14 June 2009

The Face of Change

EPIC is gearing up for the July 15th opening of their e-book awards (formerly called the EPPIE, unveiling a new name in March 2010!). This is news, to be sure. But what is the real news?

Ten years after Matthew Shepherd and the subsequent institution of much needed anti-hate crime acts that include hate crimes against people in alternative lifestyles and less mainstream religions, it dismays me to hear such outrage against an all-inclusive award like EPIC's. So, what's the gripe? It's fairly simple.

There are two complaints about the new e-book contest guidelines. One is that GLBT has been made inclusive, across the boards. Now, mind you, with the way the committee hopes to handle judging concerns (every judge will have the opportunity to opt out of judging GLBT content), it's not the GLBT community complaining about this. It's those who aren't in the community. Let me explain.

A group of authors who don't write GLBT has decided to try and skewer the contest for allowing GLBT across the boards. Their complaint is specifically that the contest allows GLBT in every category, including children's, YA, and spiritual.

Now, will they get any GLBT entries there? Who knows? My complaint isn't whether or not they would. It's that anyone is so closed-minded as to think it should be excluded, because it's GLBT.

These complainers are apparently of the misconception that GLBT automatically means sex. Of course, it doesn't. Just as an example, take a look at this book on Amazon.

This is a children's book about a little girl with two daddies. The blurb is...
Two Daddies and Me shows a day in the life of one little girl named *Libe. Libe's family is different. She has two dads. Yet, Libe's life is just like any other child, filled with love, laughter and the routine of daily life! Geared towards preschool aged children of gay and lesbian parents, this book provides the perfect opportunity to show the many aspects of the word "family" and what it can mean in today's world. (*pronounced Lî-be)

Are we going to say this book can't enter, because it shows a gay family? Bull pucky. Sorry, but it's true.

And there are more...


This is just a quick look...not even exhaustive. There are whole companies and lines of companies devoted to GLBT children and YA fiction. Are they any less welcome than anyone else is? Are they any less valuable to those who read them? I think not.

The other complaint--predictably, considering the first--is that the new definition of Spiritual/Metaphysical (formerly called Inspirational/Metaphysical) weakens the stance of Christian works by diluting the category and allowing non-Christian works. Non-Christian was always welcome but felt they weren't, because of bad wording. If making the wording clear offends someone, that's lamentable. Since non-Christian works were always welcome, though they may not have realized it, this is no real change.

EPIC has made it a priority not to discriminate, based on locality, age, creed, race, religion, or any other label. In fact, those discussions are not permitted on EPIC lists. Why should the contest discriminate? In short, I don't think it should. Kudos to the committee for making it clear that they don't.


GLBT Promo said...

Hi Brenna,

Thank you for letting me know about this issue. I've just about had it with this type of ignorance, homophobia and stupidity. As a member of the intelligent race - I'm about to start my own planet for all intelligent people. No, it won't be open to all - because I'm tired of stupidity, homophobia and ignorance. Brenna, you're someone that I have always admired; you're someone that I love to see as President of Epic, and you're more than welcome to move to my planet.

Jolie du Pre

BrennaLyons said...

Cool! This sounds like a Sci Fi story I once read. I'm there! And thanks for the invitation.


Liz said...

Thanks for this post, Brenna. I'm thrilled that the GLBT works can now be entered wherever they'll fit, and I'm equally glad that the Spiritual category is worded to visibly include non-Christian works as well.

Does it surprise me that folks have complained? Not in the slightest.

As a gay transmale member of the GLBT community, I can assure everyone it sure doesn't revolve around sex. (Kinda hard to when my partner lives on the other side of the planet.) We don't get it on anymore than heterosexual couples, that's for sure.

Jolie, where's the application to your planet??


Imp said...

Why am I not surprised? It's always the ones who claim to be Christian who behave the most unChrist-like.

I applaud EPIC's move, while at the same time I fear that some of those who will be judging these now-inclusive categories will not be able to put aside their prejudices.

BrennaLyons said...

I am hoping that anyone seriously opposed to this change will simply take the no GLBT judging out they are afforded. As long as entrants and judges mark their respective forms correctly, it should be a non-issue, especially with the other fail safe judging setups.


