Remember when YA wasn’t a woke joke?

As I’ve discussed many times before, I no longer consider my books about young people to be true YA apart from metadata indexing purposes. They’re books that just happen to feature young characters most prominently.

It has nothing to do with arrogantly thinking I’m so much better, deeper, and more serious than those other people writing teen characters nowadays, and everything to do with mountains of evidence that my style of writing doesn’t comfortably fit into what’s currently popular and seen as YA.

I see my books more as hist-fic which just happens to centre on youths, vs. books about young people who just happen to live in the past. History is more than shallow, fluffy, minor window-dressing to me.

But now we have another major factor at the fore: Woke cancel culture.

Since I decided to go indie in 2014, I’ve gradually drifted away from the trad-pub community. Over the last year or two, I’ve also seriously cut down on the amount of Twitter writing hashtag games and chats I regularly participate in.

The trad-pub virtual community was a friendly, supportive place once. Now the YA corner in particular has become an absolutely toxic clusterwhat over the last few years, and seems to be getting worse on the daily.

At least half of all YA readers these days are grown-ass adults, many of whom proudly admit they only read YA and have zero interest in any books intended for adults. It’s really creepy for an adult woman to announce she swoons over kissing and makeout scenes with teen characters and has crushes on fictional teen boys! A lot of them also start talking in cringey, dated teen slang, like “All the things!” and “So I may or may not be…”

They’re screaming so loudly about wanting to protect the children when they’re the only ones raising the roof over these “microaggressions” and triggers. They’re also rarely part of the group they claim is being so slandered and violated by words on a page.

Even worse, now we have agents and editors getting involved in woke loonery and quickly caving to Twitter mobs. I’m starting a serious cull and unfollowing any agents and writers who are part of Woko Haram.

The scary thing was, none of them were like this when I began following them and read their blogs regularly. Now when they pop up on my timeline, after not seeing them in ages, they’re virtue-signalling their support for woke nonsense.

And of course, they’ve put freaking pronouns in their bios!

This just happened earlier this month. I believe I may have once queried the woke agent in question. Is there any box he doesn’t tick in this word salad mess throwing his now-ex-client under the bus?

It wasn’t enough for Woko Haram, as it never is. Many ranted that he’d not gone nearly far enough, trotting out canned woke phraseology of their own. And they were all baying for Jessica’s blood.

One wokester had the chutzpah to mark up her compelled apology like she were a naughty third grader. Frightening that this loon is a teacher! 

The Tweet storm they were all raging against did nothing but point out the foolishness of dismissing old books. Some of the language was a bit strong, but nothing nearly on the level of the mob which was unleashed.

The markups were done by one of the loons in the baying mob.

After Jessica was dropped by her woke agent, everyone creepily began lining up to robotically thank him. Anyone who asked for proof of how in the world these Tweets were racist was condemned. You’re a hero for making such accusations in YA Twitter Land, but a bully if you dare ask for evidence of such a damning claim.

A few months ago, an associate agent was fired because she dared to like, on her personal account, some of J.K. Rowling’s Tweets and other Tweets supporting her. People who bash Ms. Rowling for daring to acknowledge the existence of biological sex get an automatic unfollow and block from me.

All it takes is an accusation from this woke mob, and everyone immediately rushes to believe it and grab a flaming pitchfork. If a character says or thinks something deemed problematic, that means the writer automatically holds that view too. Everything is viewed through a skewed woke lens, with no room for nuance, context, and intent.

I would never query an agent who used a professional Twitter account to virtue-signal. Some have given free critiques or query priority to people who tick certain boxes or show proof of donating to a political campaign!

So many people in this toxic community have shown themselves as overgrown mean girls who never mentally matured past high school.

These snowflakes need to get out of their woke bubble and see how normal people in the real world live.

Writers need backbones

While I still wouldn’t mind having some books traditionally published, so long as the contract were fair and I regained a lot of creative control, I’m constantly glad I chose indie publication in 2014 and quit actively trying for an agent. Maybe in future that’ll be something I pursue again, but for now, I want no part of the institutional wokeness pervading the industry.

