Free Trade

Years ago, I attended a workshop in which the well known, award winning editor told us his job was to filter the submissions and choose the best for his readers.

So far so good.  We have people here, including me, who have read slush, and of course, no magazine no publishing house, no newspaper or even newsletter could survive long if you just took whatever came in over the transom and put it out for people.

[And no, before you say anything, no, most of these things AREN’T going straight to Indie.  Most of the “fails” I am seeing on indie aren’t even real fails.  They’re just things I don’t like, or things that offend my sense of how well something should be researched.  They are not actually bad stories.  Most of them.  The majority of fails that “fail” across the board are actually what Kris Rusch called “Recital Pieces” i.e. stuff the author has written, polished, cleaned up and sent out to “editors” who are no such thing (or at least not good ones)) until the poor manuscript is dead, dead, dead.  This is made worse by people-who-think-they’re-editors insisting on perfectly grammatical English when writing anything creative, emotive or persuasive.  (Rolls eyes.) In other words, the worst of slush never made it to Indie.

Why not? you ask.  I have a theory.  The absolutely bottom of the barrel you got in slush was someone looking for affirmation, confirmation and pats on the back.  Those are probably still submitting to book publishers and magazines in hopes of being published by “real” editors.  Okay, maybe those aren’t the bottom, but the patients in mental hospitals and people writing on wrapping paper with chicken blood (you wish I were joking) aren’t even organized enough to put it up.]

But later in the same talk, the words “to educate the public” came out.  In fact, you couldn’t spend much time around editors without hearing this.  Stuff like “It is our duty to educate the public” was bad enough, but then there were things like “We need to broaden minds” or the one I think should be justification to send someone to the South Seas without a boat “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

The thing I’m here to tell you is that they HONESTLY believed that.  These people who, by and large, had mediocre degrees from excellent schools — ie had studied English because they already knew it and it wouldn’t be much work — and imbibed the Marxist indoctrination from their teachers without so much as quibbling at the fact that Marx never understood distribution, or that his theory of value meant if I spend a lot of time polishing a turd it should be worth the same as gold polished the same time, thought they needed to “educate” the vast majority of people who have jobs, raise families, create things, do things, and, yes, read things.

One does not know whether to admire them for the lack of understanding of economics or the hubris.

In fact, they’d either become persuaded that what their professors preached was “smart” because, well, their professors preached it and acted like they were smart or — for the slightly brighter — realized that if their dim-bulb professors could have a career from spouting the “right” (left) nonsense, it MUST mean that the power in society was with the left and that saying these things would get them those rewards.

As far as that went, they were right.  We are surrounded by jumped up mediocrities, in writing, in editing, in academia, and even in science: people who got handed huge rewards by saying what the lefties in power wanted to hear, and joining the crusade to “educate” people.

Their hubris might never have done much, mind, without the changes in retail that allowed them to do all push in marketing.  (I.e. the large bookstores where what was actually put on the shelves was pre-selected by the publishing houses “confidence” [how much they told the stores to stock.]) Or, of course, by a corrupt press that did things like report “bestsellers” based on laydown, before a single copy sold.  (Years ago there was an article on how a supposed bestseller had sold two copies.  An unusual case, but not that out of the ordinary, when a lot of “bestsellers” got there on laydown (i.e. one week and out.))

However, the changes in the market place and the completion of the long march in the press and academia, gave the left a lock on these fields.  And unfortunately none of them had ever run a lemonade stand, or understood that while unsweetened lemonade might be “good” for people, for a definition of good, people just won’t buy it.

In other words, when you’re selling something to people, you have to give a damn what people want to buy.

I know that’s a strange concept to many people.  And yet, it is the truth.

And the problem for the left is this: they try to solve things like “people just don’t want to buy this” with more “education”, more control, more attempts at making people buy what the left thinks it’s good for them.

It doesn’t work.  The end result of the “push” model is the magnificent inefficiency of communist countries, where the few things for sale no one wants.  (The left senses this too.  Notice the mandate to buy health insurance, because if it wasn’t mandated you might not choose to buy.  Or you might buy a policy that doesn’t cover abortion and sex change operations, just because everyone in your household is happy with what they got at birth, and is not/is no longer able to conceive.  They know what’s good for you, Hater.)

The only reason people didn’t starve behind the curtain is that you can’t quite stop free trade.  You can just make it illegal.  But, well, that never stopped anything.  (The illusion it does is another leftist thing I don’t get.  Laws aren’t magical.)

When I was a kid in Portugal, while the “smart” people tinkered with the economy, people would make a living from the weirdest things, including but not limited to, learning to make bread during bakers’ strikes and sellin— I mean, letting your neighbors have a loaf and it’s it great they gave you a gift of money?

You can’t stop free trade.  You can distort it, hide it, or make it take unexpected turns.  But you can’t stop it.  Now that they no longer think we’re the only animal who uses tools, maybe they’ll come up with a new definition for humans “the ape who trades.”

The problem is when what you’ve been trading is your “correct” opinions for all the coddling that the establishment can provide.  Because see, the market isn’t there to support it.  It just isn’t.  No matter how loud you shout, you’re competing for a diminishing ability to reward your shouting.

Yes, we’ve seen Marvel admit that gosh darn it, the dogs just don’t like the food.  But my guess is they’ll double down.  Because the real market is not selling comics to people.  It hasn’t been that for years.  The real market is the executives selling themselves to the progressive establishment.

And the problem is the progressive establishment.  It achieved control of a society it despised, and it went right on despising it, and trying to “improve” it and “educate” it.

The problem is that if people had complied, society would have stopped working, because these people produce nothing but theories and screeds.

And people couldn’t comply with that.  So free trade continued to flourish.

The progressive establishment in those institutions it has taken over, killed, and now wears as an Edgar Suit, has tons of excuses as to why the dogs don’t like the food.  One of them is that we’re all “haters” and “oppose diversity.”  (In principle?  It’s more that I don’t give a damn about their type of diversity.  I don’t really care what’s between your legs, who you sleep with, or what shade of tan your skin is.  I care mostly about the contents of your character, and in writing, whether you can write.) Another is that we’re just too darn stupid.

For years, I heard the decline in book buying blamed on everything, from TV to games, to people being illiterate and these stories being just so gosh darned complicated they don’t understand them.

Yeah.

Look, can people (as a multitude) be stupid?  Sure.  I mean all you have to do is drive in any major city to find yourself screaming things like “What do you think your turn signal is for” or “Get off the d*mn cell phone” or even “Driving baked seems like a good idea, because?”

But people, as they are, are the market.  Or at least the people who read for fun are your market, if you work in any aspect of getting fiction to market.

Do people want to read Regencies that are basically modern characters in regency outfits?  Sure.  At least judging by sales ranks.  So if you want to make money, is it worth it spending the time I do going “ARGH, that’s just wrong?”  Probably not.  It might be worth it TO YOU if you’re me that is, to walk the line and get as close as you can to what the public wants while keeping things semi-historically accurate, though.

But in the end, what matters if you are making a living, providing the public with a product, is that you …. provide the public with the product it’s telling you it wants to buy.

Can you make a living without doing what the public wants?  What if your genius demands that you do something much better than what they want?

Ah.  Would your genius be counting on government grants, rich friends, or a working spouse?

The market is the market.  If you want to make a living in the market you adapt to it; you don’t demand it adapt to you.  As for your “genius” the chances of it being appreciated in the future, if it won’t sell now, are vanishingly small.  Shakespeare wrote for the groundlings, after all.

I don’t know how much longer we’ll have government grants.  We’re running out of other people’s money.  At any rate it’s immoral for you to receive money stolen from other people (or did you dress that up in prettier words) to support “art” that won’t sell. Patreon, go fund me (wealthy friends) and wealthy spouses might last longer.  At least there the money is given willingly.  But it’s not a big market, or a thriving one.

In the end the market is the market.  And not just for humans.  In biology books (yes, I read a lot of those,) I keep coming across things like “this small insect makes a living by seeking out and eating the sap of the blah blah tree.”

Making a living.  It’s a law of nature.

And no one ever really made a living by “educating” the public into ideas the public was NOT interested in.  The Edgar-suit wearing institutions and companies just masked that for a while and rewarded appropriate noises, not money-making work.

But that’s a good way to go bankrupt. It’s also a good way to create competition, which WILL appear to serve the market you’re leaving un-served.  Like you know, indie publishing, and news blogs, and…  Enough things that all those people the elites have been trying to educate realized they were neither alone nor powerless.

