The Trees And The Forest

I am not going to blog about the whole Hugo nonsense. I have very fond memories of the Hugos from my youth. One of the things on which my brother and I would go halfsies every year was the collection of the Hugo nominated short stories. But since then, the awards have suffered a decline. I continued to buy the collections, mind, but about ten years ago realized I wasn’t actually reading them and that was the end of that.

Mind you, most of this is probably not so much the decay in the awards as the fact that I’ve noticed, over the years, that my reading has got way more selective. Used to be that if I started a book, I had to finish it, no matter how much it disgusted me. Then around my thirties (and small kids) things started changing, and books fell into three categories “read through”, “read beginning until disgusted, then skim the rest.” And “drop half read.”

Drop half read included the Harry Potter teenage whine installment. Probably prompted by the fact that at the time I had two teenagers. I just set it down, face down, which by itself is bad news, as I BOOKMARK books I’m enjoying. And then I forgot I was reading it. And since life entered one of its “interesting” phases and the kids cleaned that room for three months, when I cleaned it next, I found it wand went “oh, yeah, I was reading this.” Never restarted, though.

If I could track down this change in my reading methods, it was when I realized I had just read the beginning of one book and the second half of the other and NOT REALIZED IT.

This mind you was when I had a two year old and a five year old, so addled was where I lived, pretty much, year around. Also, I have beyond sucky memory for names. (One of the reasons I beg you not to have characters with the same first letter and last letter to their names. Because I will never tell them apart. Jane and Janine used to be the same to me, since – uncertain about English names – I just read the first and last letter. Now they’re not, but if I set the book down and come back a day later, I will not remember the difference.) Both books were “noir-cozy-mysteries” set in London. Well, maybe procedurals, I don’t know. But not like American procedurals, where you get the nitty gritty of the investigation. Instead the emphasis is on the main character’s (usually a policewoman) personal life, conflicts with her role, and how this notches in with solving the crime. The result is this almost-cozy feel.

Anyway, what used to happen (this was before we took vacations, even in Denver. Afterwards, this ritual became “the beginning of a long weekend in Denver) is that we’d go to the mystery book store in Denver every six months. They were new/used and the used were reasonably priced. When we started going there, two full paper grocery bags ran just over 100 dollars, which was a lot of bang for the buck. So we’d come back and those books lasted me three to six months at which time, if we had money, we went back. (I read slower with the kids attached to me.)

So I finished this – I thought – book, and the ending was satisfactory and everything. But there was some detail that bugged me. I don’t remember what, now, but let’s say in the first book, the murder happened by jumping out the window while in the solution to what I thought was the SAME book, they went on about how the rope had led them to the killer. I thought this was very weird, so I went to the beginning and read through the first murder and realized it wasn’t the book I’d read. Then I tracked the other book down where I’d left it a day before, when I had to go do something for the kids.

I think it was at this point that I gave up on “I’ll read every word.” Because if books were that generic, why would I?

And that’s my main complaint of most of the Hugo nominees/talked about books. It’s not that they’re bad… It’s more the same reason I stopped watching TV dramas/comedies. I can tell from the setup how they’re going to end.

In the same way, though some occasionally surprise me, more and more, in science fiction, when I start reading a novel or short that has earned the approval of the glitterati, I know exactly what twists it’s going to take and how it will end.

Some of this, undoubtedly, is that I can see the strings and pulleys, because I know the craft – as I’ve warned those of you I mentor, when you learn the craft it ruins some of your reading enjoyment – but the other part is that I know what the approved path of thought is. In the same way I could predict where that (discovery Channel?) future evolution program would go, because I know what they hate, and first they eliminated mankind, then anything that resembled us, including all mammals (and there was no logical reason for it, there was thin-veiled handwavium) and ended with intelligent octopi swinging from trees. (I wish I were joking.) The octopi were a little surprising because silly is surprising, but I knew it would be something like that, or an insect, or something.

In the same way, the overriding characteristic of all those “highly approved of” works is… “yawn.”

Perhaps they dramatically excite the members of the choir. What do I know? They don’t do much for me, though.

There wasn’t much choice until indie. It was Baen or conform.

Now? Shrug. I’m not even sure how much difference if any the Hugos make. It all seems like inside football, when facing a worldwide potential readership.

And eh – she says, after remarking the grapes are too sour to eat anyway – I don’t have a dog in the fight.

So I’m not going to write about the Hugos. I’m just going to say that when there is a storm all over FB about how the awards need to be awarded to more “women” and “people of color” you’ve lost the plot.

Leave alone for a moment the disgusting, viscerally repulsive racism of assuming that the inside of a person’s head always matches their skin color/gender. And let alone the fact that all this smacks of “special award, for extra-deserving minority.” (As a minority – double, if you count women as a minority – I’d like them to take their award and stick it up where the sun don’t shine. I’ll win on my own terms, in competition with everyone of whatever color or gender, or not at all. Not that anyone is offering me an award, of course, since I’m a gender and ethnicity “traitor” (How can you betray something you never swore allegiance to, anyway?))

We’ll leave that alone, mostly because I found myself typing obscenities on the subject on a friend’s FB page last night, and no one wants to see that (right?)

Let’s just consider, for a moment, that their motives are pure. That they think that not having women or people of color among the nominees is the result of racism and sexism (which would mean they don’t expect anyone to judge on the merits of the STORY, but never mind.)

That just shows how the award has fallen. Because if it were given to the most popular work among the fans, no one would care (or often know) what color/gender the writer is.

There is this Reiner Kunze poem which I haven’t run across yet, in my book-clearing, and which at any rate, I only read in German and so will quote from memory, possibly with omissions/additions.

The trees grow top on top

None is taller than the others

The branches filter the rain so the

Torture of thirst is avoided

The trees grow top on top

None sees more than the others

To the wind, they all whisper the same.

And this is the real problem with most stories (genre or not) these days, at least those that come out of the literary-industrial complex. It is not that they’re produced by white people or brown people, or purple people. It’s not that the person who wrote them has a penis or a vagina. That doesn’t matter or shouldn’t matter. I’m not saying there won’t be markers/assumptions, though a really good writer can write convincingly from another perspective, without breaking a sweat.

Those things don’t matter, because that’s not, in the end, what you write with. (I can see typing with a penis, but if you type with a vagina you should take your act on the road, or at least get a webcam.)

You write with craft, with art, and yes, with a bit of your soul, but those don’t always match the external bits. (You’d think the people going on about the tyranny of cis-thisandthat would get that, no? Even when it doesn’t refer to gender? That someone truly imaginative can imagine growing up in say Elizabethan England, and for that time BE that person?)

If you’re not subduing your inner self to what the establishment expects you to be, not trying to conform to “what all the right people think”, not trying to be accepted by the cool kids, if you truly try to think for yourself – particularly in SF – your work will surprise. It might not shock, but it will surprise enough to keep the jaded palate reading.

And you won’t be a tree in a forest of identical trees, none of them worth the pulp paper they’ll eventually become.

Because writing and publishing science fiction and fantasy is not a form of social science. It’s not your “duty” to right the wrongs of the world, or even to “change the world.” The teacher who told you that was wrong. Oh, sure, if you can make people THINK after they finish reading you, great. You might even make them see things your way. (Or not. I enjoyed many a leftist writer without doing more than roll my eyes at his assumptions.) But that’s irrelevant.

What you really need to do with your science fiction and fantasy (or mystery, or horror, or romance) is ENTERTAIN your reader, so that as they close the book they think “that was money/time well spent. I’d read the next one.”

Everything else will come after that, by accretion. But that is essential. Because if you don’t do that, none of your beautifully crafted message that is going to uplift and change the world counts for anything.

And also chances are the reader can see your message coming ten miles away and is running in the other direction even if he agrees, because he’s read it SO many times before.

So, if there are going to be general genre awards (dubious in the days of distributed publishing) let’s make them about fan enthusiasm and good writing. Let the man with the most interesting story win.

Even if he is a she or a he/she or a she/he, and even if he’s white, or purple, or a chameleon who takes on local coloration.

I don’t care. So long as the story is good.

460 responses to “The Trees And The Forest

  1. “I don’t care. So long as the story is good.”
    And that’s the whole point of the matter. A good writer is a story-teller, not a political or social theorist expounding on the latest development.
    We have a long history of storytelling, and the stories considered Classic were done so because people enjoyed reading or hearing the story. Homer was a dirty old man, but he sure knew how to spin words together! And the same with Aristophanes, Verne, L’Amour, Heinlein, and so many others. Their words live on because people want to read them. Not because they are the “accepted wisdom of the ages, expounded by approved voices”.

    Like you, I have too many stories to read, not enough time. And the last story I read that left me feeling like I caught the crud was some feminist drudge (Star Sisterhood, or similar title/content) that was pointedly biased. I recently scanned the contents of my book shelves and boxes (not enough wall space) and the vast majority are those with solid stories. Not all Baen – although it predominates – but good stories. And of the more traditional publishers, they are all 10-20 years old. The newer ones don’t make the cut.
    Except for Baens or Indies.

    • CombatMissionary

      I was at a used library book sale the other day and I picked up “Jubal Sackett” and “Last of the Breed.” L’Amour was a genius.

      • Read damn near everything by L’Amour – my dad had subscribed to the book-of-the-month leather-bound Bantam edition. While a lot of it I wouldn’t bother hunting down, I will by god get my hands on every sackett-related story I can (have some of them already), the Walking Drum, Kilkenny, and I already have Comstock Lode.

        • I consider it one of the tragedies of our time that L’Amour never got to write the sequel to Walking Drum.
          Although best known for his westerns, the Sackett arc in particular, he also wrote a number of contemporary stories in the men’s adventure genre.

          • CombatMissionary

            I personally think The Walking Drum was L’Amour’s finest work. Jubal Sackett is my second favorite.

            • The Walking Drum and Haunted Mesa. The Sacketts were the last time I enjoyed a series/trilogy/myg_djustwritethedamnstoryifyoureanygoodillbuyitall…. I think it’s because I never read the series through end-to-end.
              There was a day when heros walked the earth, and they were extra-ordinary folk, capable of extraordinary deeds. The stories of their deeds are the message. Today, everyone is a hero. And don’t go telling them they aren’t, you’ll hurt them where they feel stuff. Makes for bad storytelling.

              • And most of those “giants” owed homage to their mothers in those books. Have you noticed? And the women in those books were real. They were strong and heroic (just like ma) or villains to be reckoned with.

                • OK. Tounge-in-cheek. Message, much? No doubt, few weak mothers bear those sons that stand tall and strong.

                  • Oh heck, L’Amour wasn’t a shy fellow. And if you read his books back to back you quickly notice similarities that don’t stand out if you just read one book about Ma Talon trying to hold on to her ranch.

                    Now, is there even the least chance that L’Amour wrote those books thinking “if I put in this bit about needing a woman to walk beside me and not behind me, I’m going to pull in a bunch of young female feminist readers?” Oh, heck no! But as a young girl I really did like his books because of the female characters. I never much cared for most of the other Western writers out there. Simply by chance the first one I read was about an upper class Norwegian woman who’d, I think she actually killed someone, and then fled to the states and made arrangements to meet and marry a man out West who turned out to be a bad guy, was “rescued” by a total stranger and married him instead. The reality of her options would offend feminists today, but they were the reality of her options. It didn’t make her weak or a victim or the least intimidated by her surroundings or even *conceptually* inferior to the men in her world.

                    As a young girl I read his books for the girls in them.

                    • Aw, heck.
                      You just raised a point that totally flew over my head when I read those books. My age when I read them and the culture I was raised in left me oblivious to those wild notions.
                      On the other hand, that is to my point on well-told stories. Most folks can relate in more ways than one.
                      In any case, heros/heroines were strong, principled, and self-reliant. Whether their Sunday best was in the form of dresses or suit and tie.
                      I read L’Amour because they were very well written stories about the wild west, and all that went with it.
                      Sarah is the first time I have read for entertainment in over a decade; when time is in short supply, wasting time on drek is costly. Not many people bother to understand language well enough to use it.
                      I think one of the reasons series don’t work for me is that a book is the work of an author, and you quickly get to know the author very well.
                      Let’s take another medium for example. Producers of television series should fire all the writers within six episodes, and actors/actresses too. Some much sooner. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but after the first time, your just skinning cats, eh?

                    • I remain wholly bumfuzzled over the failure of any young Hollywood actress to buy the rights to and produce a short series based on Ride the River, the story about how shy, demure, retiring little Echo Sackett sojourned to the big city and back, learning a thing or two on the way.

