Worse Than a Dumpster Fire

From Smart Bitches/Trashy Books:


When I quit the organization 47 years ago back in February 2020 (remember then? Sure was different!), it felt like a relief. I wouldn’t have to harbor that knot in my stomach or go get my mouth guard before writing about the latest technicolor f***** (PG prudery edit) from an organization that makes regular and complicated superficial changes but can’t control the 300 foot deep racism fire burning within its membership. Despite the efforts of people who I admire and people with whom I’d worked for over 15 years, I didn’t think it was fixable.

When the finalists for the newly-renamed award, the Vivian, were announced this year, one book in the Religious or Spiritual Elements category (which really means evangelical Christian, let’s be real) featured a hero who participated in the genocide against the Lakota at Wounded Knee. So all the changes and the renaming and the rewriting of the structure and the rubric and all the significant work that goes into hosting and managing an award yielded the same result as in prior years: racist, White supremacist narratives are lauded, whether the hero is a Nazi or a murderer of Indigenous Americans.

Then, this weekend, that same book won the Vivian. No, I’m not naming it. This small bit of ignominy is all I can provide here.

Same racism, different year. It’s not a surprise, but it is remarkable. And my thought was, good grief. If RWA wants to demonstrate its irrelevance to the rest of the romance reading community by rewarding White supremacist plots and characters, well, fine. If the organization insists on demonstrating its own irrelevance, okay. I shall oblige. I didn’t want to write about it because there isn’t a thing I can do about it except say, Yup, that is Indeed Terrible and also Not Surprising because the ground is still smoking from the racist mine fire below.

Then the president of RWA released a statement that romance with religious or spiritual elements:

requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity. According to its subgenre conventions, the book in question finaled and won for this category. (emphasis mine)

I’ll be honest: I nearly broke something laughing. I thought it was a joke. There was no way that was real. It had to be satire. I don’t know what month it is any more; is it April 1?

But it was not a joke. The response was, effectively, “Look, sometimes there’s crimes against humanity in the romance and we have to be okay with that.” Bonus head tilt for “RWA staff did not receive any complaints from the thirteen judges who read and scored the entry.”

GOSH I WONDER WHY. How could it be that the judges didn’t see genocide as a problem? Also the ground is really hot; it smells a little toasty. Is something on fire?

Link to the rest at Smart Bitches/Trashy Books

While PG will let others do more commenting on the OP (or not), he is pretty much a free speech absolutist.

PG is also pure Whitebread.

That said, PG doesn’t believe his ancestry prevents him from understanding those who have a different ancestry. He further doesn’t believe that his ancestry should preclude him from writing about those with ancestries different than his.

PG doesn’t have any problem with someone creating a fictional character in a work of fiction in 2021 that fictionally participated in a horrible event that took place in distant history. He doesn’t have any problem with someone buying such a book. He doesn’t care whether the author of such a work of fiction is Lakota or Irish or Chinese. He doesn’t believe than anyone reading such a book will decide that treating Native Americans badly in 2021 is perfectly fine.

As background, PG’s best friend in elementary school was Japanese. Only much later did PG learn that his best friend’s parents had almost certainly been interned as potentially dangerous aliens during World War II. That knowledge didn’t interfere with PG’s fond memories of his best friend and his hope that their paths would cross at some time so he could enjoy that friend again.

As further background, PG attended high school with several Native Americans with whom he associated and interacted every day school was in session. Within a ten-minute drive from his small-town high school, there was a battlefield where the ancestors of PG’s Native American friends had thoroughly outwitted and slaughtered a bunch of Whitebread soldiers in the 1800’s.

PG believes in knowing history, but not being trapped or limited by it. He also believes that putting difficult experiences behind us is a pretty good rule of life.

(PG is not suggesting that those who have personally experienced severe trauma should be expected to pretend nothing bad ever happened to them. He is suggesting that being emotionally sensitive or triggered about something that happened to one’s great, great grandmother is an indication that such a person might enjoy a better life with some good counseling.)

PG didn’t intern his Japanese friend’s parents. He likes to believe he would never have done such a thing, but won’t be a virtue poser.

None of PG’s Native American friends ever did anything to hurt PG so he didn’t blame them for anything their ancestors did to other Whitebreads just like PG.

PG believes that inherited grievances are a bad idea under any circumstance he can imagine.

