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Being Gay in YA
March 29, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Last Monday, young adult author Jessica Verday announced that she'd pulled out Wicked Pretty Things, an anthology forthcoming with Running Press, after the anthology's editor asked her to change a romance between two teenage boys to a heterosexual pairing. The editor responded, "These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they'd be light on alternative sexuality, as well. Turns out I was wrong!"

In the aftermath, Verday reiterated her discomfort with working with Telep, despite an invitation from the publisher to have her work reinstated without changes. Several other authors have pulled out as well, including Lesley Livingston, Karen Mahoney, Lisa Mantchev, Brenna Yovanoff, and Seanen Maguire. Two authors, Ann Aguirre, and metafilter's own Saundra Mitchell, have pulled stories from other forthcoming anthologies edited by Telep.

However, author Dina James suggests that protesting against the publisher might have unintended side effects:
As I said, I’m published by RP/C&R. My work is found in the anthologies complied by the editor in question long before all this happened. People choosing not to buy those works (or any of the other wonderful work put out by RP/C&R) because of her actions of late are punishing me and every author in those works with their choices.

Again, that’s fine. Utterly fine. I understand completely. It’s your money, and yes, a small percentage of it will go to the editor of the anthology. I understand that you don’t want that happening.

However, by doing that, you’re also punishing me (and the other authors that you love) for being associated with both the editor and my publisher, and I haven’t done anything wrong. I find this whole thing abhorrent, and I do feel guilty by association, even though I know I shouldn’t.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi (121 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
*long drawn out sigh*
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


(although yay for all the ...pulling out)


(I could have phrased that better)
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 PM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


"Alternative sexuality" is like saying "alternative ethnicity". It implies a choice. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [50 favorites]


However, by doing that, you’re also punishing me (and the other authors that you love) for being associated with both the editor and my publisher
I can't tell if she's just being whiny for the sake of it, or if she really doesn't get the point.
posted by brokkr at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2011 [19 favorites]


"Alternative sexuality" reminds me of bored teenagers in flannel talking about sex but not actually having it, cause like, whatever man
posted by special agent conrad uno at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2011 [39 favorites]


I guess the point is, this person appears to edit with an agenda and has an opinion that some segment of her theoretical readership has a sexual orientation to which "people" may object. Which .. . the point of good literature is sometimes to uncover these things and spark discussion and thought, and she's falling down on the job by trying to disguise that there are real kids who are so-called alternatively-oriented, and you know, we might want to acknowledge them and treat them like all other human beings.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Alternative sexuality" is like saying "alternative ethnicity". It implies a choice.

Does it? Or does it just imply "something other than the well-established widely-recognized default option."
posted by hermitosis at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, good literature is usually not as great a priority as good numbers, these days, and publishers via their editors tend to shy away from hot button issues.
posted by katillathehun at 12:54 PM on March 29, 2011


*shakes head*

I guess I'm still more flabbergasted than I should be that most adults refuse to acknowledge, regardless of orientation, teenagers are the most sexual of beings. As for gay YA, this is an immense market waiting to be tapped. Favorite Author is going to delve into it in the future and I can't wait, even though I'm a straight woman.
posted by Kitteh at 12:55 PM on March 29, 2011


So after the publishers offer to include it, the authors insist on pulling out, because they don't like Trisha Telep getting any royalties.

How much of this is LGBT, and how much of this is "we just don't like Telep"?
posted by orthogonality at 12:56 PM on March 29, 2011


"Alternative sexuality" is like saying "alternative ethnicity". It implies a choice.

Does it? Or does it just imply "something other than the well-established widely-recognized default option."


I don't know if I'd say that it implies a choice, exactly, but it certainly reinforces heteronormativity. If you're 'alternative', you're in a separate category to the norm. Also referring to heterosexuality as the 'default' carries the same problem. It's not the default if you're not heterosexual.
posted by anaximander at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


I'd definitely be uncomfortable working with someone who was only willing to do what I felt was the right thing under duress.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


How much of this is LGBT, and how much of this is "we just don't like Telep"?

I understand your point here, but really, why is it a bad thing to dislike someone who, without having been told to do so by any superiors, took it upon themselves to reject a story's same sex relationship in favor of a male-female one?
posted by elizardbits at 1:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


So What? the publisher knows his audience and what will sell for him. The writer knows what she wants to say. It is their right to publish or not and to go elsewhere to find a compatible publisher and writer. Why make a big thing of this, as many do gooders are going to do.
Example: Knock On Any Door was a fine book about a black kid who ended up killing someone. The book was turned into a film. The film maker changed the central character from Black to Italian. Italians did not complain. Blacks did not complain. The writer seems not have complained.
Gay love is here and it has passed a threshold in much of the country, if we are to believe polls, and law changes , tv shows etc.
But so too is a person's right to make choices.
posted by Postroad at 1:04 PM on March 29, 2011


Exactly, Trisha Telep may be a great, kind person but if you don't feel comfortable working with a person who lets their homophobia rule their editing decision, that's fully within the author's rights.

Likewise, I understand why the publisher might stand by her - who see this as one characteristic that a person is bringing to the table professionally. But, like the author quoted above, they are equally "guilty by association" and should expect to have to deal with the consequences.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:06 PM on March 29, 2011


Obviously, my "Exactly" was for elizardbits comments damn preview
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:07 PM on March 29, 2011


As for gay YA, this is an immense market waiting to be tapped.

Seriously. Some publisher is going to establish themselves as the go-to brand for LGBT YA fiction and make like a thousand goldmines.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:09 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Trish made a bad decision, but it was nice to see her show up and take the blame and apologize.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:09 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for gay YA, this is an immense market waiting to be tapped.

you could have phrased that better.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


(By the way: if you want to see a you tube video of me wrestling a gay man in Glasgow, and losing, please let me know)

Naw, I'm cool.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 1:11 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


According to Telep, she acted on her own discretion, not on orders from the publisher.

I get the impression that the publisher had no desire to change the original story, or awareness of what was going on until it became "a thing." They have a long relationship with Telep, and don't want to throw her under the bus because of a misunderstanding. They also want to be queer-friendly and not horrible, terrible people.

There's a lot of good that can be done by making examples out of people. Putting a few derivative traders in jail could only improve the world. But I am torn when it comes to this sort of situation. The publisher is clearly standing by Telep the editor they have worked with for years, not Telep's decision, nor Telep the horrid homophobe. Is it wrong to correct the offense (attempt to publish the story unaltered), instruct the offender (make sure Telep understands in no uncertain terms How Things Are Done Around Here), and move on without terminating the contract of a long-term, otherwise satisfactory hire?

I regularly bitch and moan about employers having zero loyalty to their underlings. This situation leaves me conflicted. I think, particularly in our messed up society, that it is possible for a generally good person with generally good intentions to make this sort of mistake. It's also possible for that sort of person to learn from their bonehead actions and change.
posted by jsturgill at 1:11 PM on March 29, 2011 [26 favorites]


it certainly reinforces heteronormativity. If you're 'alternative', you're in a separate category to the norm

The vast majority of all people fall under the "norm" -- that's what a norm is. As a gay, I don't have a problem acknowledging that.
posted by hermitosis at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


(By the way: if you want to see a you tube video of me wrestling a gay man in Glasgow, and losing, please let me know)

Finally, a use for 3D!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:18 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Trish made a bad decision, but it was nice to see her show up and take the blame and apologize.

The problem is that she didn't apologise - not really, anyway. Her first comment (of two so far) after the news broke was basically a half-assed sidestep. She doesn't seem to be aware of why people are angry at her.

hermitosis: The vast majority of all people fall under the "norm" -- that's what a norm is. As a gay, I don't have a problem acknowledging that.

I wasn't talking about merely acknowledging the fact that there are more heterosexual people than their are people of other orientations. Saying that homosexuality is 'alternative' to heterosexuality does not place the two on equal footing. It also implies that heterosexuality is the 'default option', and that you or I are essentially deviations from that norm. The distinction is qualitative rather than quantitative.
posted by anaximander at 1:19 PM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Kitteh: "As for gay YA, this is an immense market waiting to be tapped. Favorite Author is going to delve into it in the future and I can't wait, even though I'm a straight woman."
If you're a bit impatient, as a young gay I read the Rainbow Boys series, mostly because it was the only YA book in my local library that I could even remotely connect to. It seems a bit backwards to discourage books for LGBT youth – it's that awful limbo period of both personal self-discovery and external bullying when an escape into a fictional world is needed the most.
posted by Rickalicioso at 1:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could we say minority sexuality, or is that problematic too?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:23 PM on March 29, 2011


If you're a bit impatient, as a young gay I read the Rainbow Boys series, mostly because it was the only YA book in my local library that I could even remotely connect to. It seems a bit backwards to discourage books for LGBT youth – it's that awful limbo period of both personal self-discovery and external bullying when an escape into a fictional world is needed the most.