                      I am torn between Sam Elliott or Tom Selleck to play Finian Chantry.

                      BTW – fans of the Sharpe’s films should be aware of Shaughnessy, an attempt to base a TV series starring Daragh “Patrick Harper” O’Malley on L’Amour’s novel The Iron Marshall. Imperfect but with promise, the pilot has been available on DVD.

                    • Ride the River was great, and Echo was great. The young man who followed her home was also great. :)

                    • You WANT to see what Hollywood could do to his books?

                    • Well they didn’t do to bad with Hondo, but yes it has all been downhill from there. Still better than most of the rest of the dreck Hollywood puts out though.

                • Poor Orrin Sackett with his weakness for yellow-haired women… :-( … lead him into much trouble.

              • I second Haunted Mesa, although I would list Last of the Breed and Reilly’s Luck as well as quite a few others, above The Walking Drum.

      • Also – “Last of the Breed” – like some of the Sackett, and I also believe one of his books set in California, had a few “supernatural” tie-ins, I presume from stories he’d heard from indians and cowboys.

      • Love those! Not my usual reading genre, but found L’Amour when I was a kid and still read them.

      • The honesty of this article and the fact that you guys are talking about L’Amour books in the comments tell me I found my home. I grew up reading his books, and it’s not impossible that I’ve read everything, though he wrote so much, you never know. Oh, and I’m not even from the States, and yet I found familiarity within his books and how he viewed life.

  2. Not that anyone is offering me an award, of course, since I’m a gender and ethnicity “traitor” (How can you betray something you never swore allegiance to, anyway?)

    Well, DUH, you were born into allegiance to them. (RUNS)

    • Exactly. Conscripted by an appearance of similarity.

    • Once upon a time our Mommas taught us ‘not to judge a book by its cover.’

      Never mind judging by ‘the content of their character.’ It appears that Patrick Moynihan was correct, we have defined deviancy down so far that we dare not look at character content anymore.

      We all know that judgmentalism is wrong. On the other hand concluding that someone is an ‘ist’ or a ‘phobe’ justifies shunning them and requires shutting them out of the conversation. Forbid that the person suffering from the perceived ‘ist’ or phobia be a member of one of the sacred groups and dares speak out against the present practices. They are a traitor and that means they should be publicly crucified as a lesson to anyone who fails to keep to their place and tow the party line. (Oops, I mean, fails to be enlightened.)

      Once I got over the initial confusion, I have had no end of amusement at the thought that the very people who say that we should not exercise prejudice are the ones who are so busy exercising their prejudices. The state of education has lead to a general population which seems, like the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, to have learned the amazing ability to believe ‘as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

  3. What happened to your reading is why I’m letting my subscription to Asimov’s lapse after two decades. Although they DO still run the occasional Resnick story, which I shall miss, they’ve been running so many science fiction stories that aren’t really science fictiony. I could go on at length about the stories that really cemented my decision. (I think it was the space chickens that really pulled me out of it for good, but the one where aliens eliminated all men from the planet really got me looking for all the PC crap, and another where the very end tacks on that the heroine is a lesbian, after hitting a bunch of other checkboxes, really showed me how the numbers ran.)

    • I hate seeing what Asimov’s devolved to. I can only conclude their slush pile is so thin that they’re resorting to taking the least crappy submission each month to pad out the issue to justify the price.

      Heck, I’ve subscribed to get it on my Kindle and still think it’s a waste of paper… :-(

      Their subscription numbers can’t be good – and as far as newsstand sales go, I can’t think the last time I saw it at Barnes&Noble. It’s been literally years.

      Analog’s not fairing much better, either. Last paper issue I got had a story on a scientist who’d invented a new energy source, but was in trouble because he was objecting to testing it on the back side of the moon. The Bush daughters were running a co-presidency, and denying the problems caused by global warming. The story ended with (Spoiler alert!) the horribly powerful energy source vaporizing the moon, and rendering the Earth uninhabitable. Everything died. Oh, the tragedy.

      I finished the story, put down the magazine, and haven’t bought one in paper form since.

      I remember reading my father’s Analogs back in the day… those were amazing. I still subscribe to the digital issue, and occasionally get something worthwhile… but I sure don’t enjoy them like I used to.

      • adventuresfantastic

        My local B&N still carries Asimov’s and Analog, as well as EQMM and AHMM along with F&SF and Interzone. I’ve got electronic subscriptions of the first 4, paper for F&SF, and occasionally glance through Interzone without seeing anything to make me want to actually purchase it.

        I don’t read nearly as much short fiction as I used to (all those review copies of novels showing up), but I’ve not been impressed by much of what I’ve seen in the last couple of years.

        • It’s the rejections that say it’s a perfectly good story but just not right for our magazine that really make you give up hope.

        • Different regions, I guess. Ours doesn’t get A&A, though I’ve asked several times for them to carry it – and only EQMM is regularly available. F&SF gets maybe two issues a year, or less. (And I’m not much of a fan of it.) Interzone I’ll occasionally see, but never got into.

          Of course, someone could be coming in on the day A&A are put out, and scooping up all the issues. But that’s not what I’d bet.

          • adventuresfantastic

            I wouldn’t bet that way either. Ours usually has at least four copies of each.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        That story: Good. GRIEF.

        • Yeah… honestly, I felt like writing a nastygram about it, but figured whoever it was routed to would go “Well, I didn’t see a problem with it, so you’re just a right-wing nutcase!”

          Kicked me out of the story, hard. After a point, you just shake your head and go ‘Why?’…

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            All that Bush-bashing stuff was dated the moment it hit the page. I can’t imagine what readers 20 years from now will make of it all.

            • The same I do when I read about how Reagan is going to get us all killed in a nuclear exchange. Write the writer off as a screaming idiot.

              • Christopher M. Chupik

                Our library has a book from 1984 which warns that if Reagan is reelected, he’ll start WW3 for sure.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                There was one, humorous when I think about it, mention of Reagan. Two intelligence agents were talking and one mentioned Reagan as the man who almost started a nuclear war. The humorous part was that one of the agents was from the Soviet Union and now the Soviet Union doesn’t really exist. Oh the book had the Soviet Union still strong. [Evil Grin]

        • Yes. Wrong in so many ways.

          I didn’t read the actual story. I don’t want to. As described it started on shaky ground. My willing suspension of disbelief was stretched mighty thin with the idea that anyone in our lifetimes would be in a position to restrict research to the dark side of the moon. (My head is serenading me with Pink Floyd now…) It completely lost me by ‘running for co-Presidency.’

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Dark side of the Moon or Far side of the Moon? My “suspension of disbelief” fails when I hear talk about the “Dark Side of the Moon” when they mean “Far Side of the Moon”.

            • Actually, as the story was summarized, the location was described as the back side of the moon, but my head, possibly being less inclined to pushing us towards the gutter, skipped the butt of that, and went otherwise. (Far Side takes me on an entirely different bent.)

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Nice to know that it’s acceptable for your hatred of a politician to be projected onto his children. Do you think Asimov’s will accept my story which features a future America under the rule of Sasha and Malia? The answer of course is: no way in hell.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Sorry, Analog. I always get those two mixed up.

        • They do this stuff ALL THE TIME.
          Analog published a series about a clone of Princess Diana as an interplanetary ambassador that was left-icon worship.

          • It would certainly be interesting to get Ol’ Karlie’s take on the apotheosis of Princess Diana. Also the nifty way that North Korea has managed to combine “Marxism” with hereditary monarchy.

          • I think I read that piece. IIRC, it was bland as hell, and that’s being charitable.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            I seem to recall that 200 years ago a liberal was someone who opposed the monarchy. ;-)

            • yes. The word has… changed.

            • That was back when the aristocracy was comprised of an inbred elite who had all attended the same schools, belonged to the same social clubs and crafted deals with their cronies to profit at the public expense. Meanwhile, the public was deemed an ignorant rabble, ill-mannered and rude, unwilling of accepting the instruction, leadership and advice of their betters. So, not at all like now.

          • This is supposed to be Science fiction? The idea of such cloning stories bother me. You might successfully replicate a person’s DNA, but that does not even guarantee that you will have an identical appearance. You are never going to be able to replicate the formative experiences.

            • which is part of the thing in the Darkship series. TENDENCIES, but not even all of them, because what we’re learning about DNA makes it unlikley.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                I liked that one of your characters was a clone and gay with the “original” disliking that your character was gay. Oh, wasn’t the “brother” of your character also gay?

                • Yes. After consulting my sources, if it’s genetic it’s epigenetic, so I was careful to have them both have the same “mother.” So the influences in utero and early infancy would be the same.

            • They are cloning dogs nowadays for people who have enough money (last I saw it was on the order of the price of a luxury car), and the results are interesting. Owners report that the clones’ temperament is pretty close to the original, and coloring/markings are again close though not exact, but it’s not the same dog. i’ve seen it described as more like getting a litter mate of the original dog, with some things indeed carrying through (little behavior quirks especially being noted).

              The cloning-as-replication folks need to move away from their science-as-magic mindset, which actually means they won’t, since to many, science is something they don’t understand, which means to them it is magic.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I think there might be reason not to pass over Malia for that sort of story. If my reading of my electronic dictionary is correct, her name is a really compelling joke. I sometimes refer to her father as Pater Maliae. (Rarely, because I don’t trust my weak Latin.) I know little of her character, and probably can not know much yet. I’m not much interested in writing such a story, and if I did, I’d rather focus on her father.

          As a premise, I have trouble resisting a bad pun.

          The situation changing to allow a co-presidency might be interesting speculation.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            I’m sure you had that under the Clintons, didn’t you?

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Not as a matter of legal fact.

              Sure, Hillary very efficiently covered up Bill’s rapes and sexual assaults. Among other things. There were certain powers of the office of President that she did not exercise.

              Now, Mrs. Wilson, on the other hand, was a different matter. She apparently effectively held that power, but that was as a result of Mr. Wilson being unable to carry it out.

              The Roman Consuls alternated days of authority, if I understand correctly. They traded off military command when in the field with the same army.

              Part of the whole point of the office of President of the United States is unity of command. Committees are terrible at certain things, and under the Articles of Confederation, the executive had been too weak. So they wanted a stronger executive, with a single person ultimately making the decisions, but not so strong so as to be a threat, because the office would be weaker than the laws.

              They rated unity of command over weakening the executive, and over having multiple seats to split power between powerful factions with irreconcilable differences.

        • If you write it as some kind of socialist paradise, they would.

          I think it went to hell when Silverberg stepped down as editor. With Sheila Williams in charge, it’s just been full of grey goo and leftism.

        • Do you think Asimov’s will accept my story which features a future America under the rule of Sasha and Malia?

          If Sasha and Malia are depicted as bringing about world peace and furthering enlightened government by, for example, freeing the world from anthropogenic global warming, I would think that the story might be quiet acceptable.

      • Irony: the imaginary Bush daughters would have been correct, then – global warming turned out not to be a problem!

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          If you are on the verge of so much cheap energy, and if you are having irrecoverable ecological problems, it might well make more sense to strip mine the atmosphere and biosphere, and build space colonies. (If you take as correct the estimates of negative outcomes and necessary remediation from when I was younger, it might now be necessarily irreparable, much less in the future.)

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            You know, from the description of the story, it gives the impression the moral is: “Alternative energy is bad.” I don’t think that was the author’s intent.

            • I’m not so sure. I’ve noticed a certain undercurrent of solution-preference that requires a reduced future; anti-progress, anti-technology, anti-human. How best do we get our pastoral society? We can pay quaint brown-skinned people living in poverty to continue their pre-industrial life-styles in those adorable grass huts through carbon credit schemes, but what do we do about the West?

              • Have them killed off by their: technology, over-consumption of resources, overpopulation, underpopulation (“heroic” scientist releases virus that renders northern hemisphere’s residents sterile), nuclear war that only affects northern hemisphere. That’s just off the top of my head.

                In the WIP I’m playing with that a little, by having the Powers That Be tolerate Odds (Mennonites, a few others) keeping “primitive” practices because it adds “color” and “diversity” to the colony (sounds good on the corporate reports, you know, and the corporation gets some tax breaks). When the fit hits the shan, they are the source of the survival supplies and techniques. But it’s still rough going.

                • (“heroic” scientist releases virus that renders northern hemisphere’s residents sterile)

                  Oh! And then secret labs run by fundamentalist Norse Christians and a few Arab Muslims and other Islamic Asians very quickly develop cloning technologies and artificial wombs in the basement of the Mayo Clinic or someplace below the University of Minnesota, working together with a group of secret organization religious zealots that make the fundies look like poseurs that had been secretly squirreling away frozen embryos from all over the nation in an old missile silo in South Dakota because life begins at conception and the state of their souls requires making sure they aren’t tossed in the trash…

                  Somehow the “heroic” scientist never saw this coming…

                  • Oh crap… a secret assassin type female professional embryo liberator in black leather just jumped fully formed into my head… darn you Red!

