Two Worlds, Not Alike at All

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As you all know (or at least should strongly suspect, since we’ve talked about various aspects of them all the time) we live in interesting times.

Technology is changing so fast that it’s changing the way everything happens from courtship to cooking, from politics to leisure.  And most of us aren’t exactly particularly well adapted for this level of change. Not even those of us who welcome it and try to change with it, surfing on the surface of the change like somewhat adroit acrobats.

Look, human beings, evolutionarily, weren’t designed for rapid changes in circumstances. Those are usually known as cataclysms.

Sure we conquered the globe and adapted to many different environments, but we did it over generations, slowly, where each one moved incrementally towards the goal. It’s not like in cartoons where an ape came down from the trees, shaved and got a briefcase and went to work.

In many ways we’re in no way adapted to the environment we created, which is funny, except in the sense it’s not funny at all.

I meant to go indie back in 2011. Only health intervened, and made it almost impossible to JUST fulfill my traditional contracts.  Which means while I was sitting forcibly out of the game, and biting my nails, I spent a lot of time observing.

Sometimes I’m still struggling with it.

Because you’re so used to seeing things one way that you have to keep recalibrating just to remind yourself that things have changed.

Take for instance organized fandom and cons.  They used to be the lifeblood of your career. And of course, you thought — or assumed — this was because you made fans that way.

It’s entirely possible this was never true.  As I detailed yesterday, part of the thing was that book selling and book publishing had become symbionts, jointly deciding what would be published AND seen. As an author, what you saw was not necessarily what was happening.

So you saw that going to conventions and particularly seeing your publisher/editor (which is why big cons like worldcon, world fantasy and now Dragon were/are important for those in the trad publishing game) led to bigger laydowns and sales, and you made it a point to attend.

In my case, seriously, I wish I had back all those summer weekends spent at worldcon. Best decision I ever made was to stop attending and, instead, start going to Denver to the amusement park with the boys.  And I regret all the Halloweens we left them with babysitters to attend world fantasy.

Sure, it kept my career going, at least for a while, but if I knew then what I know now.  Never mind. If I knew then what I know now, beyond minimal publication to keep the boys in shoes and vacations, I’d have spent my time writing books to come out in indie as soon as possible.

Because it turns out conventions have bloody nothing to do with selling to the public. In fact, the public that attends conventions, and even the public that will talk to an author on facebook or online are not the same public that buys masses and masses of books.

It’s like the old explanation of parallel worlds, you know: two worlds, side by side, one much larger than the other, and each operating by completely different rules, each unaware of the other.

What I’ll call gatekeeper world, because it encompasses both publishing, bookstores, and to an extent, conventions, is contracting. There are more and more people looking for sins and looking to destroy those who commit them. This applies to anything from an inconsidered tweet to a character they don’t like in a book. For instance I was recently told that female characters should have no flaws.  I have also recently come across a bunch of reviews of my books which try to divine things like what kind of man I like from my books. (Which btw is a step beyond insanity. I write men my female characters will like. I already have a man, thank you so much.) Anyway, amid all this nonsense, they have completely forgotten they’re in the business of selling books. So books are more and more indistinguishable from “moral tracts on the condition humans should have” and — unexpectedly — sell less and less.

My friends still trad only are scrambling to stay employed and reporting lower and lower advances.

Meanwhile in indie, people are thriving that I never heard of, and you haven’t either.

People who started writing less than three years ago are making multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even in my circles where everyone reads voraciously, have never actually made the radar.   They are unknowns. Just rich unknowns.  Certainly no one at cons ever heard of them.

Because I’m curious and of an exploratory type of curiosity I’ve sampled some of these authors.  Yes, many of them are clumsy and badly written.  Not all though.  Only some.

The thing to remember though is that they are well written enough.  Well written enough for what?

Well, well written enough to sell.  If you go back and read Burroughs, say, you’ll find that he was not a particularly good writer on the word level. What he was was a great storyteller, often by violating every known rule, including telling you a vast amount of how things should be, instead of showing how they were. But it worked, and obviously he was to the taste of his contemporaries.

What I see in indie is, weirdly, like a return to the old days of pulp. Novels are shorter.  They start somewhere around 30k and usually top out at 50k.  An 80k word book is rare, and 100k plus very rare.

The reason for this actually makes sense. The change in book length was driven, more than anything, by the need to make a book large enough to sell for $5 — later $8 — dollars for a paperback. They could fudge it some. A friend who did very well never could write more than 65k, but her books were printed with larger type.  But less than that? no.

So, books are returning to the size that most people can consume at one sitting or in an afternoon.

More surprising is the plotting. Let’s just say I’m starting to doubt that the public’s tastes ever changed away from pulp. Grand adventures, improbable events, big battles seem to take the day.  The carefully crafted lengthy stories of interior development traditional publishing favored? not so much.

In romance, sure there’s still a space for sex, but most of the romances doing really well are not ALL about the sex, as traditional publishing had become there, ten years ago.  And there is a vast and lucrative niche of “traditional romances” by which you should understand stuff in the Heyer tradition with little more than a kiss.

In fact “things traditional publishers hated” are a good way to make the big money in indie: Romances without sex, space opera, mil sf, cozy mysteries.

It turns out all these things they told us no longer sold, didn’t in fact sell, but not because the public didn’t want them, no.  It was instead because the public didn’t get to see them. The publishers decided what the public would see, and the publishers decided these weren’t “worth” selling.

I don’t know how much of that was in conjunction with most publishers being the graduates of a few select colleges who viewed it as their job to enlighten the benighted, and how much it was simply “I want to brag about what I publish at parties, and my friends hate this stuff.”

What I know is that they no longer have any say on what sells and doesn’t sell.

And that there’s a whole parallel universe out there they’re not even aware of and can’t influence.

And that it’s worth exploring and seeing what’s there.

Which by itself is a pulp plot.

302 responses to “Two Worlds, Not Alike at All

  1. Reblogged this on A Writers Existence and commented:
    Everyone should read this!

  2. In fact, the public that attends conventions, and even the public that will talk to an author on facebook or online are not the same public that buys masses and masses of books.

    Looks at surroundings. We aren’t?

    I must be an Odd Odd.

    • Eh, I’ll talk to an author via the interwebz (I didn’t think that Larry Correia may have briefly thought I was a stalker), but I’ve decided that Cons really aren’t my thing. Too many people in too small a space.

      But I buy masses upon masses upon masses of books. Thank God for Kindle, otherwise my landlord would evict me for being a hoarder.

      • GAH! “do think,” not “didn’t think!” ducking auto correct!

      • Crowds can be a problem.  In some venues, even with the best of arrangements by those running the event, it just can’t be helped.  I am of the opinion that capping the attendance is not an unreasonable solution (and not just because a fire marshal tells you so).  You might make less at the single event, but you will loose less repeat traffic by not alienating people.

        Although its been said many times, many ways, I cite Yogi Berra:

        Nobody goes there anymore.  Its too crowded.

        • Aye.
          So many desire growth, but unchecked growth has a name: CANCER.

        • I am sure I will upset some fans here (and there, and way over there) but it seem Yogi was far too smart for baseball, even if he phrased it… interestingly. (Why, no, I am not a sports fan. You like it, fine, but “include me out.” thanks.)

          • Too smart for baseball??? Un-possible!!! Baseball has provided some of America’s greatest philosophical insights of the last century and a half. Yogi’s zen-like aphorisms are a direct reflection of his mentor, Casey Stengel, provider of the most significant insight ever produced by American management: “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”

            Stengel’s aphorism is second in wisdom only to that of Rocky Bridges, who defended his managerial record, “I managed good, but boy did they play bad.”

            It takes a peculiar brilliance to state the obvious in a way that makes it clear. Stengel has more memorable quotes than Mark Twain:

            Never make predictions, especially about the future.

            They told me my services were no longer desired because they wanted to put in a youth program as an advance way of keeping the club going. I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy again.

            There are three things you can do in a baseball game. You can win, or you can lose, or it can rain.

            The trick is growing up without growing old.

            All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for… reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration.

            You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.

          • You know what is incredibly popular on YourFaceInnaTube? Gaming. So much so it has it’s own ghetto ala Kids Fic in the NYT best-seller list post-Potter. (Quoting MattPatt) Many people on it are making living playing games that other people watch and even pay to watch. Or commenting on same. We’re fans of Into The Airlock.

            Which based on Mrs. Hoyt’s post makes a parallel world of New indie Sports vs Trad gatekeeper Sports. The kind of sports games played on teams with equipment still just has too high a bar to entry (for now) so it’s all trad sports all the way.

            I wonder how many of us really are not “a fan of sports” the same way we stopped (or slowed) being a fan of SF before we found indie? Of course, there’s always folks who don’t care for the genre period. But I wonder who might be fans if someone in team sports business found a way to build up, over, and around the gatekeepers?

            • I’m pretty susceptible to getting into the ‘boob tube’ zone when watching sports and videogames, so I try to avoid that unless I’m spending my time doing something dull and repetitive that doesn’t require much thinking. Exercise, for example.

              -Albert

        • Main reason that LibertyCon wrote a hard cap of 750 attendees into their charter over 30 years ago.
          Upside, the con still feels like an extended family reunion. Not just because of the limit of course, much credit to the dear folks running the thing.
          Downside, past couple of years registrations filled and closed within days after it opens. In a normal year next year’s registration starts on the Sunday afternoon of the current year con, and the list is half or better filled by con end.

          • And that hard cap is still as bad an idea as it is now. LC sold out in LESS THAN SIX HOURS this time. IT took 6-9 MONTHS the previous 2 years. Neither is the time span you describe.

            A soft cap would have been, and still is, a better idea. Inflexibility is the road to extinction. I’m not saying throwing the idea of a cap away, but that having one that could NEVER be altered to take into account the changing environment was folly. It’s like having a family reunion, then stating the attendance every year cannot be greater than the number of children and grandchildren (without factoring in further generations, or even spouses).

            Another problem with the hard cap is that, due to con-related costs increasing from year to year far faster than simple inflation, LC is approaching a point where there might need to be major increases to membership fees just to break even. And, the cap is at a level that most conventions I’ve worked with had issues where venues wouldn’t give them the TIME OF DAY from being too small. I started having worries about the con when the Read House was first mentioned, and now I’m looking at a loss of nearly $600 because my old hotel reservations are non-refundable, nor are they alterable (and I had to pay up front to get near the old con site on the old con dates). Maybe I can gift the old hotel stay to some friends as a honeymoon if they can get his divorce finalized after his ex has sabotaged it for 4+ years out of spite. but that doesn’t get me the money for the new reservations (I have ONE last try to try to convince Marriott’s reservation program to change its mind at this point – they already told Brandy no, when she asked for me at the local level).
            On the other hand, I also saw cons that were eaten alive by unconstrained growth (one con I worked, the first year had 1200 people, and had 30-40% growth year to year for at least six years, and was 5x larger in year 10 than in year 1).

            There has to be a middle ground.

            The country’s population has increased 30-35% since the charter was written. We’re to the point where early supporters of LC have adult children and often Grandchildren, that might have grown up in the community. Having the con grow incrementally in small amounts would NOT reduce the family atmosphere. Even a compromise where everyone still pays, but staff and panelists (possibly exhibitors and families of headliners as well?) don’t count toward the 750 cap, would allow some more wiggle room.