And now the times …. they are achanging.

It’s almost funny watching all these people making louder and louder noises, of what used to be the approved kind, fighting for the one or two spots that can still be rewarded by the establishment.  Almost.  Except it’s sad too.

And it’s funny watching them positing conspiracy theories and “hatey hate mc haters” as to why things are changing, when the answer is “you refuse to serve the market.  The market found those who would.”  Or, IOW, the dogs don’t like the food, so they found a way into the kitchen and are eating the elites’ filet mignon.

And now they’d better learn to swim, or they’ll sink like a stone.  For the times, they are achanging.

 

314 responses to “Free Trade

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

    Somehow, they are never the comfortable that should be “afflicted”. 👿

    As for “comfort the afflicted”, to often they are the people doing the “afflicting” of people who lack the “proper beliefs”. 😦

    • Do not forget, they know that the people they are afflicting lack the proper beliefs because the people they are afflicting do not agree with them. Anyone who with an open mind, who was properly educated and who understands the true reality of human struggle as they do would have to agree with them.

      • They are always right we are always wrong. And it doesn’t matter whether if this agrees with reality. see Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed for a wonderful discussion of this.

        They are horrible businessmen because they don’t want to serve their customers, they want to lead their customers.

    • The idea of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable isn’t so horrible on the face of it but Paul hits the nail on the head. THEY are never the comfortable who ought to be afflicted.

      And “comfort” literature, like “comfort” food really isn’t respected, is it? You work all day, deal with the stresses of life, and you come home and you want to escape to an adventure or romance, not be lectured, or *worse*, don’t want to be sunk in a mire of misery in a book that talks in a meaningful way about your oppressed life. That’s not *comfort*.

      • Exactly – they want to read about … adventure, striving, eventual success (maybe) or to be amused with something light-as-a-feather bit of piffle.
        Look at PG Wodehouse – he made a very comfortable career out of providing those bits of piffle, over decades. (and he made it look easy, too…)
        Ordinary readers want their escape. They don’t want another helping of Stalinist Filboud Studge.
        https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/sk-studge.html
        All thanks to Saki — AKA HH Munro, A provider of readable piffle, sometimes with a sting in it.

        • I thought afflicting the comfortable was HerbN’s baliwick? I don’t see paying for that sort of thing, myself.

          Has sudden image of young lad walking up to newstand, holding up his coins and saying, “Please, sir, I’d like to be afflicted.”

          • Well, some spray tan and hair curlers and you, too, can be a part of the Victim Class (TM). After all, didn’t it work quite well for some time for miss Dolezal?

    • Their idea of comfort for certain types of afflicted (straight white people who are poor) seem to consist mostly of giving sermons. In which they tell that there are lots of other afflicted in much worse way. Even if some of those afflicted seem to be doing pretty well they are really much worse off than you.

      • But they don’t really understand that schadenfreude isn’t really all that comforting…

      • If their betters didn’t tell them how deplorable they are and how they benefit from “White Privilege” the stupid oafs would think themselves the equals of university graduates who’ve earned* degrees in Oppression Studies.

        *For certain values of “earned” not including actually paying off the loans granted them by ungrateful taxpayers who work three jobs to support their families.

      • They only do that for window dressing. They’d ignore em if they could, at best. Especially if they can’t be used to further some other goal. The posturing isn’t to serve but to salve.

      • “I once complained that I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”
        “Why, was he a shoemaker?”

      • Afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted are important activities, but I go to Church for that. Sometimes I’m the one who needs comforting, and sometimes I’m the one that needs to be afflicted.

        But sometimes I just need to take a break from everything and read something interesting. While what I might read might afflict me, it had better do it as a side effect of informing or entertaining me, because otherwise I’m going to just put it down. (Unless, of course, it’s a book I’m reading because, even though I know it will afflict me, I need the self-help. But such books aren’t read for escape…)

    • I read David Eddings (I also read more respectable things, like porn) and one of his phrases occurs to me;

  2. Dang you, Jasini! I never get to be first… Ah well.

    The times are changing faster now (or in Dave’s terms, the strong current is now turning into a tidal bore). Sales of the “traditional” writers in smaller genres were already seeing slumping long before ebooks took off – it was only the major chains and push marketing that kept their heads above water for a few years.

    Now the water level is just about over the rock they are clinging to so desperately. Interesting times, indeed.

  3. these stories being just so gosh darned complicated they don’t understand them

    Soap operas. Complexity isn’t an issue so long as the audience cares about the characters.

    • There are different kinds of complexity. You can have complex characters, you can have complex plots, and you can have complex writing.

      Of these three, complex writing is the least likely to get you anywhere, IMHO – when the readers have to refer to half a dozen interpreters to figure out what the writer is even saying (glaring at the ghost of James Joyce, here) – there isn’t going to be a huge market segment there.

      Even combining two of these can be a problem. I would note that while soaps have insanely complex plots, they have very simplistic characters. (And, when reduced to broad strokes, even those plots can be fit into a very few relatively simple stereotypes.)

      • Contrary to popular belief, incoherence and complexity are not equivalent.

        G. R. R. Posner not withstanding.

        • Terry Sanders

          This.

          One of the SPQR mysteries got simplified a lot when Decius figured out he was dealing with *two* conspiracies working at cross purposes. A snarled bundle of rope is *not* an intricate knot. It just looks like one.

      • I’m still waiting for someone to translate James Joyce into English.

      • From “The Reader’s Manifesto” (quoted from memory, forgive any errors):

        “Oprah once told Toni Morrison that she had to puzzle out the meaning of many of the latter’s sentences. ‘That, my dear is called reading,’ Morrison said. Actually, Toni, it’s called bad writing. Great prose is not always easy, but it is always lucid; no one of Oprah’s intelligence should have trouble figuring out what you’re saying.”

        • Actually, Toni, it’s called bad writing.

          In “Techniques of the Selling Writer” the author says you can, if you wish as a writer, decry the reading ability of the average reader and write stuff they’ll find impenetrable, but that if you do so you can’t really complain if they don’t flock to your work.

          • There are two things the author of that book drummed in over and over: clarity and vividness. That’s the goal of well-written prose.

          • Awesome read, and best purchase so far of the year.

          • Toni Morrison: somebody who in the future will be an anecdote on history books, mentioned as “a writer who was famous at that time” in explanation as to who this Toni Morrison who appears in some of the original sources of the time was.

            Or if anybody bothers to make a study of her, it’s analyzing why somebody like her could become famous at the time, as inconsequential as she was as a writer when it comes to actual history of writing. Those people who study that history, and the writers who left a mark in the trends and who may still be read in that future time will pay no attention to people like her.

            • And people will still be reading Hemingway.

            • Toni Morrison is destined to be remembered, if remembered she is, as the Edward Bulwer-Lytton of her era. Or possibly the F. Scott Fitzgerald, read only because of English class assignments.

              It can be an interesting activity reviewing the names of authors popular in their times and utterly forgotten in our own. Anybody read Edna Ferber these days? Howabout Bret Harte? Daniel Defoe?

              • 😀 Edward’s modern fame is – well, would be interesting to know what he’d think of it. Maybe it’s still better to be remembered at all, even if it’s as an example of how bad you were, than fade into complete obscurity. After all, as long as people still know you you still might get an occasional fan, those people who become curious enough to find something of yours and read it, and then maybe realize they actually like it.

                And come to think of it, the thought that even if you were/are bad you could still connect with at least some people with your stories and your writing, that’s not bad.

                Perhaps provided it was connecting as in making them feel better, and maybe through that helping them to better their lives. Not as in “encouraged somebody to kill himself”. Or go on a shooting spree…

                • And I did read both Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders… not that I remember much, besides the thing that the movies were better. 😀

                  And at least he did create one enduring character with Crusoe, even if hardly anybody reads the actual novel anymore.

                  • Oops. Now this is just Wikipedia, but it claims that there is actually no evidence that Defoe wrote Moll Flanders because the very first original printing has no author, and it might even have been autobiographical.

                    But that still leaves good old Robinson.

                  • Read both. Liked both. I doubt that I would have liked The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders as much if I had read it when I was younger.

                • I am currently reading Ron White’s (no, not Ron “Tater Salad” White) biography of Ulysses Grant and Bulwer (this predated his adding the -Lytton) was a favorite author of young Ulysses and his wife and probably the preeminent author/playwright of his day.

                  It is also worth remembering that Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie had both gone into eclipse at various times.

