At the beginning of September, I did a piece proving beyond reasonable doubt that there is anti-male discrimination going on in the publishing industry, and that it’s widespread. It resulted in the Mean Girls in charge of the science fiction publishing organization known as SFWA coming after me and really attempting to destroy my life both online and through harassing me in real life. They of course did this by claiming I was “harassing” by posting about these problems in the industry and whistleblowing.
It started though, when I noticed Escape Artist Podcasts’ Artemis Rising event — in which they go out for a month and ONLY publish stories by women. There is no male counterpart to this, it is a completely anti-man event, when their magazines already skew heavily toward publishing only women outside of that. The original attacks on me were brought on when they decided to take their twitter account and mock and signal to their followers I was someone to slander, rather than addressing their very real problems.
Full disclosure: I had a very good friend who works for Podcastle, one of their podcasts, named Setsu Uzume. She used to spend time at my house, we critiqued each others stories and we were good friends until she abandoned me because of the attacks on me earlier this year. It is a highly personal matter as it’s impacted more than just some intangible “standing in the industry” for me. She was very well aware of my politics and who I was through this whole time she was my friend, her turning on me came only after it was a public relations thing within a small segment of the sci-fi community.
However, through this, I was able to meet a former editor who worked for Escape Artists named Kat Rocha. She now works with her husband making amazing independent content (comics and short story anthologies!) at 01Publishing.com. However she took the time to tell me her story of how Escape Artists turned into a toxic, polarized realm of political correctness and extreme politics overriding their basic mission which should have been publishing good stories.
Below is how an industry dies to SJW Terrorism:
HOW DID YOU GET HOOKED UP WITH ESCAPE ARTISTS?
I met Alex, an editor at Escape Artists at World Horror Con in Atlanta in 2015. We were talking shop over dinner and he mentioned Pseudopod was in need of slush editors. I had been a fan of the show and wanted to get involved so I told him I was interested.
DID THEY PAY YOU FOR YOUR WORK AS AN ASSOCIATE EDITOR, OR WAS IT VOLUNTEER BASED?
I was a volunteer with the promise of eventually being paid once there were more funds. Although, I wasn’t there for the money. I’d been a long time fan of the show and was happy to get involved.
DID THEY REJECT STORIES YOU PUSHED FORWARD OUTRIGHT BECAUSE OF IDENTITY POLITICS, REGARDLESS OF QUALITY?
I sat in on at least five editorial meetings with the idea of becoming familiar with their methods of stories selection. At first, the editors at Pseudopod were even handed in their approach. Stories passed to Editorial by slush readers were judged on quality of the content and nothing else. This was around the time that Escape Artists ownership changed hands, and I believe what I was witnessing was a hold over to when Murr & co still held the wheel. As time went on the focus changed drastically (and rapidly) under the new regime. Editorial wanted more and more attention exclusively on female authors and female-spotlighted events. As slush readers were directed to prioritize stories by women over men. It wasn’t so much a case of editorial outright saying “Women only” but by the time I left male authors and stories were almost never discussed.
HOW WAS THE SUBMISSION QUALITY IN GENERAL? WAS THERE ANY NOTABLE DIFFERENCE YOU SAW BASED ON RACE OR GENDER IN STORIES?
The quality of stories we slush readers were receiving were about what you’d expect–a good mix of good, bad, and everything between. It wasn’t until management launched their “Artemis Rising” that efforts were steered toward make the project happen. Artemis Rising’s mission was to be a month in which Escape Artists was an all-female operation. Stories to be written by women, slush-read by women, selected by women, edited by women, read by women, presented on-air by women, even the shows themselves were produced by women. Essentially, it was to be the She-Women Men Haters Club. As a slush reader I was told to focus on the Artemis Rising slush pile. Regular submissions (meaning stories for the other eleven month of the year) were to be second priority.
In terms of story quality the “Artemis Rising” slush pile were amateur at best, with a rare gem once in a while. Really, the biggest problem with the project was the sheer lack of quality material to justify a female-only month. For that reason, a lot of stories I felt were not fit for publication got through. Worse, were stories that may have been well written, but had little to nothing to do with Horror, Sci-Fi, or Fantasy. Rather than accept the reality that not enough skilled female writers were interested in Artemis Rising, management started allocating more and more time and resources to the project at the expense of the rest of the year’s shows. In truth, Artemis Rising became a year-long event just to make a single month of programming happen.
WAS THERE A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE IN WHAT YOU SAW ACCEPTED/REJECTED?
While slush reading for Artemis Rising I got the distinct impression much of what I received was submitted strictly because a female wrote it—regardless of how amateur or flat out bad the work was. In fact, most of the titles that were selected for the event were pulled from the regular submission box and NOT from the Artemis Rising box because of the lack of quality.
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU START SEEING WEIRD POLITICS SEEM TO BE MORE IMPORTANT TO THEM THAN PRODUCING GOOD FICTION?
This is strictly my opinion, but when Alasdair Stuart’s girlfriend got involved is when things went sour. That’s when the “girls club” formed and Escape Artists took on a very different tone in contrast to the fiction-first production it had once been. It was also around that time episodes started to include “trigger warnings” at the beginnings of show.
CAN YOU GIVE SOME EXAMPLES OF THE SORT OF EXTREMISM YOU SAW COMING FROM THE PODCAST CREATORS?