            • Basara, one problem with changing the cap is that if they do, they will have to go through the entire incorporation process again from scratch, and as I understand it, that appears to be nigh unto “balance the federal budget in one year” level of difficult at this time. Things might change on that front, I don’t know. I’m not on the ComCon, so I only know what I heard from people who do know.

              • Yep, full aware of that – That the cap being made a hard cap, not one that could be amended if conditions changed, was the big mistake in the 1980s. It’s not something that can be fixed now, at least not with a lot of time and money the con doesn’t have – but the problem has emerged from the con exceeding the expectations of 30 years ago.

                It’s likely they never pictured, back then, the con lasting long enough that multi-generational families attending would be a thing, or that it would become so popular (and inspire attendees to become part of the industry) that 10-15% of the attendees would be guests/panelists, meaning that you’d average (including STAFF) about 5-6 attendees per professional, before factoring in overlaps in fandom. And, that level of professional attendance means that desire for the few remaining attendee spots for fans became even more coveted. The issue feeds itself.

                Hence, a jump from a 6+ month sell-out to a <6 hour sellout between consecutive cons (and I can only imagine that it might have been a 4 hour sell-out had this not been the off year where Larry Correia doesn't attend LC (as he alternates between LC & a con in Utah)).

                All I wish is that there was a way for us to fund a way to fix the issue on the side, while letting the existing con run as-is (without having to pay for the fix out of con funds) until the fix was ready – even if it took a decade.

            • Inflexibility is the road to extinction.

              For an established con like Liberty which regularly sells out it means a predictable financial income, so they can plan your expenditures accordingly.  So long as you sufficiently please those who are able to attend and keep in mind when you are spending what your income will be there should be little or no problem.  

              (Mind you, there is always the chance that you will run into something unexpected, but that can happen cap or no cap.)

        • Crowds are what killed Comic-Con for us. Trying to fit 135,000 people into any convention center is too much. Used to be we could discover things by just dropping in on them. That’s how we discovered The Man from Earth: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Earth-David-Lee-Smith/dp/B077N4M7PQ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=13PXVUBEQ2BLI&keywords=the+man+from+earth&qid=1551901855&s=instant-video&sprefix=the+man+from+earth%2Caps%2C177&sr=1-1 Last time we went (a number of years now) it was more like Disneyland–long lines for everything.

          As to cons and sales. We realized what Sarah said after better half published. Cons produced exactly zero sales.

      • *chuckle* Based off your interactions here, you’re too nice to be a stalker! Unfortunately you do share the first name and share the first letter of the surname of someone who IS. (Not just of Larry, but several of us here.)

        I used to like conventions because for a while they were the only way one could get in touch with other folks who shared my interests. I was aware of various personality dramas but managed to stay away from them. I think it’d be fun to go to one still, maybe, but they’re expensive down under and like you I’ve found large crowds to be somewhat exhausting.

        • I used to like conventions because for a while they were the only way one could get in touch with other folks who shared my interests.

          THIS.

        • I used to like conventions because they were a chance to engage in discussions of my interests with people for whom I did not need to wear my vocabulary filter, confident they either knew the words that came out my mouth, could determine them from context or would feel free to ask if I was unclear.

          Now I’ve realized I don’t actually have any interests I wish to discuss with anybody.

        • I’m still looking at getting down sort of your way to a convention, while I’m in this part of the world. For values of “this part”, of course.

    • When I read that, I also thought it might not always be right. Maybe low sales at conventions is because authors are trying to sell to the already sold.

      For instance, I LOVE me some Larry Correia, but getting to talk to him at a CON (or online, or at a book signing) isn’t going to get me to buy anything since I already have a copy of everything in his catalog. Some of it (ok, a lot of it) I have multiple copies when you take into account paper, e-book, and audio book (not to mention having to re-buy paper after lending it out and never getting it back. I think I re-bought the first MHI book 6 or 7 times before I transitioned over to e-books and started using that as an excuse to tell people to buy it themselves… geesh, it’s only a few dollars!)

      But then, that might just be me.

      • When The Family finally had a chance to attend a con where Our Esteemed Hostess would be present we traveled there with a bag packed with her books that we had already collected. This included all the books that were in print at the time as well as several that were out of print.

        • Thing is, at cons I find people mostly associate with authors they already read, and ignore the authors with whom they are not familiar. This can engender regrets, as I found when I ignored Jim Butcher’s appearance at local con because I had yet to read any of the Dresden books — but I’ve read them all now and doubt that hearing him on a panel would have moved me more quickly toward those. If anything I might equally likely have deemed him an insufferable ass and avoided sending any of my book money his direction.

          I have bought some books at cons because the author effectively flogged them at his table in the dealers’ room, but it is five or more years on and I’ve yet to read one.

          Cons are a nice place for an author to interact with existing fans, but a lousy place to win new ones. Having seen John Ringo dominate a panel I am sure that for every reader he gains he alienates two — but those two were not going to buy his books anyway (at least, not after the first one.)

          • I had the good fortune to discover Terry Pratchett via a con, even though I did not myself attend such. But when ESR removes a ribbon to give to someone deserving? THAT gets my attention. And, stubborn ox that I am, I started the Discworld series at the (not-recommended) beginning. That didn’t put me off. Small Gods almost put me off. But only almost. I admit I have started Raising Steam and set it aside a few times. It’s NOT that I find it dull or bad…. I think it’s sort of… “if I don’t finish it, there’s still some left . Thus do I keep Terry (sort of) alive.” I expect I will progress through it… eventually.

          • He’s actually a very nice guy. I THOUGHT he was an insufferable ass for years, and there’s a story attached to that of my not having read his books and having no clue why he reacted weirdly to a fan…

            • Word is that some people find me an insufferable ass, incredible as that sounds. Catch any of us on a bad day (yours or mine or both) and absent a long established acquaintance the jokes all land not just flat but sideways.

              Which points up one of the major problems with the People Who Reeeee and demand all offending folks be cleansed from their spaces or forced to conform. Driving all segments into their closets dis-aggregates society and puts us all at one another’s throats; enforced conformity breeds resentment.

          • I’ve found new authors I like at Comic Cons and read their books, and purchased them, and now look out for more of the same. But the big cons are an odd thing, and of course, comics are a fast read and you can instantly tell if the visual storytelling appeals.

            The big comic cons are … odd. They’re definitely a fun excursion for a group of fans. I like the Anime Conventions best, but haven’t been to enough to really judge. Overwhelming to go to just as a family, unless you’re a family with young kids, and are careful with them. The cosplay scene is fun if you are into that. Some of the panels are Soc-jus central because of the kinds of folk who want to do panels at these cons. And mostly empty. The big ticket pro panels are YUUGE and stick to the occasional mild virtue signalling.

            Of course all our local cons involve driving, and traffic and parking hassles, and some involve going into Woke Cities. (Heyo! Let’s get lost because a major intersection is shut down by the Unwashable Protesters crew) and I’m a home body.

      • I never went to any cons; dealing with crowds wasn’t my thing. The only author signing I attended, I already had the book, and that’s what I had signed. Didn’t bring any of the others I had. (Niven and Pournelle)

        • I went to the San Diego ComicCon a couple of times at the old El Cortez Hotel and Convention Center back around the time that “Logan’s Run” was a thing. I found some interesting stuff (including people with a display from a tech company that I would one day work for) but after a couple of years I stopped and never went back. I couldn’t voice WHY I didn’t go back until I read the beginning of Niven and Pournelle’s “Inferno.” Carpenter’s description of the events leading up to his death suddenly explained it to me.

      • He came Highly Recommended, and I can see why he & his work is popular. BUT… I also find it’s “not for me” at least at standard dosage. I listened to the first MHI work as an audiobook.. and set it aside lots, until at least halfway through and then all but burned through it. The second? I set it aside a few times, still in first few chapters – because I need to breathe and while “mile-a-minute action” might be great for some… well, I set it aside.

        Meanwhile, I’m reading a paper book by a neurosurgeon, listened to a couple audio books of nuclear incidents and disasters, and plagues… because those are less taxing. Do I say LC is bad? NOPE! But… small doses go a long, long way *for me*. Perhaps some anthology where the stories are shorter might have greater appeal – to me.

        • TheOtherSean

          Your reaction to MHI is because you’re a minotaur, isn’t it?

        • LC isn’t for everyone. I have a friend who read the first chapter of MHI and complained that it was TOO EXCITING. So I understand where you are coming from.

          (trigger warning) Similarly, I read the first couple Dresden books… and didn’t really feel inclined to continue. I know I SHOULD like them. People whom I trust for book recommendations practically fawn over those books. But, they just didn’t work for me. The weird part is, I haven’t been able to figure out WHY. However, any time a book sits in the kindle app on my phone unfinished for more than a couple days, but I find myself playing dumb phone games when I’m stuck waiting somewhere instead of reading, that’s a huge indication that book just isn’t working for me.

          • A lot of people will tell you to start with book three, and then come back and read the first two IF you want to. It’s okay if you still can’t get into them, of course. But that’s the general consensus.

            • Book #1, Storm Front, is a first novel and it shows, thus Chrismouse’ suggestion might work.

              OTOH, in matters of taste there is no disputing and the Dresdenverse might simply not suit you; there is no shortage of good reads out there and many worth reading more than once, so if you find the books easy to put down and hard to pick up again there is no reason to force yourself. There is an interesting series set in a libertarian space colony that might interest you; the first book is titled Darkship Thieves and features the kind of strong female narrator that SJWs are forever demanding (and rarely inclined to like when given.)

              • LOL! I’ve read… then read again… then got the audio book and listened to (I have a long commute), Darkship Thieves (and the rest of the series) and would be willing to crawl across broken glass to beg Sarah for more. Well… maybe not literally… but if allowed thick pants and gloves, maybe…

                On the recommendation, I got Dresden book 3 and I’ll give it a chance as soon as I’m done with Sakura. I WANTED to like Dresden because so many of my friends seem to love it. So it’s worth the effort.

                Oh, and MHI Guardian is out soon!!! SQUEEE!!!! (sorry, can’t help myself)

          • Read the fourth book. Seriously.

            • Ok, if I make it through book 3, I will try to persevere and continue with book 4. Although I have a Brandon Sanderson in the to-read pile that I really want to get to first.

          • Amsel, Matthew

            Fair enough re Dresden – the series doesn’t really get good until book 4.

            • I’ve read everything in the series. But, I’ve read by other fans of the series, that they tell new inducties to read book 4. Then read books 1 – 3, to pickup the needed back ground information, realizing that they aren’t as well written/good.

      • One quickly becomes the other, within several years – when Peter was first starting out, almost nobody at LibertyCon knew who he was or had read his books. I could actually track a decent sales bounce from the con itself, and I put out swag promoting his books on the freebie table. (Thankfully, Brandy didn’t murder us or run us out of the convention the year we gave away bouncy balls. The kiddos sure had fun!)

        But I could watch an almost logarithmic drop, year on year, after that – because he reached the point where many people knew who he was, and if they were interested in his subgenres and style, they’d already bought the books. The only bounce coming now is discovery on latest books, or, “Oh, hey, that came out? I didn’t know!” They tap their phone several times, and have a new ebook downloading. And even that is small.

