Home » Big Publishing, Characters, Social Media » Young Adult Author Cancels Own Novel After Race Controversy

Young Adult Author Cancels Own Novel After Race Controversy

1 February 2019

From The Guardian:

An up-and-coming young adult author has cancelled the publication of her highly anticipated debut novel, following a flood of online criticism from readers over her depiction of race and slavery.

Amélie Wen Zhao’s novel, Blood Heir, was sold to publishers for a high six-figure sum last January. A fantastical retelling of the Anastasia story involving “a princess hiding a dark secret and the conman she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder”, it was scheduled to be published in June.

But in a statement on Wednesday, Zhao said that negative feedback from the young adult community had led to her asking her publisher, Delacorte Press, not to release the book “at this time”.

Following positive early reviews, a groundswell of criticism of Blood Heir began last month, with reviews posted on Goodreads and Twitter calling out what one reader described as “the anti-blackness and blatant bigotry in this book”, particularly its depiction of slavery and the death of a particular black character.

. . . .

“It was never my intention to bring harm to any reader of this valued community, particularly those for whom I seek to write and empower … I don’t wish to clarify, defend or have anyone defend me. This is not that; this is an apology,” wrote Zhao on 30 January, adding that she was “grateful to those who have raised questions around representation, coding, and themes in my book”.

Zhao, who raised in Beijing and emigrated from China to the US at the age of 18, said she wrote the book “from my immediate cultural perspective”, writing that the slavery storylines in her novel “represent a specific critique of the epidemic of indentured labor and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my own home country”.

“The narrative and history of slavery in the US is not something I can, would, or intended to write, but I recognise that I am not writing in merely my own cultural context,” she wrote.

Zhao had previously said on her website that she had set out to create “a diverse cast, many of which are beloved and dear to a third-culture kid like myself … a tawny-skinned minority of a Russian-esque princess; a disowned and dishonoured Asian-esque assassin; an islander/Caribbean-esque child warrior; a Middle-Eastern-esque soldier”.

“I write fantasy, but my story draws inspiration from themes I see in the real world today. As a foreigner in Trump’s America, I’ve been called names and faced unpleasant remarks – and as a non-citizen, I’ve felt like I have no voice – which is why I’ve channeled my anger, my frustration, and my need for action into the most powerful weapon I have: my words,” she wrote last year.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

See also How a Twitter Mob Derailed an Immigrant Female Author’s Budding Career

PG didn’t really need any additional reasons to stay away from Twitter, but he got some anyway.

Big Publishing, Characters, Social Media

119 Comments to “Young Adult Author Cancels Own Novel After Race Controversy”

  1. “Zhao, who raised in Beijing and emigrated from China to the US at the age of 18, said she wrote the book “from my immediate cultural perspective”…”
    —-

    Easy to understand how she could’ve missed the sensitivity of the subject and the need to tread carefully:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Few8kJ0zfnY

  2. And we see them fearing to write as there is nothing you can write that someone else won’t pick a reason to dislike.

    Any bets her publisher will want the money they gave her back if she now doesn’t want the book published?

    Slavery was and still is a thing in places, should it not be told and covered up/forgotten so that the next generation can relearn it the hard way?

    If she so much feared the mobs she should have used a pen name.

    (Of course I could be wrong and we’re just watching a big publicity stunt …)

    • And why wouldn’t the publisher want the money back. It was an investment in a product which has now been withdrawn through no fault of their own. If you paid in advance for a car and the seller decided he couldn’t part with it, would you just let him have the money out of the goodness of your heart?

      • Oh, I’m not blaming the publisher in this!

        On the other hand, look at all this free publicity, and below someone has noticed that the book is still up as a preorder on Amazon. She signed her rights to control that book away to the publisher so they might see all that green as a good reason to go ahead and publish it whether she wants them to or not. (Yet another reason to go indie – you still have the rights to do what you will with your works. 😉 )

      • I disagree that the publisher should simply be able to take back their money. This is caveat emptor–the publisher buys the rights to the product outright (the book) and often contractually shifts most of the post-advance risk onto the author–a “heads I win, tails you lose” scenario where if the book does well, the author might earn out the advance and get a trickle of royalties, while if it doesn’t for any reason, the author is blamed. (Generally, the big payoff for a first-time bestseller comes in later contracts, where the author/agent can demand much more).

        If the publisher didn’t do their due diligence in vetting a new book from a new author–sensitivity readers or whatever it takes when putting out a book which addresses hot-button issues–that’s on them, not the author. Or it should be, but now, with the resurgence of morality clauses, the publishers are setting up authors to take even more risk.

        Remember, the publisher is the *buyer*, and the book is a custom-made, one-off product, not a testable piece of machinery. There is no warranty. The buyer must do their due diligence to make sure the replicated product–copies of the book–is saleable. If you, a buyer, bought a painting and the rights to it from an artist, with the intention of making prints and selling them, and it turned out those prints are offensive to enough of the public that the product becomes tainted, that’s hardly the artist’s fault. The commerciality of the enterprise is almost entirely on the publisher–with the sole exception of if the artist/writer does something *afterward* to taint the product.

