Alexander Hellene

Your New Editors

By Alexander Hellene

The writer was called to the table.

“You do understand the, um, the importance of why you’re here, right?” said the editor. A square-jawed woman who tried to look like a kindly grandmother but couldn’t enliven the deadness behind her dark eyes. Her smile was not convincing.

“I do,” said the writer. Flop sweat pooled in the small of their back. An itch burst into life on the side of their nose, but they would not give the editor the satisfaction of seeing a hint of nerves.

Or the others at the table.

A more striking collection of unique individuals would be harder to find at a circus midway. To use an analogy they’d likely understand had it been vocalized, this menagerie would be a little too off-putting for the denizens of Jabba’s palace.

And the writer knew why they were there.

“So, you know, um, the last time we had this issue,” the editor went on, uncanny valley smile barely moving as she spoke, “it was taken care of, you know? Very quickly.”

The writer resisted the urge to clear their throat. “It was.”

“And that was good. Because, you know, um, it was sort of a, thing . . .” As she spoke, the editor entwined her fingers in a spastic version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” as though trying to show the writer that she really cared, was really broken up the whole thing. “You kind of deadnamed somebody . . .”

“Accidentally,” the writer interjected.

“Yeah, accidentally.”

“And it was a fictional character,” the writer was quick to point out. “One I didn’t create. It was for the franchise—”

“Uh-huh, yes, of course!” The editor was nodding now, her head threatening to break the sound barrier. “But, um, but it was still really offensive. And so now that you know, it’s really concerning to us that you’ve um, you’ve done something like this again.”

Now the writer was confused. Just really dumbfounded. For this last book, they’d made sure to work with every single consultant the editor had required the writer to work with. The manuscript had been scrubbed for all pronouns, all microaggressions, all language that was no longer acceptable in a civilized world. An arid wave slowly parched the writer’s mouth. “I have?”

“Yeah, well, it’s more like you did,” the editor said, trying on an eyebrow-enhanced expression of concern that reminded the writer of a shark slightly perturbed to be eating something beautiful. “In your old books? A few jokes that are, hmm, not funny?”

“My . . . old books?” The writer hated being caught off-guard in front of the editor and her panel of experts, but the repetition was involuntary. “I don’t think I . . .”

“Yeah, it’s our new policy. Any time we have a creator who’s been flagged, we have to do a reassessment of their work. We have a duty here to make sure our published books are updated to reflect the changing society we live in. And so, um, there are other books that are going to be unpublished because they’re unsalvageable.”

“Un . . . salvageable.” There they went with the repetition again.

Now the editor was stern. “Yes. Looking over some of them, we’ve determined that it wasn’t just a few words here or there, but the overall story. So, you know, you won’t be getting royalties from them. And, um, you’ll have to pay back whatever you’ve earned already on those books . . .”

*     *     *

I remember a Frank Zappa compilation album I bought in the late 1990s called Have I Offended Someone? It contained some of the man’s most offensive songs, whether about race or gender or sexuality or religoin: “He’s So Gay,” “Dumb All Over,” “Bobby Brown Goes Down,” “Dinah-Moe Humm,” “Titties N’ Beer,” “In France,” “Jewish Princess,” “Catholic Girls,” and so on. I will say, the inclusion of mid-80s anti-hippie rant “We’re Turning Again” was a nice touch.

This album contained an essay written by someone from a late-60s rock group called The Fugs. The Fugs, from what I understand, were very political and mean hippies of a radical bent. In this essay, the Fug in question wrote about how Zappa stayed maddeningly apolitical until the 1980s and the election of Ronald Reagan, where he became a full-on anti-Christian bigot and doctrinaire Democrat. Zappa also fought the censorship of the, interestingly, Democrat-led Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) and the associated proposed tape tax, which I suspect was of equal import to the business-minded Zappa.

Anyway, this essay expressed concern with “theocons,” a portmanteau of “theological conservatives,” who were going to someday use their “ray guns” to zap offensive portions of songs, such as Zappa’s, out of existence because they’re just too darn offensive.

Well, it turns out that Mr. Fug was right, but it wasn’t the “theocons” using new technology to selectively edit out problematic portions of pop music!

None other than super-ultra-megastar Beyoncé has been pressured to update a song from her new album for containing the words “spazzin’” and “spaz.” Just like her friend Lizzo!

Beyoncé is going to update the Renaissance song “Heated” after facing criticism over lyrics considered ableist. The line in question is “spazzin’ on that ass, spaz on that ass”—featuring words often used as slurs against those with spastic cerebral palsy. “The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced,” Beyoncé’s representative clarified in a statement. The new lyrics are: “Blastin’ on that ass, blast on that ass.”

Following the song’s release, Beyoncé faced criticism from disability advocates like Hannah Diviney. “I’m tired and frustrated that we’re having this conversation again so soon after we got such a meaningful and progressive response from Lizzo,” Diviney told BBC News.

Lizzo recently faced criticism for using the same term on her new song “Grrrls.” She updated the song to change the lyrics and issued a statement. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language,” she wrote. “As a fat Black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally).”

You can’t make this stuff up even if you tried. That the subject of the progressive’s retroactive censorship policies also happens to be a gigantic progressive true believer of the Church of Woke is particularly delicious. Even pop culture wonder girls aren’t immune from this. It makes you wonder if, say, rap lyrics are going to be faced with the same level of scrutiny? Or, perhaps, Frank Zappa?

However, this raises two important points about what creators should do if a mob ever tries to get you to change something based on their own particular set of blasphemy laws:

  1. You straighten up and give them your stiffest one-fingered salute. Just say no. It’s better to get fired like long-time best-selling Battletech scribe Blaine L. Pardoe and continue with this defiant attitude than to actually go along with any sort of censorship scam. Because . . .
  2. If you ever give in to the mob even once, they are your new editors forever. Nothing you do will escape their ire. You will allow mentally unstable people on the Internet, who do not represent the entirety of your potential audience, to have a say in your art. This is stupid and insane because you will never get rid of these people. Further those on the other side of the great divide aren’t exactly going to be full of trust should you try to get into their good graces after suffering from a particularly devastating bout of cancellation.

I look forward to Beyoncé and her ilk being forced to “update” more songs, just for the laugh factor, because I know that (a) they’ll go along with whatever insanity comes their way, and (b) it’s not going to affect their pocketbook in any way. Still, for regular people like you and me, just say “No” to giving these freaks editorial control over your work.

– Alexander


I use professional editors who don’t hate me, or you. Buy my books here:

1 thought on “Your New Editors”

  1. Riccardo Montana Esq.

    All the Single Ladies excludes persons of the married persuasion and is hurtful toward those with no ring finger.

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