He will point to the problems that have plagued the nations and ethnic groups of Central and Eastern Europe for centuries and resulted in the killing of unknown numbers of people as only one example of why inherited grievances are a bad idea.

40 thoughts on “Worse Than a Dumpster Fire”

  1. Maybe I’m lacking in that special ingredient of empathy, or I could just have the temperament of a pit viper with a toothache, but I find the OP’s point unconvincing.

    It’s not just the content. It’s the way that it sputters out of mind and into words in a barely-restrained froth of rage. And not just anger — it’s anger expressed with snark and sarcasm and recycled hipster tropes (another “dumpster fire” is it?)

    Arguments are arguments, that’s true enough. But when the major premise of the syllogism amounts to the the emotional outbursts of a person who is hard to take seriously as a fully-formed mind, that’s not a solid prognosis for the conclusions.

    Apologies for the unusually caustic words. I find people like the OP frustrating and best avoided.

    • People like this are products of our social media environment, and eighteen months of lockdowns and doomscrolling have made an already toxic social media culture immeasurably worse.

      I am convinced that 100 years from now, people will look back on our social media practices with the same shock and horror that we look back on lead pipes and medieval bloodletting.

      • Don’t forget smokeblowing. There’s a lot of that going on in the traditional media.
        No, the future will not look kindly upon this era.

  2. I read some of the comments on the original website, and by and large, they held a pretty consistent tone of agreement with the article writer. Heavy amounts of criticism of “evangelical christianity” and, yet, a lack of understanding of it. Some commenters even claimed to be Christian and yet, still did not understand the fundamental nature of redemption.

    If our society had more forgiveness today, we’d all be a lot happier, healthier, and less angry.

    One of the first rules of forgiveness is that there are no “buts”, as in, “Sure, I would forgive them, but _________” The article writer, as an example, even pulls the old Nazi argument as a way to express the futility of forgiveness. (Reductio ad Hitlerum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum )

    When your argument has to rely on playing the Nazi card, you’ve already lost.

    • I agree, Jake.

      One of the reasons I keep spending time on this blog is the quality of the comments people post. I learn something almost every day.

      Fortunately, I can’t remember the last time I took down a comment due to rudeness, etc.

    • This! This is the part that made me want to turn the article into fodder for a game of trash basketball.

      Forgiveness is the hingepoint of Christianity. The ENTIRE POINT is that no matter what the person’s done, there’s forgiveness waiting, so long as there’s also repentance. It makes total sense to have it as the defining characteristic of fiction written to portray that faith.

      I went to go look up the book they’re kicking a fuss over and the RWA has ‘no award recipient’ listed in that category.

      Turns out it was supposed to be At Love’s Command, by Karen Witemeyer.

      *wanders off to froth at the mouth somewhere out of the way*

    • There’s a narrow, difficult exception in here, Jake. I’m hesitant to bring it up, because there’s an infinitely recursive aspect of it that’s all too easily used as an excuse for, well, jerkish narcissism or outright sociopathy, but —

      There’s a difference between “Forgiveness in the abstract” and “Forgiving some things, or kinds of things, that continue to pain me.” There is a further difference between “You are completely forgiven, you are now a Child of Light” and “I forgive your past transgressions; now don’t repeat them because my patience is limited.” Neither life nor forgiveness is binary. Epistomologically, neither is faith, because there’s no assurance that faith — not even the same questions within faith — is the same between Person A (hypothetically, Mother Teresa) and Person B (hypothetically, Torquemada).

      Carefully edited-down example: I won’t, can’t, ever forgive drunk drivers. I can do my very best to treat them reasonably well, as individuals; but… no. I can’t tolerate a novel as “award-worthy” that has a drunk driver as protagonist — not even an otherwise upstanding citizen (which should go a long way toward understanding why I reject The Great Gatsby as a “great American novel”). Not even if that drunk driver later learns his lesson and Saves the World With an Act of Self-Sacrificing Heroism™.

      • C.E. – that’s fine and good, and I understand it. As humans, we are almost by nature going to fall short of the expectations of being “Christ-like” – and that’s assuming one believes in Christianity. Even if you don’t, and still wish to try to be kind to your fellow human (following any religion or none) – it’s still a difficult road, forgiveness is.

