their approach to similar works.

EDIT: Brown has updated the post to reflect that Eddie Gamarra and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group were the agents for the sale; she says they came on board after Brown and Smith had begun discussions with Viking.

#YesGayYA Winds Down

It’s been ten days since the original “Say Yes to Gay YA” post went up, and a lot has been said and done since then. Probably the best of the wrap-up posts is Cleolinda Jones’s. If you’re attempting to explain the whole conversation to someone who wasn’t in on it from the start, that’s the link to send them.

I also wanted to note a couple of other link lists, one by holyschist and one by qian, that highlight some long, thoughtful posts on QUILTBAG representation in YA and related matters. Once you’ve caught up on the general conversation, take some time to read those posts, especially the ones by oyceter and Alaya Dawn Johnson.

Finally, crucially, Malinda Lo has done an absolutely heroic job of compiling statistics on queer characters in U.S.-published YA fiction. The most depressing stat is the one that’s been quoted a lot elsewhere, but it bears repeating:

Finally, according to Harold Underdown’s YA Books Are Booming–but not That Much, there were approximately 4,000 YA titles published in 2010. That same year, only 11 LGBT YA titles were published. That amounts to 0.2% of YA books. That fraction is frankly too small to make a pie chart out of.

The numbers aren’t much better for this year. If we assume no growth and stick with 4,000 YA titles, we have 25 LGBT YA titles within that, which amounts to 0.6%. That means:

Less than 1% of YA novels have LGBT characters.

So we have our work cut out for us. I hope readers, writers, agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and critics will take a serious look at these numbers and the outpouring of support for YA with QUILTBAG characters, and will collaborate on creating wonderful books featuring queer teens–including books that aren’t “issue books”, including books where those queer teens aren’t white cisgender American boys, including romances with happy endings–and getting them into the hands of anyone and everyone who might appreciate them.

Riposte and Counter-riposte

Monday’s “Say Yes to Gay YA” post contributed to PW‘s highest-ever one-day website traffic. It has been viewed nearly 40,000 times. I am tremendously proud of the conversation we’re having in the comments there and of the many people in the industry who have spoken up in support of authors who write YA with queer protagonists. I hope to see readers and editors voting with their purchasing power as well. Readers especially: the more of these books we buy, the more editors will be able to get approval for buying them and the more agents will be able to afford to rep them.

Speaking of agents, yesterday evening, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of the Nancy Coffey Literary Agency contacted me about posting a rebuttal to the “Say Yes to Gay YA” post. I said I was willing to post it but suggested an alternative to the statement she sent me. After some discussion, she decided to post her rebuttal elsewhere. You can read it in full here, hosted by my friend Colleen Lindsay, one of the staunchest advocates I know for QUILTBAG representation in publishing. A key excerpt:

We had read the manuscript, and had spoken to the authors to learn more about the story. Later, when this article was posted, we discussed in-house how awful it was they’d had to go through this.

Then we got a surprising call from an agent friend who had heard that this article was supposedly about us.

 Initially we thought it was just an unfortunate rumor.

Then the emails started pouring in

Did we know what people were saying about us?

Why were they saying this?

This can’t be true!

Well. It isn’t true.

Let me repeat this: there is nothing in that article concerning our response to their manuscript that is true. [...]

So let’s continue this conversation, and let’s base it on the truth, which is:

There are not enough mainstream books that depict characters of diverse race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and physical and/or mental disabilities.

Changing this starts with the readers. Scott Tracy has a great post about this on his blog. If more people buy books with these elements, then publishers will want to publish more of them. Sounds simple…yet, it’s not so simple.

How do we reach the readers who are looking for these types of books? And more importantly, how do we reach the readers who aren’t specifically looking for them?

We would love to start this conversation. It is one that our agency believes in and feels strongly about. Let’s discuss.

In response, Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown posted the following in their personal blogs:

The unnamed agency in our previous post has chosen to come forward to present their perception of our exchange. We confirm that it was the agency we referred to. We stand by every word we wrote in our original article.

We did not wish to name them, because we preferred to focus on the larger issues. We did not spread rumors about them, and we don’t know who did.

This is why we went public: After the initial exchange a month ago, we spoke in private to a number of other writers, without mentioning the name of the agent or agency. There was an overwhelming response of “Me too!” Many other writers had been asked by agents and editors to alter or remove the minority identity of their characters, sometimes as a condition of representation or sale. Sometimes those identities had been altered by editors without the writers’ knowledge or permission.

