DAYS OF WHINE AND FIRE – A Blast From the past post May 2012

*Only the ones of you who’ve been here from the beginning will remember the context for this post, which was the fifth or sixth in a sustained blog war with a non-fiction writer whining about how “real writing” was vanishing from the world with indie.  Turned out her problem was that she’d no longer get paid research trips.  The rest of us who never had paid research trips (not being special flowers) pointed and laughed.  She got nasty and said we weren’t real writers.  But this post goes beyond that whole mess, to change and implosion of fields and of expectations.  That part is still as relevant (or more) than it was 4 years ago, and it’s interesting to see how many people who are as unpleasant as this woman was are really scared out of their gourd. Change, really change, is chaotic and hard.  And as we’re heading into more of it, I thought this might provide some bracing.  Well, that and I’m writing fiction and just finished a revision of something due today.  BUT above all, you know, it’s to suggest pathways to survive the choppy waters ahead.  Chin up.  We’ll survive.  No.  We’ll thrive.*

DAYS OF WHINE AND FIRE – A Blast From the past post May 2012

Yesterday I said I did not mean to pick on the person’s fears for her job.  I meant that.  I realize that I sounded ever so slightly cranky (there are tons of reasons for the crankiness but “because I’m me” should suffice most of the time) but that was a reaction more to her tone than to her meaning.

Oh, her meaning was stupid beyond belief and amounted to little more than a long sustained whine.  BUT that doesn’t mean SHE is stupid, or even that WHINING is stupid as such.  A long sustained whine with no rationality behind it is how humans react to hitting a wall or feeling they’re about to.  It was probably how our ancestors reacted to a tiger springing out of the undergrowth in front of them.  “Ah, ARRRRRGH!”

The difference is what comes after.  Some got sharp sticks and played the Maasai lion trick on the leaping tiger.  And some went “glurb” and died.

I’m not going to rehash it, but what ticked me off about her post was the implication that a) fiction writers have it easy, they just make up cr*p and b)self-publishers don’t even understand what books are – the ignorant newbies.  (This was not helped by her follow up post, in which she first failed to grasp that not only do I have 21 novels traditionally published – at this point I don’t really have any novel non-traditionally published, except perhaps A Touch Of Night and the reissue of Death Of A Musketeer, each a special case. – and then, once this point was brought home to her, that she considers me “tainted” by self publishing…  Even though 99% of what I have out – all but three short stories – were published in magazines an anthologies before.  And the whole idea that self publishing “taints” is probably blow by the fact that those three are my biggest cash cows every month.)  It’s entirely too bad of me to react to “tone” but as my grandmother would have said, “if you don’t have feelings, you weren’t born of good people.”

But in a way it was too bad I got sidetracked by the tone, because what I actually wanted to go into was the panic reaction, what it means, and how to counter.

Every writer I know has hit that panic reaction at one time or another in recent months.  The exceptions are, perhaps, those who haven’t realized what is happening to publishing yet.  (Oh, you’d think there are none.  Or at least none who aren’t cognitively impaired.  But there are, I guarantee.  H*ll, in honest truth, but for my agency going odd and a couple of other things, I might have been one of them.  And I’ll explain why.)  When we hit the panic, we all run around for a week or two or a month, or a year, as if our hair were on fire, screaming “the world is ending.”  And then…  And then we find paths out.  Which is what I want to talk about.

First of all, if you’re a writer, or a journalist, or one of the other professions where, looking ahead, you see the conveyor belt disappearing into a furnace – take a deep breath and realize you’re not alone.  This is being masked – somewhat – by the recession.  But, without going into politics, the recession is – IMO – a creature of unspeakable economic stupidity imposed from above.  (Partly from the hopeful and amiable belief that hobbling the US improves the lot of other people.  This is the sort of stupidity it takes years of education [and a willingness to ignore the real world] to achieve, which means … nothing.  If I ever get a time machine, I’m throttling Karl Marx in his swaddling blanket.)  That means sooner or later the idiocy from above quits (or we’ll all be more worried about whether we can get a leg of squirrel for telling a good story around the camp fire of what remains of human civilization) and when it does, if anything the pace of tech change is going to accelerate as we recover.  Part of it, of course, will be to cut out the severely dysfunctional parts of the economy without sinking more money into them.  And part of it will be because new tech HAS come on line but no one has invested in propagating it through society.  When they have money, they will, and the effect will be…  As though some evil villain just pushed the “fast” button on that furnace-headed conveyor belt.

(No, I’m not going to unpack the previous paragraph, not only because it’s unavoidably political, but also because it is, ultimately, fodder for several essays.  Just nod and say “Okay, Sarah, whatever, let’s assume what you said is true.”)

So, just trust me, that when economy recovers, we writers are going to be joined on the line of people going “argh” as the tiger springs out at them, by: in some order – journalists, teachers, photographers, artists, software engineers (trust me.  They’ve been in crisis since 2000 mostly because their skill is becoming less needed with machines that are more friendly to programming) and eventually real engineers (printable pieces will make a lot of difference.)  Worse, I can’t even imagine all the people who will be hit by the change – literally – and though I’d laugh if you said something like “chefs” or “car mechanics” I could think of a way – and not far off – that their professions AS EXERTED RIGHT NOW will be obsolete in no time.  I don’t even need to mention the two professions my kids are training for, right?  Doctor and aerospace engineer will FOR SURE change shortly after they start working.  Which feels many levels of wrong, but probably no “wronger” than where most writers find themselves.

