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Spaulding

Mainstream Romance Firestorm

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In 1999, a third book in a historical romance trilogy, Somewhere Lies the Moon by Kathryn Lynn Davis, was published. 

 

In August 2019, Courtney Milan, a romance writer, called it "white racism" in a Tweet.

 

This month is supposed to be the RWA, (Romance Writers of America), are supposed to have their annual awards, The Rachel, but canceled it because of what is ensuing.

 

Here's that story. (Warning on Ms. Milan's language.)

 

Now, quite a few agencies are demanding that the leaders of the RWA step down to prove their desire for "inclusiveness," in a public letter.

 

My imagination, or did "inclusive" just become "exclusive?"

 

My take away? I'm keeping that list of agencies as agencies to avoid if I ever want to go mainstream again. I don't write romance, however those agencies represent other genres too, including mine. It is getting to the point of finding traditional publication in the secular world is a minefield with mines added daily.

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Never a shortage of drama in the romance genre. 😉

 

I don't think things like this are confined to that genre, or traditional publishing. Indies writing in various genres have done a lot of damage to each other over the past decade. I think it's driven by professional jealousy, or a way to build a quick platform (of sorts).

 

  

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I think they should have more balding, overweight, ugly guys with hygiene issues as romantic leads.  You know, for "inclusiveness."

 

I'll bet that if you asked any of these people about Robespierre, you'd draw a lot of blank stares.

 

This is what happens when people think they are starter than God, or believe they can live in a world without Him.

 

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19 hours ago, Pax Pace said:

It's definitely a big mess. I've been following this post detailing everything about the debacle: https://www.claireryanauthor.com/blog/2019/12/27/the-implosion-of-the-rwa

I just spent all my in-between time today, (in-between doing chores), reading up on this. Holy cow! It got worse. So all one side wants is an apology? And the other side wants recognition that 20 year old books be 100% accurate, right down to half-Chinese means brown eyes?

And writer after writer, agency after agency, and guild after guild are jumping the bandwagon on dumping the entire leadership even before the potential appeal, (why didn't she appeal?), or the arbitrating group decides anything?

Really convincing me to not go trad. pub. is this is evidence of the integrity level of so many.

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51 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

Really convincing me to not go trad. pub. is this is evidence of the integrity level of so many.

 

I'd agree with you, Spaulding.  Their attitude is atrocious.

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9 hours ago, Spaulding said:

So all one side wants is an apology? And the other side wants recognition that 20 year old books be 100% accurate, right down to half-Chinese means brown eyes?

It's not that simple.

 

9 hours ago, Spaulding said:

And writer after writer, agency after agency, and guild after guild are jumping the bandwagon on dumping the entire leadership even before the potential appeal, (why didn't she appeal?), or the arbitrating group decides anything?

I don't think you've read the full story. One of the people who made the original complaint admitted that she had exaggerated her claims. She also said that she has has since changed the problematic parts of her book, and that she was encouraged by RWA staff to make the complaint. She wasn't expecting Milan to be sanctioned as heavily as she was.  This is a very long article, but it's  comprehensive. There's no way the RWA board could stay on after how it handled this.

 

Somebody made reference to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. The revolutionaries were guilty of utterly heinous atrocities. But I think it's important to recognise that they didn't appear from a vacuum. The seeds of the Reign of Terror were sown in very fertile ground that had been made ready by years of injustice, and genuine wrongs.

 

In the same way, what we're seeing happening in the RWA hasn't come out of nowhere. Look past the extremists (I know it's hard, since they're so loud!) and you'll see that there are very genuine and valid reasons why people of colour are upset with RWA.

Edited by EBraten

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20 hours ago, EBraten said:

Somebody made reference to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. The revolutionaries were guilty of utterly heinous atrocities. But I think it's important to recognise that they didn't appear from a vacuum. The seeds of the Reign of Terror were sown in very fertile ground that had been made ready by years of injustice, and genuine wrongs.

 

One does not justify the other.  I know you're not saying that, but "wrongs," is a very slippery term.

 

The Reign of Terror was played out more than once.  In Russia, what replaced the tyranny of the Czars was a brutal, oppressive government that made the Czars look like choir boys.  

 

The same with Cambodia, and China, and a bunch of other places.  And in each and every case, the same tactics were applied as those highlighted in the - grimly comical - romance literary guild debacle.

