We asked Howey if he'd like to comment on the controversy, and he quickly got back to us. Here's what he had to say.
"I feel miserable that I offended anyone. The post wasn't written in anger at all. I found out that I won an award and quickly wrote a blog post to announce it. What immediately came to mind when winning the award was this anecdote from the year before, so I used that as a set up to the announcement. The story I wrote was crass and full of language that I now understand to be offensive to all women, not just the woman I was snarkily directing it toward. It has been called a rant; it was more a poor attempt at humor. It has been called misogynist; I was only being rude to an individual who was being rude to me.
"My wife pointed out something later, which is the reason I took the blog post down, despite the vast majority saying that they read the original intent in the story and were not offended in the least. Having lived in Charleston and watched the debate over the Confederate Flag, I used to say that it didn't matter what a symbol means to the person who waves it. Once you discover that this symbol causes harm to others, it's time to lower it. That doesn't mean one or two people should have the ability to stifle free speech, but if you are offending a group — and once you know this — continuing along as before is in poor form.
"It was a good point on her part. I took the blog post down and apologized. It was never meant to offend. It certainly wasn't directed at all women or even on the irrelevant fact that the person in the story was a woman. Most of my writing revolves around strong female protagonists, and those who are familiar with my works and who know me understand where my sensibilities lie."
In today’s book publishing world, sex sells, but so do dystopias. Hugh Howey, an author with Charleston connections who wrote the sci-fi smash hit Wool, found that out after self-publishing a novella online in July 2011. Fans devoured it and begged for more, and the result is a full-length novel scheduled for a hardcover release by Simon & Schuster on March 12 this year.
Howey, who studied at the College of Charleston in the early 2000s, will make a stop on his book tour at the West Ashley Barnes & Noble (1812 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.) on Mon. March 25 at 7 p.m. The electronic version of Wool landed Howey on the New York Times e-book bestseller list last summer, so expect a big crowd at the bookstore.
Much of the media attention on Howey has focused on his success story, which parallels that of Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James: A writer takes the self-publishing route and builds a rabid following, and then the book publishing industry comes a-knocking.
The Slate Book Review gave it a write-up last weekend that makes it sound like a modern masterpiece. Critic Tammy Oler dissects the plot and finds a striking metaphor in the novel’s setting, an underground silo where man has been forced to live after the surface of Earth was rendered uninhabitable. “Being in the silo is like living in a world where the decisions were made a long time ago by people you didn’t vote for,” Oler writes. “Sound familiar?”
John Cusatis teaches English at the Charleston County School of the Arts, and he's a huge fan of the late poet Robinson Jeffers. So much so that he's traveled across the country to attend conferences honoring the poet, and then he convinced organizers to host this year's conference in Charleston Feb. 15-17.
The theme this year is "Integrity is Wholeness: The Moral, Social, and Aesthetic Implications of Robinson Jeffers's Worldview." A large portion of the conference will be academic in nature; notable scholars of literacy, philosophy, history, and science, including RJA's president, astronomer Ron Olowin, will discuss Jeffers' life and work. During Friday and Saturday evenings, the celebration will showcase a variety of S.C. artists honoring Jeffers through poetry, dance, music, theater, and the visual arts.
Conway native Nikky Finney, a National Book Award winner, is among the featured speakers. She recently accepted a teaching position at the University of South Carolina that will begin in August 2013. "Nikky is one of many native artists currently working who South Carolinians can take great pride in," Cusatis says. Finney will kick off the celebration with a poetry reading Fri. Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m., and then the academic portion of the conference with a keynote address Sat. Feb. 16 at the Academic Magnet High School lecture hall beginning at 9 a.m. Finney will also visit School of the Arts classrooms during her stay in Charleston.
This conference is especially exciting for students because many of the SOA and AMHS students will get to share the stage with international scholars. "One student, Nick Bentz, will conduct a chorus of 24 voices performing a piece he composed based on one of Jeffers' poems, 'Evening Ebb.' It is really a colossal achievement," Cusatis says. The schools have also organized a Robinson Jeffers essay contest among SOA and AMHS students. First and second place finalists will present their papers at the conference, and the top five will take part in a discussion panel focused on Jeffers' relevance to young readers in the 21st century.
A conference of this magnitude reflects well on the Charleston community schools at large, and also shows a passion for the arts that students and community members might not see every day. "I could tell that many in the organization had misgivings about holding the conference in a high school and others were apprehensive about South Carolina," Cusatis says, "They just don't know about the great schools we have and what a dynamic arts culture exists here. It will be fun to watch their surprise."
Aside from the admission fee for the Nikky Finney poetry reading, the conference is free. For more information, visit the RJA website at robinsonjeffersassociation.org or contact John_Cusatis@charleston.k12.sc.us.
Bestselling author Edward Ball is making a stop in Charleston on Feb. 7 to discuss his new book, The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Motion Pictures.
The Savannah native, who now teaches at Yale, is best known for his National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family, an investigation of generations of slave ownership in his South Carolina family. Ball also wrote The Sweet Hell Inside, about a prominent African American family in Charleston, and The Genetic Strand, which looked at his family’s ancestry based on DNA samples.
Ball’s latest book explores the relationship between photographer Eadwaerd Muybridge and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford.
The free event will take place at the College of Charleston’s School of Sciences and Mathematics Auditorium at 202 Calhoun St. at 6 p.m. Find out more at fol.cofc.edu.
A few weeks ago, we ran an article about Hugh Howey, a wildly successful self-published author with local connections. Ever the workhorse, Howey has kept busy since then, and he just finished up the second installment of the Shift Trilogy called Second Shift. When all three parts of the trilogy are complete, they’ll be combined into one book in the spring of 2013. Shift is the follow-up to Howey’s New York Times bestselling WOOL series.
In other news, WOOL is a semifinalist in GoodReads’ 2012 awards in the science fiction category, and Howey’s book I, Zombie is a semifinalist in the horror category. Stay up to date with the author at hughhowey.com.