                    In your honor, she’s a ginger.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  There is always good old fashioned mass murder.

                  Step one, genocidal war across the area of interest.

                  Step two, the clear winner devolves into internal conflict. Perhaps a cult faction has cultivated a fraction of the military with no real interest in the future. This attempts to repeat the massacre, with some success.

                  Step three, the internal and external killings, being imperfect leave survivors.

              • Yet, these people really aren’t anti-technology by their viewpoint. (This once again touches on the science-as-magic conundrum.) While decrying old systems they are, at the same time, touting the promises of a better life and ample energy through new green technologies. Yes, we have to tighten our belts and cut back for the moment, while they rebuild the world in their image. In their vision of their brave new world everyone will be so much better off under their wise and benevolent management.

                I have argued this before, but I think that you have to forgive some of the older folks here. My grandparents, parents and teachers grew up in a time when it really did look like science could solve mankind’s problems. They lived through a time where it seemed that the impossible became possible.

                Look consider the changes in last century. We don’t have to fear polio or measles, mumps and whooping cough. We have penicillin and its relative’s to treat infections. We can treat heart attacks and cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence. Electric lights, refrigeration and air conditioning are standard in homes, along with a number of appliances the make house work far less onerous. The development of chemical fertilizers and pesticides have meant greater crop yields and less loss. Manned flight and moon landings are no longer the stuff of science fiction. We have all been brought together by the Internet. (Some of it came back to bite us, the law of unintended consequences never rests.)

                Tom Kratman addressing developing believable future science in fiction when speaking on a panel, held up his smart phone and announced, ‘I hate my job.’

    • You know– space faring, tree swinging octopi would be a cool idea, if you didn’t have to get rid of humanity first. That sort of ruins the whole thing. Thought does not cogitate in a vacuum. I’d want to see how humankind relates to such a creature. It is a meeting of minds that makes SF what it is.

      Insects are kind of boring mentally– I suppose hive minds are worth a mass at zero G.

      Sadly, Spider Robinson may have led the way into de-SF-ing SF. He’s the excuse, anyhow. I had thought about getting back into Asimov’s now that I’m writing seriously, but it sounds like it’s not worth my time. Sad.

      • Oh, it’s easy to set up the ‘Humans vs Tree-pods’. Research ship heading on a close-observation swing-by of a black-hole’s event horizon. Done properly, they’d lose maybe 2-3 months in the fraction of a second of closest approach… but a slight miscalculation on the orbit (and by slight I mean feet, not miles) swings them just enough closer that the time-dilation effect lasted millions of years instead of just a few months.

        They come out the other side, can’t pick up any human signals from anywhere. They check in at various outposts – no sign of the outposts or humanity… except a few mining facilities on moons w/no atmosphere.

        They head to Earth – and find the tree-pods just about to try a moon shot.

        There ya go – Humans vs tree-swinging octopi. And I’ll gladly proofread your first draft!

        • I read a story like that once, but I can’t remember the title or author:-(. It wasn’t tree-pods or arboreal octopi though. Rather the sea-mining self-replicating rafts managed to survive WWIII and eventually evolved into an entire biota, including sapients. The humans had been stuck in a malfunctioning FTL warp or something, which is why they missed the extinction of the species and came back to Earth rather late.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            I’m sure it was by Poul Anderson but can’t think of the title.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Found it! It was “Epilogue” and can be found in the Baen Poul Anderson collection titled _To Outlive Eternity And Other Stories_.

              • Thanks! I’ll have to dig through my Anderson collection and re-read that one. At least now I know the author and title again.

      • *I* could get along with with intelligent, tree-swinging octopi. Imagine an assistive octopus, climbing to the top of the cabinet to get the vase I want. And I can honestly swear to the Octopi Ethical Treatment Society that I have never eaten one of their kind.

  4. More seriously, though, yes, the whole notion that awards should be set aside for someone of a particular race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or what have you, is ridiculous. That’s just saying that they can’t achieve an award when stacked up against the rest of the field, and have to have their special awards carved out for them at a lower level than the rest.

    • I’m open to the suggestion that many people of particular races, genders, orientations, etc, self-select out because they’re convinced they’re unwelcome.

      Unfortunately, no one really looks at just who is sending the strongest messages that they’re not welcome and can’t expect to compete on merit. Look at the “thing” with Larry as a handy example. Larry’s not trying to keep anyone down or exclude anyone (not by any honest or actual reading of anything he ever wrote) but what do young authors of color or alternative gender hear? Shouted at them? Loudly and incessantly? That old white men like Larry want to exclude them and will spend actual effort to keep them out and keep them down.

      Is it not entirely *rational* to chose not to beat your head on that wall if you’re a transgendered young woman of color? Of course it is. People aren’t stupid.

      Unfortunately the SJW (and certain individuals) are doing the best that they possibly can to make sure that that message gets out and is heard by everyone so that no one accidentally thinks they can just apply and pay and go to Clarion West (as a sort of non-random example) and be accepted as a fellow writer. I’m not opposed to people freely giving out targeted scholarships, but I use the “writer workshop” thing as an example because of the person pushing it responding to questions of “am I ethnic enough if I’m from eastern europe” or “why isn’t this just focused on financial need” with a screed about how “you white people” already have tons of writing workshops *for white people* and should stop whining because there are already WHITE everything… and I was horrified to think, both of what the organizers of the various famous workshops would think of being portrayed as running WHITE organizations, and also for what this woman was telling those she wanted to help about the world. Would any of them fell welcome at one of those WHITE writer’s workshops after reading what she wrote?

      (ugh… sorry for the length)

      • No problem on length. And there’s more. The people who tell me I don’t think like a woman or like an immigrant, or like a Latina are sending off “Stay out unless you fit our ideas” And the ones insisting there be someone nominated for this award who checks the right boxes, whether or not they’re that popular, that well known or that good are basically saying “you poor thing. You need handicapped competition.” THESE ARE MY MIDDLE FINGERS.

  5. The prevalence of politics in science fiction/fantasy is very disturbing to this neophyte fiction writer. I don’t have any interest in changing the world with my fiction. I’ve written non-fiction for that function for years. Fiction is purely about entertaining people.

    Unfortunately, because I’m already “out” as a libertarian, I get feelings of doubt when I get rejection emails. Not the “Am I good enough to ever get published?” kind of doubt. No, my doubt is whether my work is good enough but my politics aren’t. This is the age of Google. Am I being Googled and found wanting in that category?

    Seriously, I doubt it. Other writers, including internet acquaintances of mine, are openly conservative and managed to get published. However, it’s sad that we live in a world where these doubts can linger.

    Right now, my one hope is the Writers of the Future contest, because those decisions are made blind, so judges will solely judge my work based on my skill as a writer and have no way of determining my politics. It’s just upsetting that such a thing – politics not entering into the equation – is the exception rather than the industry norm.

    • Like I mentioned elsewhere… “It’s like the water”…. I’m fairly sure some of them don’t realize they’re being political, they are just “doing the right thing” and holding it forth as an example. It’s us who contradict them that are injecting politics.

      Nevermind all the politically charged comments and expectations thrown in that have nothing to do with the story. Or the event. Because, you know, all smart people think that way.

      I’ve discovered myself listening to what used to be a favorite podcast less and less, despite it’s still very short length. Part of it is, to be fair, a bit of disgust at one of the newer hosts who’s semi openly (passive-agressive deniability, but wink, wink, her readers know who she’s talking about) trashed several of the great SF authors as dinosaurs/etc on their personal and otherwise unrelated blog. IIRC said host was also upset when a broad range of authors protested the new SWFA journal editorial guidelines.

      Part of it was that the podcast could get crowded enough with just the original hosts in the short time frame – more sound bites and less incisive commentary. Which sucks because the three original hosts, two of them especially, had some amazingly insightful things to say about the craft of storytelling.

      Mostly though, it’s because the topics they’re picking no longer interest me. And when they DO interest me, the examples they draw on are from recent authors I never heard of instead of from classic authors and stories that established the tropes in the first place – who all happen to be on one hosts sh*t list.

      If you’re trying to give examples to your audience of “this is a great place to see how it’s done” – then perhaps one should use as a touchstone something that would be familiar to a broad swath of the SF readership.

      Or perhaps we no longer have such common touchstones – or, at least, one of the hosts doesn’t.

      In short – while they go out of their way not to drag politics into it, those unapproved authors are almost never mentioned even when a perfect fit as an example of the topic. Not anywhere near as much anymore. The topics picked no longer excite me (part of that could be me) – and adding people has made the discussion shallower by allowing less elaboration.

      • I don’t think they realize they’re doing it either. I used to BE one of them. *I* certainly never thought anything about it. Hell, I just couldn’t fathom how everyone wasn’t on board with our kind of things. It was just the right thing to do.

        That doesn’t change the reality though, that whether they think it’s politics or not, it is. No amount of hand waving will change that.

        • It was what we were taught. Heck, in college, they had me feeling guilty about just existing. (Hence, my guilt buttons were burnt out completely and today, I feel no guilt for anything whatsoever.)

          • YES! I was thirty before I stopped feeling guilty.

          • I can relate. I was shamed for all of that, and now I feel no shame whatsoever about most of what I do.

          • On the other hand, my disgust, contempt and feeling-betrayed buttons are probably hyper-sensitive.

            • Mine too, and it can be a problem.

            • My brother, who as everyone here knows, is of them, told me when I was eight that “Lots of people have died just because you exist.” He was my older brother so I believed him. Took me till I was thirty to realize how ridiculous that was. It was based on the zero sum idea that for an European child to live, tons of Africans/low development country children HAD to die. Based on what people consumed, not on availability, waste by kleptocrats, distribution — nothing. Just I existed, so people had died.
              Sometimes I wonder if he still believes that about himself and if that’s why he is (politically) the way he is.

              • *sound of jaw hitting chest* And who told your brother that in the first place?

              • Hmmmm, you could turn that idea around and make it a h-ll of a Human Wave story. Stranger arrives on zero-sum world and points out that, from what he’s seen elsewhere, what the “authorities” are doing is not only unnecessary, it’s what is keeping the world from prospering (population too low, killing off innovators). Revolution ensues.

                (Today was teaching the onset of the Communist Revolution and first 5 Year plan in China, with a brief discussion of the problems of the One Child Policy. As I told the students, “I’m not a fan of involuntary, government imposed Communism.”)

                • “I’m not a fan of involuntary, government imposed Communism.”

                  Here, here! Ladies and gentlemen, I give ye TXRed.

              • Yes. At our house we have considered that the problem arises in the concept that all goods and resources are like a pie. There only so much pie to go around, therefore, if you take a larger piece someone has to receive less.

                (I think we can blame Marx and Engles.)

      • Yes, dgarsys, I miss the old Writing Excuses, too. (Funny that the three original hosts are all good friends with Larry Correia, too.)

        • I wondered if that was who he was talking about.

          Unfortunately, I never listened to the podcast, so I wasn’t really sure. Of course, I know who the problem person is in that bunch anyways, so that’s pretty telling.

        • I miss it – I refuse to listen to it now. I keep thinking I need to email and ask when she will no longer be a guest, so I can start buying the CD’s again, but I figure that would be a bad idea.

      • I’m pretty sure I know who and what you’re talking about, and I’m right there with you. Still subscribed just… there’s so many other things I can listen to, it doesn’t come up.

        On a TOTALLY unrelated topic, have you tried “Do I Dare to Eat a Peach”? Not writing related, and a HECK of a lot longer than, say, a short podcast re: writing, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard. (Oh, and someone downthread may already have mentioned it, but they’re apparently doing a charity anthology for one of the co-hosts of “Peach” – Correia was mentioning it on his blog the other day.)

      • If I knew that it was actually good, I’d probably do it in a heartbeat. The problem is, there’s just enough doubt about some of it that I’m hesitant to publish it and thus embarrass myself.

        • Then you should beta it, and get readers to tell you what they think.

          That said, it would be difficult to embarrass yourself more than some people have done with stories that have made filthy lucre from publishers and won awards.

          Mwahaha! Sell whatever the market will bear! It worked for Homer!

        • If the story is finished, and you have had a different set of eyes read it for typos, etc, then put it up there and write the next story.