That response, and posts like Malinda Lo’s recent statistics make it clear that the problem is much larger than a couple of writers and one specific agency.

We urge you all to continue focusing on the bigger picture.

As comments are open on all of those posts, I am closing them here. (I’m also still moderating a steady stream of comments on the original post, which is about all the comment moderation I’m capable of doing at the moment.) I encourage anyone inclined to comment to keep the larger societal issues here at the forefront, as everyone involved has requested.

And since I see some commenters are already impugning both Genreville and Publishers Weekly (no apostrophe, please), I will add that I do not for a moment regret hosting the original post, any more than I would have regretted hosting the response from Joanna. I am perfectly happy to provide a platform for this conversation and encourage its continuation. In addition, Genreville is hosted by PW, and I am employed by PW, but a blog post is not the same thing as an article or even an op-ed in the magazine. Please don’t conflate them.

Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA

Editor’s note: The text of this post was written by Rachel Manija Brown, author of All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, and Sherwood Smith, author of Crown Duel and a great many other novels for adults and young adults. I am posting it in order to provide a pseudonymity-friendly space for comments from authors who have had similar experiences to the ones that Rachel and Sherwood describe. I strongly encourage all authors, agents, editors, publishers, and readers to contribute to a serious and honest conversation on the value and drawbacks of gatekeeping with regard to minority characters, authors, and readers, and to continue that conversation in all areas of the industry. –Rose


 Say Yes To Gay YA

By Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

We are published authors who co-wrote a post-apocalyptic young adult novel. When we set out to find an agent for it, we expected to get some rejections. But we never expected to be offered representation… on the condition that we make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether.

Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

Rachel replied, “Making a gay character straight is a line in the sand which I will not cross. That is a moral issue. I work with teenagers, and some of them are gay. They never get to read fantasy novels where people like them are the heroes, and that’s not right.”

The agent suggested that perhaps, if the book was very popular and sequels were demanded, Yuki could be revealed to be gay in later books, when readers were already invested in the series.

We knew this was a pie-in-the-sky offer—who knew if there would even be sequels?—and didn’t solve the moral issue. When you refuse to allow major characters in YA novels to be gay, you are telling gay teenagers that they are so utterly horrible that people like them can’t even be allowed to exist in fiction.

LGBTQ teenagers already get told this. They are four times more likely than straight teenagers to attempt suicide. We’re not saying that the absence of LGBTQ teens in YA sf and fantasy novels is the reason for that. But it’s part of the overall social prejudice that does cause that killing despair.

We wrote this novel so that the teenagers we know—some of whom are gay, and many of whom are not white—would be able, for once, to read a fun post-apocalyptic adventure in which they are the heroes. And we were told that such a thing could not be allowed.

After we thanked the agent for their time, declined the offer, and hung up, Sherwood broke the silence. “Do you think the agent missed that Becky and Brisa [supporting characters] are a couple, too? Do they ever actually kiss on-page? No? I’M ADDING A LESBIAN KISS NOW!”

This Is Not About One Bad Apple

This isn’t about that specific agent; we’d gotten other rewrite requests before this one. Previous agents had also offered to take a second look if we did rewrites… including cutting the viewpoint of Yuki, the gay character. We wondered if that was because of his sexual orientation, but since the agents didn’t say it out loud, we could only wonder. (We were also told that it is absolutely unacceptable in YA for a boy to consensually date two girls, but that it would be okay if he was cheating and lying. And we wonder if some agents were put off because none of our POV characters are white.)

We absolutely do not believe that all our rejections were due to prejudice. We know for a fact that some of them weren’t. (An agent did offer us representation, but we ended up passing due to creative differences that had nothing to do with the identities of the characters.)

This isn’t about one agent’s personal feelings about gay people. We don’t know their feelings; they may well be sympathetic in their private life, but regard the removal of gay characters as a marketing issue. The conversation made it clear that the agent thought our book would be an easy sale if we just made that change. But it doesn’t matter if the agent rejected the character because of personal feelings or because of assumptions about the market. What matters is that a gay character would be quite literally written out of his own story.

We are avoiding names because we don’t want this story to be about one agent who spoke more bluntly than others whose objections were more indirectly expressed. Naming names can make it too easy to target a lone “villain,” who can be blamed and scolded until everyone feels that the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with.

Forcing all major characters in YA novels into a straight white mold is a widespread, systemic problem which requires long-term, consistent action.

