Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Datlow’

diversity

About a week ago there was a massive blowup on Facebook regarding diversity within a anthology Table of Contents (ToC). Someone posted the signing sheet for the Borderlands 6 anthology and a lady asked Thomas F. Monteleone, the anthology editor, why there was so few women in the ToC.  Tom responded in a very defensive and extremely rude way, which lead to calls from some for readers to boycott the anthology, and multiple discussions on various peoples’ walls about inclusion and diversity within genre fiction, with a special focus on how editors decide on the Table of Contents for their anthology.

Catherine M. Grant wrote a great piece on the incident on her Tumblr here:
http://catmgrant.tumblr.com/post/140484977019/the-sausage-fest 

Personally, I’m not sure I agree with any call to boycott the anthology… There are a lot of lovely and talented writers who would be affected, including women, and including several who are not established writers and are trying to get their fiction out there to readers.  That being said, I’m sure an argument would, or could, be made that a few privileged people taking a hit for the point of bringing down elitist/racist/sexist editors and making a stand for diversity and inclusion is a small price to pay.  Maybe that’s a good argument, I don’t know. I can certainly understand someone feeling that way; I can emapthise.

Interestingly enough another anthology ToC released recently, Nightscript Vol. 2, escaped comment regarding inclusion and diversity. By my reckoning of the Nightscript ToC, there are 21 stories 2 of which are by People of Colour and 4 of which are by women (only one more lady than Borderlands 6). I suspect the reason this has escaped comment is two-fold, 1. no one has actually raised issue with it (is it a problematic TOC, particularly in light of BL6? Genuine question.)  and 2. CM Muller hasn’t come out and made a number of crass and rude comments and been quite offensive in the process.  Now, for CM Muller’s sake, please don’t start a giant internet pile-on. I don’t know the details behind nightscript… maybe it was blind read and open submission only. Maybe only 20% of the submissions were women and 10% by people of colour. Maybe it was advertised in 50 different places online and the call went loud and wide. Don’t know, and ultimately that’s not really the point or my intention here at all. I’m merely pointing out that, in the grand scheme of things, Borderlands 6 isn’t necessarily uniquely homogeneous.. for whatever reason, it’s in line with a lot of other TOCs out there.

Regardless of all this, this made me think about my own current anthology project and what I’ve done, or haven’t done as far as diversity and inclusion goes. Have I done enough? Could I do more? Does it even matter?

I’ll start with that last question.  I’m somewhat mixed ancestory (a few non-Anglo/Celtic ancestors in the family tree above) although the vast lion’s share of my genetic make up is Anglo-Saxon/Celtic stock, including parents and grandparents on both sides. My surname is Scottish, placing me as a member of Clan Dewar. If I look in the mirror, my skin is white. English was my first language and I was raised with all the privileges a white person enjoys in Australia. My wife, ethnically Lebanese Arab, is a Muslim; our children, three beautiful girls, are People of Colour. I am also Muslim. I speak Lebanese Arabic  [understand a lot more than I can speak] and can read fusha Arabic. I’ve had people tell me to “go back to where I came from” and call me a terrorist for no reason. We’ve had pigs heads thrown in our local mosque and had our place of worship trashed… so if I’m not a Person of Colour (I don’t consider myself to be one, although I don’t really identify as being ‘white’ either) , I’m probably a little more tuned in to their struggles (I hope).   So, you can see why—for me at least—diversity and inclusion are important. My entire existence revolves around diversity and inclusion. I’m not just making lip service when I say that a writer’s race, colour, creed or orientation is not a determining factor in whether or not I dislike or reject their work.

Does race, colour, creed, orientation etc. play a part in me liking or accepting an authors work?  In my opinion (and I think in the opinion of some fantastic editors, such as Ellen Datlow, Jeff Vandermeer and Silvia Moreno-Garcia), the onus is on me as an editor to cast a wide net and draw in different people when I put forward invitations for a project. As Silvia Moreno-Garcia recently said (paraphrased, because I’m too lazy to look up her actual Facebook comment) “If it’s not the job of an Editor to choose the authors, what the fuck is their job??”.  And she’s right. Sitting back and claiming  “Oh but these are just the people that submitted to me” when you haven’t widely publicised the call, you haven’t given any indication or impression that you want to read anything but white male authors, and most of your anthology has been collected via invitation anyway…. that’s lazy and pathetic. And it’s not gonna get you the mystical ‘best story’ because the best fiction isn’t just, per defaltam, by white males.  I’m still learning but, moving forward, I’m determined not to be that editor.

With the original Suspended in Dusk anthology, 43% of the authors were women. I had authors from 4 different continents. I had authors who were married or single. I had authors who were mums or dads, and authors who  were not. I had multiple language speakers, English as a Second Language speakers. I had people who were primary carers for aged or infirm loved ones. I was pretty happy with that book. Upon reflection though, everyone in that book was white.  Even the writers from Africa were white, for God’s sake.

With Suspended in Dusk 2, I decided that I could once again make an anthology which had a very strong showing of fantastic fiction from women. I was confident I could do it—Women are among the best, if not the best, dark fiction and horror writers. Truth be told, I didn’t actually consider much beyond that,  including race, ability, religion, sexual orientation, when seeking out authors to contribute to the anthology. Slowly however, I found some diversity creeping in spite of my laxity. One of my favourite authors who I invited, has Native American heritage. The artist who came on board to do the internal illustrations is gay, a second African author that was not in the previous anthology (although she too is white! But it’s not up to me to judge someone’s African-ness) threw in her story.  This combined with the strong inclusion of women authors, I felt, was at least step in the right direction. I’m learning and I feel I’m asking the right questions at least, and so I hope that I can get an even better mix happening in future projects.

One thing I’ve done with Suspended in Dusk 2 is invite a few of the authors (both men and women) who had stories in book one to submit a story to the second anthology.  My reasoning here was because I like their voice, they were good to work with and they’re not established authors. I felt (feel? I still feel that way, but the die is cast now, rightly or wrongly) that I would be able to help them develop their skills through my editing process.   I sought to balance this out, particularly because I’m also cognisant that I don’t know all the writers out there,  by having a couple of open submission spots that would allow me to be exposed to authors I didn’t know or hadn’t thought of, and to provide members of wider community with an opportunity to be a part of the anthology.

