This Thing Isn’t ENTIRELY Under my control

So this week I actually got exercised enough at some guy pontificating on what writers need and how we’re essential to the republic (rolls eyes) not to mention the “censorship of the market” (that’s people not buying books they don’t like, yo.  In case you don’t understand fancy prog-speech) that I wrote the world’s longest fisk.

For those interested, it’s here.

This led to a bunch of arguments all over the net, including on Brad Torgersen’s page, where a junior asshat came and lectured me about how if I’m not writing JUST for the lurv, I shouldn’t be writing.  And when I pushed back on his nonsense, he started telling me to go copulate with myself.

Among his many insane statements was that most great writers never made a living from their work, and that’s why writers should write only for the lurv.  The only great writers who didn’t make a living from their work were those who suffered from personality defects (or bad luck) that precluded marketing.  The only ones of those we consider great were lucky enough to have their work fall into good marketeer’s hands when they died, because, think about it, if their work never got disseminated widely, we wouldn’t consider it great.

The myth of the great artist writing things “ahead of his time” is a pernicious one, and might very well (I haven’t researched) be part of the Marxist take over of art.  If they can convince people the art they hate is just because the artist is “ahead of his time” they garner critical praise that would otherwise be lacking, and push incredibly bad world-built books (New England a theocratic state in modern times.  SNORT. GIGGLE) into the reading lists in every school which then make the book a commercial success, of course.

Most great writers were admired not to say loved in their own time.  Yes, some like Dumas ended up dead-ass broke, but that’s where the personality defects come in.  It’s possible to make a ton of money and end up broke. To be fair, Dumas was probably the most stable of his quirky, insane family.

Note that when I say this I’m arguing against myself, since my work has failed to be astoundingly successful.  Is it lack of push, wrong political color, or am I simply not both accessible enough and different enough to leave a footprint?  Don’t know.  Could, for all I know, be luck and also personality defect.  Yesterday, watching a much more junior writer sell himself, I realized I couldn’t praise myself half so much without vomiting, because I AM aware in the long distance I am but an egg.  Yet other people assure me that level of self-selling is what it takes.  Fine. Personality defects.  Unfortunately my work will after my death fall into the hands of two boys who frankly couldn’t give away gold nuggets at a cent a piece, so I am one of those who will be forgotten.

But after said asshat erased the thread (probably because I pointed out to him he wasn’t using logic in any way, shape or form) I was thinking about that.  Is your best work done because you have to, or because you need a paycheck?  I’ve had friends who are far more successful than I say “you should write only what you love.”  Which is… interesting, even if that particular friend was under the impression I was writing tie-ins.  (I never have because I don’t even GET media.  I read for fun.)

It’s interesting because it’s not been my experience.

Look, in the course of a long career, under traditional publishing (and maybe indie, because you owe it to fans to finish series they love) all of us write things that are the last thing we want to write at that moment.

Take the Magical British Empire.  When I sketched it out and started sending the proposal out it was 98, and I was an Internationalist Libertarian and also trying to write “literary fantasy.”  I really, really, really wanted to write it.  When this series was accepted in 2010 (?) I think, I was a chastised, far more realistic libertarian, who had realized through the Shakespeare series that while I can write lit fan, it’s not my thing.  But they were paying me, and I needed the money.  Two boys in middle and high school and…. I wrote it.  It was hard as hell though, and a slog.

Now, it didn’t do markedly well, granted.  But it did about as well as things I absolutely loved when I wrote them, like Draw One In The Dark, which also didn’t do markedly well.

Or take the shifters’s series.  I still love it, and I’m aware I need to do a fourth book, but other stuff that must be written NOW because it’s under contract gets ahead of it.

Take the furniture refinishing mysteries.  They were pushed at me because the musketeers were “failing” and so the last in the contract was turned to a furniture refinishing mystery.  I wrote that thing in two weeks, and while I enjoyed it, it was almost devised as a way to make my then editor run screaming.  To be honest she hated it, but the fans LOVED it.  It still sells amazingly well.

Or take Plain Jane.  I was invited to work on this series on the queens of Henry VIII.  I wanted Kathryn Howard.  I got Jane Seymour.  I had not a clue what to write about her (most boring life till she died giving birth) so I put it off until I was literally getting daily phone calls, because the book needed to go to press.

Then I wrote 80k words in three days.  As seems to be a theme of my life, no one had given me the guidelines, so I didn’t even know the concept was “life of a queen told by her best friend.”  So no one even read it, because what I wrote was Jane Seymour, herself.

That d*mn thing still sells.  It’s more than a decade old, and I still get royalties every quarter.

Now, was it written with love and interest?  Are you kidding me?  It was written with “I must deliver, it’s under a house name, just do something.”  In this case I cast it in the mold of a Cinderella story and fit in the historical things we know.  And it sells.  Good Lord it sells.

Is there some intrinsic quality to the books I was compelled to write?  Say A Few Good Men?  A feel, a glow lacking in Plain Jane?

If there is the public doesn’t see it, and the humbling thought is that I might one day be remembered only for that paint-by-numbers work.

So, should you write for the love or for money?

Again, in the course of a long writing career, you’ll do both, at different times.  I’d have quit the business in 2003 if we hadn’t been so stupid as to buy a house before selling the other, and weren’t therefore in the position of paying double mortgages.  But even though my heart was broken at how they’d treated the Shakespeare trilogy, I couldn’t quit.  We had to pay or lose the house.  And so I wrote on, and somewhere along the line found my heart again.

But does it matter for “quality”?  Define quality.  If it’s for “critical acclaim” I’m not looking for it, and frankly nowadays books are mostly subjected to Marxist critique, (Whether it’s called that or not) so mine need not apply.  If by quality you mean “more people will like it” all indications are my great work was written in three days, while concussed and strictly for the cash.

Yeah, but do writers have to write, whether they’re paid or not?  I don’t know.  I’ve met both varieties.  I’ve met people who love writing (to an extent and most of time me) and people who write to have written/get paid.  The success is uniform among both groups.  I.e. same percentage make money from writing/are acclaimed.

Me?  I’m broken. I have to write, and I have to write fiction.  Failing everything else, I write endless Jane Austen Fanfic.  (I’ve never fallen so low as to write Disney Ducks fanfic, but don’t quote me, that might be a project for my 90s.)  In fact over the last decade I’ve come to realize if I don’t write fiction for a long period of time, it’s because I’m ill, and probably deathly ill.

What I write is often informed by what’s under contract/people love though.  Except when something highjacks me and rides my brain without my permission.

So, it’s human, but is it art?  I don’t know.

I’m grateful I can write.  It gives me great pleasure.  I’m gratified when it ALSO brings in money.  The rest?  Not mine to decide.

The thing isn’t exactly under the my control.  Sometimes I think I am but the imperfect instrument of that which writes through me.

And the best I can hope for is that at the end, the Author will deem me worthy of having been written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

390 thoughts on “This Thing Isn’t ENTIRELY Under my control

  1. … most great writers never made a living from their work, and that’s why writers should write only for the lurv.

    Headdesk*Headdesk*Headdesk*Headdesk*Headdesk

    I suppose if you define great writers as “never [making] a living from their work” that argument might hold water. I don’t know how you define “great” in a writer, though, as I can think of quite a few I greatly admire who made very nice livings from their work, and even more who would have had the publishing trade not been geared to screwing over authors (e.g., limiting them to a set number of books a year, mangling marketing, cheating them out of royalties, etc.)

    Given the struggles entailed to writing well, much less writing great, I doubt anybody much is doing it for sh!ts and g!ggles; they’re easier ways to go broke and insane.

    1. There was whatshisname, Shakesman or something, who made a living as a playwright, but he was a popular hack, and soon forgotten.

        1. Not to mention how he masqueraded as Queen Elizabeth I, Christopher Marlowe and Sir Francis Bacon all at the same time.

          1. Masquerade? Don’t be ridiculous!

            He was their ghostwriter.

            They had money, influence, patronage, the whole nine yards. And they had ideas that they’d love the common people to hear.

            But they couldn’t be seen contributing to the theater as anything but patrons.

            And they couldn’t write a decent script to save their lives.

            The Atlanta Radio Theatre covered this ages ago.

              1. Obviously my irony levels were low last night.

                ARTC’s discussion of the Shakespeare question was a comedy. His ghost showed up to explain things to a rabid “Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare” type in the middle of a lecture. And “the truth” didn’t appeal even to someone he “proved right.”

                At the end, God shows up with a story idea. Will says he’s not much of an epic poet, and suggests He talk to a guy name of Dante…

    2. “… most great writers never made a living from their work, and that’s why writers should write only for the lurv.”

      Mind the desk, there, those things are expensive.

      John Steinbeck. Dashiel Hammett. Raymond Chandler. John Dos Passos.

      The paucity of this idiot’s literary background is stunning.

      How about Mencken? No novels, but he wrote and lived off his writing. Or Ulysses S. Grant; the proceeds from his autobiography provided for his family after his death. The writing of it, while he was dying of cancer, is one of the great heroic stories of literature. And the Autobiogrpahy is considered one of the greatest examples of the genera.

      Tom Wolfe.

      Does this idiot even READ?

      1. The only people I know who write for lurv are fanfic writers. Many of these stories are never finished. They write for praise.

        1. They’re writing for the love of other people, which is sill writing for love I guess.

          Actually, I write fanfic all the time and I honestly don’t know why I do it.

          1. Because there are situation you want to put those characters into. Situations that the author hasn’t gotten to, or doesn’t want to, or which push your personal buttons but don’t fit ‘canon’.

            And some very good published works are basically fanfic. Every Star Trek novel that’s any damned good (Diane Duane’s spring to mind). Hundreds of Sherlock Holmes stories.

            1. That happens to me all the time, but what I do is scrap off the serial numbers. Then you can write with total freedom, ’cause it’s all canon now!

            2. Yep.

              There’s also “I love this, but X doesn’t make sense to me.”

              Oh, and FREQUENTLY it’s “I have no idea why they handed that character the idiot ball/forgot this part of cannon/ hired that guy who hates ___ and maimed the story for it.”

    3. they’re easier ways to go broke and insane
      Yes, but if you’re not writing, it can be harder for people to know you’re insane.
      Or, maybe vice versa. 😉

      1. In my experience most people can tell within a very few minutes of conversation whether I am insane. It takes somewhat longer for them to determine whether or not my insanity is congenial.

  2. Back in the day, when I was tutoring freshman English, I had a brief exchange with an English professor, who assured me that all science fiction was subliterate trash, because it was written for money. Having read the introduction to Crime and Punishment, I said, “Oh, you mean like Dostoyevski frantically scribbling novels to pay off his gambling debts?” He didn’t seem to have a response, but he didn’t seem happy with me.