 

Most of the people making the noise have never seen real bigotry and oppression.  You know the type where they put you into camps, put fire hoses on you, or sic dogs on you.  And last time I checked, I believe that we are supposed to forgive those that wrong us.  That means letting go of the grudge, and not talking about injustice and genuine wrongs.  'Cuz, you know, Jesus and stuff.

 

There is a horror trope that seems to play out over-and-over in literature: the monster always turns on its maker.  That and Godzilla stomping Tokyo.   The fact is, when flawed men (and women) decide they need to play God and judge, they often make things worse - not better.  And history is replete with such examples.

 

 

 

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EBReton,

What I see is the Head of the Ethic Committee calling a publishing company/publishers/older white romance writers a "******** mess," which later on got her booted from her job, never to get another leadership position in RWA again and suspended from RWA for one whole year.

 

Right move? Wrong move? Gut check says a bit of both. It does feel very extreme, except for one thing, bandwagon folks have completely ignored. "Why" cannot come to the surface, because the evidence is protected by the usual legal standards. (Who said what and how, is kept within the group making the decision, instead of announced across all media.) That's why an independent group is checking out what happened. Which means everyone who already reacted went from the gut, not the brain.

 

On the other side, she was supposed to be the head of the ethics committee. How "ethical" is it to badmouth a colleague loudly in social media? Oh, yeah, I do get by modern standards her writing was amateurish and racially off, however, 50 Shades insults my gender and religious beliefs, however I'm not going to go off on E.L. James, if I'm supposed to be representing romance writers, because she made decisions I disagree with. Personally? I disagreed 180 degrees with 50 Shades, but I'd also never represent romance writers, because I get that is within the socially-acceptable standards of romance writers. So was that 20 year old book! Either represent romance writers, or don't, but if you do, never call out others because that writer made decisions you never would. Talk to that person in private! THAT is "ethics." As head of "ethics committee," the way she handled this? I'd expel her for good by now, (because she has been continuing on and on.)

 

And, yes. This has everything to do with liking conservative personalities. I did check out who was tweeting what in the last week or two. The lines are firmly divided.

 

And as far as the writer/publisher saying she exaggerated. She can't tell much more because naming name mires more and more people into this. All I saw her do was go from "several writers told me they won't... for fear they won't be able to get published" to "I read that into what some said." 

 

I've been on the receiving end of mobbing syndrome among writers. To avoid others getting hurt too, I quietly told friends to back away in a hurry, and couldn't say half I believed in public for fear the mobbers would take it out on who they thought were my friends. (Which they do anyway.)

 

If you were published through them, (and assuming by the time they got you published you were friends with one or more), what would you do with this firestorm?

 

Modernists are proud they got Huckleberry Finn changed to politically correct. They even made that claim yet again often during this firestorm. Sadly, I'm proud on what Samuel Clements did against slavery in that book, and the modernist don't get it. What they're doing is changing history to the worst, and thinking they're proving their better.

 

RWA was created for equality and just imploded from prejudice. They never waited to find out what happened before making up their minds. Not the publishing world I ever want to be associated with.

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@Spaulding, I'm not defending Milan. In fact, I'd probably be firmly in her crosshairs if anything I write ever landed in front of her. I'm Black, but I'm alarmed by the way the word "racist" is so easily thrown around.

 

However, the point I wanted to make is that the RWA leadership has come off very badly. Just because I'm conservative doesn't mean that I can't see the huge errors made by RWA here.

 

1. By RWA's own rules, the complaint itself was incorrectly filed and therefore invalid, since it was filed by a publisher and not an author.

 

12 hours ago, Spaulding said:

"Why" cannot come to the surface, because the evidence is protected by the usual legal standards. (Who said what and how, is kept within the group making the decision, instead of announced across all media.)

 

2. RWA's leadership claimed that they made their decision based on "other" issues that were not made public. The problem is, these "other" issues were not revealed to Milan either, so she had no opportunity to defend herself. It's like being brought to trial and then convicted on evidence that you, the accused, never get to hear. How is that fair?

 

3. RWA's leadership convened a secret committee to hear the complaint, bypassing the actual ethics committee, who only heard about all this after the fact.

 

4. As I mentioned already, it was somebody in the RWA staff who urged the complainants to file the complaint, and the author says she feels she was used for somebody else's agenda.

 

5. Since this broke, it also came to light that the former president of the RWA, who seems to have engineered the move against Milan, was not qualified to be president at all.

 

The RWA messed up so badly in its handling of this complaint that there really wasn't any other way this could go.