        • “Remember, the publisher is the *buyer*,”

          Correct. You just bought a car and ‘after’ paying for it the car dealer tells you you’re not going to be allowed to drive it. Are you going to say you wouldn’t want your money back?

          • The dealer (the author, the seller)is not the one telling the buyer they won’t be allowed to drive it.

            It’s a third party–the public, the marketplace–threatening the buyer with bad publicity or retaliation.

            By analogy, this is a media mob telling the buyer that they bought a car that offends them–and then they buyer tries to get the seller to refund their money on that basis. Not because the car is defective, but because the buyer was intimidated by the mob.

            Caveat emptor, is how I’d view it.

            • Oops – you missed the plot-point.

              The buyer(publisher) wasn’t intimidated by the mob – the seller(writer) was.

              The seller(writer) is begging the buyer(publisher) not to use(print) what the seller(writer) sold. And the buyer(publisher) would love to use(print) because they’re getting lots of pre-orders.

              Since the seller(writer) doesn’t want it used(printed) perhaps they should return what the buyer(publisher) gave them in exchange for the thing the seller(writer) now regrets selling.

        • The buyer must do their due diligence to make sure the replicated product–copies of the book–is saleable.

          Agree. And the seller must read the contract. Very carefully. Anyone know what it said about the advance?

        • Depends, of course, on the contract. And I can have a pretty good guess what this one says.

    • Thanks for those links. Nyanzi in particular makes some very shrewd points.

      • In that context “circle” = “market”.

        The key point of both pieces is that authors like Correia and John Ringo (among many) have well-established brands for non-PC narratives so their readership (and revenue sources) doesn’t include the people that react to accusations from the left. (Or the right, for that matter.) That frees them from specific story attacks but only because they are shunned/vilified in toto by them.

        Thus they are freed from any need to mollify them.
        They know who they are and what their market is.
        Not a bad place to be.

  3. Mobbs like this only have power because people give in to them.
    Something like this happened a while back with another young adult author, the difference in that case was that she didn’t have much of a Twitter presence and when the book came out, it did fairly well since the mob had forgotten all about it.
    As for Twitter, when it first came out I thought that only twits would use it and nothing I’ve seen since then has changed my opinion.

    • True.
      But…
      Sometimes the mob is right to be annoyed.
      Wouldn’t you want to at least look at the “offensive” material first? Some subjects require tact and if not handled correctly can lead to problems. Rushing to judgment and circling the wagons can lead to embarrassment, as demonstrated just last week.

      Even mobs can be right once in a while.

      • Yes, they can get annoyed, but they are flat out evil when they go looking for offense so hard that they use their own cultural bubble to find stuff that isn’t there just so they can feel righteous. The vast majority of the mob didn’t even read the book. This is the new fundamentalism, and the only thing missing from the book burning is real fire.

        • Multiple problems here:

          1- The author waded into a market without fully understanding it. This is far from the first “sensitivity” blowup over these very issues. As they say somewhere or other: “This has happened before. It will happen again.”

          Remember this?

          https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/01/18/scholastic-george-washington-slavery-book/78956160/

          2- She bought into the criticism. She could have stood her ground but she wasn’t prepared to defend her work. Instead she caved, which effectively tells the mob they’re right. At that point it no longer matters if others think the mob is wrong. She validated the criticism with her reply.

          3- Like it or not, when you write commercial fiction, “doing your homework” involves more than just historical research. It also involves knowing the genre and its conventions, knowing the customer base, what they expect to see, what will be an issue for some or for many. It’s not just the “sensitives” you need to look out for, it’s also things like national myths, cultural issues, and religious matters. Examples abound: write a thriller set in Gibraltar and call it a colony? The UK will not be happy. Don’t call it a colony and Spain will be ticked. Lots of geographical minefields all over the world; Persian Gulf/Arabian gulf, etc. Something as basic as who invented the telephone will raise hackles. Write a “Science Fiction” story that features supernatural elements as supernatural and a major portion of the market will be annoyed or worse.

          4- it is a well known fact that subjects like Religion, The Holocaust, Slavery, abortion, sexual identity, are all hot-button issues in the US. Another dozen or so political hot potatoes, too. Play in any of those areas and somebody *will* raise a ruckus. You need to be prepared to either ignore the ruckus or to defend your position.

          5- Finally, where the heck was the editor in all this?!!
          The author might (theoretically) be excused for not knowing about all the buried landmines out there (considering her background) but any competent editor (in NYC of all places) should have known to flag potential issues and warned the author so she could have prepared herself. Instead, she was blindsided and left to fend for herself.