        However, people are quick to jump on the bandwagon attacking Christianity without understanding it. And claiming to be a Christian still doesn’t make one an expert on it. Particularly on the Internet. 😉

        The idea of Forgiveness, yes, and penitence, and redemption are all fundamental to the Christian faith. If we were just talking about forgiveness in general, and unrelated to any faith – then your definition is fine. Forgiveness is completely situational, at least as far as a text book definition. But that’s not necessarily the one I was talking about, since the OP was talking about the *Christian-ish category within the RWA.*

        Not to go all Christian-y here, but Jesus said to forgive 70 times 7 times. In other words, there were no “buts”. That’s the goal, of course, and reality again falls short. A good example of seeing this in action was the forgiveness shown by the brother of a shooting victim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFw7lcc82gw

        For most people, I imagine that’s impossible. I certainly don’t think I could do the same. I imagine if something similar happened to one of my children, I’d likely be hard pressed not to go all vigilante on the perpetrator!

        But I imagine that young man who was able to forgive is a lot happier person than most.

        • Jake, there’s a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge difference between “individual faith, belief, and action as a Christian” and “organized Christianity with theocratic impulses.” I can tolerate the former, including failures therein; I’m no perfect person myself. I’m less tolerant of the latter than I am of drunk drivers, for both intellectual/philosophical and highly personal reasons. (My ancestry is most emphatically not 100% red-blooded ‘murikan-friendly Christian… and I’ve paid for that personally at times, and been professionally bound up in differences in that dimension that included body counts.)

          Too often, “conversations” about Christianity* — and the conversation about this particular book epitomizes it — slide among personal faith/conduct, mass faith/conduct, and the organizational/political aspects of faith as if they’re not only inseparable, but equivalent (and that only the very “best” aspects of each reflect on the others, for the speaker’s evaluation of “best”). It’s sloppy; it’s poor argumentation; and it’s the arrogant default of the self-righteous, very few of whom have ever seen or acknowledged genocidal behavior instigated by faith-labelling. That’s especially problematic when one adds commercial elements to the conversation, whether for particular products/product-marketing categories like “inspirational books” or for commercial venues. And that is what is at the core of the controversy about this particular book — which I have not read, have no intention of reading (the description indicates it’s not to my taste and I have too much else to read), and is concerned with thoroughly corrupted award systems on the one hand and execrebly poor literary analysis skills of most people in the conversation on the other.

          * Or, indeed, any other “mass-movement faith,” including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, all the way back a couple of thousand years to Zoroastrianism and do not get me started on that particular thread of world history or we’ll be here for days.

          • C.E.: I am replying because I wanted you to know that I read your post. However, I don’t really think your response applies to what I posted, as I wasn’t really referring to organized religion. Which means, all I can say, is more power to you. 😉

            I will say this, though: any definition of actual Christianity, has to refer back to the Bible, someway, somehow, or it’s simply not Christianity. Just like Islam is defined by the Torah.

            Since I was talking about forgiveness, I want to point out one other thing, as I was only referring to Christianity, since that was a primary factor in the OP.

            That other point is that – google forgiveness. Or duckduckgo if you prefer. Most of the initial links will go to wiki, etc – but also to psychological sites, like this: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692

            “Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness

            When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.”

            So, if you’re looking at forgiveness and don’t want to bring religion into it (organized, or other) – there’s a lot going for it which was the thrust of my point above, and why the world (and twitter) would be a lot better of if more of us employed the concept.

            • Thank you for representing the Christian concept, Jake. The arguments against Christianity are tiresome, so it was a pleasure to see I don’t have to do it this time. XD

  3. Lately, when I see the term “Dumpster Fire” my first thoughts are: who set the fire and what are they protesting.
    I also suspect professional arsonists must be feeling a mite inadequate these days.

  4. Note: this is my third (and last) try at posting here. As trying to edit my comments caused problems, I’ll avoid doing so this time. If all three comments eventually turn up, I apologise.

    The idea of the possibility of redemption – and thus of forgiveness – lies at the core of Christianity, though I am not sure that all of the more odd sounding US congregations remember this. It is a hard idea to live with and I am glad that I do not have to try to live up to this ideal; I can be most unforgiving at times. It is also not a notion that many of today’s progressives are happy with, as any long past act is apparently a justification for cancellation, irrespective of how well the guilty party has subsequently behaved. The writer’s objection thus appears to be theological, rejecting both the idea that past crimes can be forgiven and that those who disagree because they accept Christian teaching should be allowed to write books.