Heh, I just reviewed a book by Sanchez. It was a bit anvilicious, but essentially had the message of, "Hey! Don't hate on bi kids!" Which is definitely a good, awesome message and needed.

I tried to present this post with as little editorializing as possible, but I have to say that I'm surprised it went down with an antho that has Francesca Lia Block's name attached. When my best friend came out to me when we were fifteen, I tearfully brought him my copy of Dangerous Angels and read to him the part where Duck comes out and we both cried. It really helped us both in ways I can't even articulate. That anyone would think that gay kids don't need these stories, or want them or aren't willing to buy them--and that they're somehow dirtier by association--is so sad to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The book's title is Wicked Pretty Things, from an editor who says "These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language." Sounds like like either cognitive dissonance, bait-and-switch or simply "these words do not mean what you think they mean".
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:33 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine: "Could we say minority sexuality, or is that problematic too?"
I think the term "alternative sexuality" is mostly offensive in the context of the editor's words: "These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they'd be light on alternative sexuality, as well." If by "sex" and "language" we assume the editor meant "graphic depictions of sex" and "vulgar language", equating the severity of these concepts to an "alternative sexuality" (however euphemistically it was intended) implies an attitude towards LGBT people that at least I find offensive.
posted by Rickalicioso at 1:37 PM on March 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Unfortunately, good literature is usually not as great a priority as good numbers, these days

Can we dispense with this rosy nostalgia for a time that never existed, please? I feel like most of the sensible population has stopped pining for some idyllic 1950s where people were nice to each other and dressed for dinner and everything was grand and polite. We recognize that since a sizable portion of the population was oppressed in overt and subtle ways that maybe it wasn't so cool.

Let's apply the same sense to economic matters, shall we? Guttenberg printed the Bible because there was a market for it. Even if you remove crass commercial printing from your historical consideration you see authors considering their work in light of keeping their patronage. I guess you could say that people bending to allow for censorship and favoritism is somehow better than pandering but we'll have to agree to disagree.

If you want to talk about these days you should consider that we live in an era where the number of ways a writer can share hir work with a large audience has possibly the lowest bar ever. You can live on the streets but still publish if you have a library with a web terminal and the acumen to navigate Google Pages.
posted by phearlez at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


As an author, I don't have power over a lot of things when it comes to publishing my work. When my debut novel came out in 2009, I didn't get to decide that my first book would be categorized as young adult, even though it's middle grade, because we were less likely to get flack in that category-- all because I had a gay character who simply existed in my book.

I didn't get to decline the "Sexual Content" warnings that book clubs put on that book because I had a gay character who simply existed in my book. I don't get to correct reviewers who seem to think that this character is standing in for a mother figure simply because he's gay.

But I do get to decide whether I want to work for someone. And I don't want to work with an editor whose private and public statements on this issue run completely contrary the themes contained in my body of work, and conflict with who I am as a writer, a parent, and a person.

I'm not mad at Trisha, and I don't think she was trying to be malicious. It's actually very disappointing to me to have to withdraw my work because Trisha's one of the few editors doing regular YA anthologies right now. Her collections are amazing; I own several.

I honestly believe given time, she will work this out, and make a sincere and thoughtful apology, and be able to move forward as an editor. But that time hasn't come, and for me to work with her, that time isn't now.
posted by headspace at 1:47 PM on March 29, 2011 [50 favorites]


great advertising, now I really want to read that story!

As for gay YA fiction, I would recommend checking out the winners and finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards Children's/Young Adult section. I discovered Finlater over there, it's a great work by any standard, although it won in the gay debut fiction category.
posted by ts;dr at 1:48 PM on March 29, 2011


Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories [...] The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.
In a world of spectrums, it's unreasonable to define only two classes of sexuality - "normal (aka Penis In Vagina)" and "everything else".

It's also deeply, deeply problematic to equate a romantic relationship between two people of the same sex with an explicit sexuality, when such a relationship in a heterosexual context would be considered appropriate for YA fiction.
posted by muddgirl at 1:51 PM on March 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


[...] by doing that, you’re also punishing me (and the other authors that you love) for being associated with both the editor and my publisher, and I haven’t done anything wrong.
and two lines before:
punishing me and every author in those works with their choices

You choice to work with them. You can now choice to either stay or leave. Your own actions also says something.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 1:57 PM on March 29, 2011


Saying that homosexuality is 'alternative' to heterosexuality does not place the two on equal footing. It also implies that heterosexuality is the 'default option', and that you or I are essentially deviations from that norm. The distinction is qualitative rather than quantitative.

I don't want to derail the thread further, so feel free to memail me, but I really just disagree. Heterosexuality is the default option. It is how procreation occurs. I don't think that homosexuals, or homosexual love, or homosexual sexuality are inferior to their heterosexual equivalents. But they are very much deviations (however welcome) from the norm, and I don't find that to be a qualitative statement.
posted by hermitosis at 1:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The vast majority of all people fall under the "norm" -- that's what a norm is. As a gay, I don't have a problem acknowledging that.

That's what a norm is when you're talking about statistics. It isn't what a norm is in this context.
posted by Marty Marx at 1:57 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they'd be light on alternative sexuality, as well. Turns out I was wrong!

The editor didn't ask the author to cut any sex scenes just change one of the characters from male to female. Is a boy/boy coupling somehow more explicit than boy/girl?
posted by the_artificer at 2:00 PM on March 29, 2011


Heterosexuality is the default option. It is how procreation occurs.

By this standard, asexuality is the norm - us multicellular organisms are experimenting with an alternative sexuality.
posted by muddgirl at 2:00 PM on March 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


Cleolinda Jones has some of the best recaps of this story I have seen.

The question is what should Trisha Telep and Running Press do now? I assume that it's too late for Telep to resign from this anthology. How could she -- since it seems all to be on her shoulders -- make up for this mistake (compounded by her weird "watch me wrestle a gay dude!" apology) without quitting her career entirely? I cannot figure out what the best next move is, though ignoring it and hoping it goes away, what she currently appears to be doing, is not a good move.

(At least one author, Maria V. Snyder, has since joined the anthology.)
posted by jeather at 2:06 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The question is what should Trisha Telep and Running Press do now?

If she just posted a sincere apology, one that made it clear that she realizes why people are so angry with her (NB), I'd be happy. Of course, it would be even better if she indicated that she had changed her mind about 'alternative sexuality' because of this, but I guess that might be asking a bit much.

(While we're on the topic of Cleolinda's coverage: Jessica Verday has a comment somewhere in the midst of that where she indicates that Telep's e-mails to her were much worse than her public communications. She doesn't say anything more than that, for obvious reasons, but it's disappointing if true.)
posted by anaximander at 2:10 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope this isn't overly pessimistic of me, but I'm not so sure that LGBT YA is a gold mine waiting to be tapped. It is out there! If you don't read a lot of YA, you might not realize just how much is out there!

This year the American Library Association established a YA category for the Stonewall awards and named one winner and four honor books.

In addition to the LAMBDA awards (one of the most delightful days after my book came out was when a reviewer suggested I should get a LAMBADA award, incidentally!) there's the Rainbow List. This is a lot of books!

And few of them have sold really well, with possibly the exception of Boy Meets Boy. I think that adolescence is a time when it still seems precarious, whether you're gay or straight or bi or anything, to pick up a book with gay characters -- and when even people who are otherwise openminded and gay-positive feel like it's not something they can relate to. They think it's not going to be a story that's about them.

I could be wrong. I'd like to be wrong. But some of these books are really great and I wish that they were getting more attention.
posted by Jeanne at 2:13 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, people like my friend the former teen-brarian get pushed out of being a librarian by a system that treats them like glorified janitors instead of professionals on par with teachers (which I guess explains why they get treated like shit - what's good for the goose, right?). She had a very well-curated collection and more than a few fights about what things were included and what things were to be excluded. A PUBLIC LIBRARY should be able to supply these kinds of stories to kids who need them, and provide the smart, with-it adult with whom s/he can talk about the book -- in short, people like my friend. Alas, the system seems to be killing people like her or causing them to become bitter.

