Looking At the Other Half

I don’t mean to pick on this writer.  Her article is valid – to an extent.  Or at least I GET her fears.  (BTW, I’ll also note that after reading her blog, to get her name I needed to go to Amazon.  EVEN THE LINK TO HER BOOKS doesn’t give her full name. I can see her name in Ie.  For some reason it won’t show in firefox.  Is it time to update already?)

This is the point she’s making:

But I’ve noticed: The new self-publishing king/queenpins are almost entirely novelists, meaning they write fiction rather than non-fiction. (*1)

They crank out a novel or two (or three) a YEAR. I’m sure that many of them have to do research for their books, but for MOST fiction writers (not all of them), that research is minimal and is the kind of thing that can be taken care of with good googling or a trip or two to the public library.

As a result, they don’t understand that for people like me, the “traditional” publishing industry is my only lifeline, my only means of support.

She’s not alone in her situation, or at least not as alone as she thinks she is.  While I “crank out” – why the terms implying that I’m doing less work than she is?  What if I said that non-fiction authors are “compilers” and just “jot down” stuff?  (No, I don’t think this is true.  Writing non fiction calls for different techniques that’s all.  It’s a load of work.)  How derogatory would that be? – more than three novels a year, I’d be in a world of hurt if I didn’t have Baen right now.  This year I’ll probably get 2/3 of my income from Baen, and I get it in more substantial up-front chunks.  And with two kids in college, health issues going on and various other things, I’m glad of the up front money.

I’m not alone.  In fact, almost all of us who depend on writing for some amount of our livelihood (in my case, for the butter on our daily bread – as in my husband’s income pays for food, roof, clothing and such, but repairs, tuition and the occasional weekend in Denver come from my money.  It’s the difference between living pinched and scared and living okay.  Not swimming in money, but okay) right now are doing complex calculations.  It goes somethign like this: Any book I sell to a publisher I might never see.  (Yes, even Baen.  G-d forbid, but in the convulsions of publishing, Baen has deals with Simon and Schuster which I don’t get and S & S is under scrutiny by the DOJ.  I DON’T think Baen is at risk, or at least not beyond the risk of “what if a safe falls on me during my morning walk?”, but it’s something that COULD happen and is beyond my control.)

Yeah, I know contracts say, or SHOULD say, that in case of bankruptcy you get your book back – but bankruptcy is a complex, drawn out process and … well, you’re at the mercy of the courts.  Your book could be considered “assets” and held back by some judge you never heard of.  Now, even I, with my “cranked out” books do have books that are “heart’s blood” – A Few Good Men – for instance.  If that book were put out of my grasp, in the sense that I couldn’t publish it, and no one else could, for even ten years, I’d be very, very unhappy.

I have to look at it, and look at the money, and look at the house handling it, and then bargain with myself.  “Is this worth it?”  In the case of AFGM I’m dealing with Baen, whom I trust to do the absolute best they can for me and the book (within limits of human error), I need the money, and, well… in the coming roiling waters of publishing, I think Baen has a good chance NOT to drown.  Better than other houses.  So, the risk is worth it.

BUT there is a negotiation with myself that wasn’t there before.  Indie or traditional?  Money up front versus money over a long time?  More distribution or more control?

However, this lady not only thinks she is the lone ranger (which is weird, because she doesn’t look like a teen, but apparently no one else has problems like she has) but also doesn’t seem to know her readers.  So… let me highlight a few of her ideas, and explain where I think she got it wrong.

The self-pubbers canNOT wait for the day when the entire traditional publishing complex falls into a huge hole in the ground. The self-pubbers have the funeral all planned. (If the self-pubbers spent as much time writing as they do gloating over the slow death of publishing, they could easily crank out another book or two each year.)

Dear Lady, if the publishing establishment had treated as it has treated most of us who have gone the way of self-publishing, you too couldn’t resist a little dancing on the grave.  But if you read any of us, you’ll also see that our glee is tempered with fear, and that what we write about the slow death of publishing is designed to shape what comes next as much as to “gloat.”  Oh, and I do write – crank out, you say? – more than two novels a year, and have for the last ten years.  This charming pace was imposed on me by the establishment you revere.  I had to keep it up to make a starvation wage.

As a result, they don’t understand that for people like me, the “traditional” publishing industry is my only lifeline, my only means of support.

Consider: I started working on the meat book in early 2007. I finished it in early 2012. You do the math.

Yes, I’ve DONE the math.  Tell me, just for the record – enquiring minds want to know – HOW much of that time was spent on “enjoyable” research?  Traveling for instance.  Reading.  Going to museums.  Don’t tell me that’s part of your job.  Of course it is, but you can do jobs in various ways.  HOW much of it was done in a more leisurely way than needed?  How much time off do you take?  How many hours a day do you work?

None of my business?  Fine.  We’ll talk about it later.

I spent five years researching and writing the beer book, and of that, a great deal of money and time was spent on traveling to specialized libraries. The Key West book took me two years to research and write.

How did I pay for that? By entering into a partnership with a traditional publishing house that provided financial support.

Oh, gee.  HOW NICE it must be.  How very nice.  The traditional publishing house provided financial support, you say?  Out of the goodness of their hearts, I guess.  You know, here’s the funny thing, we – crankers outers, let’s say – CAN’T do that.  I’ve written work – just for your information – that required as great a level of research as yours.  No, strangely to set a book in a time period and use a documented historical character is NOT easier than writing nonfiction.  (Who would have thought it?)  The most one of my historical books paid was 12k.  The most time I was given to write it was a year.  You see how that limited the “partnership” and the joyous feelings I had towards the publisher.

My research was done as my writing is: at my desk, usually eight to eight.  Rare books?  Oh, sure thing.  Interlibrary loan.  Travel?  Well, I traveled a good deal as a young woman and had to make do with memories, other people’s pictures, and sometimes asking people who live near the places I needed to describe.  Ideal?  Well, no.  For one, I’d like to work normal hours.  I’d also like to be able to see the places I write about.  I’d also like a pony and a flying car.  The world is what it is.  Fortunately being a cranker-outer I’m not made of fine stuff and I’m willing to work crazy hours.  And, hey, sometimes I take my birthday off!

It works like this: My agent sells my book IDEA to a publishing house. The house pays an “advance”: a sum of money upfront that I can live on while I research and write the book. It’s not much money — in fact it’s an embarrassing amount of money and I also am fortunate enough to receive financial support from my spouse.

Without that assistance, I couldn’t do what I do. Period. Again, it’s not much money, and it’s the ONLY money I earn from my books. (If I were lucky enough to write a bang ‘em up bestseller, I’d earn more than the advance, but I’m not that lucky. Er, um, not that talented a writer.)

Okay, either your embarrassing amount of money is much more than my embarrassing amount of money, or your spouse has a lot more money.  HOWEVER, let’s ignore that, okay?  Let’s talk about “I couldn’t do it.”  Sure you could.  Off the top of my head, I can give you several ideas:

First, do a book about your local area.  Do it in your spare time now.  (You know, work nights or weekends.  Think of it as a second job.)  Put it up on Amazon.  Take the money it makes, over the next two or three years, while you still work at your traditional work.  Then use that to research the next book.

Second idea – work as a resource for fiction writers.  Contrary to your idea, we do NOT pull from air.  Yes, I’ve read – and I’m sure you have too – books with embarrassingly bad research.  They’re not the majority.  They’re not the norm.  And the worst ones usually are justified.  (Say you’re asked to write a book in a month.  Just imagine it d*mn it.  It’s happened to me.  It pays 5k.  You don’t want to do it, but RIGHT THEN it’s your only chance to continue publishing.  You do the best research you can.  I was fortunate to have an expansive education and to travel a lot as a young woman.  Most people weren’t.  Bad research, in those circumstances is justified.)

I’d love to be able to reach a topic-expert who has done lovingly detailed research on a topic and pay a fee.  Say I need someone who IS a real certifiable expert on Christopher Marlowe.  I have three contradictory sources, I want to call up and go “So, what was his mother’s background?  What’s the latest research?”  Let’s suppose you teach CM for a living, or have written a book on him.  You should have your files, be able to consult.  Would I pay for that?  Yes.  My means are small, but I’d willingly pay $100 for an hour of work.  I’ve paid $80 for a book with a usable paragraph, so…  Get a few dozen writers who depend on you – I don’t know, advertise on Twitter, Facebook and tell people you’re available? – and you can continue your leisurely and expensive research.  Paid for.  A little more work?  Sure.

Third option, and I’ve never tried it, but there are sites where people will donate money for a project.  I’m sure if you ask, tons of people know where these are.  My commenters do, I’m sure.  Try it.  How do you know, till you flap your wings?

Fourth option – do articles.  Do your research in itty bitty chunks.  Put it up in itty bitty chunks.  Say, I want to write a book on Christopher Marlowe.  (Now that you mention it, yes, I do, though again it’s one of those cranked out things, right?  Which I’ve only been researching in ALL my spare time for twenty years.  Never mind.) I get money to visit England and do some primary source consulting.  I blog the experience and ask for donations.  THEN I put my diary of the trip up on Amazon for sale.  If I can make it entertaining at all it WILL sell (trust me on this, please.  I’ve seen what sells.  I have done research on self publishing.)  Which will bring in a stream of money, which will allow you to travel and… see how that works?

The self-publishers, in my opinion, have a distorted view of “books” and of “publishing.” In their minds, every writer is cranking out novels that don’t require much time to research and write, and the lag time between creation and payoff is short.

So I ask them: What happens when the agents, editors, and publishing houses go away? Who will write non-fiction then?

And here, I’ve been feeling guilty over being cranky with you.  And then I read this paragraph again.  (Takes deep breath.)

Lady, you’re an insular, blinkered and stubborn woman, clinging to the ledge of her comfort zone and creating straw men to justify yourself in not leaving it.

First, WHO do you think “self-publishers” are?  Let me disabuse your mind of this idea that they/we are all very young or very naive.  Self-publishers are EVERYONE.  Or at least every writer who is awake and aware of what is happening around them.  They come from all walks of life and all educational backgrounds.

WHY do you think we have a distorted view of books?  We are WRITERS for the love of Bob.  Do you think we don’t read?  Do you think we read only fiction?  WHY do you think that?  Before Amazon I was a member of the History Book Club so I could get hold of books my local bookstores wouldn’t carry.  The payoff between idea and publication is short?  FOR WHOM?  My Magical British Empire Trilogy took me four years to research (while writing other stuff.)  Ten years if you consider initial familiarization reading.  AND from proposal (ie. full research) to sale (let alone publication) was EIGHT YEARS.

WHY do you think we have a distorted view of publishing?  I think you have a distorted view of publishing, if you believe it’s some sort of benevolent purse-fairy ready to hand you money for your projects, so you can, in the fullness of time, give them a little gem of a perfectly researched book.  Perhaps that’s the publishing you’ve encountered.  The one I’ve worked for more closely resembles a sweatshop.  Other people’s experiences are anywhere in between.

However, if you don’t want me to wax sarcastic about your views, do respect other people’s views.  Do a little research about what these strange creatures “self-publishers” are and the reasons they’re venturing into these nasty, nasty self-publishing waters.  Right now the way you refer to us doesn’t fill me with a desire to go and look up your books.  Why not?  Because you didn’t do even the minimal “googling” research you imagine we do for whole novels.

And then there’s… who’ll do the serious research?  We will.  The people who have a passion for a subject and for learning it.  We will do the research.  We will do the publishing.  Who will pay for it?  We will.  PUBLISHING IS NOT A GOOD FAIRY.  If they’re advancing you money it’s because they make it back.  And they make it back on a model that’s so outdated and cumbersome, that they’re wasting a great deal of it.  They’re making it back by selling it to READERS.  Which means you have READERS out there.

By cutting out the middle man, you can get 70% (or worst case scenario 30%) of the net sales.  And if your books are worth it, you WILL get it.

Contrary to your vision of us, most of us cranker-outers read non-fiction as much as we read fiction.  In the last year I’ve read obsessively about: WWI, WWI the home front (England and the US), Prohibition and life in the 1930s, degenerative diseases of the brain, a history of Cleveland.  ALL of this against the background of my constant preoccupations: The French Revolution, Tudor England, Space Exploration.

I know you’re looking at that and saying “But there is no way you can do all that research SERIOUSLY.”  This is akin to saying “But you write fast, so it must be crap.”

Judge not lest you shall be judged applies here too.  Look, I’ve had people say “When you write four books a year they have to all be bad.”  Until they read them.  And until they realize the time I put into each of those books is as much as they put into each of theirs.  I just have no downtime.

Burning the candle at both ends?  Sure.  But we each are the way we’re made.  This is how I’m made.  I bore easily.  I have friends who work both faster and slower than I.  THAT doesn’t reflect on their work.  Rid yourself of that idea.

Take with you ONLY the idea that yes, the world is full of readers of serious non-fiction.  Many, if not most of them, are fiction writers.  So, instead of insulting us, start talking to us.  You have stuff (original research) we need.  Who knows, we might have stuff you need – like ideas on how to make money.

Meanwhile, you opened your post by saying it’s exciting to watch history in action.  Yes, it is.  Just remember, if you were a carriage maker at the time of the automobile revolution, screaming that the new horseless carriages were just shoddily built wasn’t going to bring back your steady work.  Telling us automobile plants are uncouth places won’t either.  On the other hand, perhaps, offering to make seats for the upper-level automobiles will net you a very good living, and allow you to do what you want to.

Life is full of these little trade offs.  Like the calculation of whether to go indie or not, the tradeoffs can be difficult.  But if you’re not so busy looking down your nose at the rest of us, you might spy the path of least pain through the brambles.

I wish you good luck.

335 responses to “Looking At the Other Half

  1. Holy crap. She seriously believes that we just “pull crap” out of the air? For one flipping chapter of a book I literally spent 83 hours (yes, I clocked it; no, I can’t remember why) just researching how to wire a brain to communicate with a neural interface device _and then_ rework it so that overloading the damned dopamine receptors in the brain don’t cause an addiction to the device but how it can also be used to enhance an experience while treating PTSD (WHICH WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT BASKET OF LOONY TOON EGGS THAT NEEDED TO BE BROKEN TO MAKE A FLIPPING HALF OF A SINGLE OMELETTE) and oh yeah this is for a freaking background information for myself more than anything in the stupid freaking novel that I didn’t get an advance for *pant pant pant*… excuse me for a moment.


    I’ve been thinking about the complaints most of the people who are against the indie model and what it breaks down to is this: they’re afraid of upsetting the apple cart. They’re afraid that this “fad” of indie (no longer is “self-published” a bad word, either) is going to fail and they are clinging desperately to an outdated sales model.

    My suggestion? If you’re that afraid, publish under a pseudonym. If you crave fame (and aren’t writing to get the voices in your head to shut up like the rest of us), then the current model (which is failing writers as a whole) is the ticket you want.

    Otherwise, there can be no reward without a little risk.

    • There are writers that just pull crap out of the air, I’ve read them. I’ve very seldom read future books by them, however.
      Writing crap that is stupidly and obviously wrong to a large percentage of your readers is a quick and surefire way to turn most of those readers off. (You know like the blog she just wrote, for example) Now for people that are cranking out books for money, turning off readers in job lots is not good business, so doing a little research is a necessity. Although usually they don’t have the luxury of traveling around the world for five years taste testing beer (a good gig if you can get it).
      No I didn’t do the research to see if that’s really what you did for the five years it took to write ‘the beer book’, but it sounds good to me, and that’s all the cranker-outer writers bother with, right?

      • ppaulshoward

        Bearcat and then there’s the Da Vinci Code. [Frown]

        • yeh gods. He researched by reading a New Age book. I’ve read that New Age book too and oh, yeh gods and fishes. Also, and for the record, if the Catholic Church had assassins, I’d be Mother Superior of an order somewhere. I’m not, therefore they don’t. ’nuff said.

          • ppaulshoward

            Yeah Sarah, but that book sold. I can understand why the publishers liked it (evil Catholic Church) but can’t really understand why people would read it. [Frown]

            • Easy to turn the brain off when reading it?

              • The father of the guy who died with Diana (can’t spell his name this early in the morning) bought 100k copies the day it came out, which he distributed in the US and UK to influential people. (Some of the ideas happen to accord with his religion.) This shot of publicity, plus “rocketing it to the top of the charts” because of of selling that many that fast got it the publicity and noise it needed to sell phenomenally. The sequel doesn’t seem to have held up. (Shrug.) I wish someone would sponsor one of my books that way.

          • Sarah A Hoyt, Master Ninja Vatican Assassin. I sort of like the sound of that, but then I’m not Catholic.

          • Are you saying you would be Mother Superior of the order of assassins?

            • you’re going to make me write this, aren’t you?

              • If you write it, we will read.

              • It sounds like an awesome thesis for a book, to me. And I see no need for an order of assassins to be seen as ‘evil’.

                • That’s kind of the plot of the Assassin’s Creed video game, only substitute “non-religious” for “Catholic”: the hero of the game is part of a centuries-spanning conspiracy of assassins, who go around killing dictators and tyrants. Given the methods they employ (blending into a crowd to “disappear”, sneaking across rooftops, escaping by leaping off tall buildings into convenient haystacks), a case could easily be made for “Ninja” as well, even if the setting is Middle Eastern rather than Far Eastern.

                  And yes, the assassins are seen as the “good guys” in that game, given the world-domination plots of the people they’re killing.

                  And since someone mentioned the Da Vinci Code — Assassin’s Creed does even more violence to history than Dan Brown ever did… but they do so in a way that’s: a) internally consistent (mostly), and b) obviously not intended to be taken seriously. So it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Dan Brown.

                  • Dan Brown would not have upset me at all, but for two things: his INSISTENCE that it was “historically accurate” and the fact that a lot of publicity around it insisted on this too. A bit of this is poetic license. “Harry Potter is the most original book ever.” means “Harry Potter is the first book of its kind to hit outside the niche.” I roll my eyes, but that’s fine. However “TDC is the MOST accurate historical book ever” is such a staggering falsehood one doesn’t even know how to react.

                    • pohjalainen

                      Yes, that was irritating, to say the least. I did read about half of DVC, and two thirds of ‘Angels and Demons’, and then, of course, spend time checking several of the ‘facts’ as offered in those novels. Probably wouldn’t have except for the advertising. And then I started bitching and got accused of being just jealous. Well, guilty as charged, a bit, but more for the fact that he succeeded so well with false claims, everybody seemed to just take them at face value and no real attention seemed to be given to those actual experts who pointed out the inaccuracies.

                      So, he either succeeded by lying, or maybe he really did believe his ‘facts’ were accurate, but what ever the real case not only did he get away with it, he got rewarded, and pretty damn well, for spreading false information. Well, life isn’t fair and all that, but that still galls as much as it did back in day care, or school.

