Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Save the Pearls and Weird Tales: Mixed reactions

Hi all! I recently discovered that Save the Pearls came up in the news again recently, although I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure what I think of this turn of events.

If you're not familiar with the controversy surrounding the novel and Foyt, then I can sum it up in about 2-3 sentences: Foyt wrote a book she claimed was an anti-racist novel, yet its content came across as incredibly ignorant and racist to many readers. When faced with criticism over the novel and skepticism over the positive reviews, Foyt tried to defend her book by saying things such as that some of her critics were racist/close-minded, which didn't go over well considering that some of her critics were from various minorities. The result was that the literary world pretty much exploded with the sound of a million readers blogging/reviewing/tweeting their reactions, some defending Foyt and some condemning her.

This brings us to August 20th, when sci-fi pulp magazine Weird Tales announced that they were going to print the first chapter of Save the Pearls in one of their upcoming issues. This went over about as well with the internet about as well as announcing that you're going to be torching nuns on Easter, but one of the editors staunchly defended the book. The reaction: people were going to boycott the magazine, with some authors saying that they'd never publish with WT again if they printed the excerpt. As you'd expect, the blog defending the book was yanked and the magazine nuked their plans to print Foyt's chapter.

Don't get me wrong, I do think that the book read as unintentionally racist and incredibly entitled. (This is only one of many issues with the book though.) But part of me is slightly disappointed by the magazine back tracking and saying that they weren't going to publish the excerpt. I don't think that many would really like this excerpt but I'd really like for the readers to actually, y'know... read the excerpt and make up their own minds. Especially since the next editor that posted about the book ended up saying that they viewed the book as offensive... and hadn't read the novel at all, just looked at everything out there online about the book. This sort of bothers me since I'd rather that they had chosen to pull the excerpt based on their own personal reactions from reading the novel or chapter more so than because the internet threatened to stop buying or writing for the magazine if they decided to print Foyt's work.

I can't help but think that if the first editor hadn't said things like "Racism is an atrocity, and that is the backbone of this book. That is very clear to anyone with an appreciation for irony who reads it" then Weird Tales probably could've gotten away with running the piece as a way of exploring the controversy and allowing readers to make up their own minds. I'm not defending Foyt or the book, mind you, but I'm not sure what I think about the magazine making such a decision without at least having read the book. Do I think that they'd probably have come to the same conclusion? More than likely, but at least they'd have made up their own mind on the manner rather than just base it upon stuff that I or anyone else wrote. That just sort of bugs me in ways that I can't properly vocalize.

The more I think about it, the more I have to admit that I don't see anything 100% wrong with printing the first chapter of Foyt's dubious opus. Why not allow more people to read the book? If anything, perhaps the exposure to a wider audience would finally drive home to Foyt that she wrote a book that came across as racist, that her depictions hurt people, and that maybe, just maybe she's wrong in saying that she couldn't have written something people saw as offensive. I'm just afraid that the only thing this whole scenario will do is just enforce her idea of herself as a martyr since the judgement was entirely made based upon other people's reactions rather than if they'd read the reactions as well as a portion of the novel. I don't know if any of this ramble makes any sense, but hopefully so. If people choose not to print parts of her book, I want it to be their decision, not mine.


I think I've pinpointed why I'm so disappointed. This is ultimately an empty "victory" because the decision ultimately came about because the publisher wanted to avoid bad press and caved into what they thought the internet wanted. I don't agree with the first editor's remarks or his decision to post a chapter, but I would have liked the decision to be made because they read the book, Foyt's comments, and watched her videos and then made the choice. I wouldn't have boycotted the magazine if they'd run the piece, but I have less respect for the magazine because they didn't do any research to begin with and made the decision based upon public reaction.

I also wanted to post that evidently author Jeff Vandermeer warned WT months ago that posting the chapter would be a terrible idea, yet the magazine went ahead with it anyway. I've posted the link to this at the bottom for you to look through. Evidently this was just one of several incredibly ill thought out decisions by the company lately.

Further reading:
*From Weird Tales and ‘Saving the Pearls’ to ‘All-American Muslim,’ Consume the Content, Not the Hype *Weird Tales Publisher Apologizes for Magazine’s Association with Controversial Novel
*Weird Tales Magazine faces a boycott after endorsing a “thoroughly non-racist book”
*Racism row over SF novel about black 'Coals' and white 'Pearls'
*Weird Tales Goes Back in Time
*Weird Tales Publisher Apologizes for Magazine’s Association with Controversial Novel
*Weird Tales, Ann VanderMeer, and Utter Stupidity


  1. I guess in the end I'm really only disappointed that the decision was made without reading the book themselves. The reactions by many are accurate, but ultimately I want a professional magazine to make the judgement off of their reactions, not mine.

  2. Yeah... though from a business standpoint I don't know if they wanted to deal with the fall out from this and they felt they needed an out. They got a copy of the book, the one editor read it and went "meh, lots of irony in this book. Cool." So they decide to run it and give the indy author a chance.

    Internet goes Bat-Crap crazy.

    So now what do you do? I think the choice to pull it was 100% business and 0% literary critique.

  3. And then upon discovering that the internet went bat-crap crazy (love that phrase!) they actually looked into the book and realized that it wasn't irony, at least not intentionally so.

    I've been looking into the magazine a little and it looks like this isn't the first dodgy decision they've made recently.