I'm going to start my thoughts at the end. When both Neil Gaiman and Chuck Tingle call you out publicly, you've fucked up big time.
For the record, I don't know the real person(s) behind the pseudonym of Dr. Chuck Tingle. Nor do I care to know who he is. I'm content to enjoy his cute stories about buckaroos and the things they love. The best compliment I've ever received is an accusation by two people that I am secretly Dr. Tingle. I am not.
I also give major kudos to Chuck because he has never inserted himself into any writer drama. However, he's been dragged into it, and he cleverly jabs at the people doing the dragging. (Google Space Raptor Butt Invasion and Sad Puppies.) And once again, someone is dragging this talented person's behind into a pile of shit not of his making.
Now, back to the beginning--RWA, aka Romance Writers of America.
Again, for the record, I was a member of RWA from 2004 to 2012. I have my own biases towards the organization.
On one hand, it's the only professional author organization that accepts aspiring writers. The local chapters have wonderful classes where newbies can learn a plethora of craft methods and techniques. I truly believe RWA's education programs, local and national, match or surpass most master's-level university creative writing curriculum.
On the other hand, RWA has many of the problems of any large organization, from an entrenched power base to lack of adequate response to a changing world.
Over the last fifteen years, I've watched a conservative clique within RWA suppress or attempt to suppress a number of things:
- Around 2000, erotic romance was attacked because OMG! There's sex in those books!
- After that was an attempt to force a resolution through the executive board defining romance = 1 man + 1 woman ONLY! That was around 2005.
- Then in 2007, if you *gasp* sell to an e-book only/first publisher, you're not a real writer.
- In 2010, if you self-publish/indie-publish, you're not a real writer!
- Shortly after that was "okay, we'll accept SP/IP writers as long at they make five times what a trad-published writer makes." (Note: This criteria has since changed.)
To be totally frank, underneath everything at RWA was a nasty current of racism, but all the blame cannot be laid at RWA's feet. Most trad publishers refused to buy any romance book where the lead characters were non-white. They claimed those books wouldn't sell. If People Of Color ("POC") characters managed to slip past the acquiring editor, the marketing team refused to put any POC on the cover.
The indie publishing movement has helped open up stories about and by POC. And unfortunately, we're discovering just how racist readers can be. Plus, there's a certain coterie of writers who cater to that slice of the reading public.
*sigh* So among all this shit, a Twitter flamewar started between a white writer and a POC writer last summer over the contents of the white writer's books. The tiff probably would have passed unnoticed if the white writer hadn't weaponized the RWA ethics by-laws to attack the POC writer.
If you want to wade through a decent summary of the situation complete with links, Claire Ryan has one on her blog. Many thanks to Claire for putting this all together.
**Fair warning, when I was researching this dumpster fire, I needed a shower afterward.**
The sad part is this seems to be a repeat of the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies fiasco within SFWA a few years ago. Part of me hoped RWA as a whole would catch a clue and amend their ways, but alas, they seem to be doubling down on white supremacy instead. Frankly, I don't have much hope for the organization surviving. At least not in a writer-helpful form. And definitely not with the people who could make the needed changes resigning left and right.
All of this leads to--can any writer write "other" without getting lambasted?
The way I see it, we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't. As a white, cis-gendered, straight woman, if I leave anyone out of my books who aren't exactly like me, I'm guilty of all the "-isms". If I write a variety of characters and make them stereotypes, then again, I'm totally guilty of the "-isms".
Personally, I've already made the stand to have a diverse cast of characters in my books. I try to do my research. If I do something stupid, I hope a reader will call me out on it.
I'm not perfect. I'm sure I've fucked up along the way. I'll probably fuck up again. All I can do is promise to do my best to provide fair and diverse worlds.
I figure if I'm already getting lambasted for being anti-white and writing SJW/feminist propaganda, then I'm probably doing something right. *smile*
**Note: I'll leave comments open for now, but if y'all can't behave, I will shut down comments. Don't bring your fucking racist flamewar here!
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