    There is, of course, little sign that she has actually read the book and none that she can offer any other criticism of its contents. Of course, reading the work might be dangerous as she might not find the racism or white supremacy she confidently assigns to it. What there is – as Matt notes – is an extraordinary level of uncontrolled rage, basically at the idea that the book exists or indeed that anyone would write about a character who starts out acting in a way she disapproves of. She sounds like the kind of person who eagerly awaits the chance to be offended and who is best avoided without any attempt to engage.

    Genocide is a term that has carried a great moral weight since the second world, given that it describes a deliberate policy of trying to physically destroy a nation or an ethnic group. Of course, the lawyers have since got involved and the exact meaning has become less clear, with questions raised as to what part of the group has to be targeted (a significant proportion?) and whether actual physical/biological destruction is required. Meanwhile campaigners and politicians have applied the term willy-nilly to crimes that they wish to condemn by attaching to them the unique moral weight of an accusation of genocide. I think that this should be avoided as it will otherwise dissipate the connotations of deep moral opprobrium in the same way that accusations of both fascism and racism are losing their stigma given their overuse in the USA (particularly fascism, given the general ignorance I’ve observed as to what this actually entails).

    Maybe I’m over sensitive about this, but the author’s reference to “the genocide against the Lakota at Wounded Knee” seems to be one of these cases of using the word genocide without consideration of its real meaning or of the facts of the event to which it is being attached. “Wounded Knee” was a horrific example of the US army’s incompetence and willingness to indulge in an over-the-top reaction but the reference to “genocide” is just a carless and crude attempt at emotional manipulation. If you want to apply the term to relations with Native Americans, I would suggest that the events in California would be a better starting point (though I do not know whether they would meet the legal definition).

    And a final thought on redemption: can John Newton be redeemed or must he and everyone who has recorded Amazing Grace be cancelled?

    • Sorry you’re having problems commenting here, Mike.

      I’m not aware of other regulars who are experiencing that.

      If you can go to the Contact PG button on the top menu bar and send me more details on your commenting problems, I’ll see if I can’t help fix it.

    • If you asked the writer of the OP, the answer to your questions at the end would be “no” and “yes,” respectively. (Assuming that the OP knows who John Newton is. Not a guarantee, outside of evangelical circles.)

    • Mike,

      You make a very valid point about how words are being abused; they are taking on meaning that were never intended.

      I went and tracked down the book that was NOT mentioned in the article (on purpose) and even there, the comments were similar. That the book writer was a racist, that it glorified a massacre, and again, repeated the charge that it was a genocide. Here’s the book, which apparently won the award:


      The fact that a purported writer (the one who originally posted on the “smart bitches” website, SB Sarah) can so misuse the word is kind staggering. Of course, when you start down an ideological track, one could certainly argue that one might chuck both objectivity, or even-handedness out the window.

      I mean, even that bastion of right-wing thought (pardon my sarcasm) Wikipedia, doesn’t list any of the actions of the Americans against the Native Americans as genocide.


      And the most judgemental of the comments on Amazon – tend to be from those without the “Verified Purchase” ahead of the review. The most notorious comment (that I mention above) says they read the prologue and pointed out historical inaccuracies (which may be true, but this is a book of fiction, and the POV is from one of the main characters, not a historian…) and of course, that the “book” glorifies massacre and genocide.

      I took the opportunity to read the prologue as well. And while there were a couple of cringey moments, it by no means “glorified” genocide, no massacre. In fact, the character in question spends most of the battle trying to save women and children, and keep his men safe from the crossfire. Furthermore, the last few lines of the prologue are as follows:

      [quote] “Scores of Lakota lay dead in the ravine. Maybe hundreds. He swallowed hard, as his gaze landed on a face as stoic in death as it had been in life. The old woman. The children scattered around her. Nothing more than lifeless heaps in the snow.

      Why? This was supposed to be simple weapon confiscation. An escort to the reservation. How had it turned into a bloodbath?

      Bile burned the back of Matt’s throat. He’d joined the cavalry to protect settlers, people like his family. His task had been to bring justice and order to the frontier. This wasn’t justice.

      “God forgive us,” he murmured.
      They’d just participated in a massacre. [/quote]

      There is no glorification of Wounded Knee. It sounds more like someone who got caught up in something out of his control, tried to help some of the victims, and likely left the organization (I didn’t buy the book, but it says he becomes a mercenary) in disgust from the actions of some of his compatriots. And even likely takes on some of the collective guilt from being there in the first place.

      So, essentially, nothing like what is presented by the SB Sarah.