          Sorry, but I see no clean hands here. Blaming it all on “sensitives” and twitter mobs doesn’t fly. The author and her editor are just as guilty as “the mob”. It’s 2019 out there, not 1990.

          • Sadly the twittering mobs are mostly idiots and idiot bots. What if the publisher/editor/writer thought to play those idiots for the fools they are? It costs nothing to get the idiots started and then it can snowball into every twit talking about it – or so it seems. Would we (or anyone else) have even noticed this if she wasn’t claiming to be trying to stop her own book? Like I suggested above, we may be seeing a publicity stunt.

            Dirty hands? Maybe, but what are they dirty with? 😉

            • @ Anonymous

              “Dirty hands? Maybe, but what are they dirty with?”

              Uh, I don’t think we really wanna know!

              • 😛

                Just like all that twitter crap the last elections, there’s no really telling who actually twitted what to get which balls rolling – and once the balls were in play they no longer could control what would fizzle and what would snowball.

                Is this an honest reaction? Was it planned? Was it planned and they lost control or it spun the wrong way?

                After the ‘let it snow’ BS, I would anyone would be afraid of being noticed by the twits because they make even the very dumbest people I know look quite bright.

                Good or bad, a little publicity either way will sell more books then if the twits hadn’t noticed/cried/twitted about it.

          • Let’s take these items one at a time, shall we?
            1. This whole “sensitivity” stuff is complete nonsense. This is a bunch of woke-scolds who are mad that someone isn’t seeing things the way they see them. Either grow a thicker skin or don’t read the book. They’re words. Words have no power beyond what someone gives them.

            2. You’re right that she bought into the criticism. That was her mistake. By trying to please the mob, she empowered them.

            3. This was NOT her customer base. This was a bunch of snowflakes looking to be outraged. None of them bought her book – they simply decided to criticize it.

            4. Yes, these topics raise a ruckus. The only way to not raise a ruckus is to not write.

            5. If my editor ever told me to change something in order to please the mob, I’d quickly find another editor, right after I politely told the former editor to politely GFY.

            6. Finally, the date is irrelevant. By your standards, let’s all walk around on eggshells and hope no one gets mad. This was nothing more than a blatant banning attempt by the woke-scolds, and her buying into it just gave them more empowerment. If folks might get mad, then don’t buy the books – problem solved.

            • On the contrary: I’m saying you need to be aware of the areas that will bring criticism (because the criticism *will* come) so you can be prepared to fight it or ignore it. Either is good.
              Being unprepared is bad.
              If you’re not ready to say something and stand by it, only then you should you go elsewhere. Because caving in is the worst outcome.

      • An author has no obligation to defer to anyone’s feelings in writing fiction.

        It’s an extension of the free speech idea. We can indeed support an author’s exercise of her right to free speech without endorsing the speech.

        God Bless Amazon KDP.

        • Sure.
          As long as the author understands what they are saying and is willing to stand up for it.

          Blindly making a mess and then slinking away is hardly heroic. If she won defend her work, why should anybody else?

          • It doesn’t matter if the author is a blind, slinking coward who neither understands nor stands up. That’s not a condition for free speech. Nor is it a condition to write a novel.

            A reason for defending it? It’s a personal choice. I defend her to ensure the rest of us can continue to speak freely, to challenge the idea that it is the author’s responsibility to ensure nobody is offended by her work, and to challenge the Heckler’s Veto.

            If she can get her rights, hitting the KDP upload button would be a perfect response.

            • The Heckler’s Veto only works if you let it.
              And by submitting she made it harder for everybody else. That makes her an accomplice, not a victim.
              The more targets submit, the more emboldened the fundamentalist bullies will become.

              • Agree. Submitting to the veto encourages the hecklers.

                So does sympathizing with the hecklers because they might be annoyed. When we see institutions taking action against the targets of the hecklers, it gives some of us a reason to support the targets, whether they are victims or accomplices.

                • Some of us believe that if you can’t stand the heat you should stay out of the kitchen in the first place. And you shouldn’t be cooking if you don’t know what you’re doing.

                  Incompetence and cowardice should not be encouraged or rewarded.

                • Perhaps some do believe others should remain silent unless specific conditions are met.

                  God Bless free speech, for it frees us from those beliefs.

  4. ive noticed a surge of big brother and thuggery in the last two years esp

    Sad

    • Alas, it’s not going away anytime soon.
      It is the new normal and it runs both ways.
      Judge first, look at the evidence later… if ever.

  5. Wow. I read the Tablet article. Those people are freaking insane and Amelie Zhao should publish her book and flip them the bird.

  6. The book was still on Amazon as of yesterday, so people have been pre-ordering it as a sign of support for the author. That seems the easiest way to help while leaving it up to the author to negotiate her own social circle in whatever way she sees best.

  7. When I was growing up, we were warned that those gosh darned church folks were going to ban all of our books, perhaps even burning them. Now those with the metaphorical torches come in the guise of “sensitivity.”

