Killing Me Softly

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post on my adventures in traditional publishing, all of it based on the premise that – back then – no matter what your publisher did, it was always the writers fault, and if you had problems with that, well, just shake it off.  He beat you, but he was your publisher, and if you left that, well, you just wouldn’t have an audience.

Those days are gone, thank heavens.  I now can follow Dave Drake’s advice to me eleven years ago, to only work with publishers I respect.  This is because I have the option to go indie for my other stuff.

But in that post, I mentioned something about being Latina, and refusing to claim that and to play the game.  Someone of a ah… politically correct persuasion in the comments to the Passive Guy got all upset because I was claiming that the publishing game was easier for women and minorities.

The answer is yes… and no.

Publishing is easier if you’re a woman/minority who agrees with the Marxist definitions of your role and place in the world.  In fact, if you’re a minority woman whose politics confirm and flatter the New York establishment, you’ll get the red carpet ride to success with extra flowers and champagne.  (So, okay, nowadays that might not mean much.  The champagne has gone moldy and the carpet is moth eaten, but give the bastards their due.  They will try their very best to get you to the top as fast as they can.  Mind you, it’s still better to be a WHITE woman of socialist-feminist upbringing, like the precious flower who got 300 thousand dollars for a book that went on to sell eight thousand copies.  And then got ANOTHER 30k advance.)

If you can be that, or pretend to be that, they will help you any way they can.  (More, of course, if you have minimal talent.)

Note what I’m saying here – if you fit their preconceptions about you.  Or if you are willing to sell your soul to pretend you do.

I was told that I could get the golden ride IF I were willing to write an auto-biography that hit all the right notes.  I wasn’t.

Why wasn’t I?

Well, it starts with the fact that I’m a little contrary.  No.  Wait.  I’m a lot contrary.  Even if I’d agreed with them, I’d have got pretty upset at getting shoved in the “Latina” box and in the “feminist” (whatever this means this week) box.  That’s to begin with.

The other part – EVEN IF I AGREED WITH THEM POLITICALLY – is that this is not what I wanted to write.  It just isn’t.

I can write non-fiction (eh, you’re reading it) and essays and biographical crap.  I can also drive a truck for a living (okay, I can’t, but I could learn.)  For all the joy I’d get out of it, I’d rather drive a truck.

What I wanted to do was write science fiction and fantasy (and mystery, too, but that was more distant and came later.  I had mystery mostly as my popcorn reading for years, not as my ‘work’.)

It was sort of hinted (and driven towards by various agents – I ended up with four serially and those were the ones I didn’t reject outright in initial interviews – that this was fine too, if it was, you know, Latina, feminist SF/F.

Look, maybe other people have more control over what they write.  Me?  I ended up with psychotic b*tch female from h*ll in DST and for a switch a gay male barbarian in AFGM.  It wasn’t my doing.  My subconscious hates me.  (Yes, they’re both lovable.  That’s because I can’t help loving them.) I’m the libertarian whose books become ensemble casts as a matter of course.  This thing is loaded and not fully under my control.

I can’t put that sort of restriction on my work.  My work seems to well up from a deeper part of me, where I can’t dictate.  If I try to it just stops cold.   I can make minor modifications/tweaks, but that’s it. Oh, some of my characters have Portuguese or Spanish names, but I really don’t think once you get to the 25th century that means the same it means now.  And if we’re going to talk in fantasy… My people’s Celtic notions got thoroughly stomped by the Romans who in their way were the most pragmatic people ever.  Even their magic was matter of fact.  I can write elves and fairies and all that, because I research.  Nothing “authentic” about it.

Besides this being “Latino” or “minority” fiction or whatever IMPLIES an imperative to whine about America and American values.

A)    I think that’s a load of nonsense, and I did even back when I was 15 and some idiot was telling me the reason Portugal didn’t have a computer industry was that America wouldn’t allow it.  (Or it could be the regulations, the innumerable restrictions on invention and a culture that tends to Manana.)

B)    I came to America.  I chose to raise my kids here.  What you’re telling me is that I’m a morally reprehensible person who will trade in her morals/dignity to be part of the “oppressors”?  Much obliged for the image of me you have.  Or I could have come here because I believe in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness which this country, flawed though it is, still (more than any other in the world) guarantees its people.  And because I think that’s better for everyone, of whatever heritage.

Of course it’s no use saying this stuff to the people of the NYC traditional publishing establishment.  See, they’re not even badly intentioned.  They’re just convinced it is their MISSION in life to improve how people think and through it society by … mostly pushing a bunch of tired Marxist nonsense at people.  First it starts with viewing people as classes and genders and levels of oppression.  At no time are these people people, with real histories.  For instance, a female of upper middle class background who went to Harvard is ipso facto more “downtrodden” than a man who grew up in poverty and went to community college.  Because she’s female.

They believe this on faith, not on any empirical observation, and they’re encased in an impenetrable wall of kafkatrap.  If you’re a male and say that you’re more oppressed, they scream at you for not knowing your very own “male privilege” , and if you’re a female and say males have it worse, they tell you you’re “colonized.”

They have in fact, in their own minds, formed a completely hermetically sealed alternate reality.

Which would be fine, if it didn’t affect their decisions in our reality.  But it does.

And the problem with the NYC publishing establishment is that it’s not just publishing houses who live in this alternate reality: it’s also distributors, heads of chain bookstores, and in fact all the commanding heights of business and culture.  (They ARE the man.)  Because a pre-requisite of hiring is to have gone to the good colleges where this Marxist (but never acknowledged as such and the usual idiots on my FB page will pull the “no true Scottsman” on me again on this) vision of the world prevails.

So the signs of the books that SHOULD be pushed because they will “educate” and “improve” people are those books that agree with them.  Disagree with them and you get consigned to midlist hell.

Disagree with them while blatantly refusing to be what they think you should be because you are female and technically of a protected ethnicity and…

Well, just before three years ago, when DST did well and indie opened up… I was considering walking away from writing forever.  And writing stories is the only thing I wanted to do since six.  But there’s only so much the heart and soul can endure and I HAD HAD enough.

