Perfectly Logical

So, in these days of moving, and dragging and pulling and kicking boxes, all the while worrying about derpfish (he’s still alive, but I can’t tell if he’s getting better or worse.  If he goes, I’m not getting another fish again.  I like pets I can sort of guess at and who live longer than 2 years) I’ve been thinking about the Hugo mess.  And I realized it’s part of a bigger mess.

And the problem isn’t Larry or anyone defying the Hugo cabal.  That would have come sooner or later.  And the masterminds of the opposition aren’t fighting for the shiny plastic rocket, they’re fighting for their livelihood.  And the writers caught in the middle are divided between those who have woken up and those who have.  And I could have been on either side, but for a fortuitous circumstance.

Bear with me ladies and gentlemen, as I take you back to a distant time and place.

When I tried to break into writing, I bought all the propaganda.  Who didn’t?  As lovers of books, it is easy to convince ourselves that all the good stuff is getting published, and that by and large, the best stuff is getting recognized.  Oh, sure the taste in what gets published is not often mine.  (I enjoy very few non-Baen bestsellers and NO mainstream “literary” ones, all of which seem to be despicable people doing despicable things described in beautiful language.  Though some of them are just hopeless people doing hopeless things described in beautiful language.)

However my degree is literature and languages (we can’t uncouple them in Portugal) and so I really some people appreciate that sort of book and a high culture that, by and large, has given up on life and civilization considers these books true to life and therefore good.  Fine.  I could live with that.  After all the book machine still produced a ton of stuff I wanted to read.  By and large more than I could afford.  (Remember, this was 1985, I’d just come to the states and I had decades worth of books to catch onto.)

The first twinge of doubt came when I bought science fiction magazines to read, to scope out why I was getting so many rejections, (i.e. to see if I was even aiming in the right direction) and found myself flabbergasted.  Of the majors, Analog was the one I could at least read every story (though some of them were mind bogglingly insane.  What was with the re-built princess Diana as space ambassador again?  WTF?)

Asimov’s (I got a subscription to the two majors) ranged from unreadable grey goo to one of two truly amazing stories a year or so.

The rest?  I’ll just say one of those magazines is on my list to never even open again unless I’m completely and thoroughly SLOSHED.

It wasn’t that those stories, even the ones in Asimov’s were bad, precisely.  It was that they weren’t stories that… that met my internal feeling of what stories were.  (And keep in mind I studied the literature of seven countries.)

I shoved the doubts away by telling myself this was how little I knew of stories.  I needed to read more of these and figure out the internal logic.  Eventually I did, btw, but I never liked them.

The second doubt came around 94? (I don’t remember date exactly.  Might have been 96.  Kept it till almost 2000) when I had a subscription to the sf book club and got the main selection or the alternate, for the same purposes of studying the market.  Unlike with short stories, I couldn’t convince myself it was just my sideways perspective.  I discovered one good book out of this (I was already reading some of their selections and those I don’t remember.  But without them I’d never have read Diamond Age.)  But 90% of the stuff they sent me was … not even bad, just “What”” Or perhaps “did I get a subscription to the literary book club, by accident?”

This sent me on a quest to investigate how publishing worked.  You see, I’d assumed it was lots of little publishing houses, each cranking out what made the owners/publishers happy and competing for the market.  But not, apparently, since the mergers of the 80s.

I discovered it was in fact an oligopsony.  There were only five (now four) big publishers.  They all had offices in the same space, they all hired the same (mostly ivy league) college graduates, and there were no taste surveys, nothing.  The only people they were publishing for, in other words, were themselves.  And their opinion of each other was far more important than anyone else’s opinions or for that matter sales numbers.

Which explains what I went through later on, after the failure of my first — Magical Shakespeare — series which was literary fantasy.  Every agent I talked to after dropping my agent told me in the same breath that a) Literary Fantasy didn’t sell and b) that this is what I should write, since I “could.”  This baffled me, but it should have clued me in that prestige, for authors and agents is the coin you trade to get money — nothing so crude as sales to the public.  And that the field was rotten from top to bottom.

It took a while for this to sink in.  You see, I was arguing with the eight year old who was going to grow up and be a writer.  She was still somewhere inside me, and as hard to talk to logically as any eight year old.

And besides I can write anything, though writing the Magical British Empire convinced me that there are things that aren’t advisable for me to write.  It is also literary fantasy, of a sort, and I almost killed myself through sheer depression while forcing myself to write it.  (In a writers’ edition, i.e. cleaned up, it will see light of day again soon.)

Then I ran away with the Baen circus, and I don’t actually have any objections to writing shifters and space operas, and besides baby needed new shoes (school books, actually) so I worked my tail off on Musketeer’s mysteries.  Writing six books a year while homeschooling a middle schooler leaves you curiously uninterested in the state of the publishing industry.

What I have assembled a posteriori is not absolutely certain, so you guys can protest if I’m wrong.

You see, the oligopsony worked fine as long as there was another control mechanism, which we’ll call distribution and sales.  The sales were mostly tiny stores, run by people who loved books.  This meant that as rotten as the NY publishing establishment was, if it threw out (almost by accident) something worthy, the distributors ran with it and the retailers handsold it, and you had a surprise bestseller.

This didn’t please the establishment who decided they needed full control.  Enter mega chains of bookstores that put small stores out of business; enter distributors who didn’t read the books; enter retail clerks who also didn’t read and pushed only what they were told to push.

Sometime by the late nineties, the publishing business had a perfect lock on distribution, the famous push model.  I.e. “You’ll sell what we tell you to and LIKE it.”

Enter Amazon.  Their hatred for it goes that far back.  Suddenly people were finding and buying books not scheduled for bestsellerdom.  And liking them.  And buying more.

I think the push model started falling apart then.  I remember seeing a few books that got all the push and disappeared without a sound.

But there was worse to come: indie.

All of a sudden the lie that whatever got published was the best became apparent.

It was around this time that a well-established traditional author told friends of mine “if this indie thing works I’m going to be very rude to many people.”

And that’s what the Hugos fight is all about.

I woke up to Indie, in my personal timeline, because I had a weird coup-de-writing.

While in the middle of an extremely tight schedule, I took art classes to avoid thinking in words for a little bit.  And coming out of an art class an August five (?) years ago, I got an entire trilogy downloaded into my brain.  A musketeer trilogy, in a parallel world where vampires are winning.  I came home and typed in a jumble of scenes, mostly at Kate who said what I felt “this is good.  This is gold.”

Now, I know good doesn’t mean anything in publishing.  Agent, push, getting it in front of the right eyes at the right time have more to do with it.

But I thought…

Well, my agent shopped it around or at least told me so.  I only realized recently that unlike her other submittals, she never sent me rejections.  It’s alright.  Maybe it was done all in electronic, but still…

She finally sold it to this tiny house, for 3k a book.  And then I got the copyedit on that manuscript, and all hell broke lose.  For one the next book stopped cold.  This is the copyedit where the copyeditor spent a lot of time doing stuff like correcting the names of the musketeers (unnamed in the Dumas books or correcting my sentences in even more bizarre ways.  I looked at those comments recently and while it’s not the worst edit I’ve ever got, brother it’s a doozy.)

Even though we were broke at the time, I tried to buy the rights back.  And then I considered giving up writing.  If my agent could only sell what was to me at the time my best work (Yeah, A Few Good Men is better, but it was not yet even a glimmer) then I gave up.

In the middle of this I contacted Kris Rusch who told me to come out to an “how to go indie” workshop.

Everything else, including letting my agent go came from there, and if my indie career isn’t more advanced that comes down to a health collapse.

But it also freed me to come out of the political closet.

And you have to understand the closet is deep because livelihoods ride on it.

I don’t know why anyone would bother claiming publishing doesn’t trend left.  Of course it does.  It’s run by NYC people, with NYC opinions.  As NYC votes, so is it run.  They don’t THINK they’re left, because in their world it’s just what everyone thinks.  But thought NYC is a city-world, they’re missing the majority of people out here.

The result though was that in the old oligopsonic days, you had to play along and pretend, or be labeled far right wing (it should give anyone a clue that now they label me far right wing.  Me.  Oh, sure, not Marxist, but close enough to anarchy — true anarchy, not the leftist weirdness — to touch it, and they shove me into the neo-nazi spectrum, because, you know, those of us who want as little government as possible SURELY want to have goosestepping troops.  WHAT?) and never work in that town again.

I’ve said before that years ago, being mentioned at Instapundit would have meant the end of my career.

It wasn’t a stupid fear.  It was real.  Even though writers can’t control who reads them and likes them, if you’re liked by the “far right” you must be using “dog whistles” — and thus the blacklisting starts.

So those people asking to be removed from the Hugo recommendations which were made by fan vote?  Perfectly logical.  Getting tainted by association is a thing in their circles.

The people proclaiming that we: Larry, Brad, myself, John C. Wright, I don’t know if they were stupid enough to include Kevin J. Anderson and Butcher in that, but definitely everyone else in the list, had “ruined their careers” are right.  For their world and their definition of career.  None of the big four will ever publish us again, except Baen.

They are stuck in the old push-model days in their head.  They think that everyone down the chain will now boycott us.  And they want to make d*mn sure it doesn’t splash on them.

Meanwhile we’re living in a different world.  We’ve tried indie, and it worked.  (Even though in my case it was just toe dipping.  More to come once internet is fixed and bedrooms, kitchen and office unpacked. (It’s all we’re unpacking in this house.)

We’re living in a world where we can be rude to whomever we please, love our fans whoever they are, and have our own opinions.  Because NYC publishing is NOT the boss of us.

And though I’ll write for Baen as long as they’ll have me, I’ve done enough to know that indie will pay more.  (Never mind, Baen is family.  You do what you do for family.  And it’s worth it.)

Which means we live in a land without fear.  And it’s hard to remember that the reactions to being put on a list BY THE WRONG PEOPLE is perfectly logical.

And it’s hard to remember that the publishers too are afraid, and that holding onto the Hugos is all they can think of to keep prestige which they can then use to dangle in front of new writers to attract them, since they can’t have money.  (First book advances are now 3k.)

To them it’s a deadly serious game, which is why they can’t understand we’re doing this half in jest (the Sad Puppies name should have been a clue.) They can’t understand that to us it is “we can do it” and not “life or death.”

And this is why the two sides talk past each other.  And why it’s perfectly logical for each side, but the logic of one doesn’t apply to the other, because we’re living in completely different worlds.

(Hopefully internet works long enough to post this.  Pardon typos and weird constructions.  Typing in more haste than usual.  Now must open boxes to find essentail supplies to run the house.)

532 responses to “Perfectly Logical

  1. Of course publishing leans left. Most of them are Democrats. And yet, just as with the media, we’re told that party affiliation doesn’t mean bias, unless it’s a bias they disagree with.

    Just look at this chart, paying special attention (for the purposes of this topic) to the following entries: Bookseller, Publishing, Writing, Libraries, and Editorial. There are also plenty of related topics, such as teaching/academia and non-written forms of entertainment, but those five are more than enough to tell the story.

    • what chart? Or is that a joke?

      • There’s a chart floating around in an earlier thread of political leanings by profession; I think he meant to link it but ended up without the link.

      • Yeah, sorry. There was clearly a computer error, and not AT ALL me forgetting to hit Ctrl+V. *innocent face*
        http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/

        • I expect an Uber or Lyft driver tends Republican.

          • Depends. Do they look on it as a way to make some extra money, or a way to stick it to “the man”? The only Uber driver I know is totally in the tank for Bernie.

        • Hmm. It certain fits my experience getting my master’s in library science. I swear, the overwhelming leftwing moonbattery just drove me to be more of a conservative than I would have been otherwise.

          • in my case it was the sheer amount of leftwing moonbattery i had to listen to while in film school.

          • ” I swear, the overwhelming leftwing moonbattery just drove me to be more of a conservative than I would have been otherwise.” – Arwen

            *nod* Graphic arts and advertising for me. Not that I was in any danger – I’d figured out from reading Shooting Times, Guns Magazine, and Guns & Ammo that the Left/Democrats were the ones interesting in banning my guns so I’d been a conservative leaning libertarian from around the age of 14 or so – but it was kind of accepted as a given that “of course you’re a Democrat! You’re an artist!” and people would be horribly shocked and offended when I stated that I was not, and would never be.

            This was long before the campus cry bullies advent, so I was more of a curiosity than a threat. More of a “and this is our classmate the Republican. He’s weird,” thing. I was the token Libertarian. Every group had to have at least one. 😉

            I never really experienced having to keep my mouth shut and hide my political affiliations, though. Hey: Dallas in the 80’s – about half the people I worked with or freelanced for were Republicans or Libertarians, or conservatives of some stripe or flavor. The other half were often vocal liberals, but not rabidly anti-conservative, if you catch the distinction. It was more just a thing of “we think you’re all weird and misguided,” but not “you’re Evil!”

            • As we have seen from recent trollist infestations, it isn’t that they’re ignorant; the problem is that so much of what they “know” simply isn’t so.

        • Interesting graphs, but I find some disconnects:

          When I was working in the power generation industry, my fellow heavily unionized plant workers were decidedly of a conservative bent, yet the graph shows that Labor leans to the left. Does this mean that union leadership trends left (which I can attest they do) while the membership runs the other way or does it mean that my co-workers fell into the ‘skilled trade’ category, which is much more equitable?

          Re: Aviation – Does aviation not count as transportation? That would be news to the Dept. of Labor. Also, the disparity between pilots and flight attendants – is this because flight crew deal more with things (and if they succumb to things like wishful thinking, passengers die) and cabin crew deal more with people?

          • The list only makes the split about party affiliation, which is a binary set (well, trinary at least; but rather than D/R/I we just see D/R here). That’s a lot easier to judge than trying to make an arbitrary right/left split. There are a lot of people who don’t fit anything like a standard model. I’m one of them, though I’m so much more right than not that the difference only matters to academics and big-L Libertarians who tell me I’m a statist theocrat who wants to force everyone to believe like I do (which is mostly to leave people alone, and oh yeah, don’t hurt others).

            I suspect that “Aviation” covers anyone in the aviation industry, from baggage and cargo handlers to engineers who design and build the planes. It does wind up being a different kind of environment from other similar professions; even needs of cargo handling are different from the closest match, which is longshoreman.

            And I don’t know about the pilot/attendant split. It’s tempting to point out that people in service industries are more likely to skew left and therefore Democrat, but if you scan down the list you’ll see that it doesn’t hold true for other service professions.

            • Point taken re: read Democrat/Republican vs left/right or liberal/conservative. And I kind of presumed that the ‘other’ would, as is often the case in election polling, be lost in the margin of error.

            • For what it’s worth, I know a retired airline pilot whose girlfriend was a flight attendant. He is quite conservative while I classify her as left wing loonie.

              • Most of the pilots I know, but not all, tend toward conservative in general. Even the socially and economically liberal tend toward the “just leave me alone, man,” kind of hard-working, aging hippie. Could be my limited sample pool, though.

                • The laws of aerodynamics tend to be conservative while the penalties for violating them are often liberal.

                  Keep in mind that the Aviation industry has a significant block of mechanics and other service personnel, such as the crews responsible for cleaning up a jet and turning it around for its next cargo of passengers. There are also the private aircraft and their support industries.

                  Back in 2009 I was working as part of a management team completing a merger of two companies servicing such private flights and the things said in response to Obama’s utterances about corporate execs not needing those private jets are unsuitable for repeating in a family blog.

                  • a private plane for co execs can be as necessary as a car is for an individual. It provides mobility and freedom. It also can save a good deal of time otherwise spent in airports waiting for flights.

                    • Free-range Oyster

                      If you do a significant amount of air travel and either are a pilot or have one on staff, it makes economic sense. Beats the heck out of renting one regularly! The Oyster Family Business is looking at buying a plane in the near future, since their clients are all over the country and the COO is a licensed pilot. He’s angling for a Kodiak long term (for load capacity, adapatability, and “Ooh, cool!”) but they’re a little on the pricey side to start with.

                • That’s pretty true of the pilots I know as well, though by no means universal.

                  But then, piloting encourages one to be very conservative in habit and planning – if only in the “You’ll always get headwinds both ways, the passengers always weigh 15 pounds more than they say, the weather will go down and you’ll need an alternate, and if you’re going to cross that terrain, you want to fly high enough that you can make an emergency landing strip if you get icing or the engine goes out” sort of way.

                  At the very basic level of “wishful thinking is fine, but wishful thinking as a method of planning will get you killed”, it pushes people toward practicality and contemplation of consequences. And if you stay in it long enough, you get to bury more and more people: you;ll know peers, acquaintances, and friends who are dead. And that’s not a metaphor, not an internet slang, nor a social shunning: that’s standing in the graveyard as they lower the closed casket down, or as the grieving widow tosses the ashes over a cliff…

                  And when you stare at the empty spot where their plane isn’t coming back, and you buy their airport car from their widow, it really brings home that nature doesn’t care of you’re offended, aggrieved, aslighted, or abashed; it’ll kill you all the same. Wind shear doesn’t care what color your skin is, or what groups created your DNA; hit it over the mountains, and your friends will be toasting you at the wake.

                  • Yeah, leaning in the pick-up window on a rural road by small county airstrip when the spray-pilot’s apprentice and good friend finally lets himself grieve . . . Gravity sucks.

