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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Guest Editorial

PEN, Charlie and the Writers’ World

by Eleanor Lerman

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Dear Don,

Thought I’d share something with you because it relates to Bewildering Stories (at least for me). You may have read about the controversy regarding PEN and Charlie Hebdo: PEN is giving Charlie Hebdo an award, and a lot of big-name writers who are PEN members — led by Gary Trudeau, Francine Prose and Junot Diaz — have written a letter to PEN decrying the award because the magazine is so offensive. (Yes, they’re brave but, apparently, they offend Doonesbury and his pals.)

Many other PEN members, like myself, have been pushing back, because that’s the whole foundation of artistic freedom and incidentally, exactly what PEN is supposed to be defending: artists’ right to create what they want without being harassed, jailed or even murdered.

After all, “offensive” is in the eye of the beholder, or in the politics or religion of the believer; it is not a provable scientific fact. Charlie Hebdo is an equal opportunity offender; they caricature just about everybody. Bravo for them.

I am one of those members who have been pushing back against the naysayers. I’ve written to PEN several times to tell them what I find offensive, that the anti-award group is being led by celebrity writers who make a lot of money and can command immediate print and online attention.

The rest of us, yeoman writers, many with decades-long careers but of lesser “fame,” cannot call the New York Times or the Guardian and say, print my point of view. To address this concern, PEN set up a forum for comments but, as you can imagine, it’s already been hacked and spammed so it has little impact.

What I and others want is for PEN to circulate a letter, similar to the one being sent around by the big-name people — who never bothered to show it to the majority of PEN’s membership, who don’t have the same attention-grabbing power — so we can sign and publish it. There are about 145 anti-award writers; the many thousands of other PEN members are supporters.

I’m telling you all this only because I have come to understand the value of online magazines such as Bewildering Stories and others that may not be the first places Poets and Writers and other “helpful” writers’ resources tend to highlight, but they should.

For most writers, money and sales are not going to define a career; endless work, endless striving, and endless desire to do the work and have someone read it — as well as the drive to write or edit or publish, which cannot be ignored if that’s where your heart and soul are — are the things that will accompany you in the quiet hours when you do your work.

So again, I thought I’d use this example to thank you for Bewildering Stories and the venue it provides for writers who just want to do their work and share it with like-minded souls.

Making money and selling lots of books are excellent goals, but for the vast majority of writers, that’s not going to become an ongoing reality. So there have to be other ways to achieve some reward, some feedback, and getting published provides that return.

Bewildering Stories provides that return to those who are working, working, working, but aren’t necessarily going to see their name on the best-seller lists. What you do is important. The stories you publish are important. Bewildering Stories is important. So keep going! Your light shines bright.


Eleanor Lerman

Copyright © 2015 by Eleanor Lerman

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