In hindsight, I’d probably do a number of things differently:

  1. Read more widely to get a handle on who is who and who is writing what, and thus expose myself to work by authors of different backgrounds.
  2. Explicitly state in the submission guidelines that I’m open to stories from people of diverse backgrounds. (Anecdotally this gives some people courage to submit their story.)
  3. With Suspended in Dusk 2, I advertised on twitter, Facebook, The (Submission) Grinder, Absolute Write Forums and Litreactor.com forums.  Next time around I will consider what other methods of advertising my submission call might reach more diverse groups.
  4. To capitalise on points 1 and 2, include more open submission spots.
  5. Think more open mindedly about authors from different backgrounds who could write the kind of fiction that I think would address my anthology theme and aesthetic, when deciding who I send my invites out to.

I don’t know who is the gold standard in this regard, although some of the editors I mentioned earlier do a very admirable job. They’re certainly amongst those who I look up to and hope to imitate. I don’t know when an editor is doing “enough”. I do see encouraging signs though.

One of the projects that sprung up recently is Richard ThomasGamut Magazine.  The Gamut Magazine kickstarter raked in over $55000USD and is a fully funded project launching soon. One of the best things about Gamut  (aside from the fact that they’ll be paying their staff and paying contributing authors 10c a word!) is that they look like they’re going to be a really inclusive market. They’ve got a great mix of men and women on the staff, 60% of the contributors they have lined up to launch the magazine are women. They’re open to fiction of most genres and they’re specifically open to fiction from people of all backgrounds. One might argue, they’re after fiction from the whole gamut of folks out there (badoomtish!).  I put some of my own dollars down on this project and gave up 5 copies of Suspended in Dusk for Richard to use  as incentives for backers and I can’t wait for this project to take flight.

Oh, also check out the POC Destroy Horror anthology. Silvia Moreno-Garcia will be editing it and it’s opening up for submissions soon. I think the book will be fantastic and I’ll be making sure I grab a copy.

 

 

 

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Annie Neugebauer is an author that I stumbled across recently and I’m stoked to have made her acquaintance. Her writing is top notch and I’m still reeling from the gut wrenching piece of hers that I read.  You can find her work at places like Black Static Magazine, Buzzy Mag, Blurring the Line anthology from Cohesion Press, and more.  Find her work > Read it > $Profit$!   Special thanks to Annie for stopping by my blog for a chat.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

AN: Well, I’m a writer, poet, and blogger. Horror is sort of my home base, but I also love literary fiction, speculative fiction, poetry, and picture books. (Believe it or not, I even have horror poems and one “horror” picture book.)

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?

AN: I’ve loved horror for as long as I can remember. I knew way back when I dreamed of becoming a writer that horror would be a part of that, so there was never a defining moment for me. It was a natural inclination that grew into passion over time. I love the unabashedness of horror; I like not looking away from things that make people uncomfortable. I like facing fears. It’s super fun to be scared in a safe setting. But mostly, I think horror is a wonderful vehicle to explore the concepts that matter to me as a creative, so I just run with it.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies? 

AN: Are you allowed to make me choose?! Oof. Okay, well, my boring answer is Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I know, I know. But it’s truly a masterpiece of fiction. The captivating introduction, the unreliable narrator, the beautiful prose, the horrific nature of it, the explosive ending. It doesn’t get much better than that!

My slightly less predictable answer is Shirley Jackson’s “The Tooth.” Much less commercial and far more subtle and complex, but still horrific. It’s a story I love to reread and examine. It’s beautiful and masterfully done.

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?

AN: I’ve written 5 ½ novels, several dozen short stories, and hundreds of poems. Of what’s been published so far, I think I’m most proud of “Hide.” It’s a flash piece (only about 800 words) that was first published in Black Static #43 by TTA Press. Ellen Datlow included it in her recommended list for Best Horror of the Year Volume 7, and it was just picked up at Pseudopod, where it will be recorded as an audio podcast you’ll be able to listen to for free. I’ve had a story (“Jack and the Bad Man”) read at Pseudopod before and it was a blast, so I can hardly wait to hear what they do with “Hide.”

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

AN: Hm. Well, obviously I’m partial to poetry and prose. I love podcasts and audio and all that good stuff, but my first love is the written word. Length and form doesn’t matter to me so much as reading. I have a passionate love affair with physical books, too. I’m not knocking technology at all, but give me paper over screens any day!

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

AN: I have several irons in the fire. I’ve been drafting lots of new poems and stories, flirting with an unfinished novel, and working on some major novel revisions, too. Plus I’m always blogging at my own website as well as for Writer Unboxed. I like to keep busy

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

AN: Shirley Jackson. I just love her. I think she’s one of the most underrated authors of all time, and she’s an absolute master of literary horror. But there are so many! I also adore Laurell K. Hamilton, Anne Rice, Susan Hill, Emily & Charlotte Brontë, V.C. Andrews, Daphne Daphne du Maurier…

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with? 

AN: Always! I’m reading anything I can find by Gillian Flynn lately, and the women in contemporary horror are always on my work-with wish-list. I admire all of the women I’ve met in the Horror Writers Association, for example. It’s such a hard field.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

AN: I already mentioned Gillian Flynn. I loved Gone Girl and Dark Places was stellar. Right now I’m listening to the audio book of Beloved, which is performed by Toni Morrison (the author). The book is exquisite, and so is her reading voice! It’s a dark, difficult novel, but such a pleasure. Poetry-wise, Sharon Olds has swept me away, and I’m eager to get into some more Anne Rice soon as well.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?

AN: This gets sticky. I’ve been quite fortunate in experiencing very little direct harassment or discrimination. I think the harder stuff is the quieter, more insidious prejudice that can’t always be pinned down. Societal expectations, the push-back against “such a nice girl” writing “such horrific things,” and that type of thing. Luckily I have many supportive people in my life and was raised by parents who really, truly made me believe that I can do anything I want to do, so I pretty much just plow right through any sexism I come across. It’s served me well to focus on the positive so far.

Q. Why is Women in Horror month important/important to you? 

AN: I actually wrote a whole blog post about this last year, aptly titled “Why Women in Horror Month Is Important.”

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

AN: Another loaded question. I’ve blogged advice from things I’ve learned more times than I can count, but mostly I’d distill it to this: read a lot, write a lot, study your craft, be kind, be generous, find your voice and defend it, find your message and express it, and don’t give up no matter the obstacles.