                      Was enjoyable to find the ‘Dan Browned’ page on TV tropes.

                  • I can see it, Vatican Agent 007 Ninja Assassin Sarah Hoyt! Now that needs the picture with the stockings…

                    I had not read Dan Brown, and knew nothing about his book when I was ever so surprised when someone commented to me that she didn’t know that Jesus had been married. This person insisted that it must be true, she said, because Dan Brown said that had researched it for his book. I still have not read Dan Brown.

          • “if the Catholic Church had assassins, I’d be Mother Superior of an order somewhere. I’m not, therefore they don’t. ’nuff said.”

            For the record, I’m stealing that, with appropriate gender changes. 😉

        • Roots

        • I’ve never read The Da Vinci Code, so I can’t really comment on it, but like Sarah said, the sequel didn’t sell. So maybe a lot of the readers thought like me and never bought another book by the author.

      • You must despise Jack Vance.

  2. Somebody needs to write a beer fantasy novel. Brewers. Monks. Medieval taverns with ivy garland “signs” over the door. Evil witches who sour beer and threaten the potable drinking supply. Given all the microbrewer sf/f writers, it should be a subgenre by now.

    • I would write that. “The Brewery Academy of the Undead”. YA, Beer and Zombies all in one novel.

      • Ah, but underage sex is okay, underage drinking is wrong, and underage smoking is Pure Evil. Though I suppose you could have some funny stuff where the alchemy students can brew poison unsupervised, but have to be watched like hawks and do a lot of paperwork when they make beer.

        I suppose the adult teachers could force themselves to test and taste the beer. For the good of the children.

        • For the children, of course.

        • And WHY? I mean, underage sex has, as we’re finding, terrible health consequences in terms of communicable diseases. They say underage drinking stunts your mind, which… listen, buckos, by your principles EVERY kid in history drank like a fish. Water wasn’t safe. Oh, yeah, okay, of course. Our current geniuses dwarf Descartes, Socrates and… which brings us to what you’re smoking. PUT DOWN THE HASH PIPE. (Not you Suburbanbanshee, the people who propagate these ideas.) I say raise the kids right, and let them drink or smoke at eighteen or earlier with consent. (Full disclosure, both my kids have drunk beer or wine with meals since about five, in proportional amounts and when we drink it — which is usually twice a month because alcohol=expensive. Note also the almost 21 year old nixed my idea to take him pub crawling for his birthday — “but ROBERT, I’ve waited 21 years to have someone to go pub crawling with!” — because he’s studying for his MCATS. Kids today. No stamina, no fun. And, apparently, if you raise them with moderate “drinking” no interest in excessive drinking. (High fives self, which is harder than it seems.))

          • Let’s see: you are complaining because tour child has his priorities right… Go pub crawling to celebrate finishing the MCAT instead.

            • I’m not complaining. I was HIGHLY amused, though. 🙂 To him the whole “I’ll be able to drink” is “bah.”

              • The Daughter instructs me to say: wishes him luck and seconds the suggestion that you Pub Crawl after the MCATs. Further she says/types:

                “He has heard that they’re adding psych questions to the MCATs? I think it’s as of this round or the upcoming one.”

          • Back when I read Anthropology for fun there was a thesis that cultures which regularly practice mild alcohol consumption with meals from childhood onward have much lower incidence of alcoholism.

            Further, the behaviour of drunks was also culturally determined. out-of-control violent drunks are an attribute of culture, not alcohol.

            N.B – all assertions are based on data from, ummm … twenty-two, twenty-three … thirty years ago (plus time between research and publication) and may have been revised in the interim (probably has been, given the lunatic multiculti cult that has overtaken Anthropology.)

            • pohjalainen

              Finns now have a reputation for being heavy drinkers. But during the 19th century Finns drank less alcohol than any other European nation. Then, first, distilling hard liquors by private citizens was forbidden, possibly at least partly because that forced people to buy their alcohol from larger commercial makers, and that meant more tax money. Then teetotaling and temperance societies started to talk for more restrictions. They become popular – drinking, bad (there were some Christian movements very popular at the time which saw any alcohol consumption as a sin and they pushed that idea hard), so no alcohol at all would make for an ideal society, right? – and finally, 1919, we got our prohibition. Which of course caused smuggling and all other kinds of lawlessness. 1932 prohibition ended, and now alcohol could be legally bought from the state store, Alko. Which actually, for several decades, made it less easy to get than it had been during the prohibition years. Even now you can buy beer and some light wines from most stores, but anything else you can get only from Alko.

              End result: Finns became heavy drinkers (or teetotalers). The normal, during about the last hundred years or so has been that when you get it, you drink it, and passing out is not only okay, it can be a reason for boasting.

          • Next time we manage to get together, Sarah, I’ll be happy to go pub-crawling with you… 😉

    • My older son’s Cat’s Paw has a strong beer theme. I suspect he could find it in him to do a WHOLE novel about beer 😛

      • Hi, beer system installer/service tech here. Own the company, and have been involved in the beer industry since 1998. (Been drinking it since 1991)

        Have good friends that own breweries here in San Antonio, and know folks that work for major breweries. And I work cheap-say proofing and editing my work in progress.

    • Robert Aspirin – go look for him. 😉

    • Somebody needs to write a beer fantasy novel.
      The Drawing of the Dark, an early novel by Tim Powers. It’s still a good read.

  3. Fiction writers just pull crap out of the air? Maybe if you’re writing a contemporary novel set in a nameless place … me, I write historical fiction, and take a great deal of pride in being so accurate in describing the 19th century frontier world that my books can be carried in museum bookstores – and that, my dear little non-fiction writing, embarrassingly well paid, traditionally published writer – that does take time. A lot of time, even if it was spent just reading through the mountain of books required to recreate a convincing and detailed 19th century world.

    • YES. And you cultivate sources. My plumber, for instance, is an expert in guns of the civil war. I have his email on my board, because there’s this novel I want to write, about an alien invasion…

      Also, there is this book we call “the trout” around the house. Author’s last name is Trout. It’s a travel description of Paris in the time of the Musketeers and — that I can find — the only one that detailed. We’ll just say it’s so hard to trace/find/buy that I borrowed it through interlibrary loan twice, before buying it for an embarrassingly large chunk of money (It’s probably cheaper now, because, internet, easier to find. Sigh.) I SWEAR my husband can’t go to bed without making sure that book is safe.

      IF I didn’t care, I’d make up stuff. I don’t. I research and spend far more than I have for this stuff.

      • I quit doing too much research when I found that I researched more than I wrote. I need to trust the process and do quick research when I am stumped… and only then… but I write about a more modern world and I have been studying mythical creatures and magic for may years before I started to write.

        • There IS this. I mean for the first Shakespeare book I read around 250 books, not counting various little things — I used maybe a fifth of that, and some of it I used in ways only I and three specialists in Shakespeare will get. But to do Ms. Ogle justice, this is different from if I were writing an “exhaustive work on Shakespeare” and had to keep up with more than ONE year of his life. (And the background.) What I’ve learned is to limit the intense research to THAT point. Something like “I could research Marlowe’s death, but in this alternate history he doesn’t die, so… Except for a reference those who know it will get, I’ll concentrate on the time till he was nineteen, when the world diverges [the book with Eric Flint, for those who need to know])

      • Hah! For researching the first Adelsverein book, I had to track down the only person in the whole of San Antonio who owned an 1836 Colt Paterson revolver … it was a replica anyway, but he owned a pair of them as well as a Walker Colt, and he was kind enough to invite my daughter and I to his place of work for a detailed lesson in how to actually load, use, break it down for cleaning and swap out the spare barrels … nifty little weapon. I wouldn’t mind owning one myself. The plot of the book called for one character to teach another how to shoot one, you see.
        We had to go to a windowless conference room and lock the door, though … as his place of work was a bank. The presence of three replica antique sidearms would have excited no end of comment … even in Texas … and even though there wasn’t any ammunition involved.

        • Really, in Texas? I walk into the bank all the time wearing a pistol, and the only time I have had anyone comment was when the guy behind me wanted to know what brand it was once. Now I never would have done this in Washington where I grew up, but here in Idaho it isn’t remarkable, banks, grocery stores, gas stations, even the post office I have never had say anything when I forgot to take it off before walking in; and that is federal.

          • By the way, Paterson’s are cool, but I would rather have a Walker Colt 🙂

            • Well, he was part of the management cadre, and I guess he didn’t want the trouble. He showed us the Walker as well … and that sucker is heaaaaavy – heavy beyond belief. Authoritative … but heavy.He said he wore his pair of Walkers in belt holsters all day once, for a reenactment event, and it actually got quite painful towards the end of the day. (I love reenactors, BTW – they’re what I call ‘open-air historical specialists.’)

              • Oh yeah, I forget how big Walker was, but he was a very big man, and in one of the rangers of the times journal (I forget which one it’s been several years since I read it) the ranger stated something to the effect that Walker wanted a pistol as big and powerful and reliable as he could comfortably pack and handle, he got it. The rest of the rangers wished Walker was a much smaller man, so that THEY would have gotten a pistol they could comfortably pack. 🙂

      • Author’s last name is Trout.” ????? Please, please PLEASE tell me his first name is NOT Kilgore!

    • What crap? What air? I use a lot of description from my days of traveling. I suppose I could count that as part of my writing which would add another 30 years to each book. lol

  4. To be fair (and to get back on topic), it does seem that the non-fiction market hasn’t been quite as quickly sold on the virtues of e-pubbing. (Except for those conman guys who turn Wikipedia articles into “books”. They seem to have the value of e-books firmly in mind.)

    Even people who self-publish, like Priscilla Throop, the incredibly prolific translator of medieval Latin texts, have been very slow. She just put her first book on Kindle recently. (Admittedly, stupid footnotes are a bear in Kindle format.)

    But then, a lot of academics seem to be slow about finding (or trusting, which may be the real issue) non-fiction that hasn’t been “vetted” by a publisher and a bunch of academic journal reviews. I just ran into a guy doing his thesis on St. Hildegarde of Bingen, who didn’t know that Throop had translated three big books by her. And those translations have been out for several years. Cambridge University Press claimed that their translation of St. Isidore’s Etymologies was the first complete one in English, when Throop had hers out already for a few years. (I’m not connected to Throop, but it fascinates me how she beavers away. Turn your back, and she’s got three more texts out.)

    A lot of non-fiction was sold in the old model to libraries, not individual consumers, so I imagine this is part of what the worried non-fiction writer is distressed about. Libraries also are conservative in what they buy, and usually the only small presses they buy from are local ones or famous ones or university ones. That may change a lot.

    • The difficulty of finding the books is WHY I’d love for these people to get off their study carrels and start putting stuff on Amazon. I want to be able to find my research material as easily as I find my fun material these days.

      And for heaven sakes, WHY does she think libraries got these? out of the goodness of their hearts?

      What I want these writers to realize is that — look, seriously — I buy stuff that in the bad old days had 80 copies printruns. On Marlowe, specifically, I have books that cost me hundreds of dollars and that I and maybe three college professors know exist. I’m sure there’s another hundred or so I DON’T know exist. And while 80×100 won’t support anyone and THAT level of research will still need other support, it does NOW too. Which is why most of these books are doctoral thesis. I wish more people would post their doctoral thesis. (My thesis, not doctoral, was on Flannery O’Connor, and I don’t even have a copy of it anymore. BUT if I were doing it today, it absolutely would go on Amazon.)

      And, lady, you and I need to have a LONG talk about reading lists, because I want access to yours.

    • … a lot of academics seem to be slow about finding (or trusting, which may be the real issue) non-fiction that hasn’t been “vetted” by a publisher and a bunch of academic journal reviews.

      Really? Really????

      cough*Michael Bellesiles*cough

      • Okay, some academics are suspicious of things they should be suspicious about, and some academics are gullible about things they shouldn’t be gullible about and suspicious of what is innocent.

        But it can take over a year for someone interested in academic reviews to get his book reviewed by an academic journal, if they’re not already in the loop somehow. That’s a bit long-haulish for people not independently wealthy.

  5. Mark Alger

    Whatinthewidewideworldofsports is she smoking? Is she not aware that most writers of fiction ALSO write NON-fiction? Hell, I have more non-fiction publication credits than some award-winning best-sellers have in fiction! And, yet, I’ve been writing fiction for almost 50 years. I’d like to know who built this wall — and when — between fiction and non-fiction.


    • No idea. I confess I HAVEN’T written non-fiction because… no time. But I DO have some non-fiction books outlined. The main one the research is mostly Denver and (sigh) Providence Rhode Island. It will have to wait till the health thing stabilizes and the money thing too. BUT yeah…

    • So true Mark. I have a lot of non-fiction articles – even literary ones. 😉

    • How can you write both and pretend to be unaware that academic need built the wall? One is not the other, why pretend it is?

      • Wall? Ah yes walls. And walls create ghettos.

        NO, NO, NO. I do wish we would stop having these literary mommy wars. I am sure your academic children are lovely and that you have invested a great deal of time seeing that they are lovingly raised. Well, if you have paid any attention, these parents of fiction take their written children seriously as well, and they, too, have taken great care and pains in their upbringing.

        Or to mix metaphors: I am sure your apples are marvelous. And when I want an apple I will check them out. When I want oranges and other citrus fruit I will go elsewhere.

        • I don’t have any children. But I do have a bit of string and a pencil I call my twin boys. They are lazy children and don’t say much. Probably won’t ever amount to much.

          • You’re probably right about that, James, especially if they take after their father. Really, James, now you’re just engaging in low-grade trolling.

            • Am I giving back as good as I get. I am not here to troll. Why do you keep saying that? How are you not a troll? Simply by being right? I am not a sneering ass anymore than any other sneering asses here.

              • Am I giving back as good as I get.

                Ummm … no, not really. Else you would not have to keep shifting your arguments.

                I am not here to troll.

                Yet you are trolling in spite of that. Making off-topic extraneous and inflammatory remarks.

                How are you not a troll? Simply by being right?

                Well, being right helps, of course. 😉 But mostly by avoiding off-topic extraneous and inflammatory remarks … except in response to off-topic extraneous and inflammatory remarks. It is a character flaw, I confess. i have others. Have you perhaps missed that you started the sneering assery?

                When confronted by a braying donkey it becomes necessary to bray back in order to be heard.

              • Edit call: Am I giving as good as I get. Isn’t this, as formed a question, and therefore should it not have been: Am I giving as good as I get?

                If so, the answer is no.

  6. Maureen Ogle

    Sarah, thanks for the link. Not sure if you read the same piece I wrote, but thanks for reading what you did read. Only point I’ll respond to is your comment about my research: I work seven days a week, typically 8 to 10 hours a day. For me, “research” means spending hours and days and months sitting in front of microfilm readers or reading trade journals printed a century ago. Etc. It means putting my ass in a chair and keeping it there for hours and days and months.

    As for my name, it’s plastered all over my blog, so can’t figure out how you missed it. But I’ll go back and see if I can find one. more. place. to post my name (and photo!) for those who miss it.

    Thanks much for taking time to read and comment. I appreciate it. As always in these cases, much to think about.

    • I shall reply after doctor’s appointment. Your FIRST name I found easily enough. Your last name, no. Also, what are your publishers thinking? At least in thumbnail, your name is not visible on the cover. Something to talk to them about?

      • Maureen Ogle

        Hmmm. Still not sure what you’re seeing (or not seeing): my full name is right there in big letters and clearly visible on the overs of my books. But maybe I’ve got a magic version of my site and my books,visible only to me? Stranger things, etc.

        • It’s entirely possible it’s my browser. This stuff happens.

          I would like to clarify that what set me off was your tone. Please, read what you wrote again. There is a definite sneering attitude towards those of us who write fast and who write fiction. I do work very hard, I do try to make my books as accurate as possible, and if I HAVE to make up something (there is a tendency for the book I needed for a detail to show up the month the books comes out) I write a note about how I fudged it, so some reader doesn’t think I was accurate. “This description of burial rites was actually taken from sixteenth century France, since I couldn’t find it for seventeenth century Spain” or something (No, never anything that gross. Actually my biggest fudge was laundry techniques.

          I’m not saying you’re slacking off for taking 5 years. I have friends who write very slowly. It is how they work. HOWEVER I resent implications that because I am a fast worker and because I write fiction AND am embracing indie, I am somehow the enemy. It would behoove you to investigate the lives of the “other site.” This is like the mommy wars where women with day jobs assume housewives are sitting at home eating bonbons. (And I was often caught in the middle of those, since I’m a work-at-home-mom) while the stay at home moms assumed the working women just have everything done for them. Both sides have points, and when I said I didn’t mean to beat up on you, I meant it. If it hadn’t been for your tone, I’d still have covered this but more under “open your eyes.” — because the opportunities for making money from your research, including publishing smaller installments/things that don’t fit the main book/etc. on your own are all over — but your tone was — intentionally or not — derogatory to people like me.

          BTW, and incidentally, thank you for giving me an idea for another income-stream. I DO crazy-level research on a lot of things, and doing small booklets with some guide to… oh, Victorian Africa, might not be an entirely bad idea. I’m already doing the work, and I have a hundred notebooks full of notes on various subjects. Why not get paid for those? (And yes, some ARE primary source research for 19th century Africa, say.)

          • I DO crazy-level research on a lot of things, and doing small booklets with some guide to… oh, Victorian Africa, might not be an entirely bad idea.

            Please keep it small, The Daughter already has too many books cluttering up space where I could put my own stuff. Oh, wait, I might like that one, too. 🙂

            • Daniel Neely

              Fortunately, ebooks don’t eat shelf space.

              • Daniel Neely

                PS I’m more interested in stuff like that than random short stories. Yeah, 19 out of 20 will probably never be of any direct benefit; but being able to trot a half dozen random factlets out of the 20th will continue securing my status font of absurdly obscure knowledge within my immediate family.

                “No mom, I don’t sit around memorizing encyclopedias in my free time, and I’m not baffling you with bullshit; I just hang out on parts of the internet inhabited by large numbers of geeks on every possible subject.”

              • Shelf space!? What is that?

            • Oh yea … I bet that booklet would be interesting. I do like Victorian era (and Regency, and Elizabethan). So do you have any Victoria India. 😉

          • Yes please. I don’t really even have a particular request of where you start with these research booklets, but if you happen to have anything for turn of the century Virginia/DC area, it would be lovely and mean I’d have to read a lot less to get a “feel” for the sort of culture an alt-history series I’m working on might have. (The actual point of diversion was around 1850 and the actual story takes place around 125 years later, but the culture is more or less caught in a loop at more 1900-ish.)

            Right now I’m reading through two encyclopedias – one on general Victoriana and the other on Victorian culture (literary; etc). I expect to branch out into the sources in the encyclopedias for anything that I particularly want to make a point of.

