Yesterday night I had one of those moments when you feel like you should get up from the computer and go look in the mirror, to make sure your consciousness hasn’t – somehow — transferred over to another universe, and you’re not, by any chance green with poka dots and perhaps antennae. (I always wanted antennae.)
First let me point out that I’m one of those people who only links other people on facebook when either I know them extremely well or the matter I just raised is either something that will interest them. Of course, sometimes I’ve just accused them of something heinous in jest. For the later this is usually my very closest friends and the joke is somewhat of an in joke.
So it always surprises when people I’ve never traded even two words with tag me on something. Note I said “surprises” not “upsets” me. Normally what I get tagged on are con pictures, a quote of something I said while running my mouth, an echo of a post of mine or of course cat pictures. And I’m not so foolish as to wish to deprive myself of cat pictures.
Sometimes my friends at Baen tag me on something when they wish me to engage in a discussion because my opinion – say because I grew up abroad – is valuable. Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t depending on how busy I am, because those threads go on forever and a lot of them seriously damage my calm. But again, it’s not that I mind as such, it’s that I’m surprised because I wouldn’t do that. (Well, okay, sometimes I call the Baen League.)
So, when I get tagged I always at least look at it, even if it’s to say “why is someone linking a cartoon about having small kids on my timeline? Oh, probably tagged in error” and not approving.
Yesterday I had a tag from someone I’d never seen before with “I particularly want the opinion of Sarah A. Hoyt and X because—” X was a colleague of mine who is so far to the left of me that I’d need powered binoculars to see her. We’re not talking one of those “wrote a conservative book once, so everyone thinks she’s a conservative”, we’re talking pretty much everyone knows she thinks Stalin was a bit of a wet blanket and if he’d just had some firmness, we’d already have our earthly paradise. So even though I’d just landed back home from Ravencon and had something like 200 notifications, I had to go look at it and see what this person could want both our opinions on. (We’re actually both very interested in renaissance history so I thought it might be that.)
The tagger was someone I don’t know. Note, it doesn’t mean I haven’t seen her name or even shaken hands at conventions. I have a horrible memory for names and faces. I know most of the regular posters here, but if you are a lurker who introduced himself at a con, (and you know there’s five or so of you at every con I attend) don’t be offended if you have to introduce yourself again and again. I usually remember people on the third introduction. It’s not you. It’s that in cons I meet so many people, it takes a while to stick.
As for remembering people from internet arguments, unless you did something so out of the ordinary insane as to make me laugh like an hyena – such as think I’m a white supremacist – or were so incredibly persistent with stupid attacks as to stick in my memory, sorry. I won’t remember you and you’re safe from my vengeance (which usually consists of not lending you a hand when you need it). I’m not so much good-natured as vague and too lazy to be bothered much.
So, this person was no one I knew. The thread was the whole thing about whether we should have politics in science fiction and what measures should be taken so only the “right people” got in. She seemed to be you know, at least at the edge of the crowd that thinks it’s terrible that Larry Correia is on the Hugo ballot. (Later Amanda Green did a search and confirmed for me that she is indeed one of the many young politically correct writers who think that science fiction must be made safe for the special feminist glitter, and if males are allowed to talk at all these poor precious blossoms will find themselves back in the kitchen and pregnant. A feat for the young men in this crowd, but I’m sure they’re afraid of it, too.)
And then came the moment when I had to go to the bathroom and look in the mirror to make sure the antennae were properly glossiferied because you wouldn’t want to go around with your antenna kerflected.
The comment I was tagged on, by the originator of the thread, was “I particularly want to know the opinion of Sarah A. Hoyt and X because I don’t want to work with authors who are difficult or are going to cause trouble.”
I looked at the name again, looked at the picture, scratched my head, thought “Well, some houses are hiring them practically out of the cradle these days and maybe she’s younger than she looks” – but even then I had the “Ahahahahahah!” building at the back of my mind. (And I’ll explain why.)
Then I went and looked at her home page. She’s the editor of a micro press, the sort it’s just the person and a few friends. Say Naked Reader Press. Maybe smaller.
At this point the “Ahahahahaha!” is getting louder.
I go and look in the mirror and check my antennae, and come back and think about this. What in hell do my political opinions have to do with my being trouble as a writer? I’m actually so laid back as to be practically supine. I’ve protested exactly three edits in my life, to any marked degree, and even then, all the times, after the edits had gone WAY beyond what other writers would have jumped down people’s throats for. As for the other side of this, when I worked as an editor, the two worst types of trouble a writer has given me have exactly zero to do with politics. (And weirdly, I never got a “my words are just too precious, don’t change a single one.) One of them was asking me every ten minutes if I was going to accept the story (weirdly, I did buy one of those. It was that good.) The others were people who sent me corrections every day, even after the short story had been delivered as part of an antho that had gone to press. This had absolutely NOTHING to do with where the writer was on the political spectrum, but had to do with being a neurotic pain.
So the fact this woman considered my (and I presume the other woman’s, but who the heck even knows) political opinions to be a problem caused me to answer with “Oh, it’s okay. I’ve decided I won’t work with any editor who thinks I should go back in the political closet on either side, so we’re all good.” (Then she went and “liked” this comment which flabbergasted me even more.)
What I should have said, of course, was “What? You want me to reassure you I’ll stay quiet on politics so I get to work with your micro press? WHAT IS THIS? THE 1980s OR a parallel world?” (And I knew it wasn’t the later. I mean, my antennae are jus’ fine.)