                • To a slightly lesser degree, truckers, too. Pretty much all the long haulers of my acquaintance want to go independent at some point if they’re not already. That combines small business “no safety net” and long periods of solitary contemplation.

                  The laws of physics, too, give no fracks if you’re tired, distracted, grieving over a recent divorce, desperately lonely, or p*ssed at “the man” for one reason or the other. Failure to plan can leave you stranded rather than dead, but that happens, too.

                  The mutterings I’ve heard in the trucker bars and rest stops on my short haul route have been strongly against the current maladministration- even the ones who tend lefty, like the staff of those non-mobile locations. The tone of the last few *years* has been, “that {expletive} fool is going to get a lot of good men and women killed, a few years down the road. The horsemen’ll be sending out their apprentices to ride. How many wars is he *trying* to kick start?”

          • The Union workers dynamic has been changing rather dynamically in the last decade or so, at least in my experience. Growing up I was around a number of employees of of Union places, the single biggest local employer where I grew up was a steam plant and a coal mine (owned by the same parent company) and were union. Also there was the brewery and a couple of mills that were union, as well as a large portion of the construction workers being hired out of either the Laborers or the Operators, union halls. Almost every one of those union workers I knew were what would be considered conservative, pro 2nd Amendment, etc. And every one of them either voted for Bill Clinton or left the Presidential spot blank on the ballot. Union workers used to vote practically straight Democratic in national elections (the ones that confused me were those that would vote straight Republican/conservative in state/local elections, and possibly even for Congressmen and Senators, but vote for the Presidential candidate that opposed all the positions of those other people on the ballot they just voted for). That has changed in the last fifteen or so years. Most members of the Laborers, Operators, or Teamsters Unions I know today vote Republican or don’t vote.

  2. Pingback: Independent Publishing and the Exploding Marketplace | Novel Ninja

  3. c4c.

  4. “….And it’s hard to remember that the reactions to being put on a list BY THE WRONG PEOPLE is perfectly logical.”

    I think the very saddest aspect of this phase of the Sad Puppies might be realizing how very terrified those writers are who are on the SP4 list and asking – or demanding, rather – to be taken off at once!!! It was suggested on one of the other discussion threads about the SP4 list (can’t recall by whom, sorry!) that basically they are being leaned on by the Establishment Publishing Powers That Be, who are suggesting in a rather menacing manner – “Nice little new author writing career you have there … be a pity of anything happened to it.”

    And being new and just building their brand, and having gotten those first nibbles of success and acclaim, and being on the lower rungs of the Traditional Publishing track – they do not quite have the confidence (or the sheer bioody contrary-mindedness) of someone like Dave Freer, or Larry Corriera, or the success of someone like Jim Butcher to tell them to go pound sand,

    Which is a cruel thing to do to a writer, if this is indeed being done. Yeah, your fans are wrong-fans and you better disavow them immediately, or you’ll never eat lunch in this town again,

    • But more and more it seems that the publishing houses are not interested in supporting all of their stable, but merely their preferred hobby horses and pets.

    • CombatMissionary

      In the short term, this is a very ugly thing, you’re right. In the long term, when more money is made by indie than by traditional publishing, this is going to get the traditional publishing houses the middle finger by most young, new writers.

      Change is a good thing; it’s the (relatively speaking) short-term uncertainty and fallout related to change that really sucks.

    • So what you’re saying is we need to proselytize:

      “Throw off the chains of the NYC publishing establishment and free yourselves! Go indie and never have to kiss the tuchuses of the self-important! Come over to the side of freedom and self-respect!”

    • The thing is, no leaning-on has to happen. Everyone knows that blacklisting by association happens, it is vicious, and there is no appeal. In the passive-aggressive way of publishing houses, they’ll simply stop inviting those authors to events, stop offering to purchase from them, and eventually stop communicating all together. Ditto their agents.

    • I was the one who said that, though others have said more or less the same thing. Writers who are just getting out of second gear are terrified that their chances at a successful career will be crushed by reprisals from people they don’t know, people who don’t even read them. I call it The Fear That Dare Not Speak Its Name. Admitting that you’re afraid of bullies is an invitation for more bullying. So they will do anything to dodge the question that I’ve asked repeatedly: ***Why would someone be so frothing-at-the-mouth emotional about being recommended for an award?*** That knucklehead Damien Walters thinks Kate can be sued for…aiding and abetting the praise of a writer? I don’t think “branding” is a strong enough concept to explain what’s going on here. It’s terror of reprisals, as simple as that.

      • I asked that very question at the MGC today. Along with, “who are you afraid of?”

      • Thanks, Jeff – knew it was someone on one of these threads. I have a mind like an untidy filing cabinet – all sorts of items and factoids in it, roughly categorized, but with only a vague notion of the source and reference,

        It is a horrific thing to do to writers – especially a person who is naturally rather introspective and has an aura of being easily bullied about them. I’ve begun to count it as one of my own bits of good fortune is that I came into writing sideways, and out of a military career, where one learns early on to adopt an attitude of ‘do not mess with me’ very early on,

    • Exactly, these authors are terrified of being on the SP4 ballot, not because of anything the puppies can do to them, but because of what THEIR OWN PEOPLE will do to them.

      Which pretty much proves that Larry was right all along.

      • Isn’t that reason enough not to be with the puppy kickers? If you’re with people who keep you in a state of fear?

  5. Bjorn Hasseler

    We’re down to the Big Four now? What did I miss?

    • Random Penguins?

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Probably brainderp. I think that is the phrase she uses?

      My understanding is that it is big five, used to be big six. She says big four, used to be big five. Hachette, MacMillan, Penguin, Simon Schuster, and *checks notes* HarperCollins. Penguin is Penguin Randomhouse, which is the merger of Penguin and Randomhouse.

    • Wendy S. Delmater

      You know what all these big publisher mergers me remind me of? What happened to the payphone industry due to cell phones. My sister worked in sales in the payphone industry for 15 years and rode the wave of high level mergers all the way to a layoff.

      • Too bad the Tardis got stuck looking sooooo 20th century.

      • what does she do these days? a payphone could still be necessary. If you’ve left your cell in the car or forgotten to charge it.

        • Wendy S. Delmater

          emily61, she works for Goodwill now, in sales – helping people get jobs. Loves it to death.

        • There are payphone booths scattered about the factory where I work. I have never seen anyone use them. But they’ve been maintained enough to cost 50 cents to make a local call.

        • Yes, I know of a couple of places where I wish there were still pay phones (still a 30 mile drive to cell service) but while they would be handy, the phone booths have been removed in the last couple years.

          • My father worked for the phone company. You know what killed the payphone? Deregulation. You see, the pay phones always LOST money, they were subsidized by the long distant rates. Once long distance service was given to other companies (for free, they didn’t even have to pay for the equipment, the AT&T customers paid for it) the old phone company couldn’t afford to keep the phones. First the raised the rates, but they started pulling them not long after that.
            Then with the cell phone, they were all but rendered redundant. They are definitely very rare now.

            • I like to remark on how Cell phones have totally changed the paradigm of calling people.You used to call places and ask for people, and you had to know the numbers for lots of different places the person might be. Now we have a number that calls a person,regardless of where they are.

              • Yes, TPC definitely got their way. Next they’ll be making everyone change their names to numbers!

                (and for those who don’t get it, go see ‘The President’s Analyst’, great flick)

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Think of all the stories that would be different if the Main Character had a cell phone. 😉

                • “I know who the murderer is! I’ve gotta get to a phone!”

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Or “my car broke down. I’ll just go to that old house & ask to use the phone.” 👿

                    • “So you were caught with a flat, Well, how about that….”

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Of course, there’s the “protecting your secret-identity” in a world with cell-phones/smart-phones that can take pictures.

                      In the Wearing The Cape series, there’s plenty of comments about “capes” getting their pictures taken without them realizing it.

                      The “results” can be as “innocent” as two female “capes” adjusting their uniforms after getting out of a car and getting into the tabloids as “lesbian lovers”. Note the “capes” were changing out of civilian clothing into their uniforms.

                      Of course, one cape’s “secret identity” was revealed because somebody compared pictures of the cape in uniform with pictures of the cape in civilian clothing.

                      Oh, this cape’s secret identity was well known in Chicago, even if few knew about the cape being a cape.

                      The mask the cape used didn’t cover the cape’s complete face so photo comparison revealed the truth.

                    • The mask the cape used didn’t cover the cape’s complete face so photo comparison revealed the truth.

                      I posted a picture of a friend once, and Facebook immediately identified him even though it was only a 3/4 profile.

                    • Of course, one cape’s “secret identity” was revealed because somebody compared pictures of the cape in uniform with pictures of the cape in civilian clothing.

                      Given how often people walk up to me and think I’m someone else, I think this gotcha may be a bit illusionary.

                      Testing this theory:

                      (no, I don’t know how many folks did but didn’t stop to say anything, on the Dolly Parton theory. She use to stay at Motel 8, and people would go “of course it’s not her, Dolly Parton in a place liek this?” but she did get stopped to be told how she looked like herself. 😀 )

                    • On the topic of “glasses hiding identity,” I give you this: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8937860/1/Hiding-in-Plain-Sight

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Well, I remember the time where I shaved off my beard and everybody recognized me anyway with a few who didn’t seem to realize that I had shaved off my beard. 😈

                      Note, in one of the Wearing The Cape novels, a magic-user created glasses that allowed a monstrous-looking cape to go out in public and looking perfectly normal.

                      Later, another cape used those type of glasses to go out in public in uniform (which included guns) without appearing like the cape was in uniform. 😉

                • SheSellsSeashells

                  I was reading “Little House in the Big Woods” to my child at the age of 4. We got to a “Pa went into the woods X days ago and everybody is WORRIED” bit. “But why didn’t he just call home, Mommy?”

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    I was reading one older gothic novel when the young woman wasn’t met by her friend or anybody else and was worried about it.

                    I thought “use your cell-phone” until I realized how silly the thought was. 😀

                  • I’m wanting to answer that he couldn’t get a signal, but ev’rbody knows thar war b’ars in those woods.

              • And the programmable phone book in cell phones. It used to be you knew everybody you were likely to call often or need to call in an emergency’s phone number. Now you’re lucky if you know your own, and if you are ever without your cell phone, stopping at a house and asking to use their phone is only so helpful, when you don’t know the number of anyone you wish to contact.

              • At one point, I made a list of all the songs I knew that had become outdated because of cellphones. I was surprised at how many there were.

        • Unfortunately, the phone companies no longer consider them a good investment.

  6. Reality Observer

    I always consider anything more than 45 degrees a bit more than a lean…

    Pardoning your typos, anyway. If I didn’t I’d have to do something drastic to myself for the utter gibberish I was producing on the tablet, on the bus, this morning.

  7. Unless I’m mistaken Baen actively solicits input from its customers and makes every effort to give them what they want.
    The rest of publishing is stuck in the “we’ll tell you what’s good for you and you’ll like it” mode. Might just be some correlation between this and why Baen sales are up and everyone else’s are down.

    • All (SF at least) publishers have solicited reader input at some time, but the nature of organizations is that those most attuned to the internal organization speak gain the most power in the organization. It isn’t as simple as yes men being promoted for telling the boss what she wants to hear, it is things like knowing that shipping can ship that day if they get an invoice before 11AM and that the boss is far more easy about spending money in the middle of the month so that internal knowledge gets things done. The longer an organization exists the more powerful this factor becomes and, if Baen lasts long enough, it too will become a publishing house where customer preferences are largely irrelevant. The customer may be king, but a peasant’s happiness depends on keeping the local boss man happy not some far away king who is rarely seen.

      • From what I remember of how they’re organized, they’re applying subsidiarity to avoid this– instead of having a big long chain of command, there’s a bunch of little chains. So “figure out how the boss thinks and exploit it” has a minor effect, rather than being a major gaming thing.

        • One key is for keeping publishing houses small and reflective of the view of a single individual or small group — e.g., Baen — with their success or failure contingent upon finding and maintaining an audience. Keeping it small keeps down the staffing and limits risk (sorta the way revolutionary cells operate) while still allowing sufficient people whose profession is shepherding manuscripts into books to keep the pages turning.

          Limiting the number of people who have input into “What kind of books do we want to publish” allows idiosyncratic styles to flourish, with Baen serving its niche and TOR satisfying those who have not yet succumbed to the desire to slit their wrists. Even shelved side-by-side in the stores the cooties are not contagious; problems only tend to arise when fans of one type decide others’ tastes are embarrassing them.

        • matthewamsel

          Baen also has the Bar, with many members who are quite happy telling Toni et al if they think something is wrong.

          • I’ve never been; do they have different areas for different editors or authors?

            That would avoid drowning-in-noise effect.

            And can the editors see what posters have said, so they can figure out if they’re getting the Game Message Board effect? (MMO players all know how there’s ALWAYS a group demanding something incredibly bad, and basically wants anything that hurts their character to be nerfed. Blizzard frequently gives them what they want, and it turns out badly…..)

            It is a good tool, though.

            • matthewamsel

              Each author who wants has a subforum, though some, like John Ringo, have largely abandoned it. I know Lois Bujold, Tom Kratman, David Drake, and several others hang out there, though, and regularly participate in the discussions.

              Toni’s Table (The abode of The Honourable Toni Weiskopf, Dame Protector of Plot and Mistress Publishing) is fairly active, and Toni checks it regularly.

            • I haven’t been there in quite a while (don’t have time to even keep up here, much less other areas on the internet) but yes many of the authors (I believe any that have multiple books through them and wish to) have their own forums. Offhand I know Bujold, Kratman, Hoyt, Weber, Ringo, Williamson, Flint, and some others have forums, as well as forums for individual editors. Some authors, such as Weber and Ringo don’t go to their forums, but there is still plenty of discussion of their books by their fans, and last I was there Kratman and Williamson were very active on theirs. I know David Drake occasionally visits Kratskeller, but has said that he does not want one of his own.

  8. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    “I don’t know why anyone would bother claiming publishing doesn’t trend left. Of course it does. It’s run by NYC people, with NYC opinions. As NYC votes, so is it run. They don’t THINK they’re left, because in their world it’s just what everyone thinks. But thought NYC is a city-world, they’re missing the majority of people out here.

    The result though was that in the old oligopsonic days, you had to play along and pretend, or be labeled far right wing (it should give anyone a clue that now they label me far right wing. Me. Oh, sure, not Marxist, but close enough to anarchy — true anarchy, not the leftist weirdness — to touch it, and they shove me into the neo-nazi spectrum, because, you know, those of us who want as little government as possible SURELY want to have goosestepping troops. WHAT?) and never work in that town again.”
    I think that NYC produces a culture of fear so deep that it just isn’t noticed any more. The thing is that too many people are actually afraid to think any differently, at least out where people can hear it. That’s starting to change under the pressures everybody’s in and the fact that the blue model is just getting bat crap insane.

    • The problem in publishing is precisely the one we’re facing in all our other institutions: They’ve fundamentally screwed up their organization and processes by recruiting and manning from biased sources.

      Classically, organizations operate on what John Boyd called the “OODA loop”, and applied to aerial combat. It’s something that actually describes how any organization should work–Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. The publishing houses are making incorrect observations, filtering them through faulty thought processes in order to orient themselves to the market, which results in poor decisions and ineffective actions.

      They’re going to keep doing this until the market finally tells them “No more…” via the expediency of bankruptcy.

      You want failure? You want delusion, in perception, thought, and action? Recruit your personnel from among the doctrinaire ranks of our Ivy League.

      • Yes, yes and yes!!! And it seems like it’s just about every company in every industry or service.

        • I call it bureausclerosis. As an organization grows it necessarily adds more bureaucrats. It eventually gets to the point where a significant number of those bureaucrats only talk to other bureaucrats. Once that happens the bureaucratic imperatives become increasingly divorced from reality, which eventually causes the organization to lose focus and deviate from its mission. All organizations, public and private, are subject to this condition, but private organizations that go off the rails lose customers until they either go out of business or pare down the bureaucracy and refocus (see: IBM). Or they start hiring public bureaucrats to keep their competition at bay.

          • I like your term, and I’m going to steal it. Bureausclerosis.

            Honestly, I think that the issue you’re touching on here is a key feature to why so many of our institutions are failing us.

            • You cannot steal that which is given away freely.

              Bureausclerosis is why I think that all government employees, not just elected representatives, should have term limits. It’s also why I think that requiring the capital to move from state to state every couple of years would be a good thing.

              • I’d add that there should be a total ban on lifetime government employment, just like there should be a ban on lifetime government aid. You get five years on the tit, and then you’re off. Yeah, it would mean we’d miss out on the benefit of all that “experience” in government, but I don’t see that as a bad thing, to be honest.

                You should not be able to make a career of government service, any more than you should be able to make a career as a politician. Not in a Republic.

                • That’s what I meant by term limits, though I was think ten years. We would still get experience, we would just have to hire it from the productive economy – which would be hiring experienced government workers who are reaching their term limits – so the bureaucracy would have to be very streamlined or nobody would know how it worked.

                • unfortunately, that leaves a lot of disabled vets screwed….

                  • Speaking as one, that’s a feature, not a bug. I don’t think that we deserve a lifetime sinecure, because by making the prize too great, you encourage too much “seek the disability” behavior. You should get assistance to transition to a productive life, unless you’re a vegetable. And, then, in my opinion, you ought to get a bullet in the back of the head–That’s what I would want, in any event. I don’t believe in torture.

