Weird Tales Magazine Apologizes, Yanks Planned Excerpt Of 'Racist' YA Novel
After readers threatened a boycott, the editors at Weird Tales Magazine have apologized and nixed a plan to run an excerpt of Saving The Pearls: Defending Eden in the next issue. Critics charged that Victoria Foyt's self-published novel is racist.
Saving The Pearls: Defending Eden takes place in a world where global warming has wiped out most of the world's white population. Blacks are now the ruling class, and they are called "coals." They oppress the remaining white people, who are called "pearls."
And if you go to the website for the book, you are greeted by a video featuring a white actress in blackface.
Weird Tales editor Marvin Kaye, who had decided to run the excerpt, defended it in a blog post (since deleted), in which he said that racism is an atrocity, and the meaning of the book "is very clear to anyone with an appreciation for irony who reads it."
But the magazine quickly changed course--here's an excerpt of what publisher John Harlacher had to say, after the decision was made to pull the excerpt:
I have not read the novel, but have gone over its online presence today. I have no need to read it. I saw the blackface video and read the excerpts the author and publisher chose to make available. I must conclude that the use of the powerful symbols of white people forced to wear blackface to escape the sun, white women lusting after black “beast men,” the “pearls” and “coals,” etc., is goddamned ridiculous and offensive. It seems like the work of someone who does not understand the power of what she is playing with.
Marvin says if you read the whole book, she explains her use of this imagery, and it ends up as a plea for tolerance. I say, so what. And that is the position of Weird Tales — and upon reviewing the video and other materials, Marvin is in full agreement.
I can't find any comment from Foyt, in relation to the controversy. The latest post on her Facebook page is from July 23, highlighting a (mostly) positive review of the book.
Now, I have not read this book. I read the excerpt that's available on Amazon, I watched the (cringe-worthy) video, and I read a lot of the reviews and blog chatter.
I'll allow that maybe Foyt wanted to make a grand statement (racism is bad) but didn't have the tools to pull it off. To paraphrase This Is Spinal Tap, there is a fine line between clever and stupid.
At the same time, it's hard to believe that video was created for anything other than shock value, which, if that's the case, then shame on her. This isn't the sort of thing that should be dredged up for publicity.
What do you think? Is the blackface video enough to condemn Foyt? Should we be giving her the benefit of the doubt, and reading the book before passing judgment? Is Weird Tales doing the right thing by refusing to excerpt the book?
UPDATE: When I filed this last night, Foyt hadn't commented--but she's now posted a long rebuttal on her Facebook page, which reads, in part:
Artists provoke to get their point across. I abhor racism. In Revealing Eden I aimed to turn racism on its head in order to portray its horrors and its inevitable road to violence. I believe that anyone who reads the novel will understand its strong stance against racism.
She's right to say people should read the book. But she also says the video isn't blackface--which it is. And she equates the judgment leveled against her book with actual racism, which is a little heavy-handed. And the comments. Oh, the comments on that post. No one seems to be buying her argument. Here's one:
You didn't turn racism on its head, lady. You just fed an entire population of white Americans who believe the only racism that still exists is racism against white people.
If you think criticism can be compared to racism, it just proves how completely unqualified you are for writing a book about racism.
The controversy thickens...
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