          My husband was very disappointed that his income last year from Amazon was only $49 (his first year of publishing). I told him that that was $49 more than he made the year before he published, and to keep working on the next book.

          • Did he do short stories, or novels?

            Right now, all I’ve got completed and ready to go are short stories.

            The one completed novel is an embarrassment to the English language right now. :)

            • He has two novels out. Our esteemed hostess has been putting short stories up at Amazon. You could look through her listing to get an idea of how to price yours.

              • I’ll look into it.

                I’ll be honest, I’ve thought seriously about going self published for the novels, mostly because Baen is the only publisher I’d touch with a ten foot pole, but never seriously considered self publishing the short stories.

                • Do! And once the stories are up, don’t forget to let the Huns know how to find them. ;)

                • They don’t pay much. But they’re good loss leaders. I’ve had to Marlowe mystery short stories for free most of the month and it goosed the musketeer mysteries up.

                  • Well, the novel I’m working on uses characters originally written for the piece I have in at Writers of the Future. If that doesn’t win (which it probably won’t), it would be a good loss leader for the novel.

                    Provided I can get the blasted thing written without it sucking balls.

            • I’m going to do some short stories as soon as I finish revising them.

              Which is slow going. I suspect panic.

          • Heck, I made $23 last year on my two novels!

            Thought of framing the 1099, actually… ;)

        • Dude. Like you don’t have people around here that would happily download, say, a sample copy, that was, say, put into a public dropbox folder and a link passed to a couple of people?

          Or like we can’t tell just from your comments here that you’re probably already better than people I know who are self-publishing already?

          Not that I’m not in the same boat. Maybe we need to start a support group. Or an informal writing group. Hey, I got the Goodreads thing nominally off the ground, and Mary took it and ran with it (and I am TOTALLY GRATEFUL FOR THAT), I bet I could start a writing group here and pawn it off on someone else to run.

          • I’m liking the Dropbox idea, trying to figure a mechanism for simple thumbs up/down feedback… Maybe a form? Anybody got good ideas?

            I’d just like a feel for “Like, more please.” vs “Dude, you’re boring my boredom.”

            Craft and technical things I’m studying here/MGC and elsewhere. And I have a plan in progress for production to indie.

            Thoughts, anybody?

            • Put a link at the end of the sample that goes to a form created with Google Docs? Or a SurveyMonkey survey? (I think I’d prefer the GDocs option, but YMMV). Survey asks just a couple things – Thumbs up, down, High point, low point, anything that jarred them out of the story, done.

              • Yes, very much like that. I need to look at G-docs, I haven’t done anything with it.

                I’d be willing to host a Dropbox folder if authors/readers would be interested in participating. I need to look over the mechanism, again, but I beleive you can password individual folders (by author?) and invite to those as desired.

                How best to handle the copyrights? I’m not at the desktop so my research ability is limited…

                • Well, the thought I had would be that each individual writer would run their own informal survey with their own pieces and their own Dropbox. (For my reasoning, see: “Writers”, also “Herding Cats”)

                  Dropbox also allows you to send a link for a particular file to a particular person even if it’s not in the public folder – that would help mitigate the “It’s in a public folder so ANYONE could just download it” squeebie-jeebies, and if the individual authors are kind of rolling their own (maybe I have different questions to ask, different things I’m checking for than other authors do. Again, “Writers” and “Cat Herding”), maybe that gets around…

                  Actually, that’s just a question. What is your specific concern with the copyrights?

                  • I see those complications re: cats/writers and herding. I don’t know if Dropbox is the right service, but what I was thinking was a location where interested readers could poke in and scan through some things and leave feedback. The forms would be tailored/linked by the individual authors, and the authors files would be controlled by each as well. But the general location could be centralized. Then the ‘community’ can be given access to the general folder, with subfolders/files restricted as desired. Aiming for some cross-pollination and slightly wider reach.Takes some of the pressure/burden off of “Will you read my story?” In fact, within the community, anonymity could be maintained.

                    Probably more complicated and more work than is worthwhile, as I don’t know enough about the various cloud services to pick the most appropriate and set up the system. For myself, I think it’d be handy to be able to toss something up that the Huns and Hoydens could view at will/leisure and leave feedback on, without much concern for the occasional troll.

                    I shall put it on the list to try and research and consider when time presents.

                    As to copyright, just wondering what language/disclaimer is adequate for online semi-public posting.

          • Let me know if you do. Count me in. :)

  6. Those things don’t matter, because that’s not, in the end, what you write with. (I can see typing with a penis, but if you type with a vagina you should take your act on the road, or at least get a webcam.)

    …I have the misfortune of having watched a House episode last night where they feature a form of cooking food and it must still be moving – a Chinese queasine (that’s deliberate) – and the featured dish as a plate of wriggling octopus tentacles. (My husband was surprised I had not heard of this grotesquerie and asked me if I’d like to see it on Youtube. I say yes – whereupon he asks me three times if I’m sure. It’s… oddly disturbing. Husband notes I’m hard to squick.)

    That, plus the paragraph above… Cthulhugina.

    If I do get to sleep tonight, I will not be surprised if I have interesting and disturbing nightmares.

    • If I have nightmares tonight, you are in so much trouble.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Drow are infamous sadists, after all. ;-)

        • I think it’s a fair rule of thumb: That which moves should be made to stop moving before you eat it.

        • I’m happy to report that for the first time in a whole week, I’ve managed to sleep through the night, and while the dreams were strange they did not include tentacles of any kind.

          • Obviously you need to watch more Hentai….

            • I prefer hentai anime over live action porn, just not tentacle hentai. Tentacle hentai, while strange, does not squick me.

              I’ve heard of, but not bothered to see, live action tentacle porn. It strikes me as rather silly.

              • Caught one of the live action ones by accident one time. Wasn’t even trying to find anything remotely related, and don’t know how it wound up in the list. The motion of the tentacles was too fake for suspension of disbelief. Watched the clip to the end because of the train wreck factor.

                • I… remember seeing pictures of a DVD cover somewhere and wondered why this nubile Japanese chick was lying on top of a pile of plastic tubing.

                  I don’t remember where or how I got there, but this was during the days when I’d be searching for ‘anime music videos’ and I’d end up with a video of an Arab looking woman being ridden by an Arabian stallion with an audience watching. It annoyed 16 year old me a LOT, so I know about the ‘not looking for anything related, but ending up with something very wrong.’

              • I think it came into being mainly as a way to get around Japanese porn laws. You can’t have a penis, but a tentacle? Nobody’d thought of that when they wrote the law.

                • Tentacle porn goes back a long way in Japanese art. How long have they had anti-porn laws?

                  • I might argue your definition of art, but then you are talking to the guy who looks at the Mona Lisa and sees an ugly, stuck up woman, and with nothing else in the picture to detract from her priggish look-down-her-nose expression wonders why it became a big deal instead of being used as fire starter.

                  • IIRC, the art is of a story about a fisherman’s wife that’s raped by an octopus or squid, can’t remember which.

                    The pop culture stuff is from the porn laws.

                  • Images of tentacle porn in Japan can be documented back to the Edo period (1603 – 1867) in Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. The restrictive laws were imposed during the American occupation after WWII.

              • Every and all Japanese fetishes squick me.

    • ” (I can see typing with a penis, but if you type with a vagina you should take your act on the road, or at least get a webcam.)”

      Actually this reminded me of an old Steve Martin joke. Martin relates hearing a singing coach advise a woman to learn to sing from her diaphragm, puts on a horrified face and says ‘but that would take YEARS!’

      • Rob Crawford

        That joke’s so old it predates King Tut.

        The song,

      • There was, IIRC a feminist artist headlined a couple of months ago, whose performance piece was stuffing a hank of yarn in her whoo-hah … and knitting as it came out. She did make some kind of remark in the story that I read, that it was … interesting at that time of month. I have a low gross-out threshold, so do not wish to do a google-search to verify, as it is nearly supper time. But when I read the various stories, I was thinking that it was all veering too near to parody … and also … yuck.

        • This reminded me of a story related to me by my housemate then clan leader, and I had to draw it in comic format. (Not very well drawn, since it was done as a break while doing something else…)

          …I’m not sure which is worse now. Your story, or the strange ways some people have tried to get the clan I was in to drop a war.

  7. “If you’re not subduing your inner self to what the establishment expects you to be, not trying to conform to “what all the right people think”, not trying to be accepted by the cool kids, if you truly try to think for yourself – particularly in SF – your work will surprise. It might not shock, but it will surprise enough to keep the jaded palate reading.”

    It works for HF, too – throwing over all the constraints of a politically-correct 21st century mind-set and just telling a ripping good story, through the eyes of an authentic 19th century person. It also has the added benefit of appealing to readers who aren’t all that keen on reading regurgitated 21st century PC pap.

    • Rob Crawford

      For background noise in the evenings, I’ve had Netflix playing “Murdoch Mysteries” — a police procedural set in Victorian Toronto. I can accept some of the anachronisms — and they’ve had the “bumbling sidekick” introduce modern terms for things a few times, as a joke, and it works — but they cannot keep from giving the main character the sensibilities of a 21st century scriptwriter.

      He’s supposed to be Catholic, but gets smashed on absinthe and screws the love interest. He objects to eugenics, but for the modern, secular reasons, not for the reasons a Cathoic at that time would have. He meets a guy building motorcycles and wonders what the fuel extraction and exhaust will do to the world — rather than being glad to see the end of horse exhaust all over the streets.

      It’s not a bad show — despite a few moments of Steampunk silliness — but it’s obvious he’s a “Mary Sue” for the writers, not a man of supposed time.

      • There’s also the fact that they have had two women coroners in a row. Finding one in that time period would be a stretch, but two?!?! And with no continuing murmurs from the police about “not a woman’s job”, etc.? It’s a fun show, but I keep losing my suspension of disbelief. I think most of my fun comes from making fun of the highly improbable anachronisms. Wait until you get to the EVIL gas company plot to prevent the creation of an electric car.

        • I need new shock absorbers for my suspension of disbelief.

          I cannot count the number of times I’ve been happily folowing along with a movie or show on the tube of dumbness when, wham, here comes a pothole of stupidity, and there goes my suspension again.

          It’s become so common an occurence that I now take note when I reach the end and it hasn’t happened.

        • IIRC, someone asked Brigid of “Mausers and Muffins” about wearing heels and police work, and she said someone of her acquaintance had – once – until she lost her balance and fell forward onto an examination table.

      • Rob, thank you for that. I’ve been eyeing the Murdoch series for a while, looking for a replacement when I’ve seen all the episodes of Waking The Dead). But it seems as though I needn’t bother with Murdoch… so it’ll be back to reruns of Kurt Wallander (Swedish version) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series until something else comes along.

      • Modern people just do not understand the effect of horse exhaust on city life.

        • Above anything, I detest ‘presentism’ in historical fiction of any kind … and the fact is that a city served by horse-power (as in real horses pulling freight wagons, private conveyances and public transport) was an incredibly, awesomely filthy and unpleasant places. Does the average 21st century person have any idea of how much dung a single horse produces in a day? (I do, we had a horse for a while – long story.) Imagine that compounded – and no, there wasn’t a city force that went around and swept it up, like they do today after a parade with an equine element. It just lay there … fermenting and attracting flies. Also – horses not infrequently died in harness, as it were. And let’s not forget that paved streets were … well, city streets were more often unpaved than paved, and in many of them there was no regular garbage collection – so household garbage went out into the streets. It was very common to have pigs roaming free, as impromptu-garbage-processing disposals … but again, have you ever contemplated the odor of pig manure? When the automobile first began being used in a large way, people adored the prospect of clean streets, with no flies or disgusting piles of ordure laying around – and they were all for it.

  8. Several years ago I bought a subscription to a storied old magazine (I won’t name it, since the editor at the time lives in my town, and might track me down) that was known in the past for publishing pulp masters like Howard and Lovecraft. I read a couple of the mags, and found that they didn’t contain stories. There was no structure, the beginning, no resolution. They were mostly ramblings, with no direction, masquerading under the label of experimental fiction. And I realized that my stories didn’t have a chance with this publication, since they were old fashioned tales meant to entertain. After reading the two issues I simply stopped reading the following editions. As said by Sarah, I read primarily for entertainment, and also for education. When the genre loses its entertainment value, it loses this reader.

    • adventuresfantastic

      That was pretty much my take of the magazine at the time. The new incarnation is better in that it is now publishing what are clearly stories with beginning , middles, and ends.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I can think of another genre magazine which has much the same problem, but that will also remain nameless for personal reasons. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed that problem.

  9. ” and ended with intelligent octopi swinging from trees.”