                    Dependency, like slavery, is a pernicious vice for both the dependent and the benefactor. Whether it’s on the individual or the social scale, it’s not a good thing.

                    Unless we manage to wreck the place, it is not going to be too long before all this crap is likely to be overcome by events, in any case–I strongly suspect that we’re only a generation or two away from effectively fixing a lot of our biological mishaps, which will completely obviate the entire concept of “disabled”. Or, at the least, ameliorating them to the point of effective insignificance. It’s about time we started thinking about what the world looks like, when your “disabilities” become essentially volitional.

                  • Depends on your definition of disabled, the majority of the “disabled” people I know, whether vets or not, could work perfectly well, but if they had to hold down a job in order to receive their paycheck, they wouldn’t have near the time to do what they like to do.

                    Oh and PTSD is NOT a disability. For the majority of human history, PTSD was normal, it is only in the last couple of generations that there have been enough of the general population who don’t encounter “traumatic stress” for this to be even considered abnormal. Personally I consider those people abnormal, and rather than consider those who haven’t encountered “traumatic stress” a disorder, I propose we just rectify that problem.

            • I coined that term 15 years ago……

          • At the airline where I worked last as a mechanic, I realized we were in trouble when the company newsletter stated that ‘so-and-so has been hired as the assistant can-do officer’. Who the heck was the can-do officer, and what the heck did he, she, or it do that required an assistant?

            The penultimate nail in the coffin was when they finally hired an actual airline exec.-type person as COO, and we realized that he had worked for entities such as Braniff, Eastern, Pan Am; organizations that weren’t around any longer.

            • I’m in the middle of doing a study of organizational dysfunction, and one of the key things I’m noticing is the fact that about the time they start hiring people and describing their jobs in terms like that… The organization is dead. It’s still twitching, but it’s only a matter of time before the auditors are coming by to stick a fork into it, and pronounce it dead.

              • I wish that I had kept notes at my last job. The problem was that I was too busy just trying to my job and our little group was kept sort out of the center of the dysfunction. You could see it though. I’m expecting a bloodbath through corporate America when the next recession hits in six months, if we are lucky.

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  My region might have employment that is heavily based on oil. There might be a lot of layoffs happening now.

              • Wendy S. Delmater

                It sounds like you are studying what I call the Life Cycle of Corporations, Kirk. May I also recommend you look at their pension funds/debt?

            • Can-do officer? In charge of laxatives, no doubt?

          • The essential function of bureaucrats is to maintain and grow the bureaucracy. All other functions are considered a waste of their precious time.

      • You want failure? You want delusion, in perception, thought, and action? Recruit your personnel from among the doctrinaire ranks of our Ivy League.

        It should be noted that the Ivy League is essentially populated by those with the greatest investment in the conventional wisdom, in the customary way of doing things, because it is by mastery of those elements they got into the Ivy League in the first place.

        • I’ve reached the point where if a student were to ask me about the Ivys, I’d say “If you want a government job, or one with Goldman-Sachs ( but I repeat myself), and you are not a Caucasian male, look into them. Otherwise don’t bother.” Grad school might be an exception, possibly.

          • If you want to study math and can get into Princeton go. Princeton is the center of the mathematical universe. You’ll be a published mathematician while getting a BS.

            Maybe, maybe, maybe, if you want to study CompSci and can get into Yale go. That’s a big maybe, though, and I’m not nearly as certain of it as I am of Princeton and mathematics.

            Other than that, save the money. You’ll be dating townies if you’re smart (or at Harvard BC girls) anyway.

        • When I ran the editorial side of a significant publishing company in the 1990s, I tossed every Ivy resume I received unread in the trash. I knew even then that they were poison. The best people I hired were from schools like Northern Arizona University.

          • I read a piece that said; “hire the scrappers.” Better somebody who’s been around the block and eaten a little dirt than the overcredentialed idiot who’s had nothing but silver spoons and babyfood all their lives. I’ve worked with those types one way or another and most of them were full of entitlement and short on talent.

        • My standard question in affirmative action debates is “who do you think will add more real diversity to the Harvard class of 2021: William Hatfield, the son of an Appalachian coal miner and a waitress who served two tours in Afghanistan, or Malia Obama?”

      • The publishing houses are making incorrect observations, filtering them through faulty thought processes in order to orient themselves to the market, which results in poor decisions and ineffective actions.

        Actually, they are not making incorrect observations: They are observing the wrong things, and proceeding around the OODA loop getting better and better at meeting the expectations of the inside elite of Ivy League Grads With Literary Pretentions (ILGWLP). The reader is a distraction, to be not-observed.

        The only break in the ILGWLP OODA loop is when another elite, the Hollywood folks, come knocking. That they honor. But if the movie rights they sold end up as a flop, hey, no big deal, that stupid public doesn’t know what’s actually good, and back into their self-referential virtue signalling OODA loop they go…

        • Well, incorrect observations in so far as the bottom line is concerned. They can continue to play their self-referential game only so long as the bean-counters in the corporations that own them allow them to.

        • Actually, they are not making incorrect observations: They are observing the wrong things, and proceeding around the OODA loop getting better and better at meeting the expectations of the inside elite of Ivy League Grads With Literary Pretentions (ILGWLP). The reader is a distraction, to be not-observed.

          Mmmmm… I think we’re grasping at gnats, here. If the observation is inherently flawed, in that they’re not paying attention to the reality of things, are they not making incorrect observations? Self-referential is a valid value of “incorrect”, in my book.

          • Ah, but if the purpose of your OODA loop is to get invited to more Publishing House Parties, then it’s working just fine.

            The saying in the semiconductor quality world is “If You Measure It, It Will Improve.” If all you deign to care to notice is your social status among your Ivy League Publishing peers, leaving all that grubby money counting to the Finance Department, then the first time you’d notice the real world is when you and all your editor-friends get laid off, as in the Random Penguin episode.

  9. Your memories aren’t wrong, at all. The publishers stopped publishing what I wanted to read sometime in the 1990s.

    Look at how many authors had careers that just…Stopped. Christopher Rowley. P.C. Hodgell. Miller and Lee. A whole bunch of good, solid reads, and dropped so thoroughly that a casual fan could think they’d all died.

    And, for what? The crap they were replaced with didn’t even last past the first time I picked them up to glance at the first few pages of the books, there in the store.

    The SF market got taken over by the same idiots who took over the rest of the publishing industry, and skewed so far out of whack that it’s only recently that it’s started to come back to the even keel it had before. And, the process started back in the late 1960s and 1970s with the “literary” crap that came out, which was more concerned with pretension, style, and all that other crap than actually entertaining or telling a story.

    Unlike most of the nut jobs in the industry, I don’t think the average person reads fiction with an eye towards developing or exacerbating clinical depression. I’m not looking for constant uplift, but dear God, has most of the market been taken over by dystopia, or what? I think the main reason that Baen has been so successful with people like me isn’t so much the quality of the writing, but that you don’t want to go off into a garret and blow your brains out after reading the majority of it. Which is the primary impulse you’re left with, after reading most of the crap the high-minded nut jobs running the game have offered us.

    • > 1990s … stopped

      Same here. And after Jeff Duntemann started talking about it on his blog I looked at my shelves and started looking up what those authors I used to like were doing now.

      Mostly… nothing. A few had died, a few had put out one or two lackluster attempts, and I guess the rest went back to work at Burger King or the button factory.

      I have maybe 5000 SF books on the shelves. I could put all the post-2000 books in a small shopping bag.

      > depression

      Depression, dystopia, and antiheroes are what The Thought Leaders have decreed. But I suspect mostly because they’re easy to write.

      • Pretty much the same for me. Except for Baen and a few authors. and nonfiction. Add manga and as far as I’m concerned the SF from the big five can essentially go fly a kite.

      • Do a sub-sorting of what was published as juvenile fiction– as in aimed at kids, not needfully “has kid characters.”

        About that time I started reading mostly new stuff in that category.

        And now… it’s been turned into the same stuff I went to it to avoid, sex included.

      • Indie’s changing this. It’ll take some years yet, but indie will make a decisive difference. When I was shopping my latest novel, the NYC acquisitions crowd told me that “humorous fiction doesn’t sell.” I got into a bit of a funk about it after a couple of years of hearing that kind of talk, but Sarah shook me out of it, and the novel is doing quite well now on Kindle. It will do even better once I finish being moved and can devote more time to promotion and writing new material.

        I’m discovering other writers now who know that humor does so sell. (Robert Kroese and Mackey Chandler, among others.) Just not to the NYC Wellbutrin-deprived crowd.

        I can hear the cracks forming in the Manhattan Monopoly all the way out here in Arizona.

        • I’m on an indie binge. What’s a good intro to your work?

        • Humor most certainly does sell – my daughter and I wrote a humorous set of stories and essays about an English bad-boy chef winding up in a small South Texas town, and brought it out in November, It has sold so very well in four months – almost as well as my very first historical which came out in 2007 – that we are hurrying along to finish the second installment. It has four and five star reviews (a single one star from someone who possibly was reading another book entirely …) so I have grounds for believing that in grim and serious times, people want some gentle, funny diversion,

          • It isn’t that Humor doesn’t sell, it is that they have a) no idea how to sel it and b) having no sense of humor, wouldn’t recognize humor if it kicked them in the arse, sprayed seltzer down their pants and hit them in the face with a chocolate cream pie.

            Comedy is the longest-standing, most stable genre of entertainment. It sells in good times and bad, it sells to all demographic groups. From Lysistrata through Shakespeare to Moliere to The Big Bang Theory it has dominated theatre; the biggest selling books are dominated by humor from Twain’s Tom Sawyer to Vonnegut’s fantasies to M*A*S*H to A Confederacy of Dunces.

            “They” are the wearers of false dignity, who cannot get the joke when the snowball knocks off their top hats. Their idea of humor is the witty barb, the humiliation of their inferiors, the degradation of the arriviste presuming to be their social equal. Small wonder they cannot recognize humor nor sell it when they discover it: the butt of their jokes is the audience to whom they’re selling.

          • Celia… Two questions, here: One, for the love of God, why haven’t I heard of this? Seriously, now… You’re holding out on us.

            Second, where the hell do I find this? You’ve piqued my curiosity, and it would be well that I could satisfy the sudden hunger I have to read this and share it…

            [teh heavy sigh] Some people… I swear. I’m over at Chicago Boys and here, all the time, and this is the first I hear of this? It’s been out for how long? And, to add insult to injury, you mention it here without the slightest hint as to how to find said likely literary gem? What gives? What have we done to you? How have we offended thee?

            • Nooooo! No one has offended me – it’s just that I didn’t want to be seen offensively over- pimping my own work, especially since I am not actually a science fiction writer! Sarah was kind enough to link it in a promo thread a couple of weeks/months ago, make mention of it on Insty, and Jonathon at Chicagoboyz has been kind enough to post direct links in the sidebar to all of our books,

              OK – it’s called “The Chronicles of Luna City” – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017L2MT30

              And I haven’t been as active on blogging because I am trying to finish the second Chronicle. (I have about 5,000 words to go – we’re looking to release at the end of April or so.)everyone seemed to find it a barrel of laughs, so … full steam ahead!

              • And after reading Celia’s Luna City book, anyone who still desires more humorous reading should really try Gordon Korman’s juveniles. I know they are juveniles, but adults will certainly enjoy them, just don’t read in public unless you enjoy getting strange looks while you choke and sputter, trying not to laugh out loud.

                Foxfier, you really should check these out for your youngun’s in a couple years. They are clean and appropriate for all ages, and kids love them.

    • I noticed the same thing, except at the time I really thought it was cyperpunk that killed SF for me. Because don’t get me wrong, the first couple of Gibson books were pretty great, but all the stuff that they were publishing to me just seemed so bleak and depressing.

      I was in my early 20s then, and had read mostly sci-fi up to that point, so what I did to feed my habit was look for fantasy authors that had a lot of books out, and whose earliest books were still in print. This led me to David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and later to George R.R. Martin. I pretty much spent middle and end of the 90s catching up on epic fantasy. Because Martin aside, those stories are generally uplifting hero’s journeys. and the ones that aren’t, that have survived, are pretty spectacular (like, say, Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant novels).

      I also went through phases where I read a bunch of westerns, or police procedurals, or whatever. But until I found Baen in the early oughts, very little SF.

      • Same here except instead of heading to Fantasy (which I’d been reading already) but to Mystery and especially Detective. I didn’t mind cyberpunk depending on the mindset…it could be bleak like Detective as long as it wasn’t totally amoral.

    • Agreed. I started noticing in the 90’s that anything new was nothing I wanted to read. With few exceptions I have just been re-reading my favorites over and over for the last couple of decades, kinda like watching Star Trek reruns. 😀

    • I caught up on classics, the MZB Sword and Sorceress anthologies, Lackey, and every David Drake, Pournell and Sterling, and other mil-sci-fi story I could find. And the Star Wars novels, about half (all the Rogue Squadron/ Wraith Squadron.) I nibbled some other stuff but it was too morose or just dull. Then I started writing as a way to vent, and ended up writing what I want to read. And lucked out (kinda) by going to grad school in a place where the closest bookstore was near a military base, and stocked every Baen title that came out, as well as Robert Spencer’s jihad books and so on.

    • I think the big chain bookstores and the ‘push’ model gave the big N (3<N<7) publishers a system without feedback. Even adding things like Wal-Mart, you have the stocking decisions nationwide made by a few individuals. Without Amazon, there was no competition. You read what they choose.
      Now, as a business model, this works fine as long as what you choose adequately reflects the readers. But there is no feedback from the readers. The books that sell are the books they stock and short of the readers not buying, they are happy. When the gross sales start dropping, it must be because the ignorant cousin-breeding masses are unable to appreciate the fine offerings. It certainly could not be that the readers indeed understand their sophisticated, depressing dystopias and reject them. Since the Big N were doing fine in 1990, somehow it must be the reader's fault. Why yes, they are all white male sexists racists.

      • The cognitive dissonance required to be a Progressive seems exhausting to me. How one can keep “the Republicans are finished because straight white men are a shrinking minority” and “publishing runs are shrinking because straight white men are refusing to read books by diverse authors” from meeting and annihilating each other in a flash of logic is beyond me.

        • Your mistake is in thinking they try to reconcile these conflicting ideas. That never happens. The first idea is their way of telling themselves that they’re winning, even though the facts don’t bear that out. The second is their rationalization of their failures as caused by the group they dislike most.

          • I simply cannot fathom a mind that does not see those two ideas in any kind of proximity and think “wait, if SWM are a shrinking demographic how can they continue to drive print sales?”

            Then again, I have a hard time understanding how most people can be as dumb as they actually are. Just one reason why mass murderers don’t shock me.

            • Well, how long has the truism that “An intellectual is someone who can hold two mutually contradictory ideas at the same time” been around?

              Frankly, after a lifetime of observation and self-education, I’ve about reached the conclusion that the solipsist morons we’ve been according all this attention and credence to since I was a child…?

              They’re really some of the dumbest people in the room. I was raised to respect academia and intellectualism, for themselves, but I’m really reaching the point where I just can’t, any more. Too many things like this… And, the evidence for the inherent “wrong” of the path they’ve taken us down, these last few generations, is piling up around our feet.

              • Kirk, I quote the late comedian, Brother Dave Gardner: “A liberal is a person educated beyond his capacity to learn.”

                • I’d agree, but with a caveat that there are a lot of “conservatives” like that, as well.

                  It’s one reason I’m washing my hands of the whole thing, honestly. About the only thing I’m willing to say about my politics these days is that, whatever I am, I’m not a Democrat. I’m also not a Republican, either, because I’d need a damn lobotomy to keep following those idiots down the drain. But, I’m mostly and emphatically “not Democrat”. Republicans I might find some agreement with, but I’m not joining them in the suicide pact they seem to be in with the people running the joint DemoRep party, either.

                  I’m not satisfied with any of the labels, at all. They are all inadequate, and I think we’re entering a period of time when they are all going to be forced into irrelevance–And, need to be.

                  • As has been said here before, it seems that the core issues that define right and left occasionally change. New issues move to the for and others fade. We are in the midst of a time of change. Trump is a symptom of this. He has grown popular focusing on issues that the elites of both parties either agree on or thought peripheral.

                • Careful there, Sam, quoting Brother Dave will date you… That’s like saying you remember Cosby when he did standup and was funny.

              • As has been attributed to Orwell, there are some ideas so stupid only an intellectual can believe them.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                My Intellectual Journey to Anti-Intellectualism

                • It would actually be better titled: “My Depressed Realization that Most Intellectuals are Actually Morons”.

                  Seriously… I was raised to respect intellect and education, academic accomplishments. Then, I got out into the real world, and realized that the idealized stuff I’d been taught by well-meaning people was fundamentally in error, in both conception and execution.

                  Of course, it is rather liberating to finally grasp that the world needs to be worked out from first principles, and probably should be.

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    I was speaking for myself. My journey didn’t have direct contact with the real world, and involved traditional academic type activities, only with very little formal contact with academia. I also had very strong evidence of the limits of my intelligence.

                    Right now I’ve been struggling with a speech on magical thinking causing the misapplication of stuff that looks like industrial methods to human society. It looks like industrial methods, because many people do not realize the difference between, say, the production of a car and the production of an educated human being. It is not, because data based decisions about human beings matter enough to humans that the data will be falsified.

