Editorial: Round 2, Fight! (Or: Fuck Your Devil’s Advocacy)

Boy, it’s been a hell of a few months, hasn’t it? If one didn’t know any better, one might think we’d collectively been written into The Worst Political Thriller Ever. There’s been presidential idiocy and corruption from the entire First Family (and yet more idiocy) in the US, and dramatic resurgences in the public’s willingness to let their most hateful selves bubble to the surface like your racist/sexist/homophobic uncle’s worst digestive problems. But assholishness and general racist fuckery aren’t merely the province of America’s current political, uh, “situation”—they’re just the tip of the global effluent iceberg: The persecution of LGBTI people in Africa is ongoing, as is the racist expulsion of black Dominicans to Haiti, and attacks persist against democracy activists in Hong Kong, Russia, and Turkey. And let’s not even talk about the bullshit that was Brexit. (Yeah, I know, it was last year, but still, fuck Nigel Farage.)

Over in this part of the world, the Canada 150 celebrations have been going on all year, and in some ways are continuing, even now the sesquicentennial’s passed. As is unfortunately common practice, First Nations and Indigenous Peoples are still struggling to be heard above the revelry that would prefer to quietly pretend they don’t exist (unless there’s art that can be exploited, or to better market our nation to the world).

In the quagmire that is publishing in Canada, we encounter the ever-uncomfortable willingness of some to write over or steal outright the experiences of non-white Canadians. In the gap between our first issue and this one, Write magazine (professional journal of the Writer’s Union of Canada) published an incredibly poorly thought-out editorial column by then (since resigned) editor Hal Niedzviecki: “Winning the Appropriation Prize.” In it, the author (and wannabe devil’s advocate) disregards the existence of cultural appropriation and encourages white writers to actively and aggressively write from the perspectives of other ethnicities and cultures—to take whatever they like and let readers decide if the attempt is in poor taste.

Not only is it a remarkable way to pass the buck, did I mention that this ill-conceived editorial occurred within the pages of an issue meant to celebrate the work of Indigenous Canadian writers? An issue in which they were invited to take part? Invited authors included Alicia Elliott, Cherie Dimaline, Joshua Whitehead, Richard Van Camp, Drew Hayden Taylor, and Shannon Webb-Campbell, among others. Intended or not, Niedzviecki’s editorial was an attack on each and every one of the Indigenous writers in the issue, as well as the community at large.

Niedzviecki later apologized for the column, a move that only drew attention to his failings as a provocateur.

This resulted in several of the Canadian publishing industry’s old guard (i.e., the crotchety and narrow-minded brigade) chiming in on a late- (and through the) night Twitter thread in support of Niedzviecki. In it, they seconded Hal’s call for an appropriation prize, and started gathering and pledging funds to make it a reality, showing us their assholes and their worth in one fell swoop. In the aftermath, some apologized, others claimed they were merely frustrated with “PC culture” (you can just picture them using scare quotes every time they say it), and still others doubled down on their views, digging an increasingly deep hole while claiming the rest of the world too sensitive—or worse, citing said devil’s advocacy.

There were calls for “us lefties” to “listen to both sides of the conversation,” or some such shit, as if both sides are of equal value when one side is literally decrying the other’s right to exist and take ownership of their voice(s). To that we say: fuck you very much.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that in the aftermath of the aftermath, actual positive movement has been made. Authors Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Robin Parker started two independent fundraising efforts to promote Indigenous authors, later joining forces in the creation of the Emerging Indigenous Voices Award, which has (to date) raised $115,795 CAD—a mere 1,157 percent of their initial goal. To which we offer all the applause.

In addition to applause, we also want to extend an invitation: Starting with the coming issue (December’s issue three) we actively want to see more subs (fiction, non-fiction, and art) from queer and Two Spirit Indigenous/Aboriginal/First Nations writers and artists from all regions, internationally. Our outreach in Indigenous communities has been less than we’d like, and that’s on us. The soliciting goes on, but we want to be direct in this case: your work is wanted here, now and always.

Anathema began with the idea of wanting to help bring to light stories from voices we don’t hear enough from in mainstream publications. Little did we know that the world of 2017 would provide reason after reason for why we absolutely need to exist. The crotchety establishment would prefer to label such voices as “other” while at the same time pilfering from and taking credit for depictions of their lives and cultures.

The state of things right now, this current upheaval, is why we enter into issue two more ready than ever for a fight.

And that’s what we have for you this month—stories of resistance and resilience: Nibedita Sen’s “Never Yawn Under a Banyan Tree”; Craig Laurance Gidney’s “Beneath the Briar Patch”; “Everything You Left Behind,” by Wen Ma; Brandon O’Brien’s “‘Punch God (in the Face),’ by The Harmnones”; and Jaymee Goh’s devastating “Eruption.” As well as Renee Christopher’s essay “Say Her Name: The Eternal Lives of Get Out’s Heroine.” And last but certainly not least, this issue’s art, “gorgon,” comes to us courtesy of Vivian Ng, having originally appeared in Ladies of Literature: Volume 2.

When we find ourselves in moments like our present time, in which establishment provocateurs, pot-stirrers, and “intellectuals” aim to provoke discourse by way of a sharp prod to the gut, not caring or not recognizing that they do it while safely ensconced in the shadow of the most volatile political climate the West has seen in a generation, the work we publish and promote matters more than ever. As do it creators.


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