Friday, March 3, 2023

Ethical Dilemmas in Writing

Ethical situations in writing. Hmm. I've had a situation where I felt I was being dealt with in an unethical fashion by my agent. When an editor offered information that confirmed my suspicions, the relationship with the agent was severed. I would like to tell you that was the end of the ethical dilemmas I've faced in writing but it isn't. That particular situation cast a long shadow and to this day, I shy away from looking for representation because the agent I fired is still out there and most of the agents in publishing know one another. I'm probably being unreasonable about this. I admit the situation has probably played an outsized role in how slow I've become at getting books together. What's the point if it feels like there's no where to go with them? Anyway. Whose idea was this topic?? I didn't intend to write my own psychoanalysis in blog post form today.

Most of my minor ethical dilemmas have to do with the business end of writing. The squick about finding a new agent is one. The other my confusion over requesting reversion of rights on books that technically never go out of print because they were never in print to begin with. I suppose I could resolve that with a letter requesting reversion of rights of digital works and see whether the lawyers laugh me off. Yet is seems to be one of those things I never get around to doing because I seem to define conflict avoidant. Ye gods. Again with the psychoanalysis. Honestly. The other issue I have is promoting books that have been out long enough to be learning to drive. That may not strictly be an ethics issue to anyone but me. I feel pretty strongly that back list should be promoted, yes, but with the expectation that the back list being promoted isn't still a series in progress that hasn't seen a new book in several years. This is me remembering how much I hated finding a series I loved only to find out I couldn't binge the entire series because the final few books weren't finished yet. You'd think that would hurry me up on finishing a series, wouldn't you? No one's more annoyed with me than I am about it.

Ethics, fairness, and honesty matter. It's possible I read too many superhero comics growing up. I want people to feel better for having worked with me. I don't want readers hurt because I'm being racist or because I'm culturally appropriating what I have no business in. At the same time, I recognize that the difference between appropriation and appreciation is caring (and actual research and sensitivity advisors from within the culture). I'm not going to avoid writing an experience or culture that isn't mine *if the experience or culture is intrinsic to the plot*. If it's window dressing, ethically, I'm out. I'll find some other way to evoke a feeling - some way that doesn't objectify another person's way of life or race or gender/lack thereof or orientation. And maybe all of this last paragraph isn't really about ethics - it's about respect. But in the end, I feel like ethics and respect are entwined. We have ethics because we respect ourselves and we respect the other people who share the world with us. Or maybe I'm just naive. Still.

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