                    The more everything depends on data that is processed a single way, the more incentive to falsify. Pump enough false data in, and people become confused, frustrated, and demoralized.

                    I see supporting this kind of program as a personal failing, one of the sort I also struggle with.

                    Pithily: Screw leftism, communism, and Walter Meade’s ‘Blue State Model’. If I’m not smart* enough to force the world** to conform to my wishes, I refuse to believe anyone else is. It is a mistake to think the world works that way.***

                    *This is raw intelligence alone, not leadership, project management, or careful definition as the first stage of problem solving.

                    **Note grandiose scope.

                    ***Yeah, I wasn’t prepared to solve all the real problems when I made those overconfident assumptions. Yeah, I still don’t know what I should have done instead. I deeply regret…

                  • You know, it was once common knowledge that people who had only had “book learning” needed to spend some time in the real world and get some of their education dirtied a bit before they would really be worth anything, but somehow it got turned around and now experience is not counted as having any meaning. (I’m probably just repeating things that most people here know, but I needed to organize it for myself, so I wrote it down).

                    • I suspect that this is largely a function of the increasing bureaucratization of society. It doesn’t matter whether or not you can do the job; it matters whether you have a piece of paper saying you are qualified to do the job, even if you have no idea what you’re doing. Add to that the fact that the upper echelons of the bureaucracy are drawn from those with education rather than experience and it seems pretty clear to me why we’re heading down this road.

              • ” I was raised to respect academia and intellectualism, for themselves, but I’m really reaching the point where I just can’t, any more. ”

                I on the other hand was raised to distrust academia and intellectualism, until proven otherwise. Those individuals and instances that have proven my distrust unfounded, have been rare enough to be held up as the exceptions that prove the rule.

            • You may not be able to fathom it, but they certainly do exist. It comes from not examining your positions by comparing them against one another. I agree that it’s really difficult to imagine how one could go through life that way, but repeated exposure to contradictory mindsets in the same person has forced me to admit its truth.

              Once in a blue moon, you can ask them about the dichotomy, and they will begin to see a glimmer of the problem, but usually they simply keep them separate in their minds and cannot see any conflict.

    • Look at how many authors had careers that just…Stopped.

      Saw an interview with Tanith Lee from the early 2000s, and she mentioned a few things related to this: letters from fans who wondered if she’d died; books that she couldn’t get published (either by new publishers or ones she’s worked with in the past); the drawer full of completed but unpublished work …

      She’d always been an electric writer, but I certainly checked for anything new from her, and I was astonished in the late 90s that virtually all of her work was out of print. Sure, DAW has been reprinting the Birthgrave trilogy for the 40th anniversary, but what took them so long?

      Grr … I’m keeping an eye out for her posthumous works.

      • Somebody needs to help her go Indie.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Tanith Lee isn’t able to go indie but votes in Chicago as she died May of last year. 😉

          Mind you, some of her books are showing up in the Kindle store.

      • The other problem is if you had more than one series, a publisher could sternly direct you toward the one they liked. C J Cherryh wrote two Finisterre novels back n the 90s. I was eagerly awaiting the next one but, the series just stopped. I read later that her publisher pushed her in another direction.

        • She’s been writing only Foreigner for at least 10 years. It’s got to be annoying to be writing in only one series for that long.

          • Without even original titles? Just 1,2,3, etc.?

            I read the first five or six Foreigners, and sort of drifted away, I have up to 9 or 10 on audiobooks, so I will probably listen to the others when I get to driving eight or nine hours a day, later this spring, but they aren’t my favorite “Cherryh universe.”

            • The first few books were fat and delved deeply into the trials and tribulations of truly understanding alien cultures. Now they have become thinner and formulaic. Still good. Just not awesome.

              • I gave up on the series after book 3 or 4. But that’s what DAW wants.

                • How interesting can a series be after 16 books?

                  • I still find the Honor Harrington series interesting, but yes it does get more challenging the longer the series goes on, to keep it interesting.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      I think the difference between series like the Honor Series and other long series is that some series are “the author has a big story to tell and needs several books to tell it in” and “the author created a universe and keeps writing books in it”.

                      In the second type (revisiting that universe), the author may get tired of that universe but keeps writing in it just because it sells.

                      Of course, even in the first type (big story needing several books), the series can “get away from the author” so the author has to write more books than intended.

                    • touche`

                    • Safehold?

                  • Dresden Files is still pretty awesome.

        • I read Merchanter’s Luck a couple nights ago, it will go fairly high on my list of Cherryh novels. Probably not one of her best novels, more of a popcorn read, but I like it more than most of her novels, other than the Chanur series.
          She is just an outstandingly talented writer that even when she is writing characters who you would rather wring their neck than read about them, and a plot line that would be utter grey goo if written by any other writer; she can still write well enough to suck you through from first page to last, without putting the book down. When I finish at least half of her books, I find I didn’t really like the book, but she still managed to suck me in and not come up for air until I hit the last page. I think it is mostly the characters, I swear her view of the human race makes mine look rosy, (she must have been in a particularly rosy mood when she wrote Merchanter’s Luck, I actually liked the characters)

          • I loved 40,000 in Gehenna. All of these flawed characters just thrown into the shredder and left to survive… or not.

            I would love an update in the Chanur universe. Has Pyanfar visited Earth? Somehow I just couldn’t get into her Fortress novels.

    • Wendy S. Delmater

      I was a genre fan since I was 12; that would have been around 1967. I kept reading but dropped out when I had a handicapped child in 1982, two more kids within 3 years, and was abandoned by my spouse. Single parenthood and going to college for engineering (and then dealing with a dying parent) really took up my reading time. I came up for air and started reading again in the mid-90s.

      Everything had changed. Example: on my first foray back into a bookstore I picked up a copy of DHALGREN, glanced through it, and realized it was depressing, confusing, and very literary (as in, ‘Class, write a 30-page paper on what you think the author meant!’) I exchanged it for something that I would actually read, DRAGON’S EGG, about life on a neutron star. It was chock full of physics, world-building, aliens, space ships and sensawunda. I spent the next few years catching up on the good stuff I’d missed during the 80s, and only bought books on the recommendation of friends with similar taste from that point on. Come to think of it, a lot of them were Baen but by no means all.

      Then, when I got into the field and started going to conventions, I saw a pattern. Literary things were being pushed by the publishers. Free books! Um, yeah, but they were usually boring or preachy. I ran into books pushed by publishers at major conventions that were “technically perfect” but the plotting and characterization were so bad I threw them away rather than inflect them on another reader. Sentence-level writing was touted by publishers in their books that had maybe three sentences of plot. Then Amazon showed up. We were saved.

  10. This is honestly one of the things you find in any grouping. Perhaps once there was a more live and let live mindset but today ‘The personal is political’ is the mantra of everyone from the guy on the street to the CEO that wants to signify how down with a cause he is and thus threatens a state. When it becomes normal to recognize that saying something not PC will cost you your livelihood even if there is no evidence that it ever affected the job while someone higher up donating to a political cause on the ‘correct’ side, people just give up and life becomes one grey day after another in enemy territory. You stop caring of what will become of your employer, country, etc at best.

  11. Well said….

  12. The only problem in Indy is that for all intents and purposes, your copyright is useless. I have been getting pirated more and more severely with each book I published, starting last year.

    And sadly, many of my readers are more than happy to download the pirated version now, rather than pay for it, and when the pirated version are showing up on the first page of a google search (sometimes before most of the Amazon versions even), you’re in trouble.

    Yesterday my sales went to 0 for twelve hours. This on a book which was trending up with a bullet on Amazon and selling dozens each day, and selling more each day. That was when I found out the latest book had been put up on every torrent and pirate site around.

    While reviews coming in and KU sales have kept it in the top 100, it has slipped down to the 90’s and is barely holding on. At least I made back the cover costs and the editor costs! But either someone has it in for me, or I’m a better writer than I realize. However I can no longer afford to write for people who don’t want to pay for my books.

    Time to find a ‘real’ job again.

    (Bitter? Well, yeah, just a bit.)

    • Damn. That’s a problem, and it’s what DRM was intended to address. I’ll have to think about it and see if there’s some way to address this technologically.

      • If you use DRM, supposedly your readers will rebel (that’s what everyone tells me at least) also, DRM is supposedly easily defeated.

        • Well, DRM as a concept is something we can still think about. Whether current iterations do what they’re intended to do isn’t what I’m looking into.

          • Advertising. Not DRM, per se, but something that’s a pain in the ass to remove, and will allow the author to get some money out of their work via the simple expedient of selling advertising space to the highest bidder. You want to pirate a book? Fine: Every second page gets you a reminder to buy Smaug’s Truffled Dwarves, and does so in the most garishly annoying way possible. Assuming you pirated the work, that is–If you simply want to read it, and aren’t willing to pay for it, the ads are slightly less annoying. If you pay for it, they go away entirely.

            • I like this idea. I don’t buy pirated anything. The one time I went to a pirate site my ‘puter got so many viruses it died.

            • I don’t see how that would prevent people from pirating the no-ad version.

              • Make it a pain in the ass to remove, and childishly easy to get the with-ad version.

                Most of the piracy-for-piracy’s sake types don’t care, but the legit readers who are resorting to getting stuff for free would gladly put up with a little advertising, to save money.

                I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve pirated a few works, over the years–But, they’ve all been stuff that wasn’t either available digitally at all, or that I’d already purchased legitimately and needed digitally.

                What really irritates me is that I can’t go out and pay some of these authors for the work that I’ve gotten like this, easily. Christopher Rowley is a good example–I’ve purchased his stuff from new, at least twice, thanks to a “friend” who borrowed my copies and losses during moves. This last time, when I wanted to re-read them, I couldn’t find copies in good shape that were used, so I basically threw away my scruples and said “Screw this… Avast, ye, me hearties!”.

                Maybe what we need is an institution like Patreon, or something, to where we can flip the people whose used books we buy a little cash, and/or recompense those whose publishers have kept them from selling digitally?

                The other thing I find really irritating is to go look at the back catalogs, where Amazon is basically having to ask for “new book” pricing on Kindle stuff I’ve already bought in years past in hard-copy. There’s probably a couple of thousand dollars in lost sales, just on that one alone.

                • Mmmm… Third paragraph? Meant that to read: “But, they’ve all been stuff that wasn’t either available digitally or physically, at all, or that I’d already purchased legitimately and needed digitally.

                • Your third paragraph also applies to filk music, a lot of which was put out on cassette tapes, or limited run CDs, and isn’t available easily. Fortunately, most of the musicians and their publishers are set up to allow fans to pay for “pirated” copies.

            • Guys, take it from someone who knows: If the content can be accessed in clear anywhere on the system, it can be pirated. Bottom line.

              Or, as Doc Smith had First Lensman Samms put it: ” Anything science can invent science can duplicate.” Which is what made Lenses necessary.

              • Plus there’s a species of hacker that sees things like DRM as a challenge. A subset of those will be anti-social enough to publicize when – not if – they crack it.

                • On the flip side, there are also “pirates” who do what they do out of poverty; enable them to contribute to the author/artist via the mechanism of viewing sold advertising space, and they’d gladly do that, to pay for things that they are unable to offer cash for.

                  Attention is a sort of currency, too–The problem with piracy is that the author gains no tangible benefit whatsoever from the theft of their work. Make it easy for the author to get something tipped into their cup, whether by Proctor-Gamble, or throwing a metaphoric coin in their cup, and most would be OK with someone enjoying their work, even if they weren’t doing so through traditional means.

                  I think there ought to be a tiered system–You want to read a book, you have the option of an advertising-enabled basic version for free, an advertising-free version for money, and an enriched version for serious cash. Sort of the same progression we used to enjoy in print–Paperback, hardback, special edition with all the trimmings.

                  The insanity of charging full-rate prices for digital copies is insane; I can see the cost of production on limited-run works needing to be compensated for, but when the print copy is a hundred bucks, and the digital one is even more, someone is smoking crack if they think they’re not going to see piracy. Which is better–Lower price, wider dissemination, or higher price, and fewer numerical sales?

        • I found this idea, from a discussion a few years ago:

          “I have seen one implementation of DRM that I could support, and it used the user’s credit card info as the decryption key. While not foolproof, it at least has the advantage of using information the user WANTS to keep private. (At least in theory.) It was still portable between my own devices. However, with such a visible key, plus a open source reader, the possibility exists that a user could store and copy the decrypted data, rendering the DRM moot.”

          • Sucks raw eggs. Seriously. I had it on one of the sites now defunct. Site died. I no longer had that credit card and couldn’t figure out the number.
            I KNOW it seems like we lose millions to pirating, but we lose nothing. Studies have been done. Trust me. Do not make it hard for people to read books they purchased. DO NOT.

          • One of the killer issues with embedding purchaser IDs (whatever their nature) in purchased copies of ebooks is that when reader devices (phones, Kindles, whatever) are stolen, their content is copied out and uploaded to the pirate sites, especially torrents. This is driven by the peculiar economics of private torrent sites, where you have to keep feeding new material to the torrent or you’ll be thrown off. So when a pirated ebook that identifies a purchaser is found on a torrent, there’s no guarantee that the purchaser was the one who added it to the torrent. It’s far more likely that the ebook was harvested from a stolen device.

            This is not a theory. I was told this by a pirate who has been doing this sort of thing for years. If there’s a solution I haven’t come across it yet.

        • Beyond easily. And yep, why should you accuse all your readers of being potential pirates?

        • I think a lot of the rage over DRM is that it has been so badly implemented on things that came out before ebooks. Sony/BMG rootkit comes to mind, the incredible eye strain I had with any ‘MacroVision’ VHS, the DVD ‘keys’ that are a Felony to print.
          I would have thought indy ebooks would be a very low priority as their price is so reasonable. Now, Big 5 ebooks, I can at least understand the appeal if not the morals of pirating them, but then, none of them are worth the Flash RAM it takes to store it (and considering the size of ebooks and the cheapness of Flash, that is saying a lot bad about all those recent Hugo winners).

          • THIS * 1000.

            From 1995-2005, I essentially adopted a policy of buying no computer game I hadn’t pirated first. Why? Because I got tired of paying $50+ for a PC computer game, installing it, having it crash because of some incompatibility with some other software or hardware, and being told by retailers that they wouldn’t issue a refund because I had opened the package to try and install it.

            As Dr Pournelle used to put it, back in his less mellow days, “Users, unite. It’s US they’re after.”

            What got me to stop doing that? Publishers wised up (because people like me made it a point of telling them my policy) and started putting out demo versions which basically allowed me to see if I could run the game first without paying more than a nominal $5 bucks up front.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        While you’re doing that, I’m looking at his back-list and purchasing what I don’t already have (& can afford to purchase).

      • But Pirating really doesn’t cost any money to authors. All books fall like a stone after 2 to 3 months. that’s just the way it is. And the pirates would never BUY. That’s what you need to understand. They just don’t.

        • I disagree with you, in this regard.

          In the market you have, specifically, most of your readers are perhaps people who understand that you should be paid for your time–Which is why I’m careful to make sure that I’m somehow paying something back to the author, no matter how hard it might be. In a couple of cases, I’ve actually purchased the damn Kindle edition for a used book, and never read it there, having gotten the book in a used bookstore, or picked it up otherwise.

          Hell, as soon as I found out that the Meisha Merlin works that Miller and Lee had been writing were basically complete rip-offs for the authors, I went out and bought new copies through Baen when I finally could. Many of the your readers are probably like that, too.

          This may have skewed your perception in this regard, and applying your market experience to Mr. Van Stry’s may not be a valid comparison. Many of the people pirating your work may indeed be just file hoarders, and likely are, because your sales haven’t been heavily affected by the pirates. Mr. Van Stry, on the other hand, may actually be writing for an audience composed mainly of functional sociopaths, who don’t care and whose only concern is getting something for nothing. Unless we could do a reader-by-reader comparison, and observe their behavior, I don’t think we can tell what the difference is, by anything other than sales. If his legitimate sales have dropped, and the pirate sites still show significant numbers of downloads, I think we can infer that either his audience won’t pay him for his work, or that they have quit buying. Either way, it’s a market signal. An unfortunate one, but a signal, nonetheless.

          You’re (perhaps… I don’t know the actual numbers, here, and they may be essentially unknowable) fortunate in that your audience is possibly made up of more people like me, who understand how the world really works, and know you need to be compensated in order for us to get more work from you. Mr. Van Stry has an audience for his work that apparently doesn’t have that understanding, and may never develop it.

          As such, they’re going to get precisely the behavior from him that they’re signalling for–He’ll quit writing what they like, and either move on to other things, or quit writing altogether.

          • an audience composed mainly of functional sociopaths Wow! And Sarah felt bad about calling her readers pirates.

            • You miss the conditional “may”, or something?

              • Is claiming just a third of your readers are functional sociopaths somehow more generous to your readers that *all* of them are?
                I meant it merely as a thing authors should not say about their readers more so than calling them pirates.
                I mean, functional sociopaths have needs to, and some of them need to read.

                • Look, if you take advantage of someone’s work, deliberately, without recompense? You’re a sociopath. And, a thief. If Mr. Van Stry’s readership is composed of that sort of people, I’d strongly suggest that the writer fire his readers, and find others. Precisely as I would any restaurant owner who had a majority of his customers do the “dine-and-dash” routine on him. Some neighborhoods don’t deserve good food, if the most of the residents are going to pull that shit on the restaurant owner.