Annie Neugebauer Links: 

Website/Blog: www.AnnieNeugebauer.com

List of Works: AnnieNeugebauer.com/read

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/Annie-Neugebauer

Twitter: @AnnieNeugebauer

Facebook: facebook.com/AnnieNeugebauer

Tumblr Inspiration Blog: AnnieNeugebauer.tumblr.com (NSFW)

Goodreads: goodreads.com/AnnieNeugebauer

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/AnnieNeugebauer

website-logoThe second interview for today is with Kaaron Warren. Kaaron Warren is an amazing talented and successful horror author, with over 200 published short stories, and several novels. Her work has featured many times in “Years best” collections, such as those edited by Ellen Datlow and Paula Guran.  Many thanks to Kaaron for stopping by blog for a chat.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

KW: I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid, finishing my first novel at 16. I try to fit a life between the lines. I try not to harvest every conversation, every confession for story. Mostly I succeed.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something mad you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?  

KW: I love the honesty of good horror. The acceptance that there is no happy ending beyond momentary illusion.

My first story in print was horror, but I never had to say “Fuck it”, because no one ever told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t, so there was no need for that moment of rebellion.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies? 

KW: I don’t know what jimmies are or what it means to have them rustled, and there’s no way I can pick one story as a favourite! The stories I’ve loved imprint themselves on me in one way or another. A turn of phrase, an image, a killer ending. And an individual voice is a must. I edited an issue of Midnight Echo and read about 300 stories, I think. The ones I published were those I remembered in the night, and the next day, and the week after.

There were stories from Vincent G McMackin, Evan Purcell, Jarod K Anderson, Mark Farrugia, Marija Elektra Rodriguez, Claire Fitzpatrick and Deborah Sheldon.

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?

KW: I’ve published three novels from Angry Robot (Slights, Walking the Tree and  Mistification).

I’ve published six short story collections:

“The Grinding House”, CSFG Publishing

“The Glass Woman”, Prime Books

“Dead Sea Fruit”, Ticonderoga Publications

“Through Splintered Walls”, Twelfth Planet Press

“The Gate Theory” Cohesion Press

“Cemetery Dance Select: Kaaron Warren” Cemetery Dance Publications

I’ve had about 200 stories in print in many different places, including Ellen Datlow’s Year’s Best and Paula Guran’s Year’s Best.

I can’t choose a favourite! And not just because it would be mean to the other stories.

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

KW: I love all story forms. Novels, short stories and novellas, graphic novels, dramas; it’s all good.

Q. What are you working on at the minute? Do you have any news?

KW: I’m working on the novel inspired by researched carried out during my Fellowship at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Artists, murderers, Prime Ministers, haunted houses and jailbreaks.

I’ve also just signed a contract with ifwgAustralia, for my novel, The Grief Hole.It will be published this year and is the second work in the Dark Phases series.

http://ifwgaustralia.com/2016/02/19/newskaaron-warren-signs-contract-with-ifwg/

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

KW: Again with the favourites! I can’t. I won’t. So here’s a list of just some:

Lisa Tuttle, Gemma Files, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Elizabeth Hand, Margo Lanagan, Kirstyn McDermott, Deborah Biancotti. Lisa Morton, Livia Llewellyn, Lucy Sussex, S.P. Miskowski, Alison Littlewood, Thana Niveau

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with? 

KW: I love Maura McHugh’s work and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

KW: I’m reading for the Shirley Jackson Awards at the moment so my TBR is massive and can’t be discussed!

I do always have a pile of non-fiction to read, though. These are some of them:

Pleasures of the Italian Table by Burton Anderson

The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti

Catastrophe by David Keys

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the  challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?

KW: Hmm, this is a tough one. I have experienced those challenges, not to my knowledge, anyway. I’ve been lucky; others not so.

Q. Why is Women in Horror month important/important to you? 

KW: As many have said, I wish we didn’t need it. But it’s great to highlight good writers, and if readers discover new books through it, then it’s a win.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

KW: Be brave. Go to that place you think you shouldn’t go. Don’t hold back.

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Welcome back folks. Ellen Datlow doesn’t need much of an introduction. Master Editor and anthologist she’s turns out some of the best specfic books each year. When she’s not editing fiction submissions for Tor.com, or making ghastly hybrid Kong dolls, she’s working on any number of short fiction anthologies, including her perennially anticipated ‘Year’s Best Horror’ anthology.  A big thanks to Ellen for stopping by my blog to answer a few questions.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

ED: I grew up the Bronx and then Yonkers, NY. Moved to Manhattan in 1973 and stayed. I’ve always been an avid reader of many different kinds of fiction, although
now I mostly read sf/f/h-and crime novels, for fun.
I’ve been editing short stories since around 1980 when I started work at OMNI Magazine. Before that I worked in mainstream book publishing for a few years.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you decided to get into fiction editing or was it a more organic process?

ED: I’ve always been interested in horror since I was a child, reading story collections from my parents’ library —Bullfinch’s Mythology, stories by Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. I loved fairy tales and my mother read me Oscar Wilde’s sad sad stories under a tree in front of the Bronx apartment in which we lived.

This taste for the weird and fantastic developed, and further immersed me in what I refer to as “edgier” fiction, since my late teens. This doesn’t only include horror, but also science fiction, some contemporary fantasy, crime fiction.  But for horror specifically, the tone of unease can make the most mundane setting deeply disturbing and I like that.

As soon as I came to understand that there were jobs in the publishing world editing fiction, I jumped into that profession. But it took me several years to move from mainstream trade publishing (which at the time meant the companies publishing mainstream fiction and non fiction hardcovers and trade paperbacks) to actually working with short fiction at OMNI.

OMNI was my first magazine job and that was the one that started me on the rest of my career trajectory. I moved from editing mostly science fiction and fantasy at OMNI to also editing horror with my first non-OMNI anthology, Blood is Not Enough. From then on, while continuing as Fiction Editor at OMNI (and adding horror to the fiction mix) I started choosing the horror half of Terri Windling and my The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror in the late 80s and editing more fantasy and horror anthologies than science fiction. I’m just getting back into sf by acquiring it for Tor.com (in addition to fantasy and horror).

 Q. Do you ever write any of your own fiction?

ED: No

 Q. What is your favourite horror story (if you can name a single one!) and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?

ED: I have too many to name, but I’ve reprinted several of my favorites over the years and I occasionally pick up new favorites.

 Q. You’re a well known anthologist, so is the short story your favourite form of fiction? What about the short form do you like so much?