The choice was to become what they wanted to me to be – and I couldn’t.  I was me, not some widget labelled “female, from Latin country, MA in Languages and Literature.” – or I could walk off.  And I was ready to walk off and try to find a retail job or ANYTHING ELSE that didn’t require me to sell my soul piecemeal.

So, is it easier to be a female of color in publishing?  Oh, much easier, if you’re willing to sell your soul, to void yourself and be exactly what the publishers want.  If you mirror their prejudices at them, they’ll push you as hard as they can.  Of course, as I said, with the new competition from indies and Amazon turning the market on its head, that’s not very far… but it’s farther than you’ll ever get if you insist on being an individual with individual beliefs!

And their prejudices aren’t only of the Marxist kind, mind you.  Being “socially conscious” individuals, they get to indulge their often shockingly old fashioned prejudices in a way that anyone less politically correct would get crucified for.  So my friends who weren’t even distantly “Latina” got told that they couldn’t write science fiction because “women write fantasy better.” or “Ladies can only write fantasy.”  (This was told to a friend with a graduate degree in physics.) I got told that too, and also that “Women rarely plot well enough for mystery.”

This was all said by people who pride themselves on their open mindedness.

So, yes, women writers of sf/f (and anything except maybe romance) meet with prejudice.  And women writers of color meet with worst prejudice.  We’re dehumanized, widgetized (totally a word) and if we refuse to play along we get relegated to a sort of soft midlist ghetto where we’ll never ever be allowed to get ahead or get any support because we just are the wrong kind.

We’re not given the freedom or our own experiences or our own minds, because we iz poor womnynz of color and that idea we have that we have our own mind?  Yeah, totally false consciousness.  We need our betters to tell us how to think and what to feel.  And if we don’t take that received wisdom we are bad womnynz of color and need to be kept in a place where they won’t wrongly influence other people who clearly can’t think for themselves.

Apparently the only people allowed to think for themselves are properly ivy educated white people who can do whatever they want to (but don’t.  They willingly turn in their brains for the contradictory ideology of a crazy German scribbler.  Never mind.)

Look, I can’t imagine a worse “colonization” than that, frankly.  I can’t imagine a colonialist, racist of the 19th century saying that a subjugated person doesn’t have his own thoughts, is not ALLOWED to have his own thoughts, and if he has his own thoughts he’s wrong and bad.  Or rather, I can, but you’d have to go all the way to slave owners.

So… I don’t wonder why many women writers in science fiction are furious.  I just wish they’d stop and think at who is causing their fury.

No, I really don’t care if your PUBLISHER told you that the reading public wouldn’t take a gay character (told me that.  Agents, too) and I don’t care if they tell you it’s those troglodytes, out there in redneck country who don’t like your daring prose.

Your publisher and your agents are inside a parallel reality. They talk to people like them, and they know what it takes to “sell” books to distributors and store managers, but not necessarily to the people on the streets (which is why printruns keep falling.  Never mind the excuses about videos and games.  Write stuff they want to read and they will come.)

In the last few years, I’ve got to talk to a lot of real people, out there, some even fandom but not organized fandom, and I have yet to see any who resents that I’m a woman, of color (Well, I used to be tan.  Days spent inside have given me this sallow olive look.  I must make enough to buy a beach house.  Then the color I am is exactly that of toast with butter) who writes whatever crosses her mind and none of it victimhood.  The only person who has scolded me for not writing “more Portuguese” was someone mad I write historicals about English History.  (He was from Portugal and I actually agree with him on the wonderfully rich history.  The problem is that there isn’t a substratum of knowledge for it to peg onto in the states, which are still my main market.  I could write Portuguese history, but it would have to be disguised and in the far future.)

The fans don’t care, provided I give them characters they care about and an interesting story.  Heck, my leftist fans stick around despite my obvious libertarian beliefs, which, yes, do bleed through into books.  You can’t help it when you’re writing from the soul.

And interestingly enough, Baen doesn’t care either.  Baen, that evil Right Wing House (which publishes Eric Flint, an avowed communist, and more than a dozen leftists of various shades.  Ah, but they publish people who aren’t leftist, and that makes them ipso facto evil and right wing.)  Baen looked at my books and bought the books.  They accepted that this woman of Latin origin can have a mind of her own and allowed me, for the first time in my career, to write what I really wanted.

Curiously – or not – that was a book that sold better than anything else I’d written to date: Darkship Thieves.

And then I sent them A Few Good Men, on Spec, and they liked it so much, despite the BLATANT gay romance, that they sent me copyedits before the contracts.

(Which is of course, how evil they are, see, they even let the little womyn of color write things that are clearly false consciousness.  The pure evil! – do I need a sarcasm tag?)

So you see, my story has a happy ending.  I escaped from a situation in which I was a widget and there was only one path for success and I’m free – just like a real person! – to forge my own path to heaven or h*ll.  No guarantees, but I get to do what I want to.  I don’t have to sell my soul to be allowed to create “approved of” art.

So, all of the women screaming about their oppression can stop being oppressed.  They can walk away from publishers who demean them, and go indie or find a publisher who respects them.

You can’t force the world to stop thinking whatever it will think, but you can go around and forge your own path and reach readers who just want to read.

And you know what?  The readers don’t care if you’re purple with pokadots.  I know this, because I’m a reader, and I don’t care.  I don’t even care about your politics if you tell me a good enough story that I’ll read it despite rolling my eyes at a few paragraphs.  And I’ll buy the next, too.

Your success is in your hands.  And it has nothing to do with what’s between your legs, or your pigmentation.   Or even what’s between the legs of your characters or their pigmentation.

Traditional publishing, the NY way was making me insane with the lies of its parallel reality.  It was killing me softly with its intent to help me ITS way.

So I walked.  No, I’ll never get the magic carpet ride.  But I’m not afraid of working.  And I’m not afraid of selling to the fans.  I can tell them stories, and that’s all I ever wanted to do.

To every writer treated like a widget: Stop driving yourself crazy.  Set yourself free.  And consider that likely your tormentors are the ones who claim to be your liberators.

