The Piper You Pay May Be Your Own

One of you made a comment yesterday about people who really care about science fiction, versus people who want to make it into some sort of status symbol or message conveyor (only.)

This was in praise of me, which might or might not be right, because I do what I do to help new and indie writers for two reasons, neither of them particularly praiseworthy.  First, because it comes naturally.  Second because “daddy” (Robert A. Heinlein) told me to pay it forward.  To which you might add, as a contributing factor to the second that I was helped by so many people coming up that I could never pay back, so forward is the only way to pay.

But to explain how I choose to pay it forward, first you need to understand how I ended up running away with the science fiction circus.

My dad is of a more literary bend than most (and yes, likes re-reading Three Men In A Boat, though that’s not his only favorite) and reads “well reviewed” stuff (whose quality has been getting worse in mainstream too, btw.  I mean, beautiful crafted but predictably nihilistic.)  For brain candy he reads mystery.  Out of what I suspect is a sense of obligation he also reads all the “great books” of the past.

Dad in fact reads everything BUT science fiction.  One of our few fights was over science fiction, in that he tried to convince me it was “trash” and I stuck to my guns.

I learned to read early, and our family was never particularly flush (until I moved out.  I swear I don’t EAT money) which combined with the Portuguese publishing’s penchant for no reprints and short print runs meant that I was perpetually starved for reading material.

I learned early it was useless to ask the older relatives for books (because I already had all of Verne’s and Wells, leather bound, three copies.  And yeah, I read them too, but they were never my favorite.)  And mom wouldn’t let me ask them for money for books.  My various money-making schemes afforded me about a book a month (sometimes halfsies with my brother) but that left … let me see… I read six books a day on slow months, so let’s say that left 179 books give or take which I couldn’t afford to buy.  Oh, Portugual has no lending libraries.  The public libraries are more like the library of congress.  The book fair, once a year, downtown, when publishers cleared their warehouses by selling books at 1/4 the price and sometimes less, out of tents, supplied some of the need (but I had to be careful not to go alone, because if my brother and I went separately, we came home with the exact same books.  It was spooky.)

I searched out grandma’s potato cellars for her mom’s copious collection, I surreptitiously borrowed books from a friend’s father who bought the equivalent of time life books (surreptitiously, you ask.  Well, my friend knew but her dad didn’t know.  Nor that I know of ever found out.  He didn’t READ the books.  He just bought them to look good on his shelf.  This is how I read the Iliad and the Odyssey and most classical poets in translation.), I borrowed all of my friends’ books, including crochet manuals if I was desperate, I made entire friendships based on how many books this person had to lend.

And then when I was eleven, my brother brought home science fiction.  His friend in first year electrical engineering had a real library.  You know, one of those with rolling ladders.  AND he and his father and his grandfather had collected SF as far back as it went.

My brother brought the books home, and I started reading them.  And I fell in love.  The whole concept of writing in times and places that hadn’t happened (yet) both puzzled me and enthralled me.

I ran away with the science fiction circus.  (Fantasy only came in in my early twenties and in some ways still puzzles me a little.)

So in terms of science fiction, when you get right down to it, though I write it now, the sf person inside me is that 11 year old girl wanting more books and wanting to go “oh, wow.”

There were times I grew disenchanted and grew away from SF, but I always come back, and I always want more.

My tastes are eclectic and I’m quite capable of loving literary SF, but I also like exploding spaceships.  Because I read stuff like my cousin’s bullfighter romances, I can enjoy sf with a bit of romance. And because of my early reading — dad had a lot of war memoirs — I like mil sf, too.

I just like science fiction, and not being able to find anything to read reminds me of the book famine days of my childhood.

Unfortunately, due to traditional publishing’s tendency towards lockstep-trends and chasing of politically correct boredom, there were years — shudders — where I couldn’t find anything to read.

I don’t want this to happen again.  Also, where the writer comes in, the more people working in science fiction, and doing well, and the greater the variety of voices in science fiction, the broader the reader base.  Given that I write everything from soup to nuts (one of my classmates in translation class back in the day translated this as almond soup.  Weird the things one remembers.  But then this was the girl who answered a history essay question about the bellicose nature of the 17th century by writing — inventing — ten pages on the nature of bell manufacturing in the 17th century. You have to be erudite to be that dumb.) the broader the reader base, the more chance they’ll read me.

Then there is the beginning writer inside me struggling to write and be read.  As people helped me, so I help others.

But mostly I help others so I have more stuff to read.  Because inside me I’m still that little 11 year old looking for books in potato cellars.

Ideally science fiction becomes a broad church, where everything from literary to exploding spaceships to sf romance has a place.

And I get to read all of them — oh, nom nom nom nom — well, at least when the boys leave the house and I have more time.

That’s what I work for.


215 thoughts on “The Piper You Pay May Be Your Own

  1. “Broad church.” Wonderful metaphor! This is almost precisely what I want in the industry: a place for every writer, writing what he or she writes best. The good news, I think we’re getting there. If tradpub has to die in the process, it will have been their decision, not ours.

    1. Yeah diversity of views and stories. What a concept!

      Sometimes I think of Tradpub as being one of those unfortunate people who fall into bad company – you know drug addicts, drunks and the like – and who needs to be rescued by his/her friends and dragged to an AA program before he is found dead in a puddle of her own vimto.

      Right now she seems to be in the phase of loudly protesting that they are good people whose hearts are in the right place but who’ve been shamefully mistreated by society

      1. I think of them as network executives refusing to accept that the “Big 3” no longer rule the airwaves and insisting that cable is just a passing fad.

        Or as aging generals dismissing air power as a toy and mechanized infantry as gimmick.

        1. For a suitable SF/RAH metaphor:

          Tradpub is the future Belle Darkin, still convinced she can seduce Dan Davis.

      2. Music execs in 1960 who think that “guitar groups” are on their way out, and pass on those limeys that can’t spell ‘beetle’ properly.