        Last year, with health problems, I didn’t even bring any swag at all, and the discovery bounce was almost identical to the last year we’d brought swag. Which begs the question: is it worth it? The answer depends on if I’m just doing swag wrong, or the con attendee market has been saturated… and I’m not a mind reader. Can’t answer that one, not without changing the parameters on the experiment.

        • Dorothy, I don’t know about anyone else, but for me swag has no attraction because of all the swag I’ve picked up in 30 years of sci-fi cons, IT cons, gaming cons, etc. Most of it isn’t overly unique, and unless it’s a local con, not worth the hassle of getting it home…. where it can go on the shelves with all the other stuff.

    • Haven’t been to a con in years. World Con ’95 in Glasgow to be exact. (Discovered that Allen Steele looked exactly as I’d pictured him in my mind except about a foot shorter.) Every so often I attempt one here in the Twin Cities, but with not finding a parking spot within a half-mile of the venue and other considerations, it just doesn’t seem to warrant the effort anymore. Especially since the Featured Players (TM) end up being nobody I’ve ever heard of, much less care about.

    • This blog, sure. But seriously there are probably 10 people for each of you, who don’t even know I have a blog.

      • It gets worse! Not only does your blog only contain the readers who became fans (a small subset of readers, right there), but fans who like the internet enough to go out and find your blog (many people have no desire to follow their favourite entertainers on social media, and I can’t blame them. Many also will only follow one or two whom they find amusing or interesting). And some only like one particular genre (Dyce Dare fans, we love you! There’s hope for more yet!)

        But wait, there’s more! Some of your readers and a smaller subset of commenters (for there are many lurkers to every commenter, and many commenters to the Regular Suspects Who Comment A Lot) actually came for the blog, and may not care for your fiction! So you can’t even look at number of unique visitors and regular traffic for direct blog reader: fiction buyers comparison!

        …Peter actually has the same thing: blog fans vs. fiction fans. Which is why we debate putting up a tip jar on the blog, since he occasionally gets emails of “I don’t like your fiction, but I love your blog, so I bought your latest book…”

        But even so, when looking at Peter’s blog traffic, we can tell that there a large number people out there who don’t care about Peter’s social media presence or his existence as a person, outside of “When’s the next one coming out?” And that’s perfectly awesome, because it’s not about the author, it’s about someone being entertained by the story. Yay entertained readers!

        • Speaking of the tip jar … new month, time t ante up.

        • *waves* Was linked the blog when I had no idea who Sarah was, but felt like what she was saying, particularly about Communism, was like someone took the words out of my head and shook them up so they read well. It took ages before I even bought DST.

          (I converted eventually, but I figure it’s a data point! I liked DST well enough, really enjoyed AFGM… and just burned through Dyce as quickly as I could because I apparently didn’t know I needed that in my life. >.> So.)

          • I had bought and read “Gentleman Takes a Chance” way back when – on a day in Borders when I could find nothing else whatsoever, and it had “Baen” on it.

            Thought that “Well, a decent enough writer, but shape shifters aren’t really my big thing – and Weber, Ringo, Flint, etc. are supposed to have new ones out Real Soon Now.” Completely forgot her name.

            Then PJM ran the series (the old one) on covers. The Muse was just beginning to stir at the time, so I went through the whole set as they were posted. Then found out that the lady had her own blog – which I hesitantly visited (some PJM writers are sane, others are definitely not).

            The rest, as it is said, was history…

            • some PJM writers are sane, others are definitely not

              I disagree. None of them are sane* but some are interestingly nuts.

              *For certain values of sane as defined by the terminally PC

            • I read Gentleman Takes a Chance eventually after getting it as part of a Baen bundle. Followed Instapundit links to Sara’s blog a few times, then began coming here directly. Visited the blog many times for politics before finally realizing that I had read her fiction.
              Old bears are slow sometimes.

        • I discovered this blog and was reading it for a while before I read any of Our Esteemed Hostess’ published works.

          • I saw the posts for DST at Insty iirc, and later a link here. Read that post, bought the book to read, and it was all downhill from there.

        • Second the tip jar. I buy nearly all of Mr. Grant’s books (and wish Take the Star Road would come out in paper for Christmas. I have nephews, darn it) but if I’m a regular consumer of your creative product, I’ll want to pay up.

          Author Gets Paid FTW

      • Wait.
        You have a blog?!

    • What I do a con has changed over the past decade.

      I only go to one con a year (usually Bubonicon). I used to try to go to many panels to hear the discussion. I still go to a few panels if the discussion is good (and especially if Jane Lindskold is the moderator: her skills are head and shoulders and more above most).

      But, more importantly, I’ve found that the author reading events are a good way to sample an author’s writing and see if it’s worth a follow-up. I’ve picked up a few that I try to read regularly–and found a few to avoid, as well.

    • That’s certainly my case. I’ve spent untold amounts of money, read thousands of books and even have a cousin who was/is hooked up into fandom enough to have been on many many concoms including worldcon. Yet until I was in my late 20s had never known there was this huge network of cons ( Bimbos of the Death Sun enlightened me) and not until I was in my 50s did I attend one. But that didn’t slow down my reading and buying of SFF at all especially since I’ve been mostly BUYING books to read since I was old enough to have pocket money and only rarely getting books from the library.

  3. “So books are more and more indistinguishable from ‘moral tracts on the condition humans should have’ and — unexpectedly — sell less and less.”
    This prompted a professional reflection of my own: There’s a famous speech by the first director of the Boston Public Library (IIRC) to the first graduating class of professional librarians back in the days of steam. In it, the gracious ladies are reminded of their duty to help break the public of the pernicious and corrupting habit of reading novels by steering them towards Responsible Reading, e.g., translations of Plutarch and Suetonius, and uplifting collections of sermons from the noted pastors of the day. So not everything changes …..
    And: All hail the triumphant return of Pulp and “things traditional publishers hated” (TM)! In addition to you, ma’am, and the rest of the Mad Geniuses, I have 3 words for the readers here: Teel James Glenn. Trust me. And let’s all have fun, especially WrongFun!

    • … uplifting collections of sermons from the noted pastors of the day

      Those pastors were at the very least trained professionals. I very much doubt the curriculum vitae of modern authors, editors and publishers would reveal many degrees in moral philosophy (I am willing to concede that there might well be a plethora of degrees in immoral philosophy.)

      • So are our current bunch of ninnies. Wise, intelligent,and trained are different things. One can train a goldfish

    • Anyne remember the Young Adult novels of the 1970’s? They were ALL (or it seemed all) full of ‘relevance’, and I couldn’t gag my way through any of ‘em. My cousin Ellen, in the same period, was having astonishing (to the Education Professionals) success getting military brats to read by feeding them Doc Savage and The Shadow.

      Trad Publishing has been fucking up the same way for a while.

      • If you want kids to develop their intellect, let them read anything they like. I learned on Baseball Digest, comic books, and whatever was on the bookshelves (no doubt donated) at the back wall of my catholic elementary school (lots of Heinlein 🙂 but also AJ Cronyn and many others).

        • Ah, the these morons are concerned that kids read Right Things. And it isn’t that they would rather the kids not read than read Wrong Things, it’s that it never occurs to them that kids don’t like reading Improving Works. I mean, the kids SHOULD read Improving Works; naturally they would like then if they would only TRY.

          *spit*

          • Kids don’t like Moralizing Improvement works, actually interesting improvement works like ‘The Dangerous Book for Boys’ they love, cause it actually engages stuff they want to learn.

            • Oh, I think they do actually. If the author has skills and uses them, and the voice is consistent (swashbuckling comic action suddenly gives way to minor bouts of virtue signalling vs said signalling always there and integrated into the characters from the get-go). What the moralizing is, too, also matters.

              What really gets their back up is: Read this Or Else.

              Kids being human too.

        • It was series on dragons that finally got my son to read (Wings of Fire). I was crying about his not wanting to read only a few years ago. He is currently devouring The Dresden Files, after being pushed to read an author that wasn’t Matthew Reilly, Larry Correia and Dave Freer, and opening him on The Furies of Calderon. (he came up to me with all the money he had and pleaded with me to get the second book after reading the first. Ha! Success!)

      • TheOtherSean

        Many if not most of the YA books being shoved down our throats in the middle school years during the 80’s were remnants of that age. In high school we graduated to similar adult novels scattered among the “great works.” (Some of those “great works” were decent – I devoured the World Mythology course and Shakespeare, and some of the other stuff was decent.)

      • full of ‘relevance’, and I couldn’t gag my way through any of ‘em.

        William Sleator’s House of Stairs and John Christopher’s Tripod books were the first SF I ever remember reading, as a fourth or fifth grader in the 1970s. I honestly loved them. 😐 I guess I was too young or too dense to pick up on the proto-Wokeness contained therein or something.

    • Rich Rostrom

      Suetonius as “Responsible Reading”?? I Don’t Think So. He makes the typical “penny dreadful” look tame (not just the chapters on Caligula and Nero, but also Tiberius, Galba, and Domitian – and Julius, oh my yes).

  4. … if I knew then what I know now

    I’d have bought Nike at $0.28 in 1987 (current price: $85.73) and Apple in 2007 at $28.30 (current price: $175.53) and Amazon at $53.55 in 1998 (current price: $1,692.43).


    And I would NOT have used The Incredible Hulk #1 (cover price, $0.12, mint condition; current mint price, 264,000) as fire starter in the winter of 1965.

    • Aaargh . . . And, in 1982, I *would* have bought the Army Thompson submachine gun at the gun show for $850.00 . . .

    • It pains me to point out that your current quote for Apple is somewhat misleading. Apple stock has split several times over the past 20 years including a 7 for 1 split in 2014.
      So a single share bought in early 1987 would have become 56 shares today.
      Years ago I bought 300 shares of Apple, later sold them and doubled my money. Had I simply sat on those shares and left them alone they would now be worth something like $2.5 million.
      Thought I was being a clever trader at the time, dang it.

      • Rich Rostrom

        I did the same thing. Like you, I thought a 100% gains was hot stuff, especially after waiting out a 40% decline in between.

      • The stock tracker I used appeared to be normalized for such splits. The interactive graph did not reflect the kind of extreme drops that would indicate stock splits. I should have provided the link, but WP’s single URL requirement meant I had to chose just one, so I opted against any of the stock comparisons.

        As I did not bookmark the data I cannot (ain’t gonna bother to) check my work.

        As for being a clever trader, it depends on how you reinvested the money from those shares sold, doesn’t it?

    • For those firing up the time machine, the date to buy AMZN was September 21, 2001 when it closed at $7.48/sh, then jump ahead to last fall and sell it on September 24th 2018 at $2,039.51/sh.

      This message brought to you by TransTime Brokerage Services, your sure-thing stock market temporal advice source!

    • Collectables have prices that you would pay for them…and prices you might get for them if you are lucky. And the latter are a tiny portion of the former. I’m a collector in remission (it’s like being an alcoholic, only more cluttered). Comic books, in particular, are volitile as hell.

