Recently one of the people on the other side of the divide — no, not the one who thought we were being paid by the Russians (Geesh, did he listen to my accent, somehow) — was flapping jaws about how I and my friends will be crawling back and trying to make nice to the establishment of science fiction, because we’ll need to rebuild our careers.
(Does sinal salute with thumb and index pinching nose bridge and head inclined.) Where to start?
First, at least for now — everything flip in a minute these days in publishing — I’m doing fine career wise. I have three books hard-due at Baen and two more that will probably be bought, and which I intend to deliver this year (they’re sequels to DST and shifters.) That is more than any other year I’ve worked for Baen (though part of this is my wretched health,)
But let’s suppose that all those tank big (unlikely since three are collaborations with bestsellers) and I’m given my marching papers.
So, what is my next move? Crawl back to the conventions and the power elites and beg for entry again?
You know, I keep hearing this whenever someone speaks up in the arts, or media, or academia, or any other field that is heavily left. It’s like a lefty fantasy. “These apostates will come crawling back and admit we’re right.”
Ah… What sense would that make?
It would be like crawling back to the ex who tried to kill you BEFORE you ran away.
Look, there is no way, unless I became the most extreme of the SJWs (if I get hit on the head that hard, I’ll be on life support) that they’d even let me be published by the houses-other-than-Baen again. Any house that accepted me (and how, since no agent would represent me?) would be subjected to boycotts and demonstrations and accused of being “right wing” until they dropped me.
Even if — let’s assume I was hit on the head, and somehow still survived — I became the most extreme of the SJWs they’d never TRUST me, so the closest I’d get is the place I was when I was in the political closet. “Not trusted.” So I would get to be in midlist hell forever.
Except that…. except that as publishing turns upside down and sideways most of the other publishers are shedding midlist. So my chances of being able to continue having a job with any of them, even if I self-abased and lied to myself to that extent, would be zero.
Only a crazy person would trust the tender mercies of the left. They don’t have any. So I’m afraid their beautiful dream will never come true.
IF I lose my spot with Baen, I’m going indie. (Heck, having seen what I got for my first indie book, Witchfinder, I’m going indie part time anyway now that I’m healthier (although not healthy, as is obvious. Ah, well, we’re trying to figure it out.) Because I like big bucks and I can not lie.)
See, part of the issue with the left is that they see writing as “prestige.” They see it that way, because most of them aren’t being paid much. Years ago, when I mined the literary vines (that should be “literary”) I got told the maximum (MAXIMUM) advance I could aspire to was 12k. I have seen no reason to suspect most of them get even that. Though a few darlings and bestsellers get around $40k and a particular one allegedly gets much more. (To understand the allegedly you’d need to understand publishing contracts, in which each stage of payment is conditional on this or that and some of them are conditional on “pigs will fly through the air in merry chirping flocks.” The bit money is mostly an advertising gimmick. I’d want to see that contract, before I remove the “allegedly”.)
So the left views writing as a way of bolstering their academic resume. That’s why awards are SO important to them, because that means tenure or other boosts to their career. And that’s fine. It’s a model.
It’s just not the model I aspire to. I have said before I’m not an author, I’m a writer, I work for a living.
My aspiration for writing was never the awards or the prestige. It was to write a lot, have a lot of people love it, make a living from it.
I don’t object (on the contrary) to things like fan squeeing because it means my worlds came alive in other heads. Which is part of the goal. The other part is that place where I can pay off my kids’ student loans. Pay for our health care as we get older. Pay for the CATS healthcare as we get older. Pay for my bad habit of a roof over our heads and three meals a day. (Obviously not wholly. Dan makes most of the money around here. BUT his job has dry spells, just as mine does. Better with two.) That is the real object of this and “why I write.”
So I’m going to go at least partly indie. I’ve seen what my friends make. I’ve seen what I made from the one book. It will allow me to support my family. That’s fine.
And I work for Baen, which I’m assured is completely declasse. (I wouldn’t hang out with them otherwise.)
This, I’m told, is why I need to “rebuild my career.”
Whenever I listen to one of these people — no, not the one who thinks we’re Russian plants. That one is just funny. Also, he should pull up his socks or, as we say around the conference table at good ol’ Puppy Central Podnimite svoi noski — I feel like I’m listening to “Write like it’s 1999.”
To them there’s only one way to get published, one way to have a fanbase, and yes, even though it generally sucks for their endeavours, one way to make money: the old establishment they control.
No wonder they rub their hands with glee to fantasies of us trying to “crawl back” into their good graces.
What they’re missing is that their world is restricted, small, old and dying.
They keep closing that door, like it means anything.
And we keep turning around from the little decaying house, and seeing a wildly beautiful and, yes, diverse world to run rampant in.
Does it have prestige? Oh, not with the old establishment. The old news-industrial complex will never call on ME for an opinion on anything SF/f.
Their audience is shrinking as fast as their stalwarts.
Out there, in the wide world, there’s millions of people willing to read what we write and pay for it.
And you know what, as Heinlein said, we write for people’s beer money. There’s no more sincere flattery than people foregoing other, similarly priced pleasures for one of my books. H*ll some of you passed up on a chicken to read my books. That’s the most beautiful thing anyone has ever done for my work. Thank you.
There’s no going back. We — or at least I — knew that full well when we came out of political closet.
Sure, we’re now shuttered out of the old structures forever.
But we’re free in the world, and we’re emergent.
In the end we win, they lose.
Be not afraid. Go and make your own success, on your own terms.