    2. The thing about a garden is that you can only grow so much and it tends to be of particular produce. Full scale agriculture, of the sort required to produce corn, wheat, and rice (for example) requires a large field and not some tiny plot which, no matter how well-tended, will only cater to the appetites of a select few.

      Tradpub no more has to die than does the family farm — but if it is to survive it has to change how it approaches its business. The days of happy serfs contentedly tending its acreage are passed, and they need to streamline and expand their approach — seeding more widely, fertilizing, weeding, watering and reaping more efficiently — to compete for the custom of people who want what they want, not what some fast-food joint wants to fob off on them.

      Artisanal SF is the future.

      1. Completely agree–though I sure wish the word “artisanal” had never been invented.

        1. Heh. Artisanal always brings to my mind the classic late-50s Peanuts strip in which Lucy (Patty? the original one, not the Pepperminty one) cruises through proudly showing off her new “Hi-Fi” jump rope. Charlie Brown silently took this in, but a couple of panels later bawled, “How can a jump rope be hi-fi!?”

          Strip not apparently available online, dagnabit.

          1. From what I’ve heard (and it may be apocryphal) 4SJ Ackerman coined “Sci-Fi” as a play on “Hi-Fi,” which was a very hot item in the late 1950s. Possible, if dumb, though consider that in the late 1990s, “Wi-Fi” came about the same way.

            There’s another Peanuts strip I admire, in which Charlie Brown, professing to be a writer, says something to the effect of, “Someday, the world will lionize me.” Lucy immediately comes back with, “That does mean being eaten by lions, doesn’t it?”

            1. Ackerman used to have an editorial column at the back of the early Perry Rhodan translations. In those, he didn’t like “Sci-Fi” much at all, and proposed “scientifiction” instead. I think I’ll just stay with “SF.”

              I was at someone’s house and their blat-box was advertising something called “SyFy.” Arrrgh.

              1. SyFy … they changed the name of the channel and reduced the amount of SciFi/SF/whattayacallit they showed. Channel got so bad I do not even have it listed on my guide though it is in my packaging.

                1. I can understand the change to a trademarkable brand, but the lack of SF is problematic. Less acceptable to me has been the shift at A&E from quality programmes from the Beeb and other sources (I loved their broadcasts of the series based on Kipling’s Stalky & Co., and their adaptations of Nero Wolfe were entirely digestible; I didn’t even mind their running the Sharpe’s series and thoroughly enjoyed their presentation of The Disputation*) to fare which is neither Art nor Entertainment by any reasonable definition of those terms.

                  *Christopher Lee as James of Aragon. The Disputation of the title is “the religious dispute between Nachmanides [Ramban] and Pablo Christiani before King James I of Aragon in 1263” (Amazon reviewer) and a terrific work of theatre.

                  1. The Disputation was great. In Lee’s autobiography, that rôle was among the ones he was most proud of. Brilliant portrayal of the story: everyone involved can feel proud.

                    Except the fellow responsible for preserving the film—he can go hang his head in eternal shame: The only versions available have the audio jitter of a videocassette being run at an uneven rate.

                    1. Apparently the Beeb butchered the airing of it and never showed it again. Amazon comments caution against the transfer while praising the performance volubly. It’s $18 for a DVD apparently running just about 63 minutes … I expect I will break down and buy it eventually, even if only to be disappointed at how much better it was in memory.

                      Bought the ppb of the play some years back, so i reckon I can read along with the show, just as we do 1776.

                      I would be remiss to not also credit A&E with running Genghis Cohn, a delightful film about a ghost of a Jewish stand-up comedian, killed in the holocaust and now returned to haunt the camp commandant. Lovely bit part by Diana Rigg in it. The opening scene of the comedian pre-war doing a ventriloquist act with his Adolph Hitler dummy is a sick delight.

                      GENGHIS COHN

                      “Based on the novel ‘The Dance of Genghis Cohn’ by Romain Gary, Genghis Cohn is a cutting black comedy and one of the more brilliantly executed Holocaust films on par with Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful. It stars Anthony Sher as the title character who returns to haunt the man that killed him. Diana Rigg dominates a supporting role as a witty widow pursuing the antagonist as he is put through a psychological trial, a consequence of his past crimes. In the midst of World War II, Nazi officer Otto Schatz (Robert Lindsay) declares the execution of Jewish music-hall comedian Genghis Cohn. Many years later, Otto is comfortably retired into the life of a highly respected police commissioner, and is investigating a series of murders when he encounters the ghost of Genghis Cohn. The haunting turns into a taunting, and before he knows it, Schatz is slowly driven mad as he is lured into a trap.” (program booklet notes)
                      Simply brilliant. An episode of Screen Two from 1993, Genghis Cohn, Stanley Price’s adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel, is a deliciously uncomfortable Holocaust black comedy. Since this is included in the Diana Rigg at the BBC collection, it’s fair to say right up front that although Rigg makes quite an impression here in her brief role (still gorgeous and erotic almost thirty years after The Avengers), her role is relatively minor. Still, she’s quite funny as the imperious widow of a SS officer who needs to have sex with Police Commissioner Robert Lindsay while he’s wearing her husband’s uniform…but I’m not sure this is representative enough of her talents to be included in this collection (no matter how good it is). The majority of Genghis Cohn is focused on Antony Sher’s haunting of Lindsay, and the peripatetic Lindsay’s efforts to first deny, then avoid, said haunting. And Lindsay, as usual, is nothing short of masterful (see his turn in GBH, too). I would imagine there are those who would say that nothing from this story framework could be found amusing; that such an effort is in grievous bad taste. That may have been true for Genghis Cohn, as well, if it didn’t know exactly where it was going from the start: the sublimation of superior, confident, racist murderer Otto Schatz, into a disgraced, haunted, “shadow Jew” who loses his job and his standing in his community, only to wind up running a delicatessen. Black comedy is turned effortlessly into quiet, sad, comtemplation of an unthinkable period in history. Antony Sher is equally good as standup comedian Genghis, always keeping the viewer aware that beneath the one-liners and slapstick laughs, lies horrific tragedy. As meaningful as anything you’ll see in Schindler’s List…but way more funny.