UPDATE: Because Kate had trouble slice-o-dice-o-mating our little precious flower link troll yesterday in comments (because, you know, she’s not rude and tries not to wall of text the comments) she continued the vivisection over at Mad Genius Club.

232 thoughts on “Killing Me Softly

  1. Sarah, back in the ’70’s I had a young woman, of a decided feminist frame of mind ask me, a Texan who speaks very little Spanish (and that little mostly street swear words), what was the Spanish for Ms.
    I had great pleasure in telling her that Spanish did not have a neuter. Her no longer speaking to me saved me many hours of ear pain.
    My biggest issue with liberals isn’t that they disagree with me, or any conservative .argument. Its that even when you point out their logical inconsistencies and fallacious underpinings they refuse to even consider they might be wrong. I readily admit that there are areas I can be wrong – and am corrected on at least a weekly basis. But no one is ever 100% right all the time.

    1. You are much kinder than me, I would have probably informed her that Spanish for Ms. was puta, in the hopes that she would one day introduce herself to a latino/latina as Puta Smith.

      1. There are more interesting words that are harder to find in the dictionary and easier to find on the street, by the way.

        1. Well, are you going to share or are you going to sit there and be uselessly cryptic?

          1. Sorry.
            coño is a wonderful one. Sounds like Señora, is used like the dutch derived term for coitus in welding shops- it really means mommy-parts. Puñal is another, and oddly, it only means “dagger” in Spain. In Mexico it refers to a man’s sexual preferences and is found in older dictionaries defined as “pretty-boy”.
            (I once got into trouble at a job for referring to a letter opener as a puñal – who knew that the accepted term for letter opener was “Abrecartas”?)

            1. I should apologize to you. It’s been a rough week and my personality selector has arc-welded itself to “curmudgeon.”

              1. Jeff, you don’t need to apologize to me at all. I posted and went to bed.
                Anyways. I was being uselessly cryptic. Hopelessly delicate about words too.

  2. Now I’m starting to feel guilty about writing fantasy, and thus giving in to their stereotypes. (Not really.) Of course, I didn’t realize they *were* stereotypes, having grown up reading Tolkien and Anne McCaffrey.

    And I’m sure Agatha Christie would be surprised to find she didn’t plot well enough to write mystery.


    1. The final, and really difficult, stage is to cut yourself off entirely from them so it doesn’t matter whether you write what they want; but without that, they are still dictating what you write.

      The only way to find a new standard to judge your writing by and stick to that.

        1. Well, I don’t want to turn out like the hipster who burns his mouth because he drank his coffee before it was cool.

                  1. Properly prepared gefilte fish can be quite good (says the agnostic survivor of numerous seders). Even without the genetic immunity, I liked it anyway…

    2. Oh, and the mistress plotter Dorthy Sayers would be…laughing. Then she’d refute them in twelve different languages, saying “and we can’t be multilingual, either.” Come to think of it, the majority of my favorite plotters (King, Connell, etc) are women. Do these people even READ mysteries? The field is practically dominated by women. I know of a couple of instances of men writing under female pseudonyms because of it. Ellery Queen, anyone? And that was YEARS ago.

  3. Sarah, I have a somewhat OT question for you. When I began reading SFF, every book I read by a female author was pure dreck. It was only at the words of that horrid misogynist Vox Day that I tried to read another female author. To this day I am very hesitant to try a female SFF author. Vox has listed you as someone to read and I’ve been reading your blog recently and I’m curious. So what is your shtick, and why should I give you a shot?

    1. I don’t have a shtick. I tell stories. If you’re going to read me, start with Darkship Thieves. Or if you have a mad Jones for Shakespeare, try Ill Met by Moonlight.
      I TRULY don’t have a shtick. I’m a don’t-tread-on-me small l libertarian, married to a wonderful man for almost thirty years and the mother of two young men, but that’s who I am, not what I write. I write fantasy, SF, mystery and historical fictionalized bio. I threaten to write dino porn, but that’s just a threat (babies need college fees.)
      I UNDERSTAND what you mean about female writers, but truly I think half of it is how the establishment treats them and the spoken and unspoken expectations. Though I’ll confess American-raised women get a lot of rats in their heads by the end of high school. American men too. Which is why I’d prefer you don’t read my traditionally issued books until they’re reprinted by Goldport Press, in Author-editions. (Like the Shakespeare books were.)

          1. Sarah darlin, I must say that you are well on your way to acceptance into the membership of surly curmudgeons, just need a few more years under your belt. Few extra pounds couldn’t hurt either. And on that great day I hope I’m still around to welcome you into the personhood with a walk down the camo colored carpet to the club’s open bar to serve you the first drink. Not sure Dan will ever qualify, he’s just too nice a guy, but he and the boys can sit in the friends and family section.

    2. A recommendation if you haven’t been given it already, check out C. J. Cherryh’s stuff, in particular I personally enjoyed the Faded Sun Trilogy

      1. Well, it was written AFTER DST, and it wasn’t broken appart for rewrite 13 years later, when I’d figured what a plot was. Also, I stole the plot from Tam Lin, so….
        DST is actually three long novellas, strung together.

          1. The direct fire carp is not nearly as frightening as the carp mortar. It’s the plunging carp that really inspires terror.

  4. “We’re not given the freedom or our own experiences or our own minds, because we iz poor womnynz of color and that idea we have that we have our own mind? Yeah, totally false consciousness. ”

    You don’t need to be “of color.”

    (Nevermind I’m mostly Irish and there have been times when Irish were denied naturalization because only a “free white person” could be naturalized. Some grievances come with a sell-by date.)

    1. I KNOW that. As I pointed out, my very white (she turns slightly less blue in the sun) also got the “there, there” treatment when she tried to escape the square peg.

    2. The biggest craziness of the past history of racism in the US is that the a******* could never decide on what “white” was and what “colored” was. In North Carolina, “white” was 100% decended from Northern European people. Portuguese, Spanish and Italian were colored.

        1. well, if you read British literature, you find that n*gger did not mean black, it meant people native to the colonies. The expression “N*ggers begin at Calais” was an exaggeration. A bit.

