Weaponized Criticism by S Andrew Swann


Weaponized Criticism by S Andrew Swann

Writing is a performance.

The act of writing implies communication to an audience. Writers, especially in the fiction trade, pour our hearts and souls onto the page in hopes that we can engage others to feel some of the emotion we’ve felt. I don’t care how long you’ve been doing it; there is little that can compare to the emotional reward of hearing that you effectively achieved that goal. There is no finer compliment that a reader can pay you, than saying that something you wrote inspired the intended emotions; fear, or excitement, or joy, or passion, or sadness.

Of course there’s a risk.

You don’t get to choose your audience, unless you’re just handing out manuscripts to your immediate family and friends. And no one gets to choose the audience’s reactions. It doesn’t matter how much effort you spent on making a story perfect, it doesn’t matter how emotionally raw you felt bleeding those words on the page, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first novel or your hundredth, it will find its way into the hands of someone who absolutely loathes it. If you spent five years carefully crafting your prose, someone will mock you for clumsy language. If you’ve lived months in your protagonist’s’ head, to the point you were responding to your significant other in the wrong voice, someone will bitch about your flat characterization. Some people will find your epic space battle boring. Some people will find your sex scene hilarious. Some people will interpret the villains as heroes and the heroes as villains. Some people just won’t get it.

And that’s fine.

No one reasonably expects everyone to sing the praises of every book. People have different tastes and different points of view. Normally a bad reaction isn’t a strike against the reader or the author, just a sign that this is the wrong person for that particular book.

But that’s not how it typically feels to the author, especially new authors.  New authors hang on every kernel of feedback. Their freshly minted book is a part of themselves, their baby, and at the start it is the whole of their literary career. So, of course any negative feedback is painful, and incredibly hard not to take personally. Even a writer who knows, intellectually, that it’s only one person’s opinion, might still have to fight back tears and feelings of inadequacy after any one-star Amazon or GoodReads review.

This insecurity is the natural state of the author, and it usually takes years of experience and hard-won wisdom to temper it. Authors, especially new ones, have a hard time separating themselves from their work. They’ve put so much of themselves into the story; it feels like part of them. An attack on the work feels like an attack on them.

And it pisses me off to no end when I see asshats on-line deliberately trying to exploit that insecurity.

By now you probably all know the story of Amélie Wen Zhao and her book Blood Heir. She was a new rising star in YA publishing, about to debut a three-book trilogy with Delacorte to the tune of something like $500,000. She was justifiably stoked to land such a deal. And, aside from the money, she had the excitement that every single professional author can identify with; her first book was going to see print. I think any novelist will tell you, there is precious little that compares with that feeling. Her own words on Twitter: “I am THRILLED to announce that I AM GOING TO BE PUBLISHED.” Most fellow writers can recognize and feel her excitement with just that sentence. She expressed that excitement on her own site:

“I don’t think it’s sunk in until this very moment, when I sat down to write this post — that I am going to be a published author.


Then came the toxic fandom.

In the maelstrom of the intersectional apocalypse known as YA Twitter, people started expressing opinions about Blood Heir, a book that has not been scheduled to see release until this June. While there are review copies floating out there, it would be way too generous to say everyone opining about the book had even seen a copy, much less read one. One major point of fury was part of the book’s promo materials, suggesting a world where “oppression is blind to skin color.” Cue the cries of RACIST! (After all, we all know that everywhere, at all points in history, oppression is inevitably tied to skin color. Such as in Cambodia, Rwanda, and in the Holodomor.) Another RACIST scene happens when a black character (with “tawny” or “bronze” skin and blue eyes) dies in the protagonist’s arms. And apparently there is a slave auction, which is obviously only a feature of the 19th Century African slave trade in the United States. (Quick, no one tell ISIS.)

The absolutely vile thing about this Twitter pile-on, wasn’t these idiots condemning a book they haven’t read, based on fourth-hand interpretations of someone’s possibly intentional misreading of an eARC and the promo text.  What is vile is the idea that these pronouncements, made in insufferable high dudgeon, are all posed as moral judgements not only of the work, but of the author. The pathetic twits in this tweetstorm had the received wisdom that the book is problematic, so of course the author is problematic. The book is bad, therefore Amélie Wen Zhao is bad.

When you reflect on the joy she had announcing her publication, and on how brand new authors tend to feel about their debut work and criticism thereof, this event graduates from disturbing to absolutely horrifying. For all the claims to moral high ground, these are evil people going about evil business. And in Zhao’s case, they had an evil result, when she apologized to the mob and withdrew her book. (I didn’t even know you could do that, she must have quite a generous contract.) She no longer is even defending the book. She’s defending HERSELF from accusations of racism.

And that is what makes this whole thing so wrong. When someone turns a critique of the book into an attack on the author, they’re weaponizing their criticism in a manner that is particularly suited to hurting new writers, who haven’t learned that most criticism— especially on-line criticism— doesn’t mean anything in the long run.

I do not think it is an accident that these YA mobs target new writers. The people doing this are predators who sense vulnerability. They are driven by a desire to punish, and the accusation of racism just happens to be the most convenient bludgeon at the moment. A debut author— especially one who seems to be having a measure of success, something these deeply unhappy people cannot stand— makes an inviting target.