            I won’t even go into the shelf of costuming books I have. Or how I have a habit of collecting interesting historical reference books even if I don’t exactly have a project that needs them yet. (My parents do the same thing, and my dad is the only one who intends to write. Civil War alt-history, as it happens. If I ever decide to write about then I will have a semi-expert and possibly literally a ton of reference books to read.)

            • Oh good heavens, yes. You have no idea how much research I did on politics, linguistics, history, pre-1900 national borders throughout Eurasia and Australasia, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, to write a simple steampunk novel. I saved down all kinds of maps and then played games with adjusting zoom to get them to the same scales to compare borders and terrains, say. I know the whole dang history of the Afghan wars from about 1800 on. (Not that I could necessarily regurgitate them in usable form without some effort.) It’s a hard SF steampunk novel, unlike some more fantasy steampunk stories, and I tried hard to get everything just right. I’ve been working on it for about 2-3 years, in between other books. I finally finished it last week and now I’m polishing.

              • Interesting.

                Reflection: It can be amazing to me what one will learn and why. Writers do it to write, and some reader will do it because of what you have written makes us want to know more.

                I went through a streach where I pursued information on Wellesley and the Iberian Peninsular Campaign inspired by reading Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s novels.

        • Maureen, these people are completely missing the point that there is a great deal of difference between academic research, which MUST be correct, and research in fiction it is NICE but not necessary to get correct – therefore if one comes up short in fiction it can be lived with, however much dedication may lie at the heart of it – dedication is not need. In fiction, there is no academic peer pressure to get it right nor therefore the necessity to personally travel to Seville to the West Indies archives. In non-fiction the book will still be published if one had to slack off in one or two areas because the research simply didn’t come together. It doesn’t matter if you read 250 books but where those books are. We’re talking about optional as opposed to non-optional here. Yes, the paths do happily cross sometimes but that is the exception and not the rule. Academics doesn’t allow slack, fiction does. Being academically correct is not essential in fiction; Cairo can magically be next to the sea after months of research to make other details correct; that is not an option in an area of non-fiction where such things MUST be correct. Non-fiction can get away with half-measures if the situation arises – that will not happen in an academic history book. And this is positing an equal desire to get it right in both fiction and non-fiction. The truth is, people in fiction often DO simply make stuff up, and you can’t take the best researched fiction books and say that’s the reality of that world when it’s not; in fact it’s reality 100% of the time in non-fiction. There are no footnotes in fiction and that alone should tell you all you need to know, no accountability needed. There is time and TIME.

          • Did you miss the parts where these people explained that their information needs to be correct so that their readers don’t get disgusted and stop reading their work? Or did you ignore all that on the premise that “Fiction” means “Not truth” and just go from there?

            • There is no academic peer review process involved. You are trying to co-opt the needs of another field to make yourself feel better. Your books are not then exercises in academia no matter how much you wish it. Let me know when you MUST start footnoting your books as opposed to really wanting to.

              • Sir, no one here has claimed that fiction and acdemic work is the same. What they have asserted is the fiction they write is not made up of whole cloth or pulled out of the thin air.

          • Actually, that’s not at all true. Readers of fiction are every bit as demanding of us as readers of nonfiction. I made the mistake once – sheer brain fart – of having a squadron of F-18s temporarily assigned to Minot AFB. Now, an F-18 is a NAVY fighter jet; I should have been using F-16s, which are USAF fighters. A simple transposition of numbers. I either fat-fingered or wasn’t thinking; I don’t recall which. But believe me, I have heard about it from outraged USAF vets.

            Any tweaking of facts in my fiction books – and of those with whom I co-author – are deliberate, as in my Displaced Detective series where I made the Pikes Peak granite formation extend underneath Schriever AFB (via deformation effects of orogenesis) when in fact it only outcrops along the Rampart Range and that, mostly AT Pikes, hence the name of the formation. Given the use of alternate realities via M-theory, it was a deliberate hint to the knowledgeable reader that the reality being documented in the book is not our own.

            And for what it’s worth I just spent two solid hours of research to determine the approximate cost of a Benz Victoria motorcar when it was a brand-new model in 1893, in order to write a single sentence in the novel I’m polishing. In so doing I had to ascertain the value of a gold mark and convert to pound sterling for that period of time.

            Who am I? I’m one of those rocket scientists you hear about. I have graduate and undergraduate degrees in astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics; I worked for 20+ years in the civilian and military space programs. I trained astronauts. I had a friend aboard shuttle Columbia’s final flight. I KNOW HOW TO RESEARCH. I DO my research. I write, and write for, non-fiction books as well as fiction. My best friend is a gentleman named Travis S. Taylor, who has a bachelor’s, a master’s, and TWO PhDs in various sciences and engineering. He happens to be a best-selling fiction writer, as well as non-fiction writer, and he does his research too. How do I know? We’ve co-authored several books together.

            I suggest doing YOUR research before issuing slurs, sir.

            • Oh, yeah, because I’m not a super-genius academic writer, this took a while to percolate, but I suppose your using Cairo is too much of a coincidence to be one. Listen — if that was intended as a jab at Heart of Light, you’re proving you’re so dense you should have your own gravitational field. Though I suppose used as you are to rigor and dissecting prose and… oh, hell. I suppose, being smug and full of yourself you skimmed the free chapters for errors, and COMPLETELY missed the fact it’s a flying ship. And the docks are for a flying ship. Yes, they fly over the sea — from ENGLAND — and the docks are next to the NILE. But the ship flies in and LANDS. I did have maps and books on Cairo available (books on Cairo in the nineteenth century.) Well… perhaps if one just skims stuff to prove how smart one is it does take five years to research something. “First, chip through assumptions, with chisel and shovel.” It takes time.

              • And Steph, of course I’m not talking to you, but to the supergenius above. (I keep now seeing him as Wiley Coyote, Supergenius!)

                • Not a problem, Sarah. It was immediately obvious to whom you referred, as I made no reference to Cairo in my post.

                  I might also refer Mr. May and Ms. Ogle to the guest blog I did for you awhile back, outlining the research (yes, only OUTLINING; there isn’t room in a blog for the detail; I recently e-published a monograph on ONE ASPECT of the research) I did in Victorian era culture, practices, and mores.

                  BTW, Sarah, if I obtain relative distances I can likely calculate the Roche lobes. But it might be more useful to calculate the Chandrasekhar Limit instead.

                  • I recently e-published a monograph on ONE ASPECT of the research) I did in Victorian era culture, practices, and mores.

                    Link, please? I can’t find it at your name’s URL. 😦

                    • It’s called Sherlock, Sheilas, and the Seven-Percent Solution. It’s a detailed study (with references listed in brackets inserted in the text) of the use of narcotics in the Victorian era, as well as the science behind why those narcotics work, what effects they have, what SIDE-effects they have, and why Conan Doyle may have chosen the particular drug(s) Holmes used and why Holmes has some of the characteristics he does. Click on the appropriate cover on my landing page and it will take you to a page where you can purchase from Nook or Kindle. I’m still waiting for Smashwords to finish the bloody review process.

                      And don’t worry about it being over your head in the science just because you may not be a scientist – I wrote it for the lay person to be able to read as well as the scientist, and have already presented it at the Southern Gathering of Sherlockians last month, to considerable approval.

                    • Oooo, thanks! I thought that was fiction, for some reason, and didn’t look more closely at it.

                    • Beth, the fiction for which it was done is there, too. It’s the Displaced Detective series, the first book of which is The Case of the Displaced Detective: The Arrival. First two books are out, 3rd is coming this summer. Sorry for the ad, Sarah.

              • There needs to be an equivalent of Godwin’s Law to express the fatuity of those who, in demonstrating their intellectual superiority make the sort of egregious error which proves otherwise. While we’re at it, there should also be a term for the oaf who, ridiculing another’s typing/spelling/grammar error fails to perfect their own contribution.

              • It was not a jab at your depiction of Cairo, but saying you have the ability as a fantasy writer to employ artistic license at will, and you clearly did:

                “Nigels’s heart tightened as he looked out from the deck of the carpetship descending toward Cairo.”

                Next paragraph:

                “From this far up, all of Egypt looked like a narrow strip of land, squeezed between golden sparking desert and shining emerald sea, along the green ribbon of the Nile. Where the river met the sea, a green shape formed, resembling a lady’s fan. There, the arm of the Nile branched into multiple fingers…”

                Since the distance from Alexandria to Cairo is some 140 miles, they must have been in near-Earth orbit to see all that but are at the same time descending toward Cairo. Is that a jab? It is not. It is a fantasy novel and you are well within your rights to employ slight exaggeration for artistic effect. But you are not within your rights to say you are under the same stringent rules as someone in non-fiction would have been.

                I bought the novel to read it, and did. I did not skim it to try and find points to score. That would be idiotic. The passage was residing in my memory.

                • “Since the distance from Alexandria to Cairo is some 140 miles, they must have been in near-Earth orbit to see all that but are at the same time descending toward Cairo.”

                  Not true. A rough approximation for the distance to the horizon is D = 112.88 km √ (h), where height is the altitude in km.[1] (rough in that this ignores the effects of refraction and assumes a spherical earth). 140 miles is about 225 km. Doing the algebra gives us an altitude of about 3.97 km, which doesn’t even push the limits of an Airbus, much less requiring a spacecraft. So much for careful research.

                  [1] http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Shorizon.htm

                  • Hah, that’s funny. What about gravity? So I could see both sitting atop a 4,000 meter volcano on a clear day situated equidistant between the two, 70 miles each way? I don’t think so. Unless the Earth is a giant table with no haze of distance. Is it a giant table. It looks like one when I go up high, no matter how high I go. When then I don’t have polarizing filter for eyes that allow me to see things like that.

                    • What does “gravity” have to do with it?

                      “I don’t think so.”

                      I do. So does NASA and every other source I found.

                      “Unless the Earth is a giant table with no haze of distance. Is it a giant table.”

                      The land around the Nile Delta is pretty darned flat, and desert air tends to be pretty darned clear.

                      You were wrong. My advice would be to just admit it, stop digging, and move on.

                    • “How about gravity?”

                      What’s gravity got to do with it? While gravity does bend the passage of light the gravity of the Earth is insufficient to cause a measurable (let alone significant) deflection over the distances involved. (Why, no, I don’t play a physicist on TV, but I am one in real life).

                      The factor you should be looking at is the curvature of the earth. The horizon is simply the locus of points where straight lines from the “eye” pass tangent to the Earth’s surface. You can calculate it this way: extend a line segment from the “eye” to the center of the Earth. Draw another from a point on the horizon to the center of the earth. Those two segments, with the segment from point on the horizon to the “eye” form a right triangle. For small heights above the surface of the Earth (where that height is << the radius of the Earth) the length of the leg between eye and horizon is approximately equal to the distance along the ground between the two points. In that case, you can solve it as a right triangle:

                      (R+h)^2 – R^2 = d^2
                      where R = the radius of the Earth, h = the height of the "eye" and d = the distance to the horizon.

                      For larger values of h, a more accurate representation can be developed using trigonometry.

                      (R)/(R+h) =cos(d/R) (Radian measure)

                      4000 meters gives a distance to horizon of just under 226 km or just over 140 miles.

                      You can "not think so" all you want. You're wrong.

                    • I’ll admit I’m wrong when you tell me what it is I’m wrong about and prove it. Meanwhile I’ll go with the 20 volcanoes around the world I’ve woken up on, stretched and said, “Wow, that’s really nice. I can see the whole of S. Bali from atop Agung by moonlight.” I enjoyed it, I didn’t measure it. Stop measuring SF and fantasy or I’ll unstretch and go back to sleep. There’s a limit to what one can see, no matter what arithmetic tells you. And, the desert around Cairo in fact is not that clear. The sky is full of dust. Precisely because it is a desert. Or maybe you can actually come here to Cairo and tell me what my eyes can’t and can see. There are stretches of weeks I can’t even get a clear picture of the pyramids standing 100 meters away.

                    • Physicist, heal thyself. Or in this case, simply go outside and observe reality. It’s just slightly different so don’t be shocked. Afaf says hi.

                    • “simply go outside and observe reality. ”

                      I have. You’re wrong. Your “proof by repeated assertion” doesn’t make it so.

                    • “no matter what arithmetic tells you.”

                      Spoken like a true innumerate.

                    • Given the topic, I’m not surprise the conversation has devolved to this level of pedantry over a few sentences. When I read the passage, I simply enjoyed it, I didn’t question it. That’s what it was there for. After all, I was on a carpetship. You know how I knew that? I’m extremely perceptive.

                      If someone did an incredible amount of research to prove Bernal Diaz was a liar, but framed that in a novel, they’d be off the hook in an academic sense. Saying that demanding fans rise to the level of some kind of peer review as fact checkers is nonsense. There is no systemic organization or community standards in place, just people who like to check facts. Sure they might stop reading, but others may step in – you don’t know – a lot of people don’t like suffocating detail. Compare the screenplay of The Hunt for Red October to the novel. The film is clearly a better work, even if it is an adaptation. Yes Clancy appeals to a certain type of fan who wants the rotors of the helicopter blades correct but for others, it’s stifling and breaks down the tension and drama and flow and pacing.

                      Strip away the fiction and one’s work about Diaz is in entirely different territory. You may have done the same amount of research but one will be questioned by different people, in a different way, and with different results at stake and you’d better have it right.

                      This whole argument is lunatic – it’s not just a difference between non-fiction and fiction, but the fact that non-fiction simply doesn’t have an academic mechanism in place at all; it simply doesn’t exist. Saying “fans” replaces that in some way in ludicrous. Doing a thing because one wants to is clearly not the same as having to. Showing up for work at your office in your house as a free lancer everyday and on time is one thing, because in fact you can take breaks, write naked or get drunk.

                      You can’t do that at a real office with a real boss. We’re not even arguing apples and oranges but apples and nothing. Lot’s of people do hard work they don’t have to do. That’s discipline imposed from within. Discipline imposed from without, and from a larger community, is quite another thing. This not an issue about hard work, but how much slack is in the system. There is a lot of slack in fiction because in fact there is no system in place. Each writer is his own kingdom with their own rules.

                      Saying an academic is a slacker is one thing, but it’s not built into the system. Saying a fiction writer is NOT a slacker, is another, but that slack is in fact built in because there is not system and one can back off or slack off at will. And just because you don’t “crank” out a novel doesn’t mean you can’t or that people don’t. It’s available at will. Non-fiction writers may “crank” out lying garbage, but if they’re caught there’s a price to pay. There are obviously different skill levels here but the escape hatch is always there. Not using it isn’t the same as saying “can’t” and lying non-fiction authors isn’t the same as saying “can.”

                      One last thing: pedant’s aren’t artists – never have been and never will be. There’s a certain level of fascination and respect for obsessive detail but even Frank Herbert only researched “Dune” for 5 years. Pedant’s who get lost in the details lose the art of it, the larger picture, and themselves as artists.

                    • *sigh*

                      All of you who are arguing about the distance from Cairo to Alexandria, and whether they would be visible at the same time have ignored something:

                      “From this far up, all of Egypt looked like a narrow strip of land…”

                      All of Egypt. Looking like a narrow strip of land. This means that he would have to be over 2000 km high (rough estimate based on NASA link above).

                    • Thank you. I had the carpetships flying at airplane height, which is why they require magic for breathing, glass partitions around, (actually to help contain the magic-gathered air) etc. Look, the novels are considered steam-punk, partly because I went into the “magic machine” aspect. And of course I DON’T infodump everything up front. DUH. This is part of being entertaining and, btw, part of the way that writing non fiction is easier. You can just TELL people things. In fiction, we try not to glaze readers’ eyes.

                    • Oh, also since what started this was the claim that the traditional publishers are needed — this book was THE MOST edited of all my books, not just by the editor, but by a fact checker, a copy editor, and an expert in the region. (Shrug.) Other than a couple of arguments over what I meant by something and a discussion about where the rail-line ended at this time (which I think I explained in an afterword) they didn’t find anything wrong. BUT the historical books — all of them, with the major presses — got careful checking. And that’s before the amateur fact-checking fans kick in. So … bah. These people are talking about things they NEVER experienced. EVER.

                    • Did I ignore that Wayne? Near Earth orbit is defined as anything below 2,000 km. Do I care in terms of the story whether it was at 2,000 km. or 35,000 ft? No.

                    • Given the topic, I’m hot surprise the conversation has devolved to this level of pedantry over a few sentences.

                      Who threw down the gauntlet? Who quoted the sentences? Who said prove it? And now you complain? If you are so unhappy do you keep stirring the pot?

                  • Tony, you beat me to it. I’m a former Air Force Imagery Analyst. I do know a few things about slant range. Actually, 3.97km is only 13,021.6 feet, so there’s not even a need for an enclosed cabin or oxygen (3.97km = 3970M, conversion rate to feet from meters is 3.28, so 3970×3.28 = 13.021.6) Hot air balloons go higher than that at times. And at 140 miles, depending upon the time of day, the mouth of the Nile would look like a lady’s fan. I’ve seen about 9/10 of the Earth’s surface from altitude, including Egypt. The description is pretty accurate to me. 8^)

                    • I HAD to base it on travellogues. I was paid 10k per book for these books, and it was part of my living expenses. Going to Egypt was out of the question. NOT because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t. I’d have loved to travel. BUT as I pointed out in the original post, we don’t GET that kind of money. So I read several descriptions of people approaching and landing in Egypt. Of course, none of them were doing it by carpetship. 😛

                    • I knew a history grad student, now a Ph. D., who went on about being an expert in Viet Nam. He’d never been to Viet Nam in his life, nor could he speak the language. He simply regurgitated the garbage written by his professors (who also hadn’t been to Viet Nam). Wouldn’t know a primary source if it bit him.

                    • The term is “groupthink” and academics are as susceptible as , if not more susceptible than, anyone else to it.

                    • Well Sarah, you just elegantly made my original point: you couldn’t afford to do the trip, so you used something else, which you could do because the artistic license escape hatch is always there for a fiction writer. Were you writing a non-fiction book, you would not have had that luxury. That was really all I was saying. I won’t write anymore here. People are not very nice here or welcoming. They are as thin-skinned as Obama and as prickly as porcupines when disagreed with. You’re all whatever you say you are. Photographers if you wish. You take mental snapshots so you’re photographers. Screen pixels are basically the same as photos so it is indeed a photographic process.

                    • Were you writing a non-fiction book, you would not have had that luxury.

                      Actually, James, she would have. It is helpful for an author to visit a locale, but not necessary. A fact which you acknowledged elsewhere in this thread. Really, it depends on the book and the author.