You see most of my friends are between 30 and 50 or a little either way.  These were the ages at which you used to know what you were doing in your profession, and just take off.  Peak earning years and all that.  Oh, brother.

Part of the long sustained whine is because we writers, perhaps more than other humans – but we humans in general too – believe in stories.  We’re raised with stories.  Oh, sure, little Red Riding Hood, but also “don’t cross the street in front of a semi, or you’ll be a pancake on the pavement.”  It’s a story.  A just so story.

All of us absorbed such stories growing up, as well as stories about uncle Hubert who worked hard and made good and uncle Eggbert (oh, him!) who went down to Rio where he lives in a compound peopled entirely by hookers and fueled solely by cocaine.

Okay, fine, my family has several uncle Eggberts, and it’s entirely possible that some boring families out there have none.  The point is that all of us absorbed, at some point, the idea of what it takes to make good at several points in life – what’s expected of us, as we were.  We are after all social monkeys, and monkey does what he sees, and, in this case, what he hears.

At my time of life – and a lot of the people panicking are somewhere between 40 and 50 – we expect our profession to be clear and the path ahead to make sense and be… well… expected.  And now, you know, instead of “rising acclaim, secure retirement” there’s the furnace.  Worse, because of the way things have gone in the most recent years – and no, not just in writing.  As tech change came in every field turned odd and sometimes evil (read Dilbert!)  – we are, most of us, nowhere near the acclaim and security we thought we’d attain.  And this might be “as good as it gets.”

Amazing thing is not that we’re indulging in long, sustained whining.  What IS amazing is that none of us has yet gone postal somewhere conspicuous.  My people must be better balanced than I thought.  (Or more confused.  Some psychology researcher should count the massacres in books recently.  We’ve always had trouble with that reality thing.)

The thing is, after the whine, for everyone so far, there is the moment of shaking yourself up and looking at the way of life that is dying.  Because in most cases it was SO dysfunctional these last ten or twenty years that constitute our entire working life, there is usually a time of looking at the field (whatever field) and seeing everything that was screwing us over and holding us down, and going “oh.” in relief.  Sometimes for those of us full of piss and vinegar there is – to quote a writer who is FAR more established than I – “If this new model works, I’m going to be very rude to a lot of people.”  And then… and then there is a time of thinking, a time of rebuilding.  And, at this point friends and I have been on THAT phase long enough that we have checked back with each other and compared notes.  I’m going to pass the notes along for those of you, writers and non writers alike, who are staring the furnace in the face.  Remember those are the notes NOW – for me about a year after the whine – and that the operative part of that catastrophic change thing is the “change.”  Things are changing all the time.  Retailers, tech, etc. change minutely almost daily.  We’re not at the end of the wave of change.  We’re barely at the first swell.  So, don’t take what I say and go, this is the plan for the next fifty years.  Go, rather “Um… good thing for a year or so, if I’m lucky.”  And note how much of it is the same you’d tell someone walking through a jungle full of hungry tigers – “be alert” – that’s what most of these translate to.

So, here’s the distilled wisdom from staring into the furnace (and by the way, the furnace, in most cases, is only a temporary fire, and it’s possible that you’ll emerge from it stronger than you went in, like steel.)

1 – You have to change.
Yes, I know, you’re settled into your routine, and one of the things I’ve learned through the last year of various physical ailments, is that ANYTHING can become routine.  You get used to doing six books a year, under pressure, upside down, in a sewer pipe.  (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little.)  And you like what it means: you’re still publishing.  You’re making money.  And you convince yourself things will get better.  But you don’t expect them to get better suddenly.  Truth is and you don’t really, ever expect them to get worse and yes suddenly.  And you want “better” to happen TO YOU not that you’ll have to make it happen.  So when you realize that the money or the publication is diminishing your first instinct is to panic, because it means you’ll have to change how you do things, and it’s going to be uncomfortable.  The bad news?  Yep, you have to change.  (The good news is that almost for sure things will get better – in the long run.)

2- It’s going to be a lot of work up front
Oh, G-d, is it a lot of work up front.  Part of this is because for a good long while, for many of us perhaps forever, you’ll have to work in both worlds.  Or you’ll have to work at what is bringing money in right then, and what will bring money in in the future, both of which will change as things change.  For me, right now, this means keeping up deadlines, helping NRP with covers AND trying to figure out how in heaven’s name to get my backlist up in a modicum of time.

3 – Take a deep breath and give yourself time
This will be different for each of you/each field.  Right now I have 25 (I think) short stories out, and I’m netting $100 a month from Amazon (other places take longer to report.)  I have about 250 in total stories I could put up, and I haven’t put any up in two months.  If you’re going “Are you crazy woman?  MONEY!  If the ratio holds – and so far it has – you could be making 1k a month.  Why aren’t you?”  Oh, G-d.  In this house we have a trinity of excuses we invoke for the “I just can’t” – it’s not logical, but it’s what we’ve heard someone use at some time – “Cheese, lasers, wife!”  Or in this case: “Health, kids, work.”  Or perhaps just a manifestation of Kris’ post about things bringing you to your knees.  Life has been VERY complicated, and emotionally I think I’m healing, as much has I’m (hopefully) healing physically.
I hate being late.  I’m compulsive.  But pushing seems to tie me up more.  So I’m taking deep breaths and going “I’m giving myself time.”  It will happen, once the kid graduates; once I know what is causing the endocrine disturbances, once a couple of other dominos fall in place, once life establishes itself again.
3a A caution – make sure you keep trying to fit the stuff into the routine.  Like, I’m trying to tell myself Saturday is publishing day.  So when normalcy comes back, that’s not squeezed out.
3b – you’ll make mistakes.  You’ll take the wrong projects indie and sell the wrong projects.  You’ll put awful covers on your stories (guaranteed); you’ll put up at least a story with ten typos (the others will have more, no matter how you hunt them.)  You’ll glorp a few formats.  You’ll forget the legal notice on a story.  You’ll make mistakes.  Don’t worry.  It’s more work, not the end of the world.  You’re only human. The goal is ALWAYS survive to fight another day.  If you’re alive, you’re learning.  Tomorrow YOU’ll be better.