There is good news though. It didn’t have to end the way it did with Amélie Wen Zhao. Anyone finding themselves mobbed by these twitter ghouls just needs to remember two bits of hard-won wisdom, common to most authors who have more than a couple of books under their belt. First, on-line attacks on your work don’t matter in the long run, especially those produced in that abscess of the internet, Twitter. Second, those attacks have no bearing on your worth as a person, despite any claims they make to the contrary.

Compare the current eruption of woke Twitter with the one surrounding Laurie Forest’s book The Black Witch two years ago. Her debut book was attacked in exactly the same way, on just as flimsy premises. The attacks were led by a single 9000(!) word review that dismissed the book as “racist, ableist, homophobic, and … written with no marginalized people in mind,” and called it “the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read.” (Aren’t we sheltered?) That review was enough to spur the ghouls on to attack the book and Forest as something just short of an apologia for Jim Crow, segregation and anti-miscegenation laws.

Unlike Zhao, Forest didn’t cave to the mob. I’m sure she felt the same devastation, the same pain, and probably the same doubts and second thoughts. The difference, I think, is that someone with some wisdom was there to tell her that in the long run, these so-called critiques weren’t going to matter. They didn’t reflect on her, and in the end, wouldn’t reflect on the audience of her book.

Now two years later, she has a trilogy in print to a fair amount of acclaim. The books have found their audience and seem to be doing well. And there is little to no cries of racism in the Amazon or GoodReads reviews of the books. Because she refused to become emotionally tangled with the hate mob, this event became less than a footnote in her career.

Unfortunately for Amélie Wen Zhao, it seems she’s allowed the hate mob to define her career. We’ll see where she is in two years, but I’ll be surprised if she’s doing half as well as Laurie Forest, and that’s a shame.


After writing the above, there was yet another case of a YA book being pulled. So, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the latest casualty of weaponized criticism, Kosoko Jackson. His case may prompt some schadenfreude, since he was part of the mob that hounded  Amélie Wen Zhao. But he was part of the same pattern, a debut author who would probably be extra sensitive to any airing of his intersectional sins.

These attacks come from a set of people acting as a pack of wolves. They’re looking for the weakest prey to stumble from the herd. Jackson’s case is illustrative of the fact that, whatever social justice pieties these Twitter mobs preach, the true goal is not to elevate fiction or any marginalized individuals, it is simply to exercise power. Thus they aim their attacks wherever the most damage can be done. Since Jackson had been part of the mob itself, such critiques are made that much more damaging, and therefore irresistible, whatever his privileged demographics might be.


  1. Andrew Swann has been writing professionally for a quarter century. His latest book, Marked, has just been released by DAW. It’s written for fans of urban fantasy, time travel, zombies, airships, steampunk and Dodge Chargers.

    Marked is a fast-pasted, suspenseful urban fantasy-mystery. . . highly recommended.”—Midwest Book Review


“A great book. I’ve never read any stories with the premise…. A mix between Doctor Who and the Invisible Library series, with a dash of that old tv show Sliders mixed in as well.” —Slapdash + Sundry


Marked, by author S. Andrew Swann, is a genre-bending action and adventure free-for-all.” —Gizmo’s Reviews

166 thoughts on “Weaponized Criticism by S Andrew Swann

  1. This just in, in the never-ending saga of why Word Press Delenda Est: WP’s email function double-tapped this to me, sending two notifications of its publication.

    I remain confident that a full twenty percent of comments will NOT be transmitted to my email account.

      1. Aside from coincidence of stature? No. We deny any familial bond with those folk. They do not get invites to family reunions, nor even the genus reunions.

        Besides, their contributions to the pot-luck suppers are … grisly.

  2. I know how devastated when I received one review that was an attack on my character and abilities as a writer. It still stings five years later. I cannot imagine being the focus of a bunch of wolves. Good article.

    1. This brings to mind the story of young Henry Fonda’s tale of his acting debut:

      Fonda’s father disapproved of his son’s decision to take up acting as a career. He grudgingly agreed, however, to attend Henry’s debut with the rest of the family. At home after the performance, which had been a great success, Fonda’s mother and sisters congratulated him enthusiastically on his triumph. His father remained buried in silence behind a newspaper, until one of Fonda’s sisters dared to make a tiny criticism of her brother’s performance. “Shut up!” snapped the elder Fonda, tossing the paper aside. “He was perfect.”

      Always know your intended audience and ignore the criticism (and praise) of those who are not part of it.

        1. I don’t KNOW. I had to search for an application, recently, and couldn’t find a single one of the positive ones.
          Things that make you go um…
          The best one thought I was looking for a man like Kit who “can read her mind” i.e. was delusional. The others were worse.

        2. Huh? I just looked at Amazon’s page, and right now 62% of the reviews for DST are 5 star. One and 2 stars got 1% each.

          Was this an Amazon glitch, or is there another site with reviews?

      1. And this is why I would like to shoot the bastards.
        These people are vile. They enjoy nothing so much as seeing how much pain they can cause, and the less that pain is deserved, the better they like it. The world would be a better place without them in it.

