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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Of Zombies and Homophobia

A few days ago, I saw a call for submissions from a small press publisher called Library of the Living Dead. They were looking for queer-themed zombie stories for an anthology tentatively titled ZOMBOLOGY: A QUEER BENT ON THE UNDEAD. Interesting concept, and I just so happened to have a story I had recently finished up that seemed to fit the bill.

So I sent the story off to the editor this past weekend. Within two days I received a cryptic email from the anthology’s editor, Bill Tucker, stating that “the publisher has pulled the plug on this anthology.” Weird, especially considering that the call for submissions had only gone out a short time before. But, hey, I run a publishing company and know that financial times are tough. I shrugged it off and didn’t think another thing about it.

Until this morning.

Apparently, the publisher (a man perhaps appropriately named “Dr. Pus”) pulled the proverbial plug on his own anthology in response to pressure from some of his own heterosexual authors involved with Library of the Living Dead. An excerpt from his own statement: “...with all the things that are going on in my life right now I didn’t think it all the way through. I became afraid I would upset people by publishing the book. That’s the reason in a nutshell...If any of you don’t know, I’m a huge supporter of the GLBT community. They are my brothers and sisters.”

To add insult to injury, he’s offered a kill fee to those who wrote stories — as if the indignation that the folks who submitted stories felt could be assuaged for a few dollars. Perhaps his West Virginia roots are showing, but this guy just doesn’t get it.

I’m not clear on how Dr. Pus considers himself to be “a huge supporter of the GLBT community” when he associates and does business with authors who are apparently so virulently homophobic themselves that they force him to cancel what sounded like a winning project. But, fact remains, he allowed himself to be swayed by fear of what others would think. There is a word for a person like this: coward.

As most of you know, I edited the UNSPEAKABLE HORROR: FROM THE SHADOWS OF THE CLOSET anthology in 2008 with Chad Helder. Our initial call for submissions was met with enthusiastic response from reputable, award-winning authors from both the horror and LGBT literary communities, including Lee Thomas, Sarah Langan, Rick R. Reed, Jameson Currier, Scott Nicholson, Kealan Patrick Burke, and Lisa Morton, among others. The book was published to widespread critical acclaim – including a rave review from FANGORIA – and reader response was overall positive.

Our anthology went on to win the prestigious Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in an Anthology last year — the first time an LGBT/horror anthology won the award in the sponsoring organization’s 22-year history. Just a few days ago, I was notified that InsightOut – the LGBT arm of the Book-of-the-Month Club – has picked up a special edition hardcover edition of UNSPEAKABLE HORROR for its spring catalog.

Not once during the planning, editing, pre-production, production, or post-release phases of the anthology did either Chad or I receive one word of negativity or anything remotely resembling homophobia. Had any author we knew or associated with advised, encouraged, or threatened us to drop the UNSPEAKABLE HORROR project, well, simply put, they would quickly become former associates. Period. Now, perhaps we’re better equipped at surrounding ourselves with true professionals than Library of the Living Dead, or perhaps our higher payment rates allowed us to attract a higher tier of talent. Either way, the idea of blaming pressure from those you work with for putting the kibosh on an announced project is simply lame. This guy caved in to homophobia, plain and simple. For that, I can only feel sorry for him.

Now, his supporters at Library of the Living Dead (including Mr. Tucker) are many, and most have jumped to his defense, praising his forthcoming and citing him as a nice guy. I have no doubt from everything that I’ve read that this Dr. Pus is indeed a nice guy. But, as fantasy author Jim Hines writes on his blog, this “nice guy defense misses the point.” Instead of defending Dr. Pus, these supporters should be rallying behind him with cries of indignation against the homophobes who put the screws to him. There should be calls for him to drop these authors from his roster versus dropping a planned project to placate a vocal minority from amongst the ranks of Library of the Living Dead.

If Dr. Pus is a true supporter of his LGBT brothers and sisters, then he’ll do more than just spout politically correct rhetoric. He’ll continue to publish quality LGBT horror fiction – as he’s apparently done in the past – in spite of whatever backlash he receives from a few of his associates. Library of the Living Dead shouldn’t pander to the prejudices of a few, nor should it backpedal — as Tucker appears to be doing now with his own intimations that the project was pulled over concerns that it might “be seen as a gimmick and would not have quality stories in it.” Have a little more faith in yourself as an editor, good sir. A good editor will steer an anthology in the direction of his or her vision and will work tirelessly to find those quality submissions. As someone who successfully put an anthology of LGBT horror together, they’re out there.

I encourage all of my readers to email Mr. Tucker and the good folks at Library of the Living Dead (zomboqueer@gmail.com) or visit their discussion forum and offer your support for their ZOMBOLOGY: A QUEER BENT ON THE UNDEAD. Let them know that there is a place for innovation within the horror fiction field and that LGBT themes are welcome.

Otherwise, perhaps that second volume of UNSPEAKABLE HORROR has found its theme…

5 comments:

Reesa said...

I love you, Vince! Read your last sentence and instantly got an idea. Now to figure out how to fit short story time into the novel and blog-writing schedule...

Lee Thomas said...

Well said, Vince!

A few of us have been discussing this on my Live Journal for the past couple of days.

http://leethomas.livejournal.com/171559.html

http://leethomas.livejournal.com/171840.html

The whole situation gets more ridiculous by the minute.

Lisa Morton said...

When I read of the cancellation, my first thought was, Uh-oh, these guys have been punked, because no one would actually do this.

So I wrote Mr. Tucker (who had just invited me into the book), and asked him about it. It was indeed for real.

BTW, Mr. Tucker mentioned "concerns from straight and gay writers". So...I guess the gay writers just didn't want to be associated with those nasty zombies.

mroctober said...

Brava!

ScottColbert said...

Boy the story keeps changing. Now he's saying it was only the LGBT writers who had problems with it, not the straight writers. http://libraryofthelivingdead.lefora.com/2010/02/12/my-reply-to-the-jim-hines-blog/#post12

Anyone have a scorecard?