4- Don’t Put ALL Your Eggs In the Same Henhouse.

Don’t put all your faith on one stream of income.

Don’t go “traditional publishing is dying, so I’ll now make all my money from indie publishing.  CERTAINLY don’t go “I’ll now make all my money from writing epic novels about gay warriors” (What?  I’m sure there’s some people are!  I don’t have time to google it.  You’ll have to be pervie on your own time.)

In the end doing that puts you in the same boat as if you’d stayed in traditional publishing.  Remember the thing about we’re only in the first swells of a tsunami of change?  If all you do is sell space nuns (what?) on Amazon, you’re setting yourself up to go under on the next wave.

For one at least at first, your stream of income from indie will be small – much less from one type of indie.  So you want to keep all your legs going.  Think of yourself as a multilegged mechanical, self-balancing spider (really?  I think of myself as that sort of thing ALL the time.)  In my case, say one leg is traditional.  One is indie.  One is art – and I need to put some of that up and on merchandise to sell.  From yesterday’s kerfuffle I realized another can be non-fiction.  As soon as I have time, I’ll resume the journalism one (two dying fields are better than none.)  And, who knows, as things stabilize health wise, there might even be stuffed dragons and fairy princess porcelain dolls to sell at cons.  (Maybe.  If I can find the time.)

5- Network
I come from a culture in which nepotism is viewed as a virtue.  A basic proverb is “He who has no godfather dies in jail.”  Being me, I rebelled against it.  And I still think that nepotism qua nepotism is a bad idea and makes a society sclerotic and not nimble at all.


We are social animals.  One thing I had to learn is that people reject you MUCH more easily if they’ve never met you – beyond the quality of your story.  Now it’s a little different, but networking is more important.  Networking and having a large group of friends is how you hear what is working and what isn’t, because the knowledge is so new there are no manuals yet – and no manuals that aren’t superannuated in five minutes.  Have as many friends as possible everywhere, particularly friends who are also trying to figure out the change.

6- Brainstorm
Every so often get together with your friends and brainstorm – not ideas.  Not stories.  Brainstorm how to make money.  Shoot wild ideas out.  Make crazy suggestions.  Look, until the kerfuffle yesterday, it never occurred to me I could sell my research as non-fiction BEFORE selling it as fiction/integrating it into stories.  But of course it should be possible (though the time thing might delay it.)  And I AM trying to be aware of new opportunities.  It’s just that the new model is so different we have to make tiny incremental changes.  So every so often, get your friends together, break out the alcohol (or whatever) and just talk.  “Hey, can you think of any other way to make money?  What if–”

And that’s all I know so far.  Like a traveler on the move in strange, mutable terrain, stay alert, move fast, be ready to see things in a completely different way (Sometimes a schmerp ISN’T a rabbit, even if he looks like one) and keep all your several legs on the run.

There’s gold in them there hills.  You just have to survive to get there.

132 responses to “DAYS OF WHINE AND FIRE – A Blast From the past post May 2012

  1. c4c.

  2. “Amazing thing is not that we’re indulging in long, sustained whining. What IS amazing is that none of us has yet gone postal somewhere conspicuous. My people must be better balanced than I thought. (Or more confused. Some psychology researcher should count the massacres in books recently. We’ve always had trouble with that reality thing.)”

    Literally had me doubled over laughing: I bounced an idea off my little (non-biological) brother this morning to see if it was just plain horror or sci-fi horror: one of those self-described ‘brights’ determines a gene that all genius or near-genius intelligence has and writes a virus that kills everyone who doesn’t have it. Results are not as desired. (I don’t do horror, anyone wants the idea can have it.) Killed: a few billion before breakfast. But only for pretend. Perhaps that’s a sign of being well balanced, or at least relatively harmless?

    • “Results are not as desired.”

      What, the desired results weren’t a planetful of corpses? (And I only wish the concept of someone deciding this was a good idea were less plausible….)

      • Many, many moons ago, on a certain other website, RES, the which you can probably guess if you weren’t present, some ‘bright’ atheist pontificated about how most geniuses are atheists. Some other individual (who likely is actually a genius) dug up the actual numbers, which I don’t recollect, and observed that while a higher percentage of atheists are geniuses, in terms of total numbers of geniuses, the Christians win. It’s just that so many more people of all levels of intelligence are Christians that the percentages don’t show it.

        (Not actual numbers, but it was something like 1 % of the population are atheists, 50% of them are geniuses, or .5% population. 80 % are Christians, 2% of them are geniuses, so 1.6% of population, or about three times the number of geniuses. Maybe–I might not have mathed that correctly.)

        Like I said, horror.

        • Oops, sorry, that was PK, not RES. Ah, was over at Mr. Day’s. I think RES reads there, not sure ’bout you.