                  And, that’s the unfortunate situation Mr. Van Stry is in. Sarah has the benefit of doing business in a neighborhood with mostly upstanding citizens, ones that pay for their meals, even if they can only afford to go out to dinner a few nights a month. In the end, her neighborhood will do better than Mr. Van Stry’s, and he might want to think about moving into it.

                  Gaaah… Can I torture a set of metaphors, or what?

                • “Functional” sociopaths would know that Mr. Van Stry would need a certain amount of compensation to continue writing, so either the would decide that they didn’t like reading him enough to compensate him, but did like him enough to read what they could get without compensation (this phenomenon is why both pirated and books put up for free get a significant jump in downloads, if it costs you nothing a lot of readers will read something they don’t consider worth paying for, or download simply to have in case they are out of their preferred reading material someday, and have it for emergency backup reading material) or they will compensate him.
                  I personally would like to live in a society of functional sociopaths, it may not be a fluffy, nice society, but it would be a very rational one.

                  Of course I wouldn’t consider “functional sociopath” an insult, so I wouldn’t mind being called one by an author I read. 🙂

                  • I imagine ‘law abiding’ functional sociopaths could be quite successful. I vaguely remember that many successful CEOs fall into that category. Perhaps that explains the existence of Golden Parachutes.

                    • Eeeeehhh…. *waggles hand*
                      I was very interested in that story when it came out– remember the “doctor found out that he was a psycho” articles a few years back?– and while the doctor who brain-scan-identified himself does seem to be either a psychopath or a freaking moron used wisdom as a dump-stat, the actual study was something like “people in these professions are more likely when surveyed to have higher numbers that can indicate they might be a psychopath.”

                      Shorter: they studied if people who can cut a living person or fire someone fell into specific jobs more often or not; found that surgeons and CEOs tended to average higher in ability to do one of those things.

                      I can sort of see where they were coming from in the way the definition was formed– the questions I saw were things that could cause harm, ranging from feeling bad to actual harm– but it seemed more like an attempt to shift the definition away from “doesn’t really see other people as people” and into something they could measure easier.

                    • Ah! The old “If I can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist!” dodge.

                    • My Psych course said that a lot of doctors tend to be sadists to some degree or another, and the book we used was written in the 70s, so I kind of wondered where that doctor had studied, or if that was changed some time in the past 30 years.

                    • It seems it was mostly driven by a book, and I’ll give you the author’s take on the whole point.
                      (From a Forbes article, so I can’t link– I used a cache because they won’t play nice with their ads, and put in a “we won’t let you read if you won’t let us run obnoxious ads” blocker.)

                      I think my book offers really good evidence that the way that capitalism is structured really is a physical manifestation of the brain anomaly known as psychopathy.
                      – Jon Ronson

                    • Some people hate capitalism. CDS, Capitalism Derangement Syndrome?

                  • I’ve always taken that phrasing to mean “someone who is sociopathic in function”, as opposed to the other alternative.

                    You keep taking the apples off the vendor’s cart, the vendor won’t be able to pay his costs, and won’t be there the next time you want one. Only someone operating within the realm of sociopathy can’t grasp that.

            • an audience composed mainly of functional sociopaths

              Wow! And Sarah felt bad about calling her readers pirates.

              At least she didn’t call us functional. Some things are unforgivable.

    • If the bastards don’t want to pay you for your work, quit writing for them.

      Seriously–I know it sucks for you, to know that your books are being downloaded and read, but you’re not getting paid for them, but the sad fact is that the people you’re writing them for are thieves, pure and simple. So, quit creating for them.

      About the time they grow up, and realize that they won’t get the works they want to read for free, they’ll finally learn. And, meanwhile, you need to find a niche with an audience that isn’t a bunch of freeloaders.

      Either that, or move to a Patreon-like model. I honestly wish there were some way of compensating authors like you with things like embedded advertising that can’t be turned off in pirated versions of your works, but the tech isn’t there yet. May never be, either.

      • They’re not reading them. Pirates pirate to count coup.

        • If his actual sales weren’t dropping in concert with the rise in pirated file sites, I’d agree with you, Sarah.

          But, when you couple the drop in sales with the rise in signs of piracy, I think we can safely infer from that fact the unfortunate and ugly truth that the people that are his market are unwilling to pay for the work he’s done for them.

          As such, they’re sending just as valid a market signal as if they weren’t buying them, at all. I think it may be a fact that your experience with your market doesn’t necessarily transfer over to Mr. Van Stry’s. And, they’re going to get precisely the behavior from the author that they’re actually signalling with this. One might further infer from this situation that Mr. Van Stry’s market of readers is… Less mature? Less responsible? Certainly, I think, different from your own.

          • But ALL indie books (possibly all books) drop like stones. The timing might be coincidence.

            • Yeah. Usually after a release my sales drop by 30% after 30 days, and by 70+% after 60. And my books are also all over the pirate sites (I spent hours and hours sending DMCA notices), but my sales usually only crash when it’s been over 90 days without a new release or if a new release turned out not to be popular (2015 was a pretty bad year for me in that respect; I tried a new genre and the book sold less than 10% what my previous series did).
              It’s really impossible to tell what causes sales to crash. Maybe the book’s audience has been saturated. Competition is getting harder when it comes down to luring readers, too: the covers that got you sales in 2011 may be dismissed by the average reader as amateurish in 2016 – I know that when I redid the covers to all my old books, I got a swift and noticeable bump in sales, even for books nearly two years old – and which had been appearing on pirate sites all along, which leads me to believe piracy has little impact on sales; the people who pirate aren’t buying books.
              But it could be the audience, as Kirk said, in which case then maybe looking for a new audience may be the solution. Obviously the people buying (just as an example) Chris Nuttall’s books are paying for them in enough numbers to keep his sales up. And other authors are doing fine despite the fact that their books are as easy to pirate as anyone else’s.
              IMHO and YMMV, of course.

            • Not after 6 days they don’t. And as I pointed out, the KU sales were still increasing greatly.
              Also, the links to the pirated versions were showing up on Google searches on page one, above many of the Links to Amazon (except the main Amazon link).
              I’ve seen my sales charts enough to know the standard characteristic, and how and when they drop off. Normally they ramp down fairly steeply, then never suddenly drop to zero. Also, a lot of my audience are younger men in their 20’s and 30’s. The ‘Bernie Sanders’ generation. These people can be pretty nasty about what the want. The two reviews I received that weren’t 4 or 5 stars were simply because this books wasn’t what they wanted, and they wanted me to write more of what they wanted (or the bad reviews will continue) not the first time that has happened to me either.
              When I stopped writing the ‘furry’ fiction last year, I got letters from people who couldn’t believe I’d stop writing just because I wasn’t getting paid for it. Guess that lesson needs to be spread around further. Sorry that it looks like I’m the one who has to spread it.

              • If a lot of your audience is indeed the “Bernie Sanders’ generation”, this may be nature’s way of telling you that it is a mistake to write for that group, as a market.

                Sucks, but they’ve done it to themselves. Freeloaders always act surprised when the gravy train screeches to a halt. I’m sorry you are the victim, in this situation, but your readers are doing this to themselves–And, you.

                Today’s entertainment market is going back to the oldest model we know–Patronage. The intermediary model we knew since the dawn of the industrial age is dying, mostly because of incompetent intermediaries. And, today, where the folks back in the old days knew that if they didn’t flip some change into the storyteller’s cup, he was going to leave the village for greener pastures, the audience has unfortunately come to fancy they can get their entertainment for free.

                If I remember it right, Lawrence Watt-Evans once remarked that he’d write more, but it didn’t pay enough, and if his audience were to pay for it, he’d do nothing but write–And, I think the price he set out was $30,000.00 a book. Honestly, if I won big with the Lotto, I think I’d be tempted to take him up on that one…

                Maybe we need to start doing what the comic book folks are doing, and go to a Patreon model for book authors, too?

                • *nod* That’s what I did for my first book – which was merely a compilation of amusing blog posts that I had done about my family. The readers of that particular blog loved those posts, and kept bugging me about a book, So I finally came out with one, and then I had a notion for a historical novel, and the readers also loved the posts I did about the incident the novel was based on … so I basically did a fund drive, for contributions, so I could take the darned thing to a POD publisher and cover their charges for cover design, formatting and print,
                  That book, over time, is still my best-seller. I’ve been making a profit on it since 2009 or so – and I hardly do any marketing for it.

                  • FWIW, I’ve been reading your stuff for years, and keep checking up on you and Blondie through here and your blog. I like your writing, and I’ve recommended the one where you did the Lone Ranger over again, the right way, to parents I know who are trying to get their boys to read more.

                    I think the real solution here is to figure out a means to connect authors with their readers, in a direct financial way. Patreon has a decent model going, for other artistic work–Maybe get something going on there? I can’t tell how political those guys are, but maybe if they’re SJWs, we might contrive something of our own, out here in the space around Sarah?

                    • Oh, thanks, Kirk! One of the original fans! I’ll look into Patreon, of course – although I have a Teeny Publishing Bidness of my own which supports my writing when royalties fall down.

                      I think the bottom line must be that writers have to cultivate a platform – a fancy way of saying ‘a substantial group of fans’ and to pay a mind to telling the stories which those fans would like to hear. (Kind of like the image suggested, of the bard singing in the chieftain’s hall, and moving on, if talents are not appreciated.)

                      And fans/readers support those writers, as they read and take enjoyment from that output. Which is why I think it is absolutely tragic how those writers whose fans suggested them for the Sad Puppies 4 list are being pressured, either overtly or subtly to withdraw and ask for asterisks against their names. The powers that be in establishment fandom and publishing, are demanding that those writers essentially kick their fans to the curb in the name of ideological purity.

                • I almost commented in reply to your “functional sociopath” comment that his readers sounded more like Marxist than functional sociopaths, only to scroll down and find my surmise validated by the author himself. 🙂

              • yeah. Well, if you email the sites and ask them to take it down, if they’re not in Russia or China they will.

                • Furries can be vengeful and petulant sorts too. I wouldn’t put it past one of them to deliberately put up pirate versions of his work everywhere to deliberately hurt his sales.

    • The most secure rights management is paperback, but there goes your profit and your volume will be a lot less unless there are more dinosaurs like me around that buy paper books.

      • Oops. You have paperbook; didn’t look first.

      • Actually, no. Paperback is not really secure, nor is it ideal. It’s just a little harder to pirate–I’ve actually seen stuff from back before the internet took off where they were printing up bogus copies of stuff overseas, and importing them here to the US. With modern production technology, it won’t be long before the whole Print-on-Demand thing turns into “Pirate-on-Demand”, either.

        What I’d like to see would be a system where you buy a used hard-copy of a book, and a fraction of that went back to the writer. Hell, even if it was voluntary, that would put a tiny little bit of money back into the author’s hands.

        To a degree, I think that the old model of how we did books was flawed, too. An author should be getting something tipped into their cup, for every time someone enjoys their tale, should they not? I mean, those of us who are successful at this business are basically glorified storytellers, sitting in a metaphoric square or tavern, spinning yarns for the passers by. In those days, you generally didn’t do that for free, and those who could, subsidized your butt being on that tavern bench. If nothing else, they bought you a beer, or two…

        I seem to remember reading somewhere that someone was either directly quoting an old oral-tradition storyteller or speaking for them, where they were bemoaning the coming of the written word, and how they were going to be beggared by it, because then “…everyone will be able to hear my words without me being there…”, with the implication being that they’d never get anything out of their audience. Might have been something about the time of Grimm, where they were collecting all the old fairy tales?

        • I’ve had a head-scratching experience with some paper books. I ordered several volumes of a series of British specialty books, aimed at what they call the “model engineer” market. The cover price is fairly stout, with international shipping on top of that.

          So, one day I’m surfing Amazon and find used copies of several of the books for $5 or so, with the usual $3.99 shipping. Yee-haw! I ordered two from one vendor, two more from two other vendors.

          What showed up in all four cases were brand-new books. They’re niche market stuff, normally sold direct by the publisher, so it’s unlikely they’re overstocks or discards.

          They’re small enough someone could probably POD a pirate scan and still make a few bucks after postage. Not a lot of money there… but it was enough to make me wonder.

          • Yeah, that was what I was seeing, too–Mostly, specialty stuff like military history. That stuff, I suspect, was printed overseas somewhere like China, and then the “extra” copies brought in under the table–Or, factory seconds.

            The one that made me really wonder was finding a whole display of then-current “new” SF books, with really wrong covers on them, and printed on super-cheap, almost toilet-paper quality paper. I was like “Uh… WTH? These are in English, the printing and typesetting kinda-sorta looks like the real thing, but… These can’t be from Del Rey…”. Couple of other publishers stuff was there, but with what looked like really crappy Del Rey logos. The Korean girl at the counter either couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me where they came from.

            So, I would speculate that if the market were to bear it, you’d see hard copy piracy, as well.

            • Just about everything that’ made in China ends up with “off the books” stock getting sold somewhere. Books, toys, stuff on disk, components… the list goes on. I even bought a refurbed Dell laptop computer from Choxi that, when it arrived, its power supply appeared to be made from leftover parts, missing its rubber belt for binding the cords for travel and (more ominously) its thermal insulation.

              About 15 years ago, I found the plastic versions of the Battletech mechs from the boxed set on sale at a dollar store in the US for $1 – well, sort of them. They were obviously made from what had been the original FASA injection molds – but modified to where they now had heads like what you’d see on Japanese giant robots. They even stuck a head onto a mech that (to a non-player) had no obvious head (the Jenner).
              For that matter, until recent years, there were plastic “prehistoric monster” toys that were totally bizarre creations with no connection to the fossil record – but had led to several classic monster designs in D&D, after Gygax and others bought the toys in the 70s and used them as minis (the owlbear is probably the most infamous of the creatures). Various different toy companies sold the toys for 3-4 decades, until finally the Jurassic Park-inspired dino craze eventually led to the molds being retired for more realistic toys that could be identified as legit dinosaurs.

      • I have to be the only self-pubbed author on this site who month to month sees more from the paper editions of his book than the digital. (actually if you combine KU with ebook sales the digital profit is usually about the same as the deadtree). And I intentionally priced the digital version to receive the same profit as I got on the deadtree version; of course I am selling to a niche market of uneducated rednecks; I would probably doing better if the majority of my potential customers were literate. 😉

        • What do you write?

          • The only book I have published is a nonfiction collection of hunting stories. I apparently don’t write fiction, or at least finish it, I’ve plenty of started, half finished or three quarters finished stories, but practically everything I’ve ever finished/published is nonfic.

            • In the unsolicited advice arena: one afternoon, take that pile of stories, sit down, and read.

        • Bearcat if you’re making money selling books to illerterates more power to you :-). It sounds like trying to sell moonshine to teetotaling Baptists…

    • That’s a damn shame, John. Your last book rocked hard. I was hoping to see more of Rafael and Janet.

      • I’m waiting to see if it picks back up at all after the next promotion runs. But right now, it’s only made me about $50, after paying off the cover artist and editor and accounting for promotional costs.
        It only sold about 400 copies. I’m thinking at the rate it’s dropped down to it’ll probably sell 100 more, 200 tops before it peters out completely.
        I’m happy you liked it, I just wish more people had.

        • Well, I checked it out of the Kindle library, so I didn’t help out that much.

        • Have you considered putting a variation of the “if you bought this book without a cover” notice somewhere after the title page, and mention that if it’s not getting money back to you, you can’t afford to write any more?

          Maybe with your author page as a link, and a link to Amazon, and a “want to support the author?” coin box?

          • I’m considering it for the future, but to be honest, people just don’t care. I think if it wasn’t for the strange coincidence that the link to the torrent showed up right under the link for the book on the google search page on the day the torrent went live, my problems might not have happened.
            I can tell that a LOT of people down loaded it on the first day, and at least four came back to rate it highly on the torrent site.
            Maybe if I was a better marketer it wouldn’t have mattered. Apparently my marketing skill are just not what they should be.

            • It only takes like 10% of people being asses to make a big problem.

              Try it. People might surprise you with their goodness.

            • You’re getting good reviews on the pirate site? Possibly you should post a link to your Amazon author page in the comments on the pirate site? Maybe some of the pirateers will buy some of your backlist if they liked that one so well.

            • One of my friends in the fur community said its typical and that furs, in his experience, tend to be cheap and ‘selectively poor’

              • It’s rather sad since so many tend to see themselves as ‘artistes’ as well. In that community you have lots of ‘poor me’ (read as lack of budget ability) fundraisers plus a number of people that since they do it for free they figure everyone should, although you can get the other end where it is the ‘Everyone should charge same as what I believe the art is worth so I do not appear over or underpriced’. It’s one of two reasons I have not converted my stuff over to for-profit. (The other is that I need to take a machete to the first drafts out there already)

    • Not that I am saying they would or even that they might, but is there any reason (beyond professional ethics) that publishers might not pirate (or rather, employ suitable cut-outs to maintain deniability) Indie works as a way of crippling their competition and binding their serfs stable of writers more closely to them?

      • Judging from the skill set they showed during SP3, I doubt the big 5 could pull this off, even if they wanted to. Judging from the ‘professional ethics’ they showed during SP3 if they could do it, they most certainly would.

