FIYAH Reappears on Goodreads

FIYAH Literary Magazine’s listings have quietly reappeared on Goodreads.

Only last week a Goodreads librarian deleted FIYAH’s Series listing on grounds that Goodreads’ policy is to delete all magazines without an ASIN/ISBN number. FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction is a quarterly literary magazine, and protests were lodged on Twitter and at two Goodreads discussion groups because enforcement of the policy seemed blatantly inconsistent, raising suspicions that racism was involved.

A defense of the librarians, an appeal to change the policy, and the meaning and effects of institutional racism, occupied an extensive discussion in a Goodreads Feedback thread, “Removal of magazines focused on marginalized groups from Goodreads”. It was closed September 21 by “Shaun, Goodreads Expert” —

This thread seems to have run its course and at the original poster’s request, we are closing this thread to further comments. We thank you for sharing your feedback.

I did not locate any discussion of a policy change in either the Goodreads Librarians or Goodreads Feedback groups. I’m not able to tell who created the six new FIYAH issue records. The first is “FIYAH Literary Magazine. Issue 1:Rebirth” and they all have zero ratings and zero reviews. The loss of reviews was one of the things mourned when the Series was deleted:

Fireside Fiction wrote a 10-part Twitter thread about the effects of Goodreads action. The thread starts here.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Update 09/25/2018: The new FIYAH listings reported above now have been deleted.

30 thoughts on “FIYAH Reappears on Goodreads

  1. I’ll stand by my comment that Goodreads is clearly lacking an organisational structure that can be held accountable for the actions of anyone within it no matter what that decision is. The relisting of FIYAH could be undone at anytime by anyone and no one can be held accountable. That’s not a healthy organisation, it’s a seriously sick one.

  2. At least in Wikipedia, you can always see who made changes and revert them if you find they are in the wrong. Then discuss it on the talkpage to find an agreement.

    Not sure what Goodreads have.

  3. My understanding is that anyone can create a record on GR, so this is most likely just an ordinary user. Indeed, the fact that magazines keep on getting recreated by users after these deletions ought to demonstrate that there’s a demand for having them on GR.

    Unfortunately it’s likely that these will get deleted as well, as although GR staff said they would consider their policy they also didn’t take the very sensible suggestion (by Neil Clarke iirc) of a moratorium on deleting the records while they considered.

  4. On the very slightly good side, I had never heard of Fiyah before all this uproar, and I bought a subscription acter taking part in the discussion on GR. So maybe all this will at least increase their exposure!

  5. Hampus Eckerman says At least in Wikipedia, you can always see who made changes and revert them if you find they are in the wrong. Then discuss it on the talkpage to find an agreement.

    A very long time ago, the Charles de Lint page on Wikipedia had some wrong information on pen names for him ((Samuel M. Key) and I corrected it. It promptly got uncorrected, so I corrected it again. After the fourth attempt, I asked the Wiki folk what was going on and was told that the person was the foremost expert on that author. More expert that John Clute I said? Yes was the reply. It eventually got corrected.

  6. Follow-up on my de Lint comment on Wikipedia. Samuel M. Key was his only pen name inspired by the small monkey that sat on the top on his writing desk at that time. Somehow a Wiki contributor got the idea that several characters were actual pen names as well as he had released chapbooks that sort of were listed under their names though not really. (Too long a story for here.) If you read the chapbook carefully, you saw de Lint was the author with MaryAnn Harris, his wife, being the illustrator.

    Goodreads really isn’t any worse than Wikipedia in this regards and both are a quantum leap worse than LibraryThing as an organisation in everything that matters.

  7. Many people have noted that they themselves are unable to correct Wikipedia pages written about them. I understand if whoever the ultimate authority is does not want Person X deleting information about their scandals or controversies or whitewashing their own page. But if it’s factual information like their kids’ names or where they were born… I corrected a (very minor) page with erroneous information that I knew was erroneous because of a book I had written on that topic. I didn’t cite to my book or anything, but to sources I knew about from the research I had done. It wasn’t anything big or exciting, just some basic stuff. The page got changed back to the erroneous information about two minutes after I’d fixed it. When I followed the appropriate steps and challenged the change, I was told that I had a conflict of interest because I had written a book about it. Head-desk.

    Let’s just say I don’t bother fixing Wikipedia pages anymore, not even typos or obvious screwups. There are too many people who take the pages they wrote personally and aren’t interested in little things like accuracy or spelling or grammar.

  8. Contrarius on September 24, 2018 at 2:00 pm said:

    On the very slightly good side, I had never heard of Fiyah before all this uproar, and I bought a subscription acter taking part in the discussion on GR. So maybe all this will at least increase their exposure!

    Am I the only one who had to google the word because they didn’t catch that “fiyah” was an idiosyncratic spelling of “fire?”

  9. I confess I had never heard of this magazine. I went to their web site. It looked interesting so I bought a copy. I may subscribe if I really like it, so maybe they’ll come out of this with new readers.

  10. @Cat Eldridge:

    was told that the person was the foremost expert on that author. More expert that John Clute I said? Yes was the reply.

    That’s hardly impossible; Clute studies a great many things, and IME at least says less about relatively readable authors. I would certainly back a local I know against Clute on matters involving Dragaera and related work; IIRC the local has been explicitly thanked in at least one Brust work for keeping straight the tangle of threads that makes up that ‘verse.