When we privately discussed our encounter with the agent, we heard from other writers whose prospective agents made altering a character’s minority identity—sexual orientation, race, disability—a condition of representation. But other than Jessica Verday, who refused to change a character’s gender in a short story on an editor’s request, few writers have come forward for fear of being blacklisted.

We sympathize with that fear. But we believe that silence, however well-motivated and reasonable from a marketing point of view, allows the problem to flourish. We hope that others will speak up as well, in whatever manner is safe and comfortable for them.

The overwhelming white straightness of the YA sf and fantasy sections may have little to do with what authors are writing, or even with what editors accept. Perhaps solid manuscripts with LGBTQ protagonists rarely get into mainstream editors’ hands at all, because they are been rejected by agents before the editors see them. How many published novels with a straight white heroine and a lesbian or black or disabled best friend once had those roles reversed, before an agent demanded a change?

This does not make for better novels. Nor does it make for a better world.

Let’s make a better world.

What You Can Do

If You’re An Editor: Some agents are turning down manuscripts or requesting rewrites because they think that the identities of the characters will make the book unsalable. That means that you, who might love those characters, never even get to see them.

If you are open to novels featuring LGBTQ protagonists or major characters, you can help by saying so explicitly. When agents realize that LGBTQ content does not lead to a lost sale, they will be less likely to demand that it be removed.

The same goes for other identity issues. If you are interested in YA fantasy/sf with protagonists who are disabled, or aren’t white, or otherwise don’t fit the usual mold, please explicitly say so. General statements of being pro-diversity don’t seem to get the point across. We ask you to issue a clear, unmistakable statement that you would like to see books with protagonists or major characters who are LGBTQ, people of color, disabled, or any combination of the above.

If You’re An Agent: If you are open to manuscripts with major or main LGBTQ characters, please explicitly say so in your listings and websites. Just as with editors, simply saying “we appreciate diversity” could mean anything. (In fact, the agent who asked us to make our gay character straight had made such mentions.) You can throw the gates open by making a clear and unmistakable statement with details. For instance: “I would love to see books whose characters are diverse in all or any respects, including but not limited to gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and national origin.”

If You’re A Reader: Please vote with your pocketbooks and blogs by buying, reading, reviewing, and asking libraries to buy existing YA fantasy/sf with LGBTQ protagonists or major characters. If those books succeed financially, more like them will be written, represented, and sold. Your reviews don’t have to be positive; any publicity is good publicity. Review on blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, anywhere you yourself read reviews.

An annotated list of YA sf/fantasy with main or major LGBTQ characters is available here, with links to Amazon. Please bookmark this list for reference. It will continue to be updated as new books are released.

Characters of color/non-white characters are often also relegated to the status of sidekicks in YA sff, and are depicted as white on the covers of the few books in which they do star. Please vote with your pocketbooks and blogs to support novels in which they are protagonists.

An annotated list of YA sf/fantasy with protagonists of color is available here, with links to Amazon. Part I: Author surnames from A – L. Part II: Author surnames from M – Z. Please bookmark these lists for reference. They will continue to be updated as new books are released.

The usual protagonist of a YA sf/fantasy novel is a heterosexual white girl or boy with no disabilities or mental/neurological issues, no stated religion, and no specific ethnicity. Reading and reviewing novels whose characters break that mold in other ways would also be a step forward.

If You’re A Writer: If you have had a manuscript rejected because of the identity of the characters, or had an agent or editor request that you alter the identity of a character, please tell your story. Comment here, or leave a link to your own blog post. If you would prefer to use a pseudonym, feel free to do so; see this post for more information on Genreville’s pseudonymous comments policy and credibility verification option.

If You’re Anyone At All: Please link to this article. (If you link on Twitter, please use the #YesGayYA hashtag.) If enough people read it and take the suggestions, enormous and wonderful changes could take place.

Who We Are

This article was written by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. Rachel Manija Brown is a TV writer, poet, and author of the memoir All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India. Sherwood Smith has published more than thirty fantasy and science fiction novels, including the adult fantasies Inda and Coronets and Steel, and the YA fantasy Crown Duel. Together, we created an animated TV series, Game World, which we sold to the Jim Henson Company.

Our YA post-apocalyptic novel, Stranger, remains unagented and unsold.

—–

Editor’s note: Please see the follow-up post here.

