The multi-million dollar achievement of veteran sci-fi and fantasy author Brandon Sanderson’s recent ‘mystery novel’ Kickstarter has drawn outrage from his fellow writers, with some even attributing the campaign’s record success to nothing more than white privilege.
Announced on March 1st, Sanderson’s Surprise! Kickstarter campaign offers readers the chance to receive four unnamed books – three set in Sanderson’s original Cosmere universe and one described by the author as “something completely different” – in a series of blind box-style releases across the entirety of 2023.
“Some of you might want to receive these books with minimal spoilers and just enjoy them fresh and new, without even knowing the title ahead of time—kind of like going into a movie blind, never having seen the trailer, on the promise that it’s by a filmmaker you know you love,” explained the author of his campaign. “We also thought this might make it fun for book clubs or groups of friends and family to co-read a mysterious Sanderson book, knowing almost nothing about it.”
Sanderson has gone on to provide details of one of the books, revealing its title and the fact that it is set in his Cosmere universe.
He even did a short reading of the book’s second draft, but did warn viewers that it would most likely change given it was only his second draft.
Opening with a total goal of $1,000,000 USD, as of this article’s writing, the campaign has raised over $25,829,834 USD across roughly 110,298 backers.
While a majority of both fans and authors have celebrated the resounding success of Sanderson’s campaign, seeing it as both a testament to the desire for good stories and the sense of trust fostered between the author and his fans, some found the entire affair to be nothing more than an insult to non-white authors.
Taking to her personal twitter on March 3rd, Queen of None and Pilgrim of the Sky author Natania Barron opined, “Today is a really good day to support your favorite author who hasn’t made $18M in the last few days.”
“Am I personally upset at Brandon Sanderson for making money?” she continued. “Uh, no. Not at all. Truly, good for him. What makes me frustrated is that (especially genre) writers are told there’s not a big market for fantasy. That, and, many readers stick to a just a handful of authors.”
Barron then asserted, “But! There are *so many incredible SFF writers out there*. If you love fantasy and want to support the genre, I highly recommend reading more & more broadly,” before recommending a “starter pack” of diverse authors, including DC Comics’ Far Sector author N.K. Jemisin and The Kingston Cycle scribe C.L. Polk.
Dungeons & Dragons contributor K. Tempest Bradford asked, “This runaway @brandsanderson Kickstarter is totes the origin story for the “Brandon Sanderson Presents” imprint wherein he shines a spotlight on (by publishing) BIPOC authors writing epic fantasy steeped in their own cultures, right? This was the plan the whole time, wasn’t it?”
“Getting increasingly more irritated by the continued astronomical success of that kickstarter,” wrote TOR.com and NPR book critic Alex Brown, who found herself particularly incensed at the support for Sanderson’s work. “There is so much excellent diverse SFF out there and y’all are intent on giving a that man millions of dollars.”
She then turned to criticize Sanderson’s work itself, asserting, “I read a bunch of his books years ago. Mostly enjoyed them, too. Except the more I read, the more bored I got. At every turn he picks the most obvious choice, and his characters are so stock you could order them out of a catalogue.”
“And it’s largely because he lacks the creativity that comes with having a broad, diverse world view,” she accused. “With each book, I walked away feeling like if only these characters had been queer, if this colonial setting had been interrogated more, if that trope had been subverted.”
“Put any of his novels up against something like THE JASMIN THRONE or SON OF THE STORM and his books collapse like wet paper,” Brown continued. “There’s nothing there but surface characters and hollow plots. It’s everything you’ve read before and nothing new. And this is what we’re rewarding?”
The writer also took issue with Sanderson’s membership in the Mormon church, adding, “And no, I’m not going to let him skate on his religious beliefs, either. He’s part of a church that hates people like me, that helped get Prop 8 passed, and is deeply racist.”
Noted sci-fi author John Scalzi similarly chalked up Sanderson’s success to his existence as a white male, following up a lengthy blog post in which he congratulated his peer and discussed numerous topics relating to the Kickstarter with the declaration that, “Before anyone else mentions it, yes, indeed, Brandon also benefits from operating on the Lowest Difficulty Setting of life, here in the US, and its entirely possible some opportunities were open to him as a straight white male that weren’t open to others (and still might not be in many ways).”
“This comment has made some of the Usual Suspects very salty,” Scalzi added in a later update to his comment. “My frothy little dudes, being a straight white male gives you a leg up in this society, yes, still, stop pretending otherwise.”
Fans interested in backing Sanderson’s campaign can do so until March 31st, 2022.
What do you make of the backlash directed towards Sanderson over the success of his Kickstarter? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below.