    • John, bad news, the same is true for traditional. All of my trad books got pirated and sending them word did nothing.

  13. after the failure of my first — Magical Shakespeare — series which was literary fantasy.

    Okay, dumb question I’ve had for a while, so I may as well ask it here among people who I don’t mind laughing at me…

    Just what makes something “literary” fiction as opposed to whatever other stuff is?

    And for what it’s worth ($9.99 on Amazon), I enjoyed the Magical Shakespeare books.

    • I think literary fiction is something your English teacher could point to and say: “This character has changed from the beginning of the story to the end of the story; this is character development; this is literature. The other stuff is just plot driven escapism and is just for fun.”

      • Mostly that the universities will be willing to take a bunch of students and let them read it and twist the plot and ideas to fit preconceptions and force it down throats. A lot of the derided literary fic is stuff that is more focused on a banal story (or no story) that either plays well with a target audience or focuses on using obvious conceits so someone can have a strong ‘correct’ essay answer

        • Sara the Red

          Except I’ve read some rollicking good books that had excellent character development. (Including Darkship Thieves.)

          I think it’s more a style thing. Patricia McKillip’s stuff–particularly the non-Riddlemaster stuff–strikes me as very literary-fantasy. Very involved imagery, etc. Not that it’s bad–I greatly enjoy those books in a certain mood–but not usually much in the way of humor or deep connection to the characters. It’s something you stand back and marvel at the beauty (at least, you do if it isn’t grey goo with a lacquer of pretty language), but don’t necessarily really *feel* a connection to. I read McKillip’s stuff when I’m in the mood for beautiful word-pictures, but as a general rule I prefer more down-to-earth character-driven stuff like Correia, Hoyt, Pratchett, Bujold, etc.

          • Yeah, with few exceptions the literary stuff with beautiful prose just doesn’t work for me. If I want to revel in the beauty of words, I’d rather read poetry.

      • Except I’m not even sure if that’s true. There is little-to-no character development in The Great Gatsby, As I Lay Dying, Ethan Frome etc. It’s more like “These people will make you feel better about yourself, because you are not as incompetent, evil, or put upon as they are.”

      • something your English teacher could point to and say: “This character has changed from the beginning of the story to the end of the story; this is character development; this is literature.

        I write literature? Gosh golly gee. Someone should have told me.

        (Not all the time. Especially in the short ones, I do the escapism, too.)

    • Language and subject.

  14. I could never put my finger on what I didn’t like about Asimov’s magazine, and it may just have been, as I thought at the time, that their stories tended to be “softer science” science-fiction. Analog had the story where astronaut worked the toque equation backwards (which didn’t occur to me) to get the force he needed and then went and did it by laboriously spinning the cylinder he was in from the outside. Then again, I think it was Analog that had the Soulminder series by Timothy Zahn (which is hard and soft at the same time as it deals with death and almost dying). Analog had Christopher Anvil’s “The Underhandler” (which Baen has collected) and W. R. Thompson’s helium-blooded alien series (which somebody needs to collect)–which started with “The Maverick.”

    Plus, “The Labyrinth” and “The Weatherman.”

    Okay, I wasn’t trying to write a paen to Analog from by-gone days, but there it is.

    • I REALLY need to do the Blog entry for “Three Asimov’s stories that made me give it up”. I have two years worth of unread issues stacked up. I just lost interest in the PC crap after a while. Which is why instead of excitedly digging into each issue, they started to pile up, waiting for me to get bored enough to finish the previous ones.

      • That might be interesting. In the late 1980’s or early 1990’s I went and subscribed to Analog and Asimov and… wound up wondering where the good stuff of science fiction was. Sure, the ‘Probability Zero’ shorts were generally amusing, but overall that’s about all I recall from that and those. There was one story that I slogged though, looking for payoff that never came that while the writer might not have been paid by the word, I started to wonder if there was payoff for mentioning a name (Dalhousie) so many times. When the subscriptions ran out, well, I saw no reason to renew.

        I might consider buying a collection of ‘Probability Zero’ stories, but that’s about it. The rest? The only thing I recall of the rest was a one-off gag in some small spaceship: “The computer has 128 Meg-” “That’s not much memory!” “-processors.”

  15. I gave up SF magazines in the early 80’s.

  16. So, in your opinion, should an unpublished author even bother with the professional publishing industry or should they go right to self publishing. I’ve written a novel, a few hundred people read it on a website that no longer exists(1), and I was thinking I ought to send it off to get rejected by the big boys. Then, after that happens, I’d self publish. ‘Cause why not? It would be fun to see if anyone will give me a buck or two through Amazon. But you almost make it sound like sending letters to agents would be a waist of time.

    (1)Yes, I know, this means it was “published” already, but a google search won’t find it anymore so I expect I won’t get rejected for that.

    • Ignore the was published already. That depends on the house.
      My advice because life is uncertain is one for indie and one to do the rounds of the houses. One for one, one for the other. Keep at it, and it will get somewhere.

      • I didn’t think the published thing would be too big a deal since it’s not searchable, and anyway it was just a tiny website with a tiny number of readers.

        Anyway, thanks for the advise! I hope this crazy weather isn’t causing you problems.

  17. Re: Lefty ‘anarchists’ –

    Anarchist – “End corporate welfare!”
    Me – Right On! Note: Reductions in corporate taxes are *not* ‘subsidies’, though targeted tax breaks stink of social engineering and ought to be avoided at all costs.
    Anarchist – “End discrimination!”
    Me – Eeyeah, okay. But that means *all* government-enacted or -promulgated discrimination, which includes things like Head Start programs and racial/sexual/etc. quotas.
    Anarchist – “Free health care for all!”
    Me – Wait, what?
    Anarchist – “Free college!”
    Me – You ever hear of TANSTAAFL?

    It seems that most anarchists these days aren’t so much against government per se as they are against *this* government.

    • No, most “anarchists” these days are all about, “give me free stuff!” They’re all for government, so long as government is their benevolent mommy and daddy. Ah, I see your quotes around the term at the beginning of your post. Nevermind…

      • Most of the anarchists I’ve run into were stuck on “you’re not the boss of me!” That is, anarchy was great, as long as they could do whatever they wanted.

        When other people started doing whatever *they* wanted to the anarchists, they were quick to start screaming for Authority to come in and fix things for them…

    • I’ve got a little idea, and one that would horrify the SJW types: You want affirmative action? Fine, we’ll do it: Your affirmative action results in severely skewed numbers in positions, because it unthinkingly gives precedence to the minorities in hiring. Which has resulted in unGodly imbalances in the Federal, state, and local government. You walk into an agency, and nine-tenths of the employees are black, something’s wrong with your “affirmative action” program.

      So, here’s what I say: You want to make race an issue in hiring? Fine, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We’re going to have each and every agency and entity in the country forced to reflect the national numbers. Which means, sweetheart, that you’re only going to get 12-13% of those jobs if you want to claim simply being “black” as your path to success.

      Oh, and the NBA/NFL? You only get 12-13% of those jobs, too.

    • You can get a college education for free – MIT and others have put all their coursework on line, free for the taking. And before that, people could “audit” classes in person without even being enrolled.

      Colleges can give an education away for free because they’re not in the education business. They’re in the certificate business, hand-in-hand with the HR drones who just tick the boxes on applicants.

      “So, you have a Ph.D in Fast Food Service?”

      “Oh, yes, master!”

      “How many years of postdoc studies?”

      “What?”

      “We can’t give an entry-level position to just anyone.”

      • I doubt these doofuses (doofusi?) want a free college education. What they want is a free college diploma.

        An education is readily available to those willing to work at it (more so than ever, what with the internet in addition to free public libraries.)

        • I think the proper plural is doofi.

        • Precisely. This, however, is not entirely their fault, but is the result of the idiocy of credentialism, boosted by disparate impact theory and its effects on companies’ hiring practices.

          • And that employers are not allowed to give aptitude tests–discrimination (EVIL discrimination), doncha know.

            • Or consider the effects of Disparate Impact jurisprudence, which decries the disproportionate number of disturbances of the public order in our schools by children from fatherless households by focusing on the “race” of those children rather than their domestic intranquility.

              “The school safety debate: Mollycoddle no more.”

              • There’s a place crying out for an education requirement: no lawyer, no judge, and no one working on discrimination class is allowed to have not passed Statistics 101.

                • It’s not the lawyers who don’t understand statistics. It’s the juries. An instance where a jury of peers nearly guarantees a bad judgement.

                • From the article:

                  “The Obama administration’s data reveal that white boys’ suspension rate is more than twice that of Asian and Pacific Islander boys. If you follow “equity” logic, this must be because teachers are prejudiced against white boys. ”

                  After a decade or more of dishonest Lefties like Hyr preaching “white privilege”, many teachers have been taught to be prejudiced against white boys.

                  • It’s probably racist to mention any tendencies that might influence that difference among Pacific Islander grandmothers much less “Asian” families.

                    I’m now wondering if anybody has checked the stats on success for single parent households whose parent was from a single parent household vs single parent from a were-married-and-alive-the-whole-childhood household.

        • “The (Mis)Adventures of Dooficlese”

          • Every now and then, I mispronounce (often deliberately) a word ending in -cles and wonder what type of stories would be appropriate for a mythical Greek character of that name.

      • I’m currently reading “Status Quo” by Mack Reynolds. Interesting how this comes up.

        • Mack isn’t thought highly of nowadays, but I enjoyed most of his stuff.

          The money quote of his entire ouvre, though, was when one character said something along the lines of, “If the economists are so smart, why aren’t they all rich?”

          • I remember enjoying his stories

            • Mack could always tell a good story — I especially recall Compound Interest with fondness.

              Given his politics you would think he’d be heralded amongst the present SF community:

              Reynolds was born in Corcoran, California, the second of four children of Verne La Rue Reynolds and Pauline McCord. When the family moved to Baltimore in 1918, his father joined the Socialist Labor Party so that from an early age Reynolds was raised to accept the tenets of Marxism and Socialism. In 1935, while still in high school in Kingston, New York, Reynolds joined the SLP and became an active advocate of the party’s goals. The following year, he toured the country with his father giving lectures and speeches, and became recognized as a significant force in advocating the SLP.

              [SNIP]

              In 1958, he became a choice writer for John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction, remaining its “most prolific contributor” for the next ten years. The same year, the publication of How to Retire without Money, to which Reynolds contributed under the byline Bob Belmont, led the National Executive Committee of the SLP to charge Reynolds with “supporting the fraudulent claims of capitalist apologists, viz, that capitalism offers countless opportunities to those who are ‘alert'” and caused Reynolds to resign his membership from the SLP.

              [SNIP]

              By the end of the 1970s, Reynolds was having trouble getting his manuscripts published. One month before his death in 1983, as he was recuperating from cancer surgery, his new agent negotiated a contract with Tor Books. By 1986, eleven of his books had been published posthumously, five of them revised and co-authored by Dean Ing, and two more by Michael A Banks. After his death, The New England Science Fiction Association, which had invited Reynolds to be its Guest of Honor at Boskone XX, had the collection Compounded Interests published in his memory. In it, Reynolds identifies his Star Trek novel Mission to Horatius as his “bestseller.”
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mack_Reynolds

              I guess his insistence on giving the reader entertainment rather than message has caused his fellow travelers to give him up. Or perhaps they deemed him apostate for doing his own thinking.

    • CombatMissionary

      I think membership in today’s anarchist movement comes with free gym membership, dental, and a company car.
      “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” 😀

    • The modern “anarchist” is a Marxist without the honesty to admit it. Remember, the end state of Marx’s fantasies was that the state would “wither away”.

      Both the modern “liberal” and the modern “anarchist” are most angered by voluntary cooperation.

      • Anarchists, college libertarians, rationalists, “free thinkers,”– there’s a lot of different groups that cook up high falutin’ ways that, when you look at how they’re applied and the details, should actually be phrased something like: “you can’t tell me what to do! I’ll do anything I wanna!”

        • Note: no, this isn’t a passive-aggressive attack on anybody.

          If anything, it’s just a backhanded summary of what I check for when someone’s explaining a philosophy they’re part of to me– if after they’ve answered questions, it can be reasonably and charitably summed up as “I do anything that I want,” then I don’t consider it a fair example of the philosophy. It’s probably a fair example of why they’re in the group, but that doesn’t track well with the philosophy itself.

          And yes, these folks do tend to use a lot of “you only think that because it’s what you want to hear” attacks. 😀

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Of course, it’s “fun” when their philosophy says “you can’t tell me what to do” but they are willing to “tell others what to do”. 😦

            • And natural, because what they want is right.

              Not an inherently bad idea, but they don’t have any sort of first principles that actually say what they want to support it. :/

            • Well of course we can’t tell them they can’t tell us what to do.

    • @tcbobg –

      Re: Lefty ‘anarchists’ –

      *SNORT!* There ain’t no such animal as a “Left Anarchist.”

      Left-anarchists and Libertarian-socialists and politicals of all other similar self-labeled stripes are either deluding themselves, being disingenuous or obfuscatory, or outright lying – to you or to themselves – or all of the above.

      I was an anarchist before it was frigging cool. Anarchist means against government and pro self-governing, not wanting more of the damnable stuff.

      And if anyone asks you, you can tell ’em I said so and send ’em to me. *wolf grin*

    • We used to joke about the Anarchists when I was in college, who thought they were so daring with their Squat houses (going on about stealing electricity, and hoping to stick it out long enough for adverse possession – which never worked). Of course, they were all basically trust-fund babies, but didn’t work, and tried to get government handouts. We’d say:

      “Anarchists on Welfare: Smash the state! But only when the checks run out.”

      • @Dr. Mauser –

        Snerk. Yeah, I’ve had these discussions with “Left-anarchists” and “Libertarian-socialists,” often double teaming them in conjunction with Billy Beck at various places.

        The discussions never ended well, but they were always vastly entertaining…

        For varying levels of “entertainment” and “who exactly was being entertained.” 😉

        Hey, I always found it entertaining. I suspect that Beck did too.

        @accordingtohoyt –

        Oh… “strange ice and wondrous hot snow”. Nifty turn of phrase. I like that. Ah’m a gonna steal it from you.

  18. FREE HEALTHCARE! FREE COLLEGE!
    FREE MARS!!!

  19. There exists in every human being, almost from the instant of birth, a desire for control. We learn to speak and to toddle in our desire to control the world around us, that we might feel safe and not at the threat of the whims of reality. We invent gods whom we might propitiate in order that we increase our control over our world.

    Artists, adrift on the tides of the zeitgeist and those who make their livings from the marketing of that art feel especially vulnerable. Fundamentally they are aware that most of the factors which affect popular acceptance of their efforts are irrational and out of anybody’s control. Who would have imagined that 50 Shades of Crap or Harry Potter would find such resonance within the Culture? It isn’t as if these are fine examples of superior craftsmanship — quite the opposite. So these people try to control what can be controlled, thus the Push model of book-selling.

    Eventually many of us learn to accept the limits of our control and focus on what is within our control: our reactions and our emotions. But our societal stability is increasingly tenuous, things change with such rapidity that many many people still desperately strive to create their little “safe spaces” and grow ever more hostile to those they perceive as threats to those spaces: the folk saying there are no safe spaces and that risk is something you have to learn to live with.

    The battle between those who need an illusion of control and those who find greater control by discarding illusion will play out through every aspect of our society. I know which side I believe myself to be on, and which side I believe the vast majority of the Huns are on. Because in the end, all illusions prove insubstantial.

  20. The people proclaiming that we…had “ruined their careers” are right. For their world and their definition of career. None of the big four will ever publish us again, except Baen.
    . . .
    Because NYC publishing is NOT the boss of us.
    . . .
    Which means we live in a land without fear. And it’s hard to remember that the reactions to being put on a list BY THE WRONG PEOPLE is perfectly logical.

    This makes so much sense. Love your clear thinking, Sarah. Thanks!

  21. I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the fear of those still beholden (at least in their minds) to the lords and ladies of establishment publishing. But acknowledging that fear doesn’t mean we should become enablers of that fear. If anything, we need to perform interventions, to help them to overcome the fear. And that’s what the Puppy movement should be about. Revealing the Hugos as the fundamentally unimportant and degraded awards that they have become should be just the first step in freeing good authors to write whatever they want to write, and to get it into the hands of their readers without having to kowtow to some SJW mean girls (yes, the guys in that camp can be mean girls too).

  22. I seem to remember print on demand was going to be the big thing- but e-books were on the market before even on bookstore had a printing machine.

    But no, perhaps with the corporate giant Amazon, it’s time has come. Amazon could certainly afford the capital investment in the printers. Publish teasers and shorts once in a while in ebook profiles and hope to get paid for them. But- for your novels and collections, for the first few months or years- available only by Amazon Print On Demand. With guaranteed 2 day delivery with Amazon Prime.

    Supposedly POD was going to be the same or less expensive then regular paperbacks. No distribution costs. And, the print run would always equal the number of books sold. No returns to the publisher.

    Just an idea thrown out. I’m not a writer- just a reader. And I pay for my books, ebooks or otherwise.

    • E-readers killed much of POD’s market. I’ve bought a few (expensive!) technical books that were done by POD; electronic has its place, but you can’t beat the rapid random access of paper pages.