  8. I ran across this a few days ago. i guess she got the publisher to buy in to withdrawing the book. If not, she’s in big trouble one way or another. Even if she did, given general publisher behavior.

    i hope she publishes it anyway, once the heats off.

  9. I read both articles and, wow, just wow. I’m with PG on, if I ever get tempted to engage on Twitter, somebody slap me.

    I’m also appalled at the criticisms saying this woman didn’t know her history, when it’s the accusers who don’t know it. Russia *had* slavery, even if they called it something else. Not all slavery in the world is the kind we had here in the US and the Atlantic world. Not *everything* revolves around us…

    I feel terrible for this woman, and hope this doesn’t derail her entire career. It’s hard enough to write, to silence the inner critic, as it is. Makes me want to go but that book even tho I don’t read YA or much trad-pub.

  10. “PG didn’t really need any additional reasons to stay away from Twitter, but he got some anyway.”

    That is rich, given the toxicity you allow in your comment section.

    • Don’t take this the wrong way, but you must not surf the net much.

      This is tea and crumpets, others are like Saipan.

      • Heh, no.

        The death threats I received here are pretty bad in and off themselves, so much so that your defense of “it’s worse elsewhere” rings pretty hollow.

        It also rings false given that PG’s standard practice is to post an excerpt of someone he disagrees with so that everyone can spew bile in the comment section.

        • The death threats I received here are pretty bad in and off themselves

          Can you tell us about the death threats you received here?

          • I find this a remarkably civil group, willing to disagree without invoking either Hitler or nuclear war.

            A refreshing change from most social media.

            • Agreed Karen. I find this a remarkably civil group, even when we have our disagreements as we frequently do. PG does a very good job at keeping things civil. I await Nate’s response on the death threats. I certainly didn’t see any, and would be interested in knowing just what the substance of his criticism is.

            • If you were trad pub you would not think so, Karen. I know a _lot_ of people who won’t click a link and visit here because of the toxic nature of this community.

              For example, look at the comment section of this post:
              https://www.thepassivevoice.com/how-technology-is-and-isnt-changing-our-reading-habits/

              • I can’t speak to the personalities in trad publishing — all I have is hearsay or anecdotal — but I can speak to their standing as data processing experts and their reputation amongst technical professionals, as one of the last industries they want to work for because of the damage it does to their resumes, along the lines of “weren’t you good enough to work in an industry where strong data management is a key underpinning and you could keep up with best practices?”

                This is notoriously true about the publishing industry, and reinforces the sense of not trying hard enough to run a modern business. I don’t necessarily take people very seriously, but I do take businesses seriously and hate to see them jogging in place to no effect.

                I wrote an article about how it appears to an outsider to try and participate in the book trade. https://hollowlands.com/2017/01/participating-in-the-book-trade/

              • I would definitely not read a site’s comments section if it was routine for members of that community to tell other commentators to “take their medication” just because they didn’t like what the person had to say.

                When I was moderator at a daily paper, your comment at that link was precisely the kind of comment I deleted, for bringing down the level of the community. Yours was exactly the kind of comment that made visitors to the paper’s site wary of the “toxic sewer” of the internet. People who talk to other people the way you do was the reason we were all glad that Gannett switched commenting systems. Well some of us: I correctly predicted that people such as yourself would not mind putting their names to such comments as the kind you left at your link.

                If the people you hang out with approve of your behavior, then it’s for the best that they never come here. By all means, encourage them to stay away.

                • But Tom’s comment is fine? That is exactly the double standard I was talking about later in the chain.

                  Thank you for demonstrating why this community is so insular.

                • Jeff at your link explained to you in very easy to understand terms why you are wrong: You can talk about an industry. You can have opinions on an industry. You cannot attack a commenter. This is very easy to understand, and that is the rule I enforced. The civilized people at my site agreed with that rule. Only the trolls at my old job were unable to understand the idea that it’s wrong to attack other commenters — you would know better than I what is so “difficult” to comprehend about that rule.

                  The distinction in your comments and Tom’s was clear as day to the site users who complained about people — like you — who attacked others in the comments section. They called your behavior toxic, they thought your behavior was an example of a cesspit. I worked for the city’s major liberal paper (the editorial board, at least), so you don’t even get to have that particular fig leaf of politics to name-call people who disagree with you.

                  Please, do, keep fans of that behavior away from here. Far away. Thank you very much for agreeing to that.

              • I know a _lot_ of people who won’t click a link and visit here because of the toxic nature of this community.

                Some of them even leave comments saying they never visit this site.

          • Exactly. I’ve been reading TPV comments for years. No death threat seen yet.

          • Terrence, you are yourself an example of the toxic nature of this community, but I will go ahead and answer your question.

            https://www.thepassivevoice.com/laura-ingalls-wilder-hits-the-pc-guillotine/#comment-417211

            scroll up to his previous comment for another example of a death threat

            • God Bless Mary Poppins, for she rises above the toxic fray.