      • The cost to purchase. The cost of the time to read. The cost to store properly, and if necessary move and store again, and again, and again — until you decide you are good and ready to part with said collection. Then cost in time to catalog and prepare for market, and the cost of having them assessed …

        • Someone was offering to sell me his father’s collection of comics for 8500 AUD, because he didn’t know what to do with them (we live in military housing so there are twice-yearly inspections and that inspection was spent more going ‘oooh so many books’ and chatting). I didn’t have that money, even though I knew I would hugely profit from it. I told him, very seriously, to have the collection assessed, and saved for later, as the value would go up even more.

      • Comic books, in particular, are volitile as hell.

        You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to unload ’em,
        Know when to walk away and know when to run.
        You never count your money when you’re sittin’ in the booth.
        There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

        • I read, once, an analysis that proported to prove that, given the discount off of “book price” you would get on selling, the only way to make money on comics was to stumble across something hot for a dime and unload it at once. Anything else, you would do better in a mediocre mutual fund.

          This is especially true of ANYTHING that was produced after collecting became a recognized passtime. A significan portion of the print run of anything past, say, 1975, is likely to be stashed away, waiting for a rise in the market.

          The same thing happened with Beanie Babies: there were a dozen or so genuinely rare beanies, from the very early days, and everything else had been snapped up in large numbers by speculators.

          • Some of us are old enough to have still have the Marvel comics we bought for a dime … and few of those were OCD enough to keep them carefully.

            Now if you were foolish enough to believe you would make a mint on Howard the Duck number one, well don’t blame me.

            All investments are a crap shoot, but those kids who initially bought their comics at the news stand bought them not as investments, but as entertainment. If they turn out to be worth something now that is just one of those peculiar things of life.

      • A student asked me today how much a Dali painting would sell for, and boggled when I told her. Some people like it, and will pay a lot for it. I wouldn’t, but if you can, go for it.

    • and the apple shares have split at least twice…

  5. William H. Stoddard

    From the studies I’ve read of children’s literature, eighteenth century through Victorian, it used to be massively dominated by preaching and showing people as they were supposed to be. Lewis Carroll helped do away with that with his parodies, I think (there was a whole late eighteenth-century series that sounds like it could have been the model for Sylvie and Bruno), and Mark Twain’s disavowal of morals did likewise.

    When I was in elementary school, though, the city library didn’t have any of the Oz books. They were series books, and were considered subliterate trash that no decent librarian would inflict on the minds of chiildren. (And really, Baum’s style had a lot of failings. In fact I think Baum and Burroughs have a lot of parallels as authors of travelogue fantasy. But I wish I could have read all of Baum in childhood when I could have read past the failings.)

    • Ever since Children’s Literature was invented there have been periodic mania for “instructive” reading, as if kids reading for enjoyment was not sufficient. Hook them on reading and they will eventually read instructive books … providing those books, like Heinlein’s juveniles, are interesting.

      It seems possible that few authors have the capacity to write books that are entertaining and instructive (although George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis and even J. K. Rowling have demonstrated the knack) and (likely) even fewer publishers can recognize it without aid of a cluebat.

      • Materials aimed at children have long been the target of social engineering and reform movements.  This country has seen various pushes for the elimination of fantasy as unrealistic to the need to eliminate violence and add educational content in all children’s television.  And on it goes. 

      • William H. Stoddard

        Heinlein was brilliant at what the Renaissance called “instruct by pleasing.”

      • All those poor, poor dogs in the Proper Recommended Children’s books.
        I learned at an early age that the gold foil Newbury thingy on the cover meant a dog was going to die in that story.
        Instead, I found a story about a boyscout making an interplanetary move with his family…

        • It’s not always the case. A Wrinkle in Time, The Hero and the Crown, The Westing Game, and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler all managed to win the Newberry Medal with good stories and no dead dogs.

          I think it’s much like the Hugos, where the older you go, the more likely you are to find a worthy story, whereas the newer ones are a “STAY AWAY, THIS IS AN ALLEGEDLY DEEP AND INSIGHTFUL BOOK WHERE EVERY CHARACTER YOU LIKE WILL DIE!!!!” warning sign.

          • Happened enough for me to develop an automatic cringe when seeing that thing.

          • “STAY AWAY, THIS IS AN ALLEGEDLY DEEP AND INSIGHTFUL BOOK WHERE EVERY CHARACTER YOU LIKE WILL DIE!!!!” warning sign.

            What?  You mean there might be a character in there that I could like in one of these culturally relevant new award winning books? Who would have thought it possible?

          • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler is one of my very favorite books ever. Possibly because like Claudia, I am also a big planner.

    • Margaret Ball

      Good Lord. I see now that I never appreciated the children’s room at my first public library, which I suspect was managed on a principle of never throwing anything away because then they might have to buy some new books. I happily read my way through all the Oz books, all of Tom Swift and Nancy Drew, all of Burroughs’ Mars books, and a rather odd series of children’s historical novels entitled, if I remember correctly, “A Little Maid of Old [fill in American city or state].

      • While I only barely recall bits here and there, it was good that I had access to the first (or close enough) Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and Oz books. I suspect the “modernized” versions would have me ready to start swinging a comically large ax(e) at those ruined such. So Nancy was a girl? Well, why shouldn’t a girl have a brain?

        • So Nancy was a girl? Well, why shouldn’t a girl have a brain?

          To paraphrase Al Capone, A girl can go a long way with a brain. She can go a lot farther with a brain and a push-up bra.

        • Miss Drew was a flapper. I have the book to prove it.

          • Some years ago a number of the original Nancy Drew mysteries were reprinted with introductions by various modern authors.  The Daughter was initially not interested, as the most recent modern rewrites and stories had proved of little interest.  In mid-elementary school she had been given a ‘new’ combined Nancy Drew/Hardy Boy mystery by my Step-mother, which she, therefore, felt compelled to complete.  (The Step-mother had tried very hard to find a book to interest a young but highly advanced reader.)  She did not find the mystery very involving and made one comment to me after reading, which was delivered with utter disgust, ‘There was kissing!’ 

            When The Daughter did finally try the originals she found that the old stories did express some values and attitudes reflecting the time in which they were written, but that didn’t bother her as she knew history.  She also found that the originals used a much wider vocabulary with a more sophisticated sentence structure and actually had some depth.  She, like we, wonder why publishers think that stupefying books will inspire reading.  

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I’ve heard that the Original Nancy Drew stories included boy-friends (sans kissing) because boys were so useful “fighting the bad guy when necessary”.

              I suspect the modern publishers would hate the idea that Nancy would need help “fighting the bad guy”. 😈

            • Yes. Original Nancy Drew was good fun.

      • I loved, loved the Lois Lenski books. And other “old” things that the librarians never tossed. At least, not tossed until recently.

    • If you haven’t already, check out Kipling’s STALKY & CO. Among other things, they show how thoroughly boys of that era despised reproving moral tales like ERIC, OR LITTLE BY LITTLE.

      • I don’t suppose I could ask for what would be good books to start compiling for a little one? I used to have a small library for the kids but they got destroyed in the flood back in the Philippines. =/

        • Ok, first I would want to know how little.

          But, here’s a first pass,

          The Winnie the Pooh books by A. A. Milne (quick,mbefore the kid gets convinced Disney is the real deal). Also WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG and NOW WE ARE SIX

          THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

          THE JUST SO STORIES if only for ‘The sing song of old man kangaroo’.

          THE SPACE CHILD’S MOTHER GOOSE

          THE JUNGLE BOOKS

          PUCK OF POOK’S HILL and REWARDS AND FAIRIES

          ELOISE (by Kay Thompson)

          THE ANIMAL GARDEN by Ogden Nash

        • I went through a phase where I had had enough of A.A. Milne (understanding why ‘Tonstant Weader fwowed-up’).  I can and do still sing Half Way Up The Stairs when feeling pensive.  I have been known to launch out with, ‘James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPree took great care of his mother, though he was only three.’  And I have a profound fondness for a certain king and his desire for a great big red india-rubber ball — in part because it brings memories of a friend now gone from this earth.

          Shel Silverstein’s children’s poetry is a good antidote when you had too much Milne — and are just plain fun.  (Mrs. McTwitter was the baby sitter, I think she’s a little bit crazy.  She thinks the baby sitter is supposed To sit upon the baby.)I agree with the suggested The Just So Stories, but I would add, if only for The Cat That Walked By Himself and The Elephant Child and How the Leopard Got His Spots and  …

          In spite of the recent attacks on her for political incorrectness if you can find them on your continent I would recommend Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books.  (One sentence was removed after the first printing at her behest — but never-mind that she herself corrected it, there were characters in her books who did not trust and adore the noble native American.)

          Look for books by:

          E. Nesbit (Five Children and It and others)

          George MacDonald (The Princess and The Goblins, and others)

          Diana Wynne Jones (our family is particularly fond of Archer’s Goon although not all will agree, but highly recommend any of her books)

          Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazon and the subsequent volumes in the series. 

          Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon and ALL subsequent eleven volumes. (If you do audio books check out the official reader, David Tenant who started the job before he became the Doctor – delightful. I have both read and listened to the books, each has it charms.)  I have started her new series, Wizards of Once, which looks promising, but as I don’t know how it will develop I can’t recommend it for certain.

          • I’ll second the SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS series, excepting only the ones like MISSY LEE that couldn’t have happened. The strength of the series is they are adventures children COULD have.

            I also recommend GONE AWAY LAKE and RETURN TO GONE AWAY by Elizabeth Enright. I like the Melendy books, too, but not quite as much.

            The Enchanted Forest series by Patricia Wrede, but most especially the first two.

            My favorite Milne poem has always been ‘The Knight Who’s Armor Didn’t Squeak’.

            • It seems unnecessary, but the recommendation is often overlooked simply because of its obviousness: Andrew Lang’s [Color] Fairy Books. Rich in cultural heritage drawn from a wide variety of sources these are a stimulant to imagination and an antidote to the pretensions of our Zeitgeist. Look for other collections of myths and fairy tales, especially collections of Japanese, Indian (either) and African. Look at the child’s natural interests and find reading that undergirds those topics.

              When age appropriate I suggest Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, especially if you couple them with a background in Welsh mythology. They make good read-alouds and are available on Audible if you want to simply listen to them together (do not give a child direct access to Audible books unless you want them staying up all night “reading.”)

              For yourself, I suggest reading Bettleheim’s The Uses of Enchantment and C. S. Lewis’s essay on reading old books. While there are undeniable problems with Bettleheim’s psychological theories they do not negate his lens for viewing children’s literature and reading goals.

              • Welsh mythology and They make good read-alouds sounds nearly contradictory. Welsh spelling and pronunciation seem only vaguely related, to me.

          • Oooh, David Tenant did the audiobooks? I might ask for that from the grandparents then, he has a lovely voice.

            *snicker* Tangent! I found out that my son finds audiobooks exceedingly boring – he reads faster than that and is like “READ FASTER” – apparently they’re doing some audiobook for English class, and the teacher got a bit annoyed that whatever book they WERE reading he finished in a thrice…

            *copy- pastes book recs to a file* Thank you all~ ❤

            • Somewhere early on we took up reading in the car — it all started when The Spouse flipped back to the beginning of the book The Spouse had been re-reading and began to read to me a wonderful story about a penal colony and a computer that had become sentient. 