          I have actually read it used to refer to the Chinese in Hong Kong. (Only once though, and never to, as they put it, Red Indians.) However it chiefly meant people from India, and it was as likely to mean Australian Aboriginal as anyone from the West Indies or South Africa.

          1. “Wogs”. Wogs begin at Calais. A famous saying that my wife was heard muttering for weeks after our vacation in France.

      1. So were Eastern Europeans. One union organizer observed of a mine that he knew the miners were serious because they had chosen their leadership: a black, a white, a Polacker, a Slav, and a Hungarian.

    3. Heh. Or that deal with Finns I have mentioned here a few times (sorry, couldn’t resist doing it again, maybe there some people who haven’t seen this yet), that for a while back there we were not considered really white but had this tag of ‘Mongoloid origins’ (because there is enough Asian in the mix that while it’s very little you occasionally get individuals who kind of look like they are part Asian, my mother was one), and then managed to get reclassified as pure enough Europeans just a few decades before starting to feel the white guilt.

      1. It had a few advantages for Finns who were able to naturalize when the requirement was “free white person” or of African descent.

    4. Yep. Somehow, Jews Italians and the Irish turned lily white. Maybe it was too much bleach in the laundry. 🙂 I mean, it can’t be standing in the sun too long!

      I’m convinced that the old nativism is back. The Catholics will tan again, trust me. The Jews may join us. I think race was used as an excuse to go after unloved religions. Because in those days, racism was more popular, and freedom of religion was acknowledged to be a part of the Constitution. It is the only way I can explain why the Irish were so dirty and the Scots got away scot free…presbyterianism being the snow that covers up a multitude of hereditary sins.

      1. If you really, really want to know how “brown” people became “white”, and you have a few brain cells you’re willing to destroy without the fun of alcohol or recreational pharmaceuticals, look up “whiteness studies” and skim through the text books the classes use.

        1. Misread that as “between the blond and brutal races.”

          Incidentally, English Breakfast Tea hurts when you’ve got a sinus bug.

          1. Nah, it was the blond one that was the valiant, the martial, the honorable one, so they must have been the brutal ones. The brunets were the commercial types who stayed home during war. Which is why the English could claim that the true German strain was crushed in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War, both in the nobility and among the footmen, and only existed on in the Anglo-saxons who moved to England. Americans would add that what was left of it emigrated, so really America was more Germanic than Germany was. . . though how long that would last under the crushing city commercialism that favored the smaller race who could live on less food, in more crowded conditions, and with less fresh air, they did not know.

              1. Oh, yeah. But those that used blond and brunet generally used that version, in my experience.

            1. Does the giant stone head bring you guns in exchange for grain? Which one wears the red nappy and knee-high leather boots?

              1. They *are* the brute squad.

                On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 10:06 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                > Patrick Chester commented: “Would that mean you’re both with the Brute > Squad? ;-D” >

      2. *sigh* My children were all born darker than I am, even the one where I spent the summer trying to get my D up with regular sunshine… darn Sicilians! Or maybe darn Scots and Irish, depending on if I’m sun burnt!

            1. I am now officially jealous– One time I was outside weeding the garden (I wore a long sleeved shirt that covered my back– It kept the sun off my skin). The shirt rode up and there was a swatch of skin on my back that was blistered– I think it was a 2nd degree burn– it took a long time to heal and was very uncomfortable.

              1. 😀 Of mine, once I managed to get something which probably was very close to that 2nd degree. The parting on my hair and my ears, the only places not covered or slathered in industrial strength sun block. First time I went to Morocco, and I had thought I was careful about the sun, but who thinks of their ears and hair parting?

            2. I think I’ve burned three times, but those were all with the help of either being on water or on snow most of the day.

        1. LOL… Native people tell me I look exactly like the stereotypical Cherokee/Hibernian cross, whereas the Anthro Nerd tells me earnestly I am the living, breathing prototypical Pict. (The truth is, er, complicated, and involves Scots, Danes, Germans, Poles, Russian Jews who were also Danes, maybe French, etc) In the land of sunlight I’m a natural blond with a suspiciously red tan, but now my hair is nearly black, and my skin blushed ivory, being a midwestern night dweller. I get a bit more colorful if I’m taking my vitamin D. Last count I have over 80 expressed recessive traits. One of the other students in my high school asked to use me as a science fair project. 🙂 I’m ready to declare the whole human race to be a bunch of mutts. I’m sure that would outrage the precious International Community. Whatever that is.

            1. I even forgot the fact that there are solid “native american” elements. The picts probably came from both my maternal grandparents (german and scot respectively). An old shaman friend from Three Fires swears I’m Cherokee but there’s no record of my family. Not that it’s enough of a percentage to matter (boy does it feel weird typing that!). Considering my great great great grandfather ran a trading post and illegally married a native lady should be recorded *somewhere*. I’m only curious to humor the geneticists.

              Cool. I’m good with that. All kinds of potatoes in God’s garden…

              So does all mythology start out as family stories?!

  5. Hey there– I didn’t know that fantasy was a female genre either– and that makes me laugh when I look at some of the fantasy greats of the field, Peter S. Beagle, Tolkien, and others. Yes, I write fantasy because I enjoy magic and worlds like that– I can turn anything into a fantasy– It makes life more enjoyable. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

        1. With C. L. Moore, one of my favorite writers, there is the fact that she wrote with the encouragement of and often in collaboration with her husband Henry Kuttner. She stopped writing when he died. She herself could not sort out how much of what Lewis Padgett story was hers and how much was his. There was long a tendency to call any Padgett story a Henry Kuttner story, now predictably they are often published as Moore stories. “No Woman Born” and “Vintage Season” and the others originally published under her name are all hers.

          1. How about the Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry stories? According to she was writing under her name before she met Kuttner.

            If nothing else, she was a woman getting published in the pulp era. I think she met and overcame more obstacles than the current group of women authors are running into.

            Having said that, I think the Jirel stories are right up there with the Conan stories. They were pulp, but enjoyable reads.

              1. I have the Planet Stories edition from Paizo. Alas, Planet Stories is no more, and a shame too. I bought about half their books.