    I’ve now written over twenty books for Steve Jackson Games. These aren’t “literature”; they’re rpg books. But I find that the prospect of getting paid for them, and the need to think about what my audience will want and pay for, helps to focus my mind wonderfully when it comes time to right. Without that stimulus, I’m not sure I would ever write a book, and even less sure I would ever finish one. And writers of actual literature, from Tolkien back to Shakespeare, seem almost always to have someone saying, “I need you to finish this so I can put it in print/on the stage!”

    1. I remember an instructor of mine (don’t remember whether or not she was a professor) who was teaching a class on sci-fi and fantasy at the local community college. When we read “The Left Hand of Darkness”, she remarked that she’d heard people complain about the fact that Le Guin only wrote books in those trash science fiction and fantasy genres, when instead she could be writing “real” literature.

      (I should add that the instructor didn’t agree with those complaints)

    2. I had a high school teacher who expressed that sntiment to me. I asked him “Have you read any?”. He told me “No.”.

      “Well, then, you aren’t really qualified to have an opinion, are you?”

      He was silent for a moment, amd then said, “You may have a point.”

      He later saw Asimov speaking (at a Teachers’ Convention, I believe), and was very impressed.

      “This little gnome got up, stuck his hands in his pockets, and was fascinating, without notes, for an hour.”

      I don’t kmow of Mr. Peters ever read any SF, but he stopped criticizing me for doing so.

    3. Well, *someone* had to write those Star Wars tech manuals I bought a whole damn stack of…. special order, no less.

      Geez. Fanfic AND nonfiction, all in one evidently-profitable package. The horror!!

  3. Two words. Samuel Clemens.

    As mercenary of a heart as ever existed and yet a celebrated, successful author in both his lifetime and probably centuries afterwards (if the SJWs let him alone.)

    1. They’ll never let him alone. He used ‘nigger’ in a novel. Regardless of whether or not it was an accepted term for the time he uttered/wrote the unforgiveablest worstest horriblest word of modern times (though I understand cunt is quickly climbing the charts). HE SHALL NOT BE FORGIVEN! If they could, they wouldn’t ever publish anything by him again.

        1. And he isn’t even a Rap star!

          Is it odd that I am suddenly beset by a desire to listen to the opening number from The Music Man?

      1. Which is why he’ll never be forgotten. There is nothing teens like so well as that which is illicit for bad think.

        I don’t doubt Huck Finn will someday be recited by some young fellow, sitting around a campfire in the wilderness, with an ex-firefighter and a former professor . . .

        If these are the Crazy Years, I would not be surprised to find Bradbury to be an actual prophet. (But then, The Martian Chronicles was my favorite of his. Alas, it disintegrated. I should find the boys a copy.)

      2. Which I have always felt proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the people making the fuss were eligible for a “People unclear on the concept, hall of fame” trophy.

        The WHOLE GODDAMNED POINT is that Huck, who uses the word ‘nigger’ to describe his friend Jim, is willing to go to Hell rather than turn Jim in.

        *mutter mutter*

        1. And, he ends up rather upset over the use of the word, as time wears on, iirc.
          I just can’t figger* SJWs.

          (* Yeah, that’s on purpose.)

      3. In 1977 I worked in the school library. One dayI was handed a list of books to pull off the shelves. All of Clemens, Stowe, Hawthorne, and half a dozen others. The rest of the librari aides had their own lists and carts. The books went in the dumpster and the library was cleansed of badthink.

        1. The flipside of that is the perennial Banned Books display. I never figured out if there was a calander week actually devoted to it, or if it just gets trotted out every time a Librarian is out of other ideas. But it’s all virtue signaling. They never include a book that would make peoples’ skins crawl, like THE PROTOCALS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION.

          They don’t want to debate the merits of censorship. Hell, they don’t really want to define the term, or they would have to admit that a lot of what they do fits, and a lot of what they denounce as censorship boils down to not wanting to pay for tripe.

          I don’t want to prevent Andres Serrano displaying his blasphemous little joke (PISS CHRIST), I simply fail to seemwhy public money should be spent to do so.

          As with all things Progressive, their position boils down to “Do what we tell you, pay for it, and thank us nicely after.”

          *spit*

          1. Especially since their idea of “banning” is “people being prevented from requiring other people to read this book.”

            I once read a book by an author of that ilk who defined censorship so absurdly widely that you would have to say that the book itself practiced, did not merely advocate, censorship.

            1. And if they dislike a book, it’s OK for them to talk about it being removed for even voluntary reading lists. 😦

            2. More,generally, their idea of “bad” is “any time anyone does anything we dislike, or fails to do what they are told. What they call the individual “bad” is based entirely on what they think will cause their opponent to blink.

            3. people being prevented from requiring other people to read this book

              ’cause then no one will, and they know it. :]
              Also, there’s the Third Law: “SJWs always project”.

          2. They never include a book that would make peoples’ skins crawl, like THE PROTOCALS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION.
            Or Das Kapital, or Mao’s Little Red Book……

    2. Samuel Clemens made a good deal of his money in the publishing business.  It was Clemens who made the arrangements to published Grant’s Autobiography under favorable terms to provide for Julia.

  4. The thing isn’t exactly under the my control.  Sometimes I think I am but the imperfect instrument of that which writes through me.

    You can control your responses, but things happen in life that are not in your control.  

    Reading this blog I have come to think that Inspiration and her muses must be close kin the Pratchett’s Lady Luck. 

  5. When one of those wannabes starts in on not writing for filthy lucre but for love, reply with something like, “How many people who don’t know and like you have read your writing, or are interested in doing so? If the answer is none, your writing is nothing more than a strange form of onanism.”

    1. Oddly, it is also the same set who whine that they should be well paid for their dreck, whether or not the payers want the crap, and folk like Sarah and Larry are not real authors, because people will by it of their own accord.

      1. There is a bit about that in Atlas Shrugged. One of the minor characters, a writer, talks about an Equalization of Opportunity Act for literature, under which no book can have a print run larger than X copies—it might have been 10,000 or something like that. What if more people want the book, he’s asked? Well, let them read other books; there are a lot of worthwhile authors whose books don’t get a chance from publishers. It so happens that none of this guy’s books has ever sold enough copies to run into the restriction. . . .

          1. No, she said it was bad. She also said its purpose was to show us how evil people would make us distrust government officials

            1. When you are trying to make a point, you really don’t want to be seen as defending someone torturing someone else to propagate a lie, and implying someone standing for the truth is evil . . . especially when you are known to have lied about events and jailed someone who had nothing to do with the events in question. She worded it so poorly it looks like she supports the guys telling us 4 is really 5, and wishing no one ever questioned the gov’t. Well a Dem/commie gov’t. – that one run by that guy she is asking “Wa Happen?” about is, of course, exempt.

        1. Balph Eubank.

          He got thrown into the discussion when an author criticized Rowling for publishing more works after Harry Potter. She could write, but she shouldn’t publish. After admitting to not reading the works.

  6. [P]eople assure me that level of self-selling is what it takes

    Pfui. There’re a thousand different ways of self-selling, none having a whit to do with author’s personality nor the quality of the writing. Rowling’s story didn’t sell those Potter books, nor did she “push” them. Neil Gaiman’s self-selling is about the most laid-back counter-aggressive approach possible yet his books and persona seem to do well. Perhaps your biggest personal deffect is that you are not a Brit with a charming accent?

    Frankly, if it were all what “people” tell you there would be far more authors doing it, wouldn’t there? In this life ya does what ya does and if it catches that’s nice, if it don’t that’s rough, but not as rough as selling your soul to the public for pennies on the dollar.

    If you cannot look at yourself in the mirror it makes for mighty peculiar make-up application results.

    1. I find authors to read in Kindle Unlimited. I’ve found two authors that I like that are new to me: Honor Raconteur and Joshua Guess.

    2. not as rough as selling your soul to the public for pennies on the dollar
      Maybe Sarah should start a religion, instead?

      Oh, wait, she’s already done that………
      😉

        1. Well, I suppose you haven’t started selling memberships in the Usaians, yet. Maybe just some medallions or something? With some appropriate relic embedded?

  7. Ah, I remember my days as a struggling writer, and how I would come up with wild theories as to my failure to break into the market. I don’t think I ever got so self-righteous, at least not in public. Sad!

    1. On one online writer’s site, now defunct, we would talk about rejectomancy, the fine art of attempting to read between the lines of the rejection slip (what did they mean by “current needs”?), and as one writer sagely observed, many writers’ most creative work is in the rejectomancy field.

  8. What becomes popular and what doesn’t doesn’t seem to have much predictability. I remember that in the late 70’s at least in Finland one classical piece suddenly shot to the top of one popular music list. Eine Kleine Nachtmusic, Allegro. Now of course it has been popular for a few centuries, but for a while it ended on a POP list. Only time a classical piece has gotten play time in radio era among, well, then, the likes of Bee Gees and company. Did get mutilated after a while, with more disco like version with lyrics (thankfully forgotten). Weird.

    But yep, at least it was well known already.

    1. And don’t forget Jethro Tull’s performance of Bourée in E minor by J.S. Bach which got a lot of airplay in the UK & US

      1. I remember a late Sixties rock version of the Ode To Joy movement, and find multiple versions of it performed by rockers, such as …

        X Japan’s cover

          1. And Richie Blackmore …

            Clearly there are more rockers covering that song than you can shake a drumstick at.

            People tend to forget that pop musicians (which includes rockers) often have tastes different than what their public is willing to pay to hear, so what they do in their off time may not be the same as what goes on stage.

              1. See also: Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Who make good money at transcribing a mix of classical and folk songs into rock, among other sources.

                And then there’s the synthesis of EBM and O Fortuna – that piece has appeared on more dance floors at raves and goth clubs than you’d suspect. Once upon a time, the Anchorage Symphony decided to do the Caramina Burana with full choir and laser-light show. (The laser light was rather…um… what a very small city’s all-volunteer orchestra could supply. But they tried.) They were astounded when they sold out – and the hastily-arranged additional performance also sold out.

                Come the day of performance, the regular symphony crowd were rather, um, taken aback. The average audience age had dropped by at least three decades, and the rave and goth crowd had dressed in their clubbing best. Since I was with (and dressed like) the music geeks who regularly haunted the nosebleed section for other performances, one woman in a stunning evening gown that perfectly complemented the wispy but carefully coiffed white hair, escorted by her husband in tux and tails, asked this “young person” for an explanation. I smiled, and gently pointed out that these were the younger crowd who’d come to love a great many pieces of classical music on the dance floor, and they were really curious about seeing an extremely popular piece in its original setting and tempo.

                She perked up at that, and went from flinching a little at the nice goth chick walking by in 9-inch heels and latex to smiling. “Do you think we can get them to also support the symphony regularly? It is nice to see so many young faces, and such a full audience!”

                “If the symphony schedule has more pieces that have crossed over into dance music, I’m sure you will, ma’am.” That was as tactful as I could put it – and I watched her face set in a smile that made me very, very glad I was not between her and the symphony director. That was a battle I happily left to her, as she graciously thanked me, and swept off, all tottering steps and cheerful determination to press the “young folk” with what other classical music pieces they liked.

