Let this be a lesson to social media editors everywhere.
VICE got raked over the coals for sending out a tweet about "Game of Thrones" creator George R.R. Martin adapting black sci-fi author Nnedi Okorafor's book "Who Fears Death." The problem: not only did the publication fail to mention Okorafor's name in the tweet, they also managed to erase her from the cover of her own book.
Okorafor herself expressed her disappointment in the tweet:
Wow, these people have even removed my NAME from my novel's cover in the tweet. Woooooooow, mschew. 😒. They don't even know details. https://t.co/HacaZKMRQi— Nnedi Okorafor, PhD (@Nnedi) July 11, 2017
As the article itself explains, Martin has been tapped to executive produce Okorafor's award-winning 2010 novel "Who Fears Death" for HBO. The story points out that a potential sci-fi series about an apocalyptic Africa would add "much-needed diversity" to the network, and describes Okorafor as a "rising star" who has won the three most prestigious awards in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.
But that acknowledgement didn't carry over to VICE's tweet about the story, which merely says that Martin is "adapting an African sci-fi novel." Even worse, the article and social media message used a graphic that shows Martin but crops Okorafor's name off the bottom of her book cover. Okorafor's legions of supporters saw this as intentionally erasing a black woman to promote a white man, and they were eager to tell VICE all about it.
Hey WTF put her name back on her book cover!— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) July 12, 2017
I thought @vicenews was supposed to be forward thinking. This is highly disappointing.— Jessica Denson (@Newsie2) July 11, 2017
Oh hell no! 😡😡😡— Abantu Book Festival (@Abantu_) July 12, 2017
.@VICE As writers yourselves you should know better than to leave out, let alone literally erase, proper attribution. Fix this.— despicable m3 (@cormorancy) July 11, 2017
"The most excellent George RR Martin adapts some African book by some African somewhere". @VICE get it fixed!— Elena Cazadora (@elenacazadora) July 11, 2017
Freelance writer Lincoln Michel, who wrote the original article, largely agreed with the many critics who tracked him down on Twitter demanding an explanation - and hastily explained that he has no control over VICE's graphics or headlines.
as a fan and the writer, I really apologize about this! I contacted my editor, didn't see the headline or image beforehand.— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) July 11, 2017
I don't work for VICE or know their process (just a freelancer) but I agree it's egregious and should be fixed— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) July 11, 2017
Been asking Vice to fix for hrs. Very sorry to be part of erasure. Okorafor is great writer, u should buy her books! https://t.co/AjdFSO9NxX— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) July 11, 2017
I'm sure I've shamed some writers for bad headlines that they probably didn't write before though so I think this is fair karma— Lincoln Michel (@TheLincoln) July 11, 2017
Following the backlash, VICE adjusted the image in the article to include Okorafor's name and added this update: "An earlier version of this article featured a cropped image of the cover of Nnedi Okorafor's novel Who Fears Death. The image was cropped in a way that left out Okorafor's name, and we regret the oversight. The headline has also been amended to include the author's name."
For his part, George R.R. Martin has attempted to shift the media focus away from himself in a blog post about the project, calling Okorafor "an exciting new talent in our field, with a unique voice."
"As usual, however, the internet is blowing this story all out of proportion, at least in regards to my own participation. I will be an Executive Producer on WHO FEARS DEATH but I will not be the Executive Producer, i.e. the showrunner. That's an important distinction. [...] I will not be writing the pilot script or adapting Nnedi's novel, and it's doubtful that I will write any episodes should we go to series. Look, I probably won't be writing episodes of ANY television shows until WINDS OF WINTER is done and delivered, and that goes for the five GAME OF THRONES successor shows as well."