Erastes said...

Wow. Well done to EPIC. I'm the first to admit that over the last few years I've been someone who has complained bitterly about the apparent "coralling" of the GLBT titles - and this is fantastic news - thank you for letting us know.

As for the bigots - may I smack THEM now???

*starts building spaceship *

Madeline Moore said...

This 'problem' is founded in ignorance and intolerance. I always find it funny when homophobes are nervous around gays - likely they are imagining the gay couple coupling. We don't do that with hetero couples, do we? Do the homophobes? When you see a pregnant woman do you imagine her fucking her husband? SHeesh.

I write contemporary erotica. Although it's mainly hetero, there's always some f/f in my novels, and lately, m/m as well. Why? Because it's hot stuff! Because I like writing it and I think my readers, mainly hetero women, like it too.

I also write children's animation for television. Granted, I do so under a different name. There's no sexual activity whatsoever in my scripts because - duh - the stories are geared toward children.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is a need for GLBT stories for kids and that those stories won't be erotic.

My daughter said the other day, "I can hardly wait to get to Queen's University in the fall. There won't be any stupid people there!"

I hope she's right. Maybe the upcoming generation, which includes a TON of bi boys, will be smarter.

BrennaLyons said...

Someone just hit me with this question off the blog, and I feel it needs an answer. Paraphrased...

"But not everyone enjoys GLBT. Not everyone accepts it. Why should it be allowed, when I don't want it allowed? When I personally find it unacceptable? A lot of people find it objectionable, you know."

Yes, I know, but... Taking a deep breath. Okay, what a thought. So, my thought is...

Why should we allow any given thing, if that's the argument? You will never find a genre or subgenre that every reader in the world A) likes, B) approves of, C) thinks has equal merit with all other forms of writing and D) agrees should be included in an all-inclusive contest.

This isn't about one group stomping all over another and demanding either separate AND unequal treatment or no service at all. Well, that is the aim, I'm sure, but is that right?

There are a lot of people who would say that bias and prejudice is right, as long as it's not aimed against them personally. This whole event is a perfect example of that type of thought process, IMO. I don't personally share that view of the situation, but that's the way life. We're not all carbon copies. We're individuals.


Imp said...

Oh, for Christ's sake! Literally!

Erastes said...

Well said, Brenna - I find motivational fiction nauseating and objectionable in the extreme. I don't like shifters much but I'll defend anyone's right to write them, and to enter them for awards.

Dear Brenna's correspondent. It's not about what you find objectionable - it's about finding the best written book in a category. That's all.

GLBT Promo said...

"But not everyone enjoys GLBT. Not everyone accepts it. Why should it be allowed, when I don't want it allowed? When I personally find it unacceptable? A lot of people find it objectionable, you know."

(Why should it be allowed, when *I* don't want it allowed?" LOL )


Like I've said, folks - if you're an INTELLIGENT human, you're welcome to move to my planet or at least take a break from the idiots. My gatekeepers will be waiting to keep all the idiots out - so no worries.


Adriana said...

Kudos to EPIC for a strong, inclusive stance. Can I apply to Jolie's planet too? Love it.

There are lots of genres I prefer not to read, but that doesn't mean they should be excluded from award categories. As a writer of primarily bisexual erotic romance, I'm thrilled with both category changes.

Adriana Kraft

D. L. King said...

Hi Brenna,

I have to say, I was worried when I heard about the new inclusiveness because I was afraid GLBT works wouldn't get a fair judging. There seem to be so many people with an axe to grind against GLBT fiction (and even erotica, for that matter).

After the explanation of the measures put into place in judging, I believe EPIC's heart is definitely in the right place and support the decision to include GLBT in ALL categories in the contest. I have never felt good about separate but (un)equal. I do hope that no one will attempt to sabotage the judging in any category and I eagerly look forward to seeing the entrants and the results!

And after all, I could say:

"But not everyone enjoys Christian Spiritual Writing. Not everyone accepts it. Why should it be allowed, when I don't want it allowed? When I personally find it unacceptable? A lot of people find it objectionable, you know."

