It seems the furor over the would-be publication of the first chapter of Save the Pearls by Victoria Foyt hasn’t quite sunk in yet for Marvin Kaye, the new editor of Weird Tales. You can read my previous post and all the attached links to get a sense of what happened — if you don’t know already. To add to the mess, as Rose Fox of Publishers Weekly reports, Kaye has taken to defending himself in emails sent to individuals requesting to have their subscriptions canceled rather than posting a public response as “promised” by the publisher (the request Rose discusses was made by L. Grabenstetter here)(I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting the message here, though I strongly suggest reading both Rose Fox’s and L. Grabenstetter’s articles):
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.
I can’t help but wonder what is going through Kaye’s head. Whatever you think of Card, his Hamlet rewrite was thoroughly panned for, well, being rather homophobic and legitimating certain anti-gay stereotypes. How Kaye can defend Hamlet’s Father against these criticisms is perhaps indicative of his inability to accept what many are saying about Save the Pearls. While I have personally reserved judgment on Save the Pearls because I have yet to read it, the community has voiced its mostly-negative opinion. They are not happy, and the more I read about their reasons, the more I’m inclined to agree with them. Most people/organizations would see the anger being funneled their way and immediately go into damage control. But not Kaye. Rather than, if you’ll excuse the phrase, take his head out of his ass, he’s decided to suspend critical analysis in favor of further idiocy.
At this point it doesn’t really matter whether Save the Pearls is racist; Kaye and the publisher have made a critical error, both in effectively lying to us about when they became aware of the depth of controversy surrounding Foyt’s work and in refusing to recognize what is happening to them (or, rather, what they have done to themselves) as a product of poor management, poor vision, and poor public relations. By sending defensive emails to subscribers, you don’t help your case. Just look at how poorly Progressive Insurance have handled themselves in recent weeks. The point is that as a member of a professional venture, it behooves you to maintain professional decorum, even if the Internet will not afford you the same courtesy. That means admitting mistakes when you make them, acknowledging and fielding counterpoints with respect, and so on (these are basic concepts of argumentation, by the way). Perhaps some people are being overly harsh to Save the Pearls, but you cannot make that case by, as I mentioned the other day, treating the opposition with condescension bordering on contempt.
I’m not sure if Weird Tales can recover from these massive failures. With subscribers shedding the magazine and the SF/F community generally up in arms over it all, it will take an extraordinary amount of work to gain the community’s trust. And that might be an understatement.