    This doesn’t say anything about the particular matter you were arguing — but I can see somebody not being bowled over by reference to Clute as an absolute authority.

  11. 2018 Fan Artist Hugo winner Geneva Benton did a couple of covers for FIYAH, so I found out about the mag when I was looking up her stuff. (See? I do research and everything, almost like a real proper reviewer.)

    It’s the sort of magazine that could do with wider promotion… which GoodReads policies do not particularly help with.

  12. I added them all to my to-read shelf. From previous discussion, something with over 5 adds requires a super librarian to delete. So one more step before deletion and less people with the power to delete — and perhaps more likely to have heard the issues surrounding this, hopefully making them think twice. And I really do want to read them. Looks like the latest issue 7 isn’t there yet though.

  13. I think the truth is that Goodreads doesn’t want magazines at all, but it grudgingly allows a few and hasn’t worked out a coherent policy for when to allow exceptions.

    This kind of definitional problem defined my life at Amazon. Everything from “what does beer mean?” to “how can a shirt that’s 95% white be listed as blue?” (It was a style of shirt with only eight variations: all white but with a small amount of “piping” in different color. The official color of the shirt was the color of the piping, even though it amounted to only about 5% of the area of the shirt.)

    These sorts of issue take hard thinking, and even then you have exceptions. You also have to avoid the situation where someone thinks the rules are so sacrosanct that they go out of their way to remove things that break the rules even though customers might have liked them.

    Anyway, I doubt there was actual racial bias here; it’s a type of problem that happens all the time.

  14. All 6 issues of FIYAH currently back on Goodreads were done by an individual whose Goodreads profile page indicates that she is an employee of Goodreads. She also recreated the series page.

    One has to have “librarian” status to edit/create book records on Goodreads. There’s actually an application process, but as far as I can tell they’re just filtering out people who don’t have the initiative to actually submit and at least when I applied I just needed a certain number of books shelved (like over 100 or something?).

    For those who do have librarian status, you can see who edited/created a book record by clicking “edit” and then clicking “librarian changelog.” Unfortunately, it’s not made clear that the GR employee who created these pages *is* a GR employee, so delete-happy librarians wouldn’t necessarily realize.

    Superlibrarians are usually company-appointed volunteers, and at least one has actually deleted magazine issues before (see my past comments on this struggle).

    Even though the issues were recreated by a Goodreads employee, I fully believe that someone will potentially delete these or other magazines until the policy is made clearer and more coherent.

  15. Yes, they are gone again. I had them on my to-read it’s 6 books fewer.

    @David H.
    As a regular, non-librarian Goodreads member, I can manually create a book record…but not much else.

  16. @Camestros: FWIW, I kinda doubt it was a change of heart from the Goodreads staff — I rather suspect they quietly re-added Fiyah to tamp down the controversy without addressing the systemic issues (several of which David H. pointed out) that allow this issue to keep cropping up to begin with (one that has affected several of the field’s magazines, though seemingly none so drastically as them and Anathema), which would be a more difficult job — but suspect rather a deliberate targeting by someone with an agenda.

    Having been in the thick of this, it’s become apparent that GR is both a decentralized system (which isn’t inherently a bad thing for sure), and an extremely disorganized one in terms of decision-making allocation and the accountability thereof (which is). From what I understand, some Goodreads “librarian” (read: unpaid volunteer which has received no training even vaguely resembling what professional librarians do) could have easily deleted them.

    All the more reason why Goodreads needs to re-write and clarify the policy (which says three different, contradictory things in three different places), and make sure everyone with decision-making capabilities are on the same page.

  17. @Greg
    When they deleted Strange Horizons, I thought it was probably because they didn’t realize it was available as a monthly ebook. That they were assuming it was online only. But FIYAH is ebook only. And as I’ve now seen here, Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and probably pretty much every lit mag has had some issues go missing here or there. So they definitely don’t like lit mags in general. But the impact has certainly been high here since they don’t have print mags to merge records and only a few issues so far — so they’re easy to delete. 🙁

  18. The Goodreads discussion thread someone linked to a few days ago suggested that some of the librarians at Goodreads really have it in for magazines and want to purge them, which is probably why the issue keeps popping up again and again.

  19. As ebooks there’s not a huge difference functionally between a literary magazine and an anthology of short stories. There’s a conceptual difference but in the end, its a bunch of stories and some non-fiction bundled together.

  20. @Cam

    Exactly. They don’t mind a single short fiction piece available as an ebook. They certainly allow anthologies (which sometimes include essays). Lit mags usually fall in between those two.

  21. It became apparent during the discussions there that many of those with curation abilities don’t understand the difference between Golf Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, i.e. things which lose their value (economic and otherwise) over a short span of time and become obsolete, and a literary journal. Somebody (a “librarian,” IIRC) on that thread literally compared literary magazines to Sports Illustrated.

    I seriously doubt most of them even had the context of short story anthologies to compare them to — it doesn’t take much knowledge of the form to figure out that their publication in magazines and journals predates that of anthologies by a country mile, whether in the SF field specifically or outside of it.

    So on top of everything else, the largest site on the Internet for the discussion of books appears to be run by people who know very little about literature.

  22. @Lee: I don’t see the problem, just the matic. The narrator is telling a man explicitly that when she says no to him, she can be assumed to mean yes. Sounds like informed consent and good communication leading to hot sex in the last verse. I suspect her heart might be warming up; if it doesn’t, I doubt she minds.

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