                      From a dvdtalk[DOT]com review of the 5-DVD collection, Diana Rigg at the BBC.

                      Youtube clip to follow.

                    2. As the saying goes, watch this:

                      From comments at upload:
                      A&E Television first aired Genghis Cohn in 1993. It features a VERY young Daniel Craig in the supporting role of Lieutenant Guth. Below is a synopsis of the movie. Enjoy!

                      CAUTION: in nine parts! If you are not utterly repulsed by this expect neighbors to disturbed by peals of outrageous laughter. Probably NSFW.

                    3. Apparently it is on youtube:

                      I beg you to consider the urgent necessity of this disputation …

                  2. the list of channels that would go under if their parent corps hadn’t forced bundling on the satellite and cable providers grows larger every day. Wasn’t it dufus Springsteen who sang 57 Channels And Nothings On??

                    1. If you mean an Odd, most definitely. Culturally, I have no idea and I’m fine with that. He skewers everyone pretty evenhandedly, has an amazing ear for good pop, and has made a goofy career last for decades without getting stale. He’s awesome.

                    2. Odd indeed, and possibly even a libertarian/rightward slant, type of odd at that, but definitely an odd of our type of lunacy for wide ranging non-sequiturs, obscure references. etc.

                2. You’ve heard about the latest abomination? Something featuring vampire cars called Blood Drive…..

                  1. Nope, I must be doing something right. Then again I watch too much Discovery owned TV I get plastered with the idiocy of TLC and the other stupid channels they have, Wow, remember when TLC actually meant quality? The Learning Channel now is full of whiny shite (gee, poor Jazz is disappointed the other boys won’t flirt with him) or glorifying stupid people as entertainment. (I find them annoying in real life, why the f@#% would I want to watch them on tv too?)

                    1. TLC. Destroyer of families. Seems like every single family that gets a reality show on that channel falls apart, usually on air.

                    2. as Mike Rowe pointed out, once, Why do “Reality Shows” need teams of creative writers?
                      Folks are dumb enough to let them come in, put outside influence on their family for entertainment and know damned well Drama Llama is the type of entertainment these parasites want, and have their writers find ways to force it out of you.

              2. I recall scientifiction being a much earlier usage. Seem to recall it mentioned in Patterson’s RAH bio (Vol. II, I think).

                1. I recall an effort to sell us on Speculative Fiction back in the early Seventies but I suspect too many people got distracted looking for the speculum in the fiction. It helps to keep an open mind, it does.

                  1. Scientification is what you get when you rewrite your fantasy to make the magical bits scientifical.

            2. Dorothy Seaton (or perhaps it was Margaret Crane) was introduced by Seaton in “Skylark Duquesne” as “Hi Fi Mokak.”

              “You try coming up with several names on short notice!”

              Good thing we have plenty of time to decide on character names.

              1. Urp. This is really the same RO that’s been posting for a while – my caches got cleared last night, and this is the one and only site I forgot the space on way back when.

                Preemptive – this is supposed to be a family-friendly site. I hope to not see replies about my caches…

        2. There’s one outfit in town here billing itself as “artisanal construction”.

          I can only assume this mean they use small-batch nails and locally-sourced, handmade drywall.

      2. OT haha for mild amusement (I hope):
        We have a little bi-weekly local paper that features restaurant reviews. The reviewer has a good heart and enjoys the work, but isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. One review was of a specialty bakery/sandwich shop … and the reviewer referred to it as an “artesian” bakery. Let your mind go with that …

        So of course it’s a family in-joke whenever we see the word artisan.

  2. Reading. I started in 6th grade and it was SF as long as I could find it. Read a little fantasy Andre Norton. Now I spread my wings when I was at my first military assignment Kadena AFB Okinawa where I had a few of my own books (weight limit) and little money. I went to the library which was mainly paperback where quickly read through their SF. Went on to read Mysteries and Westerns. That’s when I found Louis L’Amour and a few other authors.

  3. the girl who answered a history essay question about the bellicose nature of the 17th century by writing — inventing — ten pages on the nature of bell manufacturing in the 17th century. You have to be erudite to be that dumb.

    Well duh. Clearly this is an Asian transcription and the real question is about how very close to nature people were in the 17th century. Nothing whatever to do with bells, after all they’d barely invented whisky then and certainly didn’t have brands of the stuff

  4. The whole “pay it forward” carries a vaguely sinister socialistic cast to my eye, so amber lights start flashing and warning bells begin tolling in my back brain. I wouldst there were a more felicitous phrase.

    This is particularly so because what you describe — enriching the field by spreading more fertilizer more widely — represents the antithesis of the socialist cohort. You’re talking of growing the pie so there is more for all; they’re talking about a more fair* division of the pie (one which seems inevitably to lead to a shrinking of the pie.)

    I, too, devoured SF and made a point of at least sampling the classics of the genre (I figure a classic is a work which has heavily influenced current writers, therefore I read classic SF in the same way that listening to the Rolling Stones led me to the Blues or the Beatles had me play Buddy Holly … which led to Bob Wills, which led to …) but there was a period (in the late 70s through the late 80s) where I simply didn’t pick up anything newly published. I explained it at the time as deciding to eschew fiction because the characters always acted as the authors wanted them to, but have come to realize that had more to do with bad (and predictable) writing than any inherent flaws in fiction (particularly as all History and other non-Fiction suffers the same flaw: the author has a definite perspective on the world and the writing conforms to that perspective.)

    I have eventually come back to the genre, accepting its flaws as inherent to all writing and less burdensome in SF than most other genre, especially as in SF I now find perspectives more nearly in line with my own.

    *For certain non-normative values of fair, most of which boil down to “you’ve had yours, now it is our turn and you and everybody like you can just go hungry.”