    Sounds like it might have been some sort of Lovecraftian thing on Syfy. Sort of a life with Cthulhu type thing. *ducks and runs*

    • No. It was supposedly a “science” program.

      • adventuresfantastic

        Forbidden science of an eldritch nature, not doubt. :)

        (I have no idea why my avatar is different from the first comment I made. I don’t comment a lot, but I’ve had trouble the last few times I’ve tried to comment.)

        • I was going to post that. I’m glad I decided to hold off until I’d read more of the thread:-).

          That’s one of the pages I show students when I’m explaining how Sturgeon’s Law applies to the Interwebz:-P.

      • There was a book that came out in the 80′s called “After Man”, it was not so much a discussion on what a blight man was but a discussion on evolution, and how species move into open niches. It had things like arboreal cats and top-predator rodents and starling-derived raptors. I suppose it did touch on evil-destructive-hoo-mans but I didn’t pay any attention because I was digesting the idea that evolution works with what it has. The Author, Dixon, was a paleontologist so he had some backing. Tree octopii has a lot of things that have to be modified before they are up to arboreal life, though.

      • I remember that show. Of course, I didn’t have much issue with the tree octopi, mostly because they’re already tool users. Intellect wise, it’s not a huge leap to see them up there.

        It’s the whole thing about evolving to be land animals that concerns me.

        • And that all mammals would (of course) die off.

          • I’ve been trying to imagine a successor to mammals. NOT one of the existing types, but something new. A mammal-like version of the Grendels from Legacy of Heorot might be a possibility – low metabolism until needed, then quick change to high metabolism, but there are drawbacks there, too.

            Just can’t predict the random nature of such things, though.

        • There have been three different times when critters emerged from the waters to live on land instead. A fourth is not a stretch.

          • No, a fourth isn’t a stretch.

            It just seems odd that a species that could easily master their environment as it is would choose to leave the water. It’s not impossible, but it feels improbable.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Right, why would truly intelligent squids leave the ocean? Why would they need to?

              Oh, by the way, I suspect that if any animals currently living on land survived, squids would have a hard time competing with them.

              • Possible. However, like I said earlier, they are already tool users, so if they made it out of the ocean, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t figure out weapons pretty quickly to neutralize threats.

              • Predator pressure. Which is, I understand, the reason creatures left the water the first time, but the first time there weren’t competing predators on land, it was a “safe” place if only they could deal with the air and solar radiation.

                Reproduction, might be another reason. Various species of beasties leave the water to lay eggs or whatever on land. I don’t recall, offhand, how squids or octopuses have babies.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  IIRC the animals who lay eggs, have kids, etc on the land had ancestors who “returned to the sea”.

                  Squids and octopuses have always been sea animals so they don’t visit the land to breed.

                  As far as predator pressure goes, truly intelligent squids and/or octopuses would likely handle predators quite nicely or be the predators that other species want to escape. [Grin]

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    Little did the Greens of the twenty fourth century realize what they had wrought.

                    When the last of the active stealth units were taken off line, the hibernation chambers deep beneath the earth released the second wave.

                    The star-spawn, driven from the depths, were changed by the now stranger radiations of the surface.

            • Some octopi already traverse the land. They’re predators anyway, so I can see a transitional form of coastal octopus that preys on seagulls and crabs, then goes inland for newly hatched sea turtles and birds eggs and such.

    • There were a number of those shows. I believe they were called, “After Earth”. In fact, I think there were more than one series of them, because I believe one set used a “humans simply disappear one day” premise, and another used a premise of humans having left Earth to go elsewhere, and they sent back probes to follow the progression of the Earth from that time on.

      Unfortunately, I can’t remember them well enough to give a good description of the way each one progressed, but a couple of them weren’t too bad.

      • No, this one was “Future evolution.” It would be fifteen or sixteen years ago. Dan had a traveling job, and I used to keep the kids quiet in the evening by watching stuff like this with them. You know, walking with dinosaurs and such.

        • I know, I was doing the same thing at the same time. I watched the same one, just didn’t remember the title.

          The intelligent tree squids didn’t bother me as much as the giant land-walking ones, that weighed about 30 tons.

          • Eric Flint put those in a SF book.

            • They were bronze age land squid, weren’t they?

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                No, the “bronze age” aliens were closer to giant crabs. The Land Squids were ancient star travelers in Flint & Spoor’s Boundary series. Mind you, these ancient star travelers were not something you’d want to met in a dark alley but would fit into the average dark alley. [Smile]

          • Oops, looks like I was mistaken, the Megasquid was only 8 tons:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Future_Is_Wild

            • The Megasquid was only eight tons! Your argument is invalid. (Runs.)

            • “Better get me the fifty, and start cooking up a few hundred pounds of sticky rice. Whole town’s having having sushi tonight!”

              • Hmmm. How much breading do you need for an 8 ton squid? Maybe getting the rice and doing a risotto would be easier.

                • Rob Crawford

                  It’s tenderizing them that’s the tough part. First, where do you find a wall large enough to throw one against, and second, how do you get it airborne?

              • “Better get me the fifty…”

                Different mental contexts: I read the above and thought “why does Jerry need the Ma Deuce*? Isn’t the squid already dead?”

                * The Ma Deuce, more formally the M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine gun, also known as “The Fifty” where it is a topic of regular conversation.

                • Well that’s what I thought too, going back and rereading it I still can’t figure out what else he would be referring to as a “fifty”.

                  • A Barrett or a Mahdi-Griffin, of course!
                    Full auto is not terribly sporting and only to be used at need.
                    Aaaaand they make nice silencers for the Barrett.

                    (um, or 50/90 or 50/120 sharps for those steam-punks who want to hunt megasquid. )

                    • “Aaaaand they make nice silencers for the Barrett.”

                      *Scratches head*

                      Wouldn’t a subsonic 50 BMG round be kinda an oxymoron?

                      The 460 Whisper is a sweet round though, if you can afford the custom bullets needed for it to perform to specs, and the base brass used to form the brass for it.

                    • Depends on the nature and range of the target. Subsonic .50 is still a lot of love.

                    • And subsonic, it can penetrate water some distance, instead of being turned into metal shreds on impact with the water (an awesome Mythbusters episode).

                    • I’ve just seen videos. I really don’t play with big iron like that. I tend towards things that run on black powder.

      • There’ve been a number of different “all the humans vanish” shows on the cable networks over the past few years, with apparently good ratings, enough to justify more CGI-heavy shows. I’ve been trying to figure out the target audience, and I eventually decided it was aimed at two stereotypes (remember, New York and Hollywood, so the “target market” is always out there in simplified-stereotype-land): Evangelicals who would watch to see what would happen after the rapture, and Environmentalists who would view it as the ultimate “nature” show absent all those yucky humans, as Mother Gaia repaired all the nasty scars of human civilization.

        The CGI was pretty good, but the breathless narration based on the “thank heavens the humans went away” premise eventually made me ill, so I declined to watch further, but hey, I’m not in the target market.

  10. FWIW – I “get” dropping the HP series 2/3 of the way through – Order of the Phoenix was teen angst turned up to 11. I got through it, my wife couldn’t.

    That said, a) I thought it was fairly well portrayed if a bit overdone. b) Harry had his doubts, but still tried to forge ahead and do the right thing, and c) he grew out of it.

    • My mother hated Order of the Phoenix because she got too much of that in real life. She was a high school chemistry teacher at the time.

      On the other hand, it is a tribute to Rowling’s realism. 0:)

      • I like Order of the Phoenix because if you can get past Harry going emo, Dolores Umbridge is a very good villain, and a prime example of just how dangerous a runaway government can truly be.

        • There are those who think the series keeps on getting darker and darker. No. Order of the Phoenix is the depths, because it is all Orwellian denial and erasure. Afterward, you are in the much lighter situation of being at war, and everyone knows it.

        • I find Dolores Umbridge to be more frightening than Voldemort.

          And speaking of names, would Jasin (male) and Jelana (female) be distinguished enough? Because neither one of them is willing to change their name.

          • To me they’re different, because Jelana is a “tall” name and Jasin isn’t — the l.

            • Oh my. Not sure if that reveals anything significant, but it is an interesting look at how (part) of your mind works.

              I’ll add that in any story with a place or character name I can’t immediately parse, I’ll make my own mental short cut or nickname. So if you are an author and are trying to distinguish a character with an unreadable or unpronounceable name, I (and I suspect many other readers) will just shorten it to something else and your attempt will be for naught.

              zuk

              • Yet neither Jasin or Jelana are the least difficult to parse. In the text-box font Jelana is not as tall as in the posted font, (I notice as I type this,) but I agree with the “tall” designation at least in Times Roman. It’s also got the vowel at the end so it’s “rounder”, too. Maybe that’s not as noticeable if a person doesn’t read in their head but “in” squeezes off the end and “na” is open.

                People notice the first sounds, but they notice the last ones, too. That’s why people can read texts where all the middle letters are jumbled so long as the first and last letters are not.

                I’d probably suggest avoiding all other possible J names for the same story, though, no matter what..

                • No other J names at the moment. :-D I do have two very minor characters currently known as Daughter1 and Daughter2. I expect they will tell me their real names eventually. (Or they’ll have to keep the names I give them. That’ll show them!)

                  I didn’t think either Jasin or Jelana would be difficult to pronounce. Now, based on the way I’ve heard people pronounce my on-line name, there’s probably a large chance that you and I pronounce Jelana differently. But the pronunciation of my on-line name has only come up twice in the 15+ years I’ve been using it, and I expect it would be about as often for my fictional character. ;-)

                  • But I wouldn’t have any trouble deciding how the name sounded in my head and so it wouldn’t slow me down at all. I would probably assume Jasin was female until I was told otherwise because I’d guess that it was a feminization of Jason. I don’t mind it as male and if “her brother Jasin tossed the dead ducks in the middle of the table before stomping out again, leaving a trail of muddy bootprints” I wouldn’t even bother to wonder at it.

            • Thus making the point that Kim made elsewhere on this page, about reading by the “shape” of words.

          • I’ve got Lady Ann and Mistress Annie Lei. I do tend to use the titles or another descriptor to help keep things straight, thought. (When people use saints’ names, you tend to get overlap.)

            • In my first novel – I had five characters with the name of John, and several women named Mary, two Patricks, two Martins, three or four James … and I couldn’t change any of them because they were real people, and I had to be as accurate as possible; so I changed the spelling (John, Johnny, Johnnie, John-Last Name and the fifth by his last name only,) used nicknames, first name and middle name … every writer’s trick in the book. It was an interesting exercise, to say the least.

              • Yep. One of the more idiotish comments on No Will But His was that I don’t spell Catharine the same way twice. Well, I do. But different people spelled it different ways, and anyway, when half the women are Catharine or Anne — what are you gonna do?

          • I find Dolores Umbridge to be more frightening than Voldemort.

            Prior to the 2008 election there were a lot of “Republican for Voldemort” bumper stickers floating around (especially in Austin). I’m thinking that if Hillary! actually gets the nomination in ’16, then “Democrats for Umbridge” should be quite the money maker:-).

            • Didn’t you notice? The “Democrats for Umbridge” campaign was a long time ago. She won her election, and is now representing California’s 12th district.

              • Patrick Chester

                I thought she was Secretary of State for awhile….

                ….oh no, they’ve cloned her.

          • They come out as “Jasmine” and “Jaylinn” to me.

          • She is the Lois Lerner of the Dept. of Magic.

      • I worked at a bookstore at the time of its release, and we had a midnight release party. One of my co-workers read the first chapter aloud to the two hundred people in line, and afterwards, as we staff were all buying our copies, I asked him how it was. He said, “Harry’s a dick,” and I replied that Harry was a sixteen-year-old boy. “But he’s a dick,” he persisted, and I had to break to him that the two states were certainly not mutually exclusive.

        • Rob Crawford

          I know at least one grocery chain had release parties.

        • Patrick Chester

          Sounds like a funny scene from an early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode:
          Giles: Xander’s taken to teasing the less fortunate?
          Buffy: Uh-huh.
          Giles: And there’s a noticeable change in both clothing and demeanor?
          Buffy: Yes.
          Giles: And, well, otherwise all his spare time is spent lounging about with imbeciles.
          Buffy: It’s bad, isn’t it?
          Giles: It’s devastating. He’s turned into a sixteen year old boy. You’ll have to kill him, of course…

  11. I don’t care. So long as the story is good.

    This is why I’ve been reading so much indie over the last couple of years, story. Even with editing problems, the occasional continuity hitch and so forth I more consistently find decent story. Occasionally a bit formulaic, but I’ll take formula over approved message any time.