Official Statements

In my post about “Hamlet’s Father”, I said I didn’t expect Marvin Kaye or Tor Books to disavow or apologize for publishing it in The Ghost Quartet. I was half wrong! Kaye posted this comment:

For the record, when I put together “The Ghost Quartet” for Tor Books, Scott Card was not my choice to be one of the four contributors. Not because I do not respect his work; in the past I have bought an original dragon novella from him, and reprinted his horror classic, “Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory.” However, Tor insisted that Scott be one of the contributors to “The Ghost Quartet.” When approached, he tried to beg off because he was under such deadline pressure that he warned it would take him a very long time to write something new for the book.

However, Tor Books insisted that he MUST be one of the quartet. Tor made it clear they would not publish “The Ghost Quartet” unless Scott was part of the mix. As a result, he was over a year late delivering his manuscript, by which time one of the other authors was very angry at me.

So that is something like a disavowal, sort of. Meanwhile, Tor sent me this statement:

Orson Scott Card is a very successful author for Tor. We do not attempt to censor the political or religious beliefs of any of our authors, and make our acquisition decisions based on commercial potential.

Finally, Card himself has posted on his website calling the PW review “dishonest” and responding to other “false statements”:

[T]here is no link whatsoever between homosexuality and pedophilia in this book. Hamlet’s father, in the book, is a pedophile, period. I don’t show him being even slightly attracted to adults of either sex. It is the reviewer, not me, who has asserted this link, which I would not and did not make. [...]

[S]ince I have become a target of vilification by the hate groups of the Left, I am increasingly reluctant to have any gay characters in my fiction, because I know that no matter how I depict them, I will be accused of homophobia. The result is that my work is distorted by not having gay characters where I would normally have had them — for which I will also, no doubt, be accused of homophobia. [...]

I’m as proud of the story as ever, and I hope readers will experience the story as it was intended to be read.

I conclude with a link to the response from Subterranean Press again, just to have all the official statements in one place.

James Nicoll quotes “a source” with access to Bookscan numbers as saying that The Ghost Quartet sold around 100 copies. I guess that commercial potential wasn’t as thoroughly fulfilled as anyone involved with the project might have liked.

The Offensiveness Grenade

In 2008, the Science Fiction Book Club Tor Books published an anthology called The Ghost Quartet, edited by Marvin Kaye, which contained a novella by Orson Scott Card called “Hamlet’s Father”. Tor Books reprinted the anthology. (See comments for discussions of the struck-through text.) No one appeared to notice that the novella rather painfully rewrote Hamlet to postulate that Hamlet’s father was an evil gay child molester who preyed upon the youth of Denmark.

Among those who missed the memo were the folks at Subterranean Press, who published the novella in a stand-alone edition in April of this year. Yes, this is the same Subterranean Press that publishes books by authors like Caitlín R. Kiernan and Poppy Z. Brite–hardly a bastion of homophobia. They kept the print run to 1000 copies, perhaps realizing the book would hold little appeal for anyone other than Card’s die-hard fans. PW‘s review was less than complimentary, and explicitly called out “the focus… on linking homosexuality with the life-destroying horrors of pedophilia”. Nonetheless, Hamlet’s Father almost entirely escaped the notice of the SF/F field’s queer activists.

On September 5th, William Alexander reviewed the book in Rain Taxi‘s online summer 2011 edition, calling it “as horrifying as it is ridiculous” and “a failure of narrative craft on every level”, and after three years of sitting there with the pin pulled out, the offensiveness grenade went off. Outraged blog posts, comments, and tweets sprang up. Felix Gilman suggested that the book could be followed by Unambiguously Antisemitic Merchant of Venice, while Arthur Hlavaty said he was waiting for “the one where that Muslim sumbitch Othello deserved to die.” Scott Lynch posted a “so much less gay and not written with gay big words” version of Henry V. Even @HAMLET_HULK weighed in. Outraged letters began arriving at SubPress; publisher Bill Schafer posted an official response bravely asking for more comments and promising to share them with senior staff and take them into consideration when making future acquisitions. Perhaps this request will redirect the ire from blogs and Twitter to the SubPress inbox; perhaps not.

Schafer professed surprise at the sudden and vitriolic response, given that the novella has been in circulation for years and was originally put out by much bigger publishers in much bigger print runs with much lower price tags. Not mentioned but relevant is Card’s long-established reputation for homophobic writing. Most queer readers are avoiding his work already, so why would anyone kick up a fuss over one little novella with a 1000-copy print run from a boutique press? But this is the thing about offensiveness grenades: they may look entirely inert for so long that you forget they’re dangerous, but sooner or later, they explode.