  3. His latest book, Marked, has just been released by DAW.

    Given the role played by DAW and most especially several of its editorial staff in the Sad Puppies Pie-On I am not interested in any book which meets their standards for publication and disdain reading any social criticism or columns of advice to new authors from so tainted a source.

    I take this stance not out of any desire for personal aggrandizement but in the name of Social Justice and so that I might bathe in the warm pudding of virtue signaled.

      1. (Ahem)

        Please to note how far into the column I had to have read skimmed to glean that nugget. I trust nobody seeing my other remarks this page will conclude that I hold an author’s publisher against him.

        Any person(s) inclined to color in the picture icons accompanying posts on this page please be advised that the Wallaby should carry a slight golden tinge as the Wallaby is a very jaundiced beast.

        “The satire is strong with this one.”

      2. I’m betting not. If the author was full on “one of those”, I’d hardly see him giving you a guest post! Not that we care, but there are some folks out there who are all too invested in drawing battle lines that have nothing to do with the REALLY important things in life….

        You know, “Was the book fun? Were you not entertained? Are you waving money and saying ‘Where’s the sequel?’ Did you like it enough to recommend to friends as a great way to make the day better?” Those are the important things in a reader’s life, concerning authors!

    1. I wonder what DAW’s standards of publication were? I seem to recall them publishing a boatload of John Norman’s Gor series in the 1980s. Lot’s of blood, guts, murder, intrigue, sex, sexualization of men and women, objectification of women and men, slavery, racism, genocide … you know, the entire gamut of un-wokeness.

      By the way, I enjoyed the action-adventure portions of the stories. Norman’s monologues on sexuality were boring page filler, and not very accurate in my experience then and since, outside a very small BDSM demographic that I’ve never actually encountered.

      1. John Norman had to “go” when New Management took over DAW.

        E. C. Tubb was also one let go. IIRC an idiot editor added a line in the last Dumarest novel (for DAW) concerning the location of Earth which the hero had been looking for the entire series. 😦

        1. Would that be when they ditched the yellow spines (so easy to spot in any bookstore) for more-conventional covers? That was about when I noticed that, after so many years of being sufficiently pleased with DAW offerings that I bought almost *anything* with the yellow spine, all of a sudden I wasn’t enjoying a lot of these books. And pretty soon I stopped buying DAW books, except incidentally.

          1. The DAW spines usually led to visitors asking why I had books shelved out of numerical order…

        2. Ah ha! New management, it figures. You know, reading up on Norman’s wiki bio, I think he would have been a good indie candidate if he was still writing.

    2. My main objection is that DAW has priced the Kindle edition higher than the paperback. I just won’t pay that kind of price for an e-book, especially when I know I can get others that will be just as satisfying for under $5.00.

      1. Your lips to DAW’s ear…
        That’s a problem endemic to the trad. publishing model, which sees print titles as the primary source of revenue, and anything that undercuts that is taboo.

        1. Yeah makes no darn sense. Especially on back catalog stuff that is no longer in print. If it was last printed after 1980 you HAVE a computer markup copy of the text (Unless your an utter Crap for brains which it seems Some of these Editors in Chief are) that just needs some simple editing. I’ll bet there are scripts to do the basic markup change to .mobi from many markup languages. For back catalog ANY sale beats NO sales. Total cost is some very junior editors time for a week or two to clean up any messes left by the script. Then throw it on amazon for 3.99 or 4.99 and let the cash flow in. It may not be a whole heck of a lot but I bet in a year it pays for the junior editor’s time. For in catalog stuff figure it out. There must be some price point where profit on Kindle == profit for paperback. And no printing or warehousing costs. Admittedly amazon gets a nice slice upfront, but you have no sunk cost but the real junior copy editor. Hell as most people that have the training from that straight from college are currently Baristas or suchlike they’d jump at it. And SciFi is a little niche, go find mysteries, Romance. Modern Classics I’ll bet the back catalog there is even bigger and the mystery and romance readers are certainly no less voracious.

          But I guess making money is gauche or evil or something, wouldn’t want to do that…

          1. I know people who for whatever reason buy 99% of their books as e-books. Discouraging those people from buying e-books, means that that publisher will get no sales from those people. I guess it’s more important to sell hard copy than to maximize revenue. Trad pubs. all seem f—ed in the head to me.

              1. Yep, my asthma is better by keeping clutter that encourages dust and dust mites to a minimum. Not that we don’t have 7 bookshelves in the house and stacks of stuff that’s reference so we got it even though it doesn’t fit, but we downsized from not fitting into 14 bookshelves!

                And now we’re buying everything we can easily convert electronic, so the stacks will fit. Cookbooks stay in paper, though. Hard to scratch notes on how to change the recipe otherwise.

          2. > Then throw it on amazon for 3.99 or 4.99 and let the cash flow in.

            No! No-no-nonoooo!

            They’re in the “fixed pie” mindset. There market size is static, so any $3.99 ebook sales would cannibalize $24.99 hardback sales. That’d be fiscally irresponsible!

            What they’re blind to is that their largest potential market is strongly price conscious. Given the choice between one new hardback at $25, they’d almost certainly buy five used books for $5 each, which would net the publisher a profit of zero.

