The Latest YA Twitter Pile On Forces a Rising Star to Self-Cancel -

The world of young-adult fiction is no stranger to controversy, whether it’s a weeks-long war against a problematic book or a whisper network accusing a badly behaved male author. But even against this backdrop of continually percolating dramas, the saga surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s Blood Heir was unusually dramatic: a scattering of small, apparently disconnected fires started by persons unknown, all abruptly extinguished by the author herself yesterday when she called for her own book to be canceled.

Blood Heir, the first in a planned three-book series, began as the ultimate social media–meets–publishing success story. Zhao matched with her agent, Park Literary’s Peter Knapp, during a Twitter pitching event for marginalized creators (Zhao immigrated from China to the U.S. at the age of 18). Her fantasy series, a loose retelling of Anastasia with a diverse cast of characters and a hefty dose of blood magic, sold at auction in a high six-figure deal with Delacorte. And over the course of the past year, Zhao emerged as an active and outspoken participant in the YA community — not just the author of a buzzworthy debut but an enthusiastic, effective communicator who was deeply engaged with issues of diversity and knew how to make herself heard.

“Set out with good intentions,” Zhao wrote in March 2018, in a post advising other writers on how to navigate social media. “Be enthusiastic, be positive, be supportive, cheer people on — all those things you’d want to find in a real-life friend, be those things online and in the writing community, too.”

Amélie Wen Zhao. Photo: Crystal Wong
A scroll through her Twitter history shows that Zhao generally followed her own advice in the year after she sold her book, boosting fellow authors and writing about the issues she faced as part of YA’s nonwhite minority. (In one tweet, she mused: “I’ve been asked several times why I didn’t write a Chinese #ownvoices novel. I don’t want to be boxed into the permanent ‘Other;’ I want diverse books written by PoC to become part of the mainstream.”)

Early last week, however, influencers within the YA community began tweeting vaguely about an unnamed person engaged in bad authorial behavior: targeting book bloggers for harassment over negative reviews, “shit talking other authors of color.” The villain’s identity was initially a mystery and source of fascination, but elsewhere, a woman who tweets under the handle @LegallyPaige wasn’t being so cagey about naming names: “I’ll tell you which 2019 debut author, according to the whisper network, has been gathering screenshots of people who don’t/didn’t like her book and giving off Kathleen Hale vibes: Amelie Wen Zhao.”

Although LegallyPaige declined to offer proof of Zhao’s alleged screenshotting-with-intent, her thread now looks a bit like the opening salvo in a larger campaign to sabotage the debut author. A flurry of additional accusations followed: that Zhao had plagiarized a death scene from The Hunger Games, lifted a line from Tolkien, gotten the conventions wrong on her Russian-inspired characters’ names, and indulged in problematic world-building by putting a slave auction scene in her book — in which a black character was ignominiously killed off.

Paige Cee @LegallyPaige

I have nothing to lose by it and have the time, I'll tell you which 2019 debut author, according to the whisper network, has been gathering screenshots of people who don't/didn't like her book and giving off Kathleen Hale vibes:

Amèlie Wen Zhao.

Whether Zhao was guilty of any of the above is still up for debate, particularly in the absence of a finished book. (Blood Heir was not slated to publish until June; some reviewers had advance copies.) But unless we want to eliminate the Death Song trope from fiction or ding Tolkien’s own use of paraphrased Bible passages, the plagiarism allegations are shaky at best — and the charge of racism, led by a series of caustic tweets from YA fantasy author L.L. McKinney, relies on both a subjective interpretation of the word “bronze” and an exclusively American reading of scenes involving slavery. Nevertheless, the latter allegations caught the attention of social-justice-minded readers, and the controversy began to balloon. A smattering of one-star reviews cropped up on Zhao’s Goodreads page. Book bloggers began announcing that they no longer intended to read Blood Heir. In a tweet thread that did not name or tag Zhao but was clearly about her, well-known author Ellen Oh wrote, “Dear POC writers, You are not immune to charges of racism just because you are POC.”

It’s worth noting here that the role of Asian women within YA’s writers of color contingent has been a flashpoint for conflict before — one that led Zhao to butt heads with YA queen bee Justina Ireland in May 2018. After Ireland wrote a (since deleted) tweet that some readers interpreted as exclusionary gatekeeping of the “POC” label, Zhao launched a long thread asserting that Asian women are, indeed, women of color, including some pointed language about those who would suggest otherwise.