        • “Hume, and other sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to errour. Truth, Sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.” Samuel Johnson

          Covers the facts.

        • Reality Observer

          Well, then you correlate that with the definitive studies that geniuses are far more likely to be mentally unstable…

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Too many people think eugenics is a good idea, and this is one aspect of eugenics. Plus what the ‘drug companies hiding the pill to cure x’ types would also consider a magic wand.

        (The more you know a tool, the more you know the limits of the tool, hence the less it seems a wand that magically and perfectly performs the task as you /want/ it done.)

    • Reality Observer

      Hmmm. I do not know John Ringo, but with this theory he must be extremely well balanced.

      I’m not so sure about relatively harmless…

      • I’m sure John Ringo is relatively harmless, as long as you don’t threaten any of his friends. On the other hand, if you make Miriam cry, may G-d have mercy on your soul.

      • The Other Sean

        I thought the term was “Mostly Harmless.”

      • I started to observe that most of the ones killed in the Posleen wars were Posleen, but then I thought about the huge drop in Earth’s population; then there is the Maple Syrup Wars (in some respects a more lighthearted series and some in some respects a more serious treatment–that’s the Troy series), and then there’s the Black Tide rising — oh never mind. (When is that anthology coming out?)

        Yeah, I suppose (having never met the man in person) he’s as harmless as anyone who ever jumped out of a perfectly good airplane for an extra hundred bucks a month.

  3. I think it’s a given that traditional publishing is dying, but let us not forget that it’s from self inflicted wounds, greed, arrogance, a total rejection of any willingness to change and adapt, and massive distain and contempt for the customers and their wishes.
    But that’s not universally true, now is it.
    There may be more, but I know of at least one small house that surveys customer desires, deals fairly with its authors, has embraced the concept of electronic information, and has integrated its operation relatively seamlessly with Amazon. Which explains quite well why Baen is hated by the big 5 and their acolytes in the industry.
    The rest of publishing could quite easily adopt the Baen business model, suitably modified for size as well as a few other tweaks, but by all indications have refused to do so. Value for service breaks down fairly quickly when you no longer provide that service or it no longer holds value. Their position as gatekeepers protected them for a time in their arrogance, but now they find that those gates no longer have walls attached. The only separation betwen author and customer is now inherent in the quality of the product produced, something trad pub stopped offering to their midlist some time ago.

    • The transferable wisdom of Moneyball is that, if everybody is doing things the same old way, the bigger fish always get the lion’s share of the mixed metaphor. The only way for the smaller, quicker, more agile and adaptable mammals to compete with the dinosaurs is to find exploitable niches and undeveloped opportunities.

      Dinosaurs term to term this behaviour “unfair” and “cheating” because they enjoy their prominence atop the food chain and see no reason to have to change strategies that have proven effective. For much the same reason we see taxi companies and hotel/motel chains complaining about Uber and Airbnb: they’ve achieved dominance and are highly invested in barriers to new entrants, they expect to be able to gnaw on their spoils in peace, not guard it against scavengers.

      Amazon could never have gotten off the ground had Borders and B&N not been preoccupied with fighting each other for dominance then sitting back to let the money flow in. Their abuses of their market power (“push” model of selling, shaking-down publishers for display fees) made them less attentive to the fundamentals of the business: customers. Particularly book-reading customers, who tend to be a more innovative lot.

      • The other bit of wisdom from Moneyball is that just because everyone THINKS that they know the right way of doing things doesn’t mean that they actually do. The “traditional” scouts in Moneyball were very good at finding players who had the skills that they thought made good baseball players–and very poor at figuring out what skills indicated players who would actually win you games.

    • The one thing Baen did poorly, that Tor did very well was Young Adult. Partly because they’re Connected, but partly because they spotted the trend and followed through. I’ve offered to help, but no takers.

      ::shrug:: Honestly, I’ll help any press trying to makeca go of it. A rising tide and all that.

  4. CERTAINLY don’t go “I’ll now make all my money from writing epic novels about gay warriors”

    Xena/ Gabrielle fanfic?

    • Weirdly, from what I hear (I REALLY don’t write this stuff — no time) gay fic sells better than lesbian fic. I suspect because chicks read it. Guys are more visual so they prefer movies and stuff.
      Also weirdly I met someone writing epic novels about gay warriors THAT YEAR at milehicon. Okay, they were very bad ones, (I attended part of her reading.) but that’s life.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Hun1: Didn’t Homer do quite well writing epics about gay warriors?
        Hun2: He was writing for exposure, and didn’t make the publisher hand over money.
        Hun3: Is there a draft in here? My writing feels pretty exposed.

        • Gilgamesh and Enkidu, an epic story of the love that dare not say its name.

          • For that matter: David And Jonathan – the real story underlying the madness of Saul.

            Sigh – I did a quick Google on that and discover, to my dismay, this is a well of tainted water nigh 40 million hits deep. Does nobody imagine a love that is not sexual?

            And a back check on Gil & Enkie turned up this at the top of the list: “LGBT History Project: The World’s First Gay Love Story?”

            Bugger all.

          • “the love that dare not say its name.”

            If only.

      • Guys are not into Lesbians. That is hands down one of the biggest myths ever put forward. Guys are into girls that are into them, lesbians are not into guys.
        Yes, there are a lot of guys who want to have more than one girl, even in bed at the same time, that’s just the way guys are wired. But NO guy wants girls in his bed who have no interest in him, and neither does he have any interest in reading about them, or watching them.

