A few things have happened since I posted my opinion on an essay published by Tuscany Press.
Tuscany has now added a hasty disclaimer to the end of Nico Gnoci’s essay, but you have to scroll all the way to the end to see it and they haven’t bothered to clean up the formatting mistakes. The editor-in-chief also told me in an email that it is opinion, and should not be confused with the stance of Tuscany Press.
They’ve also added a new essay giving a direct rebuttal. It’s by Declan Finn, and it’s a cleaned-up version of what he already posted. I recommend reading the original for full effect, though I admit the newer version’s title (“Set Catholic Sci-Fi Argument for Stun! – Captain Kirk Responds”) is 110% better than Declan’s original.
On the other hand, you can leave comments on Catholic Fiction now. Oh, did I mention that they haven’t been allowing comments? I pointed that out in another email; I had pointed out that Tuscany can hardly lay claim to being interested in a wide range of opinions if they refused to allow comments, which is the stance they were taking with me. I haven’t had a response yet, but suddenly there are now seven comments on Gnoci’s essay, including mine and Declan’s. (Declan’s is far more entertaining.)
Go leave your own comments on both. And if you don’t see it up within 24 hours, please let me know. I want to make a list, and you can be certain I’m checking it twice.
The interesting thing is, after I posted my rebuttal and analysis, other people started telling me of issues that they’ve had with Tuscany. Odd reviews, false claims, strange coincidences; some of it is anecdotal, but others are verifiable. I’m interested in any more someone might have. Please email me with information if you have it.
I’ve never gotten directly involved with publishers before, aside from Chesterton Press, unless you count freelancing contracts. (And officially, Chesterton Press merely has me on retainer; I advise them and do editing for them, but I’m not actually a representative of the company.) I’ve drawn this thick and obvious line for a reason: I don’t want to be an agent. I want to be an editor. I don’t find networking and building contacts and advocating for a manuscript (at least, not for pay) to be fun at all. I want to work with words, help authors craft amazing tales, and generally have fun with telling stories.
The discussions that this has sparked have made me change my mind. I’ve got to move that line a bit. I still don’t want to be an editor, but I’m now going to be taking a much closer look at publishers, what they’re looking for, and what might be best for an author. I’ve deliberately not given much advice on this topic before, and now it is clearly overdue for me to change that stance.
I’m going to start by collecting a list of publishers. It’ll be permanently placed at the top of the blog, laying out the basics of what each publisher is looking for and my opinion of them, if any. This list will not be limited to Catholic presses, any more than this blog is limited to Catholic topics. Tuscany Press will be listed; it’s my hope that I’ll be able to recommend them as well.
One problem I have with them, however, is that they informed me a long time ago that they were actively looking for science fiction and fantasy with Catholic themes. I am, so far as I know, the only Catholic freelance editor specializing in science fiction and fantasy, so I get a lot of people coming up to me at trade shows and conventions asking about the topic, both readers and authors. I’ve been recommending Tuscany to them precisely because of that stance.
Yesterday, I searched their catalog, something I’ve neglected to do for years. They do not list any science fiction or fantasy. None. This despite holding up Tolkien as an example of proper fiction.
I also recognized a book they were promoting as part of the 2015 Tuscany Prize. A few years ago, I rejected that manuscript. I’m interested in whether or not the issues in it have been addressed. I’ve offered Tuscany my notes from my original evaluation (for free; I was already paid once, and the author should have gotten a copy). When it comes out, I’ll be interested in reading it to see how it’s changed in the last couple of years. I hope it’s for the better; I’ve used it as an example (not giving the title or the author’s name) in my classes a few times, and I’d love to drop the anonymity and use it as a rags-to-riches tale of how a manuscript can go from bad to good with effort.
In the meantime, go comment on Gnoci’s essay, as well as Declan’s rebuttal, and go say hi over at the chivalricly-named Tom Knighton’s blog, where he’s given his own analysis of the original issue. (Minor disclaimer: Tom, Declan, and I are all part of the same Facebook writers’ group, which is how Tom heard about the issue. Declan, as I said before, is the one who alerted me to the essay.)
Finally, I’d like to close with the second-hand comments one of my authors sent me, originally from her mother, a lifelong sci-fi fan. Said mother apparently read my analysis and wanted to share her own insights:
The fact that the author of the anti-science-fiction silliness very, screamingly, obviously NEVER read or watched any science fiction is not particularly disturbing, at least to me. Science fiction is certainly not for everyone. Lots of folks don’t like opera. Or Andy Warhol. Or BlueGrass.
What is very disturbing is that a publisher, complete with editors, would put such a poorly written essay on its website. It is mechanically, factually and rhetorically about 6th grade. Maybe. What kind of authors are they looking for?
You know what they say . . . Mother knows best!