That bit of RaceFail I pointed to the other day in my open letter to Bujold has led to some good things (discussion, increased visibility, less foolishness) but has also re-animated the notion of just boycotting Tor Books and having done with it. This latest thing got started on Tor.com by a Tor author after all. Just another in a long line of disappointment coming from that particular corner of the world.
But I’d like to point something out.
Before I do, I’m going to mention the following things which may have some bearing on how you feel about what I’m going to say. First, my blogging gig for Tor.com starts this week (tomorrow, maybe, still need to polish that post). Second, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was one of my Clarion instructors. Third, I’ve been friends or acquaintances with various Tor editors (current and former) for many years now, including some involved with RaceFail. Fourth, a lot of my good friends are Tor authors.
That all said, I also have a lot of friends who are published by Tor’s competition and I have plenty of friends who work for Tor’s competition. Other than my blogging gig, I have no personal stake in Tor — no book of my own coming out, no book deal on the horizon. So that’s out of the way.
Here’s my thing about boycotting Tor: I don’t think it’s good idea. I understand and fully respect the reasons why people want to do it. That anger you feel about this shit going on? I feel it, too. You know I do. However, refusing to buy all Tor books all the time doesn’t take a few key things into account.
Mainly that the editors involved in RaceFail are not all of the editors at Tor. Many of them are senior, have been at the company a long time, etc. but are not the ultimate and final gatekeepers of anything. The reason you don’t know about or hear from a lot of the others is that they either don’t have huge online presences (or any) or they are online but wisely do not perpetrate fail on a massive scale.
Some of these editors you don’t hear about or from are long-time employees or senior editors. Many of them are around my age, some younger, and there are always assistant editors around, too. Their ideas and ideals are probably in line with yours — I know for a fact some of them are. These are the editors at Tor that I care about. Whether they stay on at Tor forever and eventually become the senior editors in charge of everything or move on to other publishing companies, they are the future (if you’ll pardon the corny sentiment).
And, like I said, they have more sense than to engage in RaceFail activities. They’re off looking for good books to publish, instead.
The Tor editors and authors whose names keep cropping up in RaceFail are already associated with each other in my mind since they all seem to be part of a similar grouping. (Most of them.) A lot are old school, a lot are fen. Also, a lot of these folks have known each other a long time. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. It’s just a marker that may indicate some similarities of thought, experience, and behavior. It’s not a good idea to assume that all or even most of the editors at Tor are old school fen who only publish old school fen.
On the author side of things, boycotting Tor books means not buying a lot of great fiction by POC or by authors who not only stood on our side during RaceFail but try to and succeed in creating fiction that reflects what they feel about race and culture and the importance of not erasing us from SFnal or fantasy worlds. These books and authors may not be in the majority. There aren’t any major publishers where they are, I think. And what do we do in the wider world where that’s true? We support those authors we can get behind and tell other people to as well.
A little while ago I talked bout making lists and why it’s important to do so. I still think so. Make a list, if you need to, of authors and editors who’ve disappointed or angered you. But also make a list of authors you want to support and support so hard those editors–regardless of their shortcomings–cannot ignore.
So that’s my perspective. I won’t say do not boycott Tor because the reasons for doing so are valid. The reasons for not doing so are valid, too. I am going to continue to support the Tor authors I feel are worth supporting, I’m going to continue in my friendships with Tor editors I think are awesome. All while recognizing that there is a lot some people need to answer for. But that’s everywhere. At least in this instance I feel there is enough good to counterbalance and eventually erase the bad.