            But they don’t think like that, other than a vague resentment that used books are allowed to exist and be resold without them getting a cut somehow…

          3. I suspect it’s partly the fixed-pie fallacy, oversimplified for people who don’t do math – but even more, the status points issue: Telling people at a NYC party that you just “make money”, is like telling them “I breathe” – it’s expected, and too gauche to mention. Bragging rights only accrue to those who are finding and cultivating litterachure (or similar words, fancied up), doncha know!

            1. Well, not just that, but publishers know that the primary reason that they were able to keep control of the book market was because they were the ones who could buy in bulk from the printers and binders and such.
              Epublishing took that away from them.

  4. All publishers ought, upon agreeing to publish a first novel, provide their tyro a collection of Brutal Early Reviews of 20 Classic 20th-Century Novels.

    “In her review for the New York Evening World, critic Ruth Snyder said, ‘We are quite convinced after reading The Great Gatsby that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great American writers of to-day.'”

    “Orville Prescott’s review in the New York Times listed two reasons why Lolita ‘isn’t worth any adult reader’s attention.’ ‘The first,’ he said, ‘is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive.'”

    “[C]ritic Richard Stern, whose New York Times review called Catch-22 ‘an emotional hodgepodge.’ He added, ‘No mood is sustained long enough to register for more than a chapter.'”

    “[T]he New Statesman and The Nation found the [Richard Wright’s Native Son] to be “unimpressive and silly, not even as much fun as a thriller.'”

    Given the track record of professional book reviewers, people who have to some degree been recognized as arbiters of popular taste and literary quality, it is clear that Twitter mobs are the worst possible people to whom one ought turn for evaluations of literary merit. I am minded of (what I believe to be) Heinlein’s advice, “The most sincere literary criticism is that which begins, ‘Pay to the order of …'”

    Keeping in mind the publishing world’s reaction to Ms Rowling’s little series — and the likely Twitter mob response to a novel featuring a protagonist and his friend who are white boys lacking any serious disabilities and a white girl whose primary characteristic is being a stereo-typically bossy know-it-all — one shudders to imagine the calumny and opprobrium which would shower down from Twitter. Before long Rowling would have been forced to change her hero to a transperson of color who attempted to reason with rather than fight Lord Whassname.

    1. Actually, for most of those on the list that I’ve read… I completely agree with the reviewers.

    2. Personally, I’m not sure I disagree with the Gatsby review…never have liked Fitzgerald’s writing.

      As for critics and reviewers in general, I tend to remember the stone age part of History of the World part 1.

    3. Only read one of those books, Gatsby, but I really can’t disagree with that review. I hated every character in that book, and while I know that most of them I was probably supposed to hate, I don’t think I was supposed to find Nick and Gatsby the two most repulsive of all.

      1. I thought Gatsby was boring. At the end of the book I still didn’t really care about any of the characters or anything that happened during the course of the book.

        On the other side of the coin, one of my best friends loves the book and even though I bought him ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ almost a decade ago as a b-day present still hasn’t read it.

      2. My only clear memory from when I read Gatsby in high school is a brief scene at one of the parties in the book; some of the characters are in the library of the house (which house and which characters I could not say), and someone makes the comment that all the books on the shelves are uncut, and I *think* there was some implication that the speaker approved of this, because who actually reads anything anyway?

        I have no desire to go back to Gatsby to get the context for that scene; my other recollection is that I found the book to be deadly dull and boring, and having to do homework and analysis on it helped not at all.

    4. I’ve read both The Great Gatsby (recently, out of curiosity) and Lolita (long ago). They ARE both repulsive. So negative reviews of them don’t persuade me that the reviewers were inept.

        1. Another useful book is Brigid Brophy’s Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without. I don’t always agree with Brophy, but she had a sharp wit and an incisive prose style.

  5. Mostly, what I see is someone so bound to Twitter that she abandoned $500K *and* her profession (well, *I* certainly wouldn’t buy anything she wrote after that stunt…) rather than just ignoring the idiots and continuing with her life.

    Yeah, Twitter mobs, Facebook harassers, whatever; maybe there’s something to the “social media addiction” claim after all. Why would she even care what a bunch of anonymous idiots thought? Even if she was as clueless as the stories make out, her parents and editor didn’t tell her to just turn off the damned phone?

    She had a $500K contract and a bunch of critics. Now she doesn’t have a $500K contract and she *still* has the critics. Forever.

    1. Which shows that the correct response is to:

      1. Ignore the nonsense and publish.

      and if ANY other response is done at all, it is to consist of two words, and the second one is “off!”

      1. Seriously, if I was in her shoes I’d have published, cashed that big check, and concentrated on how I could earn another one.

        1. Just wondering, b/c I haven’t read anything in which it was mentioned — did any good friend come alongside to support her?

          1. Apparently, “her friends” were silent when the mob came after her. 😦

    2. It’s possible her publisher pushed it and thinks everyone hates her.
      Keep in mind that my publisher/ex-publisher seems to be convinced “everyone” hates me and thinks I’m crazy. Judging from their behavior.
      Publishers believe social media.