ED: In sf/f/h yes. Especially in horror. I think supernatural horror fiction works best at lengths shorter than the novel. It’s extremely difficult to maintain the “suspension of disbelief” required for readers who do not believe in the supernatural. Short fiction can have more immediate impact than a novel.  Novel editors and I kid each other. I say novels are bloated short stories. They say short stories are truncated novels.

As far as editing short fiction, up through novella length (I have edited several novels), shorter fiction is less unwieldy than a novel. I don’t feel as competent editing novels, although if I did it more often I’d probably get better at it.

 Q. What are you working on at the minute?

ED:
Editing the stories I’ve acquired for Black Feathers, a mostly all-original anthology of bird horror coming out next year from Pegasus Books

Editing the stories for Children of Lovecraft, an original Lovecraftian anthology,  coming from Dark Horse this fall (I think).

Finishing my introduction to Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror -all reprint-Tachyon, out this fall. Follow -up to Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror.

Finishing my summary of the Year in Horror 2015 for The Best Horror of the Year Volume 8-Nightshade,  out this summer.

Editing the stories I’ve acquired for Tor.com in the last few months.
Catching up on my Tor.com submissions (and no, it’s not an open market).

Switching back and forth among all the above tasks. (and in between, answering these interview questions)

 Q. What attracts you to editing ? And is there any quality or skill etc that makes a good horror editor, specifically?

ED: I love seeing stories by favorite authors before anyone else does (when having commissioned them for an original anthology or looking at them for Tor.com) and I love working with writers to make their stories the best they can be.

I work with dozens of writers at any given time on multiple projects. It helps to be “open” to possibilities. Reading all year round for a Best Horror –or Best anything
one is exposed to all different kinds of writing ranging from light fantasy, to science fiction, to the darkest horror. So I’m constantly discovering new writers who I can tap for
the other anthologies or magazine/webzine projects on which I’m working.

Being able to work with a writer closely and not imposing one’s own taste on the work at-hand is crucial. It is not my story, it’s the writer’s. I think this might be more
difficult for writer-editors. I am not a writer, have no interest in being one, and so I believe I sometimes have a clearer eye to what a story needs.

On the other hand, not being a writer-I sometimes cannot help the author “fix” their story. There are very few “story doctors” in the field of the fantastic, but those writer-editors who are, are invaluable to some writers.

Editing can not be taught. It’s not something that can be learned if one don’t have an innate talent for it, but it can be honed.

Editing has two major components: first, an eye for what’s great or could be great-that’s the acquisition part of being an editor. You need to learn to trust your own taste. And you need to be able to say no. This story doesn’t work for me. It’s very difficult turning down stories by friends and/or by well-known writers whose names you know would help sell your anthology or an issue of your magazine.
There’s always the possibility that the writer will never submit another story to you again. Or if it’s a friend, that they’ll never speak to you again. (this latter never happened to me with friends, but it did happen to Robert Sheckley, who was Fiction Editor of OMNI for 1 1/2 years before I was promoted (and was my boss).

As I read a new story submission I’ll be judging it subconsciously. I may take notes if I like the story but have questions during that first read. Sometimes if I’m not sure what’s going on within the story, I’ll ask the writer to tell me in her own words. Then I can figure out if some of that explanation needs to be in the text on the page. If the writer is being intentionally oblique I may go along with that-or not.  If we can’t agree on what the story needs, I’ll suggest they try it elsewhere.

The second part takes place after I commit to buying the story. It’s the actual sitting down and getting down and dirty with the words on the page.
The story will probably get two almost separate edits-the substantive edit during which I ask questions and make suggestions about the overall arc of the story, including character/intent/or if there are aspects that don’t quite work. And a closer edit that entails some line editing.

Finally, a few months later I prepare the ms for production, where it will be copy edited and proofread. My preparation requires one last line edit, which is just what it sounds like. I go over the story line by line and ask more questions/make suggestions about repetition of words or phrases, and checking that the author is actually saying what she intends.

Some stories need a lot more revision than others. Some only need a light edit. Whether a story needs a lot of work or a little is not necessarily related to the author’s experience.

Being a good editor requires sensitivity, kindness, and honesty. To paraphrase something Ben Bova told me when I was starting out at OMNI, no one sets out intending to write a bad story.  Writers work to the best of their ability at any given time. I try to keep that in mind when I’m reading really bad fiction, but don’t always succeed.

Writers can be extraordinarily sensitive to criticism of their work, so I make it a point of being gentle when editing someone for the first time. But once I’ve worked with someone a lot, I’m a often more blunt, figuring they know by now that if I didn’t like the story, I wouldn’t be working with them on it.

 Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

ED: I have no one favorite writer, male or female. Just as I have no one favorite story of all time.

 Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?

ED: I’m very much looking forward to reading Livia Llewellyn’s new collection Furnace (I have the arc).

Elizabeth Hand’s new Cass Neary novel, Hard Light, out this April. Great crime fiction with a wonderfully unlikable protagonist, with touches of the supernatural thrown in. I read it in manuscript and loved it.

Other than that, I’ve no idea what’s coming out in 2016. I’m still immersed in 2015
for a few more weeks.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

ED: I’ll be starting to read for the Best Horror #9 in a few weeks so will be deep into short fiction then. But of the few novels I’ve recently received in the mail: I’m in  the middle ofStiletto by Daniel O’Malley, follow-up to his wonder novel The Rook. TBR: Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey, The Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough (I like her first novel Long Lankin a lot)

 Q. Are there any challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?

ED: In my early years in book publishing I encountered “class” discrimination more than gender discrimination. Not being a “Yalie” I was not given the opportunities a younger female Yalie was in the publishing house I worked at for 3 years.

After that, only in the typical wishy washy bias that if I’ve included more than three or four women in an anthology, that means the anthology is “all women” -so not to me personally but basic to the whole “women in publishing” problem.

I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve been in a position of some power for many years (since OMNI). Although when I was first promoted to Fiction Editor at OMNI, I had beer sprayed at me by a drunken malcontent at a publishing party, who thought he should have gotten the position of Fiction Editor. And a few years later, a writer took a couple of verbal potshots at me at a party while he was drunk. He blamed me for something my male boss was forced to do (by our publisher at the time). Year’s later (once he sobered up for good), he apologized–although I don’t think he even remembered what he’d said. Did those things happen because I was female? Probably. Because a male would have likely punched the assholes out they knew it :-).