                      If one is writing a book on the history of pizza it is not necessary to visit Rome, nor Egypt, nor New York’s, Philadelphia’s or even Chicago’s Little Italy. All of the important and relevant information is readily available in reference libraries, waiting to be compiled by an intelligent author who knows how to develop a theme.

                      For Historians the problem of visiting a locale is exacerbated by the simple fact that many historical sites no longer exist, as such, for the historian to visit. Writing a biography of George Washington? The western wilderness he surveyed is wilderness no longer, and not even very western. The landscape over which he fought the Revolution has changed dramatically. The Philadelphia where he presided over the Constitutional Convention lingers as little more than a shadow less substantial than the image on Turin’s shroud. You can grow up in Center City Philadelphia and have no real idea what the nation’s founding capital was like.

                      As for visiting Mount Vernon — when? Which Mount Vernon should you visit: the one George took possession of in 1761? The 1766 version where he replaced tobacco with wheat, corn, hemp and flax? The Mount Vernon he retired to after the Revolution, or the one he to which he retired after his presidency? Perhaps the industrious historian should visit the 1797 Mount Vernon which made George one of the nation’s largest distillers of whiskey?

                      While it may help the writer’s imagination to project, to inhabit the thoughts of one of this nation’s most significant personages, no actual visit is necessary for a biographer of Washington. Such a visit would be a luxury.

                    • BESIDES he misses the point that was the reason for my post. I couldn’t afford it, even though this was a TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOK. So, for Maureen Oggle to lament the passing of the traditionally published book and its research money means she’s blinkeredly myopic. MOST of us DON’T get that. THAT was a traditionally published book. Which also means btw, it was vetted by experts at the house. That book had at least four vettings. So if Mr. May has a problem with it, he not only has a problem with my research, but with the facilities, money AND vetters of traditional publishing. Are we circular enough? Are we there yet? Or could he perhaps grow up a little and admit he stomped in wanting to prove he was smarter than SOMEONE byghod, and he hasn’t managed it, and so keeps fighting an increasingly futile battle?

                    • James, the people here don’t mind being disagreed with – if you followed the blog, you’d see numerous discussions and opposing views.

                      They do mind being attacked and insulted. Maybe you didn’t intend it, but that’s how you’ve come across.

                • Mr. May, excuse me but, as I have sat on the front porch of a house near the top of a mountain in Highlands North Carolina with a view of approximately 83 miles to the south — I beg to differ.

            • Reality is not a slur, and pedantry is not entertainment. I don’t need to know all that stuff. It’s pretending to a kind of academia but without having to actually live up to those standards. Who’s going to know you’re subtly altering granite extrusions? If you have an audience for that, great. They won’t call you out for not getting it right in an academic sense because you are not working under those rules. It’s the difference between making an engine that works and making a detailed painting of one. If it’s your job to make the engine work and it doesn’t, that doesn’t apply to fiction but to non-fiction.

              • I haven’t been to Cairo, but then I don’t believe you ran out to a 4000 meter peak 140 miles away and climbed up it to see what you could see either. I have been on mountains above 4000 meters and can positively state that you can see a 140 miles, depending on weather conditions. Heatwaves will be the single biggest cause of distortion, and heatwaves are mostly near the ground surface, so flying high and looking down without being near any ground, will have minimal distortion. There is an easy way to verify what I’m talking about. On a warm day go to the edge of a canyon and look across it, you might notice a slight distortion from heat waves, next look the same distance over fairly level ground (airport runway, wheatfield, etc) you’ll see severe distortion.

              • Sir, I daresay that, in my career as a space flight controller, I wrote far more non-fiction documents than you have, and with far more importance, since if I made a mistake, an astronaut could lose his/her life. Is your non-fiction more important than that?

                Have you ever participated in a mission that garnered an ENTIRE VOLUME of the Astrophysical Journal for its results, or been the liaison between the astronomers/astrophysicists involved and the mission operations team? I have.

                As for your vaunted research, at one point I was required by my job to be the resident nuclear, biological, chemical weapons expert. (This was on the DoD side, obviously.) In order to conduct proper research, I traveled to and walked into an NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) weapons training facility, where they were using LIVE NERVE AGENT. At that time, they were training for decontamination in full MOPP (Mission Operations Protective Posture) gear. Every single room of the facility, secretarial office or no, had a high speed gas chromatograph sampling the air I was breathing and reading out how much nerve agent was in it. Read that again: not WHETHER nerve agent was in it – HOW MUCH. I WAS breathing nerve agent, in minute amounts. Should a threshold level be reached an alarm would sound and the facility would be evaucated. After that research expedition, I came home and wrote a classified white paper that caused complete redesign of certain defensive systems. Have you gone that far in your research?

                In point of fact, EVERY. SINGLE. DETAIL I put into my books that was a deliberately inserted change (including “Easter eggs” such as a fugitive’s dossier being listed as 24601 – Jean Valjean’s prisoner number in Les Miserables – has been duly noted by my fans.

                Get off your bloody pedestal and realize that at least some of us have qualifications every bit as high as yours, and perform research every bit as seriously as you do, and that you and your friend have insulted us multiple times by dismissing our work, and then go back to YOUR work and leave us alone.

                • Thank you, Stephanie, but I think the reason he’s fighting so hard is that we hurt his ego. (Rolls eyes.) Which again just proves going into the whole “new publishing” thing by insulting half the workers in it is insane.
                  Interesting on your experience with nerve agent. I was, once upon a time, in another life, a multilingual translator of scientific research (which by the way is a rare niche occupation, because few people can do both languages AND science. And it requires a lot of research on its own.) Needless to say the only plants to need that are chemical/biological and er… not always safe. My husband worked down the road, so he used to drop me off in the morning, and we had to pay attention to the sign at the entrance, before driving in. If it was red, there had been a spill at one of the labs, and we weren’t allowed on the grounds. I’m very glad I quit that job (because they didn’t allow me time off for infertility treatments, actually) just before I got pregnant. I shudder to think what some of the “yellow” or “orange” conditions meant…

                • I don’t have any qualifications. Not compared to you. I have never been a member of the H.U.B.R.I.S space agency. I can imagine you had a lot of people who walked on stilts around you or simply left the room if they could. You are great and important – how could you not be? But “1984” isn’t a space manual to brag about following by being addicted to doublethink, it’s a warning. Simple perception and common sense trumps prideful pedantry all the time. Although I have little doubt having a space suit that doesn’t leak does have it’s moments. I don’t wear a spacesuit – ever.

            • It’s not a question of the respective readers but of the academic community. There is none in fiction. And Charlotte Bronte’s depictions of snow in Jane Eyre wouldn’t pass a journal review.

              • If that were true I would be thanking God for it, look how the academic community has screwed up academic’s.

              • You should check out the number of academics who read my books sometime.

                You know what? You’re wasting my time, you’re wasting your time, and I’m tired of it. Stick it with a fork, I’m done responding to you.

                • Yeh gods. SF/F fans academics? Who would have THUNK it? We could all start listing the initials we can put after our names? Maybe that would convince Mr. May? Or maybe he’s just trying to soothe his ego, and you’re right Stephanie.

                  • My ego? You might want to re-read some of these post by the big wigs who hype their own importance and follow it up by playground name-calling. There is a disconnect there between a love of studying things and emotional maturity. I’m an “ass?” Is that the same as wrong? I may in fact be wrong but that doesn’t make me an enemy, except to those with an obsessive need to get things right who then paint that as being the entire SF genre and the fans too. I have no ego in this regard. In fact this obsession with detail hurts SF. It’s turned it into a trompe l’oeil analogue I find stultifying and boring.

                    • Then find something else to read and leave the rest of us alone Troll-boy.

                      I’ve run into you and your analogues before over at PJM. Anytime there’s a post about a new SF book or the publishing industry you begin with your whines about how no one is as good as Jack Vance and really, we need gatekeepers because we’re all too stupid to know what to read without the traditional publishers force feeding us grey goo all day.

                    • Hi Patrick. I am not whining but making an argument. And I’ve never said those things. I think you’re being ironic combined with sarcasm and insult.
                      And I am not a troll. I was under the impression a troll is someone who writes things they don’t believe in merely to get a reaction and make people angry. I don’t do that. I just want to good stuff to read. And contrary to your mean hints, I have gotten and read Hoyt and Freer and just tried to find Osbourne. I do not do these things to skim them for insults but to enjoy them if I can. I don’t think you’re a very nice person.

                    • “My ego?”

                      You come in here sneering at fiction writers because they “don’t need” to do extensive research. It gets pointed out to you that a lot of writing, SF in particular, if you don’t want to lose readers. Your immediate response is about “academic standards”, as if that has _anything_ to do with “popular” (as in written and sold with the prospect of making money–you know, like Ogle was complaining about) fiction _or_ nonfiction. Then, after you harp on “academic standards” for a while some folk point out their own qualifications and experience in that field (folk who also happen to be fiction writers and no, from firsthand experience, what’s involved in both disciplines). And you sneer at that.

                      Basically, it doesn’t matter what anyone says, you’re going to argue against it.

                      There’s a term for that.

                    • Writer in black, I do not sneer at fiction writers, they have enriched my life. But when they have their fiction hats on, they are not scientists or historians except to the extent they wish to be. You yourself just suggested you do it because of your fans. In fact, you probably do it because that is your nature. No one obsessively researches for fiction unless they like it. If that were not true, you would hate it. That’s like saying you’ll write just any old thing to get published. That’s not what artists do. And artist’s don’t repeat themselves. Honestly, much SF and fantasy nowadays reads like they’re angling for a movie deal rather than trying to be original. Being famous and rich would be nice. I read a couple of books by James Rollins. Really clean prose and clear to understand. They would make fun movies. As novels they stunk.

                    • You have no clue. None. I haven’t had a lot of published fiction so far, and most of that shorts in magazines but I _know_ the response I’ve received from readers.

                      You, on the other hand, are simply making up things as you would like them to be.

                • By your reasoning, a fork could be just about anything. Can I say it’s an insertion orbit around Titan?

          • Kate Paulk


            Not this people. I’m objecting to a non-fiction writer choosing to dismiss fiction writers as hacks because they write faster than the non-fiction writer in question.

            And “no footnotes”? Seriously? Have you ever read Pratchett?

            Then there’s Kim Newman’s alternate vampire history (starting with Anno Dracula) which includes cameos from just about every fictional vampire ever, historical figures, various fictional characters of the era in question, and a bibliography that – while not quite as hefty as you’d find in non-fiction is still pretty impressive.

            (Rule: for every generalization you make there will be a large number of exceptions. Corollary: stating the generalization will bring exceptions and counter-examples crawling out of the woodwork.)

            Whatever your field of writing, it is NOT acceptable to dismiss those outside that field because you disagree with them. This post is dissecting the disagreement and pointing out the flaws in the original argument. Commenters here are agreeing – and many of them DO have non-fiction credit, including quite a few academic publications.

            • Your telling that Pratchett NEEDED to put in footnotes? What if he hadn’t? Would his fantasy world been called out as fake?

              • Kate Paulk

                And you, sir, are ignoring the point of my comment: I’m objecting to a non-fiction writer choosing to dismiss fiction writers as hacks because they write faster than the non-fiction writer in question. and Whatever your field of writing, it is NOT acceptable to dismiss those outside that field because you disagree with them.

                If you wish to argue, please argue the point and do not shift the goalposts. You stated “There are no footnotes in fiction”. I provided a counter-example. You promptly changed the frame of reference to whether or not footnotes were required. If this is the standard your academic work accepts, I’m not surprised I’m seeing hostility towards academia.

                • That was my point all along. This is in my first sentence.

                  “there is a great deal of difference between academic research, which MUST be correct, and research in fiction it is NICE but not necessary to get correct”

                  No goalposts have been moved. I find it amusing that people conspicuously engaged in making things up in some weird manner attach an academic standard to it. In fact, that academic standard doesn’t exist. I am not dismissing anyone – I am pointing out the obvious: sf and fantasy aren’t academic exercises. I don’t like conversations or sword fights broken up by useless descriptions of the composition of the swords or detailed manifestos of how a rocket engine works when getting into it. Just get in the damn thing and move on with the story.

                  I liked Bring the Jubilee – I liked he didn’t sit on it and smother it with useless details.

                  • I find it amusing that people conspicuously engaged in making things up in some weird manner attach an academic standard to it.

                    I believe it was you who set up the straw dog here. No one here claimed their work was academic. What they have stated is that their work requires significant, far reaching and varied research. They are objecting to the dismissive attitude that lead you to claim they are ‘making things up in some weird manner.’

                    • Cacs I agree it does those things you mentioned. But there is an escape hatch available. And in fact the argument between there being an equivalence between the rigors of non-fiction and fiction has been made. If you are dedicated to writing a non-fiction book about a volcano, you will almost certainly have to make a trip to that volcano or face not writing the book. If it’s in a novel and you don’t have the time or money, you don’t have to do that – you can shade the truth, employ artistic license and it’s no foul, no harm. Saying that is one in the same is weird and ignores making stuff up, which is what SF is no matter how OCD you get about it.

                    • If you are dedicated to writing a non-fiction book about a volcano, you will almost certainly have to make a trip to that volcano

                      “Almost certainly”? Meaning, NOT certainly, meaning possibly not, meaning it is optional? And even making such a trip does not guarantee your accuracy, does it?

                      Much of academic writing is a con, dressing assertions up in an array of “facts” in order to sell an argument to which those facts may well be irrelevant.

                      For an interesting discussion of how facts can be used to create a fiction, I heartily recommend “There are 00 trees in Russia: The function of facts in newsmagazines. By Otto Friedrich.”.

                    • If it’s in a novel and you don’t have the time or money, you don’t have to do that – you can shade the truth, employ artistic license and it’s no foul, no harm.

                      Welp. With those four words, you have just demonstrated that you haven’t heard a thing that the entire comment thread has been yelling at you, about how missing details really does harm a fiction author (at least in the realm of science fiction, where readers are really picky). That’s it, I’m done responding to you. You can lead a man to the facts but you can’t make him think.

                    • Yes I have Robin. You’re saying that just because you say so, SF fans are addicted to details and pedantry. Read the SF Hall of Fame and what great work is. There are almost no works of that sort in the 3 volumes. I really don’t see what poll you’ve taken that suggests SF fans are now detail-obsessed PC nerds who despise bright artistry and prefer arguing over brigade-strength versus company. If it is true SF fans have devolved to that level, it is little wonder I have so much trouble finding good work to read. The prose is virtually identical. Garbage in, garbage out. I’ve read they’re even authors who put their work through software that sees if their writing patterns are consistent. What artist would do that?

                    • RES, if most academic writing is a con, do you mean history books? Has this changed in the last 30 years? Is SF coming closer to academia and academic writing more fiction and narrative based due to wishful thinking? I don’t think either one is good – one is then a lie and the other boring. Imagine a class of scientists who turned their hand to writing SF. I’d prefer a class of artists who happen to express themselves by writing, and that doesn’t include a cadre of researchers.

                    • Let’s look at the record, eh? MY statement:

                      Much of academic writing is a con, dressing assertions up in an array of “facts”

                      James May’s restatement:

                      if most academic writing is a con

                      Perhaps James sees no difference between the two statements, I have no compulsion to address his impaired reading ability. The reference to the article “There Are 00 Trees In Russia” should have made the point clear to any person not simply trolling.


                      Troll (Internet) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
                      In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community …

                      OFF-TOPIC, check. Extraneous, check. Inflammatory, check.

                      I was under the impression a troll is someone who writes things they don’t believe in merely to get a reaction and make people angry.

                      Your impression is erroneous. Quelle surprise!

                    • What’s a straw dog? How would I know if I set it up?

                    • Apparently, James, you would not, as you have not demonstrated the capability nor mother wit to look it up. Apparently Google is NOT your friend. Much more is apparent as well.

                    • Saying that is one in the same is weird and ignores making stuff up, which is what SF is no matter how OCD you get about it.

                      As far as I can ascertain you are the only one here who thinks anyone has claimed that they are one in the same.

                      What are you looking for? For fiction writes to sacrifice their financial futures to the strictures of traditional forms of publishing because they are not academics? If you had been following this blog you would know that the various supports that many publishers are offering fiction authors are diminishing. What crime is it if some of these authors are trying a new form to reach their readers?

                  • James,

                    I suggest you reread my first response to you, where I said Not this fiction writer, effectively acknowledging that yes, acadmic non-fiction has its own demands. If you needed this explicitly spelled out, academic standards have dropped a great deal since I last dealt with them.

                    You, on the other hand, failed to notice – or acknowledge – that the anger expressed here is not denying differences in publishing requirements for fiction, non-fiction, academic non-fiction or anything else. I am angry because an author chooses to dismiss another field as unworthy because she neither knows nor cares about the different demands.

                    You have done the same with your little slap about “making things up in some weird manner” – something very few fiction writers do. We analyse existing trends, we extrapolate, we hypothesize, we study human behavior. If we just made shit up, we would produce the kind of crap that stinks up slush piles in every publisher’s office. It might not be an officially recognized academic field, but but storytelling – what fiction writers do – is effectively myth-making – and mythic structures are very much something for serious academics to study. That’s not relevant to anything you’ve said, though. It’s just an interesting (to me) aside.

                    What’s relevant is that every post you make, you demonstrate your contempt for those who don’t meet whatever standard you’re applying.

                    Fine. If we poor fiction-writing rabble aren’t good enough for you, leave. We’re only going to laugh at your attempts to prove you’re superior, and give counter-examples to every assertion you choose to make, just because you’re being an ass.

                    • “We analyse existing trends, we extrapolate, we hypothesize, we study human behavior.” Thinking is research now? Those terms could mean almost anything. Creating a world means there’s little scope for criticism on the level of pedantry, which is great as far as I am concerned. I could care less if the patches on the arms of soldiers in Saving Private Ryan are accurate. Funny how people at Baen love James Schmitz though he didn’t resort to any level of ultra-pedantry. I think it was because he was sometimes a great artist. I love Heinlein’s Goldfish Bowl, and I don’t care if the ship is a frigate or a DE or whether the correct nautical miles was involved. It wouldn’t make it any better. Especially explaining the exact nature of the water pillars. I don’t know where I said anyone was lazy or sat down and wrote stream of consciousness stories in 1 week. Intellectually lazy and dishonest is another story. The argument seems to be being made that the SF of Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft, Vance, Cordwainer Smith is worthless because it’s prose-based work. R.E. Howard was a history fan, but he didn’t lay it on thick as molasses and then take fright if someone pointed out something about the Fatimid Dynasty was wrong. No surprise, he was a great artist. In fact, when it comes to fiction, the devil is not in the details, except for sub-sub-genres.

                    • Kate Paulk


                      I have been gentle, since I gave you the benefit of the doubt and responded as if you were merely bereft of clue, not actively malicious and deceptive. Your latest effort is indicative of either extreme stupidity or malice, and in either case has earned a more detailed examination than I usually give.

