Yesterday, while I was in the middle of an overdue short story (no, not that one, another one. Look, when you’re sick for a solid two months, you end up being late on a lot of things) one of the regulars (Janglionpress) left a comment on my blog which was jaw droppingly stupid.
Part of the reason it was jaw-droppingly stupid is that it amounted to “tell me you never read the book you’re complaining about without telling me you never read the book you’re complaining about.” The other part was because it amounted to calling the author an idiot or deceitful, at length in her own blog.
The THIRD reason it was jaw droppingly stupid was because it made it absolutely clear that there were rumors going on about this book in Baen’s bar (for those who weren’t habitues, it was a pretty big forum till about 2010 when an update killed it. I haven’t been able to access it since But the comment made it pretty clear that there was a rumor circulating about the book, and that a lot of people bought it, hook line, sinker and little tinkle bell.)
Now, there’s only one way to deal with concentrated stupidity of this calibre, combined with the fact that the author of the comment seems to be completely confused over what offends her about the book: whether it’s the fact that it has gay characters or that “it changes halfway”. It doesn’t change halfway. It is like all of my books a action/pause/action/pause/action/pause book. the pause always ends in an explosion of some sort.
I went to bed — two hours ago — and kept turning the insanity in my mind. There were two things I could do: respond to it, as I did on the comment section, and then ignore it. Or answer it on the blog post, in detail.
Now the second is more satisfying, of course, but is it wise? After all, this is a regular.
The thing is, you see, that what I finally hit was the realization I HAD to answer it on a blog post. For one because I would like to sleep tonight. But also because the comment whether it’s on the crest of a long-ago whisper campaign or not will give people a completely wrong idea of what that book is and what it contains.
That is, any of you who haven’t read that book will think I stop halfway through a mil-sf (I don’t write mil-sf) and start writing gay erotica (I don’t write erotica, gay or otherwise. In fact, when I’ve tried to kind of do write anything sexy, I’m told not to even try, because I can’t do it. It’s not how my brain works. I can write romance, but contrary to rumors my space operas are not romances. They don’t have romance beats or sex. at best they’re space operas with romantic subplots.) So this idea will get people to pick up the book who will be very disappointed in it and hate me, or get people who would have enjoyed the book to not pick it up.
So… here is the comment, in all its bizarre, contradictory, but very assured and angry glory, in italics, with my answers in normal text.
And you know, Janglionpress, you should definitely feel in good company. The last person who caused me to do this was a writer for the Esquire. This is the level of intelligence you’ve achieved. I hope it’s not permanent. I never had the impression you were mainlining dumbassamine before.
Going to say something that might get me in trouble. Feel free to moderate it if you want.
Here’s a thing, you know, those instincts exist for a reason. When we told people on my conference in the bar not to comment with “I don’t know if this is right, but you can delete if you want” it was because when you start something that way, you know you’re attacking and generally being a raging ass, but you are trying to get away with it by saying “you can delete if you want.”
When you’ve had an approved comment on my blog, if I then “moderate” what you get is the impression you were SO right I had to erase you.
You aren’t right, and you’re not going to be erased. It’s much worse than that. You’re going to be answered.
My beef with the Baen edition of A Few Good Men was that neither the cover nor the blurbs I saw gave any hint of the gay romance angle, and I was left to discover a subplot which didn’t interest me, which kicked up around the time the pacing slowed down, and the initial plot developments that interested me had been been at least temporarily resolved.
Okay. First, neither the cover nor the blurbs gave a hint of this, because it’s not what the book is about. The book is an American revolution in the future. Yes, the characters happen to be gay and yes, they become emotionally involved, but it’s not in any way shape or form a romance. For those who haven’t read it, a friend yesterday pointed out you can choose to believe they’re just close friends and the book still makes perfect sense.
As for “it wasn’t on the cover or the blurbs” — you do realize I didn’t have anything to do with those, right? Because in trad pub, you don’t.
BUT more importantly — tell me you didn’t read the book without telling me you didn’t read the book — you KNOW Luce — the voice character — is gay in the first chapter. Nothing gross (this book doesn’t even have impure thoughts, for crying out loud. There is no “look how he fills that jumpsuit”) but he is haunted by the ghost of his dead lover. Who is male. So, if you crack the book, you know from the first chapter that he’s male and interested in males.
ALSO because this is the THIRD book of the series, you know there’s a relationship subplot. Because there is in the other two.
I actually don’t have any idea when you think the action “slowed way down and issues had been resolved”. At NO time are issues resolved. Not even — completely — in the end, though there is indeed a marked slow down and wrap up in the last half chapter. It’s called a conclusion.
I suspect the rumor you heard is because the character doesn’t go to the front, and isn’t a military commander. The people who expected it had “Kirk problems.” You don’t put your most symbolic asset, the one that can rally people around him by virtue of his position on the front lines. He still does a lot of stupid sh*t after the war starts, tries to get involved in putting down an insurrection, is involved in rescuing the island from an invasion and takes out a space station.
That takes us to the wrap up, pretty much.