                  • I’ve looked at some of Bulwer-Lytton’s work, and came away concluding that he was a good writer, who it is fashionable to mock.

                    • Terry Sanders

                      Most of the mockery is focussed on that “It was a dark and stormy night” paragraph, in which he admittedly got completely carried away with the florid victorian prose. I suspect few people today have really looked at anything else he did. «looks around guiltily»

                • Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”:

                  I met a traveller from an antique land
                  Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
                  Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
                  Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
                  And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
                  Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
                  Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
                  The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

                  And on the pedestal these words appear:
                  ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
                  Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
                  Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
                  Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
                  The lone and level sands stretch far away.

              • I had to look up Edna Ferber, but I have DeFoe and Harte in the library here somewhere. And, actually, Edna had the musical adaptation of “Showboat” that I thoroughly enjoyed (must take a look sometime to see if Amazon has that one), although I don’t know how close it was to the book that I have never read.

                But I’ve been poking through the old Analogs as I slowly scan them to non-dust-making storage – and am constantly struck by how many authors in the reviews column are ones that I have absolutely no recollection of. (Although Spider Robinson’s selections seem to have lasted rather better than any of those that Tom Easton elected to review. Which doesn’t surprise me all that much…)

                • Ferber also hangs on as author of the book that was the source of Giant, with James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.

                  If you look up her work she was quite the dominant literary force for three or more decades. It can be humbling to realize to what degree a popular author shapes the field, such as SF before Heinlein and SF after him. He changed how SF authors wrote and so much of his work now seems derivative only because of the many imitators.

              • Terry Sanders

                A playwright friend of mine was fond of pointing out that in Shakespeare’s time, everyone was talking about the genius of Inigo Jones.

            • I recall reading somewhere the reason caged birds sing: high percentage of hemp seeds.

              • In the wild they are able to enjoy fermented berries, denial of which is yet one more instance of human cruelty.

                • My back yard neighbor went on vacation during harvest season. It was amusing to watch drunken birds fall off the fence. Or miss the branch they were trying to land on.

              • Got to love that soma

      • Who has amnesia today?

        • Perhaps me??? I have no idea what you’re talking about???

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Soap Operas often had “mysterious cases of amnesia” more so than exist in the Real World.

            • Observe the face as it approaches the desk… Sigh, should have realized that was the meaning.

            • and don’t forget completely-appearance-changing cosmetic surgery.

              • But it was all a dream!

              • Kids go away to summer camp, and two years later come back ten years older.

                One character had a big party for her 16th birthday at the beginning of summer, and a big party for her 18th birthday at the end of summer.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Yep. 😉

                Although, one soap had to replace an actress and the “new” actress had different hair color than the old actress.

                The writers were wondering how to explain the hair color change but the new actress suggested that she wear a wig for a while and then “on screen” remove the wig never to wear the wig again.

                IE Establishing that the character was “always wearing a wig before” and now the character has stopped wearing the wig. 😀

  4. “It is our duty to educate the public”… “We need to broaden minds” … “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

    Dear Editors:

    I have long suffered as a result of these policies. I continue to come across work that is inaccurate in its settings, science and history. I have seen far too many examples of card board characters, and unrealistic portrayals of human interactions are everywhere I turn. I do not find myself informed or challenged. I find little to encourage or inspire. The result of your policies thoroughly depresses me. I plead with you to stop it right now.

    An Exhausted and Discouraged Reader

  5. “We need to broaden minds” or the one I think should be justification to send someone to the South Seas without a boat “to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”

    This seems to be the single most common justification I see repeated everywhere. “We are raising consciousness about such and such” is the usual construction.

    We are essentially ruled by people who consider us uncouth dwarves. “Nasty, brutish and short” to coin a phrase. People on the Left have this straw-man construction of everyone outside their enlightened sphere as hateful trogs. Rural people are ignorant, intolerant hicks, city people are ignorant, intolerant factory workers. They must be uplifted from their sorry state with the sublime power of The Ivory Tower. The Great and the Good will tell them what to do, the trogs will do it, and all will be well.

    This results in places like Ontario Canada being driven en mass into bankruptcy, as the government (Liberals) essentially declares open war on farming, manufacturing, and any other business they do not have a personal interest in.

    Fascism.

    As I said at Mad Genius today, the Hugos were the big reveal of SF/F fandom as a pack of Lefties who pretty much despise anyone outside their echo chamber. Four years of Sad Puppies left them shrieking with rage, to the extent that they changed their whole voting structure to keep people out.

    This year Sad Puppies didn’t bother with the Hugos. Two things happened. WorldCon participation dropped precipitously, by four digits in some categories. The other thing was that this year the Hugos are the Tor Awards. I have no evidence to claim enemy action there, but AFAIC, it speaks for itself.

    Fascism.

    Now, the opposite of Fascism is not Communism. They are two sides of the say coin of tyranny. The opposite of tyranny is freedom. Therefore, we should seek to increase our personal freedom in all things, and work toward the freedom of others.

    In books, freedom looks like more people writing more things that are exactly what the author wants to write. More people reading what they want to read. Fewer jumped-up dickheads deciding a story isn’t diverse enough, or the author’s skin is the wrong shade because their quota of Shade X authors is used up this year.

    I don’t care if those people stay in business. I just don’t want to deal with them. Let them have their own little bubbling cesspool off in a corner somewhere, while the rest of us get on with what we want to do.

    • Three things.
      The Dragon awards ripped aside the curtain, and showed the naked emperor.

      • The Dragon Awards, following the Hugo wooden a-holes as it did, was a great thing.

      • Speaking of, nominations are now open for this year’s Dragon Awards!

        So go forth, and let people know of the awesome things you enjoyed last year!

        http://awards.dragoncon.org/

        • Sadly, I’ve hardly read anything this year. Too many characters trying to get out. ~:D

        • It’s unclear on the site what the eligibility period is (a link to the rules kicked back to the main Dragon Con site.) Is it from July 2016 to June 2017, or is it a different time period?

          • found it: “We have updated the eligibility period for works for consistency across the site. Works released between 7/1/2016 and 6/30/2017 are eligible for this year’s awards. We will maintain this rolling year of eligibility moving forward so that there are no gaps or overlaps in publishing works.”

            And yes, I have a self-serving motive; I want a list of things that not-taste-makers think are good, so I have a reading list for myself.

            • I want a list of things that not-taste-makers think are good,

              Pa’s take on this, for TV and movies, was “critically acclaimed” was a code that meant “crap.” (And yes, ‘crap’ – I think he only ever used ‘hell’ and ‘damn’ at least in front of the/us kids [even as adults] unless there was a joke he was telling that demanded another word. If he ever said anything *-ist, you knew it was a joke – if you knew him at all. The most non-joke -ist thing he ever said was “If everyone woke up tomorrow a [Straight] White [male] Anglo-Saxon Protestant.. many would be in for a surprise: You STILL gotta work like hell to get anywhere.”)

            • I will say it’s a bit weird in my mind to open the nominating period before the eligibility period ends. It seems to me that, if you want works published up to 6/30, it would make more sense to start the nominations sometime in July. As it is, how can I know what I think the best fantasy novel of the year was, for example, if I still might find something better?

              • I suspect things will get ironed out and sorted out over the next year or so. This is only the second year, and I’m willing to give them a LOT of slack, given the size of the voter pool and trying to sort out what they want to do and what doesn’t work as well as hoped.

      • Four things: WorldCon participation dropped precipitously, the Hugos are the Tor Awards, the Dragon awards exposed the naked emperor and readers like comfy chairs.

    • The big problem with bubbling cesspools is that the smells sometimes drift off into our breathing air when the wind is blowing in the right direction….

    • Anonymous Coward

      To be fair, the Helsinki venue probably explains a large fraction of the reduced Worldcon attendance. Should be interesting to see next year’s numbers.

      • Aye, let us not be taking credit for happenstance. Even sans SP efforts, this years numbers would be lower than last. Next year’s (and the next, and the next…) will be informative. A one-year dip is no big deal. A downward trend is another matter. Don’t mistake jitter for doom. And NEVER mistake doom for mere jitter.

        • Captain Comic

          Next year, yes. It’s locked in for San Jose (although the People’s Democratic Republic of California is more than a little furenar for a lot of us.)

          ’19 is Ireland uncontested and ’20 has New Zealand and the down-underers usually are left alone for bids.

          OTOH, I’m set for next year and I’d like to visit Eyre. I can be the outlyer vote.

          And I did find it odd that all the “Castellia House ballot stuffing” shreikers are very quiet that the Haden collective shows up again and again on this year’s ballot.