Sorry, kind of de-rail-y, but these books WOULD get more attention if librarians and educators weren't always about to be fired for being gay positive with kids who aren't sure where their interests lie.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2011


jsturgill's comment, above, sounds awfully reasonable, and has made me think hard about my initial response to this (yay using the favorite option as a bookmark), which was, essentially "failure to censure homophobia sends a signal about how seriously an employer or an industry takes homophobia".

But I don't understand what made the editor think that homosexuality was equivalent to verboten sex or violence - was it an impression that she had previously got, erroneously or otherwise, from publishers or peers? Is it a sincerely held belief that young adults should not be exposed to LGBT themes, or was it an unsuccessful attempt to predict the tastes of the publisher (and who would send content up the line believing it would be rejected?). And, at the risk of blaming society, how unsafe would that prediction be? If there's one thing I've learned from Hollywood, it's that the ratio of men shot by other men to men kissed by other men is about 10,000 to 1. In that context, is this editorial decision an outlier, or one based on market logic?

Also, this anthology was going to feature Francesca Lia Block? That's horribly ironic. I remember being very moved by her child's-eye account (in Weezie Bat, I think) of one of her loose group of co-parents cracking up when his ex-partner became HIV-positive.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:20 PM on March 29, 2011


I understand your point here, but really, why is it a bad thing to dislike someone who,

Not saying it's "bad'. Just saying there's more to this story, and I'm guessing that's personality conflicts.
posted by orthogonality at 2:34 PM on March 29, 2011


"Can we dispense with this rosy nostalgia for a time that never existed, please? I feel like most of the sensible population has stopped pining for some idyllic 1950s where people were nice to each other and dressed for dinner and everything was grand and polite. We recognize that since a sizable portion of the population was oppressed in overt and subtle ways that maybe it wasn't so cool.

Let's apply the same sense to economic matters, shall we? Guttenberg printed the Bible because there was a market for it. Even if you remove crass commercial printing from your historical consideration you see authors considering their work in light of keeping their patronage. I guess you could say that people bending to allow for censorship and favoritism is somehow better than pandering but we'll have to agree to disagree.
"

For a large part of the 20th century, literature wasn't seen as a money-making prospect, at least not most high literature. Publishing houses were run for prestige and for love and for cultural imperialism; mass market books were seen as a necessity to support this work.

There have been two big changes since then: Books are no longer the primary mass entertainment, being replaced by television, etc., and as such, authors are no longer mass celebrities. At one point, people actually cared what William Saroyan thought about the issues of the day, and Bennet Cerf was well-known enough to do cameos on What's My Line?

The other big thing that has changed has been a massive consolidation in publishing. Publishers — and this is true for magazines as well as books — went from being stand-alone houses that often lived or died based on the aesthetic judgment of a single publisher (or at the very most, small oligarchy of editors), to media arms of corporations in which shareholder concerns are the utmost metric of success. One of the repeated myths about newspaper publishing was that it was unprofitable — to the contrary, it was very profitable up through the early 2000s, but that profit came from decreasing costs rather than increasing revenues. Slashing budgets (in large part due to computerization) meant that the mode of publishing became slashing budgets to increase profits, without realizing that this also gutted a lot of the institutional knowledge that they had regarding best practices in literature. And when budgets become thin, the numbers take on magnified importance. When a book losing $100000 was one percent of total costs for a publisher, it wasn't as big a deal as when that's five percent of the total costs.

Like many things, publishing has been caught in the downward spiral of decreasing costs over increasing revenues — the Walmart collective action problem that we also see in things like interns being "hired" over professionals.

So while there wasn't ever necessarily a rosy past (old publishing tended to be exclusive, aristocratic and insular even moreso than it is today), it's pretty annoying to hear this counter-narrative of mercenary capitalism posited as The Truth Now And Forever. It's ignorant, and it comes up a lot.
posted by klangklangston at 2:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think that adolescence is a time when it still seems precarious, whether you're gay or straight or bi or anything, to pick up a book with gay characters -- and when even people who are otherwise openminded and gay-positive feel like it's not something they can relate to. They think it's not going to be a story that's about them.

Things probably haven't changed that much since I was 13 and accidentally picked up Annie on my Mind at the book store because the book jacket said it would appeal to "straight kids" and I thought they meant "kids who don't do drugs."

Yeah, I was pretty naive. In my defense, it had the middle of these covers. I absolutely wouldn't have bought the book if I knew what it was about before-hand (which is a shame).
posted by muddgirl at 2:47 PM on March 29, 2011


For a large part of the 20th century, literature wasn't seen as a money-making prospect, at least not most high literature.

Nope, that prospect was saved for magazines. Now that magazines don't publish sensational short stories as a money-making venture, authors and publishers have to find another medium.
posted by muddgirl at 2:49 PM on March 29, 2011


And few of them have sold really well, with possibly the exception of Boy Meets Boy. I think that adolescence is a time when it still seems precarious, whether you're gay or straight or bi or anything, to pick up a book with gay characters -- and when even people who are otherwise openminded and gay-positive feel like it's not something they can relate to. They think it's not going to be a story that's about them.

I wonder if part of this is because it often seems like books with gay characters are resigned to the "issue book ghetto," so to speak. It's still feels relatively rare to encounter books where queer kids are normalized to any degree, and though sometimes I feel a bit torn about portrayals that white-wash the experiences of gay teens (how can one write a story where someone "happens to be gay" in our society when our society makes an issue of their identity?), I think it's those narratives that really do the most potential good.

Of course, I was a questioning teen who generally trolled the adult SF sections for stories about gay people (thanks to Mercedes Lackey and Katie Waitman for hitting the spot back then), so my perspective might be a different than most.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:50 PM on March 29, 2011


So What? the publisher knows his audience and what will sell for him. The writer knows what she wants to say. It is their right to publish or not and to go elsewhere to find a compatible publisher and writer.

Of course they have those rights; no one has claimed otherwise.

But to change the story, for fear that homophobes won't buy or read stories which happen to be about gay characters, is just pandering to homophobia.
posted by ixohoxi at 2:53 PM on March 29, 2011


I think the fact that she is a bestselling author complicates things. Unpublished writers trying to break into the market are not always in a position to act the way she did. As a (gay) published writer, I will say that sometimes it's up to the author to bend as well. It's the nature of the beast. In the end, much of it comes down to whether you write to get published or if you do it with the aim of trying to make a living off it.

I don't really get the whoo-hoo reaction experienced by so many people, gay and straight.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:24 PM on March 29, 2011


I don't really get the whoo-hoo reaction experienced by so many people, gay and straight.

?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:54 PM on March 29, 2011


So after the publishers offer to include it, the authors insist on pulling out, because they don't like Trisha Telep getting any royalties.

How much of this is LGBT, and how much of this is "we just don't like Telep"?


Not saying it's "bad'. Just saying there's more to this story, and I'm guessing that's personality conflicts.

That makes no sense. These authors knew who the editor was when they originally submitted. The only thing that changed was Telep's homophobic actions. I don't get why you're looking for ulterior motives.
posted by kmz at 4:06 PM on March 29, 2011


EBooks FTW.
posted by delmoi at 4:11 PM on March 29, 2011


it's pretty annoying to hear this counter-narrative of mercenary capitalism posited as The Truth Now And Forever. It's ignorant, and it comes up a lot.

You have fabricated a narrative for me here and even ignored part that you quoted. There has never been this noble and beautiful attachment to pure unsullied literature absent concerns about popularity (because of a need to appeal to mass markets) or the desires of the powerful. There may well have been a time when publishing houses were willing to take on more money-losing ventures because other things were raking in the cash - just like there may have been a time in the middle 20th century where people were more polite to each other in public.

So long as they were white and male, anyway.

Which is the point: attacking Telep's effort to alter a story to what she thought would sell better (because it would turn off fewer folks) as if it is some modern new change to pursuit of the almighty dollar is silly. You yourself acknowledge that "mass market books were seen as a necessity to support this work," which pretty well presumes the pursuit of a mass market.