    All this ‘approved thought/approved person’ dreck is really beginning to wear on me. The beauty and joy of the American heterogeneus society is the diversity of thoughts, opinions and people coming together and forging American successes. The misguided attempt to constrain individuals to specific roles based on arbitrary external markers… Bah. Old ground, already spittle-soaked from all the braying.

    Tell me a story. Leave the preaching to somebody else.

    • Diversity. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what THEY think it means.

      • :)

        With little doubt. Lack of experience, lack of perspective and no imagination.

        And, really, I think very few people actually understand the size and scope of American society, geographically or culturally. Which is fine when looking around and thinking “Bunch of Americans, just like me.” Not so much when they’re looking around and thinking “They’re all Americans, they should be just like me.”

        Which is why Larry and Sarah and the like frequently have fans and commenters from all over the spectrums. And the SJW/GHH’ers have a bunch of drones.

      • Someone should sue colleges on the grounds that using race as a proxy for diversity is allowable only if they can’t test for it directly and can’t use a non-racial proxy. Which they haven’t even tried to do.

        • You saw today’s Supreme Court ruling? There’s going to be a LOT of tap-dancing and reworking of terminology in admissions this coming year, as they try to keep quotas and racial discrimination without legally discriminating.

          • I believe the ruling meant that each individual state can decide whether schools in their state can use race as an admissions determinate is legal or not. Michigan decided it isn’t other states will no doubt decide differently.

            • If that’s the correct interpretation of the decision (I haven’t read the decision, nor anything but headlines about it) then the medium to long term consequences should be entertaining.

        • The idea of using race as a proxy for diversity is absolute bullshit. Who do you think would add more diversity to Harvard’s class of 20-whatever: Billy-Joe Hatfield, scion of a long line of Appalacian coal miners and – thanks to the GI Bill – the first in his family to be able to go to college, or Malia Obama?

  12. Quilly Mammoth

    I’ve read three of the current crop of Hugo Novel nominees. Now it’s said that all fiction is derivative. And I suppose it is. So you take the essence of one classic story about a man who seeks a special handgun to carry out a mission of revenge and meld that with a classic series about intelligent ships and space stations (and some of them sing!) is not a deal killer for me. If it has a good plot it’s all good;for example there are tons of stories about mutants or magical abilities but a good plot and great characterization makes me devour and enjoy a book like Warbound.

    But a book that takes great plot elements and simply links them by decisions that make no sense simply to write prose about an all girl cast? Meh. I once took a panel course with Walter Daniels where you had to write the opening to a story, the technique being “The Hook”. The constant criticism being either “Great character, what’s the plot hook?” or “Nice plot start where’s the character?”

    In my mind a great read has to have both. Great characters (that’s through prose) and great plot. And ipso facto a great plot has to make sense. A great book does not have great characters and uses interesting plot _devices_ to check all the appropriate PC boxes.

    A number of years ago I wrote a novella that had a good plot and strong female characters, and smart ships. I sent it to some authors I know before I finished it and got good reviews. But I rushed the ending and never sent it out. Now that I see what can get you a Hugo nom I might just dust it off and give it the time it needs.

  13. So true– I figure that the rawest writing I have read recently has been better than the industrial-complex writing because the raw writing has been exciting, new, soul-written.

  14. CombatMissionary

    I love the sound of Special Snowflake heads exploding in the morning!
    As a guy who’s only scratched the surface of SF/F, and in all my glorious ignorance as to the message-of-the-day/ivory tower talking points/literati-think, I’m guessing all the fallout from Larry Correia’s nomination is going to do a world of good for the genre. And as soon as I can rob some money from the wife/kids/’66 Ford pickup rebuild/other home and vehicle maintenance budgets, I look forward to diving into some of your stuff too, Sarah. I figure that any author who places story above ham-fisted message and would rather be judged on their merits rather than their PC victim classification status is someone that I’m probably going to enjoy reading.

    • Rob Crawford

      I hate to say it, but the most likely result of Larry’s nomination will be a wall erected by the SJWs and GHHs. They’re not the self-doubting, questioning types.

      • Still serves the purpose of illuminating for the wider audience (Larry’s audience, as I’m not sure there’s anything growing about the SJW/GHH audience) the stagnant thinking and intolerant behavior of the speshul eliteratti.*

        Yes, I’m randomly butchering the language. I like it. It makes me grin.

  15. With all the talk about indies, don’t overlook all the tremendous sci if that is coming out of the major publishing houses by people like Egan, Peter Hamilton, Schroeder, Reynolds, ect… None of which is particular politically charged either.

    • adventuresfantastic

      If I have my facts straight, Egan is from Australia, Hamilton and Reynolds are British, and Schroeder is Canadian. Not an American in the bunch. Too many American writers are SJW, not storytellers. The guys you mention, they tell stories. I haven’t read much by any of them, but what I have read has been quite good. Enough that I have books by all of them in my TBR pile.

      • Not to jump on any generalization band wagon but I don’t know if the American writers are more SJWish, or if our culture is demanding that of them so they don’t know better, *or* if we just have this foreign fetish where we excuse the bad manners of the barbarians.

        Because I’ve noticed that Australian or British actors play the boorish manly-men on American television, too. And the fun movies with manly-men being jerks and saving the universe (or at least their own families) are from Lion’s Gate or Britain or, love me, FRANCE.

        In publishing, excusing the foreigners would account for not requiring quite the adherence to correct thoughts. Maybe they get “points” or something to make up for it.

        • adventuresfantastic

          On rereading my comment, I generalized more than I intended to. Obviously, not all Americans write that way (SJW), and I’m sure a number of writers in other countries do. But I did think it was interesting that Matt only listed foreign authors.

          • No, I think you’re on to something. Do the editors view and treat work by foreigners differently (assuming the publishing houses in question actually are American) or do American authors self-censor and self-select?

            It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if aspiring authors, who have been told to research their market and target their submissions, do something like, oh, read the Tor blogs and either add in the “required” messages or else don’t even bother to submit to the house.

            • adventuresfantastic

              I have to wonder what type of agreements the European and American branches of the publishing houses have. Often European and Australian writers are published at home first and 612 months later in the US (if at all). Do the publishers have agreements where they agree to publish certain titles, such as the lead title, from the counterparts so many months later?

              • I’m assuming you meant 6 – 12 months later, and not 51 years later? :-D

                On Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 3:41 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                > adventuresfantastic commented: “I have to wonder what type of > agreements the European and American branches of the publishing houses > have. Often European and Australian writers are published at home first and > 612 months later in the US (if at all). Do the publishers have agreements > wh” >

                • Yes, that’s what I meant. Typing in a hurry. It never pays.

                  • You know, you guys make an excellent point. I didn’t really consider that there wasn’t a single American in that list I posted.

                    • Typing in a hurry pays great for– Oh, you don’t mean that way.
                      Matt — as a hint, J. K. Rowling could never make it here IF she hadn’t been published in England first. Oh, the public would have loved her but at the time the publishers would never have bought her. Male protagonist and too old fashioned. A lot of people from England who do make it here make it by being big in England, and then the people here go “well” — but cold? They’d never buy them.

  16. “I beg you not to have characters with the same first letter and last letter to their names.”

    Isn’t that something like Rule #2 of storytelling: Differentiate your characters clearly? (Rule #1 being: Entertain your reader) On several occasions I’ve gone through the endless hassle of replacing replacing character names all the way through the book, simply because Peerless Editor Jeff Hill has remarked, “Why did you name one character Max and the other Mark? It’s a little confusing…”

    As for the other thing: as any fule kno, I do not read sci-fi or fantasy, and therefore much of what is being discussed here flies well over my head. But genre isn’t that important when it comes to good writing: my favorite author is John Sandford, who doesn’t write in my preferred genre of historical fiction, but writes whodunnit/crime fiction. In fact, he is the only author I read compulsively (i.e. I own all his books, read them as soon as they’re released, and occasionally will re-read his entire oeuvre in chronological order). Sandford’s principal protagonists are Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers — note the total dissimilarity in the names — and they are both real, sympathetic and flawed characters. Couple that with page-turning, tight plotlines, unexpected outcomes and moody atmospheric locales in (of all places) Minnesota, and you have me hooked, for life.

    Good, entertaining writing is all that’s required. All the rest is just a distraction.

    • Yes, but most of us can tell Miranda and Melissa apart, so we think they are differentiated. You need people like our hostess, or the dyslexics who volunteered (in a different forum) that one of them went by the first two or three letters, and one by the shape of the name and first letter, to tell that more is needed.

      • Mary, unfortunately a sizeable number of the reading population does not read by the spelling, but by the shape of the words. (I know this because I am one of those — talk about “odd” — and I always thought I was a freak until I discovered I wasn’t.)

        For people like us — and Sarah may well be one of us — “Jane” and “Jamie” are so close as to be indistinguishable, because their shapes are similar.

        The point is that using similar names is unnecessary (unless you’re playing games by naming identical twins “Janie” and “Jamie” — making visual confusion the same as nominal confusion as a conscious literary device).

        There’s a good reason to differentiate your characters, because not doing so slows down the reading process while the reader asks, “Which one is this again?” and too much of it causes reader irritation and soon thereafter “Ah, the hell with it!” (which is more common than people think).

        And it’s an easy job: Calvin and Colvin can so easily become Calvin and Jack, without changing one iota of the story’s intent.

  17. Christopher M. Chupik

    Here’s one incredibly clueless response to the Hugo noms, and to the Gemmell Awards (a British fantasy award):

    “Why not just let the works speak for themselves?”

    The issue is that when we let the works speak for themselves, we wind up with the Gemmell Awards: 70,000 votes (several orders of magnitudes greater than the Hugos), and every single nominee for Best Novel is a White Dude. Every best debut novel is a dude, most of them white.”

    I’m doing an eyeroll/facepalm combo right now.

    • So… we’re supposed to accept a certain quota of suckage re storytelling so the Special Snowflakes will be happy?

      In what alternate universe does a publisher succeed by putting out stuff that people won’t buy?

      • It’s not an “alternate universe”, Jerry; it’s the one we’re living in right now.

        • I know – I was just wondering how they manage to make a profit. (Seems to me you’ve got to make a profit to keep the lights on, but then I’ve never been good with creative accounting.)

          Do they make up in volume what they lose on each transaction or something? Or are the Special Snowflakes so grateful to be published that they buy up the entire printing for presents for their friends?

          • Backers/investors trying to offset their profit somewhere else for tax purposes?

            • Most of them are tiny arms of other operations; creative accounting is rife, and all they need is one good Harry Potter/glittery vampire to offset a ton of bad stuff. Toni once made a revealing comment “We are a midlist house” (Baen) “Every book has to pull its own weight.”

          • If you think of the mega-authors (King, Clancy etc) as the ones who enable the process, all will become clear. (The profits garnered from the megas allow the bad practices to continue among the rest.)

            This is why publishers regard indie/self-publishing the way a snake looks at a mongoose. If the megas decide they can forego the publishing houses and self-publish, the traditional industry is doomed.

            • It’s more than that — it’s the “solid midlisters” who get no push and whose statements can be fudged (as soon as Dan has time I’ll publish my statements from one of the houses, with his analysis. For them to be true would require “quantum” printruns that change DOWNWARD in retrospect. This is for the furniture refinishing mysteries which AFAIK are still in stores and for which I only see royalties when I ask for my copyrights back. I once did back of envelope calculations. I know what you have to sell to stay on shelves. I know on how many bookstores the books still are, one of them 6 years later (it’s trivial to look it up) About two years ago I calculated they’d not paid me about 40k in royalties.
              You know, it’s not massive but 100 Sarahs and it starts to be real money.

              • In my world, 40k is massive.

              • Is there a way you could get sales data from Amazon and B&N? If the books are on the shelves they still must be selling. On the other hand I have never been able to figure the logic of cheating the IP creators. Yet corporate culture seems to encourage that up and down the line, as much as possible and in every line of business. I’m going to post this again because I’m sure that not everybody hasn’t seen it yet:
                http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/04/seven-rules-for-managing-creat/
                Note that this article has been edited by the author after he pissed off a lot of people by saying that creative types should be underpaid.

            • With the (at least local) loss of both independent bookstores and one chain (Borders) it seems like the traditional industry is at least somewhat ailing, if not looking at its deathbed with apprehension.

              With Amazon indie publishing, the little guy’s got an outlet. Worked for B.Dalton back in the ’80s – occasionally a self-publisher would come in, asking the manager to stock their book. It was always politely refused.