              We continued once The Daughter was born, and found that this kept her VERY happy on the road.  The problem was that once it was dark the reading ceased.  Then we discovered audio books (including a delightful reading of the first part of Paddington Bear by the author).  The Daughter also can read faster, and now generally prefers to read to herself.  But she joined us one time when we were in the middle of listening to an exciting passage of the Tenant, and agreed to let us finish to passage.  She really liked it — and insisted we continue.

              Audio books are good for times when you can’t read — such as when you are doing chores. 

              • I read faster than audio books, but without audio books I’d never clean the house. 😀

              • I did the read-out-loud to husband while we were driving out of Queensland for the last big move. He likes audiobooks – I got him several volumes of MHI this way – because he would listen to them while working with his hands at work (it was allowed since it didn’t distract his eyes or hands) and would listen to audiobooks in the car while stuck in traffic. I’m going to definitely ask for the audiobook versions of the How To Train Your Dragon series.

                On a related note…*sighs wryly* Remember how I was looking forward to catching up on shows I’d missed out on before, and was going to watch them while breastfeeding the baby? I can’t do that now, because I have to mind changes in her breathing – often the only early warning I get before she throws up. I’d also thought I’d take up listening to audiobooks – I have, sitting on the shelf behind me, audio tapes of Spock’s World (apparently enhanced with a sound track and sound effects, read by Leonard Nimoy and George Takei), Vulcan’s Heart (read by Tim Russ), and War of the Worlds, featuring Leonard Nimoy, Jerry Hardin, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton… (I specifically bought a tape player that can convert to MP3 so I can listen to these on my phone) and I have the CDs of Spock VS Q.

                I don’t even listen to music now, because I have to mind her breathing, even when she sleeps (certain noises she makes tell me her CPAP mask is covering her nostrils.)

                It’s temporary, and frankly I’m hoping audiobooks would be something she’d enjoy. But… ;_;

                • Infants to parents the world over: ‘Plans? You made plans without consulting me? What were you thinking?’

                  From what I have seen at your blog that little girl of your appears to be a precious gift.

                • About those David Tenant readings of “How To Train Your Dragon.”

                  1. They are nothing, NOTHING!, like the movies. This is not a bad thing, but be prepared so you do not get wrong-footed by the difference.

                  2. The audiobooks are cheap – IIRC on the order of $4.95 each. That suggests using a $14.95 monthly membership credit is probably not a good procedure, and at twelve volumes you’re looking at a sizable outlay for the series, on the order of sixty bucks. The series does go on sale time-to-time and you might want to wait, watch, and snatch.

                  3. The books are SHORT, as you would expect of children’s books. The first eight run between three and four hours, nine through twelve do get longer (the last book clocks in at just over seven hours, the prior three run on the order of five hours each.)

                  4. Audio quality is slightly uneven, with some minor issues with dynamic range that will have you leaning into the speakers during some passages only to fall over backwards when the inter-chapter music blares up.

                  5. They signed Tenant up for this before his Doctor Who stint. Lucky!!!

                  6. You will want to listen to these multiple times over the coming years.

                  7. Listed titles for American Audible site at link, each title including a five-minute sample:
                  https://www.audible.com/series?asin=B0074EAZG4&ref=a_search_c3_lSeries_1_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=X5QVRA66CTRXQKKV2CNY&

                  8. Stop here, do a little happy dance and go hug your children. They will soon meet Hiccup, Toothless, Fishlegs, Camicazi, Humungously Hotshot the Hero, Alvin the Treacherous, Norbert the Nutjob, Gobber the Belch and Stoick the Vast, hear his name and tremble, ugh! ugh!

          • Oh, and I have a neat two-book hardcover edition of Little House, with notes in the back re: historical events touched on in the series.

        • Paul Hayward

          Second (or third) many of the above. Eagerly copied down the ones I never heard of…
          Also loved KM Peyton’s many excellent (eg: Pennington’s Heir, Right Hand Man); Susan Cooper’s ‘Over Sea, Under Stone’ series; LM Montgomery’s Anne of GG; almost anything from Rosemary Sutcliff (eg: Eagle of the Ninth) – history without pain (also in this vein – Ronald Welch & Geoffery Trease). All could weave a good yarn and cultivate a delight in the language.

        • Mother Goose
          A Child’s Garden of Poetry
          Some Doctor Seuss
          A really good picture dictionary
          Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny or The Big Red Barn
          The Road to Oz (skip book one and watch the movie) and Ozma of Oz
          The Cat Club books

          • Oh! And yes, nearly all of the above for the young child, especially Just So. Never to young to Kipple.

            But you may also find Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook a good resource for finding titles, especially earlier editions.

          • To my surprise some of my childhood books DID survive; one of them being a Disney picture dictionary.

            I had a thing for random facts book (Believe it Or Not! Tell Me Why, etc) and it seems that I’d had these books in my room and not downstairs when the flood happened. YAY

            I also have an old Aesop’s Fables, illustrated.

    • “But I wish I could have read all of Baum in childhood when I could have read past the failings.”
      I was fortunate enough to have a school chum who had ALL the books and was willing to loan them to me, plus a librarian who was willing to indulge us with “popular” kids books (although I read mostly in the adult section).
      A side-effect is that I could not go along with my own kids’ passion for “Wicked.”
      I KNEW the Wizard and Glenda, and that portrayal was just flat WRONG.

  6. D.E. Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, Elizabeth Cadell, Miss Read, Elizabeth Goudge….

  7. I’ve noticed a tendency in my own writing to go for old-school romance and big action pieces. The one that’s starting to get in “publishing shape” is set in post-Singularity times, so it started weird and is getting stranger with every chapter. It’s still an adventure with a love story holding it together, though.

    Then there’s the Young Adult series I’ve been fiddling with, and I have a feeling that it’s going to get a lot of pushback from the SJWs…

    • Ignore them (the SJWs, that is). Literally nothing you do will appease them.

      • I don’t want to ignore them, I want to use them.

        Nothing will get your product spread across the internet faster than a bunch of annoying people whining about it.

        “The SJWs and NPCs hate this book? Sounds great!”

        • I want to massively provoke the SJ whiners as well – but my daughter absolutely forbids this.
          She’s such a spoilsport…

          • Just don’t be *obvious* about it. All you need to do is be entertaining and they’ll magically, tragically find something to poo-poo their panties about.

          • You have female character that are strong and independent, but they are also females who love their men. That, I am sure, is more than provoking enough for many an SJ whiner.

            • Wye Knott?

            • I keep waiting, hoping…

            • Well, of course – I like to write real and complicated people: Elizabeth in To Truckees’ Trail, whose husband was so crackers in love with her that he decided to venture the overland trip to California for the sake of her health. Magda, in the Adelsverein Trilogy – whose’ husband was an early Texas Ranger, and loved her — and she him so deeply — that when he was murdered during the Civil War, she used his own revolver to later take her vengeance on the man who had killed him. Margaret, in Daughter of Texas/ Deep In the Heart – she was let down by every man in her life that she trusted and loved … until the geeky doctor nerd guy finally stepped up. Sophia in Sunset and Steel Rails – came to love the older guy who was perfect for her. And Jane and Isobel, in The Quivera Trail – sorting out their own destinies, and coming to love those men who were not perfect – but who were good for them. The best that can be. I guess that those narratives are all radical in their way.

              • I discovered your books through Our Esteemed Hostess’ blog. See — blogs can sell books — even blogs that are not the author’s own.

  8. So books are more and more indistinguishable from “moral tracts on the condition humans should have” and — unexpectedly — sell less and less.

    We tend to forget that there are many books that are now, happily, out of print and unremembered by the public at large.  One of the common characteristics of those forgotten books is that they represent ‘moral tracts on the condition humans should have’ reflecting the now rejected social trends of their time.

    I predict that decades in the future most of the writing that reflects the present extremes of social conscience will, happily, be out of print and unremembered by the public at large. Even ones that have received ‘prestigious’ awards.

    • I suspect your last sentence could be “Especially ones that have received ‘prestigious’ awards.” Judging from those here, the Hugo stamp is a ‘run away’ flag, and I’m sure there are many others.

  9. For instance I was recently told that female characters should have no flaws.

    Interestingly enough, I was just reading Kyle Smith’s review of Captain Marvel, and he claimed that was the main problem with it:

    “Every page of the script betrays terror of what people might say about the film on social media…Giving Carol actual emotions would, of course, lead to at least 27 people calling the film misogynist on Twitter…Carol [is] amazingly strong and resilient at the beginning, middle, and end. This isn’t an arc, it’s a straight line.”

    (Full review here: https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/captain-marvel-movie-review-dull-directionless/)

    I think the film may also suffer from the actress. While in general, I try not to let an artist’s politics influence my thinking about her work, actors are a bit of an exception to the rule. When the actress takes pride in throwing herself out there as a woke feminist scold, then I see her on screen…well, it’s hard for me not to see the character as a woke feminist scold, even if that wasn’t what was intended.

    • This is also something that I fear is going to ruin the new MIB movie. The trailer is all ‘Spunky Girl Power’ with the character not even phased by what’s happening and always doing ‘The correct action.’ It doesn’t just scream ‘Mary Sue fantasy’ It broadcasts it in 30 foot high neon colors.
      Sad. A story of a young girl stumbling into the MIB world and having to learn the ropes to avoid drowning would have been easy to do, but that would have meant the male lead was a competent agent and a competent male is just not allowed.

    • The Washington Post reviewers sorta liked it. The Comics Geek columnist thought it was about time Marvel brought a female led movie to the screen and the film reviewer made clear she doesn’t like the comics-movie genre but if you do this film was okay (although the best moments were provided by Samuel L. Jackson.)

      As it is critical to the resolution of the Avengers two-parter, Marvel may well have figured this film was a free ride for expressing their inner wokeness.

      I am inclined to agree with those internet wags proposing all males (and females who identify with males) refrain from seeing this film during the first four weeks of its release in order to provide a safe-space for the estrogen sodden bitc… damsels orgasming in delight over seeing their dreams realized.

      • It’s reportedly alternately critical and not, with alternate cuts of the second Infinity War installment reportedly already put together with and without a pivotal role for Captain Marvel, to be selected on the success or otherwise of the current movie.

        The actress and her agency reportedly had a full cow when they heard and fought like mad to kill the no-Marvel alternate cut, without success.

        This is the House of the Mouse, after all, which is nothing if not business savvy, and after blowing it multiple times over the last few years they are covering their bets on eth one remaining undamaged franchise.

        • I can understand Brie Larson being angry. Whatever one thinks of her as an actress (myself I thought she was quite entertaining in Kong: Skull Island), the plain truth is that it is very difficult for a performer to be better than the material and direction she’s given. To have your role in a franchise deliberately constricted because of negative fallout from creative decisions you didn’t make and couldn’t have influenced is one of the most frustrating experiences of an entertainment career.

          That said, if Larson didn’t clue into the fact that her chosen promotional tactics would amount to shooting herself and her own movie in the foot, she has only herself and her agent to blame for that.

          • Trying to Wokeshame people into liking a bit of entertainment does tend to kill it. It’s a bit like overhypeing something- too much praise raise expectations too high, so even a good product will become a disappointment just because it doesn’t live up to the high expectations. But seen without the hype, it’s a fairly competent work.