                1. TSO is quite good.
                  I worked with a guy, back in the mid to late 80’s, who was a conductor somewhere (I want to say Seattle, but it has been too long) and was also heavy into Punk Rock.
                  odd combo, but he was passionate enough about Mozart to have once thrown his baton at a violinist who kept missing his cue and embedding the end next to the fellows head. He also had one show where several of his punk friends showed up, though it was a “Brown Bag” concert in a park or something, so the diehards were not in evening gowns to contrast the spiked mohawks, odd hair colors, ripped clothes, and safety pin piercings.

                    1. Some year, I’m really going to have to catch one of their performances in this area. It isn’t this year, obviously, since I’m posting this a couple days after you mentioned the show. 🙂

                    2. There’s a concert down in El Paso tomorrow night.

                      EVERY SINGLE FREAKING STATION is putting in TSO music, mostly “The wizards in winter.”

                  1. I’ve been saying since the beginning that punk is descended not from rock, but from classical… same kinds of structures (I don’t know what they’re called, but I can hear ’em). Don’t think so? Try Beethoven’s 9th at high volume.

                    1. Which punk/hard rock guitarist was it who was a huge Pagannini fan, in part because Pagannini is so dang hard to play that he loved the challenge?

                2. at transcribing a mix of classical and folk songs into rock

                  Uh… folk-rock and folk-metal are not exactly new, and as such “a little bit” wider than that. Heh, there’s already “POST-folkcore”. :]
                  “folk core playlists”: folkcore.wordpress.com/category/musica/folk-core-playlists/ (though it’s fuzzy enough to include some of The Beatles)
                  If you want specifically Siberian, try Bugotak: folk (Bahat’dzarin – there’s also a cool music video) or covers (Kozhung Of The Rising Sun).

              2. While it might be eGRIEGious to continue adding, try

                The performer apparetly offers a variety of similar examples, including Moonlight Sonata.

                1. Taking it the other direction, Banjo maestro Bela Fleck did a whole album of this type of dreck:

                  Just the thing to play for those who disdain the true American instrument.

                  1. I love Flecks version of Moonlight Sonata. It is close to what it would be if done on a Harpsicord.
                    Oh, Rock and roll Harpsicord!

                    for whatever reason the original official video is taken down from youtube, and even if you see it before removal, it seems to be very low resolution

                    1. The Stranglers? There’s a band whose fans I don’t expect to run into.

                      We saw them live at Wembley before they were big, 1980 or 81. Third act on a four-act card for an all effing day concert: Nils Lofgren (pre-E Street membership) AC-DC (I admit, we had no idea who they were and were amused when they blew the sound system — each side of the stage had speakers as high and wide as a two-story house — and did a song and a half with just the stage monitors) The Stranglers and finally the Who.

                      The Who opened with “Substitute” — a hundred thousand yobbos joining in to shout SUBSTITUTE! in the chorus is a remarkable experience.

                    2. That (and “Golden Brown”) are soooooo different from their sound when we saw them it is hard to believe it’s the same band. Their first album, Rattus Norveticus) was very Ray Manzarek-influenced and Punk with a capital PU. Hearing these is like discovering the Ramones have a lounge-music album, or Tom Jones does gospel! I comprehend the confusion over Dylan going electric.

        1. Anyone else remember A Fifth of Beethoven? OTOH, while not classical, I remember a classical style song performed by the London Symphony Orchestra that hit #1 on US pop charts. It was the theme from Star Wars.

          1. The last time I was in a B&N there were two young girls from the Ft Worth Symphony youngsters program there trying to gin up support.
            A young kid asked them to play something he might actually like, and the cellist immediately broke into the Imperial March and two bars in the violinist joined in.
            Yes, the kid liked that.
            Both girls were very good, and not just for teenagers, but the cellist seemed to know more non-traditional stuff. So you’d get a quick bit of Vivaldi – Summer, then Radioactive by Imagine Dragons.

          2. I’m half convinced that if you want good modern orchestral music, you kind of have to go to movie and video game soundtracks.

            Stuff that’s just for performance by orchestras tend to be chromatic atonal dreck.

            1. I once suggested that if someone wanted to compose atonal dreck, they should base it on an irrational number. Shrug. Maybe it’s been done. I’m not opposed to music done on scales other than twelve, or even fluid scales, but there’s no reason it should be strident. This crap is the musical equivalent of “high literature” where the “human condition” is a code phrase for “everything sucks.”

              Yeah, I know everything sucks. We all do. We all just want entertainment where we can, for a little while, find escape from the suckage. We don’t want more suckage to wallow in.

      2. There are those, but they are usually classical music already changed more or less, or played with different instruments. When Nachtmusic started charting back then it was the unaltered classical version, played traditionally. I remember it was kind of weird, listening to some pop program back then, you’d get something like a Bee Gees song, then maybe something from Donna Summer. And then the next piece is classical music. And then it goes back to disco or something. I think it got playtime in discos too, although I don’t remember hearing it when I went dancing (I didn’t go out that much when I was home and the songs getting playtime changed pretty fast). 😀

      3. …or the New Frankfurt Philharmonic doing Jethro Tull, or the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra doing KISS.

        “It’s music, Captain, but not as we know it…”

        1. iirc Atlanta’s was doing Zeppelin and had Randy Jackson of Zebra doing the Guitar bits.
          This confused us as at the time he was a better singer of Zeppelin Tunes than even Plant was after Plants voice changed a bit.
          Later, Windborn did use him for both guitar and vocals on “The Music Of Led Zeppelin”
          It’s been a few years since (this was back before 2000) but it’d not surprise me if he could still out Plant Robert Plant.

    2. How it is that a work of art entertainment can achieve popularity while other, demonstrably “superior” works misfire seems as much a matter of timing as anything else. Rowling’s books were arguably inferior craftsmanship than the work Dianne Wynn Jones or Jane Yolen, Diane Duane or a dozen other female writers of YA fantasy, but Rowling’s books hit the market at the right time and caught the right push from publishing, book stores and the other Forces of Evil the Marketplace.

      The Princess Bride bombed in its initial theatre release in large part because of a spectacular marketing misfire — the studio had no idea how to promote it and what ideas they did have didn’t just not work, they were counter-productive. Alien, OTOH, had a simply genius marketing campaign and benefited from a public acceptance of a strong female lead in Ridley that could in no way have been predicted. Had tPB come out five years earlier it likely would have disappeared, but it was just as the videocassette market was developing and thus caught the rising of that tide.

      1939’s The Wizard of Oz and 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life bombed the box office, but the vagaries of copyright and television’s demand for cheap filler programming over the holidays transformed them into “beloved family classics™.” In 1983 A Christmas Story cost an estimated $3.3 million, had a $2.1 million opening week, added $5.3 million its second week then hung about making one to two million a week for another month or so, eventually clearing $19 million — a nice profit but hardly boffo box office, especially for a film that now gets played 24 hours on Christmas Day.

      There’s no predicting what the Public will want, nor when, and anybody who tells you they can will sell you other harmful ideas as well. The reason movie stars get those big bucks is that they are generally the best way of guaranteeing a big opening, which greatly increases the chance of a film finding its audience. A book with a big name author similarly benefits from a large fan base predisposed to try the new dish, simply because they have expectations for what they’ll get. That’s probably the biggest force driving series, a genre which fifty years ago had no market demand worth noting. Was Heinlein writing today I do not doubt that Moon and Starship Troopers would have been multi-volume series, stretching out their tales and adventures over many thousand pages … which would not in the least mean they’d be better stories.

      1. As far as I can tell, if you want to become rich as an author, trying to become the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer is a fools game. As you say, there’s really no way to predict what will catch on like that. The better option is to try to be the next Kevin J. Anderson: have so much stuff in print that at any given moment, you’re probably earning royalties for something.

      2. Someone pointed out that one of the reasons A Christmas Story seems so classic and timeless as opposed to the literally dozens of other Christmas movies that come out each year is that the Christmas looks like the Christmases most of us have actually experienced. It’s not picture-perfect, there’s a lot of everyday stuff mixed in with the holiday excitement, and the presents are the sorts of things we all get from our families, not the huge pile of amazingly expensive stuff most movie families have. It’s a Wonderful Life is possibly the only other long-term classic Christmas movie that really shows the same thing.

        1. It’s a Wonderful Life was also in copyright limbo long enough that PBS stations loved to air it. That was a factor in it becoming a classic.

          Another example may be The Great Gatsby, which didn’t do so hot until it was picked up by literary classes. Boom! Instant classic. The elephant in the room is whether it’s really all that good or whether people assumed it was because they read it for a high school class.

          1. I always assumed it was crap… but yeah, I think it really does have some kind of magic for certain people. They quote it, or enjoy the movies, and I continue to be un-enchanted. But that doesn’t mean the magic isn’t real for them; it just means that I’m not on the right wavelength to appreciate it, or to get that psychological hook into the story.

          2. I always thought Gatsby was frankly a creep and that Daisy was smart to stay with her husband. Tom was a jerk, but he was a lot less freaky.

        2. Andrew Klavan has observed that It’s a Wonderful Life shares with A Christmas Carol that what changes is how we (and the lead character) see events before and after the miracles. Thus they are about changes of the heart (and arguably represent the change wrought by acceptance of Christ, but this is not the place to go into that).

      3. Rowling managed to marry the school story with the fantasy world in a way that hadn’t been done before. Yes, there had been wizarding schools before. None that were so obviously parallel with mundane schools.

          1. Anyone who realized the real reason why Buffy the Vampire Slayer was absurdly popular among teenagers.
            Come to think of it, it’s interesting that the first Harry Potter book and Buffy both showed up in 1997. I’m not sure if that means anything, but it is an interesting coincidence.

            1. I can personally attest that locating a High School on top of a hellmouth is absolutely reasonable and realistic, based on my three years in public high school. I’d add junior high as well, but we’ll stick with Buffy canon.

              1. Same here. My college years were so much a better experience than jr. high and high school. Unfortunately, my first experience in the working world felt very much like being sent back to high school, or even grade school, with a life sentence.

                Looking back, I think that college was the first time where it was OK to be Other Than Neurotypical, where being obsessively interested in some subject was not viewed as freakish and disgusting, a Problem to be eliminated. Even my college jobs were in an environment where eccentricity and nerdy interests were acceptable. But full-time work was suddenly back in a situation where being Other Than Neurotypical was very much Not OK, except I missed all the signals, or at least misunderstood them, until the Powers That Be determined that the Problem that was Leigh could not be solved and needed to be eliminated by drumming me out.