But I haven't...

D. L. King

AuthorJansen said...

As a newbie to the glbt writing world, I didn't even know the EPICs existed, much less excluded anyone. That said, kudos to them for making this change.

Growing up a gender confused bi kid in the south, I've seen my fair share (and then some) of bigotry and hatred, so I'm not the least bit surprised when I see it in 2009. Pissed, but not surprised.

Of course there are the people who "don't like" glbt works. Well, I don't like het books. I find 90% of them boring, predictable, and down right insulting to the reader's intelligence. Does that mean that they should be excluded because I don't like them? Of course not.

The whole point of the writing industry should be to provide everyone of every walk of life with something they enjoy reading. GLBT individuals deserve the same "escapism" that heterosexual individuals have, and the industry in general, and the EPICs specifically, should applaud any efforts to do that.

Jude Mason said...


You know, I will never understand the hate people carry for those who might be different. They seem to want us all to be sheep and like/dislike/hate/love/agree with or disagree with whatever they do. What a freakin boring world that would be.

I applaud EPPIC for this and fervently hope it goes well for all authors. My one concern is, if a judge doesn't agree with the GBLT genre but decides not to say anything. They could then give the GBLT book the lowest possible marks.


BrennaLyons said...


I think what amazes me is that a goodly portion of the GLBT reading community is straight folks. Yes, there are "gay character" books written by gay men and primarily read by gay men, but one of the largest growing concerns in GLBT is (for instance) M/M written by het women and read by het women.

Of course, people are still going to dislike it. How boring the world would be if we all liked and disliked the same things. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have an audience, likely a larger audience than some people realize.

I'm not knocking anyone's religion. Not my style. I'm not knocking anyone's choice in reading material. Heck, I know people who write software manuals, which I find boring as heck! But I don't begrudge them a HUGE audience that lives for their next books.

But Donna Fargo had a great song called "Superman" back in the 70s or so. She was a very intelligent woman, and the refrain of that song included the assertion that anytime someone else's hang-ups were messing with hers, they weren't worth her time. That's not far off base.


Stevie Woods said...

There are lots of things I find unacceptable and objectionable - one of them is bigotry. I find it very difficult to understand why some people are so afraid of what they consider different. How does our entering GLBT in any category affect this woman's life?

Jolie - I think you're going to have lots of applicants for your planet.

BrennaLyons said...


I agree that possibility exists, but the nice thing about the contest is that EPIC employs a complex judging system that will show wide variances (indicating someone either marking down or up, when compared with other judges). It would be difficult to get enough people doing this sort of thing in such a way that it wouldn't be noticed.


Angela Benedetti said...

Major kudos for this; it's been needed for quite some time. And I'm with you in not caring what the bigots think or say.

I've been pondering whether or not to re-up my membership when it comes due; the squestering of GLBT titles in the lavender ghetto has made it pretty clear what EPIC has thought of me and my peers in the past, and I hadn't seen much progress. I'm very happy with this new development, though, and I'll definitely be re-upping, and volunteering to judge this year.


BrennaLyons said...

Actually, it's not that EPIC wanted to segregate anyone. I could make all the apologies and excuses in the world, but it comes down to this time line. Jolie was there for it, so she knows what I mean by this.

Under the old judging scheme, it became increasingly worrisome that we weren't getting an impartial judging for GLBT in the categories. A section of the GLBT crowd...some frustrated and some exclusionists by nature...suggested we split them out, and we did.

Other people came in, more inclusionist by nature, and suggested alternatives to make inclusion possible. Once we eked out a way to do it, we went forward to bring them back into the categories...where they started out.

Believe it or not, EPIC's only stance was to try and offer an impartial judging, all along. We were just at a loss to do that effectively for some time.


Helen said...

I think these were the right changes to make. As has been argued in previous years, genres are defined by theme, not by the sexual orientation or religion of the characters.

Jim Brown said...

As some will recall (and are probably fed up hearing me say lol) I have been stating for a few months now that this is going to be a landmark year for the EPIC organisation, and this is yet another notable point in what is making that landmark. I have been taking a more and more active part in EPIC since I joined and I do so because I see EPIC now beginning to take the bull by the horns and start to make the running in the e-publishing industry.