            • Nate, in the 9 years I’ve been reading Passive Voice actively I’ve seen more and worse threats of violence on YA twitter and YA Goodreads. I’ve deleted both Twitter and Goodreads accounts because I was afraid of liking the wrong book or saying one wrong thing would get me death/rape/violence threats.

              That’s why I’m commenting anon. I don’t want the YA mobs to know I exist.

              • Nate. I’m afraid I agree with PG taking no action. Both examples are neither toxic nor to be seriously construed as death threats. No doubt as you construed them as such you reported them to the police, didn’t you?

            • If you thought that was a death threat, you’re not on the side of the angels.

        • “It also rings false given that PG’s standard practice is to post an excerpt of someone he disagrees with so that everyone can spew bile in the comment section.”

          Perhaps you are a little close to this one Nate. From what I can see PG seems to post a variety of material, and not just material he agrees with. I rarely see any here “spew bile”. I doubt PG made the death threats so presumably it was some unhinged poster. You have not shared any of the circumstances with this. What topic was concerned, and what was your position on it? Were you dissatisfied with how PG handled it? Having your own blog you must be aware that its not practical to personally monitor every comment before it appears.

        • What up, Jussie?

        • I looked again at the thread you referred to and see no toxicity in the comments. For you to even compare the comments on this site to the truly toxic Ya Twitter posts and in fact many Twitter posts in general is to me incredible. Yes, many of us here don’t like the Big 5 and are not shy about saying so. But personal attacks here are very few and the discussion civil. Tom did not resort to empty virtue signalling with reckless disregard to the consequences for any individuals, or with the deliberate intent to cause harm to any individual persons career. To do such damage to an authors career because their book doesn’t reflect your politically correct views is toxic in my view. It has little to do with the book or the author and far more to do with the desire to join the mob and bask in the glow of their own perceived virtue.

    • By “toxicity,” do you mean “views that disagree with yours?”

      Because if you seriously think this place is toxic, you need to venture out more.

  11. What we have in this Ya Twitter group is too many impressionable teenagers who have not yet learned to think for themselves guided by too many adult zealots anxious to tell them what to think. The result is a relentless search for offence and a barrage of virtue signalling. I took interest in one of the previous high profile instances, and was shocked to see that this Twitter mob and those they influence see no need to actually read the book before condemning it, leaving bad reviews and basically doing their best to consign the career of the author concerned to the trash bin. One young blog writer with many followers freely admitted she had not read the book and would not do so. She then went on to say that she was happy to accept the views of the person who provoked the storm in a teacup. I actually felt sorry for her. She was reasonably articulate and otherwise seemed reasonably intelligent and had been looking forward to the book concerned for some time. Then she reads a critical review and as a result does not read the book she has been looking so forward to, and then trashes it to all of her followers, grabs the Molotov cocktail and joins the mob.

    Large companies, including publishers, have bought heavily into this, worried about losing sales. The zealots are very ready to threaten boycotts (or perhaps I should say girlcotts or even personcotts if I am anxious not to offend any of them). Frankly I don’t know how realistic such threats are, but their bluff seldom seems to be called. I suspect that this mob on Twitter is not as representative of the potential reading audience as their evident influence seems to indicate. But of course we won’t know until someone is prepared to stand up to them.

    In the present case the authors response was complete and abject surrender, even thanking the mob for their criticisms. I wonder to what extent her publisher influenced this. I can easily see a Big 5 adviser telling her that if she ever wants to publish anything in Ya in the future she needs to get this mob onside. I suppose we will never know.

    Felix is of course correct in his view that an author, even a new one, needs to know the market she is publishing to, and like it or not this howling mob is part and parcel of that market. However, I wonder to what extent it is possible to foresee these attacks. Presumably this mob is foremost in the minds of Ya Publishers, and they saw nothing wrong with the book prior to the attacks. I would imagine sensitivity readers are virtually compulsory for Big 5 Ya novels, and presumably found nothing of concern when reading this one. As with earlier instances, the initial professional reviews were all good ones. I wonder if it is even possible to predict the myriad ways these ideological zealots can take offence at any particular book. I doubt it is even worth trying. I also suspect that they have little real influence on sales.

    • I don’t think forseeing the attacks to come isn’t all that hard: just read the news and commentary for the sector you’re involved in. The hot buttons jump right out.

      A simple online search for “controversial subjects in books” will surface dozens of lists and articles of subjects that will cause somebody somewhere to bring out the tar and feathers. It will even surface this:

      https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/sep/25/banned-books-week-censorship-john-green-jillian-tamaki-comics-books

      Not that hard, I don’t think.
      Even easier is deciding what to do:
      Want to *cause* an uproar? There’s your guide.
      Want to defend it? Well, start armoring up against the by now standard tactics.
      Want to ignore it? Easiest of all, stay away from social media if you’re still dabbling in it.
      Want to avoid conflict? Finesse it. Hot button issues are the result of the simplistic binary thinking of fundamentalists. In this case a simple search and replace would’ve stopped the snowball from rolling: replace “slave” with “serf” or “servant”, or better yet since it’s a fantasy; a made up term.