Observing this sucky thing going on now and rolling your eyes as if it's proof that Things Used To Be Better overlooks the entirety of human history which is filled with people doing what they have to do in order to do what they want to do. There may have been a minority toiling away in poverty out of desperate attachment to Art but there still is and they have more ways to reach out than ever before.
posted by phearlez at 4:14 PM on March 29, 2011


? @PhoBWanKenobi : If you read what I wrote first again, maybe you will understand?
posted by New England Cultist at 4:29 PM on March 29, 2011


I read it, I just have no idea what whoo-hoo reaction you're talking about.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2011


PhoBWanKenobi: it often seems like books with gay characters are resigned to the "issue book ghetto"

I've noticed this. From cover treatment, to paperback-only release, to publisher support. It's why books like Malindo Lo's Ash and John Green/David Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson seemed so remarkable. Although YA books with gay protagonists aren't new, they were very front-list, particularly since the former was fantasy, and the latter was half-penned by one of the most popular authors in YA.
posted by changeling at 4:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You have fabricated a narrative for me here and even ignored part that you quoted."

If that wasn't the narrative you wanted, your comment made no sense as a reply to "Unfortunately, good literature is usually not as great a priority as good numbers, these days."

Because, yes, once upon a time, good literature was more of a priority for publishing than return on investment. That changed due to the nature of the public and the nature of the industry changing.

So, if you could lay off the straw man bullshit about "pure and unsullied" and recognize that things can change for the worse, and that if you value literature it's hard to argue that they haven't, you'd be a lot more in line with what actually happened here.

If you want to argue that in past days the outcome might have been the same — Telep might have agitated for the change due to broader social homophobia rather than market concern — you might be right. Arguing that it would have been an explicitly market-oriented decision would be far less supportable, and indeed, you haven't supported it.
posted by klangklangston at 4:47 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


As for the Telep controversy — It's sort of a shame. It seems like this is a woman who, aside from allegedly more scandalous private emails, made the wrong call because she assumed that the publisher would want that wrong call made, not out of any real personal animus. So then people flip the fuck out and instead of giving her any avenues to change this or make something right, they've just withdrawn and issued ultimatums. This could have been a learning moment, instead it seems like a burning moment.
posted by klangklangston at 4:50 PM on March 29, 2011


and omfg at her wrestling a gay man in Glasgow nonsense. so that's the new, more action-packed "I have a gay friend?"
posted by changeling at 4:55 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


> This could have been a learning moment, instead it seems like a burning moment.

A small mistake calls for a small apology, but that won't satisfy people lusting for a twenty minute grovel.
posted by jfuller at 4:58 PM on March 29, 2011


I've noticed this. From cover treatment, to paperback-only release, to publisher support. It's why books like Malindo Lo's Ash and John Green/David Levithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson seemed so remarkable. Although YA books with gay protagonists aren't new, they were very front-list, particularly since the former was fantasy, and the latter was half-penned by one of the most popular authors in YA.

I can't help but think that fantasy/genre is where there's the greatest opportunity to combine great, gripping storytelling with a more diverse representation of sexualities. I mean, in a fantasy world it's much easier to slip in queer characters without comment and make the fact that other sexualities are accepted just part of the world building. But Ash and Scott Tracey's forthcoming Witch Eyes are the only ones I've heard of. It's possible I'm missing some, but it seems like there should be more.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:00 PM on March 29, 2011


I am not sure the initial request counts as a small mistake, and certainly her first public faux-apology and lack of further response turns it from a small mistake into quite a large one.
posted by jeather at 5:04 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd just like to highly recommend Perry Moore's 2007 book Hero to folks looking for a cool YA gay novel (it won the YA Lambda that year). Teen basketball player with disgraced superhero father and absent mother deals with his superpowers and being closeted at the same time, while evil supervillain is plotting to destroy the world. It has flaws in the plot development but I still liked it a lot and am pretty sure young queer readers would find a lot to enjoy there, especially if they're a bit geeky. Sadly, Moore (who was a producer on the Narnia movies) died last month at 39 of an apparent oxycontin overdose.

That said, I'm really surprised by this from hermitosis:

Heterosexuality is the default option. It is how procreation occurs.

Dude, *procreation* is hardly the norm among many mammal species. You should re-read your copy of Bruce Bagemihl's Biological Exuberance, particularly the part where it points out that in many large mammal populations - say, giraffes - the percentage of adult animals who successfully procreate is very much closer to 0 than 50 percent. Your argument here is really odd.
posted by mediareport at 5:16 PM on March 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


And by "successfully procreate" I mean "have any heterosexual sex in their life."
posted by mediareport at 5:18 PM on March 29, 2011


> And few of them have sold really well, with possibly the exception of Boy Meets Boy.

Boy Meets Boy is one of the rare contemporary LGBT YA novels where homosexuality isn't a big deal within the world of the novel. I think this is a large factor in its continued success, and it surprises me how few publishers seem to be interested in putting out similar works.

I read a lot of LGBT YA, and almost all of it is what I would call "first wave" literature. It's "I think I might be gay" books. It's "I'm gay, what do I do now?" books. What makes Boy Meets Boy so great is that it skips most of that and goes to "I'm gay, whatever". We need more books like this, and for some reason few authors except David Levithan have been successful in getting them published in the contemporary sphere.

There's a subset of teens who read a huge amount of gay fiction, but they seem to do it almost entirely online (fanfiction). Maybe it's the shame/fear factor, but I believe the matter-of-fact way that homosexuality is typically treated in fanfiction plays a large part. There's only so many novels you can read about coming out before you start looking for stories that are less about being gay and more about characters who happen to be gay.

I believe change is coming, but it is coming at a slower pace than I had hoped.
posted by Georgina at 5:20 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I work in publishing, and I think that a lot of people in the industry would love to see more books featuring LGBTQ characters -- I know I would.

People have mentioned several great novels here, and I wanted to say that, for slightly younger readers, Totally Joe is a fantastic middle-grade (or young YA) novel with a gay main character. I think the best part about it is that the main character (who's in 7th grade) is very sure of himself and very comfortable with himself -- he's just trying to figure out how to handle all the other people in his life.

The author, James Howe, had a fantastic article in the Advocate about how he came to write the novel, which always brings tears to my eyes.
posted by cider at 5:37 PM on March 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


The author, James Howe, had a fantastic article in the Advocate about how he came to write the novel, which always brings tears to my eyes.

Oh god, James Howe's story kills me. Thanks for the link, cider.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:46 PM on March 29, 2011


brokkr : I can't tell if she's just being whiny for the sake of it, or if she really doesn't get the point.

I know, right? I mean, last time someone threatened my livelihood for the sake of making a political point in which I have little to no interest, I certainly "took one for the team" to support their little tantrum, right?
posted by pla at 6:18 PM on March 29, 2011


I certainly "took one for the team" to support their little tantrum, right?

That seems like a really uncharitable way to regard the arguments of Verday et al.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:23 PM on March 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


support their little tantrum, right?

Tantrum? Really?
posted by jgaiser at 6:25 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Little to no interest, pla?

"First they came for the Jews..."
posted by likeso at 6:28 PM on March 29, 2011


Damn. Communists were first. But the sentiment stands.
posted by likeso at 6:34 PM on March 29, 2011


klangklangston : So, if you could lay off the straw man bullshit about "pure and unsullied" and recognize that things can change for the worse, and that if you value literature it's hard to argue that they haven't, you'd be a lot more in line with what actually happened here.

Overall, I agree with you. Except - The topic at hand involves "Young Adult" fiction. We've started with a barrel of raw sewage, it doesn't really matter what we dilute it with. Let me know when sparkly vampires go out of style, and we can continue this conversation.


PhoBWanKenobi : That seems like a really uncharitable way to regard the arguments of Verday et al.

Then you took it way I inteded. Take whatever steps you feel necessary to support those issues you hold dear; but when your protest takes food off my table, you've managed to make me an enemy whether or not I agree with you on principle. I see this as no different - Boycotting this book because the editor considered one story inappropriate to the target demographic (which, BTW, the editor defines) takes a group of people who may well agree with Verday, and sours them (and potentially their fans) against the issue.

Simple example, I agree with Verday that modern teens would likely consider such content reasonably noncontroversial; Yet here I sit, spending time reading and writing replies to the effect that she needs to accept that the editor makes his living knowing what his audience wants to read, and convincing his writers to conform to that vision. By raising a fuss over this instead of either submitting another story or submitting her existing one to a GLB-oriented compilation, she has left me with a negative impression of her (if nothing else, it looks damned unprofessional to put her politics before her writing).


likeso : First they came for the Jews...