    1. Heh. I am reminded of Hello Dolly. “Money should be spread around like fertilizer, helping new things grow.” Or words to that effect. The difference between that philosophy and the socialistic trash is that Walter Matthau’s character HIRED PEOPLE to do things that needed doing, if perhaps not right then; he didn’t just give it away. And it certainly wasn’t DEMANDED by anyone as their “just due”.

    2. I always considered ‘pay forward’ as a libertarian concept, and a more true way of determining a person’s worth than most others.
      I often foist this philosophy on others, whenever they want to do something in return for help I have given them. And it doesn’t just have to be in your ‘field’. For example, one of my Father’s friends was having PC problems, so I fixed it for her (it dealt with getting grandchildren pictures across the internet, so it was *very* important). She wanted to pay me, but I suggested she instead do something similar for someone else. Of course she was illiterate about computers, so I suggested that in her case, she should give some gardening advice to someone in need (She is president of our local garden club). She thought it was an excellent idea.
      Now, in reality, I still got payback, even if unintended as one of her ‘pupils’ is her husband, who she has trained to grow the most luscious tomatoes, which he shares.
      As such, the libertarian ‘value’ of your character will be evaluated as how much pay-forward you are owed or you have collected. It is a much better measure than who’s name appears on your jean’s butt or other expressions of ‘bling’. And, unlike cash, you do get to take a little of your pay-forward efforts along with you when you die.
      Finally, that was an enormous carp.

      1. It could be a different way for accomplishing the Christian concept of Helping The Needy. And the parable of sowing your seeds on fertile ground.

    3. Heinlein was hardly going to advocate, “Do works of charity and offer them up for my soul,” or “Go do stuff likewise,” so “Pay it forward,” is a bit more concise.

      1. I was surprised to find out that the phrase is not original to Heinlein as it dates to the 1920s; I don’t have the reference in from of me at present.

  5. I don’t know when I started reading Science Fiction. Maybe before I saw Rocket ship X-M (Actually it was Rocket ship X-M 1 but no one uses that title) But after Destination Moon I was really hooked. Then there was Steve’s News Stand where I could buy the double books. Ah yes the memories.

  6. The first book I ever read (outside of “Skippy the Kangaroo” was RAH’s “Day After Tommorow”. I’ve been hooked on SF ever since.

  7. I was introduced to SF about the time I turned double digits, so some 54 years ago. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Norton, and so on, mostly the juveniles in the school library or the kids’ section of the public library. Since then I am never without a book, or of late the Kindle. And I always have a stack of what’s to come after I’m done with the current read.
    As for paying it forward, I’ve worked with writers here, over at MGC, and in particular after that article I wrote on beta readers that I’m helping as best I can. Some first and beta reading, the occasional subject matter expert advice, at the moment I’m in the middle of a full blown copy edit of what once I’m done should be a very nice tale. Caught one major oops and a couple hundred nits of the sort the grammar nazis love to gripe about.
    Now if a couple of Hoyts I know would kindly place nose to grindstone and crank out their next books things would be perfect.

      1. How can a house be stupid? They don’t have brains. Stupid means something that doesn’t use the brains it has. [Kidding Grin]

        1. Some houses have brains. Or will have. See Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains.”

          1. Or Simak’s AI houses in “The Werewolf Principle.” Or, uh, Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love.”

            1. “Danny Dunn and the Automatic House.”

              I don’t recall whether I pulled that one off the school library shelf before or after “Have Space Suit, Will Travel” – but I’m positive it was the first place I encountered the “intelligent” house.

              I do remember the parallel between burning paper in the living room to try to get attention from the outside (the sprinklers just automatically came on and doused the fire), and stuffing clothing into the water drain to try to flood the prison cell (the incoming water just shut off).

              Durn technology, ruins so many good plans.

              (Best dramatic example, IMHO is the house Sarah in the series “Eureka”…

          1. ego and superhero? Not sure where you’re going there? [Very Big Evil Grin]

            1. It was either autocorrupt or a comment about Tony Stark´s house, with Jarvis as the id and Iron Man as the egotistical superhero.

                1. Ant-Man was fun although–


                  NO, SERIOUSLY, SPOILER

                  COME ON PEOPLE, I SAID “SPOILER”!

                  i’m dubious about reforming the wife-beating superherro Hank Pym by killing Janet…


                  1. Ah, but . . .


                    . . . she might not be dead after all.

                    1. Oh, come on dudes — first rule of comics: A Character Is Not Deemed Dead Until: you’ve seen the corpse. Destroyed. And all DNA samples also eradicated. And all alternate timeline versions eliminated. And all soul remnants consumed (Boston Brand, you magnificent bastard — I’ve read your book!)

                      And even then the character might return.

                    2. but ah, again…


                      COME ON, PEOPLE. SPOILER!

                      First response, hot damn hot Wasp-on-Wasp cat fight!

                      Second response, if they do bring her back, by the admittedly flexible rules of the movie, she’ll be the same age as her daughter. Awkward…

                      Third response, we get to see Captain America beat the crap out of Hank Pym a third time.

                      END SPOILER

                    3. Marvel doesn’t have the Micronauts rights. I was asking Chuck Dixon about it on Facebook and wondered why Marvel doesn’t just buy them back, since they’re so flush with cash. He said it was complicated and not just a money issue.

      2. Is what it is, all things in their own time.
        I just could not resist the chance to nag two of my favorite writers.

      3. So long as you settle for done-done, because done-done-done takes forever and done-done-done-done is never done.

  8. As a long time (50ish year) SF reader, and new author, ‘I’ for one truly appreciate the help. Had it not been for indie publishing I wouldn’t be where am I today, and I listened and took notes during your breakout sessions. 🙂

    Thank you!

  9. But to explain how I choose to pay it forward, first you need to understand how I ended up running away with the science fiction circus.