              But now, there’s no bar to entry and the title has to succeed on its merits. I can see why the publishers are worried.

        • Rob Crawford

          If this is an alternate universe, where are the zeppelins?

      • It’s social work, see? It’s all about elevating and writing, and propping up… um… maybe they should make bras.

      • “Profit” is a dirty word. Artistes are supposed to be supported by the taxpayer because they enrich us with the product of their refined sensibilities!

        David Thompson regularly provides insight into the worldview of the poorly maligned artiste.

    • adventuresfantastic

      I believe the Gemmell winner for debut novel in 2012 was Helen Lowe with Elspeth Cooper also making the shortlist that year. Neither of whom is a “Dude”.
      http://gemmellaward.com/page/breakthrough-morningstar-winners

    • adventuresfantastic

      I’m curious as to where you found the quote. To vote for the Gemmell, you have to be a member of the awards. It’s easy. Just sign up. No cost, just a couple of clicks, and in addition to getting to vote, you can request a review copy of a book on the longlist each year.

      I mention this because as I’m typing, the Gemmell Awards only has 2162 members, not 70k. Last year’s Hugo Awards had 1848 eligible ballots. Hardly several orders of magnitude greater. (Although that still has some interesting implications since the Gemmell Awards have only been in existence since about 2009.)

      The person you’re quoting is either engaging in hyperbole or lying.

    • Because of course in a blind test, all the white guys would be best, because of their Magnificent Magnificence or something.

      • Yes. The built in racism/sexism in the “enlightened” opinion drives me nuts.

        • What spins my brain is they keep choosing racism over simple population dynamics. The majority population in most primary English speaking countries is some variation of pale, thus the majority of readers and subsequently the majority of writers… The innie/outtie status should be assessed across all genres and I suspect numbers will become reflective.

          Given the above, the odds that any give nomination might include pale dudes…

          But they’d rather practice a simultaneous racism of condemnation of the majority and low expectations for the minorities. Because doubling the racism makes you good!

          And I am loving with grand joy that Larry Correia is the non-white nom in his category. Loving.

        • I remember the to-do when it was discovered that many SF magazines were publishing more male than female writers.

          Though, to be sure, when they counted their slush piles and found the same, slight, disproportion, there wasn’t much furor.

  18. I feel the need to interject for a moment, that we (our side) do in fact write political screeds disguised as fiction. I’m only bringing it up because I’ve seen the idea in several places lately that it is only the GHH and SJW that fill up their writing with political nonsense. We just LIKE our (non)sense better.

    Heinlein wrote TONS of political stories. The “Heinleinesque” liberterian utopia novel seems to be somewhat of a right of passage — our gracious hostess’ works and MZWilliamson’s Freehold spring immediately to mind.

    Yes, our kind of stories have plot, characters, and message designed to appeal to our kind of readers. And theirs do too. What would we make of a Ringo story that didn’t “check the right boxes”? Would we hear cries of “Oh John Ringo NO?” Even in his “stretch” ideas (Christian homemaker channels God to fight evil) there are Vatican CQB teams, and monster fighting special forces (and a double helping of fan service regarding Cons.)

    What would a GHH novel be without a transgendered lesbian, who floats aimlessly through 500 pages of angst, self loathing, and ennui? Probably not an award winner, that’s for sure….

    They write what they think their audience wants, we (you) write what we think OUR audience wants. The only time I have a problem with it is when the publisher insists that you should write what you don’t want to write; but since the publisher is paying, they do have a right and obligation to do so. And you have the right to NOT work for that publisher. And now you have the ability to bypass that publisher. As a reader, that is the best possible outcome. Books that appeal to me get written AND PUBLISHED, and authors get paid.

    And as a sideshow to the actual books, I get to see the antics of the left, trying desperately to close ranks and protect their orthodoxy from exposure to deadly new ideas.

    zuk

    • My problem is that I have a huge issue with PREDICTABLE to the nth degree. Yep, some predictability is fine. I like my characters to win. I like the couple to end up together, but Larry, Ringo, all those guys surprise me. On the other hand the GHHs have more of a uh “17th century French Play feel” where every step is scripted.

      • I have come to the conclusion that most of the predictability is cause by the corporatist culture the publishers live in. They don’t have any independence and the bean counters don’t really like creative surprises. Which is why everything seems so formulistic.

    • There are spots where Ringo sticks a “message” in there (as opposed to more guns or something) and I roll my eyes and maybe even cringe a little, but it’s generally one statement or two and you’re over it. I can forgive quite a lot if I’m not made to wallow through the ideological equivalent of a Weber space tactics side-bar.

      To some extent, you’re right, we like the message fic we like… but on the other hand, preaching to the choir is irritating even when it’s about something you like or agree with. The tone changes. It’s noticeable.

      • This is exactly why my libertarian novella is still in the electronic desk drawer (OK, aside from the copy I sent Sarah, since I “borrowed” her for an off-stage character). The protagonist gets preachy when he has a captive audience (much to his audience’s annoyance). I’m still trying to decide if I should let him preach, or find some other way to get his point across.

        • You should, provided that the listener rolls his eyes.
          And this is why DST is toned down about 50% from its original. What? Well, what do you expect? I’m me.

          • A the moment the other character hears him starting to wind up and things, “Oh no, here he goes,” and he yammers for 250 words or so, then shuts up. He has a bad habit of using long words. He claims it’s a reaction to having to write police procedurals until some rights revert. ;)

            • So, he goes on for about half a page/a couple of paragraphs? I wouldn’t think that’d be *too* bad (unless he does it frequently in our hearing). It’d be short enough that the reader should be able to see the end of it, anyway.

              On Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 5:03 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

              > TXRed commented: “A the moment the other character hears him starting > to wind up and things, “Oh no, here he goes,” and he yammers for 250 words > or so, then shuts up. He has a bad habit of using long words. He claims > it’s a reaction to having to write police procedurals un” >

          • Oh, that makes me feel better. I’ve been worrying because I suspect I’ll have to synopsize 2/3 of the part I have which is justifying their decision to leave, because it’s 50 pages of mostly politics-related things.

        • William O. B'Livion

          From a reader, not a writer, find some other way.

          Please.

          For both of us.

          • Seconded.

            It’s been done, and done well. As a running “in” joke, it might be fun if it works with the tone of the rest of the story.

            On the other hand, there is always the new reader who doesn’t have familiarity with the themes and memes, whose mind is blown and eyes opened.

            So if you are aiming at an audience that is already familiar with the ideas, I’d keep the references brief, along the lines of refreshers, unless you are exploring some particular point as part of the plot. If you think your reader is coming to your work from somewhere else, and will find the ideas novel and interesting, go for it. (Or if it is a necessary counterpoint for some other existing conditions in your book.)

            And I guess, in the end, execution is everything. If you do it, and do it well, maybe your book will be one of those we hand to a friend who is open to but not familiar with the ideas.

            zuk

        • Birthday girl

          Please, just don’t let him go on for 60 pages …

        • Give him someone to quarrel with where the answer affects the plot. . . .

          I’ve got a far-future story still in the earliest stages where some people arguing with the heroine say that what they are after is not so different from what she has now. . . . a lot of history and technology go into that argument.

      • Oh, yeah, I read liberal sf/f provided it’s not amazingly stupid (the Bush twins as co-presidents) or pages and pages of preaching or the entire setup of a book — so no male will be allowed to be good, etc.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      I disagree. Yes, many of “our” authors have political/cultural themes in their books. However, IMO they don’t write the stories to *push* those themes. They write stories that include the themes that they hope entertain (not educate) their readers.

      • I think your point is valid, but subtle. I’m betting that most of the GHHs aren’t purposefully writing propaganda, just following the age old advice to “write what you know.” The PUBLISHERS on the other hand, and many of the active commentors on their boards, DO seem to be using the books to actively advance an agenda. And they are certainly using awards and their recent “standards” to do so.

        And as the example from “our” side, L. Neil Smith does seem to write novels as propaganda. (At least from this reader’s muddled recollection.)

        zuk

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          And after not being able to finish the book he wrote for Baen, I don’t read L Neil Smith. [Sad Smile]

      • Honestly – that is what I do, IAW (in accordance with) the motto of the old Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (The Deity knoweth what they are up to these days, I’m retired from them since 1998) – To Inform and Entertain. Strong emphasis on the ‘entertain’ – and yes, I do have an ulterior motive, which I have never made any particular secret about. That is to write fantastically ripping and engaging stories with an eye towards informing and interesting readers in our American history. Which deserves attention, and not to be sullied by propagandists such as the late Howard Zinn, whom I despise with the power of the light of ten thousand burning suns.

        Along about 2006, 2007, or so – I began feeling the conviction that we had to renew our interest in and knowledge of our American history – that we had to know and appreciate what a unique and marvelous experiment it was – a political ideal, shining on a hill. We had to know, and take to heart, that our predecessors were honest and decent people, doing the best that they could, that the ideals of a free people, independent people – could be achieved. That we didn’t have to be serfs or slaves, that we could work out our own methods of governance, by the people, for the people – we would have to remember this. And that’s why I write, and continue writing – it’s that vital. We are a decent people, respective of others, and hard-working in the continuance of our communities. We have to know this, be reminded of it by every means that we can, and have at our disposal … and if the Sisterhood of the Glittery Who-Haas has a problem with it? Well, dearie – your problem, not mine. Adjust and move on.

      • Actually Kratman (who happens to be one of my favorite authors) bluntly states that his novels are political commentary. They just happen to be really good stories to. Because he’s talented that way, or something.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I just thought Tom just wanted to see certain people’s heads exploding. [Evil Grin]

          Oh I actually agree with your comments about him and his books. [Smile]

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          IIRC, it is because he finds it proper to put in something people want to read sized to match the message.

          The obvious layer is the story. Beneath that is the politics, though parts are obvious enough that one can find a part of it if one skims until offended. Beneath that is military education.

          Kratman is the one that got me really started on close, deep reading, to include the layers in literature stuff.

    • I’m not necessarily sure that liberal audience WANTS that kind of stuff, but they feel they DESERVE it.

      Lord knows it’s punishment to read it.

  19. William O. B'Livion

    So how hard is it to start a rag like those (Analog/Asimov)?

    • People keep trying and the new pubs keep failing. You’d think, though, that it could be done, and you’d think that it wouldn’t be that hard to fund at a pro level. You’d think that it would be possible to run a website version of Eden that was a complete free-for-all that promoted stories to the front page by “pluses” and paid authors by page views and sold side-bar ads.

      • It would work, but it wouldn’t get pro status from SFWA like that. Of course, that’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but some writers won’t send their stuff to anywhere not considered a pro market.

        Their loss, mind you, but I can see it being an impediment. At least for the time being.

        • Hm… instead of “anyone can put their story up” pay the pro rate for first acquisition and then “royalties” by page views? That ought to get pro status, no? Or maybe a hybrid set up where there is sponsored content and free-will content? I’m a control freak, though, and would want an editorial veto.

          (Aren’t all libertarian-leaners control freaks? We’re all compensating for it.)

          • If you’re going to pay pro rates, why pay royalties? Writers wouldn’t be expecting it.

            Of course, if you did do that, you might attract some bigger names. However, you’re going to spend a whole lot more money than other publications.

            I’d skip the free-will content though. I can’t see how that wouldn’t become an editorial nightmare.

            • It involves the readers more. Makes people feel like they’re part of the product and invested in the success of the site. Why use a medium that is nearly custom designed for crowd sourcing and then lock down content?

              Put in a “if the serial numbers are not adequately filed off your fan fic I block you” rule and a “I know it when I see it, and I will block you” rule… maybe a “naughty kids corner” for stories reported as offensive or pornographic but that don’t quite rise to the level of “I know it when I see it” (and don’t want to get sued by someone for it)… nothing really wrong with simply declaring an autocracy.

              • For a small site, it’s not much of a problem. However, as the site gets bigger, you’re going to have to recruit others. Now, you can probably recruit volunteers for the task, which will keep overhead down, but it’s something to keep in mind.

                And “18 and Over” section might be popular and bring in a lot of readers.

            • Oh… biggest reason to pay royalties is that you’d want to keep the good stories active on the site indefinitely, and paying for a certain amount of time for “first publication” really only *ought* to give you the right to publish those stories in an “issue” or two after which rights revert. After rights revert you’d want the authors of your most popular stories to decide to leave them up.

              • The biggest problem (and maybe there is a technological solution to this) would probably be fraud from paid page-view services… which might be good enough reason to chuck the whole idea.

