As a Canadian woman who happens to also be an author and former journalist, I can tell you first-hand the sad state of affairs in my country’s publishing sectors. The government, at all levels, have constantly given welfare checks to both authors and publishers, but the pity cash is labelled “grants”: the Ontario Arts Council’s office is located in a very posh part of Toronto, overlooking stores such as Tiffany’s, but make no mistake: the publishing companies here would cease to exist immediately if the government stopped funding this enterprise. So many Canadian publishers fall despite the bailouts, anyway. Douglas & McIntyre could not keep it going after forty years. McClelland and Stewart, once run by the University of Toronto, had to be sold to Random House because that academic institution couldn’t keep it going. For all the talk of Canada’s literary community being tight-knit, what it is, in fact, is stifling, oppressive, reactionary, elitist, archaic, incestuous, and dysfunctional.
It is the dirty little secret of Canada: when it comes to publishing, we don’t know what the hell we are doing. Period. Canadian newspapers are folding. Canadian magazines are folding. Canadian publishers are folding, and while this is a global issue, we are decaying at a faster rate than the Unites States or the United Kingdom. It is truly terrifying.
But it is easy to see why the problem exists here. Canada is not exactly a vanguard of experimentation or innovation in the communications fields, and despite our reputation of being some sort of multicultural mosaic, publishing is not the place to find it.
It is a sexist and patriarchal system. Female authors get reviewed far less in major publications than men, for instance. Many who are published are so because they know people, meaning it is self-publish by proxy. We don’t set the literary world on fire for good reason: publishers appeal to a small subset of potential readers with no eye on the future. You would think for all the crowing about how progressive Canada is politically, that we’d be the bastions of literary expression as well. No dice.
It is a dominance of old school thinking in these parts. We are the literary boonies out here. We don’t even have iconic fictional female sleuths. It is stodgy and the ways of those who are in charge are absolutely killing the industry here at an increasingly rapid rate, and the only solution offered from those who have the courage to acknowledge that there is an actual problem is to suggest that the government should keep funding a sinking ship. It is a passive mindset that is the root of the problem.
If any author was a true progressive and actually cared about the state of publishing, they would be railing against the systemic sexist and racist tyranny in a public forum. I am. I do every chance I get, knowing full well that I am not making friends pointing out the rot. I deeply care about my profession, but I don’t care what those symbiotic cowards think about me.
But when Canadian authors do speak out and rail in a public forum, you can bet your last dollar it is not because they see the collapse of their industry and the misogynistic and bigoted reasons behind it. They will be defending some privileged white male with the Anglo name and the cushy university job who got busted for acting like a boor and got called on the carpet for it.
Steven Galloway was an author and professor at UBC’s creative writing program and served as the program’s chair, and he was under investigation for some serious misconduct in multiple instances which cumulated in his dismissal in June. According to reports, this included bullying, threats, sexual harassment, sexual assault and even slapping a student in front of witnesses “at a bar.” This is something you expect from a thug on a street corner, and even then, he’d be charged with assault.
Galloway was fired, but the story did not end there. Dozens of authors who had too much free time on their hands, and did not know what else to do with themselves in a democracy circulated an open letter, insensitively whining that the university had a secretive and unfair process and sulked that Galloway was not allowed to spin his own optics in public while the university was investigating the disgraced professor, as if they were experts in the field of investigating misconduct.
Because if they had a clue how this whole real world thing worked, they’d know the university was adhering to the legal way of conducting complaints of workplace wrongdoing.
Kids, this is not a CBC radio interview peddling a government-funded exercise in self-indulgence. All you Establishment storysellers do is talk and write about yourselves and that Galloway was forced to shut up and not spin his way out of a jam for once is not a free speech issue. The university was investigating allegations of someone in power misusing it against those under his power. The balance is unequal to begin with and when a clique of people misuse their so-called fame by ganging up on those accusers, it reeks of bullying and intimidation.
Shame on you all for your uppity tactics of terrorization. Joseph Boyden, Yann Martel, Margaret Atwood, and dozens of other dutiful followers all bunched up to protect a wealthy white boy. How brave of you all.