“You can delete your tweets, and we’re not going to come into your mentions, but ask yourselves why you wrote those/agreed with those in the first place, and why there is such an outcry. While we’re on the valid issue of anti-POC within POC groups, examine your own beliefs, too.” (She did not tag Ireland, but needless to say, everyone knew whom she was talking about.)

Amélie Wen Zhao @ameliewenzhao

· May 11, 2018

Replying to @ameliewenzhao
Secondly, if we found someone’s tweet offensive, what happened to calling IN? Wasn’t that supposed to be a thing? Infighting among POC, who are all fighting to get past that ~7% in children’s publishing, just tears us apart even more? When we’ve got a whole 93% out there to face?

Amélie Wen Zhao @ameliewenzhao

There are already so many barriers for POC and WOC in the industry. Why is this the hill we all want to die on? Please don’t claim to advocate for POC and then proceed to criticize us. Especially young, debut WOC who are new to this industry and breaking barriers.

It’s impossible to say right now whether this eight-month-old beef was the spark for a retaliatory campaign by Ireland’s supporters, which focuses on Zhao’s alleged insensitivity to the history of African-American slavery. What is clear is that the current controversy speaks to a larger, ongoing debate in YA about marginalized identities, “own voices,” and who is and isn’t entitled to tell certain kinds of stories.

In the past, this sort of grumbling over imperfectly woke books has sometimes grown into a five-alarm social-media fire replete with vote brigading, form-letter writing, and petitions to cancel publication. But whether Blood Heir might have eventually become a target of animus on the order of The Black Witch, American Heart, or The Continent, we’ll never know. Just as Twitter was beginning to fan the flames of the controversy, Amélie Wen Zhao — who had been silent since before @LegallyPaige first accused her of plotting against book bloggers — gave her first and (for now) last statement on the matter. She had not intended to evoke an offensive analogy to American slavery, she said, but she had nevertheless asked Delacorte not to publish her book.

“The issues around Affinite indenturement in the story represent a specific critique of the epidemic of indentured labor and human trafficking prevalent in many industries across Asia, including in my own home country,” Zhao wrote. “The narrative and history of slavery in the United States is not something I can, would, or intended to write, but I recognize that I am not writing in merely my own cultural context.” The statement continued: “I don’t wish to clarify, defend, or have anyone defend me. This is not that; this is an apology.”

Unsurprisingly, the response was wide-ranging and intense. Some (including Ellen Oh) lauded Zhao for her bravery, others derided her for cowardice, and many wondered aloud if the author had self-censored voluntarily out of fear of a mob that would hound her until publication and beyond. For now, the future of Blood Heir remains uncertain — and the Twittersphere rages on.
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Block Me
When people start to deplatform and censor themselves instead of waiting for the powers that be to do it, you know the brainwashing has really set in. This lady did nothing wrong and all of the criticism against her book is hearsay at this point, but if she wants to kneecap her own career just so she can look good to the Twitter mob, then I hope she's prepared to deal with the consequences.


Castigat ridendo mores
True & Honest Fan
What world of young adult fiction is there? It's not for grown ass adults, this should really just be the people directly involved in the industry, librarians, etc.
I mean, I know that the usual set of people who make endless political comparisons to Harry Potter and who have never emotionally moved on to adult novels besides 50 shades are involved of course, but it's just so fucking sad.

So this author originally got this gig just because she's a "woc" and ultimately SJW-shit ended up ruining this for her with accusations that have no solid proof, so much she decided to just step down and cuck up?

If you're gonna be a fiction author use a pen name, write what you want, and don't go on twitter and even involve yourself in political rhetoric of any kind.
Don't use self-dealt victim cards for woke points even if you've got a royal flush. It's never gonna end well. The mob can and will turn on you at any time.
Holy fucking shit I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I'd built myself up as an author like this.

This is just sad and infuriating to read.

Kari Kamiya

"I beat her up, so I gave her a cuck-cup."
This is a unique case where cannibalism is infuriating instead of funny because it's affecting the written word. But on the other hand, if she was so willing to cancel her own book series after spending God knows how much time developing an idea she was invested in writing about just because a bunch of brats through a fit over something so stupid as "Bwaaaaa it's racist a black slave died during a slave auction where slave auctions actually happen!", she probably wasn't going to take the inevitable criticism well anyway had it ended up published.