As I mentioned before, there was a strange obsession with all things Artemis Rising. After awhile it was as though nothing else mattered. To me, this was not just unacceptable, but utterly disgusting. I hate gender politics. I hate it with the fury of a berserk Valkyrie swinging a war hammer plowing through a horde of single-breasted amazons. (Okay, that’s how my husband described my hate for feminist bigotry, but I thought it worth sharing.) For examples of ideological extremism happening at Escape Artists, really the entire Artemis Rising project itself was one giant exercise in bigotry, “positive” discrimination, and anti-male propagandizing.
DID THEY TALK SMACK ABOUT AUTHORS OUT THERE WHO DIDN’T FIT THEIR POLITICAL PARADIGMS? HOW TOXIC AN ENVIRONMENT WAS IT?
There was a special forum for editors and slush readers to talk about and share submissions that were uniquely bad, or crazy, or unintentionally funny. The original intent was good natured. It was there just for us to chat and share laughs. But as the new regime settled into its role running Escape Artist the forum lost its charm. The “laughs” started to have an underlying meanness to them, the chat felt more like bathroom gossip and trash talk. Then editors started emailing full manuscripts to the rest of us, encouraging we to read a submission, then join in on massive gab fests where everyone was expected to rip into the submission’s author. This was not “letting off steam”. It was cruel, petty, and deeply unprofessional. And yes, most of the stories the girls got together to rip on were written by men.
TELL US SOME ABOUT THEIR “ARTEMIS RISING” PROJECT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE. I NOTICE MOST MONTHS THEY PUBLISH MOSTLY WOMEN-WRITTEN CONTENT ANYWAY, IS IT A MARKETING GIMMICK ONLY OR FULL ZEALOTRY?
Zealotry. The attitude seemed to be, “We’re going to prove women are great writers by rigging the game and shutting out everyone else.” As if that proves anything but the opposite. I saw nothing to indicate Artemis Rising was a marketing gimmick, and if it was, it was a monumental failure with listeners. It was alienating longtime fans, losing listener donations, and Artemis Rising always had the lowest download count by far.
DID YOU START TO SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE POLITICS OVERRIDING THEIR STORY CONTENT? IF SO, WHAT HAPPENED?
Yes. I was quite open about my disdain for Artemis Rising with the editors I answered to (who were both male). I made it very clear I didn’t agree with the event and everything it stood for. I said multiple times Escape Artists should return to focusing on finding and publishing GOOD stories, regardless of the gender, race, or sexuality of the author.
When editorial assigned me to slush read exclusively for Artemis Rising, I refused.
WHAT DROVE YOU FROM THEM, WERE YOU FIRED BY THEM OR DID YOU QUIT?
I turned in my resignation within an hour of receiving an email from editorial about now-former editor, Sunil Patel, who was accused of…well, something. The words Editorial used were “accusations of unprofessional behavior”. To my knowledge no actually offense was ever named. Yet Editorial was inviting all of us to talk to them about Patel, secure in the knowledge that each and every comment would be taken at “face value,” no proof required. Quoting the email: “Everyone will be assumed to be telling their truth, no questions asked. Yes, that may lead to conflicting reports of specific events. We accept that.”
Here is a copy of my emailed reply:
Dear Escape Artists:
I am greatly disappointed and disturbed by the current leadership’s handling of what is a deeply serious accusation. It’s one thing for an individual to do something so irresponsible as to drag allegations of sexual harassment through the court of public opinion. It’s another for a publishing entity and those who represent it to do the same. To say this behavior is unprofessional is an understatement.
Sexual harassment is a very serious charge. One that should never be taken lightly. It destroys the lives of all involved—regardless of the validity of the charge. So far everything I’ve seen from the parties involved and the EA leadership have given me no reason to believe this will amount to anything beyond another career destroying he-said / she-said smear campaign that has been dominating spec-lits ever shrinking corner of internet. More “Listen and Believe” rumors and back biting. More kangaroo courts with no real search for the truth. For the last 24hrs I’ve been bombarded with pitchfork mobs telling me I need to hate Sunil, yet nobody has yet to actually explain what he is accused of. I had hoped the Escape Artists were above this.
As of today I am leaving Escape Artist.
AFTER YOU LEFT THEM, DID YOU FIND THAT PEOPLE THERE RETAINED FRIENDSHIPS WITH YOU, OR WERE YOU DISCARDED BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T ‘USEFUL’ ANY LONGER?
Alex and I are still friends on Facebook. I haven’t spoken to him in a while, but this doesn’t seem to have affected our friendship. On the other hand, before the Patel incident my husband and I had been on very friendly terms with Alasdair Stuart. He was supposed to review a book from 01Publishing, but never followed through. Since that time all communication with him has ceased. As for the rest of the staff, I’ve severed all ties myself. I want nothing to do with this “brave new progressive” Escape Artists collective.
This is the new normal for science fiction and fantasy publishing. Every major house has this same attitude, this same hate and disdain for males. Even this morning, SFWA president Cat Rambo was tweeting bizarre, extreme articles about “toxic masculinity”. Kat is very brave for telling what happened and how the SJW politics are so thick to them that literally nothing else– not friendships, not good works, not readership — matters to them.
This is why alternatives in the industry are so necessary and why this structure of power needs to be called out, despite all of the personal attacks they might throw your way just for telling the truth. Please support Kat and 01Publishing.com.
If you’re looking for some real diversity beyond a shallow look at sex or skin color, try the popular Steampunk novel by Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, with a strong female lead! No politics in For Steam And Country, available on Amazon.