                      “We analyse existing trends, we extrapolate, we hypothesize, we study human behavior.” Thinking is research now? Where, precisely, did I say this? I merely said that fiction writers don’t just “make weird shit up” and that we did these things instead. In addition, if any scientist, hard or social, neglected to include documentation of the steps I listed in their published research, they would rightly be dismissed as frauds.

                      Those terms could mean almost anything. Whereas I, being a scientist by training and in an applied science profession, used then in their precise scientific sense. Where I may have erred was in presuming that you would have the wit to recognize the scientific usage.

                      Creating a world means there’s little scope for criticism on the level of pedantry, which is great as far as I am concerned. Once again, you demonstrate your contempt for fiction writers and their craft.

                      I could care less if the patches on the arms of soldiers in Saving Private Ryan are accurate. I personally would not know if they are accurate or not, since I’m not a World War II geek. However, if I was filming Saving Private Ryan, I would make damn sure I got it right, out of respect for WWII veterans. Is it perhaps alien to you that having the details correct in fiction is a gesture of respect to one’s readers? Oh, but I forget, we fiction writers just make shit up. (That was sarcasm, in case you failed to recognize it).

                      Funny how people at Baen love James Schmitz though he didn’t resort to any level of ultra-pedantry. Ah, here we get to it. You appear to be suffering from the mistaken notion that because the research and world-building isn’t in-your-face infodumping, it’s just made up nonsense. Schmitz is internally consistent across a vast imagined world-space, and is a master of Heinleining (in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, it means “fitting the salient details seamlessly into the narrative and action, without overloading the reader with details”.

                      I think it was because he was sometimes a great artist. Dear sir, do try to keep your grammar straight. Unless I grossly misunderstand, you said above that people at Baen love Schmitz. Now you imply that such love is a thing of the past. You should have said “I think it is because…”

                      I love Heinlein’s Goldfish Bowl, and I don’t care if the ship is a frigate or a DE or whether the correct nautical miles was involved. Curiously enough, Heinlein just happens to be the undisputed master of making his research and world-building invisible. Of course, since it’s invisible, you seem to think that makes it just making shit up.

                      It wouldn’t make it any better. Well, no. Because, as I said, no-one hid his research better than Heinlein.

                      Especially explaining the exact nature of the water pillars. Dear me. You don’t know the first thing about fiction, do you? I guarantee you Heinlein knew the exact nature of the water pillars when he wrote the piece. He knew because he needed to in order for them to work correctly within the story he was telling. He didn’t need to explain them because that wasn’t relevant to the story he was telling. If you don’t understand such simple technical matters, don’t presume to lecture others on them.

                      I don’t know where I said anyone was lazy or sat down and wrote stream of consciousness stories in 1 week. Ah, now we have exaggeration. You did not say that. You said that fiction writers don’t research, you said that fiction writers don’t use footnotes, and when you were corrected on both counts you started weaseling, and continued to insult fiction writers with each new post.

                      Intellectually lazy and dishonest is another story. From your own words the truth emerges. Your comments on this thread, sir, have displayed an abundance of intellectual laziness and dishonesty. If I wasn’t in the middle of my lunch break, at my paid employment, I might bother to take the time to chronicle them. On second thoughts, no. You would just claim it wasn’t valid and change your song anyway.

                      The argument seems to be being made that the SF of Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft, Vance, Cordwainer Smith is worthless because it’s prose-based work.On third thoughts, perhaps you should consider remedial English? Not only is your grammar less than exemplary, your comprehension is atrocious. In short words, you have no idea what you are talking about.

                      R.E. Howard was a history fan, but he didn’t lay it on thick as molasses and then take fright if someone pointed out something about the Fatimid Dynasty was wrong. Once again, you mistake not showing off all your research as not doing any. Every author I know – yes, including me – has orders of magnitude more information and research than the book contains, for every book they write: information that never once reaches the reader, because we’re smart enough to know it’s boring. That does not mean the research does not happen. Nor does it mean we just pull things out of our asses.

                      No surprise, he was a great artist. I’m not going to argue with this statement, although Howard himself might disagree with you if he was alive and here to argue.

                      In fact, when it comes to fiction, the devil is not in the details, except for sub-sub-genres. And once again you demonstrate your ignorance and prejudice. The devil is in the right details for the story.

                      Now, you have yet again wasted huge amounts of bandwidth (which in some places is paid by the minute and only accessible through dial-up, arcane and primitive though that might sound) and time (which even you should have the native wit to recognize is valuable) and completely failed to address the point I made in reply to your original post. Kindly cease your trolling. I’m enjoying dissecting your pathetic excuse for arguments, but I’m not the only person on this blog, and if others have had enough of your pitiful attempts to baffle with bullshit (since you clearly lack the ability to bedazzle with brilliance), I shall desist.

                    • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

                      Sir, I have been gentle, since I gave you the benefit of the doubt and responded as if you were merely bereft of clue, not actively malicious and deceptive.

                      You’ll find a lot like him where ever new publishing paradigms are under discussion, using almost identical arguments. Curiously we saw the same things in the blogs discussing new music publishing paradigms about 6-7 years back, and we are still seeing them in blogs discussing Operating Systems which aren’t Microsoft produced.

                      In the case of Microsoft, it was actually proven (through materials obtained from Discovery during court cases against the firm) that they were behind much of the “Trolling” against Linux and Max OS X. Some of this was direct, some of it was through their PR firm, Edelman, which was heavily into astro-turfing.

                      I think he is being “malicious and deceptive”, and he’s having problems because he’s wandered into the lion’s den. Instead of a bunch of unintelligent grunts, he’s found that he’s facing a lot of people, with a wide range of experience in publishing.

                      Several other writers who write about self publishing have had the same problems. Ask around. You know people who are writing about this sort of stuff. See what they say.


                    • It is nice to think that publishers are paying creative writers for something these days.

                    • Kate,

                      You appear to be suffering from the mistaken notion that because the research and world-building isn’t in-your-face infodumping, it’s just made up nonsense.

                      Yep, that’s pretty much his problem. That’s the unstated assumption that shines through — in that contrived example of what he thinks a “well-researched” novel would look like (and which was, indeed, terrible writing), and in his repeated claims that modern SF is boring. But he doesn’t seem to have grasped that what the rest of us were saying contradicted that unstated assumption. Ah well; as I said, you can lead people to the facts but you can’t make them think.

                      And thank you for the definition of “Heinleining”, BTW — it was a phrase that I, for one, was not familiar with. The concept, yes, and I had already recognized that he did it — but not the term.

                • I don’t disagree with that. And, I’m not an academic. Not even close. Treating fantasy like an exercise in research to me means an author really has nothing to say as a creative artist. They mask that with obsessive detail. It’s no surprise to me how many alternative history novels there are now, and endless repetitions of were-things and dragons. People are pandering to an audience interested in easy stereotypes. If someone read something like New Riders of the Purple Wage today they’d think it was a pedant hold up. And forget Gonna Roll Them Bones or That Hellbound Train or The Big Front Yard. That’s junk nowadays.

                  • Gee, how many ways and times can you insult fiction authors? So, if we do research, we have nothing to say as a creative artist. But then, we don’t do research, or at least not proper research.

                    All right, guys. Unless and until Sarah closes comments on this post, I say it is now fair to play whack-a-troll. May’s shown he doesn’t want to discuss the issues, instead he just wants to pontificate. When he finally starts to see that we aren’t going to back down on the research, he changes tactics. No longer is he arguing that we don’t research. Now he says if we do, it is because we don’t have anything to say as “a creative artist”. He’s taken swings at alternate history, fantasy, UF and contemporary fantasy. Guess he got tired of swinging at SF. And then he wonders why we are a bit upset with him.

                    • How am I a troll and you’re not a troll? Is this a special Amanda place or am I still under an America umbrella of culture and free expression, free to disagree? If this is I’m-okay-you’re-okay-land just say so and I won’t write again. I never said research squelched creativity. I said OCD level research does. It smothers it. That’s my opinion and not a commandment from a god or a threat. I’m not taking swings at those genres per se, but at repetition. I don’t find repetition in a genre once known for iconoclasm very entertaining. I can get that from Reader’s Digest if it still exists. And I have not changed the goal posts. Saying so is not me actually doing that. I am maintaining that one thing is not another merely by wishful thinking and have explained why. It is not an insult to express that except to people who take it as such. I’ve never argued fiction writers don’t do research – I’ve argued there is no community with shared standards that exists to hold fictions writers to a research standard. You have individual publishers and fans with notions that range from completely different to none. The footnotes argument is persuasive. Fiction writers don’t have to have them – that is obvious. Stop doing research and turn a pretty phrase – you’re writers. Can’t you say “the gray hours of a wee, small morning” rather than “the wee small hours of a gray morning” once in a while so I don’t fall asleep? Why should anyone be impressed with a novel that’s based on great research? It’s a novel. That’s fine once in a while and some novels are great because of it but a steady diet is death to creativity and an excuse to not tell a streamlined story that moves. I don’t need so many details. Heinlein was once praised because he would often casually insert tech in a way that suggested a larger society and it’s capabilities. He told stories, not manuals.

                    • James,

                      Troll (Internet) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
                      In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum …

                      It ain’t Amanda pushing the discussion off-topic in an inflammatory way with extraneous arguments.

                      It ain’t Amanda mis-characterizing author’s level of research as OCD.

                      It ain’t Amanda ignoring the tales of Heinlein’s obsessive attention to getting facts right leading him to working out the orbital mechanics for Earth, Mars & Venus on butcher’s paper on his kitchen floor.

                      It ain’t Amanda ignoring the idea that for fiction to work best it must be based on a foundation of fact.

                      It ain’t Amanda casually dismissing the effort some writers find helps them activate their creative juices.

                      It ain’t Amanda arguing that some writers should be forced to endure exploitative, abusive relationships with agents and publishers because some non-fiction writers don’t find their relationships uncongenial.

          • I call BS, so much of what is written by your precious ‘academics’ has so much less relationship with the truth than many steampunk novels. Oh, they may do plenty of research, (although I doubt it by some of the idiocy that is printed) but just like you pointed out, it doesn’t matter if you read 250 books, it matters WHICH 250 books you read. And if you go into your research with a closed mind and knowing something is true, chances are you are going to find whatever tends to agree and support your idea, and totally ignore the huge volume of stuff that disproves it.

            If you don’t believe me go pick up a new history textbook, the kind written by your academics to teach children in our public schools. Read it, it bears such a slight resemblance to the true facts of history, that if it was republished as an alt. history title people would complain about it.

            • What we’re really talking about here is the concept of verisimilitude as opposed to depicting an actual reality and so theorize by research how it actually works in reality. Making one level of fakery look better than another is still science fiction and fantasy and it’s still not real. Many people like a level of pseudo-authenticity to make so-called “hard” science-fiction look more plausible and so more entertaining. That works for me too. But it’s not William Prescott and saying it is is indulging in Orwellian semantic doublethink. An especially sad thing for science fiction writers to do. Let me know when “need” and “want” become the same word simply through wanting it to bad enough and so become ruby slippers, and I will concede the point. Word wranglers don’t actually wrangle and gerrymander words to suit egos. That’s a liberal mentality best left to fiction.

              • I’ll explain to you the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’ in this connection, in nice short words:

                What the fiction reader WANTS to read is what the writer NEEDS to write. If you turn off the paying customers, there’s no sale and you have to find yourself another line of work. Readers are picky; and the pickiest readers are often the quickest to recommend writers who meet their standards, and always the loudest in condemning writers who don’t.

                • Thank you for that exercise in Orwellian semantics. Let’s just agree that “want” is a jellied donut and “need” is a flange on a workbench.

                  • Raspberry

                  • Orwellian semantics, my foot. Have you ever sold a product of any kind in your life? In order to make the sale, you NEED to have a product that a customer WANTS to buy. I am using the two capitalized words in their common dictionary acceptations; apparently you are too dumb to get that and think I am playing word games.

                    Get over yourself.

          • Do you EVER talk to fiction writers, sir? Do you know the letters we get — and THAT on non historical, made-up details. “You have the spaceship rate of velocity wrong” — SERIOUSLY if you think we go unchecked, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And there ARE footnotes in fiction AND afterwords and historical notes. PLEASE try to inform yourself of the real world and not the one you just made up inside your head, where everything is JUST as you want it.

            • No one’s denying fiction writer’s don’t work just as hard an non-fiction writers in some cases. The issue is whether they have to or not. Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft and Jack Vance have all written brilliant prose SF – there is a noticeable lack of pedantry and footnotes. Heinlein himself looks a lot better then than now in this regard. The less specific one is, the better a story ages. James H. Schmitz used comwebs long before it became common. Everyone has different views and likes in this regard and they are equally valid in terms of enjoyment. But Schmitz and Heinlein did not have to rise to the level of an academic science journal. Why pretend any fiction writer HAS to?

              • No, they don’t HAVE to, unless of course they want to reach an audience who demands it of them, or they won’t buy their books. Let’s jump out of SF/F for a minute and go into another fiction genre, romance. There are a ton of romances slapped together and sold with a limited amount of research, but to become a bestselling author, you need to provide something more, a ring of authenticity. Generally this comes from research. Sure you can slap together some hot steamy love scenes, and fill in between them with common romance formulae; older man, younger woman, ‘he doesn’t really love me, I’m just a diversion, if he really loved me he’d say so,’ and ‘she’s scared of commitment, if I tell her I love her she’ll run away, so I better keep my mouth shut.’ You can probably sell it to Harlequin, and if they print it a certian number will sell, but if you want to stand out from the herd, and actually sell on your name, and possibly earn a decent living, you need to do something more, if you want to have the personal allegiance of your readers, like Nora Roberts, you NEED to research.

                Your precious academia is much like harlequin romances, very few people pay attention to the name of the author, because they are all interchangeable, they just look at the imprint, whether it be harlequin or harvard, the imprint tells them all they need to know about the contents.

                • You are absolutely correct. You are so COMPLETELY correct. In fact, these days, and from when I came in, there ISN’T much room for “just slapped together” — I’ve made fun of a lot of them, but they’re OLD. Most of the people who read demand more accuracy because for “porn” there’s always the net.

                • Don’t ever read Bradbury or Vance, you’ll tear your eyes out. Plus you’ll want to stick them into a grammar software editor, just like that sloppy anti-pedant, William Hope Hodgson. Pah! Pyramids 7 miles high. What an idiot. Everyone know that pi equals the square root of…

              • Shucks, James, few “academic science journals” HAVE to. Or do.

          • OMG, a tad full of ourselves, aren’t we, Mr. May? I guess you haven’t seen some of the non-fiction I have. Nor, I assume, have you read about the number of times non-fiction authors have made up facts from whole cloth only to be caught out at it later. Give me a break. Yes, some fiction writers make things up — it is fiction, after all. But the fiction writers who want to make sure they are giving their readers a realistic and believable story do research, often for years. They travel to the location they are writing about if at all possible. So get off of your ivory tower-like pedestal and pull your nose out of the air. You might actually like some of what you see if you do. But then, we are only lowly genre writers who aren’t worthy to shine your academic shoes.

            And yes, if you couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic. I’ll put the academic credentials and work ethics of Sarah, Stephanie Osborn, Kate Paulk and any number of other people who have commented on this post up against you any day. Perhaps it is you who doesn’t get it. Just because something is labeled fiction doesn’t mean authors don’t do their homework.

            • Well, you just said it yourself – they did get “caught” at it. When do fiction writer get “caught” in an academic sense? They plainly do not as there is no set standard for them to get “caught” in. Who said fiction authors don’t do their homework? I am not defending one side or the other, but saying they are two different sides with different benchmarks to rise to. I can’t imagine you think any SF by a writer who doesn’t do a “hard” take is nonsense. Clearly there is bright SF of that nature. If something is made up it’s made up – comparing fiction writers to non-fiction writers who lie is a telling thing to do.

              • And, by the tone of your comment, you think non-fiction authors are oh so much better, more learned, and harder working than us poor fiction writers. Mr. May, the point of my comment was to the effect that if there are non-fiction writers being caught making up their facts, there are probably even more who aren’t. There are also non-fiction authors who don’t do the level of research you seem to imply they all do. But none of that is here nor there because one thing is obvious: you have little understanding of the process many fiction writers go through in order to produce an historically — or scientifically — accurate work. Different benchmarks, possibly, but believe me, they aren’t that much different in the long run. Fiction writers are still held to account by our readers if we get it wrong.

                • It’s not a question of process. The process could be identical to that a non-fiction writer goes through – the point is to what standard each is held to ACADEMICALLY. The difference is that some pedant sending an email isn’t going to destroy academic credentials having to do with the rules regarding turning into a leopard because such rules don’t exist in the first place. And if your Turkish flintlock wasn’t actually used at the Siege of Vienna but later at Belgrade, you won’t be hoisted in front of a peer review panel and your competence as a historian questioned. This is laughable. We’re talking about shape-shifting as if that world is real. I find it telling that so much talk goes on about whether a microscope would’ve actually been used in a scene and so little about artistry and creativity. SF and fantasy aren’t history books and there is no requirement other than yourself and a few fans they rise to that level. History books DO have to rise to that level and it’s not an option.

                  • “The point is what each is held to ACADEMICALLY”.

                    Oh, for the love of. If that’s the “point” then it is completely irrelevant to the topic of the OP which was about selling non-fiction (or fiction) to make money. Ms. Ogles concerns were about the financial aspects of the “self-publishing” model as compared to the traditional model with its advances and whatnot.

                    Academic, peer-reviewed publications are not written to make money, at least not directly. It’s a completely different beast with absolutely no bearing on what anybody else here has been talking about. And I say that as someone with a few peer reviewed publications of my own (measurement technology at the nanometer scale mostly).

                    It’s like the conversation is about trucks vs. compact cars and you come in and spout about lunar rovers. That’s nice and all but it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

                    • It is the point: Maureen’s books cannot afford to get it wrong, fiction writers can shade whenever they want. Just because you want to marginalize that aspect doesn’t mean it’s not in play. In fact, the “point” was that you are in fact marginalizing that aspect to co-opt the intellectual space you don’t live in when writing fiction. It’s a classic liberal mindset of bruised ego’s complaining til people just say, “There, there, little man. Okay, ‘want’ and ‘need’ are the same thing.” Take away William Prescott’s footnotes and you have what may be a fantasy. Take away a fantasy’s footnotes and it’s still a fantasy.

                    • Excuse me but that’s nonsense. Shall I go to my bookshelf and haul down a list of “non-fiction” titles that “got it wrong” to some extent or another. I can start with “the first three minutes.” There are several books on black holes. Various history books that reflect more the author’s preconceptions than “reality.”

