• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Article Concerning an Internal Fight Inside the Romance Writers of America

Yora

Maester
Yes. Though you can just do a search for the title and get lots of other sites that have it as well.

While it just happened that a romance writers association kicked out a member for calling another member's book racist, the issue itself doesn't actually have anything to do with romance novels specifically. It could have happened in any other genre or medium of narrative entertainment just the same way. It's a much bigger issue of society in general.
How much rudeness do we accept as justified when calling out creators for discriminating stereotypes in their works? At what point do people doing the complaining cross a line that gets them shown the door?

There was a similar ruffling of feathers with science fiction writers two years ago. And it probably will stay with us for a good while to come.

I am currently involved in a slowly building development of reviving the Sword & Sorcery genre, which historically has been neck deep in issues that would be considered delicate today and often were not handled well in the past. If this gets some traction in the coming years, I fully expect there to be some bitter arguments about honoring traditions and promoting outdated bigotry.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Reason #814 why professional organizations like this are so last millennium. They've always been gatekeeper entities, but now they keep some gates that have little to do with writing.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Whether or not the thing was racist, she violated the policy for someone in her position by criticising the book as such on twitter. Unfortunately, the article nowhere talks about the reasoning for that policy, or explains whether it applied only to the Ethics Committee or throughout the group's hierarchy. I'm also curious as to whether she signed anything to that extent, and if the position was even paid or what. A lot of times those policies exist for sound reasons, but without more information on that it's hard to really comment on this.
 

pmmg

Vala
Ah...after reading, I see no way to answer this without addressing the charge of racism, for which, I see no useful purpose. Whatever their drama is, I am sure they will survive, and a short time, no one will remember much of it. Good luck to them. I think Romance will be just fine with or without them.
 
Whether or not the thing was racist, she violated the policy for someone in her position by criticising the book as such on twitter. Unfortunately, the article nowhere talks about the reasoning for that policy, or explains whether it applied only to the Ethics Committee or throughout the group's hierarchy. I'm also curious as to whether she signed anything to that extent, and if the position was even paid or what. A lot of times those policies exist for sound reasons, but without more information on that it's hard to really comment on this.
I've read about this and there's an exemption for social media. So she didn't violate policy and she had evidence. I don't think RWA will survive this as this incident is turning out to be only the first pebble of an avalanche of racism and dubious people.
 

Yora

Maester
I've read about this and there's an exemption for social media. So she didn't violate policy and she had evidence. I don't think RWA will survive this as this incident is turning out to be only the first pebble of an avalanche of racism and dubious people.
I've seen something similar recently with the retro-D&D scene that emerged in the late 2000s. At first it was just a lot of people sharing lots of ideas, experiences, and innovations and there was a lot of creativity. But as the years went on, many of the most prolific creators grew into personalities and spokespeople. And with enough time and exposure, you get an accumulation of information about certain people that become more and more difficult to ignore. Some people call them out for it, others come to their defense. Eventually it got to the point where a significant portion of people got fed up with the drama and feuding and quietly left, leaving what remained behind seem even more radical. And I think about a year ago it finally fell apart entirely.

I think the mistake was the innitial approach of wanting to be too big a tent and only being about apolitical creative work. Everyone was willing to look away, claim neutrality, or having no opinion for too long, allowing unpleasant and terrible people to comfortably settle into positions of being the community celebrities. It's not easy to get taken serious when you call out the golden children.

As creatives, you can't be all one happy, apolitical family and pretend the worldviews people express in their works and comments are irrelevant to the shared pursuit of artistic expression. Associations of creators can't be neutral and respect all opinions equally. That's just not how it works.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
I've read about this and there's an exemption for social media. So she didn't violate policy and she had evidence. I don't think RWA will survive this as this incident is turning out to be only the first pebble of an avalanche of racism and dubious people.

That exception seems like a bad idea to me. Do you happen to have a source that might explain it?

If the entire organization is supposed to be apolitical and not criticise each other, then it was only a matter of time before something like this happened, and I think they're going to be forced to change their policies before it's done. If the policy were actually limited to key people in key positions (i.e., the Ethics Committee needs to remain impartial), then I think a violation would be fairly serious.
 