    So does that mean that it is your circus and we are your monkeys? 😉

    On a more serious note, you and your friends have been very helpful to me. I have had my concerns about indie publishing–still do given my sales so far–but what success I have had is a large part from the encouragement you and others have given me.

      1. What she says. My novels sell 5x what the short stories and novel-length story sets do. I wonder if too many people have gotten burned by badly written short-stories, or short stories that are really the beginning chapter of a novel, and so the market is down at the moment? *shrug*

        1. The price per page of the short stories may also be a consideration. I usually will not try an ‘unknown’ author for a short story, because of this. Now ‘Boys’ at 22 pages or ‘When Chicken Feet Cross the Highway’ at 32 pages… I would not have purchased them if they had been from an unknown author, or say, a 2014 Hugo Award winner.

          1. Regarding Chicken Feet, I’ve heard a “rumor” that the Sweeper wants a rematch. [Kidding Grin]

            1. Maybe it’s the nature of the reading market. Short stories were traditionally sold in small anthologies, more usually called magazines. The people who buy lots of everything are the six books a day type. Which is a lot more stories and a lot more time spent shopping. Buying novels is more efficient.
              The six books a year sort, or even the book a month sort, are better off buying at the grocery store on their way by, if what they fancy is there. While a short story would probably be the right size for them for one sitting, they’re perfectly happy with their top pushed by publishers book that their friends are talking about or the new Nora Roberts or John Grisham.
              I’m sure someone will eventually figure out a model that works as well as magazines used to. I’ve seen some indie Romance collections where a bunch of writers have written shorts around a theme, say, military and Christmas, but I have no idea how well those sell.

        2. I can’t stand it when a story is so good that I want it to be a book. Like eating just one Lay’s … so yeah I prefer novels. Not necessarily a rational choice, but what it is.

        3. Didn’t Amazon’s payment calculations just change from one that favored large numbers of short short stoies? I suspect that prompted a glut of short stories that weren’t long enough to actually tell, you know, a story.

          1. That was only for the Loan Program and had nothing to do with actual purchases.

    1. we are not monkeys………. we are the clowns. well armed clowns, with happy faces.

            1. Sure and there’s always folks aplenty what’re in’rested in great sects.

              Whilst in the checking out line at me local grocery this afternoon I perchanced ter see an issue of Cosmo what had ain banner proclaiming “Simple ways to make him worship you!”

              Di’nt say ain aboot sects, though.

                1. Noooo, but I’m wondering about the bone structure under the P-shop. Argh, my memory is failing me. She reminds me of one of the creatures on Barlow’s . . . the Overlord from _Childhood’s End_? I think that’s it.

  10. “Unfortunately, due to traditional publishing’s tendency towards lockstep-trends and chasing of politically correct boredom, there were years — shudders — where I couldn’t find anything to read.”

    That, and the rise of the dystopia was why I felt like it was drought for so very long. Eric Flint’s 1632 series might be more historical fiction, but it’s [i]hopeful[i/] fiction, and that’s a win.

    I recall in college that I found, much to my delight, two series of books, I think one was Nebula, and just now I forget the name of the other, alas, but both were compilations for a year’s SF (or sci fi then) award winners. Some entries were strange, some bewildering, a fwe seem downright daft – but I don’t recall them being dull. That these were from the 1950s and (early?) 1960s likely had much to do with that.

    I wish I could recall exactly which book it was, but one had a fantastic Forward (yes, I read the Forwards). The book published in 1960 or was of the winners for 1960. The Forward addressed the idea that SF was “too far-fetched” by assuming a nuclear test shot in 1960 that somehow hurled a robotic (drone) sampling aircraft back to 1930. This pointed out the advances in chemistry, metallurgy, electronics, aviation, etc. in a mere three decades. But those analyzing the craft in 1930 could be forgiven for figuring that it came from far farther in the future. (Waveguides instead of wires/antenna? Looks like electronics, but no tubes?!? Those elements shouldn’t be radioactive!)

    There is another book I recall, but it was not fiction. It was bunch of somewhat weird/advanced DIY home experiments. There were crazy ideas like a “star twinkle suppressor” (active optics), a homebrew X-ray machine (fairly simple), and a little bit about nuclear magnetic resonance that someone might someday figure out a great use for… This was published about 1960. I read it in the 1980s, just before NMR/MRI became news. Even so, I have to remind myself that SF is NOT fantasy, though it might seem so as some things are so seemingly far-fetched. But… grandma’s childhood was one where one went to the well, fetched water, went to the woodpile for fuel, used the stove to cook and heat water and then take a bath. Later she saw more of the world, traveling by passenger jet, after watching people on TV actually walk on the moon. Give me “far-fetched” over the dystopias or PC dullness.

    1. I’ve mentioned this ere now, but it’s a good drum and I’m happy to keep beating it:

      Look at the rockets portrayed in the 1930s Flash Gordon serials, looking for all the world like a potato with a sparkler stuck in one end — and consider that those accurately represent not only the state of the rocketry art but what rockets had been for some two centuries. The even burn we are accustomed to seeing with NASA launches are a recent development too readily taken for granted.

      1. When I was finally lucky enough to see a bolide, I was amazed at how much it resembled the spaceships from the old serials.

    2. You’re thinking of the Hugo Award compilations. I remember that foreword.

      Those books are why I don’t officially have a degree (though OPM seems to think I have one from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab). Far too many times I said to myself “I’ll just skip this next class so I can finish this story.” Students reading recent compilations would be safe from such temptations.

        1. “At TOR, we’re responsive to our readers. We’ve heard your complaints and have done everything in our power to address them. Gone are the days of “I stayed up all night reading this book and now I’m sooooo tired.””

        2. Hey! The Mad Wizard is published by Tor while the space wreckage disperses enough for him to read his crystal ball / main viewer.

          1. IIRC, that’s because Jim Baen steered him there when it became clear Jim couldn’t pay that much for the new series. Jim and Tom Doherty went way back. And David Drake also had some of his recent fantasy work published by Tor. So its not all bad. But there is way too much drek, and too many of their editors have been caught engaging in practices I wouldn’t condone.

