Save the Pearls, Weird Tales, and Racism

If you’re already in the loop–and with Twitter etc, who isn’t these days–then you already know something about the Save the Pearls debacle (and by debacle I mean racists trying disguise their bigotry by saying “look how progressive I’m being”).  If you’re not in the loop, here’s the short version.  Victoria Foyt is a white woman.  Thanks to the magic of self-publishing and companies who basically sell so-called literary awards, she put forth upon this earth a book called Save the Pearls: Revealing Eden.  To promote this book, she created a video of a young woman in blackface.

You read that right.

In the interest of presenting both sides of this, I will say that the author has written to defend her decisions, saying in part:

The titular character, Eden Newman, loathes her white skin because of this, and accepts the oppressive opinion that she is ugly, even worthless. Because her chances of survival are so low, she has little chance of finding a mate (her mate-rate is an embarrassing 15%). And if she doesn’t find a mate by the time she is 18, she will be killed.

She colors her skin with a special dark coating in order to protect it from “The Heat,” and because she is desperate to appear darker in order to be desirable. With the clock ticking, she will do anything to attract a mate.

The use of blackface presents a mockery or travesty of African Americans’ lives. Eden Newman wishes to “Great Earth” that she had dark skin, not because she wants to make fun of people with dark skin, but because she admires their status and is jealous of the genetic advantage they offer against “The Heat.”

You can read more about it here, or even preview the first (quite poorly-written–though I was disinclined to think well of the thing from the start) chapter on Amazon, and form your own opinions.  What I’m here to talk about is the part where the new editor of Weird Tales, a magazine which I always used to hold in high regard, decided to publish the first chapter in the next issue of the magazine.   The internet, as it is wont to do, made a big stink about it.

Since then, the publishers of WT have backtracked, but not before a lot of angry authors pulled their upcoming stories from the magazine and a lot of people who used to be involved with the magazine, including former editor Ann VanderMeer (who has now resigned as contributing editor) and Mary Robinette Kowal (vice-president of SFWA and former WT art director), have distanced themselves from the once-prestigious publication.

While I think that pulling support is a fine act of protest, I think that Mary Robinette Kowal took a more meaningful stepShimmer will now be paying pro rates, thanks in part to Robinette Kowal.  I used to revere WT, both under the editorial leadership of George Scithers and more recently Ann VanderMeer.  Both editors believed in strong, well-written stories.  If current editor Marvin Kaye manages his slush pile in such a way that the first few pages, let alone the first whole chapter (which I found horribly racist, even knowing the context of the protagonist’s world), then I wouldn’t want any of my work to appear within those once-hallowed pages.  I’m proud of the stand that Robinette Kowal and the team at Shimmer are taking in defense of weird, wonderful fiction.
Edit: another view, giving some insight to the inner workings of WT following its change of ownership courtesy of Jeff VanderMeer.


About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

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