Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Edited Version of "Those Guidelines"

If you follow SF/F fandom on twitter, you are no doubt aware of the imbroglio surrounding the submissions guidelines for the anthology World Encounters (current version, cached version), which has been called out as offensive. I'm willing to give the editor the benefit of the doubt as far as intentions go--I mean, why else create an anthology called World Encounters? But I agree that there is some deeply problematic language used in the text--not to mention a boatload of Othering and cultural essentialism/reductionism.

But rather than linger on that, I thought I'd just rewrite the guidelines so that they convey the same meaning I *think* the editor intended them to, but in such a way as to avoid said problematic language, Othering and cultural essentialism/reductionism. Basically everything else I edited out is superfluous or redundant--sorry, that's just the copyeditor in me. Also, please keep in mind I'm not writing my own guidelines here, but interpreting someone else's. Major changes are in italics:

DESCRIPTION: An anthology of culture clashes between aliens and people of Earth’s various cultures as they encounter each other--on Earth or beyond. Stories can be told from alien or earthling points of view.  Stories should not all revolve around Western earthlings.  They can take place on Earth, on other planets, or in space.  Not all stories need to center on conflict between aliens and Earth--they could, for example, be working together to overcome a common obstacle.  Not all the aliens have to be sentient creatures or at least sentient creatures as we understand them.

The goal is to feature stories from both Western and non-Western writers, and from both established and up-and-coming writers. I will therefore be limiting the number of Western and established writers included to be sure we get those outside voices. Unfortunately, English translation is not in the budget.

I would also like to get a balance in terms of POV; however, please note that I value authenticity of voice first and foremost--so please write about what you know. If you have little knowledge about, say, Japanese culture, this will be evident in the writing--and may inadvertently cause offense to readers. Do not write stereotypes.

Please keep it PG, as  we’d like this to be a collection parents and kids can read and discuss to learn and encourage interest in SF and world cultures. Please limit swearing and cursing, as well as graphic sex or violence. 

Also please do not submit stories that are overly partisan in their politics. I want readers to engage with a diversity of worldviews and cultures but not in a potentially off-putting way.

Must be willing to respect the editor’s editing requests.

Crunchy Bits:
Word Counts: 3000-7000 words
Pay rate: $.06/word
Formatting: Submit in RTF format, single spaced, double space between paragraphs, no indentations. Italics for italics, underline for underline, bold for bold.
Publication in Late Summer/Fall of 2015 (TBD further)

Does that work better? I think it does.

In the end, I see this is an instructive example--many of the things that cause offense are not designed to do so, but rather do so because we human beings don't always think of the same things as other human beings, or lend them the same credence.

True, it sucks to to be told you wrote something offensive, and because you know exactly what your intentions were, there's an urge to circle the wagons. But I think that's the wrong approach, and is ultimately self-defeating. I certainly hope that if I write something and am told it's offensive, that I'll take the time to listen and learn from that criticism. It might not sink in right away--nobody's perfect, after all. But a simple affirmation that you are listening and learning can go a long way, and serves everyone best in the end--yourself included. Because then no one can doubt your good intentions.