    3. Progressive Rock (AKA Prog Rock) was somewhat popular on FM radio back in the early ’60s. The template was someone (usually the keyboardist) having classical training, in conjunction with a guitar and drummer/percussionist. The group I’m most familiar with is Emerson Lake and Palmer, and they did a fair amount of adaptations of classical pieces. “Hoedown” from Copland’s Rodeo, “Nutrocker” are fairly well known, as was their version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. . A piece from Ginastera got warped into “Toccata”. (It’s about the only part of Ginastera’s work that I actually like, but that’s modern music.

      You also get music re-interpreted with a synthesizers. Walter (later Wendy) Carlos had a major hit in the late ’50s with Switched-On Bach”, and other work. The soundtrack from A Clockwork Orange was pretty much Carlos, including yet another version of the Ode to Joy.

      It got a bit stranger with Tomita; he did several composers, Mussorgsky again, Stravinsky, and Debussy. His arrangements are interesting, Odd even. 🙂

      Don Dorsey does straight-ish versions of Back and Beethoven in his “Busted” series, as he puts it “Played on authentic period synthesizers”.

      1. Prog Rock (and Prog Metal) are still very popular in Europe. The way I’ve heard the difference in between progressive metal and straight metal is that in the former, you move the fingers on your left hand. (It’s a guitar-player joke-that-is-true. Most progressive guitarists have classical training.)

      2. Ok, mark me down as an obsessive, but wouldn’t the early ‘60’s be a trifle early this? Most sources I checked put the beginnings as mid ‘60’s.

        Of course, when tou get,down to it the period we think of as ‘the 60’s’ is very flexible. In many parts of the culture it didn’t really start until 1964, and many of its tropes extend through 1972 or so.

  9. He’s a dead white male and therefore not really a great writer:

    Why Charles Dickens was the Springsteen of his time
    One hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Dickens came to America to give the people what they wanted: “A Christmas Carol,” read by the British writer himself. Some 2,500 people at a time clustered into halls in New York, Philadelphia and Boston to see Dickens, the Springsteen of his day, perform his solo show.
    [END EXCERPT]

    I guess the same goes for “Papa” Hemingway, William Faulkner, Sam’l Clemens and others.

    Most claims of this sort about “great writers do it for lurv” fall prey to the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. I say writers do it for money and damned well should take pride in that. If great Art results that is no business of theirs and not a reason for starving obscurely.

  10. Some people thrive under pressure. Some people just need a little prodding. Some people just like banging away at the keyboard.

    I’m one of those people who apparently thrives under pressure. According to all the questionnaires/tests they give us, because dispatching is a high stress job, I’m so far stressed out of my arse I should have probably had a heart attack over a decade ago. But I love taking calls on fights, domestics, high speed chases, etc. (just don’t make me give CPR instructions, that’s one I hate). It’s fun working those calls.

      1. Well, the lady who owned the strip club and was running for city council who had a boob job and ended up with a reaction to the pain meds certainly got a large response from the PD. I think every male cop in town responded to the call about the naked lady running around the neighborhood.

  11. I know some self-pub authors who are maniacally driven, and will aggressively self-promote and self-sell at every opportunity. They do well as a result. I am not sure I would ever have the personality for it, frankly. I am extremely gratified whenever I get a nice piece of reader mail, for something in Analog, or an anthology. I am glad my pool of interested readers continues to expand. I hope to keep making more money. But I don’t think I could successfully put on the candy-striped jacket and wield the bullhorn to the extent which may be necessary to truly “go big” — for whatever definition of “going big” is current these days.

    By the same token, I think art — as a concept — has been too much romanticized. Much of the art we in our time consider “great” was (in its time) created for the purpose of putting meat and taters on the author’s kitchen table. Oh, there’s no question it took imagination and talent. But more than anything, it also took that most fundamental of all incentives: the desire to not starve, and to not see one’s family starve.

    It’s amazing what can happen under those conditions. Necessity being the mother of creation, it seems.

    Which is no guarantee, of course. But of the authors I know personally, who are “going big” or who “got big” the one thing they all share in common is work ethic. Absolute stone-hard work ethic. Nothing gets in the way of their schedules. When they have a deadline, they not only meet it, they meet it well in advance. If they have a word goal for the week, they make their goal. Each and every week, each and every month, each and every year.

    It is to this level of professionally I personally still aspire. Because it awes me. And the proof is in the pudding: these men and women are also the ones going to the bank! 🙂

      1. “I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Forget who it’s really attributed to. Had it tracked down once. Been one of my motto’s for quite a few years now.

    1. ” But of the authors I know personally, who are “going big” or who “got big” the one thing they all share in common is work ethic. Absolute stone-hard work ethic.”

      God, yes! I know of two indie writers who are absolutely slaying it while writing absolute shite. They’re pumping out stories like a diarrhetic donkey and making serious coin.

    2. I suppose one thing that might help promote you is if the link in your comment ID were valid. 🙂 I forgot where your site was and Sarah didn’t link when she mentioned it.

  12. “I wanted Kathryn Howard. I got Jane Seymour.”

    [thinks back to Jane Seymour in Live and Let Die and as Serina in Battlestar Galactica]

    I’d gladly take Jane Seymour. Wait, what, not that Jane Seymour? She did play Marie Antoinette once, though.

          1. I have to admit a strange fondness for Zardoz in spite of itself, certainly a movie that reflects its time and director, but that is Charlotte Rampling with Sean Connery.

    1. From what I was told, the few shots that got cut from the original BSG that did establish Serina was dying were quite touching.

  13. For a sufficiently narrow definition of great book, for a sufficiently something theory of The Bible’s authorship, perhaps needing to rely on shaky fringe Protestant theology, it is a true statement. Just one that doesn’t provide useful guidelines to human behavior.

  14. TO ADD: the initial article’s premise that if authors cannot be paid a living wage for their stories, they will simply stop writing those stories, and this will be a fatal blow to the Republic . . . uhhhh, wut? I am pretty sure most of us are like Sarah. We’d write no matter what. Lord knows I never stopped, even though for 17 whole years I made exactly nothing. Wrote a lot. Almost all of it sucked, right up before I broke in. But I wrote anyway. And while the Republic would cheerfully survive the mass extinction of authors, it would not cheerfully survive the mass extinction of carpenters, plumbers, or welders. We authors need to have our egos checked. Constantly. We are a luxury. We make money in the same way. We would do well to remember this, on those occasions when we self-agrandize.

    1. Bingo. Lovely art without walls to hang it on, or sanitary plumbing to keep the miasmas away, is less than useless.

      The guy who can write a usable, easy-to-follow, and logical technical manual or software guide? Priceless!

      1. This is why I think he Army’s PS Magazine is pure brilliance. Take dry, complex maintenance and upkeep information, and make it engaging via comic book format. Any soldier, regardless of education, can grasp and understand it. Even us Chiefs. 😉

        1. Anything done by Will Eisner is brilliant.


          A surprising amount of Eisner’s work for PS Magazine is avaiable in collected editions, both overviews of the magazine and specific manuals, such as one for The M16A1 Rifle: Operation and Preventive Maintenance.

        2. And the tables with the stock numbers for the batteries and the authorization documents for ordering them (Common Table of Allowance something or another, maybe)!!!!

          And I still think of Gomer Pyle as a deputy sheriff pulling over some big-rig driver (S&P or prime mover, I think) for blowing too much black smoke when I see a tractor-trailer blowing smoke on the highway—check you air filters, people. {Too much was more than five seconds, as I recall.}

      1. I am still proud of the suck. I have harvested a great deal of it, either for plot points, ideas, or characters, which have gone on to much better things — in current prose, which gets a lot of thumbs-up from readers. Which reminds me of something I think I got at a Kris and Dean workshop: never, ever throw anything away, because it all can be used in some way eventually.

          1. Due to a combination of the “write what you want to read” saw and hanging out here too long, I have been committing fiction lately. I’ve long since thrown away the mostly-execrable stuff I wrote in high school, which would’ve been Star Trek fanfic had my strict-Southern-Baptist BFF not hated Trek and refused to read it. But it was a whole *lot* of execrable stuff, and of late I have begun to regret it just a teensy bit. (Not much. Did I mention execrable?)

        1. What Brad said: Never. Throw. Anything. Away. I’m about to release (still need a cover) a longish novella I wrote in 1981. At the time it was too long for the mags and too short for a book, so it sat on disks of various sorts (wrote it on an 8″ floppy!) until indie happened. Today, length doesn’t matter much. I stopped myself after seven edit passes over the last couple of years, and as soon as I nail a cover I have another paying item.

          Scan your trunk every few years. You never know when that stuff might become useful.

            1. Can you do molten lava? Because it’s about huge stone ships with copper chain mail sails going to war on a sea of molten lava.

              We should work on this offline, but yes, I’m definitely interested. Will be in touch.

          1. I need to go through mine too. Over thirty years worth, even counting only from when I started college and had access to computers. More if I were to dig through the handwritten stuff from jr. high and high school.

            But right now I want to finish several projects that are almost finished. During the last decade I went through a period where I’d start a novel, get about halfway through, conclude that it was unpublishable in the current market, and then move on to another project. Lather, rinse and repeat, and pretty soon you’ve got whole file drawers of novels in which the first third to half is pretty solid, but the rest is Swiss cheese of Interesting Bits jotted down, but nothing to connect them and bring everything to a coherent conclusion.

            1. Persevere. I got the idea for my most recent novel in 1967, started writing it four separate times and finally finished it in 2012. If I didn’t scan the trunk every so often I might have forgotten about it. I still mourn the four years I wasted chasing tradpub with it until Sarah, God love her, talked me into going indie. I would be more successful as an indie if I didn’t take fifty years to finish a novel.

          2. Most of my short stuff is de-trunked. Only Journeys and Wizardry contains reprints, and a few of the stories are stuff written (rather than revised) since I started indie. (The last group is increasing, of course.)

        2. Why is it when I do this with mechanical parts, screws, bits of tile/wood/metal, that it gets called junk, and I’m a pack rat? I’m keeping it for the same reason – it might be useful someday. *pout*

    2. And therein lay the true competition: beer, pizza, movies, video games, and netflicks (as well as other books). Writers produce an entertainment product, subject to the same limitations that govern *all* entertainment as such.

      The ones that work hard and crank out their work regularly in good quality keep their brand in the customer’s conscious mind when they cast about for an hour’s distraction. So you give your customer a good laugh, some anticipation, tension, pull those strings of emotion to bring them shatteringly low and then back up, up, and up to make the payoff that much sweeter. The daily grind of framing doors and planing cabinets, snaking out backed up toilets and fixing water heater leaks, fabbing axles and custom framework ain’t entertainment, by and large.

      A writer’s work gives the reader something that takes them away from the bills, the bruises, the backed up toilet and the back breaking work. It’s not *necessary* in the grand scheme of things, and it ain’t the only thing to do in one’s liesure time (it’s far, far outnumbered by, oh, soccer fans at a guess, is science fiction writing). But a good writer consistently gives the reader his fix (if he’s a reading junkie) and the casual a few hours diversion. Ain’t a thing wrong with that.