            Cheeselady is doing a similar thing here, and we’ll see if it implodes ala Lady Ghostbusters.

          • if Larson didn’t clue into the fact that her chosen promotional tactics would amount to shooting herself and her own movie in the foot

            Whattya mean? Isn’t there a vast audience of American womyn and grrrrls desperately aching for a movie representing their personal growth arcs, a movie that speaks to the issues confronting their own lives, of their crying need for a Woke America that respects their strengths? How could they not admire the bold stands taken by Larson as she personally leveraged her newly won celebrity to address the inequities faced by womyn in this nation workplaces?

            • And if a vast audience of American womyn and girls aren’t, well, they darn well should be! Now stop drooling over the men of Marvel and listen to your betters, dang it!

      • “(although the best moments were provided by Samuel L. Jackson.)”

        They usually are.

    • As a side note, one of the problems the review noted is that “Captain Marvel is an invincible bore.”

      I’d argue that such is the problem with the character, no matter who it’s played by or who writes the script, as from what I understand Captain Marvel is the Marvel Universe’s equivalent of Superman.

      The only way to give such a hero limitations is to give them people they care about who can actually be hurt. It looks like the filmmakers weren’t willing to do that.

      • An oft o’erlooked fact is that none of these tales make any kind of statement about female empowerment. Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and most other female (for that matter, male) super-heroes are “gifted with powers and abilities beyond those of normal men/women.” Their stories say nothing about personal strength – that, me bucko, comes from telling what the character does with their super powers, whether they become Professor X or Magneto, Superman or General Zod.

        What made the first Captain America movie interesting was the criteria for selecting Steve Rogers and how he differed from Johann Schmidt.

        • What was also critical in that movie was demonstrating that Steve could fail, in both minor and major ways — from something as basic as almost screwing up his nascent relationship with Peggy because he didn’t know how to shut down an aggressive pass, to something as cataclysmic as being unable to save his best friend’s life.

          Tragically, Peggy Carter couldn’t take that lesson to her own series. One of the reasons I think Agent Carter failed is exactly what was noted above in the Captain Marvel review — for fear of “weakening” her, Peggy wasn’t allowed to have a character arc or a relationship with someone as strong and interesting as she was.

          • They mistake the character for the story, and the destination for the journey. The story is about the character, not the other way around, the character being cool does not substitute for a good story. The hero fully gifted is boring (the destination), how they arrived there is fascinating (the journey).

            • I’d argue that you can have a fairly static character, if the story is set so that the action and change are in the world and the scenery. Take Lord of The Rings – the characters stay fairly unchanged throughout the story, but they’re set in a travelogue where their movement constantly brings the reader into new scenes, new lands, encounters new people and new dangers, and unfolds a vasty world history and giant overarching plot as they move closer and tangentially and sideways to Moria.

              Also, there are stories – I’m thinking of cozies and noir, now – where the hero/heroine does not appreciably change from one story to the next, except growing slightly more battered (noir) or more shoes/cats (cozies). Sarah, in her own charming way, defies this trope by having Dyce Dare slowly grow older (and E especially so!) and gain a boyfriend… but even that only changes the world around Dyce; her impulsive ADHD klutzy darling self never really seems to absorb the mortal danger and get more gunshy, or more mature. But in those stories, the center isn’t the protagonist, really, it’s in solving the mystery of Whodunit – and the protagonist just serves as a catalyst for the investigation to proceed and the plot to unravel, until the answer is found.

              However, if the story is Character driven (and naming the story after the protagonist is A Clue that it’s going to be), then I absolutely agree – the character must have an arc for the story to be engaging.

              • While I agree with you in the main part, I’d disagree with you w/respect to Lord of the Rings in that the hobbits underwent massive growth (literally in the case of Pippin and Merry. 😉 ) and change as they lost their innocence. But the others aspects of the story, you are correct in that the characters are basically static.

                (Yes, I’m pedantic…..)

                • I actually put in an entire paragraph noting Merry and Pippin as the exception, and that Sam’s steadfastness was his heroic superpower, and that in my opinion, Frodo is a tragic character arc from reluctant hero to failed hero, but… And then I decided I was being too nitpicky at my own main point, and deleted it. Hah!

              • I recommend Orson Scott Card’s book on writing SF where he explains different types of stories using MICE (milieu, idea, character, event). Each type starts and ends differently, and not all are about character growth (or deterioration if you prefer). Gulliver may grow externally, but not internally; the story is about the cultures he encounters. Similarly most thrillers are event stories where the resolution is creating or, more often, foiling the event, but the characters rarely change during the story.

                • I’m sorry, but I thought Card had been driven from the ranks of permissible authors and had his Hugos and Nebulas (Nebulae?) repossessed for wrongthink following his failure to endorse inter-species marriage? How could he possibly have anything of value to say?

                  • I dunno. How could Heinlein then?

                    On separate note, i gotta go to an uncharted Pacific island

        • I don’t know; Astra in Wearing the Cape still has problems that her superpowers can’t necessarily solve. It’s the writer that makes the difference.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            IMO Astra/Hope showed her “strength” as a person in “Young Sentinels”.

            Powerless, when she was left in charge of the Dome, she still put on her Astra uniform and took charge.

            While she made mistakes, Blackstone pointed out that she was overall successful while dealing with a major attack on the Dome (Sentinels HQ).

            IE She didn’t let her loss of power stop her from “doing the right thing”.

            Sure, she couldn’t be on the front-lines, but she contributed.

      • I forget where I read (because it did not constitute an endorsement of the film) that the release date is significant because it is the International Day Of Teh Woman or some such Important Event. Audible reminded my of that dubious significance by emailing me about a batch of books I wouldn’t read if the only alternative were insecticide sprayers:

        In these romances, the heroine can save herself
        LEADING LADIES
        Celebrate Women’s History Month with romances featuring empowered heroines

        Blechhhhh.

        • I was going to ask if you meant International Women Bring Snacks Day… but I can’t seem to find any record of it when I look. :-/

          Pity; it had seemed a really good side-eye to the “Women of the world, strike!” commie bullcrap that is International Women’s Day. (You throw a tantrum. I’ll bring donuts for the people who are actually trying to work.) Well.

          I’ll still bring snacks.

          • Women bring international snack day? Well, um, I did have a timtam and some mozzarella balls and salami, and a Mcvitties digestive biscuit, for snacks at different points today. And then I had mussels in white wine sauce for dinner… so that’s english, french, and italian for international. I could go eat some droewors, too…

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Yeah, Superman is allowed to have failings and weaknesses, but they’re afraid of getting the Twitter mob treatment if Carol Danvers shows a shred of humanity. A Strong Female Character still has to be a character.

        • “Strong Woman” is her character. Like all the Mary Sues in the new Star Wars films.
          It’s funny. Go back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, and you have Ripley and Sarah Conner- both of whom were flawed, and needed to learn how to become tough. Yet, despite 30+ years of woke enlightenment, they’ve forgotten how to portray believable female heroines.

          • In the late 70’s and early 80’s we actually had strong, independent women — Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Maggie Thatcher — in the culture, so it was easier to imagine what they would be like. Now? Hillary, Theresa May, Angela Merkel? From those you model a strong woman?

          • > Ripley

            At the time dismissed by the critics as “just a guy with tits.”

            Apparently if she didn’t break down and cry, or run about screeching like a ninny, her character wasn’t believable.

            • And some critics saw Lambert breaking down, crying, and running around screeching like a ninny and said she wasn’t believable.
              The typical catch 22.

          • Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was quite believable. So the ability to write them properly is still there.

          • South Park the past couple of seasons has been teeing off by having “PC Principal”, “Strong Women” and now “PC Babies” as characters.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Yeah, but that was one of those National Review lefties.

      The white supremacist subtext is what really makes Captain Marvel work.

      Leftwingers have so much difficultly noticing subtext that they have to study, and write papers. Where True Conservatives are wholly aware of subtext, and use it deliberately.

      Someone with positions as extremely leftwing as center-right would have to do a frame by frame analysis focusing on the hands to realize that the number of alt-right, white nationalist, white separatist, and anabaptist identity signs is at least three times as frequent as a Trump speech. Captain Marvel is the most racist pro-white movie to be released in seven months. Ask Sonny Bunch if you doubt me.

    • Given what Mr. Smith has two say in his review, the actress may merely be accused of truth in advertising, since the movie seems to be as woke as she is.

  10. Jeff Greason

    Really all that’s missing is a way to overcome the network effect of established channels. There’s a certain movie coming out shortly, from a franchise I’ve really enjoyed. Fans don’t seem that excited about this one (when I saw the trailer, I wasn’t either). In ‘unrelated’ news, means for fans to express those negative reviews have been de-platformed, a long-established fan serving site (Rotten Tomatoes) suddenly decided to turn off those features for all moves just as this particular movie was scoring badly. And yet the word gets out anyway, because people know the title, they know the franchise, and they go looking for the information. Soon it will be out, and in a month, we’ll know if it was a good product — clever marketing might create a good opening weekend, but it cant’ control word of mouth.

    But a *good* product (book, comic, video, movie) that is *not* from a major media channel has no such effect. It doesn’t appear on review sites. It doesn’t show up on aggregators. It usually isn’t counted in “best seller” lists at all. A bad product from an established vendor is something people are aware of — they search for it, and get the bad news. A good product with no media access, they dont’ know to look for.

    While good marketing can’t save a bad product, bad marketing can doom a good product.

    The obvious answer is decentralized, “guerilla” review/aggregator sites. Like Rotten Tomatoes, in time, some of those will become so successful that they become “establishments” of their own, subject to pressure — but the barrier to entry is low.

    Authors and fans could post reviews of work they’ve found and liked, others could compile “best of” aggregations, etc.

    The form of fiction has changed always with publishing form. Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens’ work was heavily influenced by the magazine style, each chapter ending with a cliffhanger or being self contained. The pulps favored this style but with a slightly longer form factor for SF, which I think contributed greatly to its success, keeping the pace faster and trimming off aimless diversions in to soapbox preaching. Paperbacks made it longer which for some authors was great — and for some, not so great. The trend towards the “doorstopper” novel (Tom Clancy era), I think was unabashedly negative — later in his career, while I loved Tom Clancy, I was shaking my head reading the book, going “Don’t you have an editor?”. I’m thrilled that a faster, pulpier style is finding outlets — but if marketing channels aren’t found for it, ways for word of mouth to spread, it won’t have the success it deserves. The next Burroughs, or Dickens, or Conan Doyle might be selling now, and I wish I knew where to buy them!

  11. As the old marketing saying goes…in the end, it doesn’t matter how great you think your dog food is, how brilliant were the PhDs who developed it, how many awards your advertising program got….if *the dogs won’t eat it*.

  12. Publishers (and editors) bragging rights used to be focused on how many scads of millions of dollars they’d made flogging books to the public. I think the public interest was better served back then.

    Somehow I doubt that widows and orphans depending on their annual stock dividends are mollified by stockholders statements telling of the vast number of morally uplifting books the publisher didn’t sell.

  13. “The thing to remember though is that they are well written enough. Well written enough for what?