        I don’t know why women are so into gay men and gay man on man sex, but this is just another example of the difference between men and women, and how women think that men like the same things they do, when in fact, they don’t.

        • Er… John? I’ve heard the other one denied but NEVER that one. And I have A LOT of men friends. (More than women.) In fact when I told one of them that no, girls aren’t into girls after two drinks, I got “stop crushing my dreams.”
          No, men aren’t into lesbians. They’re into imagining that when they come on the scene these girls will OBVIOUSLY want them. I’m sure they’re not into lesbians in real life, but I have heard enough men talk to know it’s a fantasy.
          It’s not yours. That’s fine. I get that. But it’s not a myth invented by women, TRUST ME.

          • A lot of guys do have the dream of two hot girls who are going at it, and when they see him, they want him, and he joins the party.
            That’s not lesbianism, that’s bi-girls who prefer men.

            Every time I’ve talked about fantasies with other guys, if you ask them ‘why would you want to watch lesbians, they don’t like men,’ they always come back with, ‘well not lesbians! Bi-girls then!’ A lot of men seem to think that lesbians still like men, which is again another one of those strange myths out there in some men’s minds.

            While I’m sure there are some out there, I have never met a man who wants to watch two women have sex, who are absolutely not interested in him. Every guy I’ve ever talked to, when he’s discussed this kind of thing always approached the next step with ‘and then I get to join in.’

            As for women watching two guy men (or reading about them) I have no idea what the motivation is or attraction for women on that. I’ve honestly never had that discussion.

            • guy = gay, typo, sorry.

            • Oh, I’m sure that’s part of it.
              Women don’t want to watch gay men. Women are not (in general, there are exceptions) interested in SEEING sex.
              They do read gay romance. In my case? I started after regular romance went TOTALLY off the rails with feminism. Most gay romance has no politics (well, most of the one I read) and I flip past the sex anyway, so it’s just the emotions. Kind of like the same reason my son watches Korean soap opera. If it has politics it’s THEIR OWN politics, and no annoyance to us.

              • That is truly interesting. I dabbled in the romance/PNR field a while back (under a pen name), and it seemed in those genres that the woman readers really wanted the sex scenes, because the books with them, got the most sales and the best reviews. However the one time I tried my hand at a gay one, no success at all.

                Something to keep in mind I guess, though I’m pretty done with romance, it was fun for a while, but I got real tired of writing sex scenes, especially the ‘over the top’ ones that often seem to be in most demand.

                • I think the sex in romance thing sold well because that’s what the publishers pushed, period.
                  A lot of “sweet romances” (no sex) are selling well indie.
                  I don’t… How do I put this? I don’t mind reading about sex, but in most modern Romance, that’s used to pave over the lack of building the relationship/feeling. And if I want to read sex I read erotica. Romance is supposed to be… well… romantic, damn it.

                  • I used to spend a lot of time working the romance angle, got a lot of good reviews for that too. Probably why the stuff is still selling, even though I stopped writing them several years ago.
                    Maybe some day I’ll whip up a new pen name and try again, minus the sex scenes, see how it does. Honestly, I really grew to hate writing those. Which is sorta funny, because I doubt many people realize writers can grow tired of writing that kind of stuff.

              • I am going to go out on a limb (no, not that limb — it’d never support the weight of this argument) and speculate the attraction of gay sex for women is the idea of guys who care as much about appearance, scent, clothing, hygiene and such as women do. Having not read any gay sex scenes, nor lesbian ones (to the best of my memory) it is possible i am wrong, but I doubt these depict the sort of multiple anonymous partner activity which was the basis of the bathhouse culture. I suspect the descriptions are more wish-fulfillment of how the readers wish their men would approach them.

                Again, an argument wholly absent evidence, merely intuition about what the underlying process might be.

                As for guys being attracted to girl-on-girl action, that probably comes down to which would you rather see: a nekkid woman and naked guy groping each other or two nekkid women droping? Keep in mind that the nekkid guy is probably far better “equipped” than you are 98% of men are. (In this circumstance, actual opinions of women about “size” don’t matter, only the opinions that men imagine women have about size.)

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  ‘What would you rather see?’ versus ‘What would you rather experience?’

                  I imagine that there are rare tastes who would, in cold blood, find a woman who wouldn’t get excited potentially exciting.

                  If it can be described, there is porn of it, and possibly someone who would actually be interested.

                • RES, there is a whole body of meta- discussion (some of it really interesting, if you like that kind of whichness-of-what essay-ing) on the topic of why-in-hell-straight-women-are-into-gay-romance-that-actual-gays-find-eye-rollingly-ridonkulous.

                  A few minutes googling should pull it up.

                  Long story short: men and women are complementary, with asymetrical obligations. Biology is a mother, and what about kids?

                  You know how TV show couples have that will-they-won’t phase, where the romantic tension is high, and the brief afterglow when things are still hot-? Gay romance-porn for gals never leaves that magic spot. Why should it?

                  Thus endeth the lesson. I find it an embarrassment for my sex, like 40-something Twi-hards, but I’m a curmudgeon.

            • While I’m sure there are some out there, I have never met a man who wants to watch two women have sex, who are absolutely not interested in him.

              *raises hand*

              For a certain narrow definition of sex, yes. Lesbians play much harder.

              As for women watching two guy men (or reading about them) I have no idea what the motivation is or attraction for women on that. I’ve honestly never had that discussion.