 Q. Why is Women in Horror month important/not important to you?

ED: Every month should be “women in horror” month. When that happens we won’t need a specific month to point out our accomplishments.

 Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers or editors?

ED: For writers, make it easy for people to contact you. There are many times I’ve tried to track a writer down and if I have to work too hard at it,
I’ll give up. Use a dedicated email address for professional contacts-CHECK your email regularly. Don’t make contact forms hard to manipulate.
Don’t ever private message an editor asking them to look at your page, your work, or anything else like that. It’s unprofessional and really annoying.
Cannibalize cannibalize cannibalize. If you finally give up trying to fix a specific story/novel. Don’t toss it out, use pieces of it for something else some day.

Read someone’s slush pile. This is for aspiring editors and writers. It will put things in perspective. Read widely, fiction and nonfiction.

For Editors: Be kind to writers who submit work to you.
If you seriously want to write, don’t be an editor. It will sap your energy. Being a good editor is hard work.

Ellen Datlow Links:

Website: ellendatlow.com

Twitter: @EllenDatlow

Facebook: www.facebook.com/EllenDatlow

 

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Next stop on the WIHM terror train is at Heather Herrman’s station. Everybody clap your claws together for Heather.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I grew up in Kansas prairie-land and from there have moved around quite a bit, living in South Carolina, the deserts of New Mexico, Portland, Oregon, and I now live in Omaha, Nebraska. I like the adventure of seeing new places, though now that I have a kid, that may change.

I’m heavily influenced by my family and their history, on both sides. My dad’s ancestors are Volga Germans, and there’s this gorgeous history of their struggles to find a homeland as they moved from Germany to Russia and then to the United States and Kansas, all the while maintaining their heritage through stories, songs, and food. My grandpa had a heavy German accent despite being born in Kansas. Some day I want to write about one of the Herrman children who was born in Russia back in the 1800’s and kidnapped by Cossacks only to be returned unharmed. I think there’s some hidden werewolf action that needs to be explored.

My mom’s side of the family consists of Kansas farmers and artists, and her parents’ love story also deserves its own book. My grandmother grew up motherless and basically had to take care of her siblings. She is a poet and author in her own right and one of the smartest women I know. When I was a kid, I’d sit on the porch-swing out back of their farm, and she would tell me stories about homesteading there, like how my great, great-grandfather would run forty-five miles each weekend to work in a butcher shop and then run forty-five miles back to farm. My grandpa grew up on this homestead and farmed full-time but also played stand-up bass with a touring jazz band. This mixture, from both sides, of honoring story and art along with the importance of home and land very much shapes me and my writing.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?  

My fiction has always contained dark elements, and I think that’s because I was so influenced by classic children’s literature, which is often incredibly dark. I still remember a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale about a girl who buries her lover’s head in a flowerpot. But what draws me to horror is, in fact, its hopefulness. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I like that horror grants us the ability to explore serious issues of society in a fresh way (think Romero’s zombies for consumerism, for example) while also letting us experience the role of the Everywoman as she moves through the gray area that is the messy reality of good and bad.  Good horror—good art—grants us a small revelation of what it means to be human. And that, I think, is well worth reading for.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies? 

That sounds really naughty. I like it. My jimmies were very rustled when I read Leonora Carrington’s short story “The Debutante” for the first time, which features a girl eating a bunch of people. I first read it in a fabulous collection called What Did Miss Darrington See?: An Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. Salmonson’s introductory essay to the collection is phenomenal, and really encouraged me to assume a new perspective concerning women in horror. Salmonson points out that while we often think of men as the “fathers” of the genre, in fact, during the late part of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth women were actually producing the majority of supernatural fiction, inspired largely in part by the inequality they experienced in everyday society. Supernatural fiction allowed these women authors to explode that reality and explore the problems and possibilities within it. Sadly, much of their work has been lost or forgotten, and so when we talk about horror we forget to give them credit as genre pioneers.

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?

I’ve written several short stories as well as a couple of novel-length works while I was getting my MFA in writing. I published a few of the stories but never the longer manuscripts, and after leaving grad school I began exploring the dark waters of horror with Consumption, my debut novel, published in May by Hydra/Random House. My other published stories—such as one about an ex-con who has just been released after pleading no contest to a count of child molestation and is greeted by a visit from his brother and his brother’s underage children—found homes in more traditionally straight literary/academic journals, but I think they could just as easily have landed in some of the horror markets. In terms of my favorite of my own work, it’s probably a short story called “Monsoon” that I published in The South Carolina Review several years ago. The story won me a scholarship to the Prague Writer’s Program to study with Holocaust survivor and author Arnost Lustig, which was life-changing. “Monsoon” is a magical realism love story, and I was still a young enough as an author and individual to just let it breathe without crushing the life out of it with experience and technique.

I’m also very attached to Consumption—I pumped several years into writing and editing that book—and was thrilled and honored to see it recently listed on the Preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards.

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

I love the long novel. My first draft of Consumption was over six hundred pages and had to be whittled down extensively. But as a reader I like to get lost in a world for a long time and not come up for air, so that’s the kind of experience I want to grant my readers. That said, I am also very fond of novellas.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

I’ve got a few novellas in various stages of completion simmering on the back-burners, but my major focus is a new novel, Til Death. It features a struggling couple at a marriage retreat who has a run-in with a serial killer. I’m having a lot of fun with this one. The tone is a little Gone Girl, a little old-school Clue, with some Silence of the Lambs thrown in for seasoning.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

My favorite writer, woman or not, is Katherine Anne Porter. Her novellas blow me away every time I read them. Noon Wine is incredible. I’d follow her closely by Leonora Carrington, Alice Monroe, and Muriel Spark (you want a truly thrilling murder book, read The Drivers Seat). In terms of current authors, I love all of Kelly Link and Sarah Langan’s work, Sara Gran is fabulous, and Helen Oyeyemi is a genius. Alyssa Wong is newer, but I’m excited by everything of hers I’ve read.

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with? 