This is a huge move by EPIC, make no bones about it, and it's one that will lose it some members as a result - just as any radical changes in any organisation will. However, no matter how bold a move this is, it's without doubt the BEST move to have made. EPIC is inclusive, and so should its flagship contest be.

Jim Brown

Auguste Li said...

At least EPIC is smart enough to realize that sexual orientation is only one facet of a character. There are thousands of great characters out there for whom no sexual preference is given or even implied. For all we know, Gandalf could be gay, but it wouldn't matter and it wouldn't change the story.

And as far as finding these characters "unacceptable"...

Would anyone dare to say they find black or Jewish characters unacceptable? Of course not, because they'd know how bigoted and disgusting such a statement would be. What people need to realize is that it is just as bad to make a comment like this regarding GLBT characters. It makes me very sad they can't. But at least EPIC can. Thanks, Brenna, for posting this. On one hand it's encouraging, but it also shows that we still have a long way to go.

Kathleen Bradean said...

My congratulations to the committee that worked on these categories.

This tempest reminds me of a radio interview I heard when South Africa's apartheid was being dismantled. An outraged white man said, "Where does this end? With one man, one vote, that's what'll happen. And then everyone will expect to be treated equally." He seemed to think it was a bad thing. I wonder how he feels today. The world didn't end. It probably didn't change his life one iota.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

I don't write BGBT, but what has always surprised me is that the outspoken Christians (I am a church-going Christian) appear so weak in their faith that if they face a contary view, their faith is shaken. They can't read about a gay family, or their faith will be shaken. They MUST pray in school, or their faith will be shaken...We can't allow gay marriages because our own hetrosexual marriages will be shaken....

Bravo for the Epics to be inclusive and not exclusive!

And hey, no one is forcing anyone to enter this contest. You don't want to enter because it will destablize your faith, fine. That'll make it easier for a GLBT to win.....


Hi, all -

I am constantly amazed at the number of writers who try to censor other writers' work.

I attended a writer's group meeting earlier this year where Writer A announced that she did not want Writer B to read her work aloud (as most were doing) because she was a Christian and found Writer B's erotica objectionable.

I was appalled. Why couldn't Writer A simply leave the room when Writer B read her work? Why should her religious rights be more important than someone else's first amendment rights? And what does Christianity have to do with attending a writer's group?

Cripes! Funny how so many people insist on not having their rights infringed but, in exercising their rights, they stomp all over everyone elses...

The GLBT issues being addressed here mirror issues that have always existed and discrimination of all types should be outlawed. (Oh, you mean it IS already?)

I'll shut up, since I'm preaching to the choir.

Belinda said...

These are certainly appropriate changes, and long overdue. GLBT literature shouldn't be lumped into a single division, it spans too many genre.

I congratulate the committee on changing the name of the spiritual category as well. There are many belief systems in the world, as well as many who view themselves as spiritual, but don't fall under any religious headings.

No matter what you do, someone will complain.

BrennaLyons said...


What I find distressing is that there still ARE people who will openly complain about I/R books as well. If all the characters are AA, they just avoid them, if they don't want to read them, but if they purchase an I/R and didn't expect it, expect hate mail from at least one person.

Now, labeling books is a double-edged sword, no doubt about it. On one hand, it lets people find what they want...or don't want to read and allows for less blind chance in whether or not you'll enjoy a book, at the outset. On the other hand, it perpetuates a certain air of bigotry. Not the reason we have labels and content cautions, but there she is.


BrennaLyons said...


I love this post! Thank you for saying precisely what I was thinking. The bottom line is... This contest is about the best book. It's not about the best book with het characters in individual genres and separately the best book with GLBT content...in all genres mixed.

Not that I'm suggesting we should have separate but equal categories. A nightmare for the coordinators! Not to mention that the US decided separate but equal was a bad idea back in the 60's.


BrennaLyons said...


You are SO right. No matter what the committee does, they are burned in effigy by someone. I guarantee it.

