James Patterson is big-mad. He’s also dead wrong.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

I develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies for one of the biggest book publishers in the world, and I teach creative writing and publishing courses at area colleges, so I know why James Patterson is big-mad.

I found out about his comments Monday, on a group chat with my diversity, equity, and inclusion colleagues. We routinely share articles that help us recontextualize and embolden our work, and at some point, someone posted the article in the Sunday Times in which Patterson laments that white men are having trouble getting hired as writers, calling it “racism.”

Let’s just say that Patterson’s comments did not help us recontextualize or embolden our work. Because he’s flat-out wrong.

“Doofus” was all one colleague could muster. And really, what more is there to say about a white man who is reckoning with the end of his time. Gone are the days when white men are prioritized only because of their identity rather than, let’s say, actual talent and intellect. That must be painful.

When Donald Trump says, “Make America Great Again,” and when James Patterson says, white men face “another form of racism,” please understand that these white men are saying the same thing. Trump and Patterson were born a year apart and grew up during America’s Golden Era. After galvanizing all its resources toward the war effort, America was able to redirect those post-war resources to meet growing consumer demand for goods and real estate, employing millions of Americans and boosting the middle class.

However, while there were many more jobs available during this period, they weren’t available to all. Only 2% of women and Black men worked in highly skilled jobs that pay better (like engineering), whereas 94% of doctors were white men. Generations of Trumps and Pattersons enjoyed unfettered access to the spoils of being born cis-het and white, while discrimination, unequal education, social norms, and bad laws tripped Black and brown people as they tried to sprint ahead.

. . . .

Book publishing, as we now know, has been an allegory for the rest of America. During the Golden Era, book publishing faced pressure to create new content as literacy rates climbed and more people went to college. Publishing was forced to expand and corporatize its operations, thus the literary star was born. Publishers realized they couldn’t possibly put an equal amount of effort behind each individual book, so they chose a select few to pour resources, ensuring the success of writers like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Henry Miller, and Jack Kerouac. (There were famous Black writers of this era — James Baldwin, of course — but they were always exceptions. Toni Morrison famously championed Black writers when she worked at Random House starting in the 1960s, but after leaving her post, the publisher went back to its old ways.)

Half a century later and the world has dramatically changed: The internet, cell phones, and social media created an interconnected society where one can quickly and easily expose injustices, from #BlackLivesMatter to #PublishingPaidMe. A Black man and Black woman ascended to the offices of president and vice president, respectively.

. . . .

So yes, the country is changing, and publishing will continue to add more diverse authors and perspectives to reflect our new society. I am sure that for the Trumps and Pattersons of the world, who have only ever enjoyed their privilege, this change feels unbearable.

But things haven’t changed that much. A diversity audit by Random House (now Penguin Random House) found that three-quarters of authors from 2019 to 2021 were white, and only 6% were Black. A 2020 analysis by the New York Times of English language fiction from 2018 showed that 89% of authors were white, even though white people made up only 60% of the population.

And #PublishingPaidMe, in which authors revealed the advances they received on their books, showed that Black authors still often get paid significantly less than their white peers.

Link to the rest at The Philadelphia Inquirer

PG notes that, unless an author lives in or near New York City, that author is unlikely to ever meet with a publisher face-to-face. Ditto for an author’s agent, who is also likely located in New York City.

There is also the time-honored practice of using a pen name that suggests an ethnicity or provides no clue to ethnicity.

There have been more than a handful of men who have written under female pen names and women writing under male pen names.

Search on Google for Pen Name Generator and you’ll find lots of help and most of them allow you to choose your gender.

PG asked one pen name generator for a female romance writer pen name and it immediately spit out Trixie Selene Bolton.

PG tried out a UK pen name generator and was given MaryAnn Bethlake and Janette Beverly.

The UK site will also provide you with a selection of rapper names if that’s your side hustle to your writing career.

Selections for Rapper PG included Strawberry Harold, Tots-Shipman and Inspectah Sticky.

Who knows, maybe PG AKA Inspectah Sticky will turn TPV into a Rap Blog.

18 thoughts on “James Patterson is big-mad. He’s also dead wrong.”

  1. First strike: I develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies
    Second strike: articles that help us recontextualize and embolden our work
    Third strike: a white man who is reckoning with the end of his time

    … and I don’t even like James Patterson.

  2. This shark notes that he has been required to use pseudonyms since 198x, at various times and on various subjects, by his day job so as to avoid any apparent borrowing of or implication of “authority to speak for.” This shark is also reminded of Craig Ferguson’s running gag regarding new-every-third-show-or-so “porn-star names” generated for the show.

  3. I think it was during the 90s that publisher were in trouble because they were following the garbage “deconstruction” in University English classes pushing “Realism”, basically stories about Nothing. The graduates of the day that worked for publishers sneered their way through the system the same way the kids are doing today.

    – In the 90s, Publishers realized that they had to publish “Stories” rather than “Nothing”, and they came back.

    I expect that they will follow the latest fad as they leave readers behind, until they have to publish actual stories that people want to read, but by then it will be too late for them.

    I’m actually curious as to what role Trad publishing will play in the future.

    Watch the movie, Field of Dreams, then read the novel the film was based on, Shoeless Joe (novel) by W. P. Kinsella. Watch and read, multiple times and you can see how the story was clarified and saved in the movie, vs the book.

    The other example is the movie The Natural, and the book by Bernard Malamud of the same name. Watch and read both many times, and they are basically a master class on the difference between Story and Nothing.

