Monday, April 2, 2018

In Defense of Amber Fallon (Or back on my High Horse Again)

In Defense of Amber Fallon, Or Back On My High Horse (Again)
Now and then I miss things on Facebook. You’d think that was impossible with the amount of crap I share every day (Cute animal pics, political rants, book releases, comic book artwork, et al.), but you’d be wrong,
For example, I completely missed someone dumping on writer Amber Fallon for notice a lack of diversity in a couple of anthologies. She’s not alone, by the way. There have been several authors noting that lack of diversity of late.
My normal response, though I am not overly fond of it, is “It is what it is.” Which is not to say that I’m thrilled when I run across an all white, all male anthology, but more to say some things you cannot change. (We’ll get back to that. Please hold your potential outrage.)
Why do I say that? Well, it’s been my response for many years, ever since my wife passed away, actually. I could not fix that. I had to accept it. I cannot fix the uneven keel of publishing when it comes to other races, religious beliefs, genders, political beliefs or gender identities.
Let me clarify: I cannot make editors or publishers change their minds about how they select stories. I cannot push an editor to add in more diversity. I simply do not have that sort of power, much as I might wish otherwise.
Now then, back to the subject at hand. I can’t change that, right? Well, yes and no.
What I can do is fail to pick up a book that is all male cis gender Caucasians. They might be phenomenal stories, but I can survive without them if I must. Christ knows I have enough to read. First off, I currently have roughly 700 stories to red for the Twisted Book of Shadows (Remember when I said we’d be getting back to that? Here’s the first hint about how). Second off, though it hasn’t been formalized as yet, I have an anthology of stories to read for the Nocturnals Anthology that I’m editing for Dan Brereton later this year. So, really, just on the short story front, I’m good for a while. That ignores the fifty or so anthologies that I have purchased or downloaded in the last couple of years that I STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO AS YET. I have an epic TBR pile. It’s not getting smaller. Yes, I have a problem. No, I am not currently seeking a cure for that problem.
Now, where were we?
Oh, yes, Amber Fallon and a few others who dare say we should maybe be more diverse versus those who have their own ways of disagreeing. Listen, I’m admitting here that I did not see every part of the post that Amber had up. I did not read the comments (though a few people have been kind enough to forward certain parts of the response for my consumption.)
I just know there was a lot of backlash and a goodly amount of “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re WRONG!” going on.
Feelings tend to get hurt on Facebook. I think a lot of times it’s accidental. Sometimes it’s deliberate. I prefer to think the best of people in general. My life is easier that way.
So I’m just gonna climb up on my high horse for a minute and make a statement. People can agree or not as they see fit. As I have said many, many times. I do so love a good debate.
Currently, along with another middle aged white CIS Gender (Is that capitalized? I have no idea…) I am editing the TWISTED BOOK OF SHADOWS. We crowd funded this book. Why? Because, as was explained several times, there is not a snpel major publishing house in this country (or likely the freaking planet) that would pay professional rates for what we wanted here.
What did we want? Diversity. You heard it. DIVERSITY. It’s not an ugly word, though a lot of people act like it is.
Now, a few people on Amber’s thread went off on the whole diversity thing. In a nutshell their argument was: 1) It ain’t my job to make diverse people submit to my anthologies. And 2) If diverse people (People of color, transgender, minority, female, gay, etc. want to sell stories, they better make good and damned sure their stories are as good as or better than the common denominators.
Neither of those things is incorrect. I’m sorry, but it’s true. A publisher does NOT owe anyone anything, except payment for a good story.
There. I’ve said it.
HOWEVER, if I want to make the BEST FUCKING ANTHOLOGY EVER, then I need to open those floodgates, don’t I?
Listen, Chris Golden and yours truly decided to open those doors for a lot of reasons. First, it’s true. Whether we like it or not, the fact that we are male and straight and white has PROBABLY helped our careers. (Oh! Look a point of clarification before the flames begin!—Probably. Why probably? Because, if I’m being honest here, most publishers have no idea who the hell you are until you tell them. If you write under a pen name, they may never know your race, gender or sexual orientation. That’s a fact. If you have an agent as a buffer, that’s even more of a fact. There have been several writers in the past, most often female, who wrote under male names (in one case it was under her husband’s name) and broke through barriers real and perceived. (Hold it, calm down). I say perceived because, honestly, I have no way of knowing how much of an impact gender or race has on certain circumstances but I’m going to assume that, as with most of the world, sadly, gender, race, sexual orientation and religious beliefs can all cause a bias.