    Well, well written enough to sell. If you go back and read Burroughs, say, you’ll find that he was not a particularly good writer on the word level. What he was was a great storyteller,[snip]”
    Wow, it’s almost like story & storytelling matters.
    Nah,

    • Bloody H, WP!!! What the eff?

      The version you present online has everything bold up to and including the [snip], but what you sent me in my email ends the bold after the first paragraph.

      WPDE.

  14. “It’s not like in cartoons where an ape came down from the trees, shaved and got a briefcase and went to work.”

    I don’t know, that describes how I feel (and probably look and sound) most mornings. My brain is certainly stuck in a much lower evolutionary gear until I’ve showered and brushed my teeth. (Not that it ever reaches a particularly high evolutionary gear, but nonetheless.)

    • I do not have *quite* that feeling, but I do feel like I am a kid wearing an adult costume and wow, it’s SO EASY to “pass” – and **THAT** scares me!

      (Even though many are shocked I did not actually live through the 1940’s directly. Some assume my *consciousness* came from 1947 or therebouts,)

    • Me too, but I couldn’t sleep up in a tree… 😉

      • Yeah, as sleeping arrangements go that would be kind of going out on a limb.

        • Not to mention if you tried it in Africa, every leopard in fifty miles would be offering up thanksgiving to the great Lord of the Congo Cats for prey that hangs itself, so they don’t have to do the work of dragging it up the tree!

          • Not only that, but leopards not only like water, they can swim underwater for a ridiculously long time. So you not only have to watch for them jumping out of trees like dropbears, they can pop up out of the water and yank you out of your canoe too.

            Doesn’t see, quite fair, somehow.

  15. Harold Jones

    I think cons and sales are backwards for me. Seeing an author at a con likely wouldn’t lead me to buy anything of theirs if I didn’t already read them but I might attend a con if I saw that an I author I read regularly was going to be there.

  16. c4c

  17. I think internet between 2000 – 2010 permanently changed human experience, email/wiki/facebook/skype/youtube/retailers/blogs are huge progress for education, business, communication and a myriad of other niches.

      • I will say that I watch very little TV these days. Sitcom laughtracks, I cannnot stand. What I watch is Formula One races, TCM movies (some), and Forged In Fire episodes (competitive knife making).

        • Gave up cable TV years ago upon realizing I had been paying $50/mo. and watching maybe a few nickel’s worth. Didn’t switch to satellite, and the one station available over the air requires more antenna gain than I have – I can get a signal once in a while. I’ve largely stopped bothering as when I do get a technically watchable signal, well, it’s still unwatchable. Every once in a while I ponder a higher-gain antenna… and then realize that even I go to places with TV, the programs are… what they are, and set that though aside once again.

  18. This is why the wife wants to take all our collaborative rejected fantasy and science fiction manuscripts, cut them down in size and independently publish them.

    • AND YOU SHOULD. I’ll quote Kris Rusch “PUT IT ALL OUT.” If you’re embarrassed, use a pen name. Don’t use Ima Nidiot though, became miss Nidiot will become a bestseller, and then what?

      • Then what? To me, if Ms. Nidiot is paying the bills so that B. R. Illiant can write whatever he feels like – what’s the problem?

        • LOL. Kris said the problem is when they make a movie and you’re being interviewed do you want them to CALL YOU Miss Nidiot?

          • Call me “Miss Nidiot” on a television interview – and it will be painfully obvious who is the actual idiot!

            One thing my parents did right in raising me was to instill the attitude of “Call me anything you like – so long as it’s not late to dinner.” That has stood me in good stead for these many years. (Doesn’t keep me from distemper when someone else is being called names, so I’m not quite as stress free as I could be.)

      • There’s an erotica writer whose pen name is Ivana B. Kinkee. I have no idea what the stories are like. I just can’t bring myself to click on them. The name is cringey enough. I can’t do it.

  19. Captain Comic

    Doing WC in August because Ireland, mostly. After San Jose’s schedule rage-fest last year, I expect to have MANY open hours.

    And I expect that will be it for WC, for me anyway….

    • Never been to a WorldCon though I worked on ConJose 2002. I moved out of Sillycon Valley in early 2002 and couldn’t afford to attend, but before I did I was working on gaming for the con. The experience did not endear me to the entire running a con thing, and damped down my enjoyments of SFCons in general. Still enjoyed GenCon though.

  20. Paul Hayward

    Well – I’ll do a devil’s advocate on your primary thesis.

    I think humans are (and always have been) bred for continual and violent change – way more significant than business changes in publishing – or the rise of the internet or any other technology.

    Take the average 25 year old woman in any era before your grandparents…

    She’s moved from birth to puberty – watching half her siblings die and quite likely her birth mother along the way. Level of change ?

    Famine, drought, pestilence – Huns, Vikings, Persians – someone was always coming over the hill. Compare that with an Android update.

    As she begins her child-bearing years, the natural world doesn’t get any kinder with all the changes birth & children bring – physically, emotionally and ‘medically’. And we’re only up to her early 20’s…

    Hobbes’ “nasty, brutish and short” – and he was meaning the men.

    Hell – that level of change might break me – and I’ve survived Interwebs, bulletin boards, Telexes, faxes, wifi, jet aircraft, emigrating round the world…

    I don’t buy it – that we’re in some unique surge of unsettling change, brought about by technology. It’s all superficial – the core elemnts of surviving have smoothed out enormously. What matters – violent personal change – hugely less.

    • But was famine, drought, pestilence, Vikings, ect a normal, daily occurrence of regular life? A future historian of the USA would look at us and possibly think (based on contemporary news reports) that gang violence, school shootings, drug violence, campus sexual assault, racist attacks and hate crimes, kidnappings and all that were a daily part of our lives.
      But is it so?

      • That’s part of it, but the other part is things like dying in childbirth were just “what happens.” NOT SUDDEN AND CATASTROPHIC CHANGE that the mind has trouble seeing all the ramifications of.
        Note, I’m not even saying that change is a bad thin, just that it’s hard to track all the ramifications.
        His thinking needs a lint roller.

    • Sigh. Good heavens man. What someone could expect from their society, no matter how bad, is not CHANGE. It’s many things, but change it ain’t.
      I grew up in a place far more brutal than here. Was it change? No. It was what it was.
      You’re equating change with HARDSHIP. where did I say they’re the same.
      PFUI. Your thinking is fuzzier than a cat brush.

    • What you describe as a life of change you also acknowledge was the way things were and had been for generations.  Parents died.  Siblings died.  And, depending on where you lived, soldiers came rampaging through on an all too regular basis.  But they way you went about making a living didn’t change that much or that rapidly.  It was the life your grandparents and their grandparents had known.  It was the life your children and grandchildren would know. 

      That is until the onset of the industrial revolution.  Now we have the technological revolution.  My grandparents would not recognize the job market today.  

      BTW: I can assure you that not all families suffered the kind of attrition you described.  All thirteen children of the generation preceding one of my grandmothers not only lived to adulthood, they all survived the great Spanish Influenza outbreak.

      • No. Not every family suffered losses of most their children before adulthood.

        My great-great-great grandparents & his brothers brought 25 to 30 kids between the 3 of them, with 2 pregnant wives. Two (13 & 14) boys were lost with an Uncle on the Columbia River when a raft got caught in a whirlpool & failed to get out, capsizing. Other than that, the rest lived to be adults. Surviving adulthood, OTOH. They lost a number of daughters to illnesses, in their mid to late 20’s, resulting in them taking in grandchildren, at least temporarily.

        My grandmother talked of taking over household chores early because her mother was unable to do them, something her mother also had done because she had lost her mother at an early age. A cycle that wasn’t broken until my parent’s generation.

        • Not every family suffered losses of most their children, but every family likely knew a family that did.

          In matters such as this, the real issue is, “What were expectations?”

          As Sarah observes, expectations have dramatically changed.

        • I could have continued … My Momma, Daddy and myself were all only surviving children. Daddy, in spite of being a second child of a woman with a negative blood type, was her only child to survive because he, too, had a negative blood type. Momma’s little brother died due to a problem that his father was one of the doctors who found a way to address, only too late for his own child.

          Devastating in each of the cases, yes, but in each one was private to the family.

    • “Hell – that level of change might break me – and I’ve survived Interwebs, bulletin boards, Telexes, faxes, wifi, jet aircraft, emigrating round the world… ”

      The difference is that when you went through that level of change…. it was something that every older person in the village for 2-3 generations had experienced before. The strategies for coping with it were well rehearsed, and the people who you grew up with and were used to looking to for advice could be looked to again.

      • Precisely this.
        Is it me or are we getting a particularly bizarre kind of troll recently.

        • I’m beginning to think that we should listen to Admiral Ackbar.

        • Bizarre, but I’m not sure they’re trolls so much as simply stupid and / or naive. I mean, they remind me of nothing so much as munchkin RPGers, who haven’t been in nearly enough busted ambushes.

      • “The strategies for coping with it were well rehearsed, and the people who you grew up with and were used to looking to for advice could be looked to again.” Ooh, nicely said.

  21. Investment analyst and fund manager John Hussman just quoted a passage from Alain de Bottom which seems relevant to this discussion:

    “Our frustrations are tempered by what we understand we can expect from the world, by our experience of what it is normal to hope for. Our greatest furies spring from events which violate our sense of the ground rules of existence.”

  22. Paul Hayward

    Well – I’ll try make my point without allusions to pet-grooming aids 😉

    How is losing a child less painful, less devastating, because you ‘could expect (it) from (your) society’ ? Yes, everybody’s parents have always died – but individually, doesn’t it hurt each of us afresh when it happens?

    So elaborate for me how ‘things were and had been for generations’ was a magic balm for each individual traumatic event. Personally, the deaths of my parents (in their 80’s) wasn’t a shock – but it was a point of change (not a hardship) – emotional & stressful.

    I do not believe that I’m the one equating change with hardship. To me, hardship is lack of food, hope, love, education, or opportunity. It’s not sudden loss of loved ones, sudden injury or illness with no hope of cure – those are more or less devastating change.

    I’m trying to make a point here – that “just what happens” is looking at society through the lens of history. Stress doesn’t get applied by history. The changes in our personal lives are only hard for each of us personally – not for society as a whole. But we hurt and we overcome those changes. And we’ve been doing that forever.

    How can you not see these events as ‘change’ points in a life… they’re not just background noise – they’re outstanding points of an existence. Points of _change_ for which humanity has developed tribal and personal coping mechanisms and resilience – long before shrinks and Valium.

    I contend that we’re built resilient, to endure traumatic change.

    Doesn’t stop each of us hurting.

    And you’re comparing this (or rather, refusing to acknowledge the comparison) with technology-induced stresses from the past few generations. I suggest these are an order of magnitude less intense. Intensity measured on a scale of emotion or stress – whatever.

    Comparing the technology stresses in my life (of three career changes) and continual tech re-education, with the (presumed) stable farming economy of my great-ancestors… No thanks, I’ll keep my life of minor techno-stress – comfortably remote from motorcycle gangs and Vikings; having all my kid-buddies’ siblings grown up (losses counted on a few fingers of one hand); not knowing one woman dead in childbirth, having only one friend lost to pandemic disease (HIV); and now having a rather significant number of friends (of my age) surgically improved with a joint-replacement, a removed-cancer, or some other modern miracle.