Yes, there were much bigger people on that thread, including editors for a lot of big houses, but do I look that stupid? I’m already on their black list and they wouldn’t publish me ever unless I reached J. K. Rowling level, in which case their corporate bosses would make them.
But here’s the kicker: they weren’t publishing me even before. And they weren’t publishing me on the political color line – because I was insufficiently vocal with the leftist tropes. (No, this isn’t having a big head. I’ve seen what they publish. On both competence and entertainment value, I’m way better than most of their stable. But I always had a whiff of possible wrong think about me. In fact, they agree on the competence. One of the funniest things this week was to hear one of them concede that Larry and I “can write well enough to win a Hugo.” This same person, five years ago, though I was too incompetent as a writer to buy. Have I grown that much in five years? Well, I’ve grown, but not that much.)
So by this point the ahahahahahahahahahah should be perfectly clear.
Look, when I broke in, I KNEW – I heard enough conversations, caught enough of them in unguarded moments that I knew – that they would not knowingly publish someone they considered right wing or libertarian. And “right wing” as well as “libertarian” meant someone who was slightly (very slightly) to the right of Lenin. They were, by and large, a left-academic bubble, and had been so steeped in Marxism, some of them from the cradle, that they thought “reasonable” opinion started with Lenin.
I knew this, but there were no other options, and no one had answered my submissions to Baen, and I’m a writer and writers will do almost anything to be read. (It’s part of the stories screaming in your ears.) I couldn’t be vocal left. I just couldn’t, not and look at myself in the mirror. But I thought if I stayed quiet and kept my head down, I could make my way on “fun stories” and make a living, which is all I ever wanted.
I was wrong. As we’re finding out, push, awards and recognition go to those who VOCALLY endorse the same dead (and stinking) platitudes that have caused 100 million dead around the world. Because only “the good people” should be endorsed, pushed and recognized.
And that’s fine. That’s peachy keen. I’ve known that for years.
Would I have remained quiet if they’d allowed me to reach the upper echelons of my profession by staying quiet? Maybe. I have decided opinions, but the flesh is weak. Though even then the dream was always that I’d get to a point I COULD talk.
However, who knows? Baby needed college tuition. Maybe I’m more corruptible than I think.
But that’s neither here nor there. It didn’t happen. They would never even consider it. Not unless you’re of them. (Which reminds me of the math teacher who said she’d give me an A if I joined the communist party. At 13, my answer was: “Madam, for good or ill, I believe I have an immortal soul. I’m not saying I might not eventually sell it, but for an A in math – even if that means entering Engineering school? – The price is way too low.”)
So when I stood on that wind-blown ledge, deciding whether to come out of the political closet, to jump into the maelstrom of public argument, I knew PRECISELY what I was doing. I knew that I’d become a leper. I knew the most heinous things would be said about me and that half the people would believe them without checking. I knew people would read my non political books – Noah’s Boy – and find right wing messages (which is a treat, given I’m a small l libertarian and half these people are European where “Right wing” means something completely different.)
I knew if my books with Baen tanked, all I could then do was be indie. And I knew this would mean a diminution in lifestyle. In the same way I knew to the extent that the main houses of publishing could confer on me the ability to not struggle anymore – and they still can to an extent – I was blowing that down the wind.
But there was never much chance, because I couldn’t even pretend to be a communist and wake up in the morning and look in the mirror.
I was more afraid that readership in the mushy middle would eschew my books because if there’s one thing the left propaganda machine can do is make one untouchable. Or could do. I’m not so sure now.
In the moment before I jumped I considered that. Then I looked at what has happened because people like me have stayed quiet. In a way those young people who think Marxism is valid could curse us and the generation before us. Those of us who stayed quiet, at least. And if they ever realize to what extent they’re mistaken they will, too. Because we should have been dissenting voices so they realized this was not the default option, as their professors were telling them. Even if our voices were small and barely heard, we should have been there.
And you know what? If I stop selling altogether? I can write tentacle porn or something. (And then with my other tentacle…)
And then I jumped. When I jumped, I said goodbye to any chance of awards, any chance of recognition, any chance of ever being published by a traditional house other than Baen.
But now someone is trying to push me back in line with the threat of not publishing me in her micro press? Ahahahahahahahah.
Look, I could see this in the seventies or eighties, when if the other doors shut on you this was your only option.
But how is this for failing to get it? If I were capable/willing to abjure, then I wouldn’t ever need the small presses. I do have the craft. I can write. Even if I never got the big push, I could make a living in any publishing house today if I were willing to do that. I wouldn’t need the little presses.
AND if it got to that point that I needed a micro press? Well, that’s why G-d gave us indie. Where if I’m going to sell only 200 copies of a book, I’ll make a lot more out there on my own, with my own micro press.
It was just such a surreal moment, I had to write about it. My thought was “Oh, my heavens, you didn’t realize that we GOT the stick before, right, and that that’s why we were quiet? You thought you were hiding it in velvet and that no one knew there was a political color line? And now that we’re vocal you thought you could push us back in line with THAT STICK? It never occurs to you that we thought through our decision to come out and that one way or another we’re no longer afraid.”
Sweetie, that stick is made of liquorice.
It’s much too late for the stick. And your carrot has precious little power. You’re going to have to come out and debate the cherished ideas that were foisted on you with people who disagree with your mentors and guides and the people you were taught to revere. You might even find yourself in the “not cool” group. Just mouthing platitudes won’t get you through.
Welcome to the human race. Welcome to adulthood.
Oh, and also ahahahahahahahahahahahahah.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers, and thank you Glenn Reynolds for the link.