              I know several women, in that same broad area, who enjoy watching men for the rawness and toughness of it.

              It is an interesting contrast given the men like to watch the women for something that is broadly unfeminine while the women seem to like watching the men for something hyper masculine.

                • No…but gay male S&M has a masculinity about it you don’t see elsewhere…a lot of challenge and one upmanship. Even though they don’t play as hard as women when I’ve seen leathermen play there is an exaggerated masculinity (somewhat stereotyped) about it you don’t see with straights or lesbians for the most part.

                  • No, no, I meant that men like lesbians because they play harder than normal women, and women like gays because they play harder than normal men (this is not my take, it’s what I took from what you said.) So, sex would appear to be masculine. (BLINK)

                    • Hmmm…I need to think about that one. I never put that much thought into it just combining things I’ve heard people say.

                      I guess the ying to that yang would be love is feminine?

                    • If this is true, yes. I’d think so.

                    • Thinking about that a little maybe there is some true to it.

                      Core assumption to my thinking: homosexual relationships will wind up in trends that emphasis those attributes that match that sex. So lesbian relationship trends emphasize feminine things whie gay men emphasize masculine things.

                      So, what would gay bath house culture compared to lesbian UHaul culture tell us about sex being masculine while love is feminine? Wouldn’t that seem to reinforce that conclusions. I’d argue stereotypes about heterosexual relationships do as well but not as clearly.

        • John, that may very well be true, at least about real lesbians. Based on numerous gay pride newsclips it would appear that many true lesbians take great care to be as unattractive to men as possible.
          Lesbian porn on the other hand is one of the most popular sub genres out there. Start with semi conventional stuff like The L Word, and head deeper into raunch from there. Is it reality, oh hell no, but then porn has always been mostly about fantasy.

          • I actually know quite a few lesbians. Yes, there are those who tend to dress like men, and who aren’t very attractive to men.
            But I know quite a few as well who are very attractive, and who dress up attractively most of the time. If you didn’t know them, you wouldn’t flag them as gay, because they look just like all the other attractive straight women.
            Same is true for men, they even have a term for it for men: ‘Straight acting gay male.’

          • During my freshman year of college, through a confluence of events, my dorm room (specifically my bed) turned into the make-out spot for the lesbian couple in my friend group. It was a weird time. After a short while it was no longer interesting. Since then “giggler” fantasies haven’t been my bag.

        • Guys are not into Lesbians. That is hands down one of the biggest myths ever put forward.

          Riiiiiiiiight. That’s why girl-on-girl porn is such a major part of the industry that such scenes are included in almost any mainstream porn vid, and have an industry-standard term (such a scene is called a giggler).

          They keep making and making those scenes to ensure that straight men never watch their products, never buy them, and the companies can go out of business.

          Dear Sappho, man, this was the subject of sitcom jokes in the 1990s!!!

          So, basically, you’re spectacularly wrong. The unencumbered market doesn’t lie. Maybe you don’t like girl-on-girl scenes, but you don’t speak for all men. In fact, on that topic, you basically speak for you.

          • Every girl/girl scene I’ve seen in a book or a movie, there were more guy/girl scenes in the movie, or it lead into one of those girls (if not both) with a guy.

            • And since I never said “guys like movies with only gigglers in them”, congratulations, you valiantly killed a very menacing straw man, but failed to account for my actual point (and data).

              • My point was, that compared to ‘giggler’ scenes, the het scenes are what guys are primarily into. Yes, there are outliers, and yes fetish always sells well, because niche markets always have a draw out-sized of their actual audience.
                My experience has been that most guys really aren’t into the ‘giggler’ scenes, they get the flicks for the other scenes. They’ll watch if the women are attractive enough, but they’re not all that into it.
                As for why the studios do it? Formula. I don’t know if anyone has done a study on it, and by all means if you can find one, go right ahead and prove me wrong.

                • The classic giggler fantasy is ‘two women getting themselves excited together to set themselves up for the man, to whom they will immediately turn both their attentions.’

                  That’s what men get out of it.

                  • That’s what men get out of it.

                    Some men. But that still doesn’t account for the facts. Not all scenes, in fact not even a majority of them, are mere preludes to including the man in the fantasy. And there are adult stars who specialize in girls-only scenes, and never or rarely perform with men. If that kind of scene was icky to most men, they couldn’t profit from that market niche.

                    The original claim was “guys don’t like lesbian scenes”, and the fact is, while there are some guys that do not, it is an incorrect general statement.

                    • I did say, ‘that while I’m sure there are some out there, I’ve never met a man who wanted to watch two girls that are not into him.’
                      So, what percentage of the market are girl/girl films with no men in them?
                      And are the selling to men only? Or are there women buying them?

                      Yes, I’m basing my comments on my personal experience, what are you basing yours on?

                    • Top ten producers of video porn. Unclear whether ranked by total output or by earnings, but still leading lights in the industry:
                      1 – Brazzers
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      2 – Naughty America
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      3 – Digital Playground
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      4 – Bang Bros
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      5 – Reality Kings
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      6 – Evil Angel
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      7 – Elegant Angel
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      8 – Sirina Entertainment
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      9 –
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      10 – Wicked Pictures
                      Specialization: Heterosexual/Lesbian
                      Note that all specialize if you can call it that in a mix of hetero and lesbian products. The earliest appearance of a gay/bi speciality was number 34.
                      If lesbian product didn’t sell it would not feature so prominently across the board, and numerous studies show that females simply aren’t attracted to video porn, preferring their fantasies more of a literary nature. Didn’t bother digging up a cite, but can and will if pressed.
                      The internet is the greatest research tool EVAH!