Consider yourself autoGodwin'ed.
posted by pla at 6:37 PM on March 29, 2011


pla, when Telep apologizes for equating mild, non-explicit glbt content with something that doesn't belong in a YA anthology, I'll be happy to change my mind about buying anything with her name attached.
posted by mediareport at 6:43 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Overall, I agree with you. Except - The topic at hand involves "Young Adult" fiction. We've started with a barrel of raw sewage, it doesn't really matter what we dilute it with. Let me know when sparkly vampires go out of style, and we can continue this conversation.

They're pretty firmly out of style already.

the editor considered one story inappropriate to the target demographic (which, BTW, the editor defines)

That's some pretty circular logic. The editor defines tastes so stories that the editor would bar are valueless?

Yet here I sit, spending time reading and writing replies to the effect that she needs to accept that the editor makes his living knowing what his audience wants to read, and convincing his writers to conform to that vision.

Her living, actually. Many of the authors who were invited to participate in this anthology and others (Francesca Lia Block, Malinda Lo, Saundra Mitchell), already write about gay characters. Why solicit stories from them if you expect them not to write about the people they've already been writing about? And, from what I understand, with no guidance for the type of content acceptable from the outset.

instead of either submitting another story or submitting her existing one to a GLB-oriented compilation

I almost brought this up upthread when I was discussing the queer issue book ghetto: the suggestions to just submit this story to a gay anthology or for the withdrawn authors to start their own anthology of queer-friendly teen fiction are pretty unpalatable to me. Really, that just keeps the segregation walls high in the YA section and does nothing to promote inclusion or understanding.

(if nothing else, it looks damned unprofessional to put her politics before her writing)

Since you have such a negative opinion of YA, this might be lost on you, but it's different when you're talking about writing for teenagers. Writers have an obligation to meet not just the entertainment needs of teens but also to help them explore the world and philosophy and sexuality in a safe way. I don't know that I have such a high opinion of writers who divorce their politics from their fiction (is that even a realistic or possible ideal?), but most YA writers feel very aware that they're talking to a young, impressionable audience that need both guidance and respect.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:49 PM on March 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


I read it, I just have no idea what whoo-hoo reaction you're talking about.

I meant the general "good on you for pulling the story!" reaction.
posted by New England Cultist at 7:01 PM on March 29, 2011


These authors knew who the editor was when they originally submitted. The only thing that changed was Telep's homophobic actions.

Well, except that they had to work with Telep over their submissions. It's just curious to me that so many of the other contributors also jumped ship. I imagine that if Telep had been a joy to work with, fewer might have done so.
posted by orthogonality at 7:02 PM on March 29, 2011


Heh, pla.
My point is of course that bigotry is insidious. As you well know. :')

On another note, just wondering about the semantics of "politics" versus "core personal values". If those terms are interchangeable, then I guess giving career/finances top priority in direct contradiction to one's values is being a pro and is...erm... being a pro.
posted by likeso at 7:06 PM on March 29, 2011


Dude, *procreation* is hardly the norm among many mammal species. You should re-read your copy of Bruce Bagemihl's Biological Exuberance, particularly the part where it points out that in many large mammal populations - say, giraffes - the percentage of adult animals who successfully procreate is very much closer to 0 than 50 percent.

And considering human civilization is approaching the 7 billion mark and wrestling with issues of sustainability in a series of environmental crises (energy, food, land, water, air, etc), maybe the giraffe has something to teach us. Yet how many of us still believe schlock like this where our lives are not fully realized until we have attained parenthood? Casual heternormativity is part of the problem. Systemic "pro-family" Catholic Church-style heteronormativity is a huge part of the problem.
posted by mek at 7:11 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Entries from a Hot Pink Notebook is one of the finest YA novels I have every read, gay or straight.

That said, when I was coming out as bi, I was just obsessed with Maurice, and the gay storyline on some cheesy soap opera.
posted by jb at 7:36 PM on March 29, 2011


Writers have an obligation to meet not just the entertainment needs of teens but also to help them explore the world and philosophy and sexuality in a safe way.

As do editors.

PhoBWanKenobi, I was contrasting Trisha Telep's idea of her duties as an editor with that held by Ursula Nordstrom. As you probably know, she was instrumental in pushing the envelope on the types of subjects and themes children's/YA books could address. Far from believing "that the editor makes his living knowing what his audience wants to read, and convincing his writers to conform to that vision" as pla would have it, she coaxed ever more daring and imaginative stories from her writers, and went to bat for them with publishers, critics, librarians, salesfolk...

From a letter dated August 5, 1968 to John Donovan, author of Ï'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip, first book to ever contain sympathetic homerotic content: "As I said at luncheon, we're going to meet a lot of resistance to this book and we will be eager to fight that resistance as intelligently and gracefully as possible. [...] But I am very glad you wanted to write this book, and I am glad that we have the opportunity to publish it. I think it is going to mean a lot to a lot of young readers, if we can just get it past the adults who buy their books!
posted by likeso at 7:46 PM on March 29, 2011


Ick. Mucked up my intro. Meant to say: PhoBWanKenobi, I was thinking about your post and began contrasting...

And I didn't end my quote. Well, foo. It's been a long, post-dental-surgery kinda night over here across the pond. My apologies!
posted by likeso at 8:51 PM on March 29, 2011


It's cool, I gotcha, likeso.



I also immediately went and bought I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip for my nook. ^_^
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:18 PM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel as though I should recommend some good gay YA fiction as a counter-balance:

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner
The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

(Re)cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 9:33 PM on March 29, 2011


"Alternative sexuality" is like saying "alternative ethnicity". It implies a choice. Christ, what an asshole.

Even if it is, so what? Religion's a choice too, and anti-gay Christians, for example, are often the first to start whining about "wars on Christmas" or whatever.

Sorry, kind of de-rail-y, but these books WOULD get more attention if librarians and educators weren't always about to be fired for being gay positive with kids who aren't sure where their interests lie.

And, much like basic sex ed, the kids who need it most are almost certainly the ones whose parents are leading the opposition.

The topic at hand involves "Young Adult" fiction. We've started with a barrel of raw sewage

Breathtaking ignorance, but looking at the name attached to the post, I'm unsurprised.
posted by rodgerd at 1:25 AM on March 30, 2011


By raising a fuss over this instead of either submitting another story or submitting her existing one to a GLB-oriented compilation, she has left me with a negative impression of her (if nothing else, it looks damned unprofessional to put her politics before her writing).

So the 'correct' response to homophobia in publishing is to accept ghettoization rather than pushing for mainstream acceptance? That's just a return to the status quo. Go into the YA section of a bookstore (mind the raw sewage), and you'll almost certainly find the 'gay' books given far less prominence than the mainstream genre fiction - if they're present at all, that is. The largest bookstore I have access to used to shelf them in the 'Gay & Lesbian' section, which was stuck in a corner way at the back of the store where nobody would ever find it. It was also full of porn. What kind of impression does that give?

You don't change an industry as slow and ossified as publishing by bowing down and not making a fuss.
posted by anaximander at 2:34 AM on March 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi, I like your style. :)
posted by likeso at 2:48 AM on March 30, 2011


either submitting another story or submitting her existing one to a GLB-oriented compilation

"I don't mind it, but why do they have to get all uppity and shove it in my face?"

It's not about separate but equal, you know.
posted by jaduncan at 3:16 AM on March 30, 2011


rodgerd : Breathtaking ignorance, but looking at the name attached to the post, I'm unsurprised.

If "ignorant", then only because at that age I had no shortage of real literature to love. At 10, I had more interest in Tolkein than in sex; at 16, I ended any confusion about the whole "sex" thing and found a love of LeGuin; in the years between, my "literary" interests wavered between Playboy and Asimov.

The whole "tee-hee look at us so cute and confused" thing never impressed me - I've always taken the "shit or get off the pot" stance on most aspects of life. So yeah, I hold "Young Adult" literature in more-or-less complete contempt - An entire market geared around delivering pablum to a demographic that can handle steak.


jaduncan : It's not about separate but equal, you know.

Very true - Entertainment does not stack up against constitutionally protected rights. I may have to put up with you no matter your race, religion, gender, or orientation; I don't, however, have to buy RomComs disguised as SciFi.

Not about separate but equal, but about target demographic.
posted by pla at 3:38 AM on March 30, 2011


pla: That's funny, I found my Tolkien and Le Guin shelved in the YA section of my local library.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:46 AM on March 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Snap!
posted by likeso at 4:48 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


pla, you seem to be equating YA with Harlequin Novels for Minors. Me, I started reading Asimov, Heinlein et al when I was 8 (and i got up before i went to bed, licked the road clean and dreamed of living in a shoebox), but I didn't miss out on the excellence that YA can be.