      Nothing hard or demanding there. No need to compromise yourself if you do your homework and understand your goal and the market or, if you prefer a different term, call it the environment.

      And the environment has changed dramatically.

      Two examples come to mind on tbe general subject: way back in 1970, John Jakes wrote an “edgy” SF time travel story about a white supremacist out to change history so slavery never ended, a black “radical” out to create a massive slave revolt and kill all whites, and the protagonist, a “good” black man out to stop both and preserve the status quo timeline.
      Think that would see the light of day today?

      Around that same time Donald Barr wrote a much better story about a space diplomat, rich and powerful, thrust into slavery on a distant world. SPACE RELATIONS. Blurbed as a “slightly gothic interplanetary tale”. Behind the high concept of the framing story is a study of the codependency between slave owner and slave and the complexities of trying to reform entrenched thought systems. Anything but binary thinking there. It’s litfic wrapped in pulpish space opera. That is, a rarity of the field. Not a big seller, obviously.

      I doubt he could get that placed anywhere today but on KDP. But if he did he’d be tarred and feathered pretty quickly.

      (One fairly recent reviewer described the subject world as one “in need of sterilization”. Like genocide is a preferred outcome to social reform.)

      It’s a hostile environment out there. Writers need to understand that and prepare themselves.

      • I hear what you are saying, Felix, and agree up to a point. Where we seem to disagree is in relation to the capacity of the author, publisher, sensitivity reader etc. to avoid giving offence to someone. I would suggest to you that the most likely way of doing this is to simply make sure that the plot and all of its elements are totally politically correct. Unfortunately many YA authors are doing just that. Even then they are not safe. These people are looking for offence, and unless you are firmly and obviously one of them they are going to find it. I don’t know that the outrage over this particular book could have been avoided by the means you suggest. Certainly the author and all involved failed to anticipate it. I’ve actually been trying to get hold of a copy to judge for myself, but sadly have not been successful.

        I think all authors run the risk that this is going to happen to them, and need to have a strategy to deal with it in place should it happen. I doubt anyone can classify themselves as safe.

        • All I advocate is knowing what to expect so you can prepare for attacks and then acting as *you* see fit, not them. Personally, my preferred option is number four: ignore them. “Less dogs, less fleas.”

          I recognize that others might want to be either more active or more passive and that is their prerogative. The only truly wrong path is blindly creating a mess and then caving.

          • Agreed.

          • The only truly wrong path is blindly creating a mess and then caving.

            In this case, the mob created the mess, and I see no indication it is caving.

            • No.
              The mess was created by the author.
              Did you miss this, above?

              https://rawlenyanzi.com/choose-your-circles/

              Part of any business is knowing the market and its dynamics. This isn’t the 1970’s. Today people look for any excuse to be offended even if they have to invent it. What excuses they typically use are well-known.

              There’s lots of guilty parties in this but we wouldn’t be talking about it if she had bothered to research her target audience’s “sensitivities” and chosen to avoid, challenge, or ignore the attack.

              Four options and she chose the worst: caving in.
              The issue isn’t the story: it’s the author.

              • The author wrote a book just like zillions of other authors. It was accepted by a publisher and slated for release, just like zillions of other books.

                None of those authors created a mess.

                The mess was created by the people who attacked the book. The mess was created before the author had the opportunity to avoid, challenge, or ignore the attack.

                The author then had the opportunity to avoid, challenge, or ignore the attack.

  12. There are always inquisitionists of one type or another running about with their pitchforks and torches. What’s sad is that this author listened to them.

    • Very true. Though I suspect that the Publishers are listening to them to. It’s not just publishing either. All sorts of companies are now joining the virtue signalling.

      • (Nike! Gillette!)

        Yeah, your theory of the publisher pushing her to cave in reasonable enough. They might have decided to pull the book anyway and wanted her to take all the heat for both writing the stuff and not defending it.
        If they now demand the advance back she’ll discover sooner rather than latter that the price of caving in is bigger than standing her ground.

        Even if they don’t it’s going to cost her big.

  13. Hummm.

    My unorthodox thought is that maybe it’s a con job.

    When the book finally gets published it will sell many more copies than it would have originally, to many people that wouldn’t have bought it originally.

    Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

  14. Half-baked speculation:

    Perhaps people are beginning to go beyond suspension of disbelief in reading novels, and entering the realm of immersion. Immersed in a novel, they feel compelled to become an actor, striking out at the injustice portrayed in the book, and striking at the creator of that unjust world.

    But, we have had books forever, so why now?