      Ultimately, it sounds like the original blog poster that PG quoted from has an axe to grind with the RWA, and used this opportunity to bludgeon the prize winner with the always friendly terms of being a racist.

      In any case, I’m glad your post got through, as you provided an interested insight/opinion.

      Oh! and PS. I believe you may have accidentally deleted your post when editing, because for some reason, this software puts “Delete” on the bottom right, which is the typical spot one would click to hit “Save” – which is on the bottom, at the far left.

      That might just be why you deleted the post while editing. 😉 I hope it’s something that simple, and I only know b/c I almost deleted my post as well! Heh –

      • There’s a meme going around the saner parts of the internet right now about the ten stages of genocide, and how in the US we have progressed to somewhere around stage five or six. You can find the complete list here.

        I wish I could say I was surprised, but given how far we have already progressed down this path, it’s actually quite predictable that the term “genocide” has become part of the gaslighting and doublespeak that defines the madness of our times. Prepare accordingly.

        • Joe, your link doesn’t work but I assume that you meant something like this: https://www.hmd.org.uk/learn-about-the-holocaust-and-genocides/what-is-genocide/the-ten-stages-of-genocide/

          It’s an interesting attempt but I don’t think it really works, if only because some of the stages are not necessary or reflect pre-existing conditions. When the Kaiser decided to wipe out the Herero – which I think he did even if the documents were lost in WW2 – he simply had to tell his army to do it. Yes the Herero had already been classified and dehumanised but this just reflected the racism of the Germany army and government which existed independently of an intention to commit genocide. The regime in East Africa was equally racist and brutal but – as far as I know – showed no interest in genocide.

  5. When RWA first imploded, one of the subject books/authors involved was reported to pertain to a historical novel that portrayed racism against Chinese. DISCLAIMER: I did not read that book, nor the one being discussed in the OP. In both cases I don’t want to.

    This does not change my opinion on the subject, because the hot reactions are consistent with what I’ve been seeing repeatedly in the book world.

    Vocal contemporary readers have been objecting to what was real in earlier times. If a novel does its job, it conveys the time of its subject and reveals what’s good and bad about it. The characters in a historical novel are supposed to be driven by their times and place. That’s what defines the genre.

    In some genres, a novel’s ending is expected to be happy — be it a story about redemption, survival, true love, or whatever is relevant to the general genre and specific story. Literary novels, conversely, are often downbeat because their purpose is to reflect life and times in rich detail and character struggle. Hardly any era has ended up happily ever after, and literary novels tend to make that point.

    What matters is if a novel *celebrates* the badness of a particular time and intentionally devalues a particular group or culture. In those cases you can fling the racism or sexism accusations around. But if a novel simply *portrays* the harsh realities and inequities of a particular time, and the characters’ angst/suffering/conflict related thereto, then IMO there is no reason to condemn or ban the book. It’s doing its job as a process of art and literature.

    The real question regarding this RWA category winner is: Which way does that winning book go? Is it a celebration of some racist righteousness, or is it the tragic story of a tragic period in United States history?

    I can’t help but wonder what happened with the entries in the other categories. Do the winners reflect some sweeping racism that characterizes the organization, or did one category in the contest have complex entries, and the judges believed the one that was awarded “winner” intelligently and compassionately addressed its subject?

    None of us can know until we read the entire batch of them, and think about them hard.

    • Based on the information provided in the OP, it appears that the book’s “racism” consists of having a character who participated in the (accidental) Wounded Knee Massacre not being presented as irredeemably evil and unworthy of love.

    • Beautifuly put.

      Subtlety is lost among absolutists.
      Mainly because focusing on nuance inspires/requires critical thought and absolutism can’t with stand critical thought.

      Its a good thing those folks shy from SF&F like vampures from a cross or their brains would explode from exposure to books like EMPIRE OF THE EAST, BIO OF A SPACE TYRANT, THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT (some already have), CALIPHATE, and hundreds of cautionary tales from all eras. The entire category exists to provoke thought and thought is anathema to absolutists and axe wielders.

    • Carolyn, I think that’s a slightly misleading oversimplification of what was going on with RWA at the time that is nonetheless the source of a lot of other ire. I personally know some of these people, and am acquainted at somewhat greater remove with others. I also know enough to know that I know too little about some undercurrents and power struggles relevant to understanding matters.

