Archive for July 23rd, 2010

The PC Challenges of Being an Editor

Maurice Broaddus • July 23rd, 2010 • Uncategorized

Maurice Broaddus is the author of the novel series, The Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot).  His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Dark Dreams II & III, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine.  He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology (Apex Books).   Read his blog where he often opines on issues of race, religion, writing, and pop culture and learn more about him at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.

Not too long ago, Jeff interviewed me about the anthology I helped put together, Dark Faith (Apex Books is currently having a 40% off sale on all versions of it).  Now I’ve seen controversy after Fail Storm about essentially white/male-washed table of contents for various anthologies, even long before I sat down to begin putting together this anthology.  Luckily, I rarely have to wait too long for someone to give me an excuse to write about the topic.

Not too long ago there was a bit of a dust up regarding the anti-racist, anti-fascist anthology Never Again, put together by a couple of U.K. editors.  [Technically, I do have dual citizenship (which only is a problem come World Cup time when England plays the U.S.).  And “editor” is one of the hats I wear (along with “writer” and “person of color”), so let’s see what kind of trouble I can get into.]  As with most internet dustups, I simply made some popcorn, watch the ever-so-polite drama unfold and then went about my business.  However, in discussing why there were no people of color, one of the editors made this remark:   “Would you have preferred us to target and include writers on the basis of their skin colour, not their writing?”

As editors, we don’t have the luxury of hiding behind this as a defense, because this is a straw one at best (and no amount of “my best friend is black” style waving is going to save you).  Not to mention that this is a fairly ignorant, or at least ill constructed, “defense” because it’s not like these two possibilities are mutually exclusive.

For the record, the final “stats” of Dark Faith TOC:, for those playing along at home, was 5 poems and 26 stories by 17 men and 14 women, at least four people of color involved (I say “at least” because I can only tell so much from people’s Facebook pictures plus there are the additional stories in the chapbook associated with the anthology, Dark Faith:  Last Rites).

At no point did I worry about any sort of “PC testing” of my table of contents (will I have enough POC?  Will there be any women?).  That’s a ridiculous way to go about putting together an anthology.  The other reason it was a non-worry?  It’s not that difficult to produce a table of contents that has diversity.  Now I’m not even talking about forcing the issue of diversity in a TOC.   I’m saying that these days you have to almost go out of your way to produce an anthology without diversity.  Three simple steps:

-open submission period.  For about five months we had an open submission period.  We put the word out widely that we were looking for stories regarding a particular theme.  And that was just putting the word out in the places we know genre writers tend to frequent (my blog, Ralan’s, Duotrope, a few message boards).  If we wanted to actually be more intentional, we could have gone to specific boards which cater to writers of color.

-my “rolodex”.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a pretty color-filled rolodex to begin with, since as you know, all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria.  That being said, that’s an important fact:  my rolodex naturally has POC in it.  Authors I like to read, people I’ve met, people I want to work with.  If your rolodex lacks diversity, it may be time to color up your world.

-look.  Without submissions, without my own personal contacts, I am still aware that there are plenty of authors out there.  Authors I’d love to see stories from, whom I’ve read, whom I’d like to work with, who I’m simply aware of if only by reputation.  If I still was at my wit’s end, I could simply ask folks who know the players in the field better than I.

Now, I’m perfectly aware of the fact that no matter what you do, someone will find fault, real or imagined with the final product.  My simple take away point is this:  if you’re going to have an anti-racist anthology or do any sort of compendium on the history of a genre, you may want to mix in a person of color (especially for the former, if only to have the actual perspective of someone who has experienced it).

Putting together Dark Faith was fraught with its own concerns:  do we represent all faiths?  Are we respectful to all perspectives?  Are we being sacrilegious?  Are we treading TOO lightly? And I’m positive we’ve left plenty on the table for folks to criticize.  As an editor you can’t worry about that and yet you HAVE to worry about that.  You do your best and let the final product stand on its own merits.  But you at least have to try to make a good faith effort.

State of Today’s Mushroom

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz • July 23rd, 2010 • Books, Fiction

Today’s guest-mushroom has paused her reading in order to create this entry.

Today’s mushroom carries around a copy of The Third Bear. Due to constant interruptions, today’s mushroom has not even finished reading the first story.

Today’s mushroom wonders. Is the bear a hero or a villain? In this story, the bear wreaks havoc.What is the third bear thinking?

Once the story leaves the writer, the story belongs to the reader. What the reader thinks of the story, how the story affects the reader, how the reader engages with the story, these are things out of the writer’s control. Was it the writer’s intention for me to think about the third bear as the hero in his own story? I don’t know. I haven’t finished the story yet. Perhaps there are no heroes in this story, perhaps there are more than one. What is a hero anyway?  And do I really need heroes for me to like a story?

Today’s mushroom considers heroes. Are heroes tasty?  If I mixed them in with my soup, will heroes make me heroic too? Heroes and the consumption thereof . . . hold that thought. Ha, ha.

Today’s mushroom is having an attack of absurd melancholy. It happens even to the best of mushrooms. But heroes. . . yes . . . perhaps heroes have those too. Who are your heroes and if you consumed them what would they taste like to you?

Today’s mushroom wanders off to read some more. Hopefully, the mushroom will finish reading this story before more interruptions occur.

**updated to say: I finished reading the first story. A five star story, definitely awesome. Off to read more.