        • I didn’t bother to track it at all this year – is that attendance or voting member numbers? If the former, location definitely is the cause. If the latter, almost certainly not.

          I expect the voting numbers to go down drastically, though. SJWs are like crows – they’ll drop the current shiny virtue signal in a heartbeat when they spy an even shinier one.

      • Nope – I signed up before when it was venued in furrin lands just to vote – no intention of popping for a international flight. This year, nope.

        And, to me, “We left it alone this year and it turned into the TOR awards” is prima facia evidence that the accusation of “insiders club” in nominations were in fact true.

        I know, it’s a shock, but there you go.

      • Nomination numbers have nothing to do with venue or attendance, its all done by electrons these days.

        Truthfully I don’t care enough to wish destruction on them. All I know is that $40US is nearly two cases of beer. Even though I don’t drink anymore, I still think two cases of beer would be a better expenditure of that money than giving it to a bunch of hateful scuts like that. F-’em.

  6. What Marvel hopefully learned is that most comic sales are driven by a few core characters, and that if you knock those legs out, the rest of the stool can’t hold any weight.DC thankfully seems to have learned that lesson with Rebirth and has done a better job of maintaining strong showings on those popular books like Batman and Action Comics, which then in turn finances the niche pet projects where “diverse” writers can provide their stuff without crowding into the workhorse projects. (And to be fair, a lot of those diversity projects feature some legitimately good stories to boot. Check out New Superman if you haven’t yet.)

    “The populace is too stupid to understand what’s good for them” I guess is another extension of the “Roll left and die” principle that comes up here a lot.

    • No, that’s their one core belief that they never go back on. “People are stupid, they must be controlled.”

      Its the organizing principle of tyranny.

      • Central planning works for a mindless populace. A population exercising native intelligence and free will mucks up the levers and gears the central planners are controlling. The population MUST be stupid or their weltanschauung is invalid.

        • A populace allowing such morons as those to make fundamental decisions for the society is prima facie stupid.

          Q.E.D.

          • Or just too timid.

            • Or exhausted. Frankly, I think the left gets a lot further in extending their petty powergrabs when the working right and center are just tired of dealing with things, and therefore don’t care as hard as the hard-core progressives.

              • As a general rule, social and political movements are driven by those people whose lives are unfulfilling and empty. People with full and enjoyable lives tend to be too busy to attend the planning meetings. See: Pussy Hats On Parade.

              • I would say that the Leftist power grabs only work when the working right and center care about the same issues or institutions. When they stop caring and let go, the issues and institutions will collapse into insignificance.

    • Alternately, those side projects get drafted into the plots of the big names, and get choked to death. The New 52 Teen Titans were a case in point. One single comic had direct references to 7 other storylines, and the intrusion got so bad that the writers had to try and compress their year-long story arc leading up to a company-wide “reveal” into two issues. (It didn’t work. You’re shocked, I know.)

      They also sometimes die on the vine. The above referenced TT had a related title, The Ravagers (also, Superboy, the three were interwoven). The characters were great, the story was great, Harvest* was a truly interesting and compelling villain (which is, let’s face it, entirely too rare a thing). As Teen Titans and Superboy were drafted into various other happenings, they were left without support. Eventually, the characters were all canonically packed into stasis pods.

      *Harvest was a non-metahuman, who successfully fought against a superhuman tyranny with bravery, smarts, leadership,ruthlessness, technology, and time travel. He won at great personal cost. Then (knowing that doing so would make him terminally ill) he traveled back in time to the present to try and save his adopted son (Superboy) from dying in the conflict, and to minimize the suffering of the centuries-long total war by winning it early (in a brutal fashion).
      He had so much potential, and it was very well utilized. Then the company decided to go a different direction, and he was unceremoniously eliminated in the cheesiest way possible while flagrantly ignoring the character’s capabilities.

      • die[wither] on the vine

        This phrase annoys me, at least after what the Democrats did to ruin the meaning of it when (Newt?) said it. WHY does something “die on the vine”? Because it was NOT PICKED from the vine. WHY wasn’t it picked? Something BETTER was picked instead. “Die on the vine” is not the big nasty evil vile thing, but the ideal – a BETTER option as seen by those who must pick from amongst the options was provided, and was chosen. The option of that thing, on that vine, was not taken away. It remains, for anyone caring to bother with it. At least until nobody does bother with it, then why bother maintaining it?

        But that’s the same thing as the main post is about. The ultimate user/customer is the deciding factor. You can flood the marketplace with grey goo or gray goo or puce wombats or whatever… if nobody cares to buy the grey goo, gray goo, or puce wombats…. well, YOU need to get better a business plan and product.

        • A similar and more recent misinterpretation was the CBO report determining that under the House proposed replacement for Obamacare some twenty million Americans would “lose” their health insurance.

          That is, if no longer forced to purchase an overpriced product of little personal benefit, many Americans would ditch their currently imposed health insurance.

          “Lose” has multiple meanings, and not all that is lost is sought after.

        • I’m having an attack of the pedants but… stuff dies on the vine all the time. Squash rots, for example, for no apparent reason. You’ve got fruit and then it’s just dead. Bugs get in. Disease strikes. Fruit that was there is dead. I’ve had grapes. One day there’s bunches of new little bunches and it’s so exciting and then a week or three later the grapes have split and rotted. Right there on the vine.

        • Lots of worthy things never find their audience.
          Bridge of Birds had been out for over 30 years before I ever heard of Barry Hughart, Master Li, and Number 10 Ox.

      • Terry Sanders

        You’re right. What you describe is a most compelling villain concept. And what you say happened to it says a lot to explain why even my late wife (the most rabid comic-book fangirl I ever met) had pretty much stopped reading the stuff ten years ago.

    • I have not gone and looked it up, but I’m pretty certain Marvel makes most of it’s money from the movies nowadays. Marvel’s writers can establish cred for only so long by defying their mouse overlords – eventually they have to generate series that will eventually make good movies.

      Using the movie money to operate writing farm teams in the published comics is the only business model that makes sense to me.

      • “Marvel’s writers can establish cred for only so long by defying their mouse overlords”

        You’re assuming that the “mouse overlords” are more interested in getting money from the Marvel comics than they are in virtue signalling. I’m not sure that’s true. Disney’s pretty far Left, and I think they’re doing well enough with they’re other properties that they can easily afford to have a money-losing “show of the Progressive credentials” comic division. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Marvel writers aren’t doing this in defiance of the mouse overlords but at least partially at their behest.

        • The House of the Mouse is first a house of profitability. Walt’s legacy there is still in place – take risks, but only to make money, and the way you make money is delivering what the public wants.

          The company leadership makes the proper mouth noises to avoid upsetting any of the loud agitationprop groups, and various individuals in the hierarchy (especially see the TV “sports” and “entertainment” holdings) certainly make decisions that help them signal their virtue, but it’s best to always evaluate actions by the overall firm on a ruthless pure profit basis.

          • The biggest problem is with employees who imagine themselves are-teests, and are willing to prove their artistic talents by corrupting what their betters have established.

            Witness the “gay” moment in the BatB live-action remake.

            Just because you’ve been hired to paint the ceiling does not make you Michelangelo — and just because you’re Michelangelo does not mean you can paint my ceiling any damned way you like.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I remember hearing that the new “Mouse” overlord of Marvel comics is interested in moving the comics away from virtue signal comics back to “entertaining comics”.

          Mind you, they could be people inside Marvel comics who “haven’t gotten the word yet”. 😦

          • Living just up the road from “The Mouse” here in Florida, I’m usually annoyed by a lot of what the giant rodent does. HOWEVER, if they do push Marvel back towards “entertaining comics”, I would be very happy.

            I would also gladly take a side order of “stop turning my childhood heroes into the bad guys” along with that cheese please! (eg. turning Capt. America into a Hydra operative…)

      • I’m pretty certain Marvel makes most of it’s money from the movies nowadays.

        Licensing fees are the primary income source for Marvel & DC and have been for a couple of decades. Movies help sell action figures and Halloween costumes and theme park attractions.

        Comics are a low cost way to introduce and develop new characters. Think of them as the industry’s product R&D division.

  7. And unfortunately none of them had ever run a lemonade stand, or understood that while unsweetened lemonade might be “good” for people, for a definition of good, people just won’t buy it.

    The ‘we know better than you and you need to be educated’ attitude has produced a great deal of nonsense.