Devor So here's an article that appears to still be updated daily on the continuing saga of the RWA.
The Implosion of the RWA — Claire Ryan

Whether you trust the author of this article is up to you, but her extensive linking to sources reassures me on that front.

As for the initial incident, I think the problem was and is the racism. If that can't be called out then the problem persists. Apolitical is fine and dandy but if it is a shield to bigotry then let's be political.
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
Been following this on Twitter. It's a dumpster fire. There are serious questions as to whether current leadership is violating fiduciary duties to the org and members. It's not the first debacle with RWA, and probably won't be the last, but if the current President doesn't step down I think the org is in for ongoing problems.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Pemry Janes, I still think a social media exception for a policy like that undermines the whole point of the policy. Still, if it's there, then what's the basis for acting against Milan? I'm confused by a lot of this.

Am I reading this right? They actually recruited people to the Ethics Committee just to handle this complaint? The first complaint they've handled....? That's shady right there. If the Ethics Committee can't handle it, you ask for their recusals, and then have the Ethics Committee look for impartial people themselves, kind of like appointing an Independent Investigator. This all sounds pretty sketchy.
 

pmmg

Vala
Devor So here's an article that appears to still be updated daily on the continuing saga of the RWA.
The Implosion of the RWA — Claire Ryan

Whether you trust the author of this article is up to you, but her extensive linking to sources reassures me on that front.

As for the initial incident, I think the problem was and is the racism. If that can't be called out then the problem persists. Apolitical is fine and dandy but if it is a shield to bigotry then let's be political.

I read most of it, but skipped near the end as it was just kind of repeating. Anyway...IMO, best thing they could do is stand by a decision (which one, I don't care), and stop posting things about it. Give it some time, and life goes on. As Bill Clinton would say, if you are digging a hole, best thing to do is stop digging.

This is just drama. IMO, to be expected anywhere there are people. I don't think it can be avoided, too many ppl do not share the same filters as other ppl. RWA takes a hit, and has what the market might call 'a correction', and life is better for all.

Since its not our drama, I would be happy to let them handle it.

My guess, RWA is just fine, and will continue to operate.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Since its not our drama, I would be happy to let them handle it.

Certainly there's no way or reason we could get involved. But nothing happens in a bubble. The Romance Writers Association and some of its members help us out by tweeting and sharing a lot of our articles. If their membership shrinks because of this it could have a marginal affect on our traffic here. That's probably not something we need to worry about, but still, this is all happening within our industry, and these things have an effect on everyone.
 

Yora

Maester
It's also only a matter of time until something like this will happen to fantasy literature. I don't know about any association or major award for fantasy that would have a claim for being an authority on what is the fantasy mainstream, but all the discriminating prejudices exist among fantasy writers as well. I always check to get a general feel for sites before linking to articles related to fantasy, because you never know when someone suddenly starts complaining about too many women and foreigners in their beloved traditional fantasy.
It's just a question of when, not if.
 
Devor Yeah, it's fishy and that's not quite what happened. They had an Ethics Commission and Milan was chairing it. However, they'd not received any complaints for months because the staff at RWA weren't forwarding them. Those were complaints about racism, apparently.

Now comes a complaint against Milan for pointing out some troubling things and that one goes through its own special commission set up for just that case. And Suede, the new president, pops up as an Ethics Liaison to the Board, or some such. The position doesn't exist, he just invented it and proceeded to present some sort of evidence not in the report the special commission made.

Really, I don't think RWA is fine. They shouldn't be, given everything that's coming out.
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
It's also only a matter of time until something like this will happen to fantasy literature. I don't know about any association or major award for fantasy that would have a claim for being an authority on what is the fantasy mainstream, but all the discriminating prejudices exist among fantasy writers as well. I always check to get a general feel for sites before linking to articles related to fantasy, because you never know when someone suddenly starts complaining about too many women and foreigners in their beloved traditional fantasy.
It's just a question of when, not if.

We already had it with the Hugo Award and the sad/rabid puppies.
 
Top