                      The non-fiction being discussed is _not_ peer reviewed technical journals. For one thing, those don’t pay. You’re doing those for other reasons than to make money from the sale. And any money used for research for those does _not_ come from sales of the works.

                      “It’s a classic liberal mindset.” Bwahahahahahahaha. That’s rich. Seriously.

                      Did you take a class to come up with so many, so blatant, logical fallacies or is it a natural gift?

                    • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

                      It is the point: Maureen’s books cannot afford to get it wrong, fiction writers can shade whenever they want.

                      Odds are that Maureen’s books do get it wrong. I’ve never seen any non-fiction book that was accurate, and I don’t expect that I ever will.

                      This makes me a pain in the ass. I notice things like this. And I’m not shy about telling people when I think that they’ve messed up.


                  • Mr. May, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree. I’m sorry, but I know too many academics who publish who don’t do the level of research you seem to think everyone does for non-fiction. I’ve seen to many so-called historically correct books that play fast and loose with how they interpret sources so they can make their own political/social/philosophical points. I’ve watched history being rewritten over the last 30 years so that it apologizes for things done hundreds of years ago. So forgive me if I tend to get my back up when those writing non-fiction look down their noses at fiction writers. Which is what stated this whole thing in the first place. The insult, meant or not, in the original post referred to by Mrs. Hoyt not only of fiction writers, but of those who self-publish. You don’t like us questioning your sense of superiority, then go back to your academic tower. We have our own research to do so we can write books our readers want.

                    • Once again you’re engaging in clever semantics to now say I’m wrong because very real standards in place are not lived up to and the very real standards not in place in fiction are lived up to. It’s still an exercise in Orwellian gibberish that compares failure to a thing and then says it’s also a failure, while ignoring the successes of great historians. It’s the classic gay marriage argument about broken couples who can’t have kids being the same as a “normal” gay family and so broken couples becomes the new benchmark to define heterosexual marriage as really only about love. Clever, yes. So are carnival sideshow barkers.

                    • James, the basic problem is that you consider the ACADEMIC bar the be-all and end-all that you must rise above. I consider it an insult to be grouped with such liars, and con-men. The fact that every time it is proven that your arguements don’t hold water, you ignore it, or deny it, proves that you are either delusional enough, or despicable enough to be grouped with them.

                    • Bearcat, I agree that it is an insult to group you with William Prescott. If I did that I apologize.

                  • So they got it wrong. It may have been right at the time or never. The point is that if that’s true and their community calls them out, they won’t be successful. Saying that’s true of a story on a planet we’ve never been to is nuts. Many SF writers are brilliant geniuses who simply give a nod at the details and tell the story. You can’t do that in non-fiction. Just because you WANT to in SF, doesn’t define the genre.

                    • Mr. May, I don’t know if you are simply so entrenched in your beliefs that you fail to see just how insulting you have been to fiction writers, or if you are just so sure of your own intellectual superiority. WHEN you write a sf novel and do the research to make sure your ship engines are viable based on extrapolations of tech we already have or when you research to make sure the planet you are writing about can exist, then and only then will you have a leg to stand on with regard to commenting on what you can and can’t do in SF.

                      But you are still missing the entire point. You, and the author of the post Sarah linked to, seem to think fiction writers aren’t held to any standard when it comes to research. You give the impression you think you are better than us for that reason. You have completely ignored the comments by Stephanie Osborn and others who write not only fiction but non-fiction as well. I’m sure if you want to compare academic credentials there are a number of folks here who would be glad to comply — and some of them will quite possibly leave you quaking in your oh-so-superior shoes.

                      However, since I doubt you would accept our credentials any more than you are willing to consider what we have to say, I suggest you move on. Unless, of course, you are the sort who enjoys stirring up trouble just so you can be smacked. For everyone else, I’m calling troll. Well, mini-troll, so let’s quit feeding him and maybe he will crawl back to his ivory tower of academia where he can look down on the masses and be secure in his superior intellect and research skills.

                  • “Academic standards” – so much dreadful research has been produced by “publish or perish” that, these days, any time I see the headline “academic study states thus and such,” my reaction is, “I want to see the data.” Because I’m seeing absolutely bizarre conclusions drawn with nothing to support them, only the worst kind of cherry-picking and assuming causation from chance correlations.

                    I analyze data for a living. I have to be correct or millions of dollars could be lost. I would never get away with the shoddy standards of academia. (No, I don’t have a Ph.D., though I was invited to get one by the head of the program when I got my masters. I turned it down because I don’t have a high opinion of academia. I HAVE passed the CPA exam.)

                    I have friends who are Ph.Ds and professors. They aren’t any smarter than the smarter people in the general population and too few have ever left the classroom (it’s very easy to tell the academic who has had real world experience; they are far more mature and competent. Those that haven’t tend to be dysfunctional and neurotic.)

              • If something is made up it’s made up — comparing fiction writers to non-fiction writers who lie is a telling thing to do.

                The references to non-fiction writers who have been less than truthful was in reply to your assertion that non-fiction writes are required to be truthful. I see that you agree that even with academic standards and peer review not all of your kindred academics tow the line of veracity.

                I could as easily assert that academics have it easy. All they have to do is report what is. Writers of fiction must create worlds that their audience will find as believable. A large proportion of the SF/F authors posting here have also done academic work. They are not ignorant of the field; they know what it is and what it requires. Have you successfully written fiction?

                As to your prior complaints that earlier authors could have used some help in their grammar, etc. They were publish in the days when publishing houses provided editing. So you mention this in the midst of an argument whether or not we need to keep to that model of publishing. Thank you for pointing it out.

          • Oh, we’re missing the point? WE’RE missing the point? It must be comfy living in a bubble. Do you still mark time by how much the candle burned?

            When your argument comes down to “Why don’t you just eat some cake?” you can hardly expect to be taken seriously. The record of inaccuracies in “Academic” research is too extensive for your handwavium, and the price of such arrogance is to be ignored.

            • And inaccuracies can destroy an academic career. But Niven is loved for Ringworld, which I’ve heard only exists in his imagination anyway, and so the point is moot.

              • Can, but often don’t, destroy academic careers. Like voting fraud it is only heard of when caught. The many instances where it is wall-papered over are tress falling in a forest with no auditors around.

                Ringworld ain’t relevant to your argument. Employment of diversionary issues does suggest an argument which is only supportable through handwavium.

            • Actually I don’t live in a bubble. I live in Cairo, and I estimate I’d have to be at least some 7,000 meters in the air to see the delta from here although I haven’t researched that by using a blimp. It’s a moron’s estimate from the time my bubble sat on top of Merapi Volcano in Sumatra and I could barely make out Kerinci Volcano which I knew was about 80 miles away and some 3,800 meters tall. I was almost at 3,000 meters. But that’s from memory. Kerinci may in fact have been on the other side of the world. Probably you can ferret these things out better than I. My bubble is out of gas.

              • Phew, James, we can smell your bubble’s out-gassing here. It hardly helps your argument to brag about being a moron, however.

                Because, James, you have still missed the point. Even if we stipulate that the difference between academic and popular writing is as significant as you claim, HOW DOES IT JUSTIFY REQUIRING WRITERS OF FICTION TO BIND THEMSELVES TO EXPLOITATIVE PUBLISHING RELATIONSHIPS.

                Drag all the red herrings you want across the path, it does not change the fact that the rules for getting published in America have harmed readers, writers and, yes, publishers. It does not alter the fact that publishers have demonstrably cheated authors,

                • What’s a red herring?

                  • Most of your arguments, James, most of your arguments.

                    You still have not explained why fiction writers must tolerate abusive publishing relationships simply because non-fiction writers enjoy them.

                  • Wikipedia to the rescue of this poor fellow who evidently never reads detective fiction! “A red herring is a clue which is intended to be misleading, or distracting from the actual issue.”

                    Or did you mean “what part of this argument is a red herring?” The part where you (and everyone else) argues about academic standards when the original point of Ms. Ogle’s article was “if traditional publishing goes away, so will well-researched non-fiction.” Which is a non-sequitur, as Sarah Hoyt and so many others have been arguing. If they do this much research for their fiction writing, where (by your “fiction has lower academic standards” argument) they don’t even have to get it right, then how much research do you think they’d put in to a work of non-fiction? (Answer: the same amount, actually, because they do really have to get it right…) And if people are getting better deals from Amazon for self-publishing (70% of gross) than from traditional publishers (15-20% of net, and our bad decisions count against your sales numbers) in the realm of fiction, is there any reason why that dynamic wouldn’t also apply to non-fiction?

                    This argument is really about the slow death of traditional publishing, and whether or not self-publishing can replace it. Arguing about academic standards and whether fiction is held to similar rigor is ultimately a red herring in that larger discussion.

          • Good God. As I posted on Maureen’s blog, I’m -still- researching 18th century microscope lens grinding methods for ONE STUPID short story, because I know if I get it wrong the 1632 fans are going to crucify me.

            Of course, I get a non-fiction piece out of it too, but then, that’s the way that works for me. 🙂

            • I researched Thirst for SEVEN years. One seven thousand word short story. And look, for the musketeer mysteries (Trout and all) I got an email informing me that I got the hair color of ONE musketeer wrong. YEP a fan went through the trouble of reading all… five? six? books with the musketeers to catch me in error. (I think the line was in one of the Viscount books.)

              If I’d placed Cairo wrong (I actually had a moment of confusion, since that book got a thorough editing BY EDITOR, as in, line by line, and I thought “she might very well have erased a page or two and I didn’t notice it set Cairo by the sea when those pages were gone. I mean, seriously. Mine was not the only hand BUT) if I’d done THAT, I’d now be buried in a bazillion or a bazillion and a half letters informing me I was a dunce. It’s far more likely that the person looking for flaws didn’t bother to realize that carpet ships FLY and therefore, you know, it’s like saying “she set the airport right by Cairo.” Yeah.

              My fans would NEVER let that pass. I’ve had people email me on the mechanics of dragon shape shifting. (I wish I was joking.) They explain why it couldn’t look that way, because of the chemistry. SERIOUSLY.

              • Ok, I’m as critical as the next person about getting things right when it comes to mechanics, but that’s ridiculous. It’s MAGIC, fer criminy’s sake!

                Besides, chemistry? Seriously? I’m at a loss how chemistry could affect the way the shapechange looks.

                • well, apparently to change shapes, you need certain minerals. I don’t know whether to confess here that this PARTICULAR correspondent also told me that when HE shifted… Yes, there’s times all you can do is cover your mouth and scream and hope they don’t live near you…

                  • Oh. One of those. I only know people who claim to be psychic, but give no evidence of it.

                    Of course, I’m like your one son – no one can tell when I am around (unless I’m trying to sneak, dangit).

                    • Ooohhh, I’ve had one or two of those myself. The, “I really liked this section of the book, because when *I* was abducted by space aliens…” *shakes head* I just nod and go, “Uh-huh,” and if the conversation starts getting entrenched (which it usually does), I apologise and say I’m sorry, but I have to get to the next person in line/make a phone call/go to the bathroom/get something to eat/insert x activity. I learned bathroom break can be dangerous if they’re the same gender bc they will simply follow you in and keep talking. (Have you never heard of PRIVACY, people?!?) But the others work pretty well.

                  • I’ve had one of Lilith’s three reincarnating daughters email me to complain about Lilith’s depiction in Steve Jackson Games’ In Nomine line. (I replied politely that the game version wasn’t intended to be reality, but was instead based on both research and making stuff up wholecloth to make for a better game.)

                    The other end of the spectrum is, of course, the email I got asking for how to make the demonic rituals work. (I went to town with that one, starting with “buy all the books in the line”…)

                    I’m not sure how to categorize the random email asking for advice about a boyfriend who claimed to be a werewolf. (Beth sez: a jerk is a jerk, even if he’s a werewolf; if he doesn’t treat his alpha ***** with respect, ditch him.)

              • Galaxy Questers.

              • No, no, chemistry aside, the essential problem is mass.

                Frankly, although it had occured to me it was part of the story’s reality, which was consistant within itself. Let’s not even get into the issue of dragon flight, European or Asian, it is easier to explain the flight of the bumblebee. (I always envisioned the Asian Dragon as swimming through the air.)

                • Actually the dinerites, early on came up with this strange how the mass was equalized thing. I think the Shifters’ dragons are radioactive.

                  • That was Poul Anderson’s solution to the problems of trolls turning to stone in 3 Hearts … but as magic is a form of energy it seems likely that would provide the energy/mass conversion. Certes, if energy and mass were easily convertible it would be magic.

              • Why let pedants who conflate fiction and non-fiction influence you? What do I care where Cairo is set if it advances the cause of artistry, or whether a star is actually Fomalhaut? You are not writing a manual for an engine just because detail-oriented people for some reason love fantasy. I don’t get why one person talking about hair color even matters. If you wish to serve them, that cool – that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

                • ‘I don’t get why one person talking about hair color even matters.’

                  —Because it isn’t one person, it’s thousands. It is a significant part of the market for fiction, and an influential part in generating word of mouth, and writers neglect it at their peril.

                  You have the idea that it doesn’t matter if a fiction writer does shoddy research, because nothing will actually go wrong. You are incorrect. THE STORY will go wrong: every mistake in detail is an opportunity for the reader to be bounced out of the experience of reading. The act of reading, especially of reading fiction, puts one into a mild trance; and once one is in the trance one does not like to have it broken. If the writer breaks the reader’s trance, the reader is likely to throw the book across the room — and the writer has lost future sales.

                  • Every conversation and activity interrupted by pedantry is an opportunity to get bounced out of story as well, not to say bored. Imagine if this comments section went like this:

                    “I think you’re wrong,” he said. He glanced at the wall next to him. The carbon composites made him think of his upbringing on Zeta-5, and those obnoxious sawdust sandwiches they called “chicken” his android mother used to make. She herself was a late model xr-0 model which didn’t know the difference between chicken and the word “want,” or “need.”

                    “No, quite clearly you are wrong,” The dust on the laptop screen made him sneeze and he went into the next room and dropped into a tube of plasty-plast, an very interesting amalgam of…

                    There’s more “grey goo” than subject matter. There’s the kind where one makes it look like nothing is happening when something is. Do we need 5 sentence conversations pulled out like taffy for 2 pages and fight scenes that last 6 seconds made to be exercises in verbosity?

                    Many of the greatest SF writers of the last century didn’t use such nonsense – Bradbury, Vance, Cordwainer Smith – many more. They are great.

                    • Nice contrived example. Now show me an example where Sarah Hoyt, or Kate Paulk, or Amanda Green, or Ric Locke, or any of the other fiction authors posting in this thread, wrote something that boring and tedious to slog through, and I’ll concede you might have a point.

                      In actual fact, your example of terrible writing is another illustration of what Tom Simon was talking about: there are many ways to bounce a reader out of his/her enjoyment of the story. Terrible writing — breaking up the flow of the story with tedious pages of irrelevant description — is one of them; introducing details that the reader knows are wrong is another. To give an example: say a detective story set in the WWI era mentions a ransom note typed on a “Smith-Corona” typewriter. Anyone who knows the history of typewriters is going to be jolted out of the book by that detail, since the Smith and Corona companies only merged in 1926. (Though if the villain then turns out to be a time traveler from the 21st century, who did not-quite-sufficient research on his target era before jumping, the aforementioned typewriter expert is likely to give the author a standing ovation.)

                      But seriously: what halfway competent fiction author would, after mentioning a Smith-Corona typewriter, then stop and quote three paragraphs from Wikipedia on the merger of the two companies? That’s the sort of elementary blunder that would award your story a permanent place in the bottom of the slush pile. (Unless you self-published it on Amazon without bothering to get anyone else to read it for you, which does bring up one of the problems that the new era of self-publishing will involve: filtering out the good from the dreck. But that’s something that’s been written about pretty extensively elsewhere, so I’ll leave that subject alone for now.)

                      Now, I’ll grant you one of the points you’ve been trying to make: the rules for fiction and non-fiction are different. Fiction authors aren’t expected to show their work via footnotes (Pratchett’s use of footnotes, and Douglas Adams’s for that matter, are very different from the way they’re used in non-fiction, which is another point I’ll grant you) that point to the actual reference work the author used. In fiction, you Just Don’t Do That™, because it would violate Rule One of fiction, which is “Thou shalt not break thy reader’s immersion.” But poor research is another way to break the reader’s immersion, and would do so just as badly as footnotes. Actually, footnotes would be less immersion-breaking than bad research, because with footnotes, you have the option of letting your eyes just skip over them and continuing on with the story. With bad research, you notice it immediately if you’re an expert in the field — and the readers of science fiction and fantasy tend to include a surprising number of experts in a surprising number of fields, as the comments section of this blog post illustrates.

                      One last point: there are indeed fiction authors who can get away with incompetent research (see the complaints about Dan Brown’s success in this very thread), but they have the advantage of big publishing companies with powerful “push” marketing, whom stores like Borders listen(ed) to. (Remember that when The Da Vinci Code came out, Borders was still an apparent powerhouse in the book marketplace.) So Borders, B&N, and other bookstores stocked lots of copies of DVC, which in turn meant that lots of casual readers saw the hundreds of copies and said, “Hmmm, this must be a good book if there are so many copies available” (which is faulty logic itself, but never mind that for now) and bought it to see why it was so popular. Result: lots of sales, exactly the results a publisher wants to see from a book they’re pushing so hard. But, but, but: most of those sales were to casual readers, who were not experts in any field, let alone history. Notice how all the history experts were throwing Dan Brown’s book across the room, writing scathing reviews in whatever publications they wrote for, and so on.

                      So while Maureen Ogle’s point that “fiction authors don’t have to do as much research” may be valid for the genres that conventional publishers are “good” at (couldn’t bring myself to write those words without scare-quotes), it’s not valid for the genres of science fiction and fantasy, because of what the reader’s expectations are in those genres. For me, I might not notice mistakes in the geography of Cairo, but you have much more expertise in Cairo (gained by living there) than I do, so you certainly did notice what you thought was a mistake, enough that it stuck in your mind years later when you thought of the book. (That it turned out not to be a mistake is irrelevant to my point; my point is that it stuck in your mind for years.) But I will certainly notice mistakes in computers — many of Tom Clancy’s recent novels break my immersion immediately when he starts talking about encryption, for example. (Though Clancy novels never immerse me all that much, but that’s a different story.) On the other hand, I love Vernor Vinge’s Zones of Thought novels (A Fire on the Deep, A Deepness in the Sky, etc.) because even though I’m firmly convinced that “true” AI isn’t possible given the way computers work, he takes that into account in his novels — and “true” AI is only possible, in his setting, with certain changes to the physical laws of the universe.