      My understanding — and that’s all it can be, as the relevant documents and proceedings were all inside of various not-legally-mandated-or-even-tenable “confidentiality screens” (both good- and ill-intended) and a clusterf*ck of incompetent and worse responses (not just by the RWA Board itself, either) — is that one RWA member, via social media, criticized one or two particular reprint from the early 1990s without updating or disclaimer novels as reflecting anti-Chinese sentiment, and suggested (in a part of the thread seldom acknowledged) that publishing that stuff right now reflects unconscious or perhaps overt racism. On the one hand, that RWA member is mixed-race Chinese; on the other hand, the author of that novel claimed to have done substantial research showing that the expressions and viewpoints were “authentic” to the time being portrayed in the novel.

      Things got worse when it was the publisher of that reprint, and not the author herself, who complained through RWA’s ethics mechanism that the criticism constituted a violation of RWA’s (never actually written) ethics rules. Any pretense at “procedural fair play” was then thrown out the window… and there were rumblings of jealousy, personal animus, etc. in play; of present issues with aspects of both “privilege” and “oversensitivity”; and, perhaps most of all, utter disregard for the failure of “social media posts” to ensure that context is included in arguments on complicated issues and personal opinions. So RWA f*cked up its response to a f*cked-up dispute that was itself a stupid attempt to use RWA’s mechanisms regarding personal hurt feelings and jealousy and so on that were all apparent in, but not the “real” cause of, the dispute… and reflective, unfortunately, of the internal-but-national electoral politics of RWA in the then-just-completed election. The various failure modes on display, however, have been seized upon (with some, and variable, merit) to expand from “failure of the particular persons involved” to “broader attack on organization.”

      Once upon a time, my day job involved knowing the difference between “Soviet” and “Russian,” between “Islamic Republic of Iran” and “Iranian,” and so on… and knowing when inability to distinguish between them mattered. A bit closer to home, it’s the difference between “Marxist” and “card-carrying member of the American Communist Party,” or “ACLU/NAACP member” and “pointy-headed liberal un-American traitor.” Anyone who thinks this is an excessive comparison should ponder the history of PEN; or SFWA’s exclusion/expulsion of certain writers in the 1970s on archly political grounds while refusing to ever acknowledge the long history of sexual harassment (and worse) by others; or… ok, never mind, this is getting too long, and demonstrates that “organization of authors” all too often resembles “herd of cats afflicted with distemper.”

      The tl;dr version: Blame the bloody 140-character limitation on Twitter, and its essential disdain for context (let alone nuance), for this entire clusterf*ck. Nobody is emerging with much credit… and I make, and can make, no judgment as to whether anyone deserves any credit. They were all ill-advised enough to put their professional and commercial reputations on the line in a forum over which they had no control that was optimized for middle-school-lunch-room cliquishness. (In case you hadn’t figured it out, I despise “social media” because I outgrew those cliques — being very much an outsider myself — sometime in early October of my seventh-grade year, around half a century ago. And it was that late because my school district’s year didn’t start until after Labor Day.) And that, in turns, hides and discredits any real problems reflected in the clusterf*ck.

  6. One wonders, since the OP rejects the concept of redemption, whether she believes herself sinless. The answer is “probably.”

    I’ll also note that someone who calls a book “racist” that presents participating in the (accidental) massacre of Indians as an act that requires redemption is probably very bad at diagnosing racism.

  7. Carolyn,

    I was posting while you were, though in a reply to another post. You can see the prologue (it’s only a few pages) if you want. And your assessment is fair. And, to respond to your point, no, this award winner doesn’t remotely glorify the massacre.

    The hero of the story in question is there, but it’s not like he’s ordering the massacre. In fact, he spends about half the prologue trying to save Native Americans at it. And, he realizes after what happens (which it must have been an extremely unfortunate incident) that yes, it was a massacre. I got the impression after reading the prologue and book description that the hero then leaves the cavalry, probably ashamed of what happened while he was there.

    There never was any genocide, even historically, and the massacre as written in the book isn’t even remotely presented in a positive light. There was no glory for any of the American combatants, only shame at the end – at least as far as the book was concerned.

    Now, historically, that’s a different story, (no pun intended) as twenty men received the Medal of Honor.

  8. Zillions of emotional outbursts have stripped both genocide and racism of any commonly understood meaning.

  9. Yeah, the core problem the OP seems to have, is a conviction that no hero should ever be forgiven for certain types of evil, as defined by the current zeitgiest.