Is your argument basically YA = crap = homophobia is ok in this crappy subgenre?
posted by likeso at 4:54 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, really. LeGuin doesn't exclusively write YA, but she's certainly known for her YA fiction. Tolkein actually has a lot in common with YA fantasy fiction - no sex, not much in the way of graphic violence, lots of hot elves and chums going on adventures. It's longer than a lot of YA fiction, but against His Dark Materials or the Harry Potter books, how much longer? Golden-age Asimov was likewise writing lots of short novels and short stories, with simple plots, in a simple literary style with precious little actual adult (in the sense of R-rated) content. It's not exactly The Naked Lunch (which, of course I read when I was 7, in between Homer in the original Greek).

You know, for kids!
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:03 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The whole "tee-hee look at us so cute and confused" thing never impressed me - I've always taken the "shit or get off the pot" stance on most aspects of life. So yeah, I hold "Young Adult" literature in more-or-less complete contempt - An entire market geared around delivering pablum to a demographic that can handle steak.

How much YA have you actually read?

And it's disngenious to use Tolkein or LeGuin as a standard measurement of quality. They write what is considered to be some of the best work in their fields, so of course the vast majority of YA isn't going to stand up to that - the vast majority of anything won't stand up to it. It would be like comparing this year's crop of derivative throwaway doorstoppers to something like Justine Larbalestier's Liar. Chronicles of the Whatever: Book One of Twelve is so shallow and emotionally vacuous by comparison, you say? Well of course it is - you're comparing the best of one publishing category to the trash from another.

I also probably don't need to point out that people who exclusively read literary fiction would say the same thing about LeGuin that you're saying about YA authors - why read all that fantasy nonsense when you could be reading 'real literature'?
posted by anaximander at 5:35 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


And while YA and Juvenile Lit. is certainly filled with bubblegum romance, horror, science fiction, and school-drama franchises, it's not incapable of tackling some pretty weighty issues. The Chocolate War stands out in my mind as one of the bleakest literary works about groupthink, social conformity, rebellion, and principle. The Weetzie books demonstrate Gaiman's maxim that "the price of getting what you want is getting what you wanted." There's some absolutely depressing dystopian science fiction in the mix there as well.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:25 AM on March 30, 2011


pla, are you white? Are you a man? Are you gay? Because a lot of what you're saying sounds like a straight white man's privilege being used ignore the misogyny and homophobia that's rampant in media. You also seem to be pointless playing devil's advocate for no reason, because a lot of what you're saying it nonsensical or just plain ignorant.

but when your protest takes food off my table, you've managed to make me an enemy whether or not I agree with you on principle.

Are you the editor of this book? Are you the publisher of this book? Has someone protested you personally or your particular job/business? Did you warrant that protest? Why are you trying to conflate your issues with this one? This particular situation is not affecting you in any way whatsoever and no one is your enemy.

There are plenty of good reasons for protest, especially using economic boycotting to show that you don't have to put up with being discriminated against. It's called voting with your pocketbook. If you were this editor, I'd definitely deprive you of money by not buying your products. If you didn't like it, too bad. You could either shape up or ship out. You're telling me that in this situation I should be required to buy your homophobia-supporting product and make sure you make a living while continuing to be a homophobe? Uh, no.

It's a good thing that those MLK bus boycotts that deprived the bus company of money were stupid and pointless. They were wrong to deprive that company of money just because they raised a fuss against all that completely justified racial prejudice.

Boycotting this book because the editor considered one story inappropriate to the target demographic (which, BTW, the editor defines)

Don't the publisher and the marketing department decide the target audience? Then hire or assign an editor for that project?

takes a group of people who may well agree with Verday, and sours them (and potentially their fans) against the issue.

If you're saying that LGBT people and LGBT-allies, who agree with Verday, will be put off by her taking a stand against homophobia, you're monumentally confused. You're also concern-trolling.

Yet here I sit, spending time reading and writing replies to the effect that she needs to accept that the editor makes his living knowing what his audience wants to read, and convincing his writers to conform to that vision.

She doesn't need to accept shit. I find it weird that you've changed the gender of the real editor to a male hypothetical editor, why are you doing that? Please explain why Verday needed to go along with casual homophobia. Acceptance of homophobia promotes its continuation. If she had just played along with it, how many other times to you think Telep would have done this same thing? Do we really need 50 more books that are sanitized of all LGBT content because one homophobic editor thinks YA books shouldn't contain such content? Do you really think that's doing kids any favors to never read a single story about LGBT people just being regular people and living their live the way anyone else does?

By raising a fuss over this

She has the right to raise a fuss when an editor is asking her to suppress an element of her story because that editor is a homophobe. I guess all women should just sit down and shut up because you don't like them making a fuss when someone says or does something they think is unacceptable.

instead of either submitting another story

Why should she have to submit another story? It was good enough as-is to the editor except for that ~pesky homo crap~. The publisher had no problem with it.

or submitting her existing one to a GLB-oriented compilation

So that LBGT kids can get that good old reinforcement they're not good enough for mainstream media, right? ~Straight people should always dominate all media! If the gays don't like it, then they can make their own tv shows and write their own books! They don't need to be accepted and integrated into everyday life, no sirree bob!~ BTW, that's the very definition of separate but equal.

Also, the gay and lesbian section at most major booksellers is pitiful. The YA section, conversely, is usually enormous. An author will reach a wider audience if her work is in the YA section. Of course, that's probably the reason you suggest it, you'd rather stories about the lives of gay people get as little attention as possible, is that it? Because those stories aren't important, like gay people themselves? Is that what you're trying to say? Because that's what I get from your words.

she has left me with a negative impression of her

Good for you. I'm glad that you're willing to think ill of a woman who wasn't willing to change a harmless story because someone else has told her that gay kids aren't acceptable anywhere.

I'm happy that she didn't let herself be compromised. I'll be looking for her work and giving her my money and telling my friends about her.

(if nothing else, it looks damned unprofessional to put her politics before her writing).

First of all, creative writing is an art. Art is inspired by life and personal stories are frequently used in writing. There is no separation between personal life and the act of writing, it's a personal creative process that comes from within, inspired by the imagination of the person who is writing.

The personal is the political. It's one thing to write a character who's diametrically opposed to what you believe in. It's quite another to say Verday isn't allowed to let her beliefs inform her business decisions when people say and do things that are unjust. Would you really be that "professional"?

Why don't you look at it from her perspective - she had no idea that she would be asked to change her story. Other writers who were inolved the project are well known for their LGBT fiction and characters. She wouldn't have entered into a business relationship involving Telep had she known beforehand, so essentially pertinent information was withheld when the business relationship began. The publishers and editor set no preconditions for submissions. Why is it wrong for her to withdraw her story in this scenario? Why should she be required to further the cause of anti-gay culture just because you think it was "unprofessional"?

I also really get the feeling you're just making shit up because you're trying to find every reason possible to explain why homophobia is okay in young adult fiction and why women shouldn't make a fuss.
posted by i feel possessed at 6:29 AM on March 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


pla, apart from all further consideration of the relative literary merits of YA in particular, I still really want want to know:

Is your basic argument [insert user-defined genre here] = crap = homophobia is ok in user-defined crappy subgenre?
posted by likeso at 6:53 AM on March 30, 2011


It's a good thing that those MLK bus boycotts that deprived the bus company of money were stupid and pointless. They were wrong to deprive that company of money just because they raised a fuss against all that completely justified racial prejudice.

I've actually heard people make that argument in seriousness.

Yeah.

(It might have even been Metafilter. Can't remember now for sure.)
posted by kmz at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2011


pla: The topic at hand involves "Young Adult" fiction. We've started with a barrel of raw sewage, it doesn't really matter what we dilute it with.

I read insane amounts of YA fiction in order to choose new and interesting books for my students. I also read insane amounts of mainstream fiction aimed at adults, because I love to read.

Based on my own readings, I'm relatively confident in saying that the current crop of YA fiction is just as good, if not better, than current mainstream fiction.

(And I don't read books about vampires at all, except for Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, and Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum.)
posted by tzikeh at 8:02 AM on March 30, 2011


Whenever these issues come up, there's always a fair amount of entitled whining along the lines of "how dare you impinge on my freedom of speech by not buying my publisher's books!" Usually from people who wouldn't go to bat for the political liberties of say, McDonald's, Apple, Microsoft, or Wallmart.