                • Your anecdotal experience is not a refutation of the market. If the scenes weren’t popular, they wouldn’t keep getting made.

                  Also, you’ve moved your goalposts significantly, in trying to use the facts that give the lie to your original statement to still claim that you were somehow right.

                  You were wrong. Your personal taste is not a guide to “what men like”.

                  • One minor point of order: what appears in smutty fiction is not “what men like” — it is what men who are willing to pay for smutty fiction like.

                    Contrary to rumour, not all men want such, certainly not enough to pay for it. There is also the possibility of a feedback loop here, in that men who buy such stuff have come (sorry) to expect it because they’re accustomed to seeing it in this type of merchandise. Sorta like car chases in action movies: once it’s become a trope it is a necessary element of the genre.

                    • “Oh, John Ringo, no!”

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Pornography is not realistic. People who realize that and can not shut down their suspension of disbelief probably do not consume much of it.

                      Either one has seen so little porn that the novelty alone is thrilling, or one can overlook certain things. ‘All women are responsive to male attention’ isn’t much to pretend if you can get past the scribbles on a page/paid actress bits.

                      How much of that ‘Lesbian’ porn establishes that those characters wouldn’t enjoy male company if they tried it? If John is right, that would violate the general fantasy, and hence would be rare.

                • Yep. Never underestimate the appeal to guys of watching attractive young women get nekkid and wiggle around. Perfectly reasonable thing to like.

                  If plushy pillows became a Celebrity Cause du Jour, and media glorifying it the stuff of Bravery Prizes, I gurantee you there’d be marginally-clothed starlets wiggling about with them.

                  And it would be very popular and not because “guys are into plushies”.

                  Good lord, I feel old.

      • By chicks read it I assume you mean straight chicks because lesbians preferring gay male fic over lesbian fic makes no sense.

        What is it so many straight women are into gay male fiction?

        • Actually, I have it on good authority that some lesbian ladies were among the first generation of Trek slash of guys. The general idea was that men were somehow non-controversial because nobody had feminist politics about guy on guy romance.

          Of course, it could also have been a way of making it safe to acknowledge that Nimoy was attractive. Shrug.

        • weirdly, some lesbian women I know read it too.
          Don’t know. It’s not the reasons suggested, because some of the women I know who are into it are not that sort of women, and the ones my friends write which I’ve read are not about metrosexual gay males (for lack of a better word.) So it must be because you don’t self-insert and it removes the sense you’re cheating on your partner? Also, someone (one of you, actually, and I can’t remember who) says it’s because like with regency romances it has the sense of the forbidden which is essential for romances/porn.

    • richardmcenroe

      Didn’t Alan Cole and Chris Bunch write that Far Kingdoms series with the lipstick lezbeen warrior wimmen?

  5. Network and Brainstorm — boy, would I like to do more of that. Trouble is, most of my local meatspace writing friends are at most indie-curious (I am frequently buttonholed at such social events to “come talk to Fred, here! He is thinking about going indie and you Know Everything!” Talk about performance anxiety…)

    There is a very nice Sunday morning Book Thread at Ace of Spades, but it is also mostly readers and starts on East coast time not West coast so I miss the dynamic conversations. Maybe we could have a conversation post or thread somewhere for this sort of thing?

  6. The Other Sean

    Part of the long sustained whine is because we writers, perhaps more than other humans – but we humans in general too – believe in stories. We’re raised with stories. Oh, sure, little Red Riding Hood, but also “don’t cross the street in front of a semi, or you’ll be a pancake on the pavement.” It’s a story. A just so story.

    When I was very young, a great aunt crossed the street and got hit by a truck whose driver wasn’t paying attention. Eighty-something years on this Earth ended while out doing Christmas shopping. So there is clear anecdotal evidence that crossing a street in front of a semi can result in become a pancake on the pavement.

  7. I haven’t been here since the beginning, but I remember the kerfuffle this post came up in. The attitude toward Change and the chaos it creates reminds me of this quote, attributed to General Erwin Rommel:

    “The reason Americans do so well in war, is war is chaos, and Americans practice chaos on a daily basis.”

    • Have you ever noticed that once you’ve hit “Post Comment” it is too late to check the notification box, no matter how long the comment lingers on your screen?

      Does it use the word “Post” because once you’ve hit that button the comment is irrevocably in the past?

      • It’s to invoke the same sense of dread as dropping your forms in the Post box to the IRS. Did I sign and date everything? Did I put in the check? Will the IRS screw over that idiot ex-employer that failed to issue a W-2 instead of screwing me over for not including said not-issued W-2, and did I fill out the form saying not-issued correctly?

    • richardmcenroe

      “It is useless to study the American doctrinal manuals, because they don’t.” — Field Marshal Walter “Bitchy” Model.

  8. Reality Observer

    Yep, change, it’s a comin’ – every day.

    I do encourage my girls’ ambitions to become famous animators – but I have ulterior motives also. I think the next big change in books is going to be included at least semi-animation in them (ebooks, obviously).

    I know that I would love to have something like that in David Weber’s books; I have to read some parts of those very slowly, being not all that good at visualizing dynamic scenes.

    The technology is here now – and rapidly approaching the appropriate price point.