    In other words, one thing that’s viewed as particularly heinous today–racism–is the definitive item in this Unforgivable Sin.

    Now, the original Unforgivable Sin was, biblically, “blaspheming the Holy Spirit.” To a secular person of today, that seems unfathomable, even ridiculous. How could a mere utterance or declaration be worse than murder? I use that only as an illustration of how views of morals change.

    Similarly, a hundred years ago having a child out of wedlock was cause for shaming and shunning, being cast out of decent society, perhaps losing employment. Today, it’s become nearly irrelevant. Just another example.

    Imagine if the award-winning romance novel in question featured, as a protagonist, a mass murderer of their own race, gender and nationality. Say, a man who’d sent the men in his military unit to certain death in the American Civil War, knowing full well they would die.

    Would the OP be foam-spittle furious at this evil?

    Of course not. Because murder by stupidity, by men, of men, is not the cause of the current age. It’s not a “hate crime.”

    One further, especially telling note. The OP hollers unforgivable racism, barely mentioning the infanticide and murderous misogyny of killing women and children at Wounded Knee, considered particularly heinous throughout history’s conflicts.

    In other words, it’s not to acts of killing women and children that puts the protagonist beyond redemption: it’s his state of mind at the time and reasons for doing it, along with the race and ethnicity of the victims.

    What has happened to our society that a significant percentage of people think the hate and disdain of a murderer for the race of the victim is more significant than the death of women and children?

    And that is what puts someone beyond redemption?

    Does that seem right to you?

  10. At this point it’s best to ignore social media mobs/outbursts like this and keep on keeping on. (And enjoy the publicity–I just snagged that book to give it a read.)

    (I spent six books redeeming a character who started out as a literal torturer, and I was a lot more aggressive about making him a good man than, say, An Exchange of Hostages, by Susan Matthews, was when she made her literal torturer the hero of her book and never bothered to make him sorry for the passion he felt for killing people creatively. That book would make people’s heads explode these days.)

    • Interestingly enough, getting worked up about Raskolnikov goes directly to the heart of what “evangelical Christianity” (or, more to the point, corpus evangelicorum) means, because — contrary to just about all conversation — there isn’t a truly uniform definition of either “redemption” or “Christianity.” It’s much easier to define by exclusion than establish a clear, defensible definition. (Exhibit A: Does what-is-proclaimed-as-a-cult with a charismatic — choosing that word purposefully! — leader that rejects virtually all mainsteam Christian doctrine except “redemption through belief in Jesus Christ as the Saviour” constitute “Christianity” in the first place? Especially if what is to be “redeemed” is defined differently?) And remember, Raskolnikov is against the backdrop of the political aspects of Orthodox Church hierarchies and power, not all that long after the Tsar was essentially subordinate to the Patriarch…

  11. As an aside: There are 33,000[1] different groups that call themselves “Christian”. Each one has their own “One True Path”, their own description of “God/Jesus”.[2]

    When I ask someone, “What do you mean by the word ‘God’ “, they don’t even understand the question. After I try to explain, they always end up telling me that what I am saying is “Heresy”, and I say “Yes, that’s correct.”

    “Heresy” is the Greek word for “choice”. Every “One True Path” is made up of “choices” and somebody else’s “choices” are considered “Heresies” by somebody else. They are correct either way they say it.

    I collect “Heresies” and assemble them into different variations for Story purposes.

    What’s interesting, is that each time I think that I have created a unique form of Christianity, it turns out that it actually exists somewhere down the road, so I am always going to upset or inspire someone with the Stories.

    [1] I use 33,000 for aesthetic reasons. Checking Google, there are 45,000 today.

    [2] See YouTube for clips of the various “Jesus” that show up in American Gods, not to mention the various “Gods” themselves.

  12. The “dumpster fire” has spread to the mainstream. From USAToday:



    The RWA then announced that its board had gathered for an emergency meeting and decided to rescind the award.

    “RWA is in full support of First Amendment rights,” according to a statement from the association. “However, as an organization that continually strives to improve our support of marginalized authors, we cannot in good conscience uphold the decision of the judges in voting to celebrate a book that depicts the inhumane treatment of indigenous people and romanticizes real world tragedies that still affect people to this day.”

    Witemeyer’s publisher, Bethany House, issued a statement saying it was “saddened” by the response to the book.