Sure, publishers can set their agenda and writers are free to not participate. And sometimes, these conflicts leak outside of that relationship.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:19 AM on March 30, 2011


So, if you could lay off the straw man bullshit

You do understand that when you escalate the language like that the instinctive response that comes to mind is "fuck you too" right? It's rude and unproductive.

I'm sorry I've failed to make my case in a way that reaches you. I stand by my position: responding to this kind of incident with a wistful "it's all about profits these days" doesn't pass the sniff test. As I pointed out, even your own assertions about the supposedly better past acknowledged that it included a pursuit for mass market products to bring in the liberating money.

Given that, using this kind of incident as the basis to claim things are getting worse makes no sense. There's nothing about a pursuit of wider audience for a YA anthology for the purpose of making money that is incompatible with a past where people published what they had to in order to publish what they wanted to.

You assert that now that there's less money in the pot that less gets spent on these more noble ventures that aren't required to making a profit. Okay. That's not the same thing as less interest in doing those things, it's just that there's less money to do it with. If you're spending 20% on books that don't have to make money and you are bringing in $100k a year you're going to be publishing less 'charity' than if you're bringing in $1M a year.

That's not a lesser devotion, that's a lesser freedom to do it. And it is the point I am trying to make: we are not in a period where it's suddenly changed and all about the money. It's always been about the money. It's HAD to be about the money. It's that money that makes it possible to do these other ventures. The need for that money has ALWAYS required that some variation on Telep was out there making product to being in the funds to allow the flexibility to do other things.

If there was ever a time when it wasn't about the money then it was about maintaining freedom from oppression or about sucking up to the people in power (which I'd assert is still essentially about the money) in order to keep doing these other things.

But it was never a publishing Eden where these things didn't have to happen. Ever.
posted by phearlez at 8:34 AM on March 30, 2011


running order squabble fest : It's not exactly The Naked Lunch (which, of course I read when I was 7, in between Homer in the original Greek).

So first you point out that my examples may well count as YA lit, then you go on to imply that my late-childhood favorites count as unrealistically high-brow? Pick a side of the fence, please.


likeso : Is your basic argument [insert user-defined genre here] = crap = homophobia is ok in user-defined crappy subgenre?

Absolutely not. You might fairly call me "intolerant", but not of groups of people categorized by a meaninglessly arbitrary attribute (a type-I statistical error); Rather, I just have a low tolerance for BS, and "poor me" attitudes in particular. If someone pees in your Cheerios, don't go whining about white het wasp middle-class male "privilege"; whip ol' Roger out and hose 'em down. Simple as that.

To put it bluntly, on the record - I have no problem with gays; I even joined my university's BiLaGa group, back in my college days (cue the "I have a black friend" snark from those who'd rather fight than accept an ally they personally dislike). I see this as nothing more than a matter of marketing - When targeting a 90% het audience, of whom (sadly!) a greater percentage will avoid a book for gay content than will buy it for that same reason, an editor has a glaringly obvious "choice" to make.


i feel possessed : I find it weird that you've changed the gender of the real editor to a male hypothetical editor, why are you doing that?

Simple oversight. But feel free to keep searching for my secret hidden motives.


pla, are you white? Are you a man? Are you gay? Because a lot of what you're saying sounds like a straight white man's privilege being used ignore the misogyny and homophobia that's rampant in media.

You forgot wasp (at least by birth) and middle class. But don't let me stop you from categorizing me by a set of meaninglessly arbitrary attributes (did I mention that commits a type-I statistical error?) in defense of your "prejudice under every rock" argument.

Waitasec - We can't even call them "meaninglessly arbitrary" in this case! You've taken one set of meaninglessly arbitrary attributes, and blindly taken their opposites as a priori cause to poison the well of my contribution to this (or really, any) discussion.


She doesn't need to accept shit.

Yes, actually, in this case - She does. She submitted a story for inclusion in an anthology. Editor rejected it with suggestions. She rejected those suggestions.

End of goddamned game, my friend. You have no right whatsoever, regardless of race, creed, color, age, sex, favorite flavor of Doritos, or age, to have your work published in a private collection of short stories. Do what the editor says, or find another line of work.

But preferably, don't put other people out of work throwing a tantrum over a marketing decision.
posted by pla at 4:13 PM on March 30, 2011


Yes, actually, in this case - She does. She submitted a story for inclusion in an anthology. Editor rejected it with suggestions. She rejected those suggestions.

End of goddamned game, my friend.


But... it wasn't end of game. I mean, I hate to introduce reportage when you're on a roll, but the whole point of this thread is that it wasn't end of game.

Writer thinks editorial input is driven by publishers, registers disappointment. Editor states that editorial input was from her based on belief about what would be acceptable to publishers. Editor turns out to be wrong about publisher's expectations. Publishers invite writer to resubmit story to be printed without alteration of gender of main character. Writer decides not to resubmit because she doesn't want to work with that editor. Others also withdraw stories.

Writer isn't expecting to have her story be printed without doing what the editor says. Writer is declining to have her story printed, despite no longer having to do what the editor says to get printed.

Did you follow what happened in any of this? There are some links up top...
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


End of goddamned game, my friend. You have no right whatsoever, regardless of race, creed, color, age, sex, favorite flavor of Doritos, or age, to have your work published in a private collection of short stories. Do what the editor says, or find another line of work.

But preferably, don't put other people out of work throwing a tantrum over a marketing decision.


I think the subsequent reaction has demonstrated that it was an incredibly poor 'marketing decision'.

You're making it sound as if Jessica Verday took issue with the decision simply because the editor refused to accept her story as she wrote it, something which is an everyday occurrence in publishing. She isn't - or at least, that would be a very uncharitable way of interpreting her actions. We're talking about a story involving gay teenage characters, who are already under-represented and frequently stereotyped in YA literature (along with mass culture of all kinds). The editor has no moral obligation to accept a story just because it features gay characters, but Verday clearly felt that she had a moral obligation to not contribute to a project that was going to ruin a chance to show some much-needed inclusiveness.

Actually, now that I think about it, your complaint about Verday doesn't even make sense. To reiterate:

Do what the editor says, or find another line of work.

Which is exactly what she did. She pulled her story, people asked why, she explained. At that point, several other writers decided, independently, that they no longer wanted to be involved in the project. I really don't see how she's 'putting people out of work' here. Sure, she could have decided not to share the details of what happened, but see my point above: this is about more than just a writer disagreeing with an editor.
posted by anaximander at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


running order squabble fest : But... it wasn't end of game. I mean, I hate to introduce reportage when you're on a roll, but the whole point of this thread is that it wasn't end of game.

Ah, good catch, mea culpa. I originally phrased that last section of my post in the abstract, and reworded it to this specific situation - Clearly without adjusting for the outcome. Hell, I wouldn't even need to follow the links to know that much, the summary bluntly states it. Okay, forget Tolkein, did I mention I like Theodore Geisel, too? :I

One fish, two fish...
posted by pla at 5:43 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! There you are! Nice to meet you, pla. :)

I guess the only remaining points can now be addressed in a much less emotive discussion. Of the editor's role and business models for creative intellectual products and how books are not the same as pats of butter and naturally also of shoes and ships and sealing wax. Not forgetting cabbages and kings.

If you have the time and inclination, I'd like to do that. And mind, I'll be citing one of my personal heroines, Ursula Nordstrom, very frequently.

But mostly, I am just very curious as to how this will all shake out. The publisher, editor and author have painted themselves very neatly into three different corners. And ain't nobody sayin' nuttin' in public. Admirable. Guess we'll have to wait till the paint dries.

Oh! Before I forget: though what I said about my reading matter and age was true, I was also gently teasing you about the age you began reading Tolkein, so I was the one who set the stage for running order squabbe fest to tease us both. I was going to come back with a claim of having absorbed the Gilgamesh in utero, but things progressed.
posted by likeso at 6:45 PM on March 30, 2011


Yikes. running order squabble fest, of course.

(i'm blaming the cat)
posted by likeso at 6:57 PM on March 30, 2011


[We are now getting to the point where this thread is becoming "one person vs. everyone" which is becoming a problem. If folks need to grill pla on what he believes, please feel free to take this to MeMail. pla, this is not just where people come to fight on the internet. If you have a good faith interet in having this discussion, please make that more obvious, thanks. MetaTalk is everyone's option.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:07 PM on March 30, 2011


Um, jessamyn? I'm not fighting pla. And, um, give others a chance to see and to respond to pla's most handsome recent post before locking the door maybe?