I expect a lot of people will be vexed that Schafer doesn’t explicitly disavow or apologize for the book. (I don’t expect Tor, the SFBC,  Marvin Kaye, or Card to disavow or apologize for it either.) It is worth keeping in mind, though, that SubPress has a pretty good track record of publishing queer and queer-friendly work. I know Bill Schafer well enough to believe him when he says they’ll read and respect the comments that come in. So disavowal or no, I’m hoping for the response that matters most: publishing better, smarter, kinder books. And I hope lots of people write not only to SubPress but to all their favorite publishers and ask for more representation and more respect.

EDIT: There’s some good discussion of the book and OSC’s work on Metafilter, and MegWrites is compiling a list of queer books mentioned with the #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday hashtag on Twitter.

EDIT 2: All comments are now being moderated. I will err on the side of encouraging discussion, but I will be redacting personal attacks, trolling, and other off-topic material.

An Open Letter to Lambda Literary Foundation Co-Chair Dr. Judith Markowitz

Dear Dr. Markowitz:

I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. I’m the SF/fantasy/horror reviews editor at Publishers Weekly and a past judge of the SF/F/H Lambda Award.

I am equal parts delighted and dismayed by the press release currently being circulated regarding the changes to the Lambda Awards. Delighted, because I was appalled when the 2009 rule change required us to perform bedroom checks on nominees to determine their eligibility, and further distressed when a friend of mine, also a judge, was informed that a good rule of thumb was to check an author’s bio and see whether a different-sex partner was mentioned. This rule of thumb obviously excludes trans, genderqueer, and queer authors who are in different-sex partnerships (many of whom I was pleased to suggest as finalists and winners during my time as a Lammy judge). I withdrew from judging in great part because of these changes, and I’m very pleased to see that the majority of the awards will be open to all authors again.

I am dismayed, however, by this:

“LGBT authors will be recognized with three awards marking stages of a writer’s career: the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one gay man and one lesbian), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one male-identified and one female-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one male-identified and one female-identified individual or group)”

In other words, non-monosexual debut authors need not apply, and genderqueer and intersex authors as well as those involved in different-sex collaborations are not welcome at any stage of their careers. How can you even think of calling this a new policy of inclusiveness?

I cannot fathom the decision-making process that led to the splitting of these awards along gendered lines, especially since you must be aware of the growing number of queer people who do not identify as gay, lesbian, male, or female. Why not simply state that each award will go to two people a year? Why take such specific and exclusionary steps? Quota systems serve no one, and I say that as an ardent feminist and anti-racist who has long campaigned for more diverse winners and nominees across the spectrum of speculative fiction awards. Enforcing year-by-year equality between two communities while excluding all others only exposes the artificiality of such methods, which have so little to do with who the six most talented and recognition-worthy authors may be in any given year. You may intend these protectionist tactics to keep the awards “safe” from the encroachment of straight authors, but in the process, you’re joining a long and ignominious tradition of queer people who pay lip service to the B and the T while doing everything possible to promote the L and the G.

Saying that only gays and lesbians, and only men and women, are eligible for recognition is really no different from saying that only queer authors are eligible for the awards in general, except that you have made the criteria even more restrictive. You will still need to contend with the deep moral problems that arise from demanding that authors out themselves–in a world that can still be extremely dangerous for overtly queer and trans people, especially people of color, people who don’t conform to gender norms, and people living in repressive and overtly anti-queer cultures–and subscribe to a particular set of definitions. I had hoped for better from the Lammys. I’m very, very disappointed.

I strongly urge you to consider how many talented and worthy authors may be excluded from consideration for these three new awards, and then to update the eligibility criteria to reflect the true breadth and depth of the community you purport to represent and celebrate.

Sincerely,
Rose Fox

(cc: awards coordinator pro tem Richard Labonté, The Outer Alliance, my personal and professional blogs)

EDIT: Dr. Markowitz has responded to me, and given me permission to post her response:

The Debut Fiction awards, like any other funded awards, cannot be changed without the full support of the funders. Those discussion are in process but LLF needed to release the guidelines before September 1 so that authors and publishers could begin making nominations.

I am baffled as to why one would invite nominations for an award whose nomination guidelines might be in flux, but at least they’re talking about it.

EDIT 2: Jenn Reese points out that the named awards mentioned above were previously established. My objections stand, but my reference to them as “new awards” is erroneous.