                      This is probably getting to be too long of a comment for a thread this deeply nested, so I’d better stop there. I’ll just mention that Dan Brown’s historical inaccuracies didn’t matter much in the age of push marketing — lots of people still bought the book. But inaccuracies will matter tremendously in the age of word-of-mouth marketing, when people’s first instinct (when they don’t know if this self-published book by an author they’ve never heard of is any good) will be to check the reviews on Amazon and other sites. If those reviews are filled with outraged historians saying “Man, the author didn’t do a lick of research. Smith-Corona typewriters in 1917, indeed!” then a lot of potential readers are going to be scared off, which means lots of lost revenue for the author. Which is why smart authors (like the one who writes this blog and the ones who post in her comments section) will do their damned research, no matter how much time it costs them. (And also because some of them are driven to get the facts right, and would do their research even if it gained them no extra readers… but that’s also beside the point, given that Ms. Ogle was talking about financial incentives to do research).

                    • You have the idiotic idea that if a writer does not display his research en masse in the form of boring infodumps, he did not do any research. Disabuse yourself of this at once. Not only is it a damned lie, it will prevent your ever understanding this subject in the slightest.

    • Ms. Ogle, I don’t know now many fiction writers you know, but I know for myself and others, it is the same thing. Plus, many of us also have “real” jobs. We don’t just pull plots out of thin air and then type them up following some template. And, btw, self-publishing isn’t the big buggaboo it used to be — except to publishers who have already given up so much of what made them important to writers in the first place. They don’t edit like they used to, much less fact check and proofread. They certainly don’t promote the way they used to. So why should we give them the donkey’s share of the money while we, the creators, get nothing but a pittance?

      As for non-fiction, I really suggest you study the opportunities offered by e-books, especially enhanced e-books. The interactive capabilities of these sorts of e-books mean readers can and do pay more for them. It allows you, as a serious researcher, to include more in your book than you ever could in print. Instead of wringing your hands worrying about what will happen if publishers become a thing of the past — which they won’t. There will always be publishers of some sort, but their role in the industry and their importance will change — you need to look at and embrace the changes that are coming. That is, honestly, part of the problem facing publishers now. They haven’t wanted to change their business model. Don’t fall into the same trap they have.

    • Hi, Maureen,

      Whether you intended it or not, your post was very much a slap at fiction writers who don’t get much choice about how long they get to write books – and who work themselves sick trying to get a quality book written in the timeframe they have. If you’re earning an advance below $10, 000 (tragically all too common unless you’re fortunate enough to be a bestseller) you’re not supporting yourself on one book a year, and even four a year is kind of iffy unless you’re one of those fortunate folk with someone else bringing in the primary income for the family or you don’t have any debt.

      My particular vice is writing alternate history – and trying to keep events as close as possible to the actual history except where they’re impacted by that once change. Just TRY researching late 15th century Turkey and Eastern Europe in what’s left after a 40+ hour regular work week testing software. Someone in the Department of Homeland Security is probably scratching their head over my search history – because I start with google and Wikipedia and move out from there to digitized old books (invaluable) and anything else I can find.

      Microfilm readers aren’t fun, 100+ year old trade journals are rather better if they’re not dusty, and can be very hard to get hold of. Many fiction writers know this just as well as you do, because they’ve done the same thing, but with the added pressure of wrapping that information into a story that people will buy and enjoy. Non-fiction has different demands and different needs: that doesn’t make it better or worse and doesn’t mean that the writers on one side or the other are lazy/churn out bad work/any other slur.

      I can understand you being worried – the mechanics and economics of the online world are very different. That said, I don’t care WHAT format it’s in if it’s got information I need. I’m buying it. If I can’t find it because it’s in one of those ultra-limited print runs or it’s not an ebook and my budget can’t stretch to the used prices (which can be over 1000 for some key out-of-print references), I have to make do.

      So tell me, in which sane world are used book prices of over $1000 for references that publishers (and authors) could be reprinting for many more sales a good thing? I’d really like to know.

  7. Pingback: How The Other Half Thinks « Maureen Ogle

  8. Nonfiction writers may not have jumped into e-publishing, but they pioneered another method of leveraging the power of the intertubeweb: blogging. It’s practically the standard paradigm for a nonfiction project nowadays. Start a blog, write posts about an interesting topic which draws readers, support yourself with advertising and donations (and now Kickstarter) while you finish the research, then publish the book. Michael Yon has done this with his embedded photojournalism work in Afghanistan, Carl Zimmer has done it with science writing, and Athol Kay has done it with self-help/sex advice writing.
    I don’t know if novelists can make use of the same model, since the nonfiction writers have the advantage of getting people interested in the subject matter whereas fiction is more tied to the author.

    • I don’t either. Somewhat, maybe. Ric Locke, where are you?

      BUT the point is, they’re no more tied to traditional publishing than we are, the problems are the same, and going on a “if only I were one of those lazy fiction writers who don’t research” tear is just… odd.

      • Indeed. The transition from (blog => book deal) to (blog => self-published ebook) should be very simple; arguably simpler than for fiction writers since the marketing has already been done.

      • It’s not at all clear why you called my name in this connection, but I can at least try to contribute. That will be somewhat hampered by the fact that I’m on a new set of meds and haven’t fully adjusted to them yet, so if the following isn’t coherent or even applicable, blame drugs.

        I’ve made it clear that I consider myself lucky. Now, I’m also egotistical enough to quote “fortune favors the prepared” — I had blogged for quite a while before putting my book up, and as a consequence there were a few people who both knew my name and had a positive impression of it, most of them being of the libertarian-leaning mindset the book was written in, and who had medium-to-large audiences. Those people were kind enough to plug the book, with good results for me.

        That wasn’t done by intent. I never set out blogging while thinking “Ah, if I impress enough people they’ll promote my book for me.” Whether or not it can be done deliberately is a question I can’t answer, though the prejudice off the top of my head would be that it could. That’s especially true of non-fiction (or so I imagine, while lacking all relevant data) — if you’re blogging about your NF subject, and people find it interesting and accessible, they’re automatically going to be interested in a full volume on the subject. Whether they’re interested enough to pay for it and recommend it to others, welllll…

        It won’t be fast, and it won’t be easy. It takes time to build an audience; it takes almost nothing to lose one. But yes, it’s a valid form of marketing.

    • “I don’t know if novelists can make use of the same model, since the nonfiction writers have the advantage of getting people interested in the subject matter whereas fiction is more tied to the author.”

      The blog-to-book route was was I did; my first book was cobbled together from blog-posts in answer to readers who kept asking “When is your book coming out?!” And my second started as a long, long, historical essay, which interested readers to the point where they encouraged me to do it as a novel. Ever since, as I am researching for a particular book, I’ve posted short non-fiction essays and blog-posts about the interesting people and events that I’ve come across. It works for historical fiction/non-fiction, too.

  9. Interesting discussion.

    However, I am baffled as to how you claim you couldn’t see Ms. Ogles full name – it’s right there where it has always been in big black letters – “Maureen Ogle” – on the top of every page of her site.

    Brain fart I guess.

    • It was late, and I’ll admit it’s possible I missed it. However, considering then I had a panic that I couldn’t see my name on my site, it will tell you the visual processing was less than acute last night. (Rolls eyes.)

      • Sometimes all the Title-tagged stuff in my browser goes to Russian. I know that something’s gone terribly wonky in the browser, and it’s time to quit out of it and restart the app at least. Sometimes I restart the whole machine, just in case.

        If it’s just that Firefox refuses to see bits of the title, it’s probably time to upgrade, yah.

      • Nah. There’s a way in HTML 4 and later to specify the “focus”, the part of the page that will be visible when it opens. (How? I dunno — I never needed it. But it exists.) Ms. Ogle’s page opens with the focus on the content. In Firefox, Chrome, or other browsers that actually support the standard, it works, and you have to scroll up to see the title bar with her name on it. If you aren’t expecting it, or are already a bit confused, you might not think of that.

        Microsoft being Microsoft, they were too busy making sure all the advertising-oriented bugs worked properly to waste time conforming to the standard, so when you open the page you see the very top, including the title bar, and have to scroll down to the content.

  10. That’s exactly what happened with carriage makers. Fisher got into carriage making late, 1904, the Fisher brothers almost immediately began redesigning the horse-drawn carriages to be strong enough for engines. They still design all the GM bodies. Similar story for Ghia, they still design all of Fiat’s bodies. Dusenberg and a number of custom car companies would build the basic car, then hand the customer a surprisingly long list of surviving carriage makers to choose from to design and build their body and interior. The depression killed them and most of the carriage makers, not technical primitiveness. Studebaker survived from 1847, yes 18-47, to the early 1960s, when the finally forgot how they had survived for more than a century (they still made exquisite looking cars like the Avanti, but they had not achieved a mechanical innovation in many years.)

  11. Let’s see. My published and scheduled-to-be-published items are nonfiction, done via academic press. Why? Because academic presses don’t require agents. And many works coming out of academic presses are more than just “dissertation, massaged” now. There are no advances, and I admit that I had someone who knew my work from conferences put in a good word so my first manuscript got into the slush-pile faster than usual, but after that it still had to stand on its own. No, there will not be the chance for media attention, book-pushes or other assists that come from a big publishing house. Yes, academic presses have their own process problems, depending on the topic you are working with. Politics, turf-battles, and resistance to new approaches are not limited to fantasy/ sci-fi imprints.

    I do not envision ever getting a contract with a Big Six-type press because I write about topics that do not include much in the way of murder, sex, or downtrodden minorities. Or beer. 🙂

    I wrote the two non-fiction books in two years. Research for Book One took three years of part-time work, the second one took 9 months of full-time work at five archives and several public libraries. Research for my fiction is ongoing as I get time or come up with ideas that need more background material (genetic engineering, for example). What am I doing in the mean time? Working on more non-fiction and fiction pieces, teaching at a local school, house-sitting, et cetera.

    • exactly on the working for a school. TONS of people do that while researching. Heck, I taught in community college while working on my first book. You do what you have to do. Is it ideal? Well no. And TX, have you considered doing smaller installments and putting them up yourself. I have to say this, but sometimes I need the weirdest sh*t and it’s HARD to find. And it’s most often NOT sexy. And I don’t think I’m alone.

      BTW if ANY of you has it in you to research and self-publish a book on circus life in the pioneer US or — Celia, do you have anything on this? — I REALLY could use it. There’s a shelved idea because I can’t get sources.

      • Circus life in pioneer US … hmm, nothing specific, but I’d definitly start with researching PT Barnum. He was the biggest exhibitor of oddities and endities in the early 19th century.
        I am pretty sure there were small traveling circuses, medicine shows and lecturiers, pre-Civil War, and the larger cities had event venues for performers like trapeze and high-wire acts.
        Hmm. A little topic surfing at the American heritage Magazine archive might give you some interesting leads.

      • In 1986, Joe R. Lansdale wrote a novel called “The Magic Wagon” about a circus in the Wild West. Don’t know what research he used, there might be some reference on line.

      • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show – there is a lot out there about it and even Sitting Bull was an exhibit for awhile.

      • Unfortunately my grandfather has been dead for about 20 years or I could ask him. He ran away with the circus when he was 12. Seriously, everybody always thinks I’m joking when I tell them that, but it’s true, when 12 years old he left home and ran away with a traveling circus, working and supporting himself.

      • Sarah, I’ve been looking into self e-pub via Amazon or a couple of other places. My “problem” is that my fiction is all short stories with a few novellas tossed in, and the mechanics of getting those out seem a bit complicated. I’m seriously considering starting a web-site and working from there for the fiction, but I may need to do it under a pen-name for career reasons, and that complicates matters with local site hosts that I’ve checked with. *shrug* If it were easy, everyone would do it, ja? 🙂

        • TX, Amanda is teaching a workshop on getting those up there, and no, they’re no more complex than novels. Heck, most of what I have up indie is my previously published short stories.

          • Where can I get info on this workshop, this is the first I had heard of it.

            • When Amanda reads, perhaps she’ll answer. I don’t know if she’s taking more people, or will do another one later. It’s online, and free (though if you’re decent you’ll hit the kitty, of course) so I don’t know if she’s capped the numbers or not.

              • I don’t have a problem with hitting the kitty, at least I won’t if if I get off the computer and get to work this morning 😉
                Thanks for answering so promptly.

            • Bearcat, I missed this earlier. Sorry. If you will email at amanda-at-amandasgreen-dot-com (you know what to do), I’ll tell you more about it and get you on the email loop.

        • Email me off-list at amanda-at-amandasgreen-dot-com if you want to take part in the workshop. It really isn’t difficult to put your work up, especially not if you know some of the short cuts and pitfalls. If you’re interested, drop me a line. Like Sarah said, it’s free.

    • there are also people who can help you with that for a reasonable small fee… (not just me, lots of people) for a FLAT fee beyond which the accounts are yours to do with as you will.

  12. Just because everyone may not be able to do something does not mean that there is no one who can do it. There are people with a gift of rapid intake and digestion of information and the ability to create well polished tightly reasoned final pieces in amazingly short periods of time. You might, in this light, consider Alexander Hamilton, the primary author of the Federalist Papers.

    Yes, yes, yes, many readers prefer to read materials from a variety of fields.

  13. I’m a geek. For most of my adult life if I bothered to submit anything non-fiction it sold without trying, because for most of my adult life technology has been a hot topic. I write software for my living. My technical conference work is a community service.

    I don’t bother with non-fiction writing because it is trivial. Or on a topic I’m uninterested in. Frankly, I find fiction writing to be about 10x harder than non-fiction writing: Ever worry about world-building when writing about assembly language programming? There’s no character development in test-driven development, either. Even story-driven system specifications don’t have much arc to worry about.

    Besides I don’t want to be pigeonholed as the guy who writes computer books. This was a vague fear until I started reading your (Sarah’s) blog and now I believe it would be a certainty.

    For years (pre-Kindle) I dismissed self-publishing. My only temptation to do it was after seeing serious money being made in the non-fiction space. Dave Ramsey and Robert Kiyosaki come to mind: Throw together a 3-day seminar and sell the workbook/text. Same goes for when I taught as an adjunct at a couple local colleges. I could require MY textbook…

    Methinks the girl you (Sarah) fisked is too close to the publishing industry to see the elephant in the room.

    • I have also found that fiction is 10x harder to write than non-fiction. It takes a lot of brain power to get all the elements to work right. It is also more challenging imho and consequently more fun.

    • Kate Paulk


      Try being a software TESTER – you see plenty of “character development” and “world-building” in programming and development there. And dear lord I WISH there was some test-driven development going on.

  14. Pingback: If Publishing Is Dead, What Happens to Non-Fiction? « Maureen Ogle

  15. When I hear someone kvetch and moan about how hard nonfiction is compared to fiction, I can’t help thinking of what Isaac Asimov used to say. He could turn out a nonfiction book in an average of three weeks, research included; but it took him nine months to write a science fiction novel. The novel not only required research; he had to make stuff up as well.

    • Oh, non-fiction is MUCH easier for me. Unless I’m channeling one of the couple of characters who have taken residence in my hind-brain, fiction is like dragging out bee stings. Non-fiction just flows. Needless to say, I -value- it at that ratio. 🙂

  16. I write science fiction, which most people believe is “easy” to make up. It can be, but to be believable, the SCIENCE part has to be believable. Luckily for me, I have an extensive science education acquired while I was in the military, ranging from Advanced chemistry to zoology, and most of the “ologies” in between. I also still have all those textbooks I used.

    I recently completed a sequel to a previous novel. Headaches galore! Not only do your characters have to match, but so do your societies, politics, and a dozen other things.

    Before I dropped out of it, I read things from a dozen or so people in the Baen writer’s forum. The single most common mistake I noted was an inconsistency in their settings. Things happened in the latter portion of the novel that didn’t make sense based upon the beginning. That’s something a good editor would catch, and request a re-write. A bit of “pre-writing” would have kept it from happening to begin with. I strive to ensure all my novels are consistent from beginning to end, but I’ve caught myself making the same kinds of mistakes, and having to rewrite whole paragraphs, and in one instance, an entire chapter. I’ve learned that a written, well-researched outline will keep those problems from happening — at least as often. You also don’t get lost in the plot quite as often – another new writer’s problem. People that turn out five or six books a year awe me — especially since many of them write excellent books.

    • Have you considered a Writer’s Bible for each “world”? (Bonus– you can then offer that for sale at some point in the future….)

    • What I research for SF 500 years in the future includes but is not limited to: explosives, biology, sociology, economics, history, material science and, yeah, there was the crying call to a friend because — I have NO SPACIAL MEMORY. NONE — I couldn’t figure out where I was in space at the time. He explained it to me. So… Yeah. NOT PFA. EVER.

  17. There is an elephant in this room which I’ve yet to see addressed. Ignore the tone, the disrespect toward fiction writers (also ignore that, for quite some time publishers actively limited how many books a fiction writer could sell in a year.)

    Ms Ogle may be, probably is, a very nice person. So I regret using this analogy, but can think of no clearer way to make the point about this elephant and the great stinking mounds everybody is apparently tip-toeing around.

    In essence her argument is we non-fiction writers need the present publishing paradigm so you fiction-writers should suck it up.

    That is largely what the “House slaves” told the “Field slaves” back in the day. She is arguing that fiction writers need to sacrifice their self-interest so that she can continue to enjoy her comfy situation.

    If publishers can profit from non-fiction books they should. If they need the cash flow from fiction sales to underwrite the non-fiction, then they are exploiting fiction writers and should stop.

  18. For whatever reason Ms Ogle’s site doesn’t recognize my WP identity, thus I post this comment here rather than there.

    “a once-in-a-millennium paradigm shift”

    Piffle. I can think of at least three comparable shifts in the last 200 years. Railroads replaced river/canal shipping AND enabled far more dispersed communities. Eli Whitney’s invention of the principles of mass production and interchangeable components. The development of recorded music and its evolution through records, tapes, CDs and digital formats. The development of mass popular entertainment with radio, film and television replacing vaudeville and one another. The employment of chemical and electrical power in place of muscle. The development of widely available motor transport. I can think of a number more if you want to quibble over any of those. Heck, even the development of modern publishing, from the invention of movable type to e-publication comprises scarcely 600 years, barely over half a millennium.

    And yes, I can confirm her name is readily visible at the site – SAH either has browser quirks or mental ones (admittedly, not mutually exclusive conditions.)

    • It’s browser, RES. I just looked. I can see it with IE.

    • Totally off subject, but for some stupid reason (I suspect I am the stupid part of the reason) I cannot figure out how to change the font to italics in the comments, here.

      • Use HTML coding. I’m not sure if this will work, but let’s see:

        Italics. = Italics.