They are left with a couple of core concerns. What is right/ethical? What will cause the least havoc for those running the contest? What will avoid lawsuits? All three answers here come back to the same decision, thankfully...as long as everyone fills out their entry forms and judging forms correctly.


BrennaLyons said...

Another note to Augusta...

True story time.

When my first novel released for sale, I got hate mail from a reader. The reason? One of the strong secondary characters was AA. But, since I believe no one should get an in-depth description until there's a reason for it, he wasn't described in detail until the fifth chapter. The reader complained that I'd "let" her think the character was white all that time.

Uh...no. I made no indications, one way or the other. Her natural inclinations were to assume he was white. She didn't LIKE that he wasn't. Her malfunction, but yes... She did complain about an AA character.


Rachel Kenley said...

Thanks for posting about this, Brenna. EPIC has always worked to take steps where others are not ready to, for example, leading the way in acceptance and validation for epublishing.

Whether in fiction or non, children's or adult genres, there is such narrow mindedness and... fear, I suppose, that it continues to shock me (although I suppose it shouldn't). Children's book "And Tango Makes Three" has been on the most banned book for over two years. The ALA Notable Children's Book is the true story about two male penguins in NY's Central Park zoo who formed a couple and raised a baby penguin from the time it hatched. It is considered by (too) many to be inappropriate for children. As others have said - I think bigotry is inappropriate for children. And the world.

BRAVO Epic. Keep up the good work.

-Rachel, who wants to visit Planet du Pre, at least.

Angela Caperton said...

Well done, Brenna and EPIC. That this was ever an issue is a shame, but I'm glad to know EPIC's not afraid to do the right thing.

Jeanne said...

"is that the new definition of Spiritual/Metaphysical (formerly called Inspirational/Metaphysical) weakens the stance of *Christian* works by diluting the category and allowing non-Christian works. Non-Christian was always welcome but felt they weren't, because of bad wording. If making the wording clear offends someone, that's lamentable. Since non-Christian works were always welcome, though they may not have realized it, this is no real change."
This offends me almost as much as the stance about GLBT.
Did someone actually say this?
That this category was felt to be the sole property of Christian writers only?
Now, I'm thinking I might just enter my work in this category because it sure as heck is inextricably tied with a *non-Christian* inspiration.
And re. Brenna's comment:
"What I find distressing is that there still ARE people who will openly complain about I/R books as well. If all the characters are AA, they just avoid them, if they don't want to read them, but if they purchase an I/R and didn't expect it, expect hate mail from at least one person."
Wow! Too bad, "The Sweet Flag", my first m/m story is ineligible. It would have annoyed the heck out of two groups since one of the main characters was both IR *and* Jewish!

Great post, Brenna.
Jolie's planet is getting crowded!

Karmen Red said...

People just love to categorize everything, and the lines around these neat little boxes are always blurred. I’ve found it’s not inconsistent to be bisexual and spiritual and have some unpopular beliefs. I base a lot of my opinions on intelligent research, history, and experience—not simply following the masses on every popular wave. If I did that, I’d have a 9 to 5 job and 2.5 kids—never! Yes, Brenna, we’re not all carbon copies! Individuals are exactly that, and I would have loved some GLBT YA literature when I was a teenager, and even younger--I knew of my preferences way before my teenage years. No genre/subgenre will ever appeal to all, that’s partially why they are categorized as their own genre to begin with, so one can identify their preferences. I applaud EPIC for their brave move, and if the judges who don’t agree with the GLBT inclusion of course should opt out of judging them, and leave their opinions to themselves.

I’ve found that anger, even if justified, doesn’t accomplish anything except to attract more negativity. Ditto for name-calling and elitism. Escapism might be fun for a while, but realistically we have to get down to earth and down to work. Some people are unreachable and are best left alone with their ignorance, egos, and misconceptions. Some who claim to be open-minded show that they are less than that when exposed to preferences/fetishes of which they have no interest or knowledge. They and others need education, and I’ve written some articles with a GLBT focus---time for more. And authors such as us will continue to write, promote, and sell GLBT literature, which the rising demand for will speak for itself. Thanks, Brenna, for bringing this up!