    Go with Story every time.

    BTW, I continually add pen names to a matrix I use to keep track of such. male and female. The pen names are imaginary characters, so they end up telling me what their pen name is.

    The creation form on the UK site scared the hell out of me. Yikes.

      • Oh, I dunno…
        The lyrics would be worth paying attention to.
        But the job comes with the requirement of 20 lbs of gold bling and that doesn’t quite seem to be PGs style. So not much danger of an “Indie Rap” inspection.
        (More’s the pity.) 😀

        • What if he substitutes iron pyrite (aka “fool’s gold”) jewelry — such as a plated gavel and such — and sinks the savings into cryptocurrencies? Maybe “DJ PG” will be appearing near you…

    • I think it was during the 90s that publisher were in trouble because they were following the garbage “deconstruction” in University English classes pushing “Realism”, basically stories about Nothing.

      Is that where that came from? So that’s what happened! Oh, how I loathe that stuff. When people wonder why everyone hates literary fiction, it’s because of this crap. I always call it “lit-ra-cha” in a snooty accent to distinguish the Jane Smileys from the Jane Austens.

      This wave even even infected sci-fi and fantasy, only it was called “Mundane.” A brand new sci-fi website popped up in the 90s, it may have been called scifi.com or similar. Ellen Datlow was the editor, and she was so confused when we asked her if the stories she was planning on publishing at the site would be “actual stories, with a plot, and it has to be actual sci-fi.” We didn’t want to get burned.

      From what you say, I am never going to read “Shoeless Joe,” especially not multiple times 🙂 “Gormenghast” forever broke me of the habit of finishing painful slogs.

      • The books aren’t that long, but the difference between “Story” and “Nothing” becomes obvious by comparison. I have shelves filled with DVD with the book as examples of telling a story better/worse. The difference illuminates what Story is.

        I also have “Gormenghast” in book and the DVD series, still to be read, but I am compelled to find out the difference.

        Don’t get me started about the “Mundane Manifesto”. I was flamed off of many a blog when I tried to point out that what people were calling “Mundane” was still fantasy dogma from Scientism. Yikes!

        Mundane science fiction
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mundane_science_fiction

        The Wiki page has actually improved the discussion since last I looked. Harvest it while it still makes sense. HA!

        • “Ryman and his collaborators believed that much science fiction was too escapist, and they thought that setting their stories in a world closer to our own would give the narratives more political and social power. ”

          And thereby reduce their readership by removing the very ideas that make SF the literature of ideas. Ohh-kaayyy…

          I have no problem with anybody willing to cripple tbe scope of their story to reduce the amount of worldbuilding. To each their own. The market will decide. But I would point out that a significant plurality buys their SF precisely for the escapism.

          Also, somebody should have warned them that in SF&F circles, mundane is *not* a positive adjective and is generally applied to mediocre, unimaginative work. They should’ve demonstrated enough understanding of tbe field to avoid “mundane” and, maybe, go with “grounded”.

          (That is how WB differentiates their superhero fantasies like JOKER and THE BATMAN, from the Disney lightshows like ANT-MAN and Dr. Strange.)

          As a reader I have never actually bought any such fiction nor am I likely to do so. In general I align with (most of) Rucker’s critique. (Not all. I *like* escapism.”

          “Rucker stated that he “prefer[s] to continue searching for ways to be less and less Mundane”. He pointed out that alternate universes are “quite popular in modern physics” and stated that perhaps other worlds exist in other dimensions. He noted that fiction writers outside of SF use stories about time travel, so while implausible, it was worth exploring. While Rucker also rejected SF’s “escapist” tendencies, and called for transrealism, he argued that elements of SF which MSF advocates reject are “symbolic of archetypal modes of perception” that are needed in SF. ”

          But as they say: “Whatever floats their boat.”
          If they want to ignore vast swaths of the market that is their privilege.

          As to the dfference between their stuff and “hard” SF it looks like the difference would be that stated political intent. Other than that, I see none. But then I see *all* fiction as alternate realities. Which makes “mundane SF” an oxymoron.

  4. While the OP crows that “Gone are the days when white men are prioritized only because of their identity rather than, let’s say, actual talent and intellect,” they seem to entirely neglect the reverse: that many authors are being published today not because of “actual talent and intellect,” but due to their identity.

    • Look at how many books James Patterson has sold and continues to sell.

      If you regard New York publishing as a business (and the media conglomerates that own the publishers absolutely do), James Patterson is a money machine. Right now, publishers everywhere are looking hard for “the next James Patterson.”

      If “Inclusion” sells, the publishers will be all over it. If not, they’ll publish an “Inclusion” book here and there for appearances sake, but absolutely must be primarily focused on making money, which is not all that easy with the traditional business model they use and the Manhattan offices where they feel they must be located.

  5. First, anyone who uses the term “big mad” in anything but casual conversation, or the Internet equivalent thereof, need not be taken seriously.

    Second, it is no surprise that a guy whose livelihood is based on DEI would be upset that someone challenged the need for his job’s existence. I’d be annoyed as well.

    Third, let’s be real here. DEI initiatives are basically jobs programs for otherwise unemployable (fill-in-the-blank) studies graduates, and this screed illustrates why. This is a long-winded ad hominem attack that basically assigns the worst possible motives to Patterson without any evidence whatsoever.

  6. Is there a race search term in Amazon? How does a racist find out what Kindle books are written by blacks?

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