      Which reminds me, I need to put another chapter in the hopper. *chuckle*

      1. Why is writing for TV so awful? I want to like it. But when it’s all a thin layer of crud covering miles of lectures, I can’t watch it. I’ve watched stuff that you’d think would be boring as hell and it wasn’t: How it’s made for one. How everyday items are made.

        I know that this is a rant but…

        I’m aggravated that many shows are crewed by real or apparent teenagers. All you see on TV is pretty but dumb. I know that catching young viewers makes marketers and their clients swoon. But it makes want to head desk!

        1. Most of anything written is awful.

          Schofield’s Law of Popular Culture; We remember the popular culture of eras past so fondly because, mercifully, we don’t actually remember that much of it.

          Television is like comic books; there’s a driven quality to the whole enterprise. You have to have another show ready next week (ok, they’re written in advance, the point stands). You can’t wait for a,great,script. If what you have is drek, you still need to film the poxy thing, because yoy have a schedule to meet. You don’t have the luxurey of putting the bad script in a drawer and waiting for a better.

          Combine that with the cumpusion (they really need ther meds adjusted) to be PC, and you get drivel.

          I worry about what DVD (and later formats) will do to Schofield’s Law. It gonna be hard to forget last years really awful shows and films with all those discs in the bargan bin to remind us.

          1. The other problem with TV is that it is often open ended. You can’t solve the main problem, or solve the romantic tension, or wrap things up too quick, or where do you go?

            1. The possibly greatest demonstration of this flaw was the late lamented Chuck.

              Every year, it seemed, it would get jerked around by the network. “We’ll buy thirteen episodes this year,” said the suits So the show built its storyline to conclude after thirteen episodes, tying up all plot elements and giving viewers value for their time. Then, at about the nine or ten episode point the suits would call up and say, “Y’know, we really have nothing in the pipeline. It’s all crap, total crap, so we’re gonna buy the full season. Go ahead and do another nine episodes this year.”

              So producers, writers, players all go, “WTF – do nine more!” And suddenly that neat resolution to the show’s run has to be rewritten, a way to extend it must be found, characters due to be killed in episode thirteen now have to survive at least a bit longer, or long lost relatives have to be find to seek revenge (or make atonement) for their parent/sibling/child/cousin/neighbor.

              Year after year after mother-effing year the nets dd that to Chuck! Heck, it became a running gag on the show. I’m glad the show kept running, but I cannot help but wonder what would have been had the suits simply said, “Twenty-two shows, guys, twenty-two. That’s our buy, that’s how many we want, that’s what you’re getting to work with. So long as you don’t embarrass the network we are in it for the year, the whole damned year. And we promise to let you know if we’re renewing sufficiently in time to let you tie up all the loose ends and finish big. We owe your fans that much.”

              Then I want the suits to go back in time and tell Whedon, “Here’s the offer, Joss. We’ll give you a contract for thirteen episodes of Firefly and we promise to run them in order, the same hour and night of the week so you’ve got a chance to build your audience. And we’re going to spend some promotion dollars on it, too. We are looking at Comicon, some spots on Buffy and Angel where you’ve built a fanbase, maybe even spring for a “Behind the scenes” special on SciFi or NatGeo. Let’s put our heads together and brainstorm how to reach the market for this show. Let’s do lunch, okay?”

              If you’re gonna dream, why dream small?

              1. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in TV is the move to season long story arcs…. or even longer.. it allows for a degree of character decelopment that ways really uncommon before and a complexity of plotting that was goddamned rare too.

                I’m in no position to judge the results as I stopped watching TV about the time the change was taking hold. I lack the patience.

        2. Several years ago one of the stations had reruns of Magnum PI and Simon & Simon. I liked both of them growing up. Watching the reruns, S&S came off as a bunch of fluff with some situational comedy. Magnum still seemed relevant though, the writing of most of the episodes held up much better.

    3. As Kipling well knew:
      https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/story_of_ung.html

      And the father of Ung gave answer, that was old and wise in the craft,
      Maker of pictures aforetime, he leaned on his lance and laughed:
      “If they could see as thou seest they would do what thou hast done,
      And each man would make him a picture, and — what would become of my son?

      “There would be no pelts of the reindeer, flung down at thy cave for a gift,
      Nor dole of the oily timber that comes on the Baltic drift;
      No store of well-drilled needles, nor ouches of amber pale;
      No new-cut tongues of the bison, nor meat of the stranded whale.

      “Thou hast not toiled at the fishing when the sodden trammels freeze,
      Nor worked the war-boats outward through the rush of the rock-staked seas,
      Yet they bring thee fish and plunder — full meal and an easy bed —
      And all for the sake of thy pictures.” And Ung held down his head.

      “Thou hast not stood to the Aurochs when the red snow reeks of the fight;
      Men have no time at the houghing to count his curls aright.
      And the heart of the hairy Mammoth, thou sayest, they do not see,
      Yet they save it whole from the beaches and broil the best for thee.

      “And now do they press to thy pictures, with opened mouth and eye,
      And a little gift in the doorway, and the praise no gift can buy:
      But — sure they have doubted thy pictures, and that is a grievous stain —
      Son that can see so clearly, return them their gifts again!”

      And Ung looked down at his deerskins — their broad shell-tasselled bands —
      And Ung drew downward his mitten and looked at his naked hands;
      And he gloved himself and departed, and he heard his father, behind:
      “Son that can see so clearly, rejoice that thy tribe is blind!”

      Straight on the glittering ice-field, by the caves of the lost Dordogne,
      Ung, a maker of pictures, fell to his scribing on bone
      Even to mammoth editions. Gaily he whistled and sung,
      Blessing his tribe for their blindness. Heed ye the Story of Ung!

    4. We are a luxury.
      Oh, I think I disagree. Yes, the drudgery of society has gone on all ’round the world without the help of writers (or “authors”). But the life of the mind makes a civilization great. And good ideas can make society better. All of which requires writers (or bards, at the least) to spread those ideas, and to give blood and breath to that life of the mind.

      You might not be food on the table, or a roof over our head, but without writers (bards), we’re nothing more than serfs farming mud.

      1. It is generally acknowledged* that before the advent of the phonograph there were far more people able to sing competently. It was a skill and one which people practiced and developed. The recording of singers had the effect of promoting the standards of excellent singers and diminishing the efforts of merely adequate ones.

        So, too, with writers. People always used to tell stories, and a great many were reasonably capable of it, but the advent of published storytelling discouraged folks from telling their own and encouraged turning instead to the finished work of professionally crafted artisanal tales.

        Thus the net effect of professional storytellers is a higher level of quality for the few but a lower level of quality for the most. Why develop your own talents when professionally done stuff is so readily at hand? By banning professional authors we might conceivably benefit society by forcing people to tell their own stories and refine their own abilities, free of unwonted comparison to their more talented and skilled fellows.

        Hey: it’s what the Art World did.

        *meaning I have heard it asserted and have no actual evidentiary support for the claim.

      1. Yup. Here’s Jerry Pournelle’s paraphrase of Heinlein’s saying:

        We’re basically after Joe’s beer money, and Joe likes his beer, so you better make sure that what you give him is at least as pleasurable to him
        as having his six-pack of beer would be.

        – Jerry Pournelle

  15. The first half of Dumas’ Three Musketeers might be one of the best books ever written, it moves, it roars, it is fun, it is serious, just a beautiful book. Then the damn thing doesn’t stop and just keeps going on and on and on while the reader wonders why. The answer; money. It was popular so he kept cranking it out because he was paid by the word. Did that make for a superior book? No. However, the first part is so special that it could survive the semi-pointless existence of the second half (he redeemed this ending later with The Man in the Iron Mask).

    Did the quest for money hurt the book? Yep. But that was about how author’s got paid then (by the word) and those parameters don’t exist anymore. Dumas knew what he was doing, knew he was weakening the whole, and seemed to keep that in mind for his other works which seem (to me at least) to have more focus and more dedication to the story over the volume of words.

    Did it matter for posterity? Far from it. His grubbing for money seems to have led him to producing more and greater works after the success of The Three Musketeers. Would Dumas (absolutely one of the best who ever took up a pen) have been better had he only written for the love of words instead of the love of money? Hardly. Those who do are often incredibly internally focused and don’t bother making their work accessible to others. Would he have produced as much work without the money? Nope. Dude had mistresses to support. Would he have written at all if there was no money in it? Possible but unlikely, and certainly would not have produced as much work.

    Why is it that craft is so much less revered than art?

    Craft improves as you put more and more work into your craft (carpentry, blacksmithing, knitting, whatever) but for some reason we have come to define art as separate from and superior to craft.

    To me art is where craft intersects with inspiration, art therefore is not separate from craft but the highest form of craft, which logically follows that those who work and produce more and more craft are able to work themselves closer and closer to producing Art.

    Yet today we decry craft, we imply that the work inherent in creating craft somehow lessens the odds of them producing Art. Literally. I’ve had aspiring artists literally tell me the worst thing I could do in trying to become an artist was to learn to draw as it would ‘limit my sensibilities and sensitivities’ and I wouldn’t ever be able to ‘access true artistry’. I was young, for a moment I thought they might be right (a seductive thought; ‘do less and improve odds to become artist’? Sign me up) but then I saw the work they produced. What little there was of it. They’d been trained, they’d been taught, they’d had time and space, and we were roughly equivalent but at the time all I was drawing was character designs and doing that infrequently. But then I started a webcomic and within a year my art was noticeably improving and soon after my little webcomic was racing ahead of them. Why? Because I was working at it every day. Craft.

    Maybe one day Art? But for now Craft is perfectly fine.

    Perhaps I’m just too blue-collar to ever understand what the blue-bloods of the field (whether in publishing or in art) natter on about.

    Steve

    1. Craft improves as you put more and more work into your craft (carpentry, blacksmithing, knitting, whatever) but for some reason we have come to define art as separate from and superior to craft.

      Grumble. I remember one centuries old praise for a carpenter, read reverently on some arts channel decades ago. The praise was that he had no intelligence of his own, that it was in his fingers. The twit saw it as a matter of instinct, and whoever did that segment ate it up. The separation between art and craft is a refusal to recognize the intelligence and skill of a craftsman.

      What I find troubling is there comes a point where craft doesn’t improve. It plateaus. My old boss was considered a master craftsman by other carpenters, and more than once he acted as a consultant on a job where there was a thorny problem. But the ranks of master craftsmen were thin. I saw many a carpenter who worked hard and had the work, but didn’t come up to the master craftsman level. I suspect that holds for things other than carpentry.

      1. The trouble with too many craftsmen is that they are payed to produce “good enough” work. “A job worth doing is worth doing badly.” Get the job done and go get a beer. I have worked as a handyman. It is amazing to me how low the craftsmanship is in million dollar homes.

        Craft improves by leaps and bounds from apprentice to journeyman. It takes personal drive and ambition to achieve mastery.