      1. I don’t hate you; and I have too many friends with non-standard perceptions of reality to be running around calling them crazy. More like folks over a very wide range of normal mental variation, or could I even use the word, diversity?

          1. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ person, there are just people that are very good at hiding their abnormalities.

      2. Your ex may not have posh NYC offices, but their heads are still firmly inserted in that Manhattan trad pub bubble reality. I strongly suspect they are not long for the publishing world, shame to see what their founder worked so hard to build fade away into obscurity.
        Your current publisher needs to ramp up your caffeine intake, apply a taste of the lash, and spur you on to an extremely reasonable goal of a book a month.

      3. Well, crazy is possible – I mean, you hang out with us voluntarily, after all.

        But everyone hates you? Seriously? Has something gotten into the water over there?

        1. Everyone *they* are listening to, perhaps…

          I imagine Our Gracious Hostess’ reaction to Twitter-rage would be along the line of “Buy lots of my books so you can glue them to stupid hats! Buy extras so you can burn them or sacrifice them to Ba’al! Buy more extras; every one of my horrible books you buy could save some poor impressionable soul from inadvertent exposure to BadThink or BadFun!”

    3. I suspect that’s a huge part of the problem, and power, that social media generates for some people. It is keyed to emotions, and some people become dependent on it and lose contact with the larger flesh-and-blood, bricks and trees world perspective. So when a tweet-storm does hit, it rips into them harder than those of us who either don’t do social media, or who have a firmer grounding in non-electric reality.

      It’s the high school peer group writ larger. Every day I see the HSPG being a wonderful support for some kids, and a nightmare for others. And this is in a small school where the adults (teachers and most parents) ride a pretty close herd on the kids. Turn it into an electronic, world-wide HSPG and oh lordy.

      1. And bullies – of whatever stripe, online and Twatter, meatspace and the school-yard – will hone in on someone who gives the slightest hint of giving way to them. Depend on it.

        1. Interesting, isn’t it, the degree to which social media have become Bully-enabling Systems (BS for short.)

          1. protection from any payback, and lack of authority at best — blatantly partial more often — unsurprising.

      2. Yeah, but at her age, you’re talking about someone who grew up with “social media” as pervasive as air. She would have seen other people get attacked, even if she’d never been a target.

    4. Now she doesn’t have a $500K contract and she *still* has the critics — and she has an additional coterie of critics who despise her lack of spine.

      As a general rule: When in a no-win situation, pick the alternative minimizing the losses.

      1. Two choices:

        1. Take a pile of money.
        2. Don’t take the pile of money.

        As long as there is nothing truly illegal (or genuinely immoral – yes, touchy there…) about taking the money… better to have the pile of money than not.

        1. I believe The Steve Miller Band provides the appropriate response: “Hoo-hoo-hoo, go on, take the money and run.”

        2. Well, that’s the tragic part: she must truly have believed it would be genuinely immoral to take that money, because she’d have been profiting off the centuries’ worth of marginalized voices’ suffering or some such crapola. SJ fandom is looking more and more like a cult every day, to me.

      2. Knuckling under to bullies works about as well as paying Danegeld.
        They aren’t going away.

      3. The best thing to do when presented with a literary no-win is to channel the spirit of Hunter S Thompson, imbibe on a variety of banned literary substances, and run the Red Shark into their lobby, spinning doughnuts while shooting at their sacred cows with your snub Python in one hand and flipping them the bird with the other.
        Or go full Keith Moon on a Holiday Inn.
        Since they are going to hate you anyway, might as well make damn sure they have a real reason to.

    5. You know, you can get a whole lot of mental health counseling with $500,000 and still have enough left over to make the IRS happy at the end of the year.

      1. Yes. My response would have been “Pull the book. Give back the money?” “Oh. Hell. No.” … Know that would have been the response even as a youngster starting out. Criticism might have meant stop submitting after the first trilogy; but probably not quit writing. But give up the money after the publisher had already accepted the manuscripts & paid. Let me repeat. “Oh. Hell. No.”

        As far as this kid goes & her books. I was ready to buy the series when at least the first book hit the shelves, because of the controversy. Then would have bought the subsequent two as released if the series caught (me).

        Not one to deliberately buy books tagged YA (unless desperate for reading material), just gotten tired of the targeted presumed level of reading ability; when the genre took off because of the popularity of the HP books. OTOH I don’t read books targeted to pretentious intellectualism, or (what I term) adult smut/porn, either. The former, if the book gets me involved quickly & early, I’ll finish. The latter, better be super involved with the characters, etc., because if I start skipping too many scenes, I will stop & archive the book without finishing it.

        1. She would most probably have had a modest advance on the first book, with the rest of the $500K paid in installments at designated points across the following books.

          Depending on her contract, she might not only have to give the advance back, she might be liable for cancellation or non-delivery penalties on top of that.

          That was a mighty expensive piece of virtue-signaling.

    6. In her case… she’s from China. She hasn’t crawled far enough away from the set that worships communism to realize that she CAN tell them to go perform anatomically improbable acts upon themselves. In the back of her brain this sort of thing could very well get her killed. It’s not true out here, but that’s what her ‘mental furniture’ says will happen. The Mob has more power than she thinks it does. Unlike most of the Woke, she’s got more legitimate reasons to believe that given that people still get disappeared in a literal rather than just career sense, for toeing the party line insufficiently well.