    We have had books, but we have not had first person video games, chat rooms, comment sections, and blogs. For many, these are a real part of their lives. It’s not fiction. It’s real. They immerse in the cyber world.

    Much of the cyber world is text. Novels are all text. Do people feel part of a novel like they are part of this discussion?

    Quarter-baked speculation:

    If people are becoming more immersed in novels as a function of their online life, will they feel more immersed using an eReader vs paper?

    • It’s always been about immersion. It’s eighty years now since Tolkien pointed out that ‘suspension of disbelief’ is a singularly inapt term, and does not begin to adequately describe the engagement of a reader with a work of fiction.

      So you are speculating about something that isn’t happening. What is happening is that readers have ways of making themselves heard in public – for better and for worse.

      (It was always thus, to some degree, in science fiction fandom. Nearly all the major SF magazines of the pulp era had lengthy letter columns, featuring the recognizable ancestors of flamewars; and a lot of the fanzines were nothing but letters – flamewars walking on their own two legs, so to speak. But the circulations of those zines were so tiny that the general reading public remained blissfully unaware of them.)

      • Tolkien demonstrated that an internet phenomenon is not happening today?

        • Tolkien demonstrated that readers were reading fiction immersively eighty years ago. Therefore, it is not an internet phenomenon.

          • People have certainly been consuming stories immersively for a long time. But now they are participating in much of what they read on the internet. (Note this comment forum.) So, the speculation isn’t that immersion is a function of the internet, but that reading with active participation has edged into reading novels.

  15. In reading through all the comments(with many great links BTW — thanks…), I was seeing that this was another great example of Compulsive Narrative Syndrome(CNS) that Joel Sheperd wrote about in his Cassandra Kresnov series, books 4 to 6.

    Then as examples of offensive use of slavery in books and movies, there is the classic Gor series by John Norman(It seems that every time I turn on Comet that they are showing the two Gor movies) and of course no one has mentioned Princess Leia in bikini and chains(but we won’t go there, too many people have the outfit and know how to use it to spice up their sex life.)

    Wiki – Princess Leia’s bikini

    (Go ahead and look. You know that you want to. HA!)

    The current example of this nonsense is the attack against Mary Poppins, both the original and current.

    ‘Mary Poppins,’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/28/movies/mary-poppins-returns-blackface.html

    Have these people no shame. It’s Mary Poppins!

    Sigh… Everything goes into the story folders. Thanks…

    • So ,they could have had a freakout about the lousy conditions that chimneysweeps had to undergo, and how that was being appropriated. That would have been silly, but understandable.
      Instead they decided to freak about something that bears what is quite literally only a skin-deep resemblance.

      Parodying these people is impossible.

  16. Her book is pulled. 🙁

  17. That NYT article on the history of minstrelsy in the work of Travers and Disney is very interesting (‘Mary Poppins,’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface). Writers don’t choose their own headlines, and the word “Shameful” only exists in the headline. The article itself is not finger-wagging or shaming; it’s just a straightforward rundown of the history.

    Anyone who has read the original versions of the Mary Poppins books is well aware of the marked racism in them, but many younger readers grew up with the later editions that Travers herself altered or just the film. How can we learn history if it’s seen as being a SJW or whatever just to mention it?

    • We are also blessed to have these folks shine their historical spotlight on the picture of white coal miners having a beer after work without washing the black coal dust from their skin.

      Apologists say it’s because coal is black, and spending the day swinging a pick in an underground mine is dirty work. Well, they knew that before they went underground. They could have learned to code.

  18. I work in an industry where my boss was 100% in the right on an issue, but only about 5 of us knew it. The lady he fired had a large social media presence and began spreading lies. 99.9% of the traffic was against us. Luckily, my boss paid a firm to analyze the true impact of the negative social media and found it boiled down to like 700 idiots – which in their experience was nothing.

    My boss stood up to the liars, let things quiet down, and sure enough it all went away.

    Maybe this author should have done the same? I mean in one of these article the main complainer had 700 followers. Who cares?

    • It takes a lot to stand up to the mob. I’ve been online since 1986, starting in the BBSes and the GEnie network through all the big networks and then blogging. I ran a political blog for about a decade and put up with my share of haters. I had my fair share of blogwars as well, because, well, I don’t generally back away from a fight.

      But many people don’t care for the fight at all. The haters are nasty little SOBs, and they send you pretty vicious emails even when you have moderated comments sections. (I can probably still quantify the types of anti-Semitic responses any of my posts about Israel would receive and what kind of commenter generally makes them.)

      If you’re not used to the vitriol, and don’t have a thick skin, you will be overwhelmed. It’s easy to say she should not have backed off. I did. But I understand why she did.

      I am very sad that the twitter mob took away her dream.

    • What a great story.

  19. The author has ceded control of her work to a faceless mob of offended Twitter twits. OK, that’s her choice, but her future relationship with a Trad Pub is toast.