    • The Other Sean

      The technology is already here, at least on computers, smart phones, tablets, and tablet-style readers (i.e. not e-paper-style). The only problem is that the most popular ebook reader software/formats don’t support active content very well. If I understand correctly, the latest versions of some of the formats do support HTML5 + JavaScript based interactivity, but most of the reader software presently deployment on most of the devices don’t.

      • Patrick Chester

        Some games can be modded to have ships look like they come from various SF series. There might be some clips on YouTube depicting them.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      The Japanese have long had a market for the visual or kinetic novel. IIRC, Ren’Py is even a toolkit for making those. A lot of them are eroges, erotic games, a.k.a. porn. One of them that isn’t, Higurashi, is famous and over ten years old.

    • I hope this’ll be disable-able. I purely hate having someone else’s image of character rather than my own. It’ll also break reading trance. If your girls are working on this, please beg them on my behalf to make it possible to turn it off up front.

      If I wanted a movie, I would watch movies. *Stomps off muttering like an old curmudgeon* (Am I old enough to be an old curmudgeon? No? Fine. I’ll be a young curmudgeon. You old folks, get offa my lawn!)

      • Reality Observer

        Well, I’m the techie geek, so I will add a star next to where it already is on the list! I’m with you on the characters, really. I stay out of the Honor Harrington game and so on, because that JUST IS NOT NIMITZ (to me).

        Actually, note what I would dearly like to see it for – not characters, but animation of things like battles: dynamic things that can be hard to visualize in your head (especially when they’re 3D).

        And this old curmudgeon will stay off your lawn, promise…

        • Please do: we have had snow for the last month and a half and we have a dog. It’s getting kind of hazerdous out there.

      • THIS. I’m like that too.

      • I wouldn’t mind the experiments, myself. But then, I’d like to create a special audio-visual format that would allow you to narrate what you’re taking pictures of, while you’re taking pictures, and maybe even add a video or two.

        For example, my wife’s family has a ranch for family reunions, and lately we’ve had a lot of erosion problems due to floods and other issues. While I was taking pictures, I would like to have been able to add a little bit of spoken narration to give a little more detail to what I was doing.

        To me, though, the added animation will likely be like graphic novels: I’ll occasionally read one, but I tend to prefer big blocks of text myself. (And I’m toying with the idea of a semi-graphic novel where there are big blocks of text with the occasional morphing into graphic novel format…in such a beast, I would imagine throwing the occasional animated part wouldn’t be all that out-of-place…)

  9. BTW – has anybody checked back on that writer’s blog to see whether a) she still holds to those views about writers of fiction b) she’s still bitterly clinging to that publishing model c) still huffing her own ink?

  10. The only people who like change are babies with wet diapers, and even they cry about it.

    • There are also the People At Intersections who like change. And cardboard signs. 😀 Sharp uptick in the population lately around here, alas.

    • The Other Sean

      And people who hand the cashier a $20 bill for a can of soda. 🙂

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Then there are the idiots who want to pay for that can of soda with a $50 bill or $100 bill. [Frown]

        • At 6am in the morning, when you’ve just come on shift and don’t have change for anything that large in your drawer… ::scowls at the un-fond memories::

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Most convenience stores and gas stations (the last I looked) have notices about “No Bills Over $20”.

            Note, my favorite carry-out pizza place also has that notice.

          • And get upset when you call over a manager, because the register won’t accept $100s without putting in a special code.

        • I personally only like to use $50 or $100 bills when I know the change is going to be less than $20…and thus, I only tend to use them at grocery stores…

          • sometimes it’s a question of what you’ve got

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              True, but I wonder why would somebody be carrying $50s or $100s.

              I don’t even like traveler’s checks for that much.

              • Paul, some folks don’t do plastic, and a fair number of businesses don’t accept checks.
                Also, if you stick to cash, you and your spouse never spend the same money, so cash is excellent for the prevention of marital spats. Especially if funds are tight and one spouse has a predilection for impulse buys.

    • They’re only crying about the nasty dispers. If you do it right the changing process is a source of songs, games and giggles.

      Yes. I am THAT mom.

      • Really, I was the mom-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-peed-on. I became faster than Robert, which is saying much. Weirdly, the second son never peed on us. His first day of life he peed on the nurse who examined his wherewithal but was always a perfect gentleman with us. Robert, OTOH I think did it purpose. It was a practical joke for him.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          As a toddler, one of my nephew’s found out one of the differences between boys & girls was that he could aim his pee at his twin sister and she couldn’t “shoot” back. [Evil Grin]

          Note: this was when his grandmother (my mother) was giving both of them a bath. [Wink]

          • I would say that probably provided a valid reason for segregating the bath times…except that inevitably both small children (or many children) require re-bathing anyway because they’ll pee/poop in the bathwater regardless of whether or not there’s someone to aim at… 😀

  11. As tech change came in every field turned odd and sometimes evil (read Dilbert!) – we are, most of us, nowhere near the acclaim and security we thought we’d attain. And this might be “as good as it gets.”

    Maybe this is related to the been-going-since-I-can-remember drumbeat about how America is gonna crash, hard, it’s all over, goodnight and go to ****? (To counter-phrase a good man.)

  12. Since you mentioned the possibility of putting out non-fiction, the thought just occurred to me that, in theory, at least, I’d be interested in a book of some sort on your take on the French Revolution. In practice, I know how much you despise the French Revolution, and I don’t think I’d want you to do something that you’d despise (unless it’s one big, glorious rant against the French Revolution that, in the end, lowers your blood pressure to good levels).