So, what the heck are you talking about actually? Yes, some people who — unlike you — actually read it (Let this be a lesson to you, child, not to believe rumors) whined that they wished I had followed the other character to the front lines.
This was because of the cover Baen chose, which — AT THE TIME — I told them denoted mil sf. But if you had read me by then, you probably would have known I don’t do mil sf. I can’t. It’s not that I can’t do action, it’s that I can’t keep ranks and procedure straight. I think you have to have had a lot more experience with it than I did to be able to do it. Or you have to at least RPG it. I never did. I’ve read a lot of military biography and fiction, but I can’t internalize it enough to write it.
This could be considered a “bad fit for Baen” but only by the time I came in. Baen used to have more range.
At any rate those people didn’t dislike the book, or complain of the relationship. They just wanted a few Mil SF characters. I’d have had to jump heads 2/3 through the book, and it would be weird in a first person book even if I could do it.
A lot of Baen readers would yowl just as hard about a hetero romance introduced in similar fashion, and I daresay they would get a somewhat respectful hearing when yowling.
Again, with tell me you never read the book. OR the other books in the series. None of them are romances, but all have a relationship component. Mostly because my characters need someone to kick them in the butt into action sometimes. (I’m not alone in this, btw. Most of Heinlein had a relationship component. So does Prince Roger, to pull one mil sf series out of my hat, for instance.)
AFGM has less of a relationship component than Darkship Renegades. No one yowled about Darkship Renegades. Though the action slows a lot more and becomes internal there. (Well, pardon me, one editor howled. I suspect the same personality that put about rumors this book was “gay romance.”)
The personality and inclination of the characters is known from chapter one, even if you never read the other two books.
And no, they wouldn’t get a respectful hearing, because with due respect, thinking or saying I ‘write romance’ ALSO proves you’ve never read romance.
The new cover at least nods to that aspect of AFGM, although I don’t know how obvious it is to people who aren’t already familiar with the story. New amazon blurb does not. At least some of the hostility you’re seeing is probably people who feel that, because this aspect of the story isn’t signaled that clearly, you are trojan-horsing content they don’t find appealing into a book that otherwise sounded interesting to them. (Yes, they probably should pay more attention to the book categories. I’d be prepared to bet that a lot of people don’t though.)
Um… The character shows he’s gay in the first chapter. Hell of a trojan horse. It has a big sign in front saying “I am full of soldiers.”
I’m not actually seeing hostility. Well, now I’ve seen yours, I guess. And I kind of wonder why you think it’s okay to come to a professional writer’s blog and tell her that on a book that continues to sell pretty well she’s so incompetent she can’t foreshadow. I don’t know why you thought this was a good comment to make, but hey, to each his own.
WHAT I DID SEE was not hostility, it was people who saw “gay” and decided I had an agenda. And therefore said things like “every good character is gay” and “every hetero character is evil” which is bullshit, since one of the genuine heroes of the book is Abigail who is very straight. Oh, Nat’s dad is also straight and not a villain. Just for an example. And frankly MOST PEOPLE IN THE BOOK ARE STRAIGHT AND NOT VILLAINS. But that comment was stupid, not hostile. I didn’t meet hostility till your comment. And boy, is it a load of hostility.
Again, as anyone who has read the book, even though there’s no sex, and no “um, um, um, he sure looks good in that jumpsuit” EVERYONE who can read knows Luce is gay in the first chapter. Go ahead. Read it. It’s in the free sample on Amazon, I am sure. I’ll wait.
Now about the blurb: Lady, are you out of your ever loving mind, or did you lose your marbles on the way to the blog? No, it wasn’t in any kind of gay category for Baen. I don’t know if it’s now, but Amazon is weird. I know they put it in the LGBTQ category, but frankly it’s one of those cringe moments, because anyone picking it up because of that is going to be horribly disappointed. It’s not the theme or the point of the book.
WHAT precisely do you want me to put on the blurb? “Oh, yeah, while leading a USAian revolution, he also falls in love with a guy?
What would be the point of that? OR do you want me to put in “There is a gay romance?” That would be pretty dumb, since then people would pick it up expecting the book to have let’s say a lot more kissing and physical action (as in, more than none) OR at the very least some salacious thoughts. And they’d be disappointed and tell everyone not to read me.
It is actually and for real the 21st century, and we all know some people are gay. The book doesn’t endorse or promote being gay. It doesn’t campaign for gay marriage or push the “everyone has to accept gays” even. It just has characters who happen to be gay.
If you choose to believe they just become very close friends and battle companions (not implausible as traumatized as both are) it will not in any way affect your enjoyment or understanding of the story.
So…. what are you asking for, PRECISELY? A trigger warning? “Warning, this book contains people who have a mean, evil nasty orientation and might hurt your lilac scented feelings.”
You know what, if you’re going to get triggered that easily, you’re on the wrong side of the isle.
Am I saying you should love the book? Oh, sweetie. I don’t think you have the reading comprehension to UNDERSTAND it. So, don’t bother, