By Steve Weddle
You may have heard about Saving The Pearls, a book about white folks (Pearls) and black folks (Coals) and, uh, something something dystopian.
Weird Tales Magazine faces a boycott after endorsing a “thoroughly non-racist book”
Weird Tales editor has insulted us all
Book's author in HuffPo
Weird Tales backtracks on support of “ridiculous and offensive” novel
YA Series “Save The Pearls” Employs Offensive Blackface And Bizarre Racist Stereotypes
This is how my Monday morning began: with a slap in the face, courtesy of new Weird Tales editor Marvin Kaye
I would like to tell our community that Weird Tales will NOT be running an excerpt from Victoria Foyt’s novel in our upcoming issue.
So many issues to unpack.
The protag is called "Eden Newman." Sounds like nearly every name terrible, piece-of-crap author Nathaniel Hawthorne used. (Young Goodman Brown, et al.)
The books is YA, but seems targeted to those adults who like to read children's books.
The book benefited from flash and pizzazz, a website unto itself, screens and screens of what looked like praise, etc. WEIRD TALES, the mag, perhaps was duped, a la QR Markham.
And, of course, the use of race. Or the handling or race. (ProTip: Blackface = Not Good.)
Look at all the free coverage the book has gotten? Does that equate to sales? No idea.
But what we have here is a book people are talking about, and I figured maybe now would be a good time to mention how folks are handling race.
Speaking of racism, this week was H.P. Lovecraft's birthday. Some folks point out Lovecraft's racist comments. Some folks say, well, everyone was racist back then in the olden days.
Is racism more subtle now?
Recently, there was some discussion somewhere (Twitter, Facebook) about whether a racist character in a book is supposed to say racist things. For example, can a "bad" person in a book use the N-word to show that he's a racist? This use of language upsets some folks. For me, personally, I'm not a big fan of racist language in the books I read. (Oh, you don't mind the F-word and the C-word and characters who are murdering child rapers, but if someone says something racist, you get your panties in a wad? Um yeah. I do.) If some character hates someone of another ethnicity, fine. A four-letter word (or six-letter) is so often used as a clumsy short-hand, standing in for what a good author would develop as a character. But racial slurs in books tend to stand out when they're not handled well. The use of a racial slur is unsmooth, drawing attention to the word instead of the story, the character. And, mostly, they're not handled well.
Which kinda brings us around to what the author of PEARLS says she was trying to do, which was turn racism on its head and something, something dystopian. The author has said she wanted to use the Pearls/Coal to get to the environmental implications of the story. Yeah, I don't know, either.
As the links about will tell you, WEIRD TALES has backed off its endorsement of the PEARLS book.
Being a racist has never been a barrier to publishing any more than its been a barrier to a lifelong career as a politician.
I think there are probably a thousand thoughts you can follow out of this SAVING THE PEARLS mess. If you want to go to it in the comments, grab whatever part you want and let's go.