      1. Good point. Not everyone can overcome cultural baggage as well as our esteemed hostess.

      2. Honestly, I’d say it’s more that she’s young, she’s probably never been in a serious fight in her life, let alone something like this where an entire torch wielding mob is coming after her, and she has no idea how to handle it. With this coming so soon on the joy of getting the book published, I can see her just being hammered into a very bad headspace.

        I think we need to remember–if you have a 1,000 haters on Twitter? that’s tiny. That’s so small you could drop them in LA and never notice. But on your Twitter feed? They’re filling it up, slamming comment after comment , making you feel all alone. It’s not that there are more bullies than thier were (I’d say less, actually), but the Internet allows them to all come to your virtual front door at once. That can be scary to someone who isn’t yet set in her career.

        1. Not to mention that there’s a pretty good chance that any of those 1000 might just be the looney toons who’s going to dox you and show up at your actual front door. Ask Tucker Carlson’s wife about how that works.

    7. I don’t know the details, but I suspect that there is some amount of publisher enabling here. The stories said that the publisher was “supporting” her, so she may just be sliding into another set of books for that 500K.

      The publisher almost has to enable this, because I know of no contract that would allow a writer to pull a title that’s already been accepted. Much less made it to the ARC stage.

  6. Waves! Hello, hello! So glad to see you here. I do know you from *somewhere*… trying to remember where. 🙂 rec.arts.s-f.comp?


      1. Or who knows… maybe I just read the copyright notice in one of your books. That could have been it.

        I get *confused*. LOL.

  7. It doesn’t help that you have writers, like Usual Suspect darling Daniel Jose Older here, defending Twitter lynch mob culture. Don’t worry, Mr. Older, I’m sure the crocodile will eat you last. http://archive.is/pSVYK

  8. Yet one more reason why I don’t ‘play’ in that swamp. That, and I’m an old fart and really don’t care what people say, as long as people buy my books. I actually USED the one star reviews of our Calexit Anthology to sell more books! 🙂

    1. I seem to recall Williamson or Correia saying once that a one-star review decrying their novel as “right-wing gun porn” sold a lot of copies for them.

      1. Extremely hard for me to comprehend that there do exist reasoning people who actually consider “right-wing gun porn” to be a bad thing.
        I suppose it takes all kinds, but sincerely hope they stay far away from me and mine.

        1. Well, it is a misuse of your weapons, and cleaning up afterwards, I mean gun oil is not supposed to be used internally, and cleaning the barrels of your pistols afterwards, not sure the smell won’t linger.

          1. Ewwwww!
            When I hear “gun porn” I automatically think of chicks in bikinis shooting automatic weapons. Form fitting clothing goes a long way in preventing painful hot brass episodes don’t you know.

              1. I have seen this tested. ~:D And heard the roars of outrage when hot brass found the collar of the loose v-necked t-shirt. I did warn her. Honest.

                Say what you want about jogging tops and objectification, if it fits right there’s no way hot brass is going to get stuck in there. Or if it will, maybe go with the nice tight crew-neck. Under Armor compression T’s, ladies. That will keep the brass out.

            1. Normally so do I. But I recently tried playing Azur Lane, and well…..

              WWII military naval vessels as hot anime ladies with guns…On one hand weird, on the other ships are often considered Yandere.

  9. ok, weird – WP ate my comment, but still gave me the subscription confirmation email

    1. WP does that to me a lot. Eventually someone will answer the post that WP pulled this on. Comment is going somewhere or showing up, eventually … every time I try to force the comment, it ends up double posted … rolling with the flow …

  10. What seems so hard to get my mind around (and I’m likely not alone) is that everything said about how small, insular, and inbred “the community” is, is true. But it’s also profoundly untrue. No one makes a career selling to “the community”. It’s too small. So who’s buying and reading books? Where is the market that actually makes or breaks an author? It clearly exists. Objectively, empirically, etc.


    1. Gatekeeper economics. You sell to the people who decide what passes through the gate. The public had no choice* but to buy “Approved” material or go without.

      Until now.

      *See: any number of articles over the last few decades asking “Why Don’t Boys Read?” (Spoiler Alert: It is because boys are bad.)

      1. Not that 20-something year old female English Lit majors are lousy at picking things that will appeal to boys.

        1. My current ‘short story per week’ is a series of books for little boys (in the 4-6 range). Why? Because I can’t find anything to read to my son so… obvious solution. We’ll see what happens with the ‘Star Knights of Spica” though for now they’re more ‘Fairy Tales in Space’ than true Science Fiction.

          1. Fairy tales in space sounds awesome, actually. How does the changrd environment change thr story? Not too many woodland creatures around to help the oppresssed but kind Princess with her housework, for example. .

            1. Since I’m writing them for my son, Prince (or Squire by title but still…) And Space Dog is one of them. There are other Oddly Improbable Aliens. (INcluding space dragons) that can be shuffled about to full fill the ‘woodland creature’ role as well as the ‘fae’ roles.

