Romance novels may be a billion dollar business, but this week the Romance Writers of America, an organization formed to provide networking and support to writers, embarked on a path of self-destruction.
The main players in this are writers Courtney Milan and Kathryn Lynn Davis.
Courtney Milan is the pen name for Heidi Bond, a 40-ish best-selling author and former law professor who went to Berkeley and clerked for two Supreme Court justices. She has 44.2K followers on Twitter.
Kathryn Lynn Davis, in her 60’s, writes romances set in Scotland. She went to community college, does not seem to have any social media presence, and is not even notable enough to have a Wikipedia article. Google does say she
once received something called a Kafka award. oops, no, this was Kathryn Davis in Vermont, – definitely NOT the same person.
The first round was fired by Courtney Milan, who called one of Davis’s books, first published 30 years ago, a “fucking racist mess”.
Milan later said she did not realize the book was written 30 years ago, and admits she has not read the book, but defended the practice, which she referred to as “dunking on”. To “dunk on” someone is to “best them in a spectacular way that is humiliating to them”.
Davis claimed she lost a three-year book contract as a result.
By now Davis is 64 years old. She dropped out of writing about 20 years ago, then reappeared looking fragile, joking about being medically challenged, and posing for pictures with a pill container. Her husband, if he is still alive, would be 76. These days she only writes a few short stories for anthologies.
Milan was sanctioned by the writers’ organization, but went on the offensive with some ALL CAPS in-your-face language.
Her Twitter followers came to her defense with more f-bombs and a #Istandwithcourtney hashtag.
The rest you can google for yourself — the story has already made the rounds of the New York Post and New York Times, and has now been noticed on the other side of the pond by the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/31/romance-novel-industry-uproar-discipline-author-racist-courtney-milan
“People saw it as an attempt to silence marginalized people,” Milan said. “Doing this to me seemed like a message that if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone, and everyone needed to shut up.”
Milan is claiming on Twitter to be part Chinese.
Also, beating people up is a Good Thing.
What she objected to in the book was the phrase “almond eyes” (see also “Why Do We Describe Asian Eyes As ‘Almond-Shaped’?”) as well as a description by an elder Chinese woman of being taught as a child to lower her eyes in the presence of men. (see about eye contact in China 1, 2, 3, )
Chart: google ngram viewer
None of this is as yet in her Wikipedia article.
So how does Milan respond to concerns about other marginalized people? Is it okay to refer to people with labels they themselves consider to be slurs?
And a final defense of “trans woman” Gregor Murray.
So not only is this Courtney person a really big potty mouth, it looks like she hasn’t done her homework about these other issues. Which calls into question how she got into these high profile positions in the first place, if she is so disadvantaged, and why if she is so smart, is she not still still clerking in the Supreme Court or teaching law school instead of playing Mean Girls on Twitter with her little brat pack.
And they pick someone who is aging, and hasn’t been active for years, picking up a few contracts here and there on their old name recognition. Circular firing squad, going after the old guard, and with a bunch of disrespectful and sexualized language. Is that how they talk to their mothers and grandmothers?
Update: Now this is starting to make more sense,
“Because of those chapters and their dues-paying members, it has about $3 million in the bank…”
…and Ms. Milan is even now reading up on the bylaws and drumming up a petition to recall the newly-elected president. As far as the “secretive process outside the organization’s normal ethics procedures”, Ms. Milan was the head of the ethics committee that normally does investigations, and she was the one under investigation — you don’t get to investigate yourself, even if you clerked for the Supreme Court. Which kinda explains why they can’t come up with a reasonable explanation for the “white supremacist” thing, outside of acting outraged and throwing around some f-bombs. But that unfortunately is American politics these days, throw enough mud and maybe some of it will stick. But keep your eye on that $3 million, and see if they are able to pull off a Sad Puppies revolt.
Another update: Here is some more background, this apparently has a huge political backstory, of a third person retweeting Trump stuff in their timeline, and something about ownership of a publishing company that was about to publish the (now former) president’s new book. This is towards the end of the Metafilter thread. The backdrop is a history of party politics, the “Reno nightmare” alluded to at the time Nora Roberts quit the organization after backing down as emcee moments before the convention started, is talked about in detail here. [archived]