Brian J. White announced today that Pablo Defendini is resigning from all editorial functions at Fireside Fiction Company (Fireside Magazine and Fireside Books). White, Fireside Fiction’s founding editor and publisher from 2012-2017, is returning as interim editorial director.
The change is being made as Fireside tries to recover from Defendini’s intensely criticized posting of an audio recording of a contributor’s essay by a white narrator in an affected accent, exacerbated by Defendini’s admission that he didn’t listen to it before posting it (see “Fireside Editor Apologizes for ‘Auditory Blackface’ by Narrator of Essay in November Issue”).
White, who remained one-third owner of the company when he stepped down, says:
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.
Pablo Defendini, the majority owner of Fireside Fiction Company, continues as its Publisher & Art Director. He will not have a role in editorial decision-making, but 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.
White explains the necessity of this:
…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.
To aid the transition, Fireside will postpone the submissions period for the Autumn 2021 issue of Fireside Quarterly, under guest editor Brandon O’Brien.
And they are indefinitely pausing the publication of all audio recordings of stories. Chelle Parker will lead a review of all previously published audio on FiresideFiction.com to look for any other problematic recordings.
White says he will only be acting as editorial director for a matter of months. He is committed to finding a new editor-in-chief who comes from a marginalized background:
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.
During White’s prevous tenure Fireside published 150 stories, plus longer works, and produced the influential #BlackSpecFic report (2016).
Also today, the Washington Post published its account of the controversy, “Fireside Magazine’s art director Pablo Defendini apologizes for ‘auditory blackface’”. The reporter reached out to the main figures in the story, including narrator Kevin Rineer who makes several mitigating claims for his performance that were not mentioned in his original Twitter or YouTube apologies (which File 770 was able to review in the time they were online before Rineer deleted them.)
Rineer told The Post in a statement that he was unaware he would be reading a Black woman’s work when he auditioned for Fireside Quarterly and that he only received the full manuscript for the work after signing a contract.
Communications lapsed, Rineer said, when he reached out to Fireside and Bradley through a distributor and didn’t get a response. Rineer says he wishes he would have broken the contract rule to contact Bradley directly about her work.
“My normal narrative style is to read with a general West Coast American accent. I made the mistake of reading Dr. Bradley’s work and assuming an accent that was not representative of her voice,” he said. “I had tried to find a different narrator who would be a suitable representative in my network and via public forums, to no avail, in the week-long time frame I had.”