  6. This is Non-Fiction?
    Mind. Blown.

    😉 (I have learned that sometimes internet posts need to be tagged as humor.)

  7. The other day I saw Laura Resnick talking about the marketing she was given when she published her first SF novel (over on Brad Torgerson’s site), and it was exactly the – widgetification of authors – and by extension, the widgetification of everyone. You look a certain way, then you go into this bucket, and you’re expected to act the same as everyone else in the bucket.

    1. I read that over at Brad’s, but didn’t comment. However, you’re right, it was the exact same thing that Sarah described.

      Honestly, it’s the most braindead thing a publisher could do. Sell good stories, and sell the authors as authors…not some kind of check list.

        1. Yeah, and we totally can’t have that.

          People aren’t allowed to be individuals, they must be part of the collective…even if that collective is something they have no interest in being part of, such as “woman author” versus just being an author.

  8. Ya know, I think Sarah has helped me find the way to talk about something I’ve never been able to verbalize before. Let’s give it a try, shall we?

    There is something I’ve always wanted to call the racism of the non-racist (also the sexism of the non-sexist) and it sounds like exactly what Sarah is talking about. I’ll give you all an example:

    It was brought up on a talk show here in Detroit one day that the city and state should both reserve a certain amount of contracts for minority owned companies because minority owned companies can’t compete. I did not have a chance to speak to the man who said that, but I’d really like to ask him why.

    Seriously. I’ve done a little bit of everything for a living because I have yet to find anything (other than writing) that I really like and I have yet to make any money from writing. I only bring this up because I have done some work on the side doing siding, gutters, etc. I will admit that the work I did was always for residential clients BUT: I waited in line behind persons of color. I waited in line in front of persons of color. I waited third in line in one line while persons of color waited behind the exact same amount of people in another line. They paid the same prices I did. They got the same products I did, unless they wanted something else. I didn’t see any difference,yet the assumption is that persons of color can’t compete on a level playing field with the white guy I was working for.

    I don’t see why not. If they got their stuff for the same price and they worked hard (For the record there are two types of contractors: Those that work hard and ex-contractors) they should’ve been able to compete. Granted, labor prices do vary from region to region, but we’re talking about contractors working in the Detroit Area, so their labor prices should be about the same. There is no reason the minority companies can’t compete. They’re told that they can’t because racism. Of course, that works for the Left. Looks like Lyndon Johnson was right.

    1. “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot box, let him alone, don’t disturb him! If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone, — your interference is doing him positive injury. ” Frederick Douglass

      1. Thank you, Mary. Purely and simply, thank you.

        (If I had ever read this Frederick Douglass quote before, I’d forgotten it — but I knew that it or something very like it existed, because of twice-removed references here and there over the years.)

      2. Ok. Frederick Douglass said it better than I did. In related news, water is wet, the sky is blue and the sun came up this morning.

    2. Okay. I have had a number of HVAC contractors here. The hands down hardest worker I had here was a black man, who charged me far less than his paler competition. He was earnest and he did the job right. He explained things to me, so I could do some things myself. Between this and giving us a choice of supplier, he has saved me hundreds of dollars. I got to meet his daughter, etc.

      He seems like he’s competing just fine, thank you. He has our customer loyalty. We found out about him through Service Magic.

      There is also an appliance guy who also owns his own business, and he’s paler. They both offer reasonable prices for excellent work in different markets. They both seem to do pretty well for themselves, but I don’t see the paler one having massive advantage over the other.

      If anything they both suffer a bit because they work blue collar and do ‘dirty jobs’. Now I’m naturally talking about first world problems, here, but you get my point. Their “class” has less to do with race and far more to do with how people look at hard work in general- and ‘dirty” work in particular.

      How ironic that MLK was killed when he went on a protest for the rights of garbage men –of any race– to be treated with human dignity.

  9. I did the required ‘dance of a thousand agents’ when I had my first HF – which I had posted chapters of on my mil-blog, and which everyone who read it loved extravatangly. I did get one rather well-thought of NY (naturally!) agent who asked to read the whole thing, and loved it as well – but he just didn’t think it was marketable. He sounded genuinely sad about that … but he told me he had asked around (I guess other people in the NY publishing world) to see if theyhad heard about the wagon train party that my book was about (two years before the Donner Party, but no one had ever heard of them also getting lost in the mountains and caught in the snoiw). And no one he talked to had heard of them … which was one of my main marketing points. *boggle*
    So I held a fund-drive among my blog-fans and published it through a POD house. And you know what? That book is still going like a champ.

    The trouble is, I think that besides being a good writer – and the other stuff that Sarah mentioned – you also have to be smashingly good-looking. And notorious or famous. Or have been married to or in a relationship with someone notorious or famous.
    YMMV, but that’s what I came away with, at the end of the ‘dance of a thousand agents.’

    1. In one of Sarah’s other posts, she mentions that you can also get by if you have an “interesting” life story, perhaps about all the struggles you have had to overcome to get where you are today. If you’re female, of course, or a person of color, because we all know that white men don’t have life obstacles.

    2. I’m pretty sure L’amour mentioned that wagon train in a couple of his novels, and may have mentioned it in those little historical ancdotes he used to put in front of each short story in his short story collections. Of course I’m also positive that none of the NY publishers would stoop to reading L’amour.

      1. Oh, of course not – catch a dazzling NY urbanite reading L’amour, or Elmer Kelton or any other ‘western genre’ writer? Heavens to Betsy, no!

        I also got pretty darned jaded at getting the routine feedback of “Oh, no, we don’t do Westerns!” – as if Westerns had cooties or something. That I could say legitimately, in response – “No, it’s a HISTORICAL NOVEL, set on the 19th CENTURY AMERICAN FRONTIER!!” buttered no parsnips with the establishment publishing set.

        No Westerns!

        With the second and subsequent novels (also set on the 19th century American frontier) I embraced the label. Yes, it’s about a wagon train caught by snow in the high Sierras! Yes, it’s about Texas in the time of the Alamo and the Republic! Yes, about settling an Indian-haunted wilderness, fighting the Civil War, trailing cattle to Kansas and discovering a whole new and sometimes frankly disturbing new world! Come to me, all you readers wanting to read about strong men and brave women, about blazing six-guns, and law and justice, and cattle and what you need do to survive! Come to me for your Wild West fix … but there is a bit of a twist to it all. (added in slightly sotto voice.)

