As I’m sure you’ve heard (if you’re reading this) Fox & Raven Publishing announced today that as of Monday 3 March 2014, they’ll be withdrawing all of their titles from online stores in countries where homosexuality is criminalised.
Now, this announcement has elicited varied reactions. Many people have shown their support, while others have noted that it might not be the best move because it removes a depository of literature from people who arguably need to read LGBTI materials more than those in countries where being gay is legal.
Both sides of the argument hold ground, and both have benefits and draw-backs. I’m going to try and put the decision in context from Fox & Raven’s point of view.
Corporate identity and company values
Fox & Raven has, since its inception last year, been consistently vocal about its support of minority groups. The company aims to publish materials that focus on minorities and cast them in a positive light. This is part of our core company values.
Fox & Raven’s identity is based on transparency and honesty in everything we do. What we publish, who we publish, and (importantly in this instance) where we publish.
The decision and why we made it
Deciding to withdraw our books from anti-gay countries was not made lightly. The most powerful argument against this decision is this: Publishers are considered as agents of change. Books serve as a way to slowly alter the state of consciousness of a community, a city, a nation. Authors infiltrate minds and chip away at preconceived notions, eventually resulting in change. At least that’s what we hope.
This is an extremely valid point. Is the implication then not that, by withdrawing our books, we are ‘punishing’ readers in said communities by not providing them with reading materials that could in fact change their opinions?
Without going into probabilities such as “what are the odds of Ugandan homophobe lawmakers reading gay speculative fiction”, let’s go back to the company’s corporate identity. Fox & Raven simply cannot with a clear conscience advocate gay rights, while stuffing its pockets with money from homophobic countries. That’s the bottom line: It’s about transparency, it’s about where the money that sustains the company comes from.
Having said that, this does not mean that Fox & Raven is abandoning the LGBTI communities in these countries. Look at this statement from the press release:
We will, however, be announcing an ongoing project to distribute free LGBTI speculative fiction in these countries soon – enabling us to continue providing quality literature to members in these communities without compromising on our stance that we will not be accepting money from the countries [who criminalise homosexuality].
There are definitely things happening behind the scenes to encourage gay-lit in these countries. Just in a way that won’t cause Fox & Raven to rely on money from countries whose stance on gay rights are at odds with its own.
So keep an eye on the Fox & Raven blog – the call for submissions will come very soon. And if you’d like to write a piece of powerful propoganda, this might just be your opportunity.
At the end of it all, I would also like to add that it is so refreshing to see people engage in an intellectual, respectful manner about the topic at hand. Making decisions like these are exceedingly difficult, and lots of energy goes into making them. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.