    2. It exists. And the “ignored market” i.e. the ones that traditional publishers ignored, and which don’t attend conventions, read or write reviews, or do anything but read is large enough to give people you never heard of 7 figure indie incomes.
      F*ck it. Drive on.

      1. Westerns are stone dead, so tradpub claims. Yet when a used book store has any, the handful are usually right up front where the clerk can keep an eye on them, since they’re not only very popular with paying customers, but also the ones most likely to be stolen…

        The people who like Westerns tend to *really* like Westerns.

        1. Westerns are an amazing mash-up of rugged individualism/cooperative enterprise, isolation and loneliness/family and connection, lawlessness/ironclad social contract set in a world that wants you dead.

          1. Indeed – and they are so not dead. I’ve made a tidy number of sales marketing my historicals as Westerns-sort-of, as they are set in the mid-19th century and on the American Frontier, and variously involve cowboys, Indians, Texas Rangers, wagon-trains, the occasional gun-fight, rustlers, and cows. Lots of cows.
            I got turned down rather snidely when looking for agent representation in the early days, by individuals and agencies – “No Westerns,” so OK – embrace the label and make it a positive.
            At the last NEISD massive book sale (it’s held in a basketball court, once yearly, and the court is paved in books! for three days – 50 cents for paperback, 1 dollar for hardbound) there was about half a table packed tight with classic westerns in paperback, spine up: Kelton, L’ amour, etc. I guess the next of kin had contributed the entire collection of a late fan. I don’t think those books made it through to the last day of the sale.

            1. *sighs with deep envy at the knowledge of those book sales* I remember when the American base in East Berlin had one. The hall was filled with tables stacked with books, piled with books, etc. Through them, I got my first copies of Tolkien, McCaffrey, and some others.
              I remember the trunk of that BMW being filled with carefully arranged books,every bit of space taken.We kids rode in the back,the footwell filled with hardbacks,bags of paperbacks between us. I can’t remember clearly if Mom sat at the front seat with more books between her feet and on top of them, but I wouldn’t have been surprised.

              We spent the rest of the day writing ‘property of…’ carefully on the title page or that blank page that some of them had, occasionally getting lost and leafing through a book,and almost forgot dinner.

              Good memory that. Thank you for prodding it back up.

          2. As any reader of L’Amour’s Sackett books knows, westerns are a seminar on the virtues of large families.

        2. Same with traditional (i.e. not erotica romances.) And space opera. And cozy mysteries. And other genres declared dead.
          They either — space opera and cozies — sell very well in indie, or will once people get in the habit of looking for them again. (Traditional romances are getting there.)

      2. I’ve lent Corrias books to people who say they don’t like books, and a month later they were making jokes about “bringing down the Power” (customer was figuring we could fix a thing by showing up and looking at it.)

            1. The Federalist is such an extreme left wing site that I pay them no mind.

              (I’m actually trying to cut back on my reading of political news, and I’ve been partly successful, so I’m missing all sorts of stuff.)

              1. No problem. I tend to go in cycles. I can only deal with so much politics before I need a break.

  11. There is obviously a shortage of hateful right-wing madmen of liberals wouldn’t be hiring people to beat them up and mock-lynch them. It falls upon them to find their own persecutors.
    Like any religion the easiest to attack are not total strangers but their own that can be shown to be insufficiently pious / green / woke or whatever. The left resembles a store front church in which half the congregation will suddenly be roused to a frenzy by an outraged member who had a revelation that blue dress shirts are from the devil and Godly people only wear pure white.
    Thus the congregation splits and guess who the preacher is at the new church. Meanwhile… one of his disciples is sitting watching the new preach go on and thinking. You know, that man always wears button down collars…..
    There is always something to find to argue about if you look hard enough. It isn’t the THING at all, it all about power and excluding other people from power to grasp it yourself.

  12. Hi…So I normally wouldn’t intrude, but the Baader-Meinhof effect requires that I do. I don’t know how many of you folks are aware of ComicsGate and its shenanigans, but Ya Boi Zack just did a video on this exact phenomenon yesterday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKpe6EPjmBc –Vengeful SJW Twitter Targets Normie Comic Book Artist For The Craziest Reason Ever.
    To make a long story short, a self-proclaimed “critic” and obvious SJW uses a purposeful and malicious misreading of a comic book cover as a weapon to berate and attack a comic book artist. Now, me, I’m not a huge comics fan. I’m fine with gently (and maybe not so gently) mocking over the top art and anatomical improbabilities. I’ve rolled my eyes at boobs&butts poses. But I’ve always put two mental asterisks by it: one, that this is the work of someone more talented than I and that my criticisms aren’t necessarily valid; and two, that IF criticism, and not mockery, is the aim, then POLITENESS and TACT are the way to go. You do want to *help* this person, and not discourage them, right? Right?….rrrrright.
    /Lurk mode reactivated.

    1. “I got paid to do that cover. I tell you what, I’ll give you a chance to bid for me to *not* do my next cover. Is that a good deal or what?”

  13. Ah, criticism.

    I recall one reviewer who excoriated a book with a magic system based on Dungeons and Dragons.

    His criticism could be summed up as: It’s not Narnia.

    Another turned both barrels on a superhero movie.