I’m always up for collaboration. In this business, I think that you have to be. Writing is a lonely job, and if you stay locked away in your own little room you are going to go nuts (which may be good for writing horror but probably not for your soul). I recently collaborated with my agent, Superwoman Barbara Poelle, in teaching a class at the Loft Literary Center, which was a hell of a lot of fun. Everyone from that class really bonded. There’s a follow-up writing group from the class, which is pretty cool. I also have a dear friend in Omaha, Emily Borgmann, who shares similar interests with me in bringing literacy to at-risk populations, and she recently started a reading series I read at called Introducing, featuring an established author alongside an at-risk youth from Omaha’s Youth Emergency Services. Very cool stuff, and I’d like to get back to doing a lot more of that in collaboration with other authors. I’ve got designs on starting my own nonprofit some day marrying literacy advocacy, creative writing, and land stewardship, but that’s probably a few years in the future. In the meantime, graphic novels? I’m loving some of the stuff women are putting out these days (Bitch Planet springs to mind), and I’d be thrilled to collaborate on something like that.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

My TBR pile is bigger than godzilla, so I’m not gonna put you through all of that. Right now I’m reading a lot of stuff for the Stoker Awards because voting is coming up soon. Some standouts have been Ellen Datlow’s The Doll Collection Anthology, Kate Jonez’s short story “All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck,” and Paul Tremblay’s Head Full of Ghosts. I also just finished Slade House by David Mitchell, which was, like all his work, phenomenal. I’m looking forward to Peter Straub and Helen Oyeymi’s upcoming collections of stories as well as anticipating the release of new Annie Proulx, Joe Hill, Jim Harrison, and Louise Erdrich books.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the  challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?

I think much of the challenges don’t come from the readership as much as the publishing industry. There have been several studies suggesting that men don’t read female authors, and it’s harder to get a publisher to take a chance on a woman horror author than a man because a large chunk of the horror readership is, at least in the publishing world’s minds, male. But, you know, every member of the horror community I’ve spoken to has been incredibly welcoming of authors of both genders and eager to read their works. I think there is a general consensus that we’d all like to see better, smarter work getting a chance at larger audiences, but that can be a challenge when you’ve got got horror pigeon-holed as “genre,” and then you get further bogged down with the label of being a woman-genre writer beyond that. I like an interview Ursula Le Guin did when she talked about the problem with arbitrary divisions concerning genre, which is basically that the worst common denominator gets produced and sold then regurgitated over and over again by Hollywood, and so that’s what the genre (she was speaking of sci-fi, but I think the same holds true for horror) gets judged by. That is certainly changing, but I think the culture still exists, and in horror that surface-level status-quo tends to be a masculine one. The really exciting stuff is being done in the seams between genres (literary/horror, extreme/straight, paranormal/epic poem, etc.) by both men and women, but it’s not necessarily always the stuff getting the most recognition by larger publishing houses.

The recent novel Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing comes to mind. She’s on the preliminary ballot with me for the Stokers, and I just finished reading her book. Cushing pushes the boundaries of extreme horror to its limit, and she does it in this really smart, well-written way that reminds me of the post-modernist absurdist literature, something like Ionesco, maybe, where the author gives us the extremes to collapse our reality. We are forced so far out of our comfort zones that we have to question the scale of everything happening not just on the page but in our own world—morality, brushing our teeth, having anal sex with a pinhead. Cushing just goes for it, and I love that about her writing.

Q. Why is Women in Horror month important/important to you? 

Well, look, there are two trains of thought on this: either you think separating women out into their own category devalues their work, or you believe spotlighting them as a group writing great fiction but up against systematic prejudice is important. It’s a complicated subject, but coming down on one side, I’m of the latter group. Any chance to celebrate and expand the audience of, and network for, authors is important to me. I think breaking through the conventionally accepted truths like “men don’t read women” or “what women are writing isn’t really horror” is important not for just the horror community—I think many members already know and accept this—but for the larger fiction industry and readership. Exploding boundaries and inviting in new participation by readers and authors to whom mainstream horror hasn’t traditionally been marketed to or written by, will make the genre stronger. We’ve got a long way to go in achieving the inclusiveness necessary to grant horror the level of storytelling it could reach if more races and genders were encouraged and rewarded for telling their stories. Women in Horror month is a great step toward achieving this.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read your ass off and keep sending stuff out. Let somebody else decide if your work is crap. If you never put it out there, you have a zero percent success rate, guaranteed. Also, for women in particular, especially mothers, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. You deserve it. For some reason, several amazing women writers whom I’ve talked to seem to feel ashamed of the fact that they can’t juggle everything all at once—real-world job, motherhood, writing, taking care of everybody else, etc., etc.. And hey, guess what? You can’t. We’ve moved away from a culture with built-in support systems for mothers and women to one of disconnect and distance. Rebuilding those communities and getting support from other women and other authors is absolutely critical. We are only as strong as our networks. Oh, and claim that title of author. Don’t be scared to say it, even if you haven’t published anything, even if you still feel unsure. You will always feel unsure, and that’s okay. That is where the magic happens. But you are a writer. Own it.

Heather Herrman Links of Doom

Website: www.heatherherrman.com

Blog: http://www.heatherherrman.com/#!wwwhorrorandbrainscom/cpr0

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heatherherrmanauthor/

Twitter: @horrorandbrains

 

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Heather-Herrman/e/B011A5R0ME/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Penguin/Random House Listing:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/250955/consumption-by-heather-herrman/9781101884744/

US Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Consumption-Heather-Herrman-ebook/dp/B00O02CBJM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1432842150&sr=1-1&keywords=heather+herrman

UK Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Consumption-Heather-Herrman-ebook/dp/B00O02CBJM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454526571&sr=1-1&keywords=Heather+Herrman

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8619484.Heather_Herrman?from_search=true&search_version=service

world-fantasy-awards-flickr-640x480

 

Originally I thought to write a piece regarding the change of the WFA from a bust of Lovecraft to something different, but I realised there just so much to talk about that it can’t be tackled in just a few hundred words, hence the “Part 1” in the title.  In coming days, I hope to post a follow up to delve into things a little further. I think this is a worthy and timely topic for discussion and hope that I have something of value to add to that discussion.

A couple of weeks back,  folks that run the World Fantasy Convention came out and stated that they’re no longer going to use the a bust of author Howard Philips Lovecraft, designed by artist Gahan Wilson, for the World Fantasy Award.

As first reported by Locus Magazine:

David G. Hartwell, co-chair of the World Fantasy Convention board, announced during the 2015 World Fantasy Awards that the current award trophy is being retired after this year.

The trophy, known informally as the “Howard,” is a bust of author H.P. Lovecraft designed by Gahan Wilson. In recent years, many writers, editors, and readers in the field (notably World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor and nominee Daniel José Older) have called for the trophy to be changed, considering Lovecraft an inappropriate choice for the award due to his racist views. A design for the new trophy has not yet been announced.