      1. Sure, the OPM database says that now – You didn’t seriously think all the Chinese were doing in there was copying SF-86 forms, do you?

          1. Well, clearly they are incriminating Jeff with a fictive physics degree – probably put in there that he has an unnatural atttraction for quarks, and as a result he will shortly be receiving all kinds of subatomic particle physics email pron…

            1. Just because I think it’s racist that all stable particles are white doesn’t mean my quark attraction is unnatural.

          2. Or erase incriminating data. Or, without changing any data, leave footprints indicating they’ve been there and might or might not have altered any data.

            As of now, all OPM data is about as reliable as Dan Rather (or NBC. Or Peter Jennings.) it may be right but you cannot be sure it is right.

            1. If they can track down earliest date of intrusion and restore from long term backups it might be recoverable.

              1. What they will probably do is simply have all of the current employees re-submit SF-86s, then try to compare the data with the long-term backups (if they have them, and still have the tech to read them, neither of which is guaranteed.).

              2. Backup? What is this thing you call backup?
                Seriously, who keeps backups from 5 or 10 years ago? That’s how far back they’d have to go to be sure they were past the hacks and personnel outsourcing issues.

    3. My Paternal Grandmother was a *teenager* when the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty hawk. Later, in the 7’s and 80’s, she flew on airplanes as casually as we would am Interstate Bus. Her older grandson flew for a major airline. She lived long enough to see Neil Armstrong walk in the moon. (She died in her *90’s.*) I can only *hope* to deal with change as well as she did.

      1. My Cousins’ Great Gran was 103 when she was telling us of the first time she had seen an “Aeroplane” (even flying on a 747 it was always an aeroplane) and the first time she saw an automobile (Ford dealer brought over some by barge to show the farmers).
        The plane flew over pulling a sign it was at the U.P. State Fair in Escanaba, MI. Her dad said “We’re going to go see that up close”, Next morning, loaded the family into the wagon, rode to the general store and liveried the horses, it was also the head of the stage coach line, stage to the rail head, then hopped on a train to my hometown, then took the streetcar to Esky and got a hotel room because it was getting dark. took all day to get what today is about a 50 minute ride in a car.

    4. “Science Fiction Hall of Fame,” edited by Ben Bova. I have several of the Nebula Award compilations from back then, too (including #4, which is where I first heard of the lady called “Anne McCaffrey”).

      They’ve been mis-unshelved somewhere, dang it – but there was the “Stellar” series of anthologies, too. IIRC, those were put together by Judy-Lynn del Rey. I particularly recall the one by James White with the tailor having to outfit the centaur-like Ambassador to the Court of Saint James.

        1. Everywhere??? Are you sure that is a good idea?

          Perhaps you should limit that permission to only those places where reality is observed? (Groucho waggle of eyebrows) Why, I hear at Daily Kos they haven’t observed it in years…

  11. In grade school I was reading Burroughs and Tolkien and the Mushroom Planet and John Christopher (Not Heinlein, though. Don’t know if my old school library had his juveniles or not). There was also a book which has been bugging me for years because I remember the premise, but not the title or author. Idea was that interstellar travel was done by transmitting consciousness to other planets where you could enter an android body. Android bodies had a ridge on the neck for something (plug, maybe?) It drives me nuts. Can anyone help me?

    1. Idea was that interstellar travel was done by transmitting consciousness to other planets where you could enter an android body.

      I recall OAK (Otis Adelbert Kline) using something of that sort in his novels (similar although, to my taste, superior to Burroughs’ John Carter) but IIRC those were swaps with consciousnesses in the recipient bodies.

      1. Pretty sure that wasn’t it. The book was aimed at a younger audience.

        Drives me nuts, it does.

  12. I certainly hope the ebook indie boom will revitalize Sci-FI. It’s a genre I personally love, but it’s also the genre of future-proofing.

    When AI and cloning arrive, and society is debating how to handle them, they’ll find SF fans have already discussed the issues for a century or more. SF inoculates against future shock.

    Plus, and lets be honest here, it’s rollicking great fun. Or used to be. And will be again.

    Cheers! : )

    1. SF only inoculates those who read it against Future Shock. Which would be maybe ten percent of us.

      That said, it’s already rollicking great fun again. (Thank you Sarah, Larry, Brad, Cedar, John, Peter, and many, many others whom I hadn’t even heard of six months ago!) And it’s only going to get better, now that we can ignore the legions of doofi in NYC.

      1. But humans have a basic instinct to go “That fellow over there looks like he knows what he’s doing. Let’s follow him.” So that 10% can mobilize and entrain most of the population.

          1. They need to get moving if they’re going to get anything done,s o hopping a train may be the first step.

  13. My parents were addicts, too. Fantasy came early (what else do you call Edward Eager?). SF? By 6th grade for sure (tripods). My mother exposed me to Heyer at an early and impressionable age, so I don’t have the reflexive aversion to romance that a lot of readers express. Father read boys’ sports stories for mind candy, and that lead me to W.E.B. Griffin via W.E. Butterworth (same guy). Also the MASH books, which Butterworth “collaborated” (ghost wrote) for Richard Hooker (who despised the TV, and so they are rather Conservative and hilarious).

    I haven’t taken to westerns, in spite of loving “Spud and Cochise”. Someday, surely.

    Both parents were history teachers (though not Liberal), so I read the likes of McCullough and Paul Johnson for fun.

    And Trad Pub as it stands is a fairly recent phenominon, and I wouldn’t worry about it. Publishing has ALWAYS been a technology i transition.

    1. The MASH books were hilarious, although I still think that “MASH goes to Maine” and “MASH Mainia” which Hooker wrote himself were the best.

      I just found out that WEB Griffin and W.E. Butterworth were the same author a couple of weeks ago and have been going through his backlist since.