:)
posted by likeso at 7:25 PM on March 30, 2011


I'm not locking any door, if discussion continues respectfully and without people hollering at each other I'm fine with it but if it's everyone questioning pla on "what pla believes" it's really turning into something that isn't a great dynamic in MetaFilter and one that pla has been in the center of too many times. Really, metadiscussion on this issue should go to MetaTalk, not here.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on March 30, 2011


Disengaging from something you feel is morally suspect is always an option. Talking to other people about that decision, and even attempting to persuade them to do the same, is also always an option. It isn't a bad thing to do, and it doesn't make you a terrible person. It makes you have an opinion.

Sometimes the opinion is problematic (give religious myths equal time in public school science classes); sometimes it's awesome (the gender of the person to whom you are attracted shouldn't matter in society or fiction).

Either way, the process of expressing that opinion is something that has been and will continue to be leveraged for good and evil and, err, other. Attacking the tools--free speech, freedom of association, voting with your wallet--seems to miss the point, since it's the message that is or is not a problem. The tools themselves are too valuable to be done away with.

In this case, the clear message is that rejecting positive depictions of homosexuality in deference to the heterosexual norm is no longer a "safe" choice. That message is the one unambiguously positive aspect of this situation.

It would be a shame if a clueless, and not bigoted, editor's career gets demolished in the process. But then, none of us really have any idea whether or not that is a fair description of Telep.
posted by jsturgill at 7:38 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


When targeting a 90% het audience, of whom (sadly!) a greater percentage will avoid a book for gay content than will buy it for that same reason

wrong.
so wrong.
but it's an assumption I'd expect you to make, judging by your opinion of those who actually read young adult novels.

In reality, watching readers (both teens and adults), writers, book bloggers, and others band together in support of Verday and the other authors who withdrew their stories has been awesome to watch. Readers and writers aren't letting this shit stand anymore, and it's not even a surprise, because the YA industry is filled with some of the very best people out there, people who realize the power and responsibility inherent in speaking to this pivotal age group.

Booksellers and publishers might be slow to catch up with these writers and their readers, but I have to believe they will. Let's hope soon.
posted by changeling at 8:12 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


In this case, the clear message is that rejecting positive depictions of homosexuality in deference to the heterosexual norm is no longer a "safe" choice. That message is the one unambiguously positive aspect of this situation.

That is great, isn't it?

It would be a shame if a clueless, and not bigoted, editor's career gets demolished in the process

Probably the best thing to have happened would have been for Telep to have stated out of the door that she had assumed that the publisher would have felt like a same-sex relationship would have put the book in the same mature-readers category as other content which was specifically vetoed. She had assumed wrong, and had done the publishers and the writer a disservice, based on her expectations of a world where mainstream entertainment is more comfortable with a man shooting another man in the face than kissing him on the mouth. Which is almost what she did, frustratingly - the tone was just completely wrong.

Telep isn't a dedicated editor of YA fiction - she tends to edit romance and paranormal romance compilations, where I would guess either the expectation that the romances will be M/F is so ingrained that it doesn't even need to be stated, or where the content is clearly mature-audiences and so the question of whether same-sex romance is a mature-readers topic didn't come up. Not wishing to make excuses, but I think this may have been a case of genre savvy in one genre being unhelpful when applied to another, and also maybe of not getting the stakes; when you live in London and especially if you worked for years in a bookshop on the edge of Soho, the issue of the paucity of voices telling teenagers in small-town America, say, that same-sex affection is normal and OK is probably a relatively distant thing.

I think there's still a chance for this to be a learning moment, really - I certainly hope so.

(Personal story - I remember reading His Dark Materials - which admittedly breaks genre conventions in a way that a short story for an anthology might not be expected to - and being pleasantly startled when one character said, in a way that was in no way important for the plot, that he and another male character were lovers. However, certainly YA writers like Francesca Lia Block, Holly Black and Jenny Pausacker, off the top of my head, have been writing positive LGB characters and same-sex relationships into their YA fiction for years. I'm sure a more knowledgeable source could provide other examples.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:31 AM on March 31, 2011


In response to the comment that

The whole "tee-hee look at us so cute and confused" thing never impressed me - I've always taken the "shit or get off the pot" stance on most aspects of life. So yeah, I hold "Young Adult" literature in more-or-less complete contempt - An entire market geared around delivering pablum to a demographic that can handle steak.

I have just finished reading a YA novel, Before I die by Jenny Downham, about a 16 year old girl with incurable leukemia.

It is one of the most profound works of fiction about life, relationships, dying and death that I have ever read, in any literary genre.

It's about fear, isolation, loneliness, love, wanting connection/communication, understanding & misunderstanding, and valuing brief moments.

It reads as near-universal in its appeal. I think it could be read, understood, and appreciated by anyone between 14 and 90.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 9:12 AM on March 31, 2011


The openly gay president of Running Press has an explanation of what happened from their perspective. They do neglect to say what action, if any, they've taken against their "freelance editor" who was the one who made the claims about the press to begin with.
posted by jessamyn at 10:29 AM on April 5, 2011


Another suggestion for gay YA: Exiled to Iowa. Send Help. And Couture. While it does have some structure issues, I really liked it.
posted by cereselle at 11:32 AM on April 5, 2011


"The openly gay president of Running Press has an explanation of what happened from their perspective. They do neglect to say what action, if any, they've taken against their "freelance editor" who was the one who made the claims about the press to begin with."

Yeah, and the comments really turned against him there, which is kind of weird. I mean, it just seems like a bunch of people have latched onto the most uncharitable reading and are milking their outrage glands over it. I can understand Verday not wanting to resubmit and work with that editor, though whether that editor is really homophobic seems impossible to judge (taking statements like "Yes, I'm a bigot" at face value seems remarkably silly) because it's based on personal correspondence, but the amount of amplification that this has gotten seems really disproportionate and unprofessional (at least from the purportedly professional authors commenting on the PubWeekly article).
posted by klangklangston at 11:45 AM on April 5, 2011


I think a lot of the defensiveness there, klang, is due to the rhetoric the publisher uses in the article. In the opening, he likens what's happened to his press to a cyberbullying incident that led to a suicide, which is really offensive (or at very least, somewhat inflammatory considering the topic at hand and the fact that it involves censorship of a queer story). And if you go back to the original post, she never "accused Running Press of intolerance and censorship." In fact, when Telep admitted it was her decision, she published a clarification. The characterization of her as unyielding, and the responding authors as misinformed, really misses the mark.

Also, Cleolinda Jones has reprinted one of Telep's contracts, which includes no contact information for the publishers, and makes it clear that the contract is between Telep and the writers. It doesn't make sense that the publisher seems to think Verday should have contacted them when told repeatedly that Telep was making this decision on behalf of the publishers.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:30 PM on April 5, 2011


Also, I read I'll Get There. It'll Be Worth the Trip, recommended in this thread, the other night, and it was absolutely heart-wrenching. Highly recommended.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:31 PM on April 5, 2011


Yeah, and the comments really turned against him there, which is kind of weird.

Well, by the looks of it they are mainly taking issue with the account of the situation he gave, which they feel not to be borne out by the facts of the case.

Telep actually did apologise formally, and made a reasonable fist of it, quoted here. I think She's also admitted on her Twitter stream that her actions were exclusionary, and informed by an old-fashioned idea of what romance (I suspect the genre rather than the concept) meant.

This feels like a situation where the underlying issue is the ambient, institutional homophobia that creates the expectation that a publisher would reject a story with a same-sex relationship, because it is not quote-unquote mainstream or because the idea of same-sex affection is intrinsically a mature-readers concept. I hope that doesn't get lost in arguments over the particulars of this case.

Oh, I noticed I missed a direct address, earlier. Sorry about that, pla. In answer to your comment:

So first you point out that my examples may well count as YA lit, then you go on to imply that my late-childhood favorites count as unrealistically high-brow? Pick a side of the fence, please.

I think I was on one side of the fence. LeGuin, Asimov and Tolkein are perfectly credible but not massively impressive writers for a reasonably bookish tween/teen to be reading. They all featured in my tweenaged reading of my father's sci-fi collection from Aldiss to Zelazny, and I don't imagine that I'm unusual in that. I was not implying that your late-childhood favorites were unrealistically highbrow. I was lightly mocking the use of three fairly easy-reading genre writers as qualification to pontificate about what is real, worthwhile fiction. If one is going to be pretentious, say I, one should go all-in.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:21 PM on April 5, 2011


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