    So I contend that personal hurt was never masked by societal norms. Otherwise I could point to cavalrymen, blacksmiths, fletchers, Cobol programmers and trad-published-authors and say that their pain is insignificant – it’s just society moving forward. But I don’t say that – pain from change is always personal and real – and occurs in private life just as in professional life.

    Look at what you’ve won as well as what you’ve ‘lost’.
    And thank Darwin or God for the resilience to cope.

    • I think you are missing the nature of the change Sarah was addressing.

      The changes you discuss are personal, endemic to society as it was. Jump a person from such environment back a thousand years and they would have still largely recognized their environment.

      The changes Sarah addresses are societal, altering the very nature of how we interact with reality. Even a few decades wreak changes so significant that the brain struggles to adapt. Where prior to the Twentieth Century music was pretty much live performance only (the sole exception being music boxes, of which the player piano was a form) but in the last hundred or so years we have gone from vinyl records and radio broadcasts to tape to CD to digital and streaming, each a new level of abstraction. The movement from letters written on paper and dropped in the post — the normal method for over two millennia — has become email has become IMing has become Twitter.

      Even a blog such as this, resembling the broadsides of the American Revolution, offers a scale and immediacy of interaction which is a whole level above its antecedents. You are missing the scale of the change Sarah was addressing, arguing the trees while missing the forest.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          My grandfather was raised a businessman in agriculture, and then changed to a more industrial business as the land developed. But he retired, maybe before I was born, and when I was becoming old enough to learn business from him, he was becoming too old and ill to teach me. My father and other grandfather, were degreed professionals that worked for government and government funded bureaucracies after gaining significant blue collar work experience.

          How am I supposed to find work?

          I missed the boat on the ways of my ancestors.

          The ways of employment are changing, and it is not clear how well they actually work right now. Companies really want work experience, and it is difficult to get it if you don’t have it. Doing your own business is lessons you don’t learn from any official schooling. These lessons come from your parents and grandparents, and you are in trouble if they are bad at business, or unable to teach when you are able to learn. Constant changes in the means of employment, screw over the most disadvantaged worst.

          The assumption that we can fix minority disadvantage by getting more minorities with professional degrees seems like it might be flat out wrong. With a professional degree, you need skill writing up your experience, and experience to land a job with a government bureaucracy. With a professional degree, you need lessons from outside of school to have a level of ability to be hired privately for ability. With the training involved in getting an engineering degree, you need lessons from outside of school to start a business of your own.

          The constant changes in the employment situation may have kept many Americans from realizing that ‘addressing racism’ might not fix minority disadvantage, and might displace efforts actually necessary to any directed attempt to fix minority disadvantage.

          “If you aren’t trying to change everything all at once, you want the injustices of the present to continue.” My rear end. When things are as close to static as they ever get, the complexity cost of doing a new thing is much lower. When everything is changing rapidly, you have very intelligent, strongly analytical people, with a broad base of knowledge, and extensive experience forecasting and changing plans on the fly. You have the lucky. You have the blind resting on assumptions that may suddenly be invalid. You have the confused and disoriented. The last add to the stress of a society, because unemployment and failure is a very unhappy thing. The blind add stress when things change, and they join the disoriented. (#LearntoCode my journalist friends. I resent the blind destruction you have caused slightly more than that of our union brothers.) We can’t all be smart, and we can’t all be lucky.

      • The TL:DR version: Paul, you’re discussing orange juice while Sarah was talking about apple cider.

        Personal changes have always been traumatic but rarely do they engender widespread political movements such as trade unionism, socialism and tossing sabots into machinery.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Or Trumpism. (Which is significantly a) pandering to traditional blue collar voters, b) Clinton, Obama, AOC very publicly and deliberately stabbing the blue collars in the back, and loudly declaring that white blue collar folks are of no worth as human beings.)

        • Paul Hayward

          Orange juice – apple juice – you & Sarah may be missing my point… they are both fruit juice.

          Change with no personal impact can’t be a factor in your life. So your insistence that ‘personal change’ and ‘technology change’ are worlds apart is a straw man – and I understand it and reject it.

          Technology change is just as personal as a death in the family.

          If humans have evolved to cope with death – they will cope with twitter.

          BTW, I don’t think I accept that twitter is more challenging a change than the printing press (and the bards had to cope).

          • Orange juice – apple cider, Paul. An order of magnitude difference.

            A death in the family is a human-scale event. Major change in communication methodology is a societal-scale event. An order of magnitude difference.

            Declaring something a straw man does not make it so. You have utterly failed to recognize the main point of Sarah’s essay: the World of Publishing has NOT adapted to the changes in the marketplace. It still pursues a top-down model in a bottom-up world.

            As t what you do and don’t accept, that has little to do with the facts of the matter. Twitter facilitates a speed and immediacy of communication that the printing press never approached. Prior to twitter we generally had to wait until books were published before we could burn them.

            • RES, they are both fruit juice – please explain how either enjoys any ‘order of magnitude’ difference.

              I did not ‘fail to recognize the main point of Sarah’s essay’ – I largely agree with it. I clearly stated that I disagreed with her ‘primary thesis’ (I meant her first one) – which was (Sarah’s words) “most of us aren’t exactly particularly well adapted for this level of change”.

              I simply claim that we are.

              If you insist that the only hard challenges that we face in life are technical in nature – and that anything else of a stressful nature is ‘societal’ and insignificant – then we just don’t have common ground.

              • You didn’t GET it.
                This level of change was obviously the level of societal change.
                People and even proto-humans always had change in their individual lives.
                I’m not actually mentally slow. There would be no point saying that.
                So, are you not granting the possibility I have a brain, or do you want me to have made the point you can dispute?

              • Cider is a processed juice, not mere squeezings, capable of further processing into alcoholic beverage or vinegar.

                You’ve so completely misrepresented my point, getting it so back-asswards as to persuade me that rebuttal of you is futile. We’ve no common ground because you clearly lack integrity or reading comprehension or both. Rather than saying “anything else of a stressful nature is ‘societal’ and insignificant” I said that the changes Sarah was pointing to are societal and therefore of a different magnitude than the personal, customary (certainly not “insignificant”) ones which individuals and families have faced since Time’s dawn.

                • And you got my point precisely, RES. There are models and ways to deal with personal change, and they’re actually very stable because humans are humans.
                  Societal change is different.

                  • It isn’t as if your point was particularly obscure or subtle. It requires an almost deliberate effort to mistake it.

  23. We were made to live in a material time-bound universe, so naturally Mr. Hayward is correct. Humans have the capability to deal with change baked in, whether we like it or not. We are also designed to be outside of time. The “I” of 15 year old Mrs. Hoyt is the same “I” but utterly different than the material one.

    So humanity will always be in tension between the eternal and fixed vs the temporal and changing. And because we live in a fallen world, we can usually expect it to be messily painful.

    So we build institutions to cope with the change we are capable of managing. Only right now those institutions have, as if overnight become as quicksand. And that’s messing folk up.

  24. Green Nude Heel– for the discerning fashion-forward lizardess wanting to build an outfilt around a neutral palette.

    This post brought to you by the photos of a cute fuzzy T Rex floating around Facebook, which have nothing to do with my planned SpikeCon costume of Tyrannasurus Regina. None whatever. I swear.

  25. Stewart Blacklock

    My observations as a reader. One who has read books for 25 years and never attended a con. A few facebook/blog followings, but not much.

    I was a buyer of traditional publishing (sci-fi and fantasy + urban fantasy when it became mainstream). I hunted the shelves of Powell’s to feed my habit. Then came kindle. No longer did a business trip require me packing a book a day and I could carry it. My buying habits didn’t change. But kindle unlimited started and that did make a shift.

    I started buying not so good books. I would read posts on Ilona Andrews blog on writing advice…and then read a book that had all the mistakes she was pointing out.

    I found out about Mary Sue (I missed fanfic growing up). I found litrpg and badly translated wuxia and felt entertained. I’m spending less per book, but I’m reading more – so net I’m spending around the same.

    You mentioned size of books going down – part of that is because I see Amazon has significantly influenced/corrupted? the market. 2.99 is the new real bottom because that is the point the 70% share kicks in. Traditional publishers cared about a tight novel (longer cost more to print) – but kindle unlimited actually promotes longer…so editing is less important. Traditional publishers cared about rep…while Amazon’s publishing arm really doesn’t care at all.

    I think both traditional and Indie are good things. If there was only Indie, I believe quality would fall even further. Indie challenges the norms though – new sub-genre’s and writing styles will get explored. Unique (and successful) gets copied faster and more frequently – which is both good and bad.

    • “Traditional publishers cared about a tight novel (longer cost more to print) – but kindle unlimited actually promotes longer…so editing is less important. Traditional publishers cared about rep…while Amazon’s publishing arm really doesn’t care at all.”

      AHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAH!
      Sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but AHAHAHAHAHHAHAH.
      I’ve been in the field 20 years. In that time and 33 books, I had an editorial letter 4 times, and one of those the editor had failed to read my book and was critiquing the content of his head. (No, seriously. He had the wrong character, and referred to the history of the wrong character. Not just a name confusion.)
      The other three times mostly it was edited to make it politically correct (and I haven’t been able to undo it, yet.)
      The other books that I’m sure were read were MAYBE 4 of them, where I got “Um… remove this scene.”
      So, that’s 8 books out of thirty two. Leaving 24 books which were sold on proposal and which I’d put hands in the fire were never read by anyone but a copyeditor. And most of the copyeditors were sub-literate new college graduates.
      They SOMETIMES caught the typos, but for the last ten years I paid a copyeditor out of my pocket, after a fan who was beta reading for me caught a major incongruity after the ARCs were out, which the publisher’s copyeditor had entirely missed.
      EVERY publisher wanted the book LONGER, no matter how much you had to pad the plot, too, because the baseline for paper books which they still view as their core business was $8 for a mass market. And if people were buying that then they were more likely to buy slightly (or very) big for $10 or $12, resulting in the world’s most meandering and confused plots, and books that were a pain to write and boring to read. My friend Dave Freer called them goat gaggers.

      So no. If you perceived higher quality in traditional publishing, it was entirely a matter of subconscious expectations.

      Also, how bad/good KUL is depends on your parameters of search. The current mystery series is not the best written in terms of language, but then I’m hyper sensitive to language. The woman uses strange words like “confirmed” as speech tags. BUT it’s pleasant, doesn’t involve politics and has a nice setting and a generous view of humanity. I’ve read worse (and often) from traditional publisher. Also, she seems to be writing about her home town, so I haven’t come across the truly bizarre research that gets by traditional publishing.

      Sorry for laughing, but dear lord, as a veteran of publishing, I can tell you that you couldn’t be more off base.

      • I can’t comment on overall editing in publishing, but several of us who have been around this blog for a while saw at least parts of the editorial letter Sarah is referring to, and it was mind-numbing at how badly what the editor wrote diverged from the character of the book, instead referring to another character from one of her earlier books. It was frankly one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen.

        • Stewart Blacklock

          Thanks. I’m schooled. 🙂 Must be the circle of traditional authors I read vs those I’m reading under e-publishing.