    There was a President who argued that the middle class did not need a proposed tax cut, it was only amounted to a delivered Pizza meal a week and people would probably would spend the money unwisely anyway — and most of the press reported it as a reasonable argument.

    Under a later administration we saw a policy mandating that in public schools ‘healthy’ food be served which has resulted in wasted money, effort and food, as the children are not eating it. (I wonder how ‘they’ would react if you pointed out that their much lauded and expanded program to feed children has probably resulted in more children going hungry?)

    • And hadn’t you heard that lemonade stands need sales permits in many municipalities?

      • And kitchen inspections by the city Board of Health, because people might not realize how they are taking their lives in their hands eating food produced by six-year-old girls in their mommas’ kitchens.

        • If I bake a cake and give it away, none of the states rules seem to matter much. BUT if I bake a cake and then sell then I have all sorts of compliance issues to deal with. When I said “Make mine a double” I wasn’t talking of standards.

    • “I wonder how ‘they’ would react if you pointed out that their much lauded and expanded program to feed children has probably resulted in more children going hungry?”

      Doubt they would care. They MEANT well, and that’s what’s important.

      Besides, it’s not like their kids are eating this. The private schools in DC do not serve allegedly healthy swill.

      • Yes, their intentions are always more important than the results; their intentions signify how empathetic, how caring they are. They failure of the results demonstrates how hopeless the masses are and how sensible the arguments for culling them.

        Camille Paglia posits a similar dynamic in the current rage for sex gender re-assignment:


        The cultural debris is cumulative, and we’ve been sufficiently wealthy there’s been scant need to flush it down the societal sewer of bad ideas.

  8. I, too, find it funny when people decide one human construct or another is the way things should be, like, forEVER. Especially when they’re dependent on the paradigm they’re attempting to sustain, which always seems to be the case else.

    I agree people will always find ways to create or participate in free markets. The internet is such an awesome enabler of this tendency. Makes me feel giddy 🙂

    Good post.

    • scottsaxbury

      Always irritating when it’s three centuries in the future, and the main character demonstrates his most advanced technology… the 3D printer and the tablet. With no real improvements in the tech. And that writer gets reviews praising how forward-thinking his version of the future is.

      • In the last year I was jarred out of a bit of older fiction because of the huge radar display tube. I had to check the date… other than that, it could have been fairly modern, but that was written in the late 1940’s when a big display tube was indeed futuristic, so it made sense again. It might, in a way, still be (an alternate?) futuristic. I do not recall if there were any CRT’s (for radar, for TV, for anything) ever made as large the story claimed.

        • I remember laughing at the pathetic rockets in the 1930s Flash Gordon serials … until I eventually saw footage of V2 rockets and learned that those cheap movies were pretty accurate in their depiction of rockets.

          • OTOH, their depictions of the Hawkmen of Mongo were pretty pathetic.

          • The ships themselves didn’t bother me. The sputtering was a bit odd, but forgivable. The ‘sparks’ or such falling DOWN, while the smoke went UP and the ship went SIDEWAYS.. that bothered me. Tilt the set & camera and add a fan?

            The ray-guns being lethal, but the big emplaced execution gun was feeble and took forever (yes, I know, plot necessity, but still) that bugged me.

            A bridge made by an “oscillator” (was the word [mis]used in SW7 again a harkening back to this?) was forgivable, if jarring. And one particular gun or projector that clearly a studio lamp… well, you use what’s handy, right?

            • The ships made buzzing sounds because the moviegoers knew that’s what high powered engines sounded like. And any effects guy working on the low budget serials would have been shown the door if he wanted to spend money building sideways sets, wire rigs and camera mounts just to make the smoke go one direction. And the cameras they were using on the effects stages probably would not have worked correctly.

              I expect future folks with actual space travel experience will similarly be jarred right out of the story by the various sounds of spacecraft swooshing past that current day audience expectations require.

              • The sounds (of the ships) didn’t bother me. But maybe it was that I was watching in the 1970’s and time is distance…

              • People are begining expect that less; Firefly and BSG both had silent space (soundtrack music doesn’t count) and one of the more chilling sequences of the Star Trek reboot was when the Kelvin’s hull gets breached and sound effects die off as the camera follows a crewman sucked out into the void.

                (My secondary issue is, why don’t the crews on Starfleet and Colonial vessels have something akin to the Honorverse skinsuits?)

                • For the same reason you see bridges and not CIC’s in most space warships.

                  • Patrick Chester

                    Well, sometimes like in Gundam you’d see warships with bridges, but the crews wore Normal Suits.

                    Then a Mobile Suit or Mobile Armor would fly up and blast the bridge.

                  • Even the Honorverse follows that trope, CICs exists but it’s not where the captain fights his ship from.

                    • Patrick Chester

                      The bigger ships usually have two bridges on opposite ends of the ship, IIRC. Captain is in one and the Exec is in another so if one gets taken out the other can continue commanding the ship.

                • “My secondary issue is, why don’t the crews on Starfleet and Colonial vessels have something akin to the Honorverse skinsuits?”

                  The meta reason? Because it would take the actrons too long to shuck them for zero-g sex. 😉

                  Actually, Star Trek: The Animated Series had what they called life support belts, basically a force field projector in a belt that generated a non-air permeable force field. It also, from what we saw, offered at least some protection from hand phaser fire and physical environment.

          • I remember one Heinlein juvenile where this guy’s big ability was that he had memorized a log table book. The stone family was sitting around their spaceship hand calculating the proper orbit to slingshot around Earth to get to Mars. I love his books, but the tech sometimes just screams at you.
            Then again it lets you appreciate the tech we take for granted.

            • Yep. But – right up to the mid-70’s or so – the scenes you cite weren’t glaringly wrong. When I was a high school freshman in the early ’70s we spent a couple of days in class going over “how to use a slide rule”. By the time I graduated, calculators were common, but still a bit expensive (especially ones that had built in trig functions and such). And as a freshman in college I went without lunches for a month to pay for a basic programmable calculator.

              There was a scene in Between Planets (I think – the Venus rebellion story) where the protagonist is out riding horseback when his phone (built into his saddle, not pocket-sized) rings. When I first read the story (~1970) that was still firmly science fictional. It was over a decade later that phones (bricks roughly the size and weight of the one in the story) became commonly (if expensively!) available.

              He got a lot of things wrong on the technology front. But much – most? – were because he underestimated the rate of progress and thought it would take more than 3-4 decades to match his predictions.

              I just remind myself he was a mechanical, not an electronic, engineer.

              • I remember doing final exams with trig logs in the Mid 80’s. Heinlein may have missed a few bets on some tech, he did guess a lot right on the directions. I have to go back and read his Prognosis essay originally written in the 50’s and updated every ten years until he died. Back then he was batting 66% average with a few minor fudges to get that high an average.

                • One easily overlooked aspect is the degree his “predictions” drove the science. It probably is not possible to determine what percentage of scientists were driven in part by his stories, but a rough estimate is “quite a few.”

                  We see similar dynamic in Star Trek having (supposedly) driven creation of the flip phone.

                  • Christopher M. Chupik

                    They were lucky on Trek that they used computers on the Enterprise. It would be pretty funny if they had to pull out slide-rules for course corrections.

                    • Give an actor like Nimoy a slide rule to play with and Shatner would have killed him as an upstaging scene-stealer before half way through the first season.

              • Christmas 1979 one gift was a TI-30 “electronic slide rule” calculator. It wasn’t until a few years later that I actually used a real slide rule. “Quiz tomorrow. No calculators.” “What about slide rules?” “Slide rules? Sure.” And the next day at least a quarter of the class had slide rules.

              • He also had pocket sized, or close, phones in Space Cadet, I don’t remember the exact wording but I think one of the characters puts his phone either into his pocket or his bag after calling home. I first read it in the late 70’s when it definitely was still science fiction. Although they did, I think, still use slide rules when it came to calculating the orbits of their spaceships. 🙂

                And by the 80’s Friday had something which sounded a lot like internet, although I think it was just one computer she played with by looking at information about different things and how they maybe connected, not a world wide network.

                • Terry Sanders

                  The pocket phone in *Space Cadet* was a *classic* door dilation. The kid is in line, nervous and excited and dreaming of adventure among the planets–and Mom calls to make sure he’s all right and remembered to pack his woolies. Talk about a buzz kill…

                  The kid next in line commiserates. He packed his phone in his luggage to avoid that exact thing.

                • It was a world wide network in Friday, she mentions something about being able to use to watch a live concert on the other side of the planet, IIRC.