 

13 hours ago, Spaulding said:

On the other side, she was supposed to be the head of the ethics committee. How "ethical" is it to badmouth a colleague loudly in social media?

What does that have to do with ethics? She was giving her opinion of a book as part of a wider conversation that a lot of other people were having. RWA's rules allow for public discourse of that sort.

 

Here's how I see it:

  • Milan, along with many other people on Twitter, were doing what vocal leftists do: having a loud conversation. Happens all the time.
  • The author whose book was slated decided, with encouragement from someone within RWA, to try to get Milan sanctioned. She inflates her claim, as well as the damage she has suffered.
  • RWA botched the complaints process with its secret committee, secret evidence and questionable procedures, and handed Milan the kind of sanctions normally only given to somebody who has been guilty of gross misconduct.
  • It then came out that RWA has massive housecleaning to do, based on various irregularities in its processes and office-holders.

 

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Sorry for slow response. Some days I have time. Other days I don't. 

 

Much of what you said comes under, "Ohhhhh, did not know that." So, I'm listening, and don't think this is all argument.

 

But in your numbered responses --

1. I thought the complaint was by an author who partnershipped with another author to publish romance. Doesn't that make her both -- writer and publisher?

 

2. Whereas I do get convicting her without anything from her is wrong, I thought that's how they did things. (Also thought that was the dumbest idea I've heard in a long time.) But, she was given ten days to appeal, (although that ten days included Christmas/New Years, so I'd be on her side fully for pulling that one, except she used the time to Twitter by the hours, so she did have the time.) Has she appealed yet? 

 

and

 

What do you do when the person in charge of the ethic committee is the one being charged for lack of ethics? Yeah. I think it's unethical to curse out another writer's writing -- even if it does have racially inaccuracies -- step-by-step on social media. Milan has the same problem Trump and I have -- lack of self-control when it comes with what comes out of the mouth. Not a good personality trait for someone in charge of an ethics committee.

 

Personally, I'd have her out of the ethics committee, (with assumption of talking to her to make sure I'm getting the facts right), but no other action with her in RWA. She acted like a normal member of RWA, except she isn't.

 

And truthfully? So much stuff has "come to light," since this started, it feels much like "Russian collusion." We can't tell which is truth and which isn't until the dust has settled, and by now might not even know when the dust has been cleared away. I believe about 25% of what I read on Twitter, and I can't tell you which 25% that is. 🤔

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Remembering the " New Wave" upheaval in the science fiction world, it's useful to maintain a sense of perspective. SFWA is all the stronger for it; Harlan Ellison and Samuel Delaney became respected elders; and subgenre fragmentation is rife. It was cyberpunk for the innovators and complex world-building for the traditionalists that ended the controversy, or maybe the realization that the written word competes with cinema and television for entertainment dollars and consumer attention. No one ever imagined that the pie would get so big!

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17 hours ago, EClayRowe said:

Remembering the " New Wave" upheaval in the science fiction world, it's useful to maintain a sense of perspective. SFWA is all the stronger for it; Harlan Ellison and Samuel Delaney became respected elders; and subgenre fragmentation is rife. It was cyberpunk for the innovators and complex world-building for the traditionalists that ended the controversy, or maybe the realization that the written word competes with cinema and television for entertainment dollars and consumer attention. No one ever imagined that the pie would get so big!

Pffft, now you've done it.

 

Gloves off!

 

Stop thinking I'm smarter than I am. 😲

 

Never heard of "New Wave" in Sci-fi. I grew up in that era, so had no idea it was new. 

 

I've been able to google what it is. Any chance you can guide me to something that can catch me up on what you're talking about? If you've ever had that feeling you were talking grownup to grownup, then you noticed the other grownup knew about as much as a first grader, then... you're having that feeling again. I've never studied much on any kind of history when it comes to writing. Where do I start learning what I've obviously missed? :$

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Gloves off? I'm keeping hold of my stick in case I need it!

 

I'm an old white liberal Pentecostal Christian male. I'd rather write than fight. 

 

It's a fallen world, and when you write for a secular market with a Christian worldview you will get flak from both sides.

 

Pendulums swing. An organization gathers momentum to correct injustice but continues past the point of fair dealing until a backlash is inevitable.

 

My advice to romance writers is to stay the course. Because ultimately Christ will be heard above the clamor of competing voices. 

 

Do you stay with the guild or strike out on your own? I don't know. But basing your decision on the voice of the loudest trumpet is a formula for error.

 

 

Edited by EClayRowe
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