Wicked Pretty Things and the Erasure of LGBTQ Characters

Last night, my six-year-old and I had a chat. I don’t remember how it came up, but he was talking about people getting married, and how boys have to marry girls. I pointed out that this wasn’t necessarily so, that in some states and many countries, boys could marry boys and girls could marry girls.

Being six, he laughed. “That’s silly. How would they have babies?”

It’s not the first time we’ve had a talk like this. I understand where his confusion comes from. Pretty much every cartoon on TV has male/female relationships only. Every movie he watches, every book he brings home from school… Any nonheterosexual relationship is simply erased.

Last month, Jessica Verday withdrew her story from the Wicked Pretty Things anthology after receiving a note from the editor which stated that her story “would have to be published as a male/female story because a male/male story would not be acceptable to the publishers.”

Wicked Pretty Things is an anthology of dark fairy romance … but apparently editor Trisha Telep assumed that meant straight romance only, going with the default erasure of any “nontraditional” relationships.

Verday later posted a response in which Telep apologized for causing offense, and said in part, “I sincerely regret the sequence of events which has led to Jessica Verday’s story ‘Flesh Which Is Not Flesh’ being excluded from the forthcoming anthology Wicked Pretty Things. This has been the result of a misunderstanding on my part which is entirely regrettable … I fully support LGBTQ issues.”

I understand and believe that Telep meant no harm. That it was a mistake, not intended to be hurtful. But it was hurtful.

Other authors such as Seanan McGuire, Lisa Mantchev, Lesley Livingston, and Karen Mahoney have pulled their stories from the anthology. Melissa Marr asked that her name not be used to promote the project (she had provided a cover blurb Correction: they were apparently describing the anthology as including stories with a “Melissa Marr-ish slant.”) Ann Aguirre pulled her story from another of Telep’s projects.

Running Press responded in an article titled The Misinformation Age, saying, “Third-party error and miscommunication went viral and led to the spread of untrue accusations of intolerance and censorship.”

Where exactly are these untrue accusations? I’m not aware of any lies in Verday’s post, or in the posts by the other authors involved. Is intolerance an inappropriate word to describe an editor who says “No gay love allowed,” even if it was a misunderstanding?

More importantly, why was this an issue to begin with? The publisher may have disavowed responsibility for Telep’s actions, but why did Telep immediately assume that a story in which two male characters were in love would be unacceptable?

Pulling a story from an anthology is scary. You risk alienating editor and publisher both, not to mention turning down a paycheck. You worry about appearing unprofessional. And you wonder if you’ll find another home for the story you worked so hard on…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I’d like to extend an offer to any author who pulled his or her story from one of Telep’s projects as a result of this incident.

  1. If you have not already found a home for your withdrawn story, I would be happy to read it.
  2. If I like the story (and knowing most of the authors involved, I suspect I will), I’ll offer $100 up front to publish it here on my blog.
  3. Each story will include a donations link. Once the initial $100 has been covered, further donations will be split 50/50. Half will be paid to the author, and the other half will be donated to a LGBTQ-friendly cause.
  4. If I publish multiple stories, I will look into putting together an e-book collection of those stories, with profits again being split between the authors and a LGBTQ-friendly cause.

I get about 2000 unique readers each day, which is comparable to (or in some cases better than) the sales for a number of the anthologies out there. That said, I’ll certainly understand if the authors choose to look elsewhere. It sounds like Verday has already found another home for her story, which is great. My offer is not time-limited.

I am not trying to poach authors from Running Press. However, I do want to support and thank those authors who’ve chosen to publicly state that the erasure of non-straight characters and relationships is not okay. One way I can do that is by offering a home for those stories.