    And it doesn’t sound like she has the huevos to go Indie, either.

    • “And it doesn’t sound like she has the huevos to go Indie, either.”

      Nope, she’d want to be shielded from those that say nay.

      Maybe she could hide behind a pen name.

      On the internet no one knows you’re a dog …

    • Actually, there was no Twitter mob. There was criticism on Twitter, but it never became a mob.

      I am peripherally connected to the community, and I didn’t see anything about this until afterwards. This made me doubt that there was anything to this story ()I would have seen something) so today when an opportunity presented itself, I asked someone in the community about this incident and how bad it got.

      “Not all that badly because the author took responsibility and engaged with the criticism & it was probably going to be one of the least dramatic things ever until outsider white people decided to weaponize the (WOC) author against other WOC.”

      https://twitter.com/mostlybree/status/1092558192310210560

      Basically the screaming about the so-called mob was a bigger frenzy than the nonexistent mob.

      Congratulations, everyone, on blowing everything out of proportion.

      • I am peripherally connected to the community

        What community?

      • I’m still confused why exactly she was critized.

        Explain it like I’m 5, please?

          • I’m unsure why characters being prejudiced against magic users, but not race is a problen. Is the “stand in part” the problem? Why?

            If a fantasy story has prejudice against magic users must it also have all the prejudices of our world?

            “Reverse racism” doesn’t exists. It’s just raceism. A person can be prejudiced towards a person of any skin color.

            I also disagree that every book should represent everyone. People who are different are not tokens for a diversity quota.

            Still I want to avoid poking YAtwitter. A how to guide would be appreciated. I’ve read a few and none give straight answers or conflicting advice.

            • This is an extract from the ridiculous and embarrassing ramblebee review. “Using prejudice against magic powers as a stand-in for racism is problematic, especially if that prejudice targets white people as well as people of colour, which will always read as an implicit “reverse racism exists.””

              This criticism itself is racist in the strictest sense of that term.

        • I haven’t read the book but going by her concession speech she essentially built a fantasy world based on russian medieval serfdom but populated it with “people of color” and called them slaves instead of serfs or a made up word. If the “slaves” were Caucasian they probably would have griped over the lack of diversity and if she had kept the character descriptions and called them “serfs”, she probably would’ve been left alone or only criticized by a different crew for “racebending”.

          There’s no winning in those circles.

      • Of course the members of the lynch mob are going to claim that it wasn’t really a lynch mob. Why on earth would you take their word for it?

  20. About bully mobs:

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/youtube-wants-dislike-mobs-to-stop-weaponizing-the-dislike-button/ar-BBT4tMN

    YouTube has their own version of “one-star” campaigns. They’re only now looking into ways of dealing with it.

    It’s the new normal.
    Adapt or get swept away.

    • Or point and laugh…

    • This is only just now happening at YouTube? Remarkable! What took so long? A decade ago I had to explain to the vendors of my paper’s social media software why we didn’t want like/dislike buttons on the comments. Precisely because we knew the dislike button would be abused. I avoided moderating the sports section of the website just because I couldn’t tolerate reading the flame wars. Also, I just didn’t want to learn sports lingo enough to know if someone was flaming someone else or not.

  21. Anyone got tips for a writer whos anxiety is spiking due Social Media mobs?

    I don’t even write YA or want to go trad, but I’m afraid of the mob noticing me.

    • The obvious response is to ignore “social media”.
      Do your thing, target and promote to your market as best you can, ignore critics; or, as Rick Nelson said:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAHR7_VZdRw

      No book will please everybody or even a measurable fraction of “everybody”. Just make sure you meet your own standards and move on to the next story.

      • Thanks Felix, that’s been my plan. I just need confirmation from smarter and experienced people every now and then.

        Maybe I should start doing yoga whenever there’s a fight on the web. Keep me offline and help my anxiety disorder.

        • Yeah. Use a pseudonym, because if you’re that filled with anxiety at least the thought they don’t really know who the author is will comfort you.

          Seriously, don’t use your real name.

          • Yeah I should do that. Also my real name is hard to pronounce/write and there’s a person with the same first and last name working in a different art field.

            I have survived worse than an internet dogpile. I think the fear is far worse than actually seeing tweets “Anon3 is prejudiced”

            The comments here have helped alleviate that fear.

    • The only way I know of displeasure on Twitter is through second hand reports. I never look at Twitter. I opened an account and posted a few things to see how it worked, then never looked back.

      I cancelled my FaceBook account a few months ago because I never used it and never looked at Facebook. It takes 30 days. Again, the account was set up to learn how FB worked.

      We don’t have to look at all that stuff.

  22. HA! Two other people heard from. All this goes into the story folders.

    When Social Media Goes After Your Book, What’s the Right Response?
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/books/amelie-wen-zhao-blood-heir-keira-drake-continent-jonah-winter-secret-project.html

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