                  • Okay, I haven’t read that one after the early 90’s. What I do remember is deciding that I’ll get a computer once they can do what she did with one in that scene. Well, I did have a Commodore 64 at that time, but after it broke… well, I waited until they could do exactly that. 🙂

        • Well, since you haven’t said how big the tubes are, we can’t argue about it.

          That said, SAGE had some nice-sized tubes.

          A friend of mine bought a big wide-screen TV just before big LCDs started to come out. That thing had a 36″ 16:9 tube. It was *heavy*.

          • I spent over a decade working on digital TVs, starting in the late ’90s. Lots of field trials. Let’s just say that those of us who got to lug them around out in the field were *really* happy when the CRTs gave way to flat screens.

            You haven’t lived until you’ve had to carry half a dozen 30″ CRT models up and down stairs (by yourself) in a succession of cheap motels for a couple of weeks.

            I bought one of our higher-end models for our home. It weighed about the same as my wife. It was still working fine when we replaced it. But the larger, higher-resolution LCD model that replaced it is light enough that my wife can lift and move it with one hand when dusting.

          • I don’t rightly recall. The story was of a historian telling a military man that history was, again, repeating as he/they watched an enemy/revolutionary fleet arrive and attack. I have a suspicion it was “60 inch” but that is only a suspicion.

          • I had a 36″ 3×4 TV. Shipping weight was 330 pounds. The store loaded it into the SUV, but it took me and two neighbors to get it inside and onto the pedestal.

            • I have a 28″ 4:3 hi def TV (effectively, its a 1280×1024 28″ CRT) that i never want to move again

              • Our screamingly large flat-panel TV cost us half what our somewhat smaller flat-panel TV did about eight years ago. Crazy fast upgrade cycle. (Said former TV is going to my mother as soon as we can figure out how to hook up her VCR to it. Yes, VCR.)

                • We still have VCRs connected, in part because certain channels such as TCM seem to have a DVD-R blocker in effect. Sometimes we want to store a program off DVR and are not able (or willing at a given price) to purchase it on DVD. So downloading it to VCR is the only option.

                  Then there are the VCR items long ago bought and not available (or worth) for purchase in DVD.

                  • Res….

                    I have a laserdisc player. Primarily, because at the time it was the only way to get the original theatrical release of Blade Runner.,

                    • I have a laserdisc-to-DVD copy of The Wizard of Speed and Time, because Mike Jittlov has okayed those copies (seeing as nobody involved got paid.) I once knew someone who had twelve, count them, TWELVE copies of the laserdisc (out of an estimated 6000 that made it to retail before they figured out that the people they were paying didn’t have the rights.) I think I still have one of those lying around somewhere, just because.

                • A couple years ago i bought my now ex girlfriend a slightly larger TV than what she had for half of what she paid for the older unit, and her TV was only five years old or so…

        • Terry Sanders

          One of the most beautiful pieces of suspense I can remember reading is now as dead as *Starman Jones* because of this.

          In Edmund Hamilton’s *Battle For the Stars,* the opening scene has our hero diving into a nebula to escape pursuit. Hamilton makes sure you know they’re still flying through a harder vacuum than we could ever make on Earth. But at FTL, cone dust grain is enough to kill you.

          So their subspace radar is scanning ahead,finding dust grains, and their computer is constantly updating their course to avoid them. But in the nebula, there are enough dust grains per cubic light-hour to overwhelm the computer. They could die at any moment.

          And the way he gets it across? Relay clicks.

          In normal space. You hear an occasional soft chatter as the computer dodges a mote. As they dive into the nebula, the chatter picks up, little by little, until it becomes a continuous roar, like heavy rain on a tin roof. And the crew knows it’s right at the edge of its capacity. Any time now, it will take a millisecond too long to calculate a course change, and they will all die.

          Only nobody’s used a relay-based computer in fifty years. And I honestly don’t know how else to get that mood across…

          • I s’pose you can always throw in a comment about supra-light velocities turning transistors/integrated circuits/computer chips into bricks …

            Or, you know, shrug and admire the technical virtuosity while ignoring the anachronism.

            • Sometimes it is just cool too immerse oneself in bygone futures.
              E.E. “Doc” Smith and his battery powered spaceships. When I finally looked up accumulator and discovered that it was an old time synonym for a battery, I was floored.

            • Well, you need to have stuff all over the ship and minimize heavy radiation shielding to crew areas. And a computer that is relatively immune to EMP/EMP-like attacks/anomalies…

          • It’s a parallel world. I’ll note son, 35 LOVES Starman Jones.

            • I’m sure there’s a way that you could update it to have some other complex thing that his perfect memory deals with. For example, knowing *exactly* which buttons were pushed wrongly, and in which order, so that they could invert the sequence.

              As for the “log books,” just bring in an engineer to make suggestions. Most working engineers don’t memorize everything, and having someone who could function as a living calculator (when something on the computer is either fried or unreliable) would be a useful skill.

            • 25. SON is TWENTY five, not Thirty five.

  9. Eventually when the public refuses to be enlightened, and won’t broaden their minds to overlap what is being sold, the end solution that the communist/socialist/progressives always arrive at is to kill them by the millions.

    • “Would it not be easier
      In that case for the government
      To dissolve the people
      And elect another?”

      Or as Marvel’s VP of sales said, “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.”

      Which to me sounds like a guy saying his sales are dropping because his customers are a bunch of racist trogs who need some re-education asap.

      • When I read the announcement, my first reaction was “OK, April 1st, got it.” Then I realized he was serious… Urk. No wonder the Golden Age books are selling so well ( I have Dr. Strange Vol 1.)

        • Wonder if anyone’s been curious to compare the sales of the DC Showcase Presents (500pgs, b/w) or Marvel Masterworks paperback (b/w, ~150-200pgs?) to the current offerings from either company?

          When a new comic tends to run $4 for 32pgs and one of these reprint books can be as much as $20 … 5-10 minutes of reading vs hours … hmm, tough decision.

          • I remember when I realized that the 12-issue deluxe printed $3.95 an issue of a meh maxi-series was costing me forty-seven and a half bucks plus taxes.

            I could’a played a lot of pinball for that money, or bought several very entertaining HBs or a buncha PPBs or enough pizzas & pitchers of beer to make a very interesting puke splatter.

          • It’s $3 for 24 pages. I get my comics in kindle format. No need to go to the store to buy my comics. It’s difficult to live in Texas if you don’t drive.

      • Patrick Chester

        The usual lies. “You must hate women and minorities!”

        No, we hate their ham-handed attempts at a story.

        • The modern version of the talentless hack’s cry of “you philistines can’t understand my art”.

          • If the heroine is a black lesbian Latina [check all the boxes, etc.]… fine… but that’s not story. Give her a helluva story to be the heroine in/of. And not yet another rehash of the ‘oh poor downtrodden me’ thing either. Make me forget the superficial attributes as she does whatever the heroic thing needing do is. Make me wish I was that good – and/or glad I do not need to be.

    • Over the years, it has dawned on me (I’m kinda slow) that a major appeal of Marxism and its spawn is that it is an adolescent revenge fantasy with special appeal to those with daddy issues. Once you accept that reason is a whore, that rights are not inherent but rather accrue to one based on how ‘enlightened’ you are, and that all relationships you don’t like are oppressive – you get to kill everybody who disagrees with you! Or looks like they might! WooHoo!

      The less clear thinking might imagine all they want is to take your stuff and give it other, more deserving people. Not that killing you is out of bounds, they just imagine in won’t be necessary. Actual real-life Marxists have invariably discovered they need to kill people – a lot of people – to make this happen.

      Feature, not bug.

      • It has great appeal for those who fail to realize it will not be they themselves who decide what their needs and what their abilities are. And then, yes, the socio- and psycho- paths. So it’s a system for the immature and the insane.

        • The useful idiots are, at best, 2nd in line for the guillotine.

          • No, Comrade, you take are of the useful idiots first, out in the woods with no audience. The ancien regime big shots only go later, after the show trials, and make sure those are broadcast live.

            • Your Marxist foo is stronger than mine! But only after you’ve disappeared them from the official docs?

              • I think it’s his history-fu that’s strong. The results of Marxism are available to see. It’s been tried many times.

                • The issue: once the glorious people’s revolution seizes power, who gets it first, the useful idiots or the identified enemy? I was assuming an idiot true believer might remain useful well into the show trial phase, but was corrected, and accepted the correction: a useful idiot is unlikely to survive pas the point where they notice they are not calling the shots and those who are are not the least interested in their well-being or even input. They pipe up (being idiots and all) – hey! over here! whatever happened to *our* pet cause? – and a promptly eradicated for the whiney nuisances they are.