              • Well, that’s not really how the rights work though. I mean, it’s great that you’re wanting to offer them up that way, and I think writers will love it, but you’re not hurting yourself really if you don’t. Daily Science Fiction, as well as other web based zines don’t only publish for a period of time and then pull it down.

                However, “keeping it active” on the site isn’t really up to the writer, but the readers.

                And don’t think I’m trying to squash the plan. I’d love to see a new model for short story publications in this new era, and I think you’re pretty close to something workable.

                • When we were publishing FlagShip, we bought first publishing rights for ebook and audio, exclusive for 90 days, then non-exclusive irrevocable thereafter so the authors could put them in their own collections. We wanted to be sure we could keep the back catalog up in the e-publishing stores.

                  • I would think first electronic publishing would do most of that, but I see the wisdom in 90 days of exclusivity. That way you don’t publish today, and then they publish on their own blogs tomorrow and you never see traffic from it.

          • I was kicking around the idea of an online magazine optimized to pads and readers: Prepaid like a track-phone, You can see the story titles without signing up, with the subscription you can see the blurbs, and you only pay for the stories you access. Each page has an ad, and the author is paid per click. If the subscriber doesn’t like any of the stories after 6 months he can get 80% refund on unused portion on application.
            The purpose is more a sampler for indie writers with some sort of guarantee that the stories are actually kind fun stories that have things like spelling, grammar and some sort of adventure.
            I had considered co-opting the name Worlds of IF and Science Fiction, if I could get title.
            But, It needs a website model, a banking model, and outreach to both authors and word-of mouth for readers. I have zero web skills and no idea how to set up a billing. ad tracking for compensating authors, and subscription system.

    • My day job over the last three years has been to be a newspaper editor. I know a bit about what would go into such a magazine. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to assume you’re actually talking print.

      To pay pro rates, you’re looking at 6 cents a word since SFWA is upping what it considers pro rates. If you get six 4,000 word stories each month, you’re looking at $1440 for just stories. You’ll also need artwork, any non-fiction you’re going to run, and editorials etc. People want to see that kind of thing. Not all, but enough that it’ll need to be there.

      At this point, you’re looking at $3,000 to $5,000 (very conservatively) in expenses without ever touching actual printing costs. For my newspaper, we paid about $1000 per week for 3,000 papers. Of course, newspaper and magazines are very different processes.and the expenses are much higher. Even if you double it – and I think that’s on the low side – you’re looking at $5,000 to $7,000 per month. Again, those are conservative numbers.

      On top of your print staff, readers, editors, etc (and readers can be volunteers), you’re going to need sales staff. They typically get paid on commission, but my experience is that this is the biggest problem in print media. Finding someone who can actually sell is easier said than done, so you’d best be ready for some lean times.

      Now, obviously, there are ways to cut a lot of this. Going online, for example, cuts out the printing costs. Not only that, but you don’t actually have to have as much filler since people will just come for the content that they want, namely the stories. One or two editors can maintain it well enough to handle the stories they get. Plus, you simply don’t run more stories than you have funds to cover. Even the sale thing can be skipped with Google AdSense instead of focusing on direct ad sales.

      Still, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

      • It’s VERY easy. I plan to win the lottery and then finance it ;)

        • Well, you know the way to make a small fortune in publishing, right?

          You start with a large fortune and work your way down from there. :)

          • The cinema files must be running in my brain today:

            • And there are people who doubt that Wells’s character was based on William Randolph Hearst.

              No freaking clue how, but those people apparently exist.

              • It has been said that Hearst tried to buy out the film so that he could put it on a shelf. Apparently he did not want the film released as he thought it would reflect badly on himself.

  20. So, somebody is not going to talk about the Hugos? Couldn’t help but think about a John Wayne bit:

  21. Thanks for this post. I read it at work this morning but didn’t want to comment from work. I remember when Hugos were great works appreciated by fandom because they were good stories. I still treasure the Hugo Vol.I and II edited by Asimov, there wan’t a bad story in the whole collection. in the ’90s I thought I was just falling away from SF/F and it was reassuring to learn that SF/F was falling away from me. Maybe this will be the start of something good. We can always hope.

  22. Sarah, I feel for the “paying attention to the wrong things. I was watching the quarterstaff battle in SW, and critiquing it. Sigh. To many years around weapons, and mil types.

  23. Christopher M. Chupik

    Man, there’s someone on Twitter claiming Larry’s sales figures aren’t that good. And someone who thinks *Vox* got *Larry* nominated. Seriously.

  24. It’s more the same reason I stopped watching TV dramas/comedies. I can tell from the setup how they’re going to end.

    That’s OK if the trip is fun.

    Too often, it’s just a gross-out or a lecture about how smart the writer is.

    • “… a lecture about how smart the writer is.”

      Usually the answer turns out to be “not very.”

      • Wouldn’t bother me, if the foot note didn’t add “and they can’t be bothered to spend five minutes researching solid sources. Which does not mean wikipedia or yahoo answers.”

  25. Michael Z Williamson ‏pointed out on Twitter today that Larry Correia is the non-white person on the Hugo Best Novel ballot. That is probably the funniest thing about all of this.

  26. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    My mistake then CACS. In “my defense”, I’ve read/seen too many bad stories where dark side of the Moon is used when the writers meant back side of the Moon.

    • I seem to recall a pointed exercise in rapier wit about the time started participating on this blog, so sharp that our esteemed hostess actually called a halt to the verbal fencing. ( ;-) )

  27. I could never persuade myself that I wanted to read Harry Potter. Glad to hear that I may not have missed out on anything.

    I don’t know why that was my gut reaction, other than the premise sounded like another stale Biludungsroman. Or that it was suspiciously popular with people whose tastes rarely coincide with my own. Or that I read an editorial kvetching over the supposed anti-Americanism glimpsing through the book.

    But I suspect it can be summed up in one concept: “Muggles.”

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Yep, the “Muggles” theme was bad but in her defense, the mind-set behind “Muggles” was seen as being evil by the “good guys”.

      IE the Big Bad was very much “Wizards Should Rule (of course with him ruling the Wizards).

      For me the big problem was Harry’s home life.

      It was “over the top” and the magic school setting didn’t work for me.

      Of course, YMMV. [Smile]

      • The problem is that if you want to have magic in the modern world, you have to make it secret somehow — looks about — yeah, you do, or it’s not plausible.

        Mind you, you could do what Heinlein and Anderson did and make it an alternate Earth. I asked why not of some writers of urban fantasy at a con, and they hesitated a bit before they admitted they really wanted to imagine they could stumble on such secret worlds.

        Notice how badly most urban fantasies justify the secrecy — if they even try. With very few exceptions. No, persecution doesn’t cut it, because no one in real life goes to that much effort to hide, especially when it’s been several generations from any actual persecution. The only really good example that comes to mind is the work of L. Jagi Lamplighter. In her Prospero’s Daughter trilogy, she has a secret society that goes around and stamps out knowledge of magic, so that instead of trying to fix our problems by worshiping beings that are — better left unworshiped, we invent Science and Technology, which (as you can see) are much better for us even on the practical side. In her Rachel Griffin trilogy, the Wise have erased themselves out of the history of the Unwary — but there are enough clues that this is, in itself, manipulated history that even the characters start to figure it out. (Readers can figure it out even faster.)

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          It doesn’t hurt that in the Prospero’s Daughter trilogy, the magic users are extremely long lived so the “original conspirators” are still around for the most part. [Smile]

          Multi-generation conspiracies aren’t IMO believable.

          • Well, some are. Remember only a few of Miranda’s brothers are in it, and a lot of others aren’t related.

            The thing is, unlike a lot of secret worlds, the position is not hereditary. You recruit new and suitable people for the next generation. This is a lot more stable than whoever happens to be born to the last generatoin.

        • yeah. The mingling of Mogul and magic never made any sense. There are other reasons I got turned off Laurell Hamilton, but hers was infuriating to a history buff. if there really WERE vampires and weres, no matter how secret, unless very few and ultimately powerless (which is what I do in the Shifters) wouldn’t it have affected history? She has populations significant enough to demand civil rights. It’s mind boggling.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I agree on the badly justified secrecy, but I think I’ve had some disagreement with you on a few of the possible implications.

          There are settings where the most feasible explanation for secrecy is criminal gain, and that can often come nearer to satisfying than ‘no one will believe it anyway’.

          Terrorist organizations and criminal conspiracies often can mutate into each other. These sorts of organizations can sometimes be quite good at keeping secrets.

          For a suitable setting, I thus might read political choice into a character’s decision to help keep things secret. If so, that gets factored in to whether I find the character too repulsive to want to spend time with.

    • Not going to dispute taste, but I didn’t see any anti-Americanism in the books, myself. In fact, there was hardly anything that related to America at all, anywhere in them.

      • I didn’t either. I also thought I would hate it, but older son was reading them and I read them to make sure they were okay. they’re very well crafted — at least the first two. After that she started trying to be “deeper.” Yes, there’s over the top and she’s clearly leftist, but the message isn’t if that makes sense.

        • I think she’s like a lot of people I have met – they are Leftist on the outside, because that’s what they’ve been taught, and don’t realize they are NOT Leftist on the inside.

          • Joss Whedon’s Firefly gives me the same vibe. He’s left-of-center, but Firefly seems very libertarian.

            And I don’t know who wrote Captain America: Winter Soldier, but that also had at least flavors of libertarianism in it.

            • Yeah, I think what you see with those examples, and a lot of regular people, is they’re ‘left’ by reason of environment, not considered political philosophy. When they reason out behaviors and situations in their fiction, it’s done without reference to ‘politics,’ so much of their true philosophy comes through. If they sat down and worked through things from an unbiased consideration I think they’d be forced to confront the disconnect between their personal inclinations and expectations and the actual results of their assumed political identity.

              I know numerous people who are Democrats but whose philosophies don’t align in any way with progressivism. That they don’t recognize the conundrum is frustrating, but…

              • My wife’s grandparents are right in this category. Their personal beliefs and philosophies are fairly conservative (and at 80+, that’s not surprising), but they’re still yellow-dog Democrats. Because Republicans are evil.

                • Well, we are. Evil evil evil. Nyah nyah nyah. Pthhhhhbth.

                  Because there can’t possibly be conflict unless somebody is evil. And the people you’ve hung out with all your life can’t possibly be evil, because they drink the same wine as you and like the same clubs and mow their lawns.

                  So the other guys must be evil.

                  I’d really like to see a novel in which the conflict grows to unbearable levels, and we are rooting with all our hearts for the protagonist, at which point the protagonist has his whole world shaken by the sudden realization that his antagonist may drink different wine and go to a different club, but he also mows his lawn, and he’s not evil. He’s trying to do his best by his own lights.

                  And then the protagonist realizes that he might be wrong, and the antagonist he was about to crush into powder actually had the better position.

                  It could sell. But only if the antagonist turns out to be a Democrat. Or your publisher is Baen, maybe.

                  • Or I do it Indie. Unfortunately this is the type of “significant” novel I wanted to write when I was about ten. Then I discovered sf/f and, well…

                  • Well, “they mow their lawns” in the sense that they all write checks to small teams of immigrants (documented or not) who actually do the actual mowing, at least out here.

                    Sometimes I feel like between me and one last neighborhood kid, we are the last two nonprofessional lawn mowers left in Silicon Valley.

  28. You know I just realized how inherently racist calling all these people special snowflakes is. I mean all normal snowflakes are white, so obviously special is just code for non-white.

    • Nah, special is code for “Rides the short bus.” Which is code for “brain-damaged moron.”

      And then our educators tell us “Every child is special” which explains the graduates they turn out.

      “If everyone is special, then no-one is.” – Syndrome.

      • I liked it better when Dash said it, but yeah. Great movie.

        • Yeah, but it was more evil when Syndrome said it, which is what I was going for.

          Awesome movie. I love movies and stories that screw a little with the whole superhero milieu, but respectfully. I kept wondering if Mirage had some power or not.

          And I’m dying for a sequel. Anything by Brad Bird, actually.

  29. I’m still not whelmed by the preaching we got (as a predominantly female jury who chose an all-male shortlist) by a number of blokes over last year’s Clarke Awards. Damian Walter was particularly offended, IIRC, by our failure to conform to gender standards and look instead at old-fashioned retro things like worldbuilding, plot, characterisation* and prose. How unpostmodern of us. I got the impression that we were not allowed to have, you know, minds of our own. The irony of having at least two judges who have been published in fiction for over a decade, being lectured by people who have barely seen print, did not escape us.

    (Which did include gender but was not gender-specific to the author: I often find Ken McLeod’s female characters to be more finely drawn than some female characters written by women, for instance) (LizW)

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