Last May, my short story “Swimmers” was published by the Vancouver site of the online short fiction journal Joyland. Recently, I dropped by Joyland Vancouver and was surprised to discover that my story had disappeared! So I contacted Kevin Chong, the Vancouver editor, thinking this was some kind of techno glitch. Not at all, I was told. He had an even better reason for the mysterious disappearance of my story.
Kevin and I disagreed about the ethics of horse racing in a comment stream on a single photo on his Facebook page, six months after “Swimmers” was published. Kevin wrote to me that he “took offense” to my views and had communicated his “displeasure” with me to the head editors and co-founders of Joyland, Brian Joseph Davis and Emily Schultz. Brian and Emily have since upheld Kevin’s decision and have refused to discuss the questions this raises about Joyland’s editorial policy. Is work published based on artistic merit or on the (unspoken) precondition of political agreement? Can we not freely debate issues without fear of professional retribution?
Since I’ve published a number of short stories in print journals and anthologies, I was surprised to discover that my work could be “unpublished” as quickly as it was “published” by Joyland. This week, I’ve been even more surprised to discover that a writer has no recourse with Joyland in a situation where her political disagreement on an unrelated matter (horse racing!) could be and has been used as justification for not only taking down a story, but not putting it back up.
So the lesson I’ve learned from all this is that while all editors have their personal likes and “displeasures,” there are some in the online world who think it justifiable to make editorial decisions on these grounds and even to uphold them when queried. And in the online world of Joyland, a writer has no protection and no recourse. Buyer beware.
In case you’re wondering, “Swimmers” really isn’t about horse racing. There isn’t a limping equine in sight. But check it out for yourself! “Swimmers” is in the anthology Coming Attractions 09, edited by Mark Anthony Jarman, published by Oberon Press. www.oberonpress.ca
Update: “Swimmers” was restored to Joyland Vancouver due to the public awareness and discussion that resulted from this post. Resolution post here.