        So far, my readers seem to be enjoying the heck out of it all. Weirdly enough, although I have tried to play it straight down the middle as far as male/female concerns … about two-thirds of the dedicated fans are men. So … maybe there IS a market for Westerns out there?

        1. I sometimes think that NY publishers criteria is, if it sells it’s trash, and we don’t publish trash. Westerns, Romance, mil-sci-fi, they are all looked down on because they sell to the plebes. Guess what, the majority of the reading public are common folk.

          I haven’t read your books, but am enjoying the story you are posting online. I suspect the historical aspect may be striking a chord with your fans. I read very few Westerns these days, and practically all of those I do read were published in the 80’s or older. So many of these Westerns today not only play fast and loose with history, they do the same with geography, and read like the author has never stepped off the asphalt in their life. Much less handled a gun (and it’s not that difficult to make sure the guns the characters are using were actually in existence at the time of the story, and there basic capabilities, you have the hero head shoot a guy with a cap and ball pistol at 150 yards and my wall is going to have a new dent in it) or ever even seen a horse, except on the TV behind the bar when they placed their bets.

            1. Oh yeah, I knew a guy who shot a deer on the run with Winchester 94 30-30 at 450 yards… after he fell down and broke the stock off! He also didn’t treat it as an everyday occurrence that he could repeat at will.

              1. Hey, stuff happens. I’ve heard of and witnessed some amazing shots in my life.

                The ones I don’t witness but believe is when the shooter admits that there was at least a fair amount of luck involved. It doesn’t take away from the awesome at all.

                For example, I was watching a show about great sniper shots. It had a guy in Iraq who logged the greatest distance kill with a .308. In the interview, he said that he saw the insurgent, aimed high and to the left, then fired in an attempt to force the insurgent to keep his head down.

                He got a hit.

                He didn’t think he would get the kill, and admitted it on television. I have a lot of respect for that. I also hope that if someone tried to write about that kind of a shot, they also mention that there was a good bit of luck involved.

          1. Thanks, Bearcat – I am taking some liberties with certain aspects in the Lone Star Sons stories, as I mean that to be a YA adventure, and slightly more pulp-western. But still – there is a lot which happened, really-oh and truly-oh, which passes anything that could be made up from whole cloth.
            Agree about the geography of Westerns – I had it out with a certain western move here –

            “Generic, once-upon-a-time in the west doesn’t satisfy me any more, not since I began writing about the frontier myself. It seems to me that to write something true, something authentic about the western experience – you have to do what the creators of The Trail to Hope Rose didn’t bother to do; and that was to be specific about time and place. The trans-Mississippi West changed drastically over the sixty or seventy years, from the time that Americans began settling in various small outposts, or traveling across it in large numbers. And the West was not some generic all-purpose little place, where cattle ranches could be found next to gold mines, next to an Army fort, next to a vista of red sandstone, with a Mexican cantina just around the corner.

            No, there were very specific and distinct places, as different as they could be and still be on the same continent. 1880′s Tombstone is as different from Gold Rush-era Sacramento, which is different again from Abilene in the cattle-boom years, nothing like Salt Lake City when the Mormons first settled there – and which is different again from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s small-town De Smet in the Dakota Territory – or any other place that I could name, between the Pacific Ocean and the Mississippi-Missouri. Having writers and movie-makers blend them all together into one big muddy mid-19th century blur does no one any favors as far as telling new stories.”

    1. To get caught in a kafkatrap you have to read it and try to answer on the author’s own terms. If someone looks at it and says “Evil Person’s Words! Hatespeak! Burn the witch!” the trap won’t be triggered.

      Hmmm, I wonder if that’s what’s behind that one incredible misreading of Toni’s post.

  10. “Women rarely plot well enough for mystery.”

    Really? Never heard of Dame Agatha Christie, have they? Ngaio Marsh? P.D. James? Well-read in the field, are they?


    1. It’s crazier than that — most mystery writers today are women. Their objection to my “plotting” is like the reason the various agents wouldn’t even submit DST. Because “your world building has problems.” What they meant is that I saw a different future from theirs. I also saw different criminals.

  11. Well said – all of it! — Love this: “Baen, that evil Right Wing House (which publishes Eric Flint, an avowed communist, and more than a dozen leftists of various shades. Ah, but they publish people who aren’t leftist, and that makes them ipso facto evil and right wing.) Baen…allowed me, for the first time in my career, to write what I really wanted.”

      1. Somebody should buy him a shirt with that caption. I’m not sure whether he’d explode with outrage or laughter, but I’d bet on the latter.

        1. Challenge accepted.

          FWIW, I really liked Flint’s Belasarius series, and would gladly read more of his work. Which is funny when you consider the left loves to say we only want to read right leaning writers.

          I mean, does anyone really go more left that Flint?

        1. Oh, please tell me there’s a link or something.

          I’m already having a crappy day and could use the laugh.

          1. You live in Seattle area? My husband knows where a former shipmate that thinks himself a right-winger, because he thinks Obama is a centrist rather than on the far right, is living these days….

            It’s the kind of thing that is sadly not that hard to hear in Seattle.

                1. The humidity, one can deal with. It’s the fact that there are so many allergens that everyone has allergy issues.


                  I’m not really sure this part of the country was intended to have humans inhabit it.

                  1. I was formed in the high desert– allergens, I can deal with. The out doors feeling like an unventillated bathroom after an hour long get-this-skin-off-me shower, not so much. Florida and Mississippi nearly killed me.

      2. I have had people tell me that exact thing when I pointed out that Baen isn’t strictly right wing and that they publish Eric Flint.

        Doesn’t he actually work for them, or am I confused?

        1. Like I asked Sarah, do you happen to have a link? I believe both of you, I’m having a crappy morning already and could use a good laugh.

          Seriously, is there anyone of note in science fiction/fantasy that is more left that Flint?