                • Yet the official Twitter account of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (a verified account) is full of “Socialism has never been tried!” and has 19.1k followers. https://twitter.com/OfficialSPGB

  10. [T]he well known, award winning editor told us his job was to filter the submissions and choose the best for his readers.

    Emphasis added.

    For certain values of “best” — your mileage may vary, objects in mirror may be better than they appear. Does not apply in all states (particularly the states of Lucidity, Rationality, or Coherence.)

    One is left to speculate, based on further assertions, whether the job description in his employer’s files matches the one in his imagination. Vegas is currently laying 7 to 5 it doesn’t.

    • But later in the same talk, the words “to educate the public” came out.

      When I was a kid, slapping my hard-earned $1.50 (plus tax) on the counter for the latest issue f Analog, Asimov, F&SF or other magazine I distinctly recall thinking, “I sure hope this new issue is educational. The heck with entertaining; television is entertaining. I wanna be told what to think!”

    • For certain values of “best” — your mileage may vary

      With all the hoopla about “fake news,” very few people are asking the relevant question: who decides? Personally, I’m willing to sift through the chaff and piece together a factual analysis from disparate sources as opposed to relying on MSM to tell me what to think. Believe it or don’t, I actually feel more informed (& more cynical) since I stopped relying on MSM. Go in with your eyes wide open, poke around, and follow the information through various rabbit holes; we’re the only ones who can decide whether a set of “facts” is valid or not.

      • Sift through the chaff and piece together a factual analysis — you mean, for things like, “former Obama administration Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken: ‘We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration.’ ”
        As reported in the NY Times, noted at Power Line Blog (among others.)

        Did Dickens write this reality? The Obama Administration has a PR hack named Serious Joke* and State Department negotiator High-toned Blinking while the Trump Administration has “Mad Dog” Mattis.

        *Josh Earnest

        • Having our Sec Def named Mad Dog isn’t a bad thing. We Want our enemies to fear us!

        • You mean they were honest enough to admit that he was a former cabinet official. Wow. Usually they gloss over whichever Day admin they served in.

          • Indeed – the same way you can identify politicians caught in criminality by the fact that the news doesn’t mention to which party they pay fealty.

            Used to be you could tell a car-jacker or rapist or murderer was African-American because news reports omitted race (other than white), but these days he could as readily be Hispanic or Muslim.

    • The editor isn’t wrong; the only question is, does his definition of “the best” match the definition of enough readers to make his publishing business a going concern?

      I believe that’s the secret of Baen’s success; enough readers trust the judgement of the Baen editors that they’re willing to at least look at most of the stuff Baen puts out.

  11. Meanwhile, the artist for X-Men Gold has Colossus wearing a t-shirt citing an anti-Jewish, anti-Christian of the Qur’an, commanding Muslims not to have Jews or Christians as leaders or allies. In a comic about Kitty Pryde being leader of the X-Men, released at Passover time. Yes, seriously. Marvel has now pulled the comic, after Malaysians gave them a heads up. The artist himself had publicized his reference on his Twitter feed.

    For the uninitiated, Kitty is suburban Chicago Jewish. Colossus is Russian, either atheist or Christian, and was once her boyfriend. There may also be an anti-Catholic Nightcrawler thing going on, as the Colossus scene shows him hitting the Catholic guy. But yeah, pretty bad.

    To be fair, the Malaysian artist apparently was more concerned about saying something nasty about the (Christian) governor of Jakarta than about insulting Kitty. (Although it has been pointed out that he put a jewelry sign in the background, with the letters JEW right over her head. Which does not sound innocent.) But it is disgusting either way.

    • Indonesia, not Malaysia. Whoops.

      • And the word is next to her head.

        With a little white underline pointer. Yeah.

        • I might be wrong about this, but I question whether the artist has any say over placement of balloons, and so would advise letting him off on that. What he did is bad enough as is.

          And has cost him:

          Marvel pulls X-Men comic that had a hidden Koranic message. Says the artist: ‘My career is over.’
          [SNIP]
          Ardian Syaf, a penciler for the “X-Men Gold” comic book series, inserted two references to what critics are calling “anti-Christian” and “anti-Jewish” iconography as religious tensions flare in his home country.

          [SNIP]

          In a statement, a spokesman for Marvel said the company had no knowledge of the meaning behind the references hidden in plain sight.

          “These implied references do not reflect the views of the writer, editors or anyone else at Marvel and are in direct opposition of the inclusiveness of Marvel Comics and what the X-Men have stood for since their creation,” the statement said.

          “This artwork will be removed from subsequent printings, digital versions and trade paperbacks, and disciplinary action is being taken.”

          Marvel has not detailed that “disciplinary action” or said whether Syaf was fired. The company also hasn’t commented on whether it believes there are other Easter eggs in comics he’s drawn.

          Syaf did not respond to requests for comments for this article, but he told the Jakarta Post newspaper that he decided to insert the messages after taking part in a rally.

          “QS 5:51 is the verse mocked,” he said. “This is very special to me. I want to put it in my work. That page was drawn after I got back from the ‘212’ rally.”

          He also told the newspaper that he believes that being friends with Jews and Christians is acceptable, “but choosing a non-[Muslim] as a leader is forbidden. That’s what the verse says. What can I do as a Muslim? … If I worked at DC, I could put [the messages] in a Superman comic book.”

          [END EXCERPT] Emphasis added.

          “What critics are calling” — way to take a bold stand, WP!

          • I’m wondering if this brainiac (sorry wrong canon, I know) ever read an X-Man comic and it’s very thinly veiled connection between anti-mutant sentiments and anti-semitism and the holocaust?

          • It ought be noted that the original issue is now a limited edition collectible. I have no idea whether Marvel can “recall” electronic editions.

            • If any device storing one is connected to the net, it’s already recalled — or just replaced. MiniTru endorses digital.

    • Read that story yesterday I think. Disgusting.

    • I saw this story, and to date the artist in question is still working for Marvel. Because DIVERSITY!!! right?

      If some white guy did that they’d have hung him in effigy from a lamp post in front of the Marvel office.

      • Effigy? You referring to the small town in downstate Illinois, right? Or the national park in Iowa?

        • Had a closer look at the art he’s supposed to have done. Driving to Illinois from NYC would be a waste time and rope.

          Marvel won’t be losing anything if they cut this clown loose. I’ve seen better in high school art class. Very wooden poses, no movement in the panels

          • They lose the warm and fuzzy feeling of supporting the downtrodden​.

          • You mean, its the reincarnation of Rob Liefeld? Or, maybe a distant cousin? I always wondered why Liefeld’s characters had pointed toes (among other things).

            • I always wondered why Liefeld’s characters had extra legs not apparently attached to anybody’s torso. Or why their legs seemed of peculiarly unequal length.

              It comes of learning to draw by tracing copying the drawing of people who learned to draw by copying the drawing of people who learned to draw by copying the drawing of people who drew comic books (but who learned to draw by closely studying the drawing of people who actually had learned to draw.) Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko could get away with foreshortening, skewed perspectives and unusual camera angles because they had studied real artists and had learned their craft.

              • Liefeld is the guy who used to draw everybody swaybacked? To the point where it looked like they might snap in half any moment?

                • Yep. Although mostly (from my understanding) women, because Liefeld was bound and determined to be a walking stereotype.

                  • That, and his “women” had wasp waists and the most … buoyant breasts. I do not think he had ever touched a boob at the time he was working at Marvel.

                    • Not to mention his favorite trick of having a woman point her bewbs and butt in the same direction.

        • I think that’s Effingham. Which when driving through I always think deserves a welcome sign with copulating pigs.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        That moment . . . when you realize your diversity hire . . . is a flaming bigot.

  12. Martin L. Shoemaker

    “No, no, no, THIS is what you want.”

    “No, no, no, THIS is what you think.”

    Neither works. People know what they want and what they think.

    • “No. I want you to go away. And I think you’re full of [manure].”

    • I use the definition of “marketing is finding the people who didn’t know they wanted your product, and letting them know that it exists, (and is awesome).”

      Changing people’s tastes is very, very hard, and it’s kind of like trying to redirect the sea. So when I’m putting together a pitch, I’m not trying to force people to like the product. I’m trying to make the product appealing and available and visible to the people who’ll like it, need it, and will want it once they see it / try it.