      • There’s much to be said about the fate of POD, but this isn’t the place for it. I’ve purchased some PDF page image files of conventional books. They’ve been useful, and they certainly don’t take up much shelf space. As TRX says, they’re hard to thumb through, and there are other issues, especially the readability of code and technical art. The ebook version of my assembly language textbook is ugly and not useful on any reader smaller than a 9″ tablet.

        What I noticed very quickly is that as soon as I issued an ebook edition of one of my fiction books, sales of the POD edition essentially ended.

    • POD is an absolute blessing for self-pubbed authors that are producing for a niche market where sales numbers are small. I’ve no doubt you could get a better price if you ordered ten thousand copies from a bulk publisher, but when your sales are in the low hundreds, there is no overhead for POD, well, if you are going to stock some shelves at a store or booth, you have the overhead for the dozen copies you buy, but otherwise there is none. You can go through Createspace and put your book up on Amazon for no more investment than your time (and by simply clicking a button have it epublished for Kindle also, so you don’t even have to go through the process twice) and simply get a deposit in your account for every copy sold.

  23. I feel quite blessed to have found you and Baen, Sarah.

  24. If getting mentioned in Instapundit was a career destroyer, what happened when you got mentioned in Chris Muir’s “Day By Day”?

  25. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I kinda took this for granted. Time and energy are money, and there was too much going on to disregard the business and advertising aspects. That said, it took a while for me to pick up on the subtle hints various people were making.

  26. I had a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club and the Mystery Book Club, and I think the Literary Book Club in the ’90’s. When I joined SFBC I went to the library and went through a bunch of back issues of magazines looking for the advertisements to get the codes for the books I wanted, same with the Mystery book club. The stuff I wanted was never the new stuff that they were pushing. I never got the recommended monthly book. The one time I missed declining for the LBC I got some erotica book.

  27. You see, the oligopsony worked fine as long as there was another control mechanism, which we’ll call distribution and sales. The sales were mostly tiny stores, run by people who loved books. This meant that as rotten as the NY publishing establishment was, if it threw out (almost by accident) something worthy, the distributors ran with it and the retailers handsold it, and you had a surprise bestseller.

    This didn’t please the establishment who decided they needed full control. Enter mega chains of bookstores that put small stores out of business; enter distributors who didn’t read the books; enter retail clerks who also didn’t read and pushed only what they were told to push.

    I think it’s less a desire for more control than a combination of forces; there’s the economy of scale thing that gets more and more economic as there are more regulations, and books got bit hard by the attacks on logging and related regulations. (Those feel-good recycled paper rules, for an example; I’m sure that various environmental measures hit it, too.)

    Also, what year did that rule about being taxed on stuff you’ve got in storage go through?

    Not like they’re upset about it, but it’s more “dealing with five chains of a hundred stores is easier than dealing with five hundred individual chains.”

  28. The problem with “dog whistle” politics is that … if you can hear the dog whistle, then YOU’RE THE DOG. The people who complain about “dog whistles” about racism and anti-semitism ARE THE RACISTS and the anti-semites. It’s basic Psych 101; projection, defined. Those who accuse you of racism and class warfare, THEY are the racists and the class warriors.

    • I think in this case, they’re not “hearing the dog whistle”. It’s more, “You’re a conservative. So even though you *act* as if you’re not a bigot, you’re no doubt putting bigoted messages in your text via code words that only your fellow bigoted friends will understand.”

      This view is so pervasive that Republican lawmakers with minority spouses are quite literally accused by some of only marrying their spouses so that they can have a token minority that they can use to claim that they’re not racist.

      • junior commented on Perfectly Logical.

        in response to kenwd0elq:
        The problem with “dog whistle” politics is that … if you can hear the dog whistle, then YOU’RE THE DOG. The people who complain about “dog whistles” about racism and anti-semitism ARE THE RACISTS and the anti-semites. It’s basic Psych 101; projection, defined. Those who accuse you of racism and class warfare, THEY are the […]

        I think in this case, they’re not “hearing the dog whistle”. It’s more, “You’re a conservative. So even though you *act* as if you’re not a bigot, you’re no doubt putting bigoted messages in your text via code words that only your fellow bigoted friends will understand.”

        If “they” are “perceiving” that I am sending message of racism and hate, when _I_ am not sending those messages, then THEY are the “haters” and racists. I’m not going to make any apologies for the people who want to blame me for their own faults.

        • If someone tells me what I think, and I know darn well that what they say I think is NOT at all what I think, what do I think? I think they are are an idiot, that’s what I think.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Some of these idiots talk about “subconscious racism”.

            IE We’re racist but just don’t realize it. 😥

            • Patrick Chester

              IOW, they can’t find any evidence of racism so they make up some “crime” for us to be guilty of and expect us to ask for absolution from our horrible, horrible sin.

              Then get pissy when we don’t play along.

            • So it’s:
              1. You are racist, so admit it.
              and
              2. If you do not admit racism, that proves you are racist.

              Kafkatrap.

              So are they:

              1. Manipulative idiot?
              or
              2. Manipulated idiot?

      • Don’t have to be Republican lawmakers…. authors on Mad Genius Club got the same treatment.

      • The term for thinking other people show their fiendish nature by hidden coded messages in ordinary text is “clinical paranoia.

  29. On one of the Mad Genius Sad Puppy threads (I think it was Dave Freer’s “Oh Wait…” thread), I said something like the following:

    “If I’m a new author with one book to sell, and Baen was interested in buying it, I’d reason as follows. Amazon will pay me 70% of gross sales. Baen will pay me 25% of gross. So if I went with Baen, I’d be essentially “paying” them 45% of my gross sales. What value would I get for my money? Well, unlike just about all the other publishing houses, Baen has fans — yes, fans of the publishing house — who will buy just about anything if it has the Baen logo on it, whether or not they’ve heard of the author. So if I sell my first book to Baen, I’ll pick up an instant fanbase who, if they like me, will then buy anything else I publish. That will pay off in the long run, and probably be worth 45% of my first book’s gross sales.”

    After the first book, well, it depends. If there are more books in the same series, it might make business sense to continue with the same publisher for continuity’s sake. (The “if that publisher is treating you well” clause that would naturally follow that sentence is unnecessary to add because, well, it’s Baen.) And leaving aside the pure what’s-in-it-for-me business logic, with Baen, Sarah’s “Baen is family. You do what you do for family” would probably apply to me, too.

    But even so, if I was a newbie author who knew I had several series in me, I might sell my first series to Baen and then publish my second series indie, because once I’d gotten some name recognition and had an established fanbase that would buy my indie books and leave reviews, there’d be no advantage (from a hard-nosed business perspective) to “paying” Baen 45% of my gross sales — or at least, not enough advantage to be worth it. (The “instant fanbase” effect would only have its full magnitude the first time.)

    And it goes without saying that the above applies ONLY to Baen; other publishers (who pay quite a bit less than Baen — 20 or 25% of NET, which usually translates to quite a bit less of GROSS, and you have to watch out for “weird” accounting) wouldn’t give a newbie author the “instant fanbase” effect, so I would gain NOTHING from going with them instead of indie.

    I don’t know why I’m bothering to say all that here — talk about preaching to the choir — but Sarah’s “Baen is family” sentence triggered a thought, and this is what resulted.

    • It’s an excellent point. If you have a chance to start with a boost like that, say, like an indie band with a singer who knows someone who knows that Guns-n-Roses or Blackmoore’s Night needs a last-minute warm-up act, why not sacrifice initial cash for an enormous name boost?

      • Heh. I was jealous of Sweden and Norway for Iron Maiden’s new tour for pretty much that reason. The opener in OK was a smaller band featuring IM’s bassist’s son (IIRC). Was good for an opener (never as good as main because of sound setup) but Norway and Sweden get Sabaton…

    • 25% of 25K books at $15.95 might be a bit more than 70% of 5K books at $9.95.

      Not inclined to crank those numbers, just putting a face on them, assuming Baen’s imprint both sells more copies and earns a premium.

      • its roughly three times more.

      • Yep. Hence why the “first series with Baen” strategy would probably pay off. But on the author’s second series, let’s say 20K of those 25K sales become hard-core fans who would buy the new series no matter where it is. And let’s say that Baen can bring in an extra 10K book sales for your second series, while your indie promotion effects can’t. That would put indie at 70% of 20K at $9.95 = $139,900 in the author’s pocket, while Baen would get you 25% of 30K at $15.95 = $119,625 for the author. These are completely made-up numbers, of course, but they do illustrate why “second series indie” could be profitable once you have good name recognition.

  30. I am one of those baen fans. I was off in the middle of nowhere on a field service job and bored out of my skull. I was looking for books to download and discovered the free library. First download was a Pounelle book. Next was Weber’s On Basilisk Station. The A Hymn Before Battle. Wow! Suddenly I had to jump in the deep end and actually buy something online. Hey this Webscription deal looked good. Monster Hunter Vendetta was included. Gah! What a stupid title. Well I read it because I’m cheap and I’d paid for it. Gentleman Takes a Chance was in another Webscription. Tinker, Slow Train to Arcturas, Rats Bats &Cars. Back to the free library and 1632. So much good stuff!

    90% of what I buy is Baen. Now I need to jump into Indie on Amazon. I feel guilty for not checking you guys out. I’m going to buy a bunch of Huns and Hoydens books this weekend.

    • Suggestions on which books to start with are welcome. And yes, I will write a review.

      • If you like linked short stories of mil-sci-fi with alien cultures, you might try “A Cat Among Dragons,” the first in the Cat Among Dragons series. “Elizabeth of Starland,” the first Colplatschki book, is about an abandoned colony world that wouldn’t quit, and a young woman with an unusual calling. “Blackbird,” set on that same world, is about one man trying to hold back the forces of chaos. The Colplatschki books also have an alt-hist vibe as well as military.

      • Well, you asked for it, so…

        If you like space opera like Heinlein’s juveniles, my darling husband (Peter Grant) writes the Maxwell series, starting with Take The Star Road. (Click on my name for the link to his author page.) If you like grittier mil scifi, try his Laredo series, starting with War to the Knife (a lot of his combat experience in Africa started leaking out in that one.)

        If you want humorous enlisted second generation American man keeps having to deal with Russian mythological monsters, and his babushka’s cat, try TXRed’s (Alma Boykin’s) When Chicken Feet Cross The Highway.

        If you want hilarious comic space opera, try Daniel M. Hoyt’s Ninth Euclid’s Prince!

        If you have ever been to a science fiction convention, or even if you haven’t but appreciate a comic sendup of geeks, Kate Paulk’s ConVent write a convention where the vampires, werewolves, and sucubbi are just trying to get their geek on, but the demons are trying to end the world…

        And Cedar Sanderson’s Pixie Noir has a private investigator trying to bring the long-lost faerie princess home to be crowned, despite court intrigues to stop him and kill her. The problem is: she’s been raised as a take-no-prisoners Alaskan gal with a shotgun, and doesn’t want to go…

        Pam Uphoff has the Wine of the Gods series that starts in genetic engineering, and expands to “any sufficiently advanced technology is magic.” Start with Outcasts and Gods, wherein Wolfgang was a nice kid–until the authorities decided he wasn’t even human…

        There are lots more authors around here, including Cyn Bagely, JM Grimm-Ney, Jeff Duntemann, Sabrina Chase, Laura Montgomery, Mary Castelli… Keep asking, and you’ll fill the To Be Read pile up in no time!

        • Bought two of them.

          • Hope you enjoy ’em! (In the end, that’s what writing is about: telling a tale to people who really enjoy it. We measure it with money and reviews, as feedback’s a little scarce, but I figure a rising tide lifts all boats, and a reader who’s really enjoyed a good tale is likely to come back and buy more!)

        • “Mary Castelli”

          er – Mary Catelli. Castelli is also a last name and will not turn up my stuff.

        • Not to in any way to disparage Dot’s husband (War to the Knife would be my personal recommendation for an introductory book of his) but Sabrina Chase’s Sequoyah trilogy is some of the best space opera I have read in years, and if you like hounds, horses, and elves, I highly recommend Karen Myers Hounds of Annwn series. Laura Montgomery’s books are quite good, although I’m unsure quite how to categorize them, and if you like mil-sci-fi Christopher Nuttall’s Empire’s Corps series is another good choice.

          Umm, yeah, don’t necessarily ask for reading recommendations here, unless you have a couple of spare paychecks and lots of spare time. 🙂

          • Not feeling disparaged at all. We have so many good authors around here, and everyone’s tastes are different, so I’m always glad when more people recommend more books. 🙂

            Even when the end effect is akin to a person asking for a wee drop of water getting answered by opening a fire hydrant’s valve!

          • It’s all good. I’m a binge reader when traveling internationally. Most job sites are in the middle of nowhere. The choices for sports are soccer, rugby and cricket. I was once watching an NFL playoff game, during the wee hours of the morning, when it was interrupted in the 4th quarter by the British Premier League pregame show. AGH!

      • If you like humor/satire, my latest is a sendup of AI, magic, copier factories, robots, zombies, and much else. See *Ten Gentle Opportunities.*

        • I also write hard SF. See *The Cunning Blood,* which is an upbeat nanotech adventure.

        • Just bought it

          • Many thanks! If you don’t laugh at least once, I’ll refund your money and go back to writing computer textbooks.

            • I still blows my mind that you had 2 stories nominated for Hugos 35 years ago. I’m really starting to feel old when I remember what I was doing/where I was when I read such and such story and realize that was 3 decades ago. It’s like, OMG, where did the time go?

              • Time flies when you’re having fun, and I make a point of *always* having fun. It’s what comes of being a gonzo optimist.

                • Pessimists say there are two types of people: Optimists and Realists. I prefer a different dichotomy: People who enjoy life or pessimists. Of course mindless optimism can crash and burn. It takes hard work to sustain results that validate optimism. No progress comes from realists. The give up because they feel the bad outcomes they foresee are doomed to happen.

                  As Sarah is wont to say. “In the end, we win, they lose.”

                  • Or as I would put it: “In the end, we triumph, and they’re forgotten.”

                  • *contemplates her family*

                    Where in all of creation do the Irish fit, then, if there’s only pessimists and those who enjoy life?

                    “We’re all gonna die!” is neither realistic (generally, and in a limited timeframe) nor optimistic, but I not only know folks who leap to that and yet enjoy life, I have been one!

                    Identify the worst reasonably possible result, deal with it, have fun.

                    • You describe a happy realist. A rare and precious breed in some areas.

                    • “His harp was carved and cunning,
                      His sword prompt and sharp,
                      And he was gay when he held the sword,
                      Sad when he held the harp.

                      For the great Gaels of Ireland
                      Are the men that God made mad,
                      For all their wars are merry,
                      And all their songs are sad.”

                      Ballad of the White Horse, G.K. Chesterton

                    • My the bard uncle has been half quoting that as far back as I can remember. They say the men of Ireland are the men that God made mad/for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.

                    • Irish folk singer Tommy Clancy, of the Clancy Brothers, once said “Ireland is the land of happy wars, and sad love songs.” He and his brothers made a career out of demonstrating it.

                    • “Where in all of creation do the Irish fit, then, if there’s only pessimists and those who enjoy life?”

                      The gods created whiskey so the Irish wouldn’t take over the world.

                      It worked.

                • I understand that time also flies when you throw the clock out the window.

                  But I’ve only seen it fall down and go boom.

                • “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” – Groucho Marx. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

                • I have been asking for years about what sort of course ought I time the flies on, but all I ever get in reply is “Go away, kid, you bother me.”

                  I can’t even get an answer whether it is preferable to time them over sprints or marathons.

            • Of course, these days some of the stuff I read back in the 80’s/90’s is brand new all over again. Faulty memory makes everything new again, no need for actual premiers.

              • This. I only realized I’d had eidetic memory when I lost it over the concussion 13 years ago. OTOH I can now re-read things with a high level of enjoyment.

                • For a long time that was me – I’d read a few lines and stop with a “I’ve read this before.”

                  At a point in college I made a conscious decision to switch that stuff off and just pretend I hadn’t read it before, and it worked. I guess I’ve compartmentalized that part of my brain that insists on only new stories so I can enjoy rereading good stuff – it’s still there, but like the suspension of disbelief that you manage to induce to watch any movie, I just tell it to shut up so I can enjoy the show.

                  • I’ve always re-read stuff. It’s interesting, the effect you get when you already know the story as opposed to the surprises the first time.

              • Since it takes me a minimum of five reads to get to the point where I know most of a book, I can read a whole lot of books over and over again.

      • If you want fantasy:
        http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Catelli/e/B01CHBF6Q2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1458962038&sr=1-1

        Madeleine and the Mists and A Diabolical Bargain are novels; Curses and Wonders, Enchantments and Dragons and Magic and Secrets are collections. The rest are the stories standalone, if you want a small taste.

    • Oldgriz: As I didn’t see anyone else making the suggestion here, I want to point out Sarah’s Human Wave Manifesto to you. Most of the writers who frequent these hereabouts write Human Wave fiction, which is not dominated by literary conventions nor depressive literary writers. In Human Wave fiction, story comes first and things like exuberance, high adventure, humor, and triumph are not only permitted but encouraged. It was nice to find someone putting a word to the sort of fiction I’d been producing since I was a teenager.

      https://accordingtohoyt.com/2012/03/21/what-is-human-wave-science-fiction-3/

      Many others have written on it, myself included. Google around for “human wave SF” or “human wave writing” and you’ll be nostrils-deep.

