Novel Spaces is in its 10th year! Over the coming months we'll be featuring some of the most popular posts from our archives. This one was first published July 26, 2011.
By Charles Gramlich
I once had a book dedicated to me as a member of a writing group. This was Haiku Guy, a wonderfully witty book by my good friend David Lanoue. I felt pleased and honored. As my books have been published, I too have written dedications: to family members for love and support, to fellow writers I admire, to editors whose work and acumen I appreciated, and to members of groups who have helped shape my writing. The first Talera book was dedicated to my mom, the second to my father and my son, the third to my wife. I’ve dedicated works to my fellow Robert E. Howard fans, to my graduate school mentor, to my longest running writing group, and, yes, to David Lanoue.
Recently I had a new experience in the dedication realm. It made me think about dedications in a different light because the experience was a shocking and unpleasant one. I had never imagined a dedication could be taken negatively, but now I’ll never consider one without a dark edge to my thoughts. My world is a little bleaker for that. I’m certainly not devastated, just a little saddened.
Here’s what happened. I completed a novella called “Under the Ember Star.” When it came time for the dedication, I decided on a critique group I’d shared a number of chapters with. This group had been around a while and there’d been turnover. Some members who’d left remained friends and I’d even stayed in contact with them. Although these folks had not seen “Ember Star,” they had reviewed previous stuff from me and had impacted my writing. I decided I wanted to include them in the dedication. They deserved it.
Because I didn’t want to hurt any one’s feelings, however, I actually decided to include all the ex-members of the group who had attended more than a meeting or two. To make sure I didn’t miss anyone, I sent the potential dedication around to the current group and asked for help double checking the names. As I hoped, and expected, most members were pleased to be acknowledged. That made me happy, reminding me of how I felt when I first saw David Lanoue’s dedication for Haiku Guy.
Then a bombshell exploded. One current member of the group emailed the entire membership saying that my dedication “disgraced, not honored” the group. She insisted I remove her name from the dedication and that I had been “presumptive” to include it in the first place “without asking permission.” What floored me the most came next. She accused me of including the names of no longer active members as a way to: “inflate the number in ‘his’ writing group for his benefit; not ‘our’ writing group.” The email even suggested that I: “Check around the grave yards, maybe some more names can be found there.” I still can’t imagine what possible benefit I’d get in the publishing world from inflating the numbers in my writing group.
I knew this individual didn’t particularly like my writing, but had no idea she loathed it so much. Most of what I’ve shared has been SF adventure stuff. There’s action and what is often called “gritty realism.” That means blood and occasional gore, curse words, and sometimes things like characters spitting. The scene this individual objected to the most was a single sentence describing a disgusting toilet: “The fetor was bad enough, but to be able to see the spattered sources of the stench made her glad her stomach was empty.” Our hero had to escape an ambush through that bathroom.
No other members of the group write SF/Fantasy and most do not read it, but I think most have come to appreciate the effort I put into writing it. In the “email’s” aftermath, I’ve received an outpouring of support from most members of the group, although one other individual asked for her name to be removed from the dedication as well. I immediately did so.
In a bit of irony, on the same day that this situation exploded, over a week after I first sent the “potential” dedication around to the group, I got the word that “Under the Ember Star” had been accepted by the publisher. There will be a dedication in that book, and the names you’ll see there will be those who didn’t feel “disgraced” to be associated with my writing. The two who did feel that way won’t get a mention.
And wow, did I get schooled!