But it was the inclusion of Atwood that shook most young women who believed the hype that she was some sort of bastion of progressive values, and reality was a rude awakening for them, though I never understood why Margaret Atwood got the reputation of being a feminist writer. Her female protagonists are whiny, passive, and flighty dysfunctional lumps. I never could understand the purpose of The Handmaid’s Tale other than to spew uninspired propaganda used to uphold some sort of oppressive patriarchal structure that even keeps men back. That she had the gall to sign her name to a letter that defended a predator proves that my country has a lot of letters of apology to send to the global literary community for misrepresentation.
Galloway is not some poor, oppressed little boy who never got a chance. This is a grown man whose job requires him to communicate to a mass audience. For a single author to speak up for him as if he was in need of it is an outrage of the worst sort. He had chances in life he never earned or deserved. His mediocre books were promoted and touted as good, and all he ever did was use a few tricks and hacks to make his pompous and pretentious by-the-numbers patriarchal dreck seem literate. He got a plum job teaching at a university that he treated as a seedy bar where he could bully young women and gleefully mistreat them knowing he had power over them, and should the female stand up to him, he could go running to his little friends to stand up for him. He is the predator, not the prey.
He was in a position of authority and to manipulate the optics to make him look as if he were oppressed just shows the moral decay of those who defended him, especially when this industry has more pressing problems right now.
It is akin to running to the aid of a slum lord as the building he willfully neglected and misused collapses. The signers of the letter have absolutely no grasp of reality, nullifying every word they ever wrote in the bargain.
Really? Is Mr. Galloway worth losing your credibility? Do you imagine that you actually have clout or sway with the public when you take the side of their abuser?
Do you not realize you all are – individually and collectively – The Establishment, The Man, and that the law still applies to each and every one of you, and not just the little people you look down on – the ones who didn’t just believe your hype, but financially supported you with tax dollars?
So just shut up about Galloway. You have done enough talking. The industry is dead because you didn’t know when to keep quiet or what you should have been talking about. That Establishment authors of this country made a choice and defended him instead of his victims is proof exactly why this country’s literary scene is a sham and a fraud: it holds on to names of the past with no regard to the present, let alone the future. It does not deserve to stand in its present form. It is all about getting invited to some ridiculous posh cocktail party as you hold unspoken best fake laughter contests and brag about paper crowns and other made up junk funded by the government. It is like being in kindergarten, only less mature and interesting. No one with a moral compass can have respect for an industry that breeds schoolyard games.
Canadian publishing does not need the Galloways, the Boydens, or the Atwoods. They are the reason we are stuck in this toxic vortex. We need visionaries, mavericks, and soldiers to reinvent the entire industry here from the ground up. We don’t need another open letter exposing the writers’ complete ignorance of reality, morality, and truth – the three building blocks of storytelling. We need a revolution – not just to save an industry, but to atone for every sin the oppressors committed as they oppressed, sabotaged, robbed, and exploited others in the bargain.
We need an industry that is diverse, flexible, and most of all, profitable to both publishers and authors without the grants or government meddling that will slowly enslave the profession as it kills it. I am not keeping quiet. UBC should have never hired Galloway in the first place. That was an act of pure mindless incompetence and appealing to authority. He had no idea what he was doing or why he was getting a pay check. The job merely enabled a delusion of being a hot stud who could play god. Students pay good money to get educated so they can go out in the world and make a decent living. Getting abused is not part of the bargain. There are no exceptions to this reality.
But you can bet that I will not be sitting idly by. There is work to be done and I make certain I do it so the profession that is one with my heart and soul can thrive despite what the poseurs and leeches have done to corrupt it.
Long live storytelling: one of the most beautiful and necessary callings in the world. May the winds of change tear down the rot so that new generations of storytellers fulfill their calling and thrive in every way imaginable without the shackles of the corrupt ever exploiting them or holding them back.
I, for one, want to hear that beautiful chorus of new and underrated authors singing their different tunes, but it won’t be heard as long as we allow that oppressive wall of the status quo to remain standing. So to those young wordsmiths and to those still struggling: do not look up to The Establishment for guidance, salvation, or assistance. Stand up to them and defy them. It is the only way this country can actually have a real communications industry break through, arrive, and finally deliver.