    2. One of the things I like doing is going to Museums of Applied Arts. This is where the cabinets, chairs, musical instruments, clothes, pottery, carpentry (entire rooms!), illustrated books, and other stuff ends up that’s art but not “fine art.” Often, folk art ends up there, if there’s not a separate folk art museum, because it is a form of applied art. For example, in the state attic, er, the Museum of Upper Austria in Linz, they had three rooms of creches, ranging from the “well loved homemade on a farm in the 1700s” to Neapoliton 100+ figure sets people had bought and brought home. There were some fascinating “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph with Austrian shepherds” sort of things, and local interpretations of the manger scene. Some were magnificent, done by “folk artists.” Others…. were well loved and cherished, but not Michelangelo levels of skill.

      1. And some art museums do have nice applied arts sections. The armor collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC is amazing, for example. (I still need to go back there and see a bit more.) The Yale Art Gallery’s American Decorative Arts collection has a lot of colonial and early Federal furniture, glassware, dishes, etc. The Cincinnati Art Museum has a substantial set of pottery (especially the local Rookwood products), furnishings, and furniture as part of its Decorative Arts & Design collection.

      2. I spent three days at the International Quilt Show in Houston this fall.
        Anyone who thinks those fabric masterpieces are not “art” is nuts.

    3. Dumas was paid by the word and so padded his books. Modern authors are not paid by the word and yet … with paperback books so overpriced, readers seem to equate thicker book with value for dollar and thus the market not only has goat-gaggers it has trilogies of goat-gaggers which run four, five, seven books, many of which are not technically even novels (I’m looking at your last couple of books, George RR!)

      My rule of thumb remains: if Heinlein could turn a complete story in three hundred pages for Moon there is no justification for anybody spending 700+ pages to turn in something with no character development, incomplete plotting and no end in sight.

      I opt for Craft over Art any day.

      1. I’m not sure what dodgethebullet means, either. Since he thinks The Man In The Iron Mask Redeemed it, is the “second half” actually Twenty Years After, which I read first, and loved?
        Frankly I found The Man In the Iron Mask full of tedious romantic nonsense, just like Viscount the Bragelone, making me wonder if Dumas Junior wrote some of it.

        1. Not saying that Man in the Iron Mask is a better book, i meant redeemed in the sense of telling one story from beginning to end. My issue with the Three Musketeers is it sets up a story. Tells that story completely and well. But then continues for many more pages after that. Not that those pages are bad or badly written just that their existence doesn’t contribute much to the main story Dumas already told (brilliantly).

          That may just be for me though. I can only relay my feeling when I read it at 12, 16, mid-twenties, and early thirties. Possibly I might find more in that section now that I’m past forty.

          My favorite Dumas is The Count of Monte Cristo which is beautifully focused on the story.

          Steve

          1. No. I’m confused. Which one do you mean? Are you counting Twenty Years After as part of the Musketeers? or just the second half of the literal three musketeers? I’ve seen them published as an opus.
            See, I find Count of Monte Cristo tedious after a while “oh, more revenge.”

            1. See, I find Count of Monte Cristo tedious after a while `oh, more revenge.`

              Awwwww, c’mon! Everybody loves a bowl of hot steamin’ revenge! With cheese on it!

            2. Now you have me wondering. The copy I got at twelve I got specifically because it said it was complete and unabridged (having previously got stuck trying to read a kid’s version that was more rewritten than abridged) and it included that section. As did the version I bought for myself later. It didn’t say it was two books in one, just included it as if it was another act of the book. Like one chapter ends and another begins in terms of formatting.

              Huh. I would feel like an idiot ( and am about many things) but I’ve talked to many people who’ve read the complete book and they walked away with the same impression. You telling me it’s meant to be read as a second book makes sense. The only problem being without the first part there’s even less story there. Gah. Need to dig through the boxes and boxes to figure this out.

              This isn’t an argument. I want to thank you for solving a mstery in my mind I didn’t even know existed.

              1. The story of the Three Musketeers is told across three books. I guess the question that needs to be answered is at which point in the plot do you feel that the story should have ended, instead of continuing on?

              2. If the three books were in one it was abridged. Or at least really badly translated.
                BTW part of what you might be missing is that a lot of the resonance in Twenty Years after is a tie in to REAL LIFE conspiracies of the time. If you don’t know the conspiracies, you’ll miss it. Dumas was as bad as John Ringo for having characters dropped in that are real people/have resonance outside the story. You might not get that part.
                Let me see, first book, they pursue the queen’s necklace, and it ends with them catching Milady and executing her. (the story isn’t over till Milady is caught, because she’s the real villain.)
                Second book they get the band together again, try to save Charles I from execution, fail but have a ton of interesting adventures along the way. To me that was a shock because it was “first time our heroes fail in a mission.” The rest is fuzzy because it’s been years since I read it. I know there is rescuing Louis XVI from the Fronde in it. If you don’t know the politics of the Fronde (early attempt at the revolution) you might miss the real danger. The theme is echoed in Charles I actually getting executed.
                I remember very little of The Man In THe Iron Mask, except that the movie was spectacularly stupid. The book was just… long. Oh, and Aramis had become the secret leader of the Jesuits.
                Anyway, no, it’s not an argument. I was curious because I never got that impression. Sure, I thought TMITIM was one sequel too far, but sequels pay, so…

                    1. That’s the one with Jeremy Irons and Leo DiCaprio. Yeah, it was pretty bad. There were elements of the book in there, but only small ones.

                      Haven’t seen the Chamberlain one, though I’ve heard it’s good.

      2. To be fair to RR, he was hardly the first author guilty of putting out a goat gagger where nothing happened, and we were just offered hints that something MIGHT happen in a future book *cough*Crossroads of Twilight*cough*.

        1. Acknowledged — I am a veteran of Phillip Jose Farmer’s River Wars, the series that meandered as pointlessly and flowingly as the stream that gave its name.

          In fact, in my household the phrase “Phillip Jose Farmer Syndrome” is used precisely for such series.

          No, I know nothing of Wheel of Time beyond the reports from refugees.

          1. It was pretty good until they split the party and thousands of pages of nothing happening …started to..er… happen.

      1. A lot of web comic artists are like this. If you go to one of the comics that’s been around for a while, start at the beginning of the archives, and work your way forward, you’ll quickly note the art style changing and getting better as the artist practices his craft.

          1. Tatsuya I view more with pity than disgust, or anger. From what I can tell, he was a bit of an introvert geek who got taken advantage of, and manipulated by people he thinks are his friends. *shakes head* Caught in that echo chamber, with no real way out, who can say what goes on inside a man’s head? The world of social injustice is a sad, angry, and frightening place. Very cult-like.

            Many in that generation lost in that world of shadows may never escape it, and the getting out can be… costly, from what I gather. The constant flight from outrage to outrage, the worry that the mob will turn on you next, well, it’s no wonder so many of them turn to escape through drugs, alcohol, or whathaveyou. I was sorry to have to take Sinfest off my regular reading list. And the community on the forums, well… Bless their poor little hearts.

            1. I don’t worry about it. Sinfest makes the common SJW mistake of assuming acting like a gentleman means acting like a gelding. It neither makes me sad or angry; I just stopped reading it. End of problem.

          2. Benefit of The White Board. Doc Nichol is unlikely to ever go SJW
            Though Doc N. is getting a bit Weber-esque in his story telling, but he acknowledged it the other day with Doc walking past Sandy’s desk with all the holidays he missed with Doc and Cara’s two night stand (so far).

            I stopped reading Sinfest way back when it was still a Keenspot mainstay.
            Just wandered over and looked. There are 8 comics over at Keen that are updated? oi

              1. Same here. Started TWB way back after being linked by someone else. I think Real Life for the ’03 Halloween strips. Stopped reading Real Life long ago too. just got bored with it. When he worked at the airport, I think he had more time to think out his stories.

              2. [growl] I finally got sucked in and read The Whiteboard yesterday. And today. 15 years of strips went by in the blink of an eye, but the clock seemed to move really fast while I was reading them, somehow.

          3. Another way they get derailed is by running out of story.

            I’ve been following Impure Blood for some time. It has ended. With the plot threads tied up and the main characters shown in epilogue. (You can get the comic in four volumes if you want.) The makers had decided to not be one of those webcomics that just peter out.

          1. Heh. From an artistic standpoint, yes, but the writing has been prime from the start. I mean, he follows a gang of mercenaries around and still has no foul language in the comic—that takes talent.

            1. I stopped reading it right around the time he went off on a rant about Brexit. Things were… changing… in the strip. And I wasn’t entirely happy about all of the changes.

              1. His Brexit rant was a confused mess – should older people step aside and let the young people determine their future, or are young people too inexperienced to make good decisions? I wanted to engage him in the comments, but I realized he stopped having comments on his posts altogether. Anyway, I never understood why he felt so invested in that all the way out in Salt Lake City.

                His politics has been changing, and Sad Puppies pushed him firmly into Scalzi’s orbit, although he was wise to keep his mouth shut officially over the whole thing.

                1. I blame evil companions, specifically those in his writing workshop podcasts.

                  As for Brexit ranting: surely we forfeited any right to tell Brits what to do* back in 1776, and put an exclamation point to it in 1812?

                  *Other than “Go Away!”

                  1. You’re referring to “she who thinks that ChiCom is a racist epithet”.

                    😛

                    He also shares it with Brandon Sanderson. I love Sanderson’s writing, and I don’t know a thing about Sanderson’s politics The only thing I can say is that Larry Correa has stated on more than one occasion that he and Sanderson are friends. And the SJW crowd seems to frown on that kind of thing of late.

    4. Amen. I was raised by craftsmen and babysat by craftsmen (in the literal sense; grew up at fairs with glasswrights, potters, blacksmiths, weavers, lacemakers…) and I respect craft rather more than I do Art, which is a capricious beast. In tangible crafts, my experience has been that Art primarily shows up while you’re trying to improve your craft.

      (My mother used to recount with pride the time I examined a booth filled with Artsy embossed prints, waggled my hand, and proclaimed “Mediocre”. I was eight, and not trying to be smart. She had to hustle me out before she further offended the poor Artsy man by guffawing.)

    5. I’ve been reating Pete Abram’s Sluggy Freelance for a long time, and you can see how his work improved over the years. The first months were, er, crude.

      1. I kinda fell away from Sluggy. At the time there was just WAY too much promotion of the paid section. I still have the bookmark, but I don’t visit. Last time I looked the plot was kinda going in circles. Dr. Schlock was still running around.

        1. Dr Schlock is still around (currently in orbit), and still trying to take over the world. A bit of a surprise with respect to Kusari, and Schlock’s HQ is now rubble.

          I never paid for it; I just ignore the promotions. One of these days, I should pay up for Day by Day, though.

    6. Dude had mistresses to support.
      So…….., I should have mistresses (multiple) so I’ll work harder and be successful?
      I’m just looking at history and art to lead me in my daily life…….

