Monday, August 10, 2015

Responses That Mean Well

I truly believe that the board of RWA meant well with this statement about various people's concerns about one of the RITA nominated books this year. But, I read this and thought, ugh.  Because, yes, writing rules to say that certain content cannot be included in nominated books is unwieldly and problematic.  But, as it's worded, it kind of sounds like they are saying any change in the rules would lead to censorship.  I think what they meant was adding rules to attempt to restrict content would be problematic, but come on guys, we're writers, if anyone understands the subtleties of wording, it should be us.  And yes, I'm sure a number of people, including some of the legal persuasion had their hands on this statement, but ugh. 
I have also heard rumblings that the Nazi romance wasn't the only nominee that garnered complaints.  I understand why the Board would choose not to name names, but let me spitball for a moment.  This year three gay romances were nominated, and the erotic romance category has been controversial for some.
Ultimately I agree that the contest should remain peer-reviewed. I agree that the responsibility therefore rests with the peers.  But we're going to open a forum so people can talk about concerns is, let's face it, the very least that could be done.  I want people to know about the RITAs and Golden Hearts because they elevate some of the best examples of romantic fiction. Not because of this.  And yes scandals pass.  Things fade.  And I realize, given that my own post essentially said this is something we need to fix at the community level, it's a little silly for me to be this let down by this response.  But I am. 
So, I'm going to link to a few more posts on this.  (For what it's worth, Newsweek did get a statement from the author who stated that the book comes from her great love of Jewish people, but given that article also quoted unironically an author who has been attempting to game another set of awards so that people with books with characters of color or gay content wouldn't get awarded, well, you'll understand why I'm not linking to that mess.)
Also India Valentin put together a post on reading up for anyone who wishes to learn more about the history of anti-Semitism.
Dahlia Adler has been putting together a resources for writers writing outside their perspective.
Here's what I wish the statement had said.  I suspect there are some corporate/legal reasons it couldn't.  The first paragraph is fine.  I realize some of this is rearrangement, but again, writers, order matters.  So, in my fantasy version it would say:  The RITA is a peer-reviewed award that currently receives 2000 entries each year. The Board believes the process should continue. Adding rules or language to prevent entries or nominations based on content that could be deemed controversial is not something the Board supports, since it could also be used to censor content. 
However, we think that this has started an important discussion, and opened up an opportunity for better community education and as part of that we will open an online forum to assist and support that discussion. 
Now, I am obviously putting words in the Board's (figurative) mouth here, but I think that says the same thing at the core, and yet those changes, to me at least, change it from well, we can't change anything because censorship is bad, into we are choosing not to change the overall process and yet we hope that ultimately we can help create a better community of writers. 

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