Hi, this is Brian J. White, the founder of Fireside Magazine and its former editor-in-chief and publisher.
Effective immediately, Pablo Defendini is resigning from all editorial functions at Fireside Fiction Company (comprising Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books), and I will be taking the role of interim editorial director. This comes directly as a result of Pablo’s publication of a racist audio recording of an essay last week.
I will be serving several roles in the capacity of interim editorial director: I will oversee the continuity of publication of Fireside’s contracted stories; lead a review and rework of Fireside’s quality control, production, and approvals process; and lead the search for a new editor-in-chief. While I will be working with the guest editors for each issue, story selection and editing will remain under their control.
While Pablo will no longer have a role in editorial decision-making, he will for now remain as art director (magazine layout/design and art), as well as managing the finances and a number of other administrative functions. There’s a few reasons for this.
Pablo owns Fireside Fiction Company and does almost all of the administrative, design, and web engineering work required for Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books. The magazine has one other permanent staff member, copyeditor and proofreader Chelle Parker, and otherwise relies on freelance guest editors and artists. Simply put, there is no one in place to hand these many operations over to. If Pablo were to fully resign today, both Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books would fold, and along with them all the stories, essays, and other content in the pipeline, which currently extends deep into 2021. We strongly want to avoid causing that kind of harm to those authors.
This concentration in duties clearly contributed to last week’s debacle, and is one that we will be addressing as part of my review of processes and of Pablo’s role at Fireside.
As part of that process, we are hitting pause at Fireside for a couple of weeks. The submissions period for the Autumn 2021 issue of Fireside Quarterly, scheduled to begin tomorrow under guest editor Brandon O’Brien, will be postponed (with a new date to be announced soon). We also will not be publishing anything on the site for at least a few weeks, until I’ve had a chance to review what is in the pipeline. (To the authors who were looking forward to their stories going up online in the next few weeks, I offer my sincerest apologies for this delay.)
Further, we are indefinitely pausing the publication of all audio recordings of stories, pending a further review of that process. When FiresideFiction.com was redesigned a few years ago, it underwent an accessibility audit and is already optimized for people who use screen-reading software. However, we will also be double-checking that optimization to make sure that the suspension of audio stories does not create an accessibility issue.
Related to that, Chelle has volunteered to lead a review of all previously published audio on FiresideFiction.com to look for any other problematic recordings. If you are a Fireside author with concerns about an audio recording of your story, please contact Chelle at [email protected]. (From Chelle: “To be clear, this is not something our authors should ever bear the responsibility of policing, but your help right now means I’m less likely to miss something, so thank you in advance.”)
So, who am I? I started Fireside in 2012 and was its editor and publisher until mid-2017. I was burned out and ready to step away from the enormous pressure of running a small press that didn’t make any money. I handed the company off to Pablo, retaining a 33% stake in the company but otherwise completely removing myself from its operation aside from working on editing several forthcoming books for Fireside Books.
I am a cis, straight, white man with some chronic pain disabilities. And I know that long-term, a cis, straight, white man is not what Fireside needs in its leadership roles. I’m taking on this temporary role only because my familiarity with Fireside means I’m well-positioned to do so on short notice and without a need for extensive orientation.
I will only be acting as editorial director for a matter of months, and I am committed to finding a new editor-in-chief who comes from a marginalized background. I am also committed to finding ways to expand Fireside’s staff with an eye toward both further diversifying it and to providing additional layers of oversight so something like last week’s racist audio recording never happens here again.
If you are an author with upcoming work in Fireside and have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or to your issue’s guest editor to pass on to me at [email protected]. I am also online in a personal capacity on Twitter as @talkwordy.
I know that the actions described above are far from perfect. They are a starting point, not a solution. Fireside has a long way to go to regain the trust of our community. We’re committed to doing that work, and to keeping you informed along the way.