    “Witemeyer wrote this carefully-researched story with the knowledge that it would include some of the darkest moments of our nation’s history, including deplorable acts of violence like the Wounded Knee Massacre,” the statement reads. “It was neither the author’s nor publisher’s wish to offend, but rather to recount this history for the tragedy it was. That it was perpetuated by ordinary people like the characters in Witemeyer’s novel is a sobering aspect of that tragedy.”

    In an email Friday to The Associated Press, Witemeyer wrote: “While I don’t agree with RWA’s choice to rescind an award fairly won, I understand why they felt compelled to take such action, and I harbor no resentment toward them.”

    The RWA acknowledged previous troubles in its statement. In 2020, much of its leadership resigned or was forced out because of low diversity and the awards themselves were renamed. They had been called the RITA Award, in honor of the first association president, Rita Clay Estrada. They were renamed the Vivian Award, for Vivian Stephens, a Black author who helped found the RWA.


    Dunno, but the real “dumpster fire” seems to be the RWA; they won’t stand up for their own history, processes, and statements.

    • “Dunno, but the real “dumpster fire” seems to be the RWA; they won’t stand up for their own history, processes, and statements.”


      (Also, very classy and, dare I say it, Christian response from the author.)

      • Classy, yes.
        But a careful read of the statement is also a subtle indictment of the RWA for caving in, repeatedly now, to dubious arguments and giving veto power to anybody able to rile up a twitter mob. By their own words, no presentation of “bad” events is now acceptable. Just unicorns and fuzzy bunnies, I suppose.

        • One of the things we need to keep in mind is the definition of “romance” as a publishing genre. Its required tropes are a focus on a single couple’s relationship, and a story resolution that’s either HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happy for now). The actual entry requirements for this RWA contest:

          “Entries must be a work of original Romance Fiction. In order to be defined as a romance, all entries must have the following:
          “A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
          “An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

          So…does this controversial work qualify?

          • Why wouldn’t it? I’ve read romance novels with far crazier plots/settings. I haven’t gotten to this one yet (I did grab it), but the first chapter didn’t look much different from any other similar thing I’ve read, and in fact I was surprised to discover that the very first thing we learn about the protagonist is that he is tired of war, he hates fighting the Comanche, and he’s questioning whether it’s worthwhile. Goodness, how the thoughts of a genocidal psychopath have changed since I took psychology. -_-

        • I agree with you, Felix – particularly this part: “…I understand why they felt compelled to take such action, and I harbor no resentment toward them.””

          Indeed. She understands that a twitter mob assaulted the RWA, and that they are weak-kneed, and had to respond. And that the author, writing about forgiveness, can also, in fact, practice it.

          Good for her.

          And, thanks to “Smart Bitches” blog and RWA – bad for our civilization. And mark another notch in the belt of the Ultra-woke.

          Another interesting note – all the negative reviews on Amazon that I saw – NONE had the “verified purchase” label- certainly none of the most read ones. Which means, all these people crying genocide and racism and whatnot – didn’t even bother to read the book, or take at most, take an even-handed look at the free prologue.

  13. Kudos to the author, but I’m not sure I believe that her very grown-up, good-sport public statement honestly reflects her feelings. Of course, I don’t know, and I’m not going to put words in her mouth. But if the organization did that to me, I would be FURIOUS!

    It’s one thing to not win. Every writer who enters their work in a contest runs the same risk of disappointment. But it’s quite another to have your carefully considered award taken away because a bunch of people who don’t understand literature or its purpose scream on social media. Oh yes, I would be furious, indeed!

    I hope she gets the financial reward that bad press often allows, and tons of people read her book, making it a best-seller.

    • You’d be right to be fuming.
      She is, too: as she pointed out, the book won fairly by the rules of the *category* only to be disqualified because somebody *outside the process* chose to apply a different set of rules.
      And then the RWA had the gall to claim they “support the first amendment…but… ”
      They support it, via lip service, until they have to actually defend it.
      Very Animal Farm of them.

    • Makes one want to stir up BAD publicity, on the off chance (or carefully engineered chance) that it will make the book go viral and make the author famous and sell lots and lots of copies.

      Aha! The brain coughed it up: it’s called the ‘Streisand Effect’ and has a nice explanation in Wikipedia.

      Actually, thinking how the reception may go to the second book in my mainstream trilogy, and the very necessary happenings at the end of this volume, it looks like a strategy I may embrace.

      Except I’m pretty sure the novel wouldn’t qualify as a Romance.

Comments are closed.