  16. Yet other people assure me that level of self-selling is what it takes.

    And that’s why I always buy the book with the biggest promises on the spine, even if the last six sucked!

    ….

    Wait….

    Nah, the way to sell stuff is to get folks to read it, and love it, and tell people (accurately) WHY they love it, to folks who love the same stuff.

    The GoodReads method.

      1. You mean all those reviews that say essentially, “I haven’t read this book, but I read on some website that it was cultural appropriation, so it obviously sucks”?

        1. In the questions of on The Black Witch, there is a SJW question and a furious long line of answers lambasting it. And I have read a review rejoicing that its rating from recovering from the attack.

        1. Yes. Starting with here. It’s always easy to overestimate enemy strength.

          Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”
          But what is God’s response to him? “I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.”

          1. This. Rule #1 in winning a war is to make the other side think that they’re alone and outnumbered. It’s why the Bolsheviks gave themselves a name that means “one of the majority” (hint – they weren’t, at least at first). The SJWs try mightily to make us think that we’re fighting hopeless rearguard actions against an inevitable swarming horde. But as Sarah likes to point out at least once a week, it simply isn’t so.

  17. If art for hire is trash, is the paint job in the Sistine Chapel garbage? Feh, it’s getting the cart before the horse. Nobody sticks with art or artisan craft through the rough years unless they love it.

    That said, I can’t comment much from the writing angle, but there’s a surprising number of locals who’ve gone into music (some family), and you get to see that it takes more than love to make it, Yeah, every single one of them love to perform or write music, but that doesn’t stop them from accepting a love offering if they’re singing gospel music at a church, or working block parties for pay if they’re secular. And if you have to chose between a day job that pays the rent and an occasional gig that doesn’t, guess what’s the first to go no matter how much you love it.

    Frankly, writing is a bit like making crafts to take to a street fair. You do your best work, maybe in various things, and have stuff you think will sell and stuff that you was just cranking out to pad inventory, but don’t know which, if any, will sell until it does. It may be something you absolutely are sick of doing, or tossed off as a gag, but if it sells well, you make more of it.

    Frankly, those who give the “no artists is appreciated in his own time” saw are like those who say “They doubted the Wright brothers, too.” Both implies a serious amount of self-flattery. And I wouldn’t be surprised that those who sniff at commercial fiction know they couldn’t sell what they write.

    1. Pfui. Michelangelo was a hack, doing work for hire. He painted ceilings, he took a commission to carve something porny out of a big chunk of flawed marble, what’d he ever do for love of Art?


      Crap, I tell you.

      1. There is a serious artistic Easter Egg in Michelangelo’s David. You can a hint of it in the photo on the right. Look at the eyebrows. See the dark shadows under them, almost like David is more worried than serene? Guess what: Seen at the level of the statue’s eyes, David does look worried, in a “What have I gotten myself into?” sort of way, like it’s the moment he first stands face to face with Goliath.

        That also explains another feature that I will not mention.Michelangelo’s David is scared, and the only way that’s clear is if you happen to be at the level of his face, and even if the statue wasn’t on a pedestal, it stands about 17 feet tall.

        1. Given Goliath was about twice David’s height* I am not sure “face-to-face” accurately depicts their meeting.

          *Six cubits and a span, according to the book, but whether those were Royal cubits, common cubits or African Swallow cubits is indeterminable.

          1. The interesting thing is that reading the account Goliath sounds very much like he was acting like WWF wrestler before a match. Here comes Goliath, carrying a spear like a weaver’s beam, with a boy carrying his shield in front of him. It doesn’t say it, but wouldn’t be surprised if he had a short boy for the task, to accentuate the size of the shield and his size. Then there’s his bluster on the battle field. All getting into your enemy’s head.

            1. More like Ali before a match than WWF. Because he actually could do what he claimed, it seems. Well, except for that whole going-up-against-the-Almighty’s-anointed thing.

    2. something you absolutely are sick of doing, or tossed off as a gag,

      As mentioned earlier, I grew up at craft shows, and one woman in the 80s was legendary for Best Gaffe Ever. She made kitschy little refrigerator magnets with kitschy little sayings and cute cartoony paintings on them, one of which was a sheep with “Ewe’s not fat, ewe’s fluffy”.

      One night she worked too late, staggered her way through a set of magnets, fired them, and realized the next morning that she had a set of “Ewe’s not fluffy, ewe’s fat.”

      They sold like hotcakes. For years.

      1. That’s awesome!

        And yep, no matter how crazy it is, if the customers love it, you make it and sell it as fast as you can, so they can get your money out of their wallets, and hand it over to your wallet where it belongs!

        1. Yup. My favorite show had five-digit scupltures in one booth and three-for-a-dollar lollipops in another. Everybody laughed at the lollipop guy unless they’d taken a peek in his motor home and seen the (literal) floor-to-ceiling garbage bags of money he racked up. 🙂

    3. *snaps fingers* THAT might be it!

      The sense of “no artists is appreciated in his own time” is a really bad paraphrase of the thing about how a prophet don’t get no respect in his home town– but it misses the “Familiarity breeds contempt” aspect.

      They do tend to put artists in the role of visionaries, ie, prophets.

        1. *sigh* Reading a collected works of Chesterton, I think it’s “The Importance of Orthodoxy” bangs that drum like crazy. It’s where the Parable of the Gas Lamp comes from.

    4. I got invited to a small crafter fair about five years back, spent oodles of time making beautiful handcrafted ornaments, displayed them on a Christmas tree and everything.

      What did people buy? Some fudge I made at the last minute.

      Oh well. Those ornaments have lasted through many subsequent fairs and gifting, and usually end up on a small tree we put outside. (They’re lovely, but they aren’t precious.)

    5. If art for hire is trash, is the paint job in the Sistine Chapel garbage?

      That was patronage.

      They want to go back to that model, since they figure it will be all grants granted by SJW committee.

      1. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with patronage. One wonders, however, how it would go over these days if it were as it was before, when the artist was expected to produce, and to produce what the patron wanted.

        (Not exactly a lurker – I’ve commented here before, but neglected to introduce myself, for which breach of good manners I apologize.)

        1. The problem with patronage is that it tends to devolve into the sort of patronage that produced the pyramids.

          Anybody defending patronage as a principle ought interview Michelangelo or at least watch The Agony and the Ecstasy. Or talk to a court musician flogged for not producing a sufficiently flattering saga. Patronage is what gives us Harvey Weinsteins.

          1. Or look at Mexico, and know that one of the main mortality risks for musicians is working for more than one Cartel– if they know it or not. (there’s a lot of hiring singers to make complementary songs about your guys)

              1. It’s just a matter of figuring out what aspect of human nature it will appeal to, and trying to counter-act it– for the Mexico case, it’s possessiveness.

                Also the whole psychotic levels of tribalism encouraged by the cartels, but yeah.

  18. I read the original article, and, wow, that was some seriously entitled BS. Apparently, Mr. Preston believes that once you declare yourself A Writer, people should fall on their knees to worship you, then toss oodles of money your way so that you never need do anything except sit and craft your beautiful words, sharing them when the breathlessly waiting public when the fancy strikes you.

    Do you have a link to your fisk and/or the discussion at Brad’s place? I would love to see that ripped the way it deserves.

    As I side note, I will mention that I have read some of Mr. Preston’s work. I would classify it as okay. He wrote a couple books I kind of liked and a couple that I thought were the overly dramatic adventures of obnoxious,
    self-righteous characters. None of it, however, was critical to the survival of the republic. If “The Relic” had never been written, I’m pretty sure that the constitutional order would still survive.

      1. Thanks. That was remarkably satisfying. It was especially good to read your response to the Google Books stuff, which was one place where I wondered if he might have a point. I was skeptical given the source, but I thought it was at least possible.

        Really, rereading the article interspersed with your comments, I think I’ve figured out what was really going on. It’s all in the last couple of paragraphs. Preston’s article could be summarized as, “Wow, you people here are all so smart and talented and crucial to the future of the country. You ought to be rich, and it’s the fault of the tri-lateral commission and the Bavarian Illuminati that you aren’t. Give money to my organization, and we’ll get you the profits you so richly deserve.”

        1. Funny how often “Here’s why you are not fantastically rich. Give me/my group money and we’ll try to help you get that way. Trust us” turns up in history.

          1. It’s not always money. Love potions exist in every culture that I’ve studied so far (in many forms, and hush, I am most certainly *not* a cultural anthropologist- those guys are crazy). As does the cosmetics/beautification industry. And so on.

            Think of the SJWish cult the same way- they sell “inclusivity,” you get to be part of the group. A couple of years ago, that would have been the winning group, the one that was going to win for all time. *rolls eyes* It’s a religion, a political platform, a social agenda, and a way of life!

            Never mind that it kills whatever it proposes to heal, harms those who need the help most, steals from the poor to give to the richest, promises you caring but it’s an abusive relationship, and makes its proclamations of truth atop a mountain of lies. And corpses.

    1. “The Relic,” the horror novel with the murderous jungle monster?
      I thought it’d be interesting based on the cover (blue humanoid with a tail, looked like a wingless member of Disney’s Gargoyles clan), got up to the first corpse and couldn’t see a point.

      1. That would be the one. I actually kind of liked it, but you can see how, if that had never been written, life as we know it would never have come to be.

      2. I really liked Relic, and most of the later novels as well. I actually have it ranked as my 2nd favorite SF/thriller to come out in the 90’s. I think Preston writes some entertaining novels, but he seems to live in a world divorced from reality.

        1. As opposed to, say, Lovecraft? Or, for that matter, Stephen King, who apparently lives in a world where a government agency like The Shop can not only exist, but can continue to thrive after a litany of disasters that makes the CIA’s list of fuckups look like the pranks of a troop of boy scouts.

          And he still supports Democrats.

          1. In terms of relevance or just in terms of living in their own reality? I’m not a King fan, and Lovecraft died before my parents were born, so neither one seems all that relevant to me. Tad Williams is another one whom I like his stories, but his reality is bat-shit crazy. There seem to be more than a few authors that can’t quite seem to reconcile what’s in their head with what’s actually happening in the world.

    2. once you declare yourself A Writer
      Wait, I thought “Author” was the ostentatiously capitalized one, and “writer” was mundane? 😉

  19. Is there some intrinsic quality to the books I was compelled to write? Say A Few Good Men? A feel, a glow lacking in Plain Jane?

    If there is the public doesn’t see it, and the humbling thought is that I might one day be remembered only for that paint-by-numbers work.

    You know, a theory that would fit the evidence is that you are a good writer with unusual tastes– so the stuff you REALLY love fit those tastes, but you do good work anyways.

