Tom Puppy and the Visitor from Planet Clueless
A Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy supporter posted an op-ed on the men’s rights site Return of the Kings (he links to and heavily paraphrases one of the Sad Puppy podcasts), “How Female-Dominated Publishing Houses Are Censoring Male Authors” that is a great example of several of the issues that I believe underpin the Sad Puppy position. Never mind that the statistics show that men make up more than 65% of the annual publishing lists of most of the publishing houses, and male-authored books comprise more the 80% of books reviewed in the major publications, this guy is here to tell us that men are being censored!
His proof is an anecdote told to him by a veteran who had written a book about his experiences while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who claimed to have gotten his book through several phases of the publishing process, only to be rejected at the last step because a senior editor who happened to be a woman was offended by one line in the book and said, “he’s an asshole, we don’t want to work with him.” I have a hard time swallowing the story as stated. But even if we take it at face value, the story boils down to an editor deciding that someone who is difficult to work with wasn’t worth the time, effort, and stress required to work with them.
He’s a first-time author, never been published before, has no name recognition, no proven track record. I don’t believe for a moment that it was a single line in the book that set anything off. I suspect that the author had behaved abominably to several people in the process up to that point and the book itself was of only middling quality. An important part of an editor’s job is to recognize which stories their readers will enjoy reading. Another important job is to weigh the costs and benefits of working with a specific story and author. If a particular book does not look like a blockbuster that will sell zillions of copies, it isn’t worth the time and effort to put up with a lot of assholery through the process of re-writes, galley proofs, et cetera.
That isn’t anti-male prejudice, that’s good business practice.
The fact that this anecdote is swallowed without examination—without considering the possibility that one could try to figure out what behaviors led to the characterization of asshole and try changing those behaviors—shows just how big the privilege blinders are on these guys. Imagine! If you’re nice to people they’re willing to help you. If you aren’t, they have no motivation to stick their necks out for you. And deciding to expend your employer’s money and the time of yourself and other employees on turning a manuscript into a published book and then distributing it is sticking your neck out.
This is one of the fundamental blind spots of the various puppies: they are convinced that the only reason their stories aren’t bestsellers and award winners and the only reason that they aren’t met at every convention by crowds of screaming fans must be the result of a conspiracy. It isn’t possible that their writing is mediocre. It isn’t possible that their subject matter isn’t of interest to anyone but angry misogynist racist homophobic men such as themselves. It isn’t possible that their predilection for making outrageous statements comparing gay people to termites in need of extermination might make anyone who knows or loves a gay person less than thrilled to hear more of what they have to say. It isn’t possible that characterizing some woman’s clothing as an all-day slut walk might be off-putting to anyone who is or loves a woman. It isn’t possible that characterizing people of color as half-savages might make people of any ethnicity less than enthusiastic about cheering everything you say.
Instead of exercising our own judgement about what works to read and who to be fans of, apparently we should all feel grateful that they would deign to allow us to bask in the glow of their wit and wisdom.