        (If you see “noparse” ignore that part of the code – you just need the “i” between . Like I said – I don’t know if that code works here. xD; )

  19. Not just off topic but antipodal to it, but if you haven’t seen this you must:

    Via Gerard van der Leun, all great ideas are simple…

  20. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    Yeah, she’s terrified.

    Me, I think that non-fiction is going to be the killer market for eReaders. When you have something heavily technical, which isn’t going to sell huge numbers in the book store, but could sell 1000 copies per year worldwide per year…

    Yes, there’s big money there.


    • Well, yeah, exactly, Wayne. That sort of thing is a perfect example of my previously-stated thesis: You’re looking at a potential target audience of nearly a billion people (English speakers in the world). If only one in a million wants/needs/appreciates your work, that’s still a thousand customers. The only real question is whether the people you have doing the ancillary work — editing, publicity, cover art — are assistants or parasites.

      • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

        Same problem with Traditional Publishing. But with Traditional Publishing you have less control – you can’t fire the parasites since you aren’t the boss.


    • Exactly. same with obscure historical bits or whatever.

  21. Charles
    One aspect of e books not addressed yet that I can see, the e book format does not seem to fit some non fiction books well. I have seen complaints on Amazon that the e book version of some nonfiction book is without the photos maps charts etc. The publisher may be shorting (shooting, whatever) the e book version deliberately in hopes the format will go away, and the most shorted editions I’ve seen were for one popular public domain book on the Titanic. Poor e book versions of some nonfiction books may have prejudiced her against the format.

    • Charles, I don’t think she’s prejudiced against the format. She’s prejudiced against the MODEL without looking at it. Most of the books without the charts, etc. are scanned in versions of public domain stuff. And with the tablet, you CAN have charts, etc. (shrug.)

    • The problem is that these books, as Sarah said, are often scanned in. That causes problems in and of itself. Then there’s the problem with the pdf format. It just doesn’t work with dedicated e-readers because it isn’t scalable. Yes, you can increase or decrease the size of the page, but not of print. That means you are either reading really small print or scrolling back and forth just to read a line.

      As for images, that is becoming less of a problem. What non-fic and graphic novel publishers need to do is take advantage of the enhanced e-book format. With the increasing use of tablets to read e-books and the speculation that Amazon is about to come out with a color e-ink version of the kindle more and more integration of images will be available.

      But that, as I’ve said before is just one thing authors like this particular one need to investigate and use instead of sitting there being scared of what the new tech will do to the publishing industry.

      • Color E-Ink? Ggggllllrrrrggggg… The technical challenges there are daunting. I see from this link that you may be right, but knowing how they work – DANG! I wonder how expensive they will be.

        • they say it will be out for xmas, and I WANT one.

          • Yeah, I should have mentioned that the gurgling sound was because it wasn’t too many years ago that I used to support remote signs that used e-ink technology, and were all segmented text displays, like an old calculator display. And boy, were they slow!

            I’m still debating whether to write up a proposal to create a whiteboard that uses it. Have an electrostatic pen that turns the surface black, then an eraser that would reverse the field and turn it back to the white side.

        • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

          Considering that the iPad is outselling the Kindle by a huge margin, and the iPad does colour (I’m doing my layout tests on my iPad), I don’t think that Amazon has any choice. There’s a huge market for technical manuals, which usually need to have colour illustrations or pictures. Try working with a coloured wiring harness using a monochrome image. Its a nightmare.

          • Apples and oranges, Wayne. Sorry. But there are still a huge number of people who want a dedicated e-reader. Others want a multi-tasking tablet. Some want the larger tablet like the iPad or Iconia Tab A500 while others want smaller ones like the Fire. Frankly, Amazon has already made inroads with the Fire.

            • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

              In the United States they may have. I haven’t seen anyone using a Kindle in Canada, even though they are available. The only dedicated reader that is common here is the Kobo, and the most common tablet is the iPad.

              • Which is why it is important for authors on both sides of the border not to make generalizations and assumptions. It is also why it’s important to do full evaluations of where you are selling best, not just through what store but also in what country.

              • That’s because you have restrictions on what you can buy in Canada — mostly because of the big publishers — and that makes a big difference.

            • There’s also price, battery life, and the difference between the readability conditions of e-ink vs backlit LCD. You can’t very easily read an LCD in the sunlight, whereas the e-ink is highly suited for it, and the battery life is several times as long.

              • I have both a kindle and a tablet. Different purposes. I want a tablet with the 3G the kindle has though. For blogs. Sigh. And a pony. And a flying car.

    • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

      Anyone with brains wouldn’t do that.

      I’m working on a non-fiction book about using your iPad for music. It includes a lot of images. Tons of images. Which will work on ePub format, but will look terrible on Amazon’s Mobi format, because it doesn’t handle color.

      I have heard that Amazon is going to bring color to their file format soon. I really hope so.


      • Wayne, MOBI does handle color. What doesn’t, at least right now, is the e-ink technology. But then that is a problem with not only the Kindle, but the Nook, Sony and other e-readers that use the e-ink technology. If you don’t believe me about the MOBI, download the kindle app for Mac, Android or PC and then open any kindle book. You will have a color cover — if the book has one — as well as any internal images that might be included.

        • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter


          The colour images which I’ve included in books which were uploaded to Amazon came out monochrome when the book was downloaded.

          Of course this may have changed in the last 3-4 months. None of the recent stuff I’ve uploaded has had images. I guess I’ll have to check that when I upload the children’s book my mother-in-law wrote.


          • Wayne, they will be mono if you are looking at them in the kindle emulator or on a kindle. However, there is now a downloader you can use to see how it will look on the Fire and it will show color images. Also, if you have concerns, download the kindle app for your computer. That will allow you to see colors.

            • Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

              Thanks. That’s great to know. I wasn’t planning on putting the book about making music using an iPad on Amazon because of the colour issue. Now I will, and add a suggestion that people use a colour reader.

              • Check the new guidelines on Amazon for fully using the capabilities of the Fire and other tablets. You’ll find they are much the same as the guidelines for enhanced ebooks for the ipad.

      • The Kindle format handles color images just fine.

        • I think the Kindle Fire has color, and Kindle reader software on color screens (like the PC) does it. The others just turn ’em into b&w.

          • But eh, don’t trust me on technical features of electronic devices I don’t own. And I don’t have a Fire.

          • That’s correct, the Kindle Fire has a color screen. It’s not an e-ink screen, though — as WayneB mentioned, the challenges in producing a color e-ink screen would be non-trivial (a technical term that means “we have no frakkin’ clue how to do it yet, give us a few years”) — the Fire’s screen uses basically the same technology as a laptop screen, or that flatpanel LCD monitor sitting on your desk. Which means its battery life will be measured in dozens of hours, needing a recharge every night. E-ink screens, by comparison, only use power when they change (i.e., when you turn the page), which means a single battery charge on an old-school Kindle will last for WEEKS.

            • Actually they DO have color e-ink screens and have had them for about a year. http://www.eink.com/display_products_triton.html and another company just announced a competing version in the last few weeks.

              The color saturation isn’t as good as a good LCD screen and the refresh rate isn’t up to decent video yet last I checked.

    • Kate Paulk

      Non-fic ebooks would be best served by a different kind of ebook application – one that can pop-up images and display them in whatever form required (zoomable, 3-d (imagine this for diagrams of molecular structure, forex), linkable footnoting etc). THAT is the “killer app” for non-fiction, particularly if it also includes internal searching so that readers can come back to it and quickly reference the section they need.

      For my money, I’ll cheerfully lose interactive fiction if I can get interactive non-fiction that lets me do this.

      And yes, that’s something tablets are damn near made for.

    • RE: Maps and Charts

      One of my past weaknesses was huge map books for battles, such as the late great unpleasantness between the states. I just do not see how you can get comfortably readable maps for some of the battles when scaled down to the size of the e-book. On the other hand, if you section it that would make it harder to gain the overall perspective.

      So, I wonder if and when someone will come up with a hook-up for a larger screen, say an e-book with an interface for an HDTV screen. Of course I would then have to purchase both a HDTV and a compatible e-book. Just a thought.

  22. Laura Runkle

    Oh, good lord. She hasn’t even covered where the clothes are coming off the emperor at warp speed. I used to make a worth-two-midlist-novels a year living by writing *pieces* of textbooks. Problem sets for one, sidebars for another, checking and writing problems for another. The largest publishers don’t make their money on fiction or nonfiction, they make it on textbooks. And universities, school systems, and even the every-publisher-writes-for-them-because-the-whole-state-steps-in-lockstep states of California and Texas are beginning to consider open source textbooks. And school districts are beginning to consider that it’s cheaper to pay a *really good teacher* a full-time wage to teach half-time and to contribute half-time to an open source textbook. Which means that the teacher will never get rich off the textbook. But the taxpayers won’t be sunk by four-color crap that can’t be revised because it’s too expensive.
    The days of writing bits of text books as work for hire are not gone for some. But it’ll be really hard for me to do it ever again. Mostly because the traditional pipeline automatically means that textbooks that depend on topical stuff are at a minimum at least a year behind. And textbooks that don’t depend on current topical stuff can be replaced by classic lucid explanations that hold for a long time.
    Do not get me started on DRM for textbooks. Do not.
    But the lovely days of writing starts and pieces of *really good stuff* for people to pick up and pay what it is worth to them are nigh. Oh yeah. And if you use Khan academy, the laborer is worthy of hire. 😉

  23. Yes, I’m not sure any of those nonfictions were current, as I said, most of the complaints I saw were for one survivor’s account of the Titanic sinking that had just recently gone into public domain.

  24. This all really kind of shocks me. As a scientist with degrees in multiple subjects, I write hard science fiction AND hard science. And I do TONS of research for BOTH. In fact, I do MORE scientific research for the fiction than for the science. Science texts only document what IS. Science fiction extrapolates WHAT HAS NOT YET HAPPENED, BUT MAY. It therefore requires much more research than non-fiction science texts. I’ve studied M-theory (which most people have never heard of) in such detail that I was able to write a novel using it in one way, then turn around and co-author a novel that used it in a completely different way.

    I’ve spent HOURS researching details for ONE SENTENCE, which was an offhand throwaway. I draw floor plans of my protagonist’s home(s) so that I can ensure I’m getting descriptions and actions correct every time. If I’m working with an existing location, I look for floor plans, maps, histories, photographs – even Google Earth to see what a region looks like, because most times I’m writing about a place that I’ve never been and can’t afford to go visit. If I have a friend in the area, or who’s been to that locale, I pick brains. And I have friends who are specialists in different fields, whose brains I pick frequently.

    As for turning out books fast, the fastest book I’ve ever had to turn out was a non-fiction science policy book. My co-author and I were given a month. Due to his day-job travel schedule (he was in a different city every week of said month) we were given an extension on the deadline, but we still came in under 2 months on it.

    So it flies both ways.

    • Google Earth and maps are a great resource, there are very few things that irritate me more than to read a book set in an area I am familiar with, and have glaring mistakes (like a river running through the wrong mountian range) jump off the page at me. Mistakes happen, but they should be minimized. One author that I like very much made the mistake of the river in the wrong mountain range mentioned above, I believe the river he wanted was another one that starts with the same letter and it was just a brain fart, but it still irritates me every time I read the book (and it is one of my favorite books of his otherwise) I have visited quite a few areas he set books in, and have actually walked the hills and found the remains of cabins and waterholes and caves where he said they were in books set 150 years ago, but the one set where I live he had to screw up. Aaargghh!

      • YES! I do my very best to avoid mistakes like that. They still slip in, mostly because of brain farts as you said, but I really hate it when they do. Oftentimes editors aren’t as technically/scientifically savvy as I am, and therein lies the rub – they can’t catch the brain farts. Then again, most editors aren’t hired for their scientific and technical expertise, but for their ability to ensure a document has good flow, grammar, punctuation, etc. And in one case, an editor saved my bacon when I had a huge plot hole that I didn’t/couldn’t see. I was able to fill it in well enough that nobody has figured out the secret yet. *no I’m not telling*

      • Movies will often take liberties with the landscape. Sometimes it is out of necessity. A movie set in pre-industrial London needs to avoid things like TV antenna on roofs — which unfortunately the great Alfred Hitchcock once failed to do. (Yeah, I know, now it would be satellite dishes…) Fortunately, some things might be removable with modern CGI technology, or put in as the case may be.

        I am a Philadelphian. Rocky made mincemeat out of the city. On the other hand I was delighted when I realized that in National Treasure the chase from Independence Hall to City Hall moved pretty accurately through the intervening territory.

        A certain level of general veracity is necessary to allow for a more comfortable suspension of disbelief needed for the necessary fictional element(s) of a story.

        (Peevish rant mode) I still have trouble with Ringo’s Posleens plowing through one of my favorite areas – I refuse to read it. Blowing up Fredericksburg, well it is not the first time that city was a battlefield. Painting mountains orange I can forgive, maybe. I have lived in East Tennessee. But, please, leave the mountains themselves alone. (Close peevish rant mode)

        • Mountains? what mountains? There ain’t even any big hills in Tennessee! 😉

          Having read in so much as kid about the Appalachains and the Ozarks, I was shocked when I realized how small they were.

          • Bearcat, there’s a reason for that. The Appalachian Range is 480M years old. The Rockies are only 80M max, and parts as young as 55M. And the Rockies are still in the process of orogeny (mountain building). Appalachians, not so. So much more time for erosional processes to reduce their height. In fact most of the “foothills” of East Tennessee (I grew up in Middle, and Ringo lives in the eastern part, btw, IN those mtns), are likely mountain ridges that eroded down to hills. The Middle TN area consists of a large uplift now dubbed the Cumberland Plateau, and Nashville sits in the middle of a topographic depression caused by the wearing away of the peak of the harder caprock to expose the softer sediments underneath.

            • Yup. The Blue Ridge is considered to be the second oldest chain of mountains in the world. (I don’t know how this was determined, but I bet someone here might know.) It is believed that Mount Mitchell (the tallest peak east of the Black Hills in South Dakota) may have reached as high as any of the Himalayas when it was young.

              I took a friend who had lived in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, and then outside of Denver, to Mount Mitchell via the Blue Ridge Parkway north from Asheville. At first she laughed when she saw a sign for the elevation of the first gap we reached. It would have been underground in Denver. But by the time we got closer to Mount Mitchell she made one observation that stuck, “The air smells right, it smells like mountain air.”

              • I realize that, and everything is perspective, but it is an old habit to twit people from the East (or other areas) about their mountians. I have spent time in the Wind Rivers and the Bighorns and they are high compared to anyplace I normally spend time. Actual elevation differences between to toe and tops of the mountians aren’t that much different, but real elevation is high. I worked a little bit as a guide, and once took a guy from south Texas out, in the Bitterroots. We had been walking less than five minutes when he informed me that we had already gained more elevation than there was elevation difference in the entire county he lived in. I was flabbergasted, and quickly realized that there was going to be some severe limitations on where I could take him.

                • Oh hon, I’ve been in the Rockies on a number of occasions, and I know what the higher altitude can do. I’ve been sick as a dog with altitude sickness and had to go down to CoSpr to stay. I do understand that.

                  Nevertheless, check out the number of people that have gone over Clingman’s Dome in TN to their deaths, and you might find it has a deadly record.

                  • I have never been altitude sick, but I discovered the first time I tried to hike above ten thousand feet that to my disgust I couldn’t hike hard enough to make my legs burn. I simply couldn’t get enough air to hike that hard.

                    • Oh heck yeah. I remember encountering the slightest rise making me huff and puff. And coming home the first time, I got off the plane and was like, “REAL AIR!” On one of my last trips out there, though, I was determined. I got myself in the best shape I could, and possibly the best aerobic shape I’d ever been in. THAT time, I was able to go to a friend’s horse ranch on the mountain immediately west of Pikes (across the road going down to Cripple Creek), go to the top at 10,500, and help her rearrange the haystack against a coming snowstorm, throwing hay bales around with each hand, dragging up dead logs to anchor the tarps (the barn wasn’t built yet), even hefting a log up on TOP to weight the tarps down. I was so proud of myself. Not a whit of altitude issues.

                      And then my knee swelled up like a basketball the next morning and stayed like that, and about six months later I found out that my knees were shot.

                      I been falling apart ever since…

                    • The Spouse has long joked that I need to be aired out above 3,000 feet on a regular basis or I am not a happy camper.

                      Visited a friend in Rancho Rio just north of Albuquerque. Baseline elevation 5,OOO feet. Loved it, except for the lack of tree cover, which was strange. Went up the cable car to the top of the Sandias overlooking the Albuquerque, elevation over 10,000 feet. Friend warned me I would feel winded. Got off the cable car and, yipee, danced a jig. Found out I was really made for high altitudes.

                      The Daughter says it probably has something to do with my ancestors. 😉

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  26. I’d always heard that, before Amazon and e-books, the only people making money at self-publishing were the non-fiction writers. Non-fiction authors sell their expertise – they give lectures and have the books for sale afterward, or have blogs on the subject and provide links. I’ve even seen youtube mini documentaries.

  27. James May,

    I’m having to open a new thread because the thread we were in has reached its limit. That said, sir, you are the one trying to play the semantics game. I suggest you quit taking yourself quite so seriously. Maybe we stepped on your academic toes. Get over it. Recognize that non-fiction isn’t the end all-be all of truth, justice and the research way. I have avoided calling “troll”, but you are starting to push me in that direction. You aren’t interested in discussion. You are here to prove your superiority over us mere genre authors. So, until you wish to engage in a discussion, I suggest you take your toys and go home.

  28. Kate Paulk

    Robin Munn – replying waaaaay down here since the discussion’s overwhelmed the threading capacity (with a quote for reference)

    Ah well; as I said, you can lead people to the facts but you can’t make them think.

    And thank you for the definition of “Heinleining”, BTW — it was a phrase that I, for one, was not familiar with. The concept, yes, and I had already recognized that he did it — but not the term.

    You’re so right about leading them to facts and refusal to think. I swear there are rusty gears between some sets of ears.

    Also, you’re welcome re: the definition. It’s one of those things that SF and fantasy writers get so used to we can forget someone who isn’t deeply in the field doesn’t necessarily use that term.

    • That’s what I probably should have done with my comment from 10:20 AM that turned out so long — it’s taking up five entire pages on my screen (which is pretty high-resolution) at that thinned-out level of comments. Oh well.

      My favorite quote (proverb?) on the subject of people who refuse to think is, “None so blind as those who will not see.” I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt for quite a while, so it took me a while to give up on James May — and I still think he is just a fool who refuses to admit his folly, rather than a deliberate troll or an astroturfer sent here by the publishing industry (I have some experience with trolls, and he wasn’t ringing those vibes at all for me) — but once I realized that he fit the “I refuse to see the truth” category like a glove, I understood that it was pointless to argue with him any longer.

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