Wait, no, it's still infuriating no matter what. She immigrated from China for reasons that are her own (taking a guess that one reason is because she knew she would've been unable to publish her books there), and she wished to be a writer. But then instead of ignoring the voices cropping up (they had to have come from someone who had access to her work such as a reviewer, narrowing down the suspects), she chose to bend the knee to apologize for what she wrote and scorched the earth because that's just the way Big Brother likes it. Bonus points for her just being Chinese.

Fuck the YA community.


True & Honest Fan
> a loose retelling of Anastasia
> "I want diverse books written by PoC to become part of the mainstream."

> gotten the conventions wrong on her Russian-inspired characters’ names

lol just fuck off forever

Except now it makes it gives the assfucks who mau-mau'd her in the first place validation and fuel to come after other writers more forcefully.
Other YA writers. YA is the dead tree equivalent of SEO spam. And they're all "rising stars" because you can only use a domain name once before it gets blacklisted by major providers.

I'm not so :optimistic: as to think it will happen in normie literature (because it does), but retardlit is the symptom, not the cause. Its two vectors of attack on normalcy are shit parenting (where it's just another vice for neglected children to indulge in) and disproportionate influence of rich celebrities (not unique to retardlit celebrities, of which there's... like... one?)

Judge Holden

True & Honest Fan
Her book sounds like whiny self indulgent garbage. Nothing of value was lost.
You may well be 100% correct, but she should have still been able to publish her crappy book without a lynch mob screeching about how she is a literal klansman who literliterally murdered a billion niggers by having a "black coded"* character die.

Frankly I find the existence of shit-tier meyer-esque authors who do nothing but shit twilight expies into the english canon a billion times preferable to the exceptionally repulsive and monumentally hypocritical, ignorant, bigoted, petty, spiteful, sanctimonious, smug, *a dozen more derogatory yet wholly accurate pejoratives*, and self satisfied REEEEE mobs that now infest seemingly all levels of modern literature and have the power to destroy careers just on a fucking whim or out of jealous pettiness.

Especially since we can only guess how many decent or even great writers have been blacklisted forever from having their works published and/or become utterly disenchanted with writing as a whole and given up completely solely after crossing this aggressive narrative-purity inquisition. My only hope is that the entire established publishing/writing sphere these shitbags derive power from dies screaming and their despicable conduct is cited in posterity as an example of how important it is for writers and publishers alike to never give a goddamn inch to a screeching faux-outraged mob.

*which is literally just "DIS CHARACTER IS NOT EXPLICITLY DECLARED A FFFFFFUCKING WHYTE MAAAAAALE EVERY PAGE! OBVIOUSLY SHE IS BLACK AND THE AUTHOR IS GASLIGHTING US BY NOT CONFIRMING THIS!" which can be spun out of declaring a character to have curly hair or brown eyes or a fucking suntan
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Next Task

True & Honest Fan
Fuck the YA community.
It really does sound like there's a whole bunch of Requires Hate-esque women in the community, who demand perfect obedience or you will be accused of all the crimes in the social justice world, true or not. And of course, the accusations will always stick, because otherwise you're not believing victims - even when there are no victims, it's just wrongthink.

And it couldn't be clearer in this instance - because nobody has any proof. It's guaranteed that most of the people bitching about the book can't know what they're talking about because they wouldn't have had a chance to read it yet. So every 'crime' she's been accused of and been harassed for must be mob-based and, likely, imaginary.

Anyone with the delusion that a group of women running things would be inherently better than a group of men really should just look at these book communities, especially with YA and romance, and be harshly disabused.


will definitely consider what you have said
True & Honest Fan
If you write YA, this is the risk you run. YA publishers now routinely employ "diversity readers" to try and head some of these issues off at the pass... but the thing is, you can read a race/ethnicity subtext into ANY fiction if you try hard enough.

But you need to be a much more technically adept writer to write adult literary fiction than to write YA, so... people just hope to god they will make it into tumblr fandom and riches before the ritual bookburning of their work begins.

The "YA Community" really is toxic, and probably deserves a thread in the community watch.