      This is true no matter if I’m selling avionics, jewelry, or books. It’s true for booth presentation at an expo, sales pitch to passerby at a con, or cover and blurb for a book.

    • Rich Rostrom

      Except when they don’t know what they really want, because no one has ever offered it to them. Then someone does, and becomes very very very rich.

      Exempli gratia: Steve Jobs. But Jobs was a genius of one-in-a-billion rarity.

  13. Can you make a living without doing what the public wants?

    You don’t need to do what “the public” wants. You just need to do what a sufficient number–your marketing niche–wants. The real trick is getting what you’re doing and that niche together.

      • And that’s what makes it so great. I don’t need to appeal to the public. Similarly I’m not limited to offerings that appeal to the great masses rather than my own sometimes quirky tastes.

        That’s the beauty of free trade as opposed to a planned economy. Even little niches can be served. And that even applies to people who like “gray goo.” 😉

        • Aye, some do no understand that it’s not about preventing anyone from buying Brand X, but preventing Brand X being forced on everyone. They wanna sell Brand X? Fine. Sell it. And I am not interested, leave me alone; Don’t force me to go with Brand X.

    • Martin L. Shoemaker

      Tracy Hickman said in an online lecture that 7,000 supportive fans can sustain a career through their sales and word of mouth.

      When I mentioned this number to Kevin J. Anderson, he disagreed. He thinks the number is 500.

      7,000, 500, whatever… “The real trick is getting what you’re doing and that niche together.” 7,000 is one-millionth of the planet. “One in a million” is a cliché, but that’s all you need. Fewer if Kevin is right.

      You just have to reach them and keep them.

  14. Free associating here: this reminds of a quip I made once about people who think Obama is some sort of apex intellect (people who REALLY need to get out more): can’t we compromise, and refer to him as a towering mediocrity? No?

  15. Thank you for explaining why I always hated “Make a difference!”

  16. I wish Marvel would hurry up and crumple. It’s obvious from how popular super hero movies and anime are that people still want fun stories about men in tights punching each other in the face, but so long as the big companies won’t publish anything but sticky grey goo it seems like no one thinks that superhero comics can be a thing anymore.

    • Marvel has maybe one or two books running that provide that (Gwenpool is a hoot and written by the same guy who did that Longshot mini from several years back, and the fantastically surreal Dr. McNinja webcomic). But that bit that was mentioned earlier about finding your niche and putting it with your audience? They have a wide command of audience attention from movie fans and long-time fans both, but lost sight of what that niche interest actually is.

    • DC comics are what you’ve been dreaming of my dear sir! They are a little clunky but fun to read. At least in this year’s iteration. DC Rebirth. They actually have two Green Lantern titles, so I don’t have to read the one with the Latina and the Muslim criminal(car thief).

  17. Capitalism is not a pie-in-the-sky idealistic system on how we can perfect mankind and bring in a secular Heaven on Earth.
    Capitalism is a description of what people actually DO, even in the most regulated Burtopia.

      • I prefer free markets. Capitalism is a Marxist term. And, it rhymes with Crony-capitalism which isn’t free market at all.

        • Free market is more descriptive.

        • Agreed. Using Marx’s term for it suggests that it’s just one possible way of doing things, similar to socialism or corporatism. In reality, it’s not a system with a particular way of doing things, it’s just, as Joe said, what happens when you don’t force people to do something else.

  18. richardmcenroe

    Dear Publishers,
    The People Have elected themselves a new Literature.

  19. OK, now I want to read “The Best In Chicken Blood Pulp, Vol 3.” 😉

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Hopefully it wasn’t a goat-gagger sized manuscript. I’d hate to think how many chickens would be sacrificed for that.

  20. Something troubles me. A minister some weeks ago gave his explanation for people leaving churches and this showed he failed to understand the problem. His “solutions” illustrated this. Publishers and editors give their explanation for reader unpopularity that show they fail to understand the problem. Their “solutions” illustrate this. Both live in an information bubble, making decisions they deem right based on available information, unaware that this information is lacking.

    Now: Being that both are examples of those in information bubble, and both are unaware they have incomplete data, what information bubbles do we inhabit, and would be aware of them?

    • Let me guess- the preacher was advocating things like “relevance”, i.e, “water down your core message, embrace SJW tenants, and add lots of entertainment”?

      • Feather Blade

        And a coffee bar. You can’t forget the coffee bar.

      • No. The preacher cited a survey and confused correlation with causation and missed both were symptoms of the same root cause.The one thing he would not grasp is someone could be genuinely dissatisfied with church. Because he could not grasp that point, he could not ask what he thought he knew: Why is there growing dissatisfaction?

        The typical reaction is remarkably like publishers and editors: If someone isn’t participating/buying, then something must be wrong with the participants/buyers.

        That being the case, what’s to prevent us from falling into the same trap. If we’re in that trap, would we ever know it?

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          There’s no certain antidote.

          There are techniques to mitigate the risk.

          1. Systemically distrusting all sources, methods, and conclusions.
          2. Systemically questioning all sources, methods, and conclusions.
          3. Having multiple distinct models to test.
          4. Having very differently thinking people to draw from or bounce ideas off of.
          5. Track how you think and why.

          If you have a habit of doing these things deliberately, you will have a better chance of catching problems.

        • I got fussed at by a consultant when I pointed out that denominations (and religions in general) with strong core belief statements that they stick to seem to be doing the best. Apparently that can’t be why people are attracted to places that say “Here’s what we believe. Take it or leave it and go in peace.”

      • Pretty much. Convergence has been hitting the churches hard in the last few years, catering to the social signalers and driving the faithful away. Several of my meatspace friends are rather upset about it.

        Flip side, new church buildings have been going up all over my area. Their primary purpose seems to be as daycare operations.

        • Especially the Catholic Church. We have been so disgusted on how it’s completely turned into liberation theology (encouraged by the new pope)we have gone from faithful Sunday mass attendees to very occasional attendees.

  21. “I’m right impressed wi’ yer fine words,” says Paddy to the fellow expounding on the theoretical structures of fiction, “but where did ye hide the story?”

  22. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Piers Morgan is talking about Islam now, apparently.

    This suggests two things.

    First, Morgan is an opportunist, saying what will be profitable.

    Secondly, the political situation is changing so it is expedient to say this stuff now.

    • In other words, Piers Morgan is at least clever enough to have noticed the way the Brexit referendum and the Trump election went, and what polls are suggesting in upcoming elections elsewhere.

  23. “””Now that they no longer think we’re the only animal who uses tools, maybe they’ll come up with a new definition for humans “the ape who trades.””””

    I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed this about humans, but we might not be unique in using communication, in using tools, and probably even in trading things, among other things. But (besides the fact that humans do all of the above) I will observe that humans seem to do all these things, and undoubtedly more, on a whole new level.

    We make tools to make tools to make tools. We communicate about communication. Even if we aren’t the only animals who trade, we literally trade trades. We have plans to create plans. We count counting (an important observation because, while it’s true that many species of animals can count to four, we can count fours to create more elaborate number systems). We hunt our hunters and gather that which we have already gathered so we can gather it again (assuming that the harvest goes right).

    In other words, while we can find examples of animals doing one or two of the things we do, they never do it at a level which we do it. Humans are “meta” animals.

    • Well, there is also the capacity for abstraction. As far as i understand, once taught to sign chimps have difficulty understanding things like how a generic term can refer to several different things- iirc the example was ‘chair’.

      • Humans are the only species we know of which categorizes, which defines things, particularly which defines what it is to be human.

        Dogs don’t seem to expend much effort on definitions of “doggy” nor do cats seem concerned about who is or is not a cat. Mostly their categories, such as they are, seem limited to food, prey, threats, competitors and allies.

      • Now that you mention abstraction, that’s probably what makes humans “meta”.

        It’s one thing to pick up a rock and use it to wack open oysters. It’s another thing to pick up a rock, and realize that if you take another rock over there, you can chip off pieces of the first rock until it’s really sharp and pointy…and then, if you could put it on a stick, you could actually throw it…and before you know it, you’re in a machine shop making pistols and spare car parts, wondering if these things can be appropriated to make a rocket to the moon…

  24. Thank you for clarifying the “Push Model.” In the writer’s magazine I subscribe to, there’s an article in every issue on how there’s supposedly a big demand for more stories involving transgender characters. Which I don’t doubt because, to some debatable degree due to all the media attention. But when these articles say the interest about such characters extends down to children’s books, I’ve been wondering if there truly is a demand, or whether it’s being pushed.