  14. I was lucky enough to have a father who loved SF (very unusual in South America) so by the time I’d graduated past children’s book there was a large library collection waiting for me – Verne and Wells, Heinlein and Asimov and Clark; collections of “Best of” anthologies, Tolkien and Lewis. After exhausting his relatively paltry Spanish collection, I rushed to learn English (subscriptions to assorted Marvel comics were a big help there – some of the earliest things I read in their original language included Claremont and Byrne’s Phoenix Saga (and here I date myself)). The first English book I read from cover to cover was A Fellowship of the Ring. And, decades later, I’m still on the lookout for more things to read. So I totally understand your motivation, Sarah 🙂

    I’m also excited about the next indie/trad dynamics. I think there is a lot of great fiction out there that trad-publishers wouldn’t touch, either because it just doesn’t have mass appeal or because they *think* it doesn’t have mass appeal (past experience re: Rowling’s many rejections among others, seem to indicate they’re often wrong about that) or, worse, because it doesn’t serve some greater purpose (ideology trumps story – I suspect too many trad editors resent the fact they’re working on SF&F instead of, as Larry C. puts it real LITCHERATOORHH!!). Now those books have a chance to find an audience that didn’t exist a few years ago. As a reader, frex, having a Kindle Unlimited subscription allows me to try new writers at no risk to myself. I just finished devouring everything Peter Grant has written so far, thanks to that service, and my Kindle is bursting to the brims with more novels I’m looking forward to reading (in between working on the next novel – argh, rewrites).

    Once again, thanks for the help, and hope we provide you with more entertainment 🙂

  15. I became a science fiction fan before I could read. I couldn’t have been more than about 4. There was a cartoon on TV called “Rocket Robin Hood”. At least that’s what I remember it being. The one episode I recall had a robot capturing the Maid Marion character. She managed to defeat the robot by opening a panel and dropping her cosmetics into its innards. The episode closed with her telling Rocket Robin Hood how upset set she was because now she couldn’t be beautiful for him or something along those lines.

    My mind has been warped ever since.

          1. Well, this might make more sense if the human race had been reduced to vassalage with no advanced tech. They would then have to fight back against their oppressors with low tech weapons, justifying the “Robin Hood” motif . . .

            I’m putting waaaaaayyyyy too much thought into this.

    1. Aw man. Canadian content rules meant that this show was rerun endlessly in my youth. Even as a kid, I thought it was stupid.

      1. There was an episode that was , scene for scene, a precise duplicate of an episode of the ’60’s Spiderman show (though I don’t know which one was done first). Both had moderately awful artwork, too.

  16. “His friend in first year electrical engineering had a real library. You know, one of those with rolling ladders.”

    Reading that, especially in the context of the rest of the essay, makes me think of the scene in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast gives Belle his library. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one here who saw those giant shelves of books and all the stairs and ladders to access them and fell completely and hopelessly in love with the creature who would give that to his beloved.

    1. When I was 51 I finally got to design a custom house for us. The first thing I decided I would have was a library wall with a rolling ladder, and designed the rest of it around that. It wasn’t even that expensive. And it’s HUGE fun.

    2. That and the library in Robin McKinley’s Beauty are the only fictional libraries I think I would want to visit. Fictional libraries are so often pragmatic research ones. (One would think they were plot devices!)

      1. Oh, I don’t know, the library in Unseen University in Pratchett’s Discworld might be an interesting place to visit…

        On second thought, while that library might be an interesting place to visit, I’m not *quite* sure I’d want to. Too many…odd…things happen there, it might not be something that someone who has a family to support would want to do, necessarily…

  17. The first _movie_ I remember, was Forbidden Planet (at age 10). I think that was when I got hooked (I’ll have to ask my Father.) Every Christmas, I got Tom Swift Jr., because it was the only thing people _knew_ was SF. I bought a *lot* of “second hand” SF paperbacks, and magazines, as a child. I also read *all* the “Heinlein Juveniles” in the local library (*maybe 10K ft^sq*) by the time I was in my teens. (I had an *adult* Unlimited library card about age 10-12, normal age was 14). I would get the “limit” of 10 books, in about 5-7 days. After a year, the librarian (who I will always be grateful to), asked. “Are you actually reading all those books?” I said “Yes.” So, she argued the board into giving me an “adult” card, the next time I came in. I never looked back. (Last year I couldn’t spell auther, Now I are one. 🙂 )
    Whenever I see an Adult getting books for a child, I say. “Thank you for ‘corrupting’ your child by encouraging him/her to read.” (Note: I was reading _before_ I started school, or so my Father told me.)

  18. My first exposure to Science Fiction was the first Star Wars movie. Saw the Special Edition *spit!* in theaters with my buddy when I was… nine? By the time the Star Destroyer finished flying overhead in the opening scene, I was hooked. Went Gaga for all things Star Wars, and eventually read all of the pre-NJO novels (bought most, the rest came from the Library). Discovered Star Trek TNG a few years later, and eventually became a hardcore Voyager nerd. Discovered Issac Asimov through my little brother and started devouring him too.

    Then I became disillusioned with Trek. Maybe because of the politics, maybe because I realized just how formulaic the episodes were. Either way, I walked away from Trek. At the same time, I was assigned a long-term project by a high school English teacher: analyse the work of an author of your choosing. Naturally, I chose Asimov. And by the time the project was complete, I’d analyzed and overanalyzed his writing so much that I was sick of him. Walked away from him too, and pretty much the rest of SciFi with him. Didn’t go near the genre for years, aside from the Star Wars Prequels *spit!* Spent most of my time reading Tom Clancy and his various knockoffs/wannabees, and all of the James Bond authors.