          FWIW, I really like his Belesarius series and would happily read some of his other stuff if whenever I get more caught up on my reading.

          So much for the theory that we only read right wing SFF writers.

          1. Sorry, I recall discussing it on here or MadGeniusClub a couple years ago, and could have posted links then, but I would have no idea how to find the discussion. The original discussion where I was told Flint was a “right-wing communist” was on some site I was directed to from the Bar, and have not to the best of my knowledge (don’t recall the name of the site) ever visited before or since.

            1. I’ll do a search later then. If the site is still up, it shouldn’t be too hard to find that particular search string.

  12. I could write Portuguese history, but it would have to be disguised and in the far future.
    Pretty please with chocolate?

    1. oh… POSSIBLY. Right now I’m booked for about three years, at my top speed. But hey, we bought me dragon, to hopefully capture those times of house cleaning and ironing and exercising…

    2. Me too. I would LOVE to read Portuguese historicals that told me about all sorts of things I don’t know. Right now, the only one I know about is Saramago’s HISTORY OF THE SIEGE OF LISBON.

  13. “Women rarely plot well enough for mystery.”
    They should tell my wife that- She will show them whole bookcases of mysteries by female writers. Too many for me to name here.
    You nailed the article; but, limited it to just SF/F. This same attitude of exclusiveness, only not the same prejudices, prevails at almost all publishing outlets. Like Celia Hayes said above on her western. Thank goodness for Indie.

  14. I’m doing my best not to pay too much attention this thing right now. For one thing, I am not a hostage to traditional publishing, I can write and work in the way that suits me and makes me happy. So I don’t have to go along to get along – and trust me when I say I have been where these people are, working hard to make an abusive relationship work, because that’s the only choice they think they have. It’s terribly sad to see them and see objectively how constrained they must be in order to fit into the group they think they need. For another good reason to not squander my time and energy I have better things to do than to argue with the willfully blind. They must come out of it on their own, as I did.

    1. The natural tendency to join the herd must be fought hard. I have to kick myself regularly. I may have lived more than half my life now in Texas, but the “born and bred in California” keeps leaking out. And recently I had to kick myself when I started worrying that my stuff might not be Human Wave enough. Doesn’t matter. It’s what *I* write.

      1. Another thing to remember is that there is a force trying to push us in the herd as well through peer pressure. Just because we are not teenagers anymore doesn’t mean that this force is not real– so we are fighting our natural tendency and the pressure of the herd.

      2. What is needed is a standard other than what the herd is doing. That way you can avoid following the herd, and following the herd, inverted, by having a standard to judge things by.

  15. Eureka!
    I have discovered the deep dark mysterious secret to becoming and keeping a successful publishing company. I shall henceforth think of it in my mind as “the Baen rule”. A secret that Jim obviously knew by heart and passed along to Toni.
    Simply put, just publish books that a large number of people are willing to spend money to read. Obviously this has either never occurred to the major publishing houses, been lost over time, or most likely simply conflicts with their greater mission in trying to mold the readers into a more right thinking (if I can even contemplate a hard left turn as right thinking) state of mind. Doesn’t work when governments attempt it with their powers of life and death over the folk, so IMHO it’s sheer arrogance for publishers to even consider the attempt, not that it will ever stop them, and it is what will ultimately kill the business. Except of course that traitorous minor house Baen. Wouldn’t surprise me to live to see the day when most become “art” houses with primary sales in the upper East coast and far West coast states, and the occasional blue spots scattered through a red middle America. Except as I’ve said Baen which will continue to thrive.

    1. And I suspect that, even more than the politics of some of Baen’s authors, is at the root of the animosity that some in the community feel towards them.

      1. ^This^ indeed. Folks really don’t like it when you prove them wrong. They like it even less when you never set out to prove anybody right or wrong, you just went and did your thing.

        Baen (and the authors) do their thing, publish good work, and are successful out of all proportion. Must be a pact with evil.

        1. What gets me is all the commentators clucking their tongues and saying how ol’ Jim Baen must have been a moderating influence on Baen Books and decrying how its all gone to the (capitalist running) dogs since his passing.

          1. Hah! Trying not to choke on lunch, here. Leaving aside Ms. Weisskopf’s relationship with Mr. Baen (couldn’t possibly be pertinent), everything I’ve ever heard about Jim Baen…

            Ah, the willfully blind.

            1. No. No. It’s the rule of dead non-leftists. Dead non-leftists are now beloved of the leftists, to show how open-minded they are. You know, “Reagan would be a democrat today.” To which the proper answer is “in a pig’s eye.”

              1. So when I die they’ll (maybe) love me?!?

                BWAHAHAHAHAHA-huhhahahahaahhhaaaa… BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-ha-hee-heeeeeee-wheeze.

                I shall have my revenge!

                Sorry. Had a moment. Better now.

              2. Conveniently ignoring that Reagan actually started out as a pro union Democrat. But then he evolved.

              3. Oh, Sarah, don’t you know? Reagan would be best buddies with Obama. I mean, Time Magazine had a cover showing it. And if it’s in a magazine, it must be true, right?

              4. On the other hand, statements like that might be a way to detect chlorine breathing aliens hiding out in our midst. They can’t be from a planet with blue skies.

        2. Also related are the Legacy Publishers (not Baen) decrying indie authors and tut-tutting about the lack of standards and the damage done to literature. That indie authors get 60% of what readers pay and not 85% of 25% (for the lucky) has nothing at all to do with it, nor do the rising numbers of people happily tossing filthy lucre to indie (and Baen) authors. No, nothing at all.

          1. This isn’t about money, money is crass and demeaning. This is about art. Specifically about how you should be buying our art and not theirs.


              1. Well, me, I’m a crass capitalist. But I’ll make an exception, you can have all the art you want — everything I say here is free.


          2. Closely related to the “fixed pie” concept being touted by the precious flowers and glittering hoohah crowd that if the high selling authors would just stop producing folks would take the money they spent on them and spend it on the dreck the PF and GH authors are putting out instead. And that in a nutshell is why traditional houses are in a death spiral, because they cannot as yet figure out a way to control how free people spend their entertainment dollar, though that is exactly the sort of power they lust for in their heart of hearts.