    My response/comment: Okay, you don’t like superheroes.

    Another reviewer took on a book in the urban fantasy genre on the grounds that ‘urban fantasy’ was supposed to have female protagonists dealing with their love lives in a world where ancient mythological characters were real.

    I let my inner misogynist out on her and told her: Get thee back to paranormal romance!

    1. “‘urban fantasy’ was supposed to have female protagonists dealing with their love lives in a world where ancient mythological characters were real.”

      Whoa! Good thing nobody told Harry Dresden about that!

    2. “I recall one reviewer who excoriated a book with a magic system based on Dungeons and Dragons.”

      Man, I hope they never read Jack Vance.

  14. It is a fact of life that person’s of good character make enemies amount those who lack good character.

    One may take some measure of comfort in the disreputable mob that heckles, as proof that one has placed one’s feet on the correct path.

    Short version: I draw great comfort from the disapproval of assholes.

    1. Indeed – I had a character in one of my books basically say to a younger friend: “So you have a deadly enemy, now? That’s good – it means that you have stood for something.”

      1. I have lived all my life by one of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: List to the fool’s reproach. It is a kingly title!

  15. 1) I have always found that you can drown out critics’ complaints with large quantities of money. And the more money you earn, the fewer critics complaints that you hear.

    2) The thing is…any creative person needs that validation. We crave it because we’re wandering into territory unknown, no matter how “mundane” our work of art is. And, we’re even more vulnerable to being bullied and harassed and made to feel bad because of it. Any form of creation is lonely in it’s own way, and we’ve been put outside of the territory of social apes. If you want a big reason why people get weird in Hollywood and the art scene in major cities, this is one of the major reasons. Any attention beats no attention, and our worst fear is the quiet “meh” and ignorance.

    3) Some people just want to watch the world burn. And, they will set things on fire to just to see the pretty flames.

    When they try to make you feel bad about what you’re creating, for no other reason than they can do it, don’t apologize. Don’t let them stop you.

    Just finish your art, pull on the big stompy boots, and kick them somewhere intimate and painful. And, when they’re down on the ground, keep stomping until the twitching stops.

  16. On my experience there is nothing new about the weaponisation of book reviews. In pre-internet days it was normal for authors to be excoriated by some reviewers, often for personal reasons on the part of the reviewer (such as writing a competing book). Here in New Zealand, the field I work and write books in is known for it, this to the point where on more than one occasion I’ve contemplated legal action against a magazine and individual; reviewers are allowed to have honest opinion of the facts, but personal abuse and (at times) derogatory lies about authors’ personalities, supposed motives and competence fall into the category of defamation. I suspect all that social media has done is make such conduct a group thing, and faster – essentially, unleashing the wolf pack (via twitter). To that extent it’s nastier, but it’s not new. Humans, it seems, will be humans… history never repeats, as they say, but human nature certainly does.

    1. Unfortunately here, our libel laws are a bit bizarre for “public figures” which includes, apparently being a very minor genre writer.
      Someone was saying recently that needs to change.
      As much as I hate curtailments to the first amendment, given the media megaphone and the ability to destroy careers and reputations of people just starting out, I’m for that.

      1. Someone was saying recently that needs to change.

        That someone includes, among others, Justice Clarence Thomas.

        Americans’ understanding of the First Amendment is weak, and it’s been badly warped by Progressives and the News-Industrial Complex. The Founders never anticipated that the Press would be able to engage in reckless defamation without regard to Truth and a nearly impossible burden of proof of actual malice would armor the Press against redress.

        Hell, out courts had only recently declared (in Crown v John Peter Zenger) that the truth of an accusation was adequate defense against libel, and they still had the practice of code duello for those disdainful of recourse to the courts.

  17. To me, the worst part of the Amélie Wen Zhao situation was that her attackers, the ones who bullied her mercilessly, actually used the situation to fund-raise! They sent out messages like “I called out racism — buy my books”, and “I am being bullied by racists — buy my books.” They made money from this.

  18. You know, the very blog this is posted on is a great example of taking the money and run – None of the people targeted as Sad Puppies have asked their publisher withdraw books or ceased publishing.

    And in the end, it’s driven even more readers to them, because a lot of people who “just can’t find anything I want to read” saw the figure behind the publishing curtain wasn’t the great and terrible Oz, but a self-centered, narcissitic entitled rainbow-haired creature screaming about reality done did them wrong. And came over to see just what the Sad Puppies were, and started reading ’em.

    Stand up to the mob, and see just how many people out there are actually on your side, eh?

  19. I mostly ignore SNL these days years but they occasionally do something which leaks out of their bubble and deserves recognition. HT: The Federalist* for pointing this one out:

    When Idris Elba’s character flunked a question by claiming he could play the role of a blind person, Thompson shot back, “God took their sight, and you want to take their jobs?”

    “Wait a second, isn’t that what acting is about, becoming someone you’re not?” asked Elba.

    “Not anymore,” Thompson said. “Now it’s about becoming yourself, but with a different haircut.”

    After Elba suggested he could play an “alien from outer space,” Thompson objected. “When the actual aliens arrive, do you really want to be the guy who put on green face?”


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