    Run into it with my cooking sometimes; I love some unpopular flavors. 😀

      1. Dill definitely has its place – not just in seafood, but in a wide spectrum of Russian cooking. We also have a local coffee shop, Odd Duck, that is doing its best to make dill widespread again. They only offer garlic & herbed cream cheese on bagels, and always ask “Do you want dill on that?” (I think it’s a 10 cent upgrade). I tried it, and it really does make the bagel a delight. So good for them, finding a creative way to get customers to pay a dime for a penny’s worth of sprinkled herbs, and make them happy about it!

        1. Fellow asked, perhaps jokingly, for a dill cake. I made it (just a little box of white Jiffy mix & about half the tiny Tone’s dill canister) and… it went over well enough that the request was repeated – but with more dill. So next time, the whole (tiny) canister.

      2. Gotta say, I just don’t get parlsey. I don’t object to it, precisely, but as far as I can tell, it’s a flavor no-op, and I can’t figure out why my meal needs extra lawn clippings on top.

  20. I wonder if the Artist Before His Time™* is a bit of the Romantic plus a dash of Marx. The unrecognized great poet, starving in his garret and slaving away at verse that will only be recognized after his Romantic and melodramatic death as he pines away for Art.** Like the young man pining away from unrequited love (Goethe’s _Leiden des Jungen Werther_, which was the #1 cause of copycat suicides for a few years after it was published). I seem to recall for a while the idea floated around the lit’rary world that if you make $$$, then you can’t have written a decent book, because Great Works™ never make money.

    *Anyone else remember the Ernest and Julio Gallo commercial about “We will sell no wine before its time?”
    **Or dies of TB, as happens in Verdi operas. In the case of the poet, I always want to dash the twit with cold water , grab him by the collar, and march him out to get a job.

    1. I remember seeing a poster of Orson Wells with a glass of red, and the text started, “We will sell no wine before it’s bottled.”

        1. In one scene of Rocky Horror Picture Show, we used to call out “Riff Raff will drop no wine before it’s time”. He then drops the bottle and we’d respond “it’s time!”

    2. I remember a sketch with an actor made up to represent Orson Welles (maybe Welles himself?) in a dark stairwell. The door creaks open, and light floods in – Welles looks up at the door and roars, “It’s not time yet!”

    3. In the case of the poet, I always want to dash the twit with cold water , grab him by the collar, and march him out to get a job.
      Write by the light of the candles you can buy once you have a danged job!

  21. I find that forcing myself to write outside my usual is a good way to develop my writing skills. The fighting the Muse part is the hardest. (Look subconscious! This will be fun too!)

    Although what was supposed to be a paranormal romance is going to need a lot of work to qualify as any sort of romance, and it’s kind of short on supernatural eeriness. Second draft and editing will be a learning experience in meeting subgenre reader expectations.

    But in the end, instead of just writing along and hoping something will catch on, I can use things like genre and reader statistics and write something that more people will enjoy reading.

  22. William Freakin’ Shakespeare.

    Churned it out with his friends at the Globe.

    Why?

    For the money, ya posers!

    Mind you, doin’ it for the lurvs is just fine, if your muse can be fit into the spare corners of time in you day, or if Dad’s trust fund keeps you in Human Chow.

  23. > here

    Link is to F***book. Blocked in /etc/hosts

    > Brad Torgeson’s page

    [click] Hasn’t been updated in five months. You mean his F***book scribbleboard, or whatever they call it?

    1. Edna Ferber. I once responded to the whim and looker her up, having seen so many movie trailers proclaiming their roots in some one or another of her novels. Per Wiki:
      Her novels included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat (1926; made into the celebrated 1927 musical), Cimarron (1929; made into the 1931 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), Giant (1952; made into the 1956 Hollywood movie) and Ice Palace (1958) filmed in 1960. Other works include Saratoga Trunk and, in collaboration with fellow Algonquin Round Table member George S. Kaufman wrote several plays presented on Broadway: Minick (1924), The Royal Family (1927), Dinner At Eight (1932), The Land Is Bright (1941), Stage Door (1936), and Bravo! (1948).

  24. And didn’t Larry’s bestest bud at The Guardian get some gov cash to write his “important work”?

    How’d that work out in the end? I have a space on my shelf ready for it. Right between the spaces for Gerrold’s “A Method for Madness (or maybe “A Nest of Nightmares”) on one side and “The Last Dangerous Visions” edited by Ellison.

  25. who had realized through the Shakespeare series that while I can write lit fan, it’s not my thing.

    I liked them, for what it’s worth (which I guess would be what I paid for the ebooks, or at least what you made from me buying them).

    As far as self-promotion, a good start would be remembering to announce when a book comes out, or a collection to which you’ve contributed.

      1. People vary. Jim Baen took the attitude that his readers weren’t thieves and would happily pay to read more. What they wouldn’t do was pay money to take a risk in reading unreadable swill. He was concerned with building a brand and was aware that too many SF/F fans had lost confidence in the genre to supply what they want.

        An other type of reader likes SJW message-fic and “happily” reads that. Such readers are probably more likely to “steal” books because “info wants to be free” and “government ought support (legitimate) writers and not charge readers for books” and other even more Posneronic things. Whether this type of readers would ever actually pay for what they read is an open question and the answer determines whether they are, in fact, stealing books. If they would not read something except that it be free, there are not really any sales lost, are there?

        To denounce such pirated reading, therefore, requires that the recipients would have paid for their reading had the pirated versions not been available.

                1. A relevant question would seem to be how seriously he was harmed and whether any legal regime to protect him against such harm would be harmful (and to what degree) to society at large.

                  Historically (unlike today’s hysterically) society accepted a balancing of interests, holding that risks entailed by some licenses were offset by the general benefits to society, or that respect of some individual liberties justified risks borne by society as a whole.

                  For instance, as shwn in Judge Orders Starbucks to Keep 77 Teavana Stores Open Despite Closure Plans a judge has held that a mall operator’s concern over potentially fleeing businesses justifies enjoining Starbucks Corp. against closing (in those malls) shops operating at a loss. Whether such maneuver may make other businesses averse to open shops in those malls lest they be forced to operate at a loss seems not a concern of wither mall operator nor court but surely ought concern the public interest.

            1. That sounds incredibly improbable; it would require that all your customers would rather just walk off than pay anything–
              ah, it launched, it was pirated, sales went down, then sales went back up.

              If I remember right, when he told that story here– or was it at MGC?– it was pointed out that also matches “all the fans buy it,” “slump,” “secondary sales.”

              An oddish extreme for “paranormal romance”, though, even if it is a male lead.

              1. Not half so improbable as the claim that “all the fans buy it,” “slump,” “secondary sales.” just happened to hit THE DAY the book was pirated.

                1. Not really, all that requires is one of the existing fans tries to get a friend to read it, it takes until after the initial sales, fan makes the pirate copy, they or the friend puts it up, then the secondary sales hit.

                  Again, I am pointing out that the sales didn’t stop. They PAUSED.

                  That is a rather important difference.

      2. That may have been in part timing, since it was before they did it and after. It’s possible that it’s not so useful now. Hard to judge.

        1. Over at the Passive Voice, the discussion about her trying to turn the tables on the pirates got rather heated. I think it sorted out to “Good thinking” vs. “That’s a childish prank and it will just tick off her fans and possible future readers.”

        1. Years back, I was looking for the Safehold series in ebook by Weber. Found only the first one and it was going for $18 I believe. This was after it was out in paperback and there were two more already published as well. Stopped looking for them. Looked at the publisher and haven’t even bothered looking at their catalog.

          1. *shudder*

            Yeah, Scholastic’s reading division isn’t so good on pricing physical books, never has been, but even they don’t manage to screw up *quite* that badly.

  26. Thank you Sarah and friends for encouraging me to continue in this little hobby.

    I just discovered noveling. Never thought to do it before this year’s NaNoWriMo. But all of a sudden a book is coming out of me.

    I have no expectation of commercial success. Who knows if it’s any good. But I’m treating it like a job so it gets done.

    80k words in three days? WOW… that’s a lot of words

    1. 80k words in 3 days? Pshaw. I work in a bureaucracy, son. That’s nothing.

      80k words that are mostly coherent and tell a story? In 3 days? *That* is impressive. 🙂

  27. Doug: Not by active censorship, but by the far more insidious thing I call the censorship of the marketplace.

    Somebody needs a good grounding in basic economics.  

    He seems to think that just because someone declares himself a writer and writes he should be a) published and b) paid a living wage.  Traditional publishing is a business, and one that is failing at that.  It is not a charity.

    And I do wonder, as he so worries about censorship by publishers, what is his take on Simon & Schuster and Milo Yiannopoulos ?  

    At any rate, perhaps Doug might find it more profitable to promote the joy of reading, instead of trying to get money from a moribund industry.

  28. The myth of the great artist writing things “ahead of his time” is a pernicious one, and might very well (I haven’t researched) be part of the Marxist take over of art. If they can convince people the art they hate is just because the artist is “ahead of his time”

    There’s obvious “defend the indefensible” use but IMO it’s best viewed as a part of common cherry-picking.
    Sometimes people make up ridiculous crap, sometimes something keen, and whether either suits contemporary or later politicians is mostly random unless it’s written as a filibuster for/against something specific. If it fits, it may be noticed and cherry-picked. It happens.
    The only difference is that post-protestant cults of “shining future” merely have to express their approval in this ridiculous form as preemptive reconciliation of something old with their form of Predestination. Saves them more “hide the decline” exercises later.
    Also, it’s sort of misappropriation (“X didn’t know we will exist, but he is OURS!”), and they rarely miss that.

  29. I remember being very amused at the opinion of my school poetry book on Thomas Hardy. It said he thought he wrote potboilers and classic poetry, but in fact he wrote classic novels and mediocre poetry. I think having to do a thing hours per day, day after day, because that pays the bills, gives you at least the option of becoming very good at that thing, whether or not you respect the thing for itself – and there’s another poet who thinks you should respect the thing for itself regardless –

    A servant with this clause
    Makes drudgery divine:
    Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws,
    Makes that and th’ action fine.

      1. I did, to both of them, and to Free Range Oysters two Promo e-mails. I figured you were in the end-of-the year crunch and didn’t want to pester you again.

    1. They get bent out of shape over our refusal to do as we are told for the same reason that Antebellum Planters were outraged that Slaves might want to escape, and old world Aristocrats were enraged that the Lower Orders didn’t want to tug forelocks.

      They really, deeply, BELIEVE they were put upon Earth by Divine Providence to tell us what to do.

      *spit*

  30. Anyone have a link to the Jane Seymour novel? Now I am curious…
    And yes, I have purchased all of the refinishing ones. Fun stuff!

      1. Thank you … google had suggested that was probably the right one but I wanted to be sure. I wish the publisher (or someone if you happened to retain electronic rights) had put out a text kindle version. Now I’ll have to go looking for it in RL… 😉

              1. So if I bought it at a used book store and sent you a quarter in the mail, you’d get double the royalty than if I bought it new? Wow. I knew you’d chosen the title “He Beats Me, But He’s My Publisher” for that one essay, but I had no idea royalties could be as bad as 3%.

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