November 12, 2014

Hale No, RT!

Image description: the logo of RT. It's blue and it reads: RT Book Reviews, read smarter!

ETA 2: I'm adding this one on top of the post, because RT has issued an official, public statement condemning Hale's actions and saying that they are working on an anti-harassment policy. I'm happy to see that they take our concerns and safety seriously.

ETA 3: This is the last one, I promise (and hope!). This isn't about the Seal of Excellence. We know it was awarded way before everything happened; this is about the Book of the Year nomination (and yes, I know they are somewhat related). 

I say this because there's a lot of emphasis on the SoE, and I want it to be clear that that's not the issue here. Finally, unequivocally means there shouldn't be room for doubt, so I probably wouldn't use that word, considering that the Book of the Year nomination remains (as far as I can tell). 

I'll stop here, before someone starts subtweeting about me. Oh, wait! 

I have a love-hate relationship with “Best of” lists and book awards. Every year I celebrate when books I loved get mentions and nominations, and despair when the next book on the list is one I hated. But everyone with an opinion is bound to have mixed feelings each season, so I (mostly) roll with it, and in some cases, I just ignore the offending award.

The RT Awards nominees were announced yesterday and just when I thought that nominating the ignorant, terrible, no good, super-racist sounding Primitive Nights (I mean, Jesus Christ, go read that review so we can be miserable together) would be the worst thing I would find on that list, this happened:

Image description: screen-cap of the RT Book of the Year nomination for Hale's book.

Yep, Kathleen Hale’s book was nominated for RT Book of the Year.

You may remember Kathleen Hale from scary actions such as stalking a blogger, going to her home, calling her at work, exposing her, and writing about it on The Guardian.

You may also remember what happened next: bloggers responded with protests and blackouts, the publisher involved responded with nothing but this tweet:

Since Twitter replies seem to be the new way of making public statements, RT addressed our concerns here:

And here:

The first tweet explains the nomination. The book won the Seal of Excellence back in January, so it received an automatic nomination for Book of the Year. There was nothing they could do about it, I guess, because they either have no control over their own award, or they can’t break or change their rules, not even when they are nominating a stalker to an award whose ceremony takes place in a convention that’s full of readers, bloggers and reviewers, many of which have vocally condemned her actions.

The second tweet says that she’s not registered (and I bet someone at RT breathed a sigh of relief for dodging that bullet) and that she wouldn't be welcome. And although I appreciate their good sense, I wonder if that’s all they’ll say about it. A twitter reply to someone is not an ideal public statement, because, among other things, it's limited in how public it actually is. And I don’t know about you, but to me, being nominated to an award looks a lot like an implicit invitation and would make me feel very welcome.

Now, I expect nothing from RT. I wrote this post as a public statement of my displeasure. Do I wish RT would have pulled the book from consideration? Sure, but they made their decision and I doubt there’s anything we can do to change it. And frankly, I’m not surprised that Hale keeps being rewarded or that her actions keep being ignored.

What I do suggest is that the bloggers and readers who are going to RT 2015 email the organizers and ask they implement a strong anti-harassment policy, and then pray that they enforce it as strictly as they follow their rules for the Book of the Year nominations.

ETA: Yesterday a reader emailed RT and this was their response (I’m linking directly to the tweet, but if you can’t read the screen-cap of the email, let me know and I’ll send you a transcript).

The email says that they can’t strip Hale’s book of the Seal of Excellence, but that they pulled her nomination from the category. It’s not clear which category they are referring to, because as of right now (November 12th, 2014 12:15 EST) the nomination still appears listed on the website. But maybe it'll take some time to remove it.

Here’s the thing, though, two twitter replies and one email do not constitute a public statement. If RT wants me to believe that they are taking this issue seriously, they need to make a public, easily-accessible statement. It would also help if they would try to be more careful with their wording of the issue, because this isn’t an “absurd controversy” and what Hale did is more than just a “bizarre behavior”.

So, here I am, waiting. I’ll keep you posted. See ETA 2 on top of the post.


  1. Here's the question. If she doesn't win and decides to be offended by it, will she show up at the homes of the people who judged or at the home of the author who did win to see if that author was "up to something"?

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