Listen, it’s hard enough to convince a publisher to take a chance on an anthology, even if you bring in a few marquee names. Ask Chris Golden, Jonathan Maberry, the amazing Ellen Datlow and a few dozen other editors and they can tell you as much. The basic philosophy is that anthologies don’t break even. There are occasional exceptions, but they really are exceptions. Most anthologies these days are by invitation with MAYBE one or two slots for newer voices. That’s assuming the editor can squeeze them in past the watchdogs at the publishing houses.
Hell, I bet if you look at the numbers you could have Stephen King edit an anthology of brand new tales and it wouldn’t sell as well as a book with his name on it as the sole writer. It’s just the nature of the beast.
So we decided we wanted an anthology where everyone had a chance. I mean everyone. We have a system in place that strips away the names of contributors. No one knows until the stories are accepted. The one exception has no editorial clout in this scenario but has been kind enough to take on the work of accepting the stories, keeping the information about who wrote what off to the side, and dealing with a few hundred questions sent in by those very same authors. (The answers to those questions come from me and Chris. The names of the curious have been removed to protect the innocent.)
We did our very best to push spreading the news of the anthology far and wide, into as many diverse corners as we could, because, frankly, the INCLUSION OF DIVERSE VOICES WITH DIVERSE EXPERIENCES ONLY INCREASES OUR CHANCES OF GETTING AMAZING STORIES.
You read that properly. We can see stories thatwould never cross the average CIS gender Caucasian male’s mind. Things that scare people don’t always look the same, you know. There are filters we all put in place without thinking about it.
To that end we also got ten to so very qualified and diverse authors to act as readers for the TBOS. Gay transgender, female, Hispanic, African-American, lesbian, etc. They are reading along with us and offering suggestions. Ultimately the final decision is by the two editors (and out publisher, Haverhill House’s John McIlveen.).
We actively chose to be as diverse as possible and to level the playing field as much as possible.
I’m not saying any of this to toot my own horn. I’m saying this to prove a point.
I firmly believe that the stories we choose will be STRONGER because we have a pool of SEVEN HUNDRED tales to choose from, not one hundred and fifty. It’s a lot more work, but the entire purpose of the anthology was to ensure that everyone got a chance, published, never published, white, male, female, black, Middle Eastern, European, Transgender, Gay, Lesbian. Whatever and what have you.
And you know what? I’d rather do the extra work and make sure we really get the best stories. Not just the best stories by white guys in the mid-forties through mid-sixties.
You know what else? An AMAZING array of people added money to this project, fully aware that the names of any stories were being stripped off of the tales to ensure that level playing field I was mentioning earlier.
Friend? Foe? Complete stranger? African American? Chinese? Lithuanian? Male Female? Transgender? Gay? Lesbian? Bisexual? Asexual? Fill in the blank? It DOES NOT MATTER. We opened the doors to everyone. We wanted, and hopefully we got, diversity.
But I know one person who will not have a story in the anthology. Amber Fallon, who confessed to me that she did not send in a story. She simply did not have the time. She also threw the largest single donation into the pot to make certain that diversity mattered in this case.
She believes in what she was talking about earlier.
She is “good people,” as my mother was wont to say.
She left Facebook, apparently because the shit storm that followed her wondering why there wasn't any more diversity in a few anthologies blew up all over her page. Hopefully she’ll come back, but I fully understand if she does not. It’s never any fun when people decided to make you their target for the day, regardless of whether or not that was their intention.
Amber Fallon is one of the finest people I know. She is also, frankly, one hell of a fine writer. Does it bother her when she sees a lack of diversity in an anthology? Of course it does. And well it should, especially if, as is often the case these days, that anthology is by invitation only.
I’m with her, just for the record. I prefer diversity. I prefer new voices have a chance to be heard. I prefer that not every story be a cookie cutter mold designed to satisfy Caucasian males.
I like Mexican food. I like Chinese food. I love me some Jamaican jerked chicken and Cajun grub. I like diversity in my writing and I like diversity in my edibles, too.
Anyone feeling the need to have at me? Here’s your format. Disagree to your heart’s content. But please, try to keep it civil and try to prove your point.
Keep smiling,
James A. Moore

No comments:

Post a Comment