Indeed, on November 10, Lovecraft biographer and editor, ST Joshi released the text of an letter he sent to David G. Hartwell, Co-chair of the World Fantasy Convention board:

I was deeply disappointed with the decision of the World Fantasy Convention to discard the bust of H. P. Lovecraft as the emblem of the World Fantasy Award. The decision seems to me a craven yielding to the worst sort of political correctness and an explicit acceptance of the crude, ignorant, and tendentious slanders against Lovecraft propagated by a small but noisy band of agitators.

I feel I have no alternative but to return my two World Fantasy Awards, as they now strike me as irremediably tainted. Please find them enclosed. You can dispose of them as you see fit.

Many authors have spoken, some more vociferously than others, about the need to change this award in several years.. including WFA winners Nnedi Okorafor, Sofia Samatar and others.

In the field of literary criticism there is a device known as the Implied Author (as opposed to the Author).  This Implied Author v.s Author relationship was referred to by T.S Eliot in his essay Tradition and Individual Talent, as “The Man Who Suffers and The Mind which Creates“.  The Man Who Suffers (i.e the Author)is the real life human being, the guy out there paying the bills and buying his hayfever medication from the pharmacy, raising his kids and working a day job.   The Mind Which Creates (i.e the Implied Author)  is the sense that we as readers get of the author and their personality,  or perhaps their views, or even their hopes and dreams.  This is a giant bone of contention between formalists of which T.S Eliot was one (i.e literary theorists and critics concerned with the form of a text) and those who seek to view the text through a more wider biographical lense and to take into account the time and place and the circumstances of the author before and during the time the work was written.

Ever the formalist, T.S Eliot wrote:

The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the two gases previously mentioned are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.

What Eliot is getting at here is that there is, particularly in the best of writers, a separation between the person of the writer and his creative mind, so that an author who might be a miser, or a complete jerk, or recluse can write stories and characters that are generous, and loving and outgoing. And vice versa!  Sure there are obvious exceptions to any rule, … a writer who is a jerk might write a mean story full of jerk characters, which mirrors his own life and experiences completely, but there is enough truth here that we can rationally recognise it.

Notwithstanding its lack of scholarly fides, I’m using wikipedia’s definition of the implied author here because, frankly, I like it.

The implied author is a concept of literary criticism developed in the 20th century. Distinct from the author and the narrator, the term refers to the character a reader may attribute to an author based on the way a literary work is written, which may differ considerably from the author’s true personality.

Author Saul Bellow once observed that it was not surprising, with all the revision that goes into a work, that an author might appear better on the page than in real life.

I love that last part. It’s so true. It’s like reading Orson Scott Card fiction and then reading his political views. Or listening to Eric Clapton play, before you find out he’s a big racist jerk.

Anyway,  lets take a look at HPL, shall we? Who was the Implied Author presented to us on HPL’s page?  Who was Lovecraft “the man”?

Lovecraft, the man, was a nervous recluse who, after his father died of syphilis in an insane asylyum, was raised by his mentally ill mother in Providence, Rhode Island.  He had extended periods of mental breakdown. He was an atheist and enamoured with science although was unable to pursue science as a serious academic study when he dropped out of highschool before graduation (on account of his poor mental health). He was a racist and held a lot of objectionable views. He briefly married a Jewish woman who later left him and he moved back to providence to live with his Aunts.  His views, which I personally find completely puerile and repulsive, are well known and extremely well documented owing to the fact that HPL was an amazingly prolific letter writer. He exchanged correspondence with a wide variety of figures, including notable writers of his time and those who would come along to be greats in their own right, including Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch etc. You can read more of his biography here and here.

Lovecraft viewed the Anglo-German (Teutonic) race as the pinnacle of evolution. He viewed southern Europeans and Asians as inferior races.  He held the deepest contempt for Blacks and Australian Aboriginals which he considered little more than animals, incapable of creating their own civilised societies and civilizations.  He considered America to be the Anglo-Saxon civilization transported to another continent and improved through a more democratic political environment, but sharing the same values, qualities and roots as that of its Western European forebears. HPL hated multiculturalism and insisted that only a small number of non-whites be admitted into the United States or the nation would come to ruin, although, interestingly, he held there to be some value in other non-white cultures as long as their people stayed in their own countries and separate from white civilization so as not to retard the progress of Anglo-saxon/teutonic civilization.  In various of his letters he foresaw the need to “get rid” of non-whites from America should they ever come to threaten the stability and Anglo-Saxon fabric of  the nation. One or two comments that he made were very close to, if not actually, calls for ethnic cleansing. For the purposes of brevity I’m not going to post all the text from his letters, but if you’re unaccustomed to his views, you can read about his views and read discussion of his views herehere, here, here, here, and all over the internet.

Now that we’ve examined The Man Who Suffers/Author… let’s inspect The Mind Which Creates/Implied Author.

One need only make a close reading of his works to see his xenophobic loathing for any non-white and non-western European people in fact permeate the content and form of his written work.  The Shadow Over Innsmouth, is a tale of degenerate creatures crawling out of the sea and mating with human beings, was basically just a projection of his fears about immigration, inter-racial breeding,  multiculturalism etc. In which the narrator is exposed to the degenerate invaders and, at the end of the story, learns that he has their blood too and lapses into an almost religious kind of ecstasy, in just the same way that Lovecraft accuses non-whites of in many of his tales.  See here for a close reading of some of the text.  Lovecraft almost always introduces non-white characters, multiculuralism generally, inter-racial marriage and inter-racial sex, non-English languages ,etc… in terms of scorn, derision and in a wholly dehumanising fashion.

Charles Baxter rightly comments:

Racism is not incidental to Lovecraft’s vision but is persistent and essential to it. Ethnic minorities and monsters are, for him, often interchangeable. In his stories it is not unusual for a character to undergo a transformation into a creature from whom all humanity has been leached out, turning him into a foreign-seeming thing, an immigrant, whose attributes are both unpredictable and repellent.