      • I’m well aware of Human Wave. I lurked here for a long time before before finally getting the gumption to participate. I’m also lazy and thought it easier to ask for suggestions then peruse past posts. 😉

  31. Celia Hayes ‘(or the sheer bloody contrary-mindedness) of someone like Dave Freer’
    You seem to have pegged my character fairly accurately 🙂

    • Well – reading people’s blogs and comments over a long period of time does give one a sense of another’s character, without ever having met in meatspace … 😉

  32. ” enter retail clerks who also didn’t read and pushed only what they were told to push.”

    Or who were honor graduates of SJW U. and deliberately did their best to make sure Wrongthink wasn’t bought, to the point of refusing to put “conservative authors” on the shelves. Encountering that phenomenon is what made me Amazon exclusive.

    Oh, and about authors begging to be removed from Sad Puppies: if they’re living in places like Canada, Britain, or the EU, being associated with a group like the Sad Puppies can put them in actual legal jeopardy for violating laws against promoting hate speech as defined by SJWs. So far, we’re not there, at least. Hopefully, asking to be removed is an affirmative defense.

  33. I think there’s one small, but important thing you’re overlooking, Sarah: the liberals in publishing aren’t in it for the money, they’re in it for STATUS.

    If you went to an Ivy League school, some of your classmates are making literally millions a year. Others have good-paying jobs in Washington, on the track to real power in the world. Meanwhile you can barely afford a shared studio apartment in Brooklyn on what you’re making as an editor.

    But you have STATUS. You are an EDITOR, and at the class reunion the people making millions and the Deputy Assistant Secretary people will nod and smile and accept you as an equal. (The guy who drifted off to Oklahoma after college and is now building houses and making more money than a book editor is the class failure.)

    That is why this fight is so vicious: if it was about money, they could jump on the bandwagon. But instead you are attacking the very foundations and rationale for the whole system of status they live in.

    Tom Wolfe made his whole career off of a simple observation: the massive post-WWII prosperity in America made it possible for even small, obscure status groups to build their own hierarchies of respect. He chronicled some of them: stock-car racers, pilots, hippies. It’s too bad he never got to Fandom. But all this was possible because there was so much wealth flooding through all levels of society. We no longer had the Social Register and Mrs. Astor’s 400 because even a drywall hanger could indulge his passion for Star Wars costuming and go to a convention with 50,000 other people to show off his status and skill.

    Which makes me wonder: is the sudden viciousness of status infighting, and the weird “colonization” of subcultures by the quarrels of the mainstream a result of the long-term economic slump? Are we returning to a system with one hierarchy of “social importance” and the current battles are all over who gets to define that hierarchy and where we sit in it?

    • MadRocketSci

      I was thinking about this the other day. One of the shocking things about (certain parts) of grad school is how steep and viscous a status hierarchy there is living in a lot of other people’s heads. Status (displays, fights, put-downs) seems to be breaking out everywhere like it’s the middle ages. I didn’t notice that in undergrad – perhaps the status scramble is intensifying because no one can find independent security (or all wealth and power seems to flow from Washington these days), and now suddenly it matters that you are the right kind of person if you don’t want to be starving in a ditch when the economy really falls apart.

      1. “My kind” are viewed with seething contempt that is impossible to describe to my parents back home. People from the provinces are seen as subhuman. Little differentiated from the livestock wandering through their tar-paper shanties 😛 .
      2. It is an accepted fact that there are “better” people and “lesser” people, and what determines that is apparently in whose society you were raised.
      3. Apparently people who went to super-competitive or ivy league schools are “better” than even us. Don’t try to understand their thoughts, little grad-student, they are so far beyond you they might as well be a different class of being. (Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.)

      So apparently your beauty, your intelligence, your moral righteousness, and your place in society is some innate characteristic that certain people just have and certain others do not, inherent in your birth and upbringing, and the purpose of school is more to confirm it than to actually teach. Why are any of us in school again?

      Anyway – Anyone remember how to get back to America? I’m sort of missing the place. I knew I should have taken a right turn at Albuquerque :-P.

      • I’m not in school, so I don’t know for sure. But I think Texas is very American. Texas is very large state. I think it has lots of different kinds of people in it. The reason I say it’s American is because of my experiences in Dallas, and its suburb Plano.

        We have a solid economy. Won’t say it’s booming, but there are jobs and lots of entrepreneurs here. Ton of one person new companies. It seems typical here, if you lose your job and can’t a new one start your own company.

        There are many company HQ’s in Plano. In addition to oil and agriculture we have a thriving tech industry in Dallas and Austin. If you stay out of Austin (the great Liberal Reservation (free range– but where we can can keep an eye on them) We have a pretty much Red (trad values) state. Texans also value the idea of leaving each other alone unless they need help. Nobody is going to force you to church or whatever. It’s also a great state for gun owners and collectors. One other thing I’ve seen is that every body works.

        • Southern California of my youth. A year or two after every periodical aerospace recession their would be a ton of cool new products/companies, as laid off engineers started businesses. Entrepreneurial types have been emigrating in droves.

        • “I’m not in school, so I don’t know for sure. But I think Texas is very American. Texas is very large state. I think it has lots of different kinds of people in it. The reason I say it’s American is because of my experiences in Dallas, and its suburb Plano.” – emily61

          Ah! Fellow Dallasite. Coolness. 🙂

          <— Born, raised, and grew up in Oak Cliff.

          Oklahoma, or at least southeastern Oklahoma. Where I live now near Lake Texoma is very like the 1960s/70s American suburban/rural/semi-rural culture that I grew up in.

          "Very like": it's close, but not quite spot on. We've still lost a lot of elements here that I remember from spending the summers and holidays at my great uncle's ranch outside of Bromide, and in and around Durant.

          I'm afraid that some parts of the American culture that I grew up in are never coming back. But the Texoma area is close.

          Heartbreakingly close at times: I can see similarities, and then an off note will catch my attention and cuts deep.

      • I’m not sure what kind of grad school you’re in, but something that’s true about the PhD grad students, particularly in the humanities, is that there is this remorseless equation:

        (1) Getting a tenure-track university-level job is the prize. If you wanted to teach high school, or neutral-gendered deity forbid, work for a living, you wouldn’t be going through the Hell to get this degree.

        (2) Every tenure-track professor advises at least a half-dozen grad students over the course of his career.

        (3) When that professor retires, one new person will be needed to replace him.

        Even English majors can figure out that there’s something wrong with those numbers, and thus, deep down they know most of them will fail to get what they want out of this. That knowledge leads to a huge level of status seeking: prove that you’re better, that by virtue of where you went to school, you’re the best of the best and thus deserve that one spot that so many people will be competing for. Or, if you lose out on the spot, at least be able to tell yourself that, again by virtue of your education, you’re better than THEM *waves vaguely out in the direction of middle America*

        • In general PhDs are credentials that you are adequate at playing academic games. What they never tell grad students is that groves of academe is a bizarrely insular and peculiar subset of life. Actually, many who hold PhDs have no clue how the world works outside of their specialty.

          The concept that results trump theory is anathema to many of them.

          • Systemic processes tend to reward people for making decisions that turn out to be right—creating great resentment among the anointed, who feel themselves entitled to rewards for being articulate, politically active, and morally fervent. Thomas Sowell,

        • And, six years ago, the academic market shifted big time. Regents want teaching experience, not research, so all those research-oriented grad students (two publications and your career is guaranteed) found themselves thrown hard into the bottom of the adjunct pool. Staff outnumbered faculty for the first time, and instead of PhDs in the latest field (environmental history, Middle East Studies, China Studies), the colleges were/are funding Offices of Diversity and Minority Outreach. The faculty advisers are just now starting to see that teaching is mow as big, if not bigger, than research. And Bog help you if you want to teach and you can’t show and explain how you do outreach to “previously underserved communities.” Short-term adjuncts are greatly desired (by administrators) because they are cheap and can be sacked as soon as one of the “customers” (students) complains about a micro-aggression, without worrying about the Faculty Senate growling and threatening the university’s accreditation.

          Full disclosure: people keep saying to me, “you should be teaching college” and “why aren’t you teaching college?” Above is about half the answer.

      • Yep: Midichlorians.

        For all those years you thought you just had to work hard to get good with a lightsaber, but no, it turns out the Jedi are a hereditary order based on the pureness of ones blood.

        But you can get a job washing their speeders. Well, until they buy a new droid to do that, of course.

        • Bad mental model for what we’re actually dealing with: It would be one thing if these midichlorian-infested types could actually, y’know, wield the Force… But, they can’t. By every objective test, they’re fundamentally failing at their efforts, whether it’s running publishers or running foreign policy.

          And, we’re all sucking up the resulting sewage and waste because of it. The modern “intelligentsia” has morphed into a charlatan class of carnival freak-show barkers, and they’re destroying the very things they say they revere.

        • I reject their (poor model of) reality and substitute my own — by hanging out with the kinds of people who accept all comers, based only on qualifications. If I discover that one of my friends is a nose-in-the-air ideological-purity type, they’ll quickly become an acquaintance as it just won’t be fun to hang out with them any longer — and then, slip from an acquaintance to “Wait, Charles who? Oh yeah, I remember him before he lost his mind. Darn shame.”

          Also, that movie was clearly Imperial propaganda. Don’t fall for the Empire’s lies!

          • MadRocketSci

            Also, that movie was clearly Imperial propaganda. Don’t fall for the Empire’s lies!
            😀

          • All those points also apply to Magic and it’s wielders in fantasy universes.

            • MadRocketSci

              Urban fantasy seems to always tie itself in a knot by positing that there exists this fantastic universe, but then requiring that it’s also coextant with our universe (which was shaped by our mundane history and circumstances). The plot is largely driven by the contradictory impulse to have this fantastic stuff, but have it have no effect on the world. Various excuses are made to keep it secret and hidden. Also, urban fantasy worlds always seem to be counting down to some sort of apocalypse.

              You would think if the fantastic started intruding on the world, things would get very non-mundane very quickly.

              • MadRocketSci

                I suppose the Sci-Fi equivalent would be the X-files. But even in a “covered up first contact” scenario, the seeds for radical change are planted.

                In a more traditional first contact scenario, the plot is less hobbled by the need to keep the world static.

              • Various poorly thought out excuses. I mean — persecution? You have a bunch of people, many of whom would obviously play chicken, and they will go to great efforts to hide themselves in fear of persecution that was generations ago?

                What’s worse is that they could. I’ve come up with a few, just thinking about it. For instance, the magical beings are not hiding from US but from other kinds of magical beings. Like if the people in Harry Potter had used Fidelius and like charms to hide from Voldemort so you had two wizard societies. Or some incredibly powerful being magically decreed and enforced it.

                Some manage it. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere where it’s a mysterious force that no character on stage can even begin to fathom. Or L. Jagi Lamplighter’s Prospero’s Daughter trilogy, where it’s a secret society that forces us to avoid noticing magic so that, instead of groveling before evil beings to get solutions, we invent science (and a secret society of ruthless and carefully recruited fanatics).

                • “What’s worse is that they could”

                  sigh Could do better. I mean.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  In the Harry Dresden universe, while there appears to a sort of “agreement” to avoid mundane notice, there is also “something” that encourages mundanes to “explain away” any unusual events.

                  • It’s called human nature. Until you are thwacked upside the head with beyond natural effects. the tendency is to fit them into whatever your usual framework says is possible. Which is why the Event that causes people to become thwacked in ways they can’t rationalize tends to be lunacy inducing and a quick return to Hobbesian rules until the new framework has time to form.

                    Witness Atlas in Wearing the Cape realizing that using the “superhero” framework would allow people to move past the Event quicker and in a way that would make lynch mobs less likely.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Nod. Atlas apparently was also responsible for the forming of “teams” that work with governments instead of supers becoming vigilantes.

                      Note, in general supers don’t go after non-super criminals.

                      Oh, one thing in Wearing The Cape is that there are “teams” of supers not involved in being “superheroes” but are involved in cleaning up messes caused by super-battles, bombings and other disasters.

                    • Marvel took a stab at that once with a comic called “Damage Control” (Maybe Damage Control Inc. It’s been a while.)

                    • Most Urban Fantasies assert that people ignore being thwacked upside the head repeatedly.

                    • In fairness, they have a sound basis for that assertion.

                      Urban areas are generally Democrat run, to the clear detriment of their citizens who nonetheless re-elect Democrats. Detroit is merely the one area which the infestation has been allowed to run its full course — NY City eventually got so desperate they elected a Republican and when those policies proved effective at ameliorating the decay elected a Democrat as fast as they could.

                      Like drunks, they will sober up briefly but fall off the wagon again shortly afterward.

              • I like Wen Spencer’s Tinker series. She does a good job of working out the hows and whys for the differences between earth/humans and elfhome/elves.

              • “The plot is largely driven by the contradictory impulse to have this fantastic stuff, but have it have no effect on the world.”

                Sometimes you can make that work by going with the “secret history” model of urban fantasy, wherein events that actually happened are caused by the fantastic. This opens up other cans of worms, mind, but it can work.

                “Also, urban fantasy worlds always seem to be counting down to some sort of apocalypse. You would think if the fantastic started intruding on the world, things would get very non-mundane very quickly.”

                Both of these are something of a plot a point in The Dresden Files. The fantastic intruding into the mundane is happening more and more often as what looks like the apocalypse is winding up for the big finish.

                From a writing standpoint, counting down to the apocalypse is an easy way to keep raising the stakes over the course of a series.

              • I note that there are urban fantasies that follow the Operation Chaos and Magic, Incorporated route of having another universe where magic is open and known.

                Unfortunately, for some the wish fulfillment of imaging that it could be real is too strong. (I’ve heard them say so.)

              • It’s not just the fantastic that has such problems. I once stopped after reading a very few pages of a story set in roughly contemporary times that involved a highly secretive order of assassins who made incredibly flamboyant and public kills while wearing a distinctive uniform.

            • Hmmm. Depends a lot on whether magic is a special snowflake things where only some people can become wizards. Otherwise, it will work like our scientific and industrial revolutions, where we worked out what of the magic really worked (willow bark tea) and what didn’t.

          • MadRocketSci

            There was a superpower web-fiction universe (Worm, was it?) that I was reading that was interesting because one of the characters had a power that was insanely useful outside of combat. She was a super-healer, and could manipulate biology to erase disease and injury.

            IIRC, she lived her life feeling constantly torn that she wasn’t doing that 24/7 for everyone she could. She was also very much *not* amused by superheroes getting injured and wanting her help.

          • Also, I think the guy who wrote the Wearing the Cape series either saw this or thought the same way, because he addressed a number of the points raised. For example, there was supervillainy: Mexican drug cartels and Mafia and street gangs. One thing that Mr Bassior missed is that yes, military weaponry can take out a lot of supers…. but how many governments are willing, when push comes to shove, to use military weaponry on supers in populated areas? Same thing Leftists forget about when they laugh at “gun nuts” vs the US military, and forget that those gun nuts are their neighbors, and drone strikes aren’t that selective. Meanwhile, the “gun nuts” will be implementing the “Nottingham option” where the Sheriff can issue all the decrees he wants, but he’s going to have a hard time carrying them out when all his men are dead, intimidated, or joining the outlaws.

            • Note that most of the people who laugh at “gun nuts vs. the US military” are the same people who were constantly demanding that we get out of Iraq because there was no way we could win that war.
              (Pause)
              I would rather attempt to put down a revolt in Iraq than the American South OR Mountain States OR Midwest any day of the week. All three? (Shudders) Unless it’s confined to the urban areas or you’re willing to let me go full Boer War, I’m not even going to try–and I suspect that I really wouldn’t want to.
              Of course, this brings up the question of whether leftists want to…

              • It’s not at all the same, you can’t treat little brown people the same as you treat real people. /sarc/

              • “Unless it’s confined to the urban areas ”

                To be honest, I wish they would start something in urban areas. The collateral damage will clean out 75% of the Democrat voter base.

    • Trimegistus, I did mention it. This is why editors and agents tried to push me into liberary fantasy and viewed the fact I WANTED to write space opera as a bizarre mental illness. Kind of like being a surgeon who WANTS to empty chamber pots for a living. It was all about the status.

  34. scott2harrison

    OFF TOPIC ALERT!!
    Forgive the digression, but I attempted to read Shadowdancer’s blog today and I got:
    http://www.affsdiary.com uses an invalid security certificate. The certificate is not trusted because it is self-signed. The certificate is only valid for sni.dreamhost.com (Error code: sec_error_unknown_issuer)
    Could someone with her contact information pass this to her. My recollection is that she comes under intermittant attack on the ‘net and I suspect that this could be another of those attacks.

    Thanks.

    • Free-range Oyster

      I know they were talking about changing hosts in the near future. This may be that (the site seems to be gone altogether now) or it may be more of the crazy technothriller crap that is their household’s online life. I’ll poke her out of channel when she’s likely to be up and caffeinated and see what’s up.

    • Free-range Oyster

      Confirmed that they’re moving hosts right now. No cause for alarm. Celebration, actually: new host has *experience* dealing with Chlamydia’s hacking attempts. 😈

    • LInk now takes you to this message:

      We’ve moved web hosting!

      Some things may be broken for a while as we sort them out.