I keep talking about how in the West, we are swiftly moving into a culture that resembles communist totalitarianism — this, based on what people who grew up under communism tell me. It’s not about gulags or secret police; it’s about building a post-liberal culture defined by militant progressive ideology, and enforcing it by destroying, personally and professionally, those who dissent. Part of this is inculcating fear and self-loathing within the minds of people living in those cultures. You don’t need the secret police when you have taught people to police themselves according to your totalitarian principles.
Today the New Totalitarianism took a new scalp, in a way that ought to scare the hell out of all of us, on both the left and the right, who value free speech and inquiry. And it happened to someone born in a communist country.
Amelie Wen Zhao is a Young Adult author whose debut sci-fi/fantasy novel, Blood Heir, was set for a June release from a major publisher, as part of a three-book deal. When the deal was announced a year ago, Zhao, who is just starting her career, made her excitement public:
Three-book deals. Manuscripts going to auction. Offers from the Big 5 Publishers.
These had all seemed like dreams to me. Literally, dreams towards which I could reach yet never even hope to achieve, to cross that yawning abyss in-between. Wishes from the highest star in the skyat which I could only gaze and gaze and gaze.
Until last month.
I don’t think it’s sunk in until this very moment, when I sat down to write this post — that I am going to be a published author.
I AM GOING TO BE A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!!!!
On a recent Skype session with my parents, my mother told me in tears that, when I was around 8 years old, I said to her one day: “Mama, I want to be an author!” And she gently sat me down and told me the reality. That so few authors make it — and fewer, still, make it big. That many still struggle on in pursuit of their dream. That I have to decide whether I want a life of comfort — one that my parents have gifted me — or a life of uncertainty, potential financial duress, and, very possibly, never having my books see the day of light.
I chose. For my entire life, I’ve prepared myself for a career in finance, telling myself it was the more realistic choice, that success stories for authors came true once in a blue moon and that dreams were something only Cinderella’s fairy godmother could grant with a wave of her wand.
The past two months could not have proven me more wrong. From my success with #DVpit to getting my dream agent to my submissions process … I hardly ever cry, but I’m tearing up as I write, because it has been three months in which, every single day, I have literally seen myself and my book take one step and another, closer, towards catching that bright, bright star of my dream.
I’ve kept my writing dream a secret my entire life — less than ten people knew I was working towards finishing a book for most of 2017 (until I joined Twitter!). Most of my friends are in finance, or in the non-book-world — so they respected my
dream, but it was quickly put to the back of their minds, just because it was such a far-off, distant, and unthinkable dream that was completely, galactically, out of my life. Even my boyfriend, the love of my life, had his moments where he forgot that my lifelong dream was to publish a book.
Despite all that — despite the fact that probably three people had read my work, ever — I kept going.
And now, I’ve reached the stars.
So you — yes, you — if you’re reading this and you have a lifelong dream, a passion that burns a fire within you, remember this story. Just one year ago, I was questioning everything I had ever dreamed; I was wondering what if everything I’d been working towards and reaching towards was hopeless after all? But I had this passion blazing within me, brighter than the fire of stars, and I knew I could not live a life without trying to reach those stars.
For now, I’m allowing myself some peace of mind. After countless years of honing my craft and quietly smithing my words with no recognition, I have reached my stars.
Don’t give up.
Well, guess what? The book, which had positive buzz (Barnes & Noble called it one of the most anticipate YA releases of the year), has been the subject of a massive Social Justice Warrior pile-on on social media, as Jesse Singal discussed in a tweetstorm. Very few people have even read the novel, but the mob attacked it as racist for a variety of reasons, one of them being that Zhao created a fantasy world where “oppression is blind to skin color” (this, from the press release). It’s a fantasy world, and people haven’t even read the book, but the mob was certain that Blood Heir is racist, and that its author — a young woman raised in Beijing, but now living in New York City — ought to be shut down.
Today, they got their wish:
To The Book Community: An Apology pic.twitter.com/SCdYMOSLOA
— Amélie Wen Zhao (@ameliewenzhao) January 30, 2019
They shamed this woman into surrendering her dream! This immigrant from communist China has submitted to the verdict of an online struggle session, straight out of Mao’s Cultural Revolution! As one Twitter commenter said:
So….we’re essentially now burning books before they are even written? Sad. Publish what you want. An immigrant from a non-free speech country essentially being shamed out of free speech. terrible on so many levels.