  16. If you’re a male and say that you’re more oppressed, they scream at you for not knowing your very own “male privilege” , and if you’re a female and say males have it worse, they tell you you’re “colonized.”

    Been having an idea roll around in my head for a while…. “No True Scotsman” isn’t necessarily a fallacy, it can just be a semantics problem. Yes, I’m on my old “words have meaning” horse– I like paying attention to what words actually mean.

    For Scotsman, substitute Knight, or Gentleman.

    There are things that can be done that no true knight would do; the problem is that someone can seem to be a gentleman, while in truth not doing so.

    When you say “knight,” you’re not saying “person who has been knighted,” you’re saying “someone who lives up to the ideals of Knighthood.”

    Likewise, these folks are confused– they think that female in its ideal form would consist of “agrees with X philosophy”– but then they expect everyone else, including objective reality, to agree with them. (ie, no knight would be knighted unless he would forever after embody the ideals) They’re committing the fallacy of equivocation on themselves, and then get pissed as if someone else did it.

    1. The no true Scottsman was for MARXISM. They always say “but that’s not really Marxism. Marxism is over here, and has rainbows and fairy sprinkles.”

    2. Well, depends on the meaning you’re using. The old terms Knight and Gentleman were useful — you could precisely situate someone in society with them. As moral terms they end up a vague synonym for good.

      I recommend C. S. Lewis’s Studies in Words on the subject.

    3. Back in the late Holocene, when I was in college, there was a moderately attractive blonde woman in my mathematical methods of physics class. Since there was only one other woman in the class (a German girl who I believe was engaged to one of the men in the class) the blonde got a fair amount of attention, which she mildly encouraged by acting like just a little bit of a ditz.

      I was young and foolish and unengaged then, too (I’ve grown out of two of the three since) and so the blonde was mildly startled to be hit in the back of the head with a paper airplane during a particularly boring lecture on contour integrals at the height of the flu season. She noticed the airplane had a note on it:

      “We are a superintelligent strain of influenza that has taken over your friend Kent. You’ve just been colonized.”

      I’m pretty sure the double entendre would get me expelled from any self-respecting university nowadays.

      1. Back in the Early Cambrian, I can tell you sincerely that any dark-haired female physics student that received that note would have fallen over laughing.

    4. What I have gotten yelled at a couple of times during the years is pointing out that being or becoming a victim does not confer automatic sainthood on a person. Or a population group. If, say, back when systematic slavery existed an African man was a mean backstabbing bully back in Africa, before getting captured by slave traders and ending up on some Southern plantation, he was most likely still a mean backstabbing bully, and possibly even a worse one because now his survival and chances for more comfortable living depended on pleasing his masters. So he would very likely have become somebody who did everything he could to please those masters, while possibly even quite enjoying walking all over his fellow slaves while doing it.

      But but but… he was enslaved! He can no longer be evil because… something.

      The impression I got was that we are expected to assume that all victims just suffer nobly, are never happy about anything, and only very reluctantly do things like betray each other because they always keep their moral integrity intact and do only what they absolutely have to in order to survive. And when we are talking about something like historical slavery, especially what existed in USA (which is, of course, the only type anybody is ever talking about since… something), well, maybe things like the Stockholm syndrome didn’t exist back then.

      Well, been thinking about that again lately since it’s one of the things which will figure in that sequel to Fourth Sword I’m trying to write. The fact that it’s quite possible to brainwash/break people to where they identify strongly enough with their abusers that they will betray somebody who is trying to help them without a second thought, if that helper makes the mistake of confiding her plans to that victim. And then will think that was the only right thing to do, not because it was necessary for their own survival (the helper would not have been able to help anyway, the master would have found out, better to stop this before it starts) but because they think it was just right, as it is right to be utterly devoted to that master and love and worship him… Which is something which makes things like slavery many times worse than having just nobly suffering reluctant victims would be, in my opinion. It can bring out the worst in both groups, the abusers and the abused.

      1. I run into this all the time with beginning writers. “no, you didn’t show me he’s good. Only that he’s a victim.”
        “But… he’s a victim!”

        1. Well, if your character ran across a bunch of guys pummeling one other guy your sympathies would probably go for the guy being pummeled.

          What they don’t realize is that’s one scene and you need more complication for the story.

        1. “A Horse and His Boy”.

          On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 1:47 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > Foxfier commented: “Perhaps reading “a boy and his horse” by Lewis > will help? I vaguely remember a similar theme.” >

      1. Off topic: Way off topic- SPQR: How do I get a “Puff Exemption” Patch? That is just tooo cool. I searched Larry’s site, no luck.

        1. ‘Tis a coin, part of the Kickstarter for challenge coins. I’m not sure they had any in excess of orders, but when I get a minute I’ll check the page and see.

          Or, you know, the guy you addressed the question to might have an answer… 😛

          1. Yep, looks like everything I would want is sold out. The tags would have worked well on my leather jacket, I have a Vietnam key ring as a zipper pull on the left zipper, that would have been a good offset for the right. Too bad they don’t come in patches, would look good on the leather or denim vest. Ah well, maybe I can design a good one to fit the story I’m about to self publish. Thanks for the idea.

            1. Check back. That page may update once all the original orders are shipped. Which, according to the last update I received, is still in process.

  17. OK, I’m dying to know the identity of “the precious flower who got 300 thousand dollars for a book that went on to sell eight thousand copies”….

          1. How could she not know? Wouldn’t her editor tell her this? Or even her lawyer? You don’t sign a big money contract without a lawyer!

  18. Actually, I think by her “novel” she is referring to her forthcoming book, not her previous one.

      1. Which is only worth a tenth as much. The rest of us need to quit writing novels and start compiling essays if we really want to make a good living at writing.

        By the way, has a book of essays EVER sold large numbers of copies? Unless of course it was picked up by the Dept. of Ed. and becomes required reading, meaning schools have to buy large numbers.

        1. Theodore Dalrymple, David Berlinski, and Thomas Sowell have all published collections of essays. This was intentional. They are collections of previous published articles.

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