I'm an aspiring writer, and without wanting to be accused of shedding "white male tears", sometimes it does feel like white guys are getting overlooked in the search for diverse writers. Nearly all of the twitter pitch events are aimed at diversity, I can only think of two which are open to all. Plus there's the utter intolerance to any view which aren't their own - I'm no avid Trump supporter, but I'd be just as reluctant to associate with someone who said "all Hillary supporters should be punched." Most of the agents who I'm interested in are usually closed to submissions when I'm in a pitching mood, or state they're "especially looking for diverse voices." It should be all about the story, not the skin color of who wrote it.

(Maybe my story is shit and the literary agents would bin it, but there's so few chances for them to actually get to see it that it's hard to know....)

The MG (approx 8-12) writers' community is largely more friendly and story focused, so as my story doesn't need teenage themes to work, I really am tempted to shorten it a bit, and tone down some of the scary themes.

Kari Kamiya

"I beat her up, so I gave her a cuck-cup."
Over the years hearing from people such as @Puddleduck here and in other writing circles talk about their woes of wanting to be a writer has got me thinking: At this point, self-publishing looks more and more appealing by the day--the problem is, you have to know what the fuck you're doing in order to guarantee you can turn a profit, and you have to be published by someone that actually cares for you (look up stories about the PublishAmerica/America Star Books scams). Being a writer is a bit of a thankless job--really, being an artist in general is thankless, hence the term "starving artist". It's extremely hard to get publicly noticed as an author, the stars have to be aligned just right on top of having the right connections in order to get registered as a blip on some folks' radars. You'd have to dedicate yourself into writing hundreds of thousands of words in order to get someone to recognize you. And if you have an idea that needs to be told as a series (when it's much, much easier and highly recommended to do stand-alones), if you don't turn a profit, you can't finish the story. Marketing yourself helps, and it's much easier to do it today on the Internet than it was back when you were subscribed to magazines, but how many writers are actually comfortable enough to brand themselves?

I honestly have no idea how it is people like Cassandra Clare and E.L. James ended up landing a publishing deal and got away with making a profit off of their shitty fan fiction (which should be grounds for getting fucking sued unless you were chosen to write canonized fan fiction for a sci-fi franchise like Star Wars or Star Trek). Someone like Danielle Steel can get away with rehashing and retooling what little romance plots she has come up with because she made a name for herself by publishing a shit-ton of books every year and dominating the romance novel market (though she's written children's books on the side as well). But it's really and truly much easier to just pass off writing as a hobby that you do on your spare time than to actually get checks in the mail for it.

While I think people do and should get mocked at for labeling themselves as "aspiring writers" because they haven't professionally proven themselves, shit like this incident is why people call themselves that, it's that easy to get your transcripts rejected. Unfortunately, you can't send multiple transcripts out at once anymore, you have to do it one publishing company at a time which can take weeks to months to getting heard back from. And you're going to get rejected each and every time. You have to be lucky to get a publishing deal so early like Zhao had (even if it's just because of a diversity hire). As much as I have some ideas floating around in my head that I'd like to get published in either under the YA label or just regular fiction, I at least am aware of the fact my ideas are extremely niche (partly due to religious themes, partly because lol Christians and stories about magic don't mix), and I probably have a better chance of publishing under something so niche yet close-to-home like Deseret Book--but I honestly doubt I'd ever get a deal made with them because of what I choose to write about.

Yeah, yeah, "you won't know if you don't try" and all that. Except when Amazon and Goodreads makes it more appealing to just throw your raw transcript up on their services and have your readers from shill for it in your place because you so desperately want some kind of attention ASAP, meanwhile actual shitty work somehow get published under big-name labels and become "best sellers" in an instant, that just tells me there's a problem with the publishing industry (or more appropriately a clique) as a whole in how they squash new writers before they can get out of the gate.


Hehe xd
So this author originally got this gig just because she's a "woc" and ultimately SJW-shit ended up ruining this for her with accusations that have no solid proof, so much she decided to just step down and cuck up?

If you're gonna be a fiction author use a pen name, write what you want, and don't go on twitter and even involve yourself in political rhetoric of any kind.
Don't use self-dealt victim cards for woke points even if you've got a royal flush. It's never gonna end well. The mob can and will turn on you at any time.
Holy fucking shit I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I'd built myself up as an author like this.

This is just sad and infuriating to read.
A smarter move would be to push them further so that they buy the books just to burn them, ala Salman Rushdie.

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