After leaving his wonderful comment about differentiating between vanity and self-publishing, my beloved said something insightful about the whole Harlequin mess. He said it sounded like Harlequin had been taken over by someone with a business background but no understanding of the industry.
Ah! Yes, indeed. To people used to selling just about anything else, Horizons and the paid critique service sound like obvious ways to make money. They wouldn't see anything unethical about making offers people are free to ignore. Not even doing it as a big respected name that aspiring authors are going to trust. As far as they can see, that just makes the idea better! They're completely baffled by the vehement rejection of what they thought was such a brilliant idea everyone should be doing it.
Are they still unethical leeches if they don't understand they're doing anything wrong? That's an old debate – is evil defined by its actions or its intentions? Maybe they aren't horrible people. That doesn't mean they aren't trying to accomplish horrible things.
And I had an insight of my own a little while ago. Someone had asked Twitter what we thought of the Harlequin situation. I tweeted, “Doesn't change my opinion of Harlequin authors or editors but the company management lost my respect. I'm disgusted with them.”
The thing surprising me in my statement was the sudden inclusion of the editors. I don't think I'd really thought of them before having to summarize my feelings so succinctly, beyond not wanting to have to field the phone calls I'm sure they've been inundated with all week. But now I've considered the implications for them, I feel really bad for them. In fact, I'm thinking it might actually suck more to be one of them than to be a Harlequin author. And it's no more their fault than it's the writers', this all came out of management.
And now that I'm sympathizing with new people... What about the parts of management that had no say in any of this? Yikes... No fun. At all.