A classic example of this is from  The Horror At Redhook, with its descriptions  of  New York’s multicultural society and the obvious implication that non-whites are destroying the city:

The population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles. Here long ago a brighter picture dwelt, with clear-eyed mariners on the lower streets and homes of taste and substance where the larger houses line the hill. One can trace the relics of this former happiness in the trim shapes of the buildings, the occasional graceful churches, and the evidences of original art and background in bits of detail here and there—a worn flight of steps, a battered doorway, a wormy pair of decorative columns or pilasters, or a fragment of once green space with bent and rusted iron railing. The houses are generally in solid blocks, and now and then a many-windowed cupola arises to tell of days when the households of captains and ship-owners watched the sea.
From this tangle of material and spiritual putrescence the blasphemies of an hundred dialects assail the sky. Hordes of prowlers reel shouting and singing along the lanes and thoroughfares, occasional furtive hands suddenly extinguish lights and pull down curtains, and swarthy, sin-pitted faces disappear from windows when visitors pick their way through. Policemen despair of order or reform, and seek rather to erect barriers protecting the outside world from the contagion.

Other examples from his fiction compound the impression we get of his racist views.    Take the description of the black boxer in Herbert West: Reanimator as one example:

The negro had been knocked out, and moment’s examination showed us that he would permanently remain so. He was a loathsome, gorilla-like thing, with abnormally long arms which I could not help calling fore legs, and a face that conjured up thoughts of unspeakable Congo secrets and tom-tom poundings under an eerie moon.

There is no doubt that Lovecraft was a racist of the highest order and that his personal views he held influenced his fiction writing to the point that they (fear of the other/unknown/etc) are one of its central aspects.   He certainly fails T.S Eliot’s test for who is “the most perfect artist”, because it would seem that here was very little or no separation between his personal and creative spheres.  In Lovecraft’s case, The Man Who Suffered WAS the Mind Which Created. 

So what do I think?

I’m honestly so damn tired of people being outraged about everything all the time. So sick of everyone having some cause to champion. It sets my teeth on edge, even when I agree with why they’re outraged. (Largely because I don’t like people generally, and I’ve got enough of my own problems and can rarely handle worrying about the problems of others). My inner misanthrope, who may also be my inner privileged white misogynist, sometimes wishes everyone would just shut the the hell up. I try very hard, however, to recognise this as a character flaw and as objectionable and pray the better part of myself and logic prevails.  Therefore, I understand that things that don’t affect me or that I could care less about, do affect others and they do care about those things.  I can put myself in someone else’s shoes.

I’m white (anglo-celtic stock with a spattering of Western European)  but my lovely wife is of an arab background. Our inter-racial marriage and our three beautiful daughters would probably be the kind of “hybrid filth” that Lovecraft mentioned in The Horror at Red Hook.  So I can sympathise with Nnedi Okorafor when she said:

Anyway, a statuette of this racist man’s head is in my home. A statuette of this racist man’s head  is one of my greatest honors as a writer. A statuette of this racist man’s head sits beside my Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and my Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award (an award given to the best speculative fiction by a person of color). I’m conflicted.

I can also relate to Usman Tanveer Malik who mentioned in one Facebook comment words to the effect that Lovecraft is hardly representative of “World Fantasy” and that awards should be something that is inclusive of people if wants to market itself as the “World Fantasy” award.  Which, ultimately, is probably the most important aspect here. In my opinion, the World Fantasy Award should be an award that should not be anglo-american centric.

Indeed, as Lenika Cruz mentions in The Atlantic:

On some level, Joshi’s frustration is understandable. The nebulous field of weird fiction wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t imbued with the spirit of Lovecraft’s strange, dark creations. And the question of how much to separate a cultural figure from his or her personal beliefs has always been an uneasy one. But Joshi’s claims are myopic. Lovecraft’s removal is about more than just the writer himself; it’s not an indictment of his entire oeuvre. The change is symbolic but powerful—it’s a message to the next generation of writers, artists, and editors that they belong in the genre of science fiction and fantasy.

With this in mind, I largely support the move to change the WFA from a bust of Lovecraft to something different. I don’t think Lovecraft is representative of world fantasy, even if I do love his stories ..(if not for him, Jack Ketchum [who’s mentor Robert Bloch was actually the protege of HPL] and Stephen King, I may not even be a writer). If Lovecraft’s bust had been the World Horror Award, I may (tentatively!) have been less supportive as he’s clearly a towering figure in horror genre, even if he was an odious racist. But fantasy? No way.  As the shit-stirrer par excellence (yet amazingly talented and knowledgeable author and editor) Nick Mamatas mentioned recently, while we view Horror as a distinct genre (which leads many of us to question HPL’s suitability to be linked to the award), if anything, it is more appropriately  a sub-genre of Fantasy in general. I can’t help but feel that if we follow this line of logic and view HPL’s work as part of a Fantasy sub genre, he’s still a just single author from a sub-genre and hardly, in my opinion, representative of the genre as a whole.

I suggest we all take a collective chill pill. Whether you think the so-called “Social Justice Warriors” are not worth Lovecraft’s literary fingernail or not (like Vox Day), changing the appearance of the award doesn’t take away from the achievements of Lovecraft.  Nor, does it change his effect and stature in fiction. Nor will it mean less people will read Lovecraft.  It doesn’t take away from fans, authors or editors who like Lovecraft of write or edit Lovecraftian fiction — most of you are great people and those writers and editors amongst you are extremely talented individuals. Beyond that, you can’t insult the dead. HPL seriously doesn’t care (he’s dead) and his place in literary history is assured.  Those who want the change have their opinion (which is a legit concern to them and many others), and you have yours. You can lobby the World Fantasy Convention with your own views on the matter if you want, as can authors or fans of any other persuasion.

So, I say, let’s just make the award an elf, or a dragon, or a unicorn or make it a plaque and not a bust or idol of something at all — and then can we just get on with the business of writing, reading and enjoying new fiction. 

Update:

Since I drafted this post a whole bunch of stuff has gone down, including ST Joshi’s wife yelling at an author and saying he’s now blacklisted from any press where Joshi works, not to be over-shadowed by Joshi coming out and saying Ellen Datlow is immoral and that she’s opportunistically released lovecraftian works while backstabbing his corpse by seeking to get the “Howie” replaced as the WFA bust.    You can find some of this on Joshi’s website.  As far as I’m concerned, this is beyond the pale and I think ST Joshi owes Ellen a public apology.  Wow. You crossed the line, dude. Sit down.

I am writing a supplementary post delving into greater detail regarding some of the issues surrounding this current furor which I believe to be quite pertinent to the discussion, namely that of free speech, tradition, privilege and his legacy and effect on current race discourse.