    Then Monster Hunter International came out. I checked the free preview on Baen’s website. By the time I finished, I was hooked even harder than I’d been hooked on Star Wars. Larry lead me to Heinlein, Mad Mike Williamson, Ringo, Beautiful Yet Evil Space Princess Hoyt, David Weber, and I have a Tom Kratman novel on my bookshelf that I have yet to crack open. I’ll get to it eventually. And now that I finally broke down and got the Kindle app for my phone, I’ll have to start buying Peter Berg’s novels too. I hear they’re spectacular.

    It’s kind of ironic, really. Like I said, I really didn’t care for SciFi up until just about six years ago. Now, not only do I have an entire shelf on my bookcase dedicated almost exclusively to science fiction (Yes, just one, but I’m working on it 😉 ), but I just self-published my first short story, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s science fiction.

      1. I remember my friend hyping me up for the movie: he said that very first thing that happened in the movie was this massive spaceship flew overhead.

        The Blockade Runner zipped by, I thought to myself “He called that big? That was pun…. … … … woaaahhhh…..”

        1. Oh yeah. I’d seen “The Black Hole” and “Forbidden Planet” and Trek on TV, but . . . my little mind never quite recovered. The neighborhood kid pack spent the next several years playing Star Wars in the backyards. LARPing before LARP had a name.

          1. “The Black Hole” as in the live-action Disney movie? My local library had a copy of the kid’s book Disney must’ve put out as a companion piece to the movie. I thought it was awesome… except some [CENSORED] had ripped out the last page!

            Years later, I *finally* stumbled across a copy of the DVD. Might’ve been in a Blockbuster, might’ve been at a library, I don’t remember. Maybe it was because I’d hyped it up in my mind so much for something like 20 years, but the film would up being really underwhelming. A whole lot cornier, cheesier, and hokier than I remembered the kids book being.

            1. That one. I was six or seven when I saw it. Max the robot scared the fuzz off of me, especially that last scene. Never read the book.

              1. That last scene was messed up. Like How-in-the-hell-is-this-in-a-Disney-movie? messed up.

                The book was just a kiddified picture book with stills from the movie. If you saw the movie, you didn’t miss anything.

                1. Yeah, every once in a while Disney does something completely nuts, like Tron or Return to Oz.

                  1. Return to Oz was a joy and a delight and a mistake they’ll (desperately try to) never make again.

                    1. Well, it’s a lot scarier than the Oz books tended to be, but there is some pretty crazy stuff in them. The origin of the Tin Woodsman is especially horrific.

            2. Am I the only one that thought, “NORBY!!!!” the first time they saw Vincent and Bob in that movie? I remember slogging my way through The Norby Chronicles in 2nd grade, but my older brother and I had been watching Science Fiction Theater on Saturday morning for years. We had to sneak downstairs and turn the volume all the way down on the TV BEFORE turning it on so we didn’t wake mom and dad up – for some reason they liked sleeping in on Saturday, I’m sure being their 4th kid had nothing to do with that… 🙂

      2. Saw it as a small kid during the original release. Mind! Blown!
        I remain a fan to this day.

    1. GRANT! I meant Peter GRANT! Not Berg! No idea where the hell that come from. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here gnawing on my boot.

  19. My first that I can date was Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo within a couple years of first publication – I read it in married student housing Deep Eddy ex-army housing in Austin so there are strong bounds on the date in my memory. I wasn’t that impressed, perhaps it was more juvenile than later Heinlein juveniles. At the time – WAC Corporal et al the American program was still almost entirely German inspired and I think we had sincere hopes that there were German discoveries yet to be exploited.

    Interesting on the short story indy market.

    About the only reason I read current SF is word of mouth or some degree of personal connection or interest. There are some white Mormon males – and facile writers with a military tinge at Baen – whose writing exemplifies Teresa’s definition of story as a force of nature and the plot/story distinction she makes.

    Too often my reaction on finishing or discarding fiction (genre or not) over the last 20 years is what I call I could have had a V8 If I’m not getting word of mouth to pick something up and equally not contributing word of mouth around the water cooler then I’m happy enough with Project Gutenberg, the lamented Baen CD’s and other such.

    In other words if I’m not getting extra value from social credits for staying current then free on the internet is better than any price at all for a current short story (I do glance at BookBub daily but only act when I see an old -timer at deep discount) – though I might enjoy the current short story as much or more than a reread of Andre Norton or Tales from the White Harte or 4 Day Planet or Planet for Texans all fun tales. Without an extra push I’ll never pay anything at all for it. Young I would devour H.L. Gold’s Galaxy in the 1950’s and was overjoyed by the American news stand at the Brussels World’s Fair (though there was no real shortage in Northern Europe no doubt the influence of Americans and not to overlook the English orange covered? genre books?- The last time I subscribed to Fantasy and Science Fiction I let it pile up unread until I felt guilty and read something from it.

    I suppose there can’t be a Baen’s Universe without a Baen and Dr. Pournelle is reissuing such of his anthologies as he can without paying Carr to work on new ones. I don’t see the social pointers I need to lead me to a short story and make me pay actual money be it ever so slight.

  20. Some of the epic fights I had with my mother were over what I was reading. Dad loved SF but was in college for most of my childhood and my mom wouldn’t let me read SF or F because she didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be “escaping” from my perfectly wonderful life. My dad’s friends from his electrical engineering classes would sneak me star trek books and I had a librarian who convinced my mother to let me read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series because they were Christian allegory.

    When I was a kid, I wrote the stories I wanted to read. Now, I hope I’m writing ones worth reading. I still get the feeling I’m doing *something* wrong because I actually enjoy it so much.

    1. Nah. I LOVE writing. And my husband enjoys it more than should be legal. That’s why for the last three years our vacations are “writing weekends” — which we can’t afford now,b ut that’s something else.

      1. Thanks for the advice! I would never rely on them for more than the most mechanical stuff. Just started yet another rewriting session, now on the last third of my WIP 😉

  21. I’ve read on monsterhunternation that you will be organizing Sad Puppies in 2016. I have two pieces of short SF fiction that I read in The Change edited by SM Stirling. How can I pass those suggestions to you? You may PM me if that would work.

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