— Adam Clark (@adamhclark) January 30, 2019
These monsters have to be stopped. We cannot let them win. I am so sorry that Amelie Wen Zhao surrendered to them, and their cruelty. If you read her blog post from January 2018 announcing the deal, you can see her Achilles heel:
I write fantasy, but my story draws inspiration from themes I see in the real world today. As a foreigner in Trump’s America, I’ve been called names and faced unpleasant remarks — and as a non-citizen, I’ve felt like I have no voice — which is why I’ve channeled my anger, my frustration, and my need for action into the most powerful weapon I have: my words.
BLOOD HEIR is an examination of what makes us different from those around us — be it the horrific ability to manipulate blood or the many reasons why my characters are a band of outcasts — and how we internalize others’ fears of the things that make us stand out. It is a journey of self-acceptance, and a realization that we cannot change who we are or what we are born with, but we can choose what we do with what we are given. It is a story of friendship and love that extend beyond prejudices. And above all, it is a call to action: a message to young readers that it is our choices, not our birthright or race or title, that ultimately define us. Each of us has the choice — and more than that, the responsibility — to stand up and fight for what we believe is right.
We live in a world where I see so many others hurting, like me; where I see fear used as a weapon by those who choose to hate; where I see the age-old monster of prejudice drawing lines between those who are different. My pen is my sword, my words are my voice, and I hope BLOOD HEIR will be a guiding light to those who need it most.
Donald Trump didn’t destroy Amelie Wen Zhao’s dreams. People wearing #MAGA hats didn’t shame her into withdrawing her debut novel. Progressives on social media did. These people are the enemy. They colonized her mind, and caused her — a Chinese immigrant! — to hate herself. I hope that they haven’t broken her spirit. Orwell, in these final lines from 1984, understands what they’ve done to her:
He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
Amelie Wen Zhao has learned to love Big Brother.
The rest of us had better learn to hate him, and fight him at every turn. Now.
I am going to finish my book proposal tonight about learning from dissidents how to resist this. It’s time. These SOBs are not going to intimidate me.
UPDATE: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from “Live Not By Lies” (1974):
No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.
But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.
And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul—don’t let him be proud of his “progressive” views, don’t let him boast that he is an academician or a people’s artist, a merited figure, or a general—let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It’s all the same to me as long as I’m fed and warm.
UPDATE.2: Good grief, check out some of these negative reviews on Goodreads! Here’s one:
Jan 28, 2019 Sarah rated it did not like it
115 reviews and how is nobody mentioning the anti-blackness and blatant bigotry in this book?
This book is about slavery, a false oppression narrative that equates having legitimately dangerous magical powers that kill people with being an oppressed minority, like a person of color. This whole story is absolutely repulsive.
There is a slave auction in which the black slave girl dies for Ana and she sings her a lullaby as she dies.
The Russian rep is fundamentally awful, the author didn’t even get the gendering of basic words right.
The only disabled character is a villain who walks with a cane.
What book did you guys read? Do you think that’s okay or why is nobody saying a word? Look critically at what you read. This book is intended for teens. I wouldn’t want my kid to read something like that, a book that uses marginalized people as pawns.
And no, that the author is Chinese doesn’t make her exempt from criticism or fundamentally anti-black narratives. There are plenty of other not happily racist Chinese YA authors you can support instead. F.C. Yee, Malinda Lo, Emily X.R. Pan, Cindy Pon, Stacey Lee, Marie Lu, Karen Bao for example.
I’d love it if somebody who looks critically at what they read would write a detailed review that proves all the bigotry in this book so white people and Asians finally start listening because I’ve seen a lot of systematic shutting down of any brown person who brings up concerns with this book.
And by the way, there are dozens of lines that are straight up copied from LOTR, Harry Potter, The Young Elites and Six of Crows, if you happen to not give a damn about bigotry. This shouldn’t be legal. The love interest Ramson Quicktongue is literally Kaz Brekker. It also has a carbon copy of Inej, a character named Linnet whose nickname is windwraith and who was sold into slavery.
Plagiarism isn’t cute. For shame, Delacorte