While it’s good to keep an open mind re: suggestions from crit partners or betas and not be unbreakably welded to every last word as you originally wrote it, you also need to believe in your own creative vision. When you rush to make every single change suggested, your book is written by committee, and no one wants to read that.

I hope Marsheila didn’t break her back from bending over so quickly, since when she next pitched this book, her MC had become happily “plus-sized.” Which, you know, radically changes the entire character arc and possibly plot trajectory. All because someone in the “Obesity rocks!” cult threatened her with cancellation.

I was close to 220 pounds at the start of June 2017. I’ve since lost about 75 pounds, and I feel so much healthier. Being within spitting distance of morbid obesity is NOT awesome, fun, sexy, cool, fashionable, empowering, etc. I felt strange pains in my chest sometimes, had really bad hip pain from walking even short distances, and was embarrassed to see myself in photos.

How the bloody hell did the size acceptance movement go from “You don’t need to be a size 6 to be healthy and attractive” and “Being slightly overweight isn’t necessarily unhealthy” to “Being obese is awesome! Anyone who suggests you need to lose even one pound is a cruel, hateful, fat-shaming bigot! Oh, and if you proudly post photos of your weight loss journey, you’re self-hating and part of the problem.”?

But I digress.

Writers need to grow and maintain strong backbones. Every time someone obediently cries uncle after the latest struggle session and tearfully thanks Big Brother for stopping the beatings, the cancel culture mob becomes more emboldened in attacking new targets. Whereas if they hear the word “NO” very firmly and repeatedly, they start losing power and will hopefully melt like the snowflakes they are.

These writers, agents, editors, and publishers are in the wrong business if they only approve of certain ideas, themes, words, and subject matter, and think people should only write about characters exactly like themselves.

According to this loony lot, I have no business writing about any of the following:

Polio survivors left with mobility issues
African–Americans
Orthodox Christians
Protestants
Males
Neurotypical people (i.e., most of the world!)
Rich people
Japanese
Chinese
Orphans and half-orphans
Rape and incest survivors
Survivors of other kinds of child abuse
Married people
People with divorced parents
Widow(er)s
People with children
Muslims
Buddhists
Hindus
Atheists
Shoah survivors
Armenians
The upper-middle-class
Ivy League students
Military people
Royalty and nobility
Deaf or blind characters
Gays and lesbians

The only characters left for me to write about are Jewish, Catholic, proletarian or lower-middle-class, American-born, late Gen X, female, New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, Massachusettsans, Aspies, heterosexuals, and people of German, Italian, Slovak, Dutch, or British descent. (There are plenty of other bloodlines in my family tree, but those are the biggest percentage-wise.)

There’s something called research. No one pretends it takes the place of firsthand experience, but I’d much rather read, e.g., a Chinese hist-fic by a passionate white Sinophile than by a Chinese–American who was made to feel that’s the only thing s/he’s allowed to write about, despite initially pitching sci-fi.

If I began writing a Korean hist-fic, hard sci-fi, or high epic fantasy right now, my lack of passion and familiarity would show through in spades, and astute readers would quickly pick up on that disinterest as well.

I was absolutely thrilled when I finally found Irish ancestors in my family tree (from Antrim), but that didn’t suddenly make me equivalent to a fully-blooded Irishwoman who was socialized in that community. But I’ve long had love for the Irish, and felt deep parallels between the Irish and Jewish communities because of our similar histories.

Passion, research, and empathy matter more than happening to belong to a certain group. It always makes me sad to see a writer saying s/he felt compelled to remove a great, important character because Name either wasn’t persecuted enough, or s/he doesn’t belong to that group.

We also shouldn’t be afraid of edgy, controversial content. Literature isn’t meant to be milquetoast, G-rated, confirmation-biased, censored by the Woke Stasi. It’s a wide palette of ideas and characters. The books which challenge our pre-existing ideas most, whether we come to think differently or not, are more powerful than ones which don’t make us think beyond the box at all.

Meet the new Robespierre

Like clockwork, yet another pre-publication book has come under fire from the idpol outrage culture. This time, there’s a delicious Schadenfreude twist: The victim was part of the mob bullying Amélie Wen Zhao into pulling Blood Heir, and served as a sensitivity reader for Big Five publishers. Hello, Robespierre!

Just like Ms. Zhao, Mr. Jackson is also part and parcel of this woker than thou SJW culture, and so wanted to get back into the group’s good graces. Of course, he lists his freaking pronouns in his Twitter bio!

My Spidey sense tingles when I see pronouns. I’m sure some people are just innocently copying what they see modelled and aren’t raving SJWs and TRAs, but a huge percent of the people I’ve blocked for my own safety list pronouns. Just saying.

Yet again, WTF does “the book community” even mean? It sounds so creepy and cultish! Mr. Jackson’s tearful thanks to Big Brother is only aimed at this loud minority of people looking to find “problematic” content in every little thing.

He also didn’t follow his own advice on strictly staying in one’s own lane and only writing about people exactly like oneself:

Mr. Jackson’s website also ran a kowtowing apology to Woko Haram in the wake of the struggle session:

While there are some things it can be difficult or painful to read (e.g., racist and anti-Semitic epithets, lynching and rape scenes, loss of a grandparent), they cannot actually hurt us. Words are not literal violence. I bear zero lasting damage from reading anything which emotionally distressed me.

Shockingly, Mr. Jackson’s publisher went along with his cowed request.

Yet again, the mob leapt into action after reading an angry ARC review on Goodreads. Almost none of the people ranting against A Place for Wolves actually read the book. In the wake of this drama, I’ve discovered, thanks to Jesse Singal’s four-part series on YA Twitter culture, that many agents are in on this too—keeping blacklists of writers deemed racist or problematic; telling people to only write about characters exactly like themselves; rejecting books by people daring to write about cultures beyond their own.

Mr. Jackson’s crime? Making an Albanian Muslim a villain during the Kosova genocide, and making two American teens the protagonists. Because nuance, moral ambiguity, and being forced to make sense of complicated situations outside our familiar world are now verboten in literature.

Have these pitchfork-wielders never heard the suggestion to write your own story, exactly the way you want, if you can’t find it in other books?

Under these new rules, there can be no more books about, e.g., British colonists in India; the Dutch in the East Indies; antiheroes or victims who become villains (e.g., Magneto); or Jewish and Russian refugees in Shanghai. People of certain groups must be 100% saintly, while others can only be 100% evil. And forget fantasy and sci-fi worlds where race doesn’t exist, or people are segregated for other reasons!

One of the bullies from the Blood Heir debacle showed up again, promoting another book in her new handle. How dare Woko Haram pretend they’re not engaging in the ultimate form of censorship!

Congratulations, Woko Haram. You’ve derailed yet another new author’s career in the name of progress and inclusivity. Word is there’s a fourth book which may soon be targeted, and I hope that author doesn’t bend. These bullies become more emboldened to keep striking when they see their targets obediently rolling over and crying uncle.

More on this ridiculous development:

“Teen Fiction and the Perils of Cancel Culture,” Jennifer Senior, The New York Times, 8 March 2019

“A YA Sensitivity Reader Watched His Own Community Kill His Debut Novel Before It Was Ever Released,” Ruth Graham. Slate, 4 March 2019

“Another YA Author Withdraws Book from Publication After Backlash,” Katie Rothstein, Vulture, 28 February 2019

“He Was Part of a Twitter Mob That Attacked Young Adult Novelists,” Jesse Singal, Reason, 28 February 2019

The literary Stasi pounces again

Warning: Any nasty comments will be deleted and the commenters blacklisted. This ain’t one of your echo chambers and safe spaces on Tumblr. History, like science, only cares about facts, not your feelings and sense of validation.

Dr. James Miranda Steuart Barry, née Margaret Ann Bulkley
ca. 1789–25 July 1865

Another week, another book for the Woke Stasi to burn pre-publication. This time, they’ve set their teeth and claws upon E.J. Levy’s The Cape Doctor, which just sold to Little Brown. This is Ms. Levy’s first novel, coming after the 2012 story collection Love, In Theory. Her new novel is about a pioneering doctor who spent the last 56 years of her life posing as a man.

These zealots once again are behaving like babies throwing a tantrum. Ms. Levy’s crime? Correctly sexing Dr. Barry as a woman and using feminine pronouns. These bullies are screaming “He! He! He! He! He! He! He! Him! Him! His! How dare you misgender him! He was a man! Man! Man! Man! Transphobe! Bigot! I don’t feel safe! You’re committing literal violence! I’m complaining to Little Brown, and I hope they drop your so-called book!”

“TERF” is misogynistic hate speech, the latest version of “Burn the witch!”

Dr. Barry was raped as a teenager and bore a child. She declared she’d be a soldier if she were a boy, but was trained as a governess.

Instead, several of her brother James’s progressive, influential friends came up with a plan for her to attend the University of Edinburgh’s med school. In late 1809, she reinvented herself as James Barry, and never lived as Margaret Bulkley again.

She didn’t make a very convincing man, leading many to believe she was prepubescent. The University Senate tried to block her applications for final exams, but powerful friends intervened, and she got her MD in 1812.

Dr. Barry joined the army as a surgeon, and rose to become Inspector General (like a Brigadier General). In 1816, she was posted to Cape Town, South Africa, where she significantly improved quality of life and performed one of the first C-sections where both mother and child survived.

Dr. Barry later worked in Mauritius, Jamaica, St. Helena, the West Indies, Malta, Corfu, the Crimea, and Canada, before retiring to London. Her true sex was only discovered after death. The army sealed all records of her for 100 years.

Many women in history posed as men to do things they were legally, socially, culturally barred from. The only way women could become doctors, serve in the military, travel freely, live independently, attend most universities, etc., was to reinvent themselves as men. They were not transsexuals!

The TRAs piling on Ms. Levy harp on about how Dr. Barry could’ve “easily” been one of the women fighting to become doctors and receive higher education in that era, or go to one of the rare countries where women were allowed to practise medicine, instead of posing as a man. This shows such historical ignorance.

There were NO women’s med schools till 1848, and precious few women legitimately trained as doctors. Those rare few faced lots of discrimination. Also, how would Dr. Barry have financed this trip abroad, where would she have lived, how would she have found employment? Who chooses lifelong exile?

These people have no grasp of just how few rights women had prior to the modern era, and how women who went against the grain were treated. Women who read novels could be arrested if their fathers ordered it! There weren’t even any public ladies’ bathrooms till the late 19th century, and there was enormous opposition, since they enabled women to have lives outside hearth and home.

So of course Dr. Barry kept up the charade the rest of her life. Who invests 50+ years into a deception, only to turn around and unravel everything at the end? Women weren’t allowed to own property, so her will would’ve been null and void if authorities knew her true sex. Anyone with knowledge of her deception would’ve been arrested.

So how dare Woko Haram turn around and accuse Ms. Levy of being the one erasing Dr. Barry’s identity and disrespecting the dead! They’re the ones insisting this incredible woman was really a man!

We can’t apply modern concepts to historical people and situations. Dr. Barry lived as a man to be a doctor, not because she felt “trapped in the wrong body” or believed herself to be a transman.

I’m looking forward to reading The Cape Doctor, and hope Ms. Levy doesn’t roll over and cancel publication like Amélie Wen Zhao did with Blood Heir.

UPDATE: Sadly, they caved to the irrational lynch mob.

Through the Orwellian looking glass

Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir, the first book in a dark fantasy YA trilogy, was set to release in June, after being hailed as one of this summer’s most highly-anticipated books. There were a lot of 5-star reviews by ARC readers. Ms. Zhao signed a three-book deal with Delacorte, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in January 2018, to an advance of at least $500,000. Most authors can only dream of such luck.

But on 30 January 2019, she kowtowed to an SJW lynch mob, the vast majority of whom had never read the ARC, and asked Delacorte to not publish her book. Shockingly, Delacorte agreed instead of asking for their advance back and yanking her contract.

Translation: “Thank you for stopping the beatings, Big Brother!”

I can just imagine the Woke Stasi cyberbullies who held this struggle session euphorically exclaiming, “Oh, YES! We got what we wanted yet again because we threw enough of a tantrum!” Running high-fives. “Team SJW for the win! Let’s find another target to mercilessly bully into submitting!”

WTF is “the book community”? Book bloggers, vloggers, and reviewers aren’t monolithic, even ones who only do certain genres or age categories. Some fantasy book bloggers might prefer urban fantasy to high, epic fantasy, while some contemporary YA reviewers might focus on books with dark themes or set in other countries.

I like how this member of the Woke Stasi is promoting her own book in her screen name. Many people rightly called out the lynch mob, though other SJWs wrote awful comments like these. “Ooh, I’m sitting here crying ugly tears of joy because of your beautiful, humble apology! I know you’ll do better next time!”

It turns out Ms. Zhao is an SJW herself, and so felt compelled to get back in the group’s good graces during the struggle session. She didn’t want to be an outcast and potentially ruin her career. Even if I hadn’t found out she’s an SJW, the inclusion of her freaking pronouns in her Twitter bio makes it obvious.

Although at least she only has pronouns. A lot of these snowflakes check the whole nine yards of Tumblr idiocy.

     

 

If you don’t accept material reality (in this case, the existence of biological sex and sexual dimorphism in mammals), you’re NOT a real Socialist! The core principles of Socialism are based on material reality.

Earth to SJW snowflakes: When you enter the REAL world, devoid as it is of its million and one trigger warnings and safe spaces for everything, no one will give a damn about this Tumblr nonsense. Try to announce at a job interview, “I’m an asexual polysexual polyamorous skoliosexual lithromantic non-binary demiboy transgirl wolf otherkin cloudgender, and my pronouns are she/he/they/zir.” Normal people will write you off as a right loon!

On with the rant. These SJWs’ beef with Blood Heir is that it involves slavery in a fantasy world based on Russia and China. It was described as Anastasiya meets Six of Crows:

They’re pissed because the only disabled person (someone who walks with a cane) is a villain, and a bronze-skinned character (whom they read as Black) dies. They chose to read the book as based on American slavery, because we all know no other country ever had slaves, and slavery has only involved people from Africa! Ms. Zhao’s inspiration was contemporary slavery and indentured servitude in China (you know, her native land).

They also think it’s plagiarism to use a well-known line from LOTR, “don’t go where I can’t follow.” Seriously? Ms. Zhao didn’t rip off an entire passage, and plenty of writers pay homage to lines from songs, poems, movies, and books.

The one criticism I do agree with is the gendering of Ana’s surname. Russian women’s names always end in A (e.g., Malenkova, Lebedeva, Tolstaya, Belskaya, Shulgina). Someone should’ve caught that!

I agree it’s important to represent diversity in literature, but not every fictional world is suited for a damn Rainbow Tribe of tokens. Why would, e.g., a fantasy based on Medieval Europe or a historical about Heian Japan be crawling with diverse characters?

I shudder to imagine what kinds of books Woko Haram sees fit for publication. Their list of Newspeak and problematic topics/words grows by the second.

More on this outrageous development:

“How a Twitter Mob Derailed an Immigrant Female Author’s Budding Career,” Jesse Singal, Tablet, 31 January 2019

“An Author Canceled Her Own YA Novel Over Accusations of Racism. But Is It Really Anti-Black?,” Aja Hoggatt, Slate, 31 January 2019

“YA Author Pulls Her Debut After Pre-Publication Accusations of Racism,” Alexandra Alter, The New York Times, 31 January 2019

“When Social Media Goes After Your Book, What’s the Right Response?,” Keira Drake and Jonah Winter, The New York Times, 6 February 2019

“The Latest Twitter Pile On Forces a Rising Star to Self-Cancel,” Kat Rosenfield, Vulture, 31 January 2019

“Young Adult Author Cancels Own Novel After Race Controversy,” Alison Flood, The Guardian, 1 February 2019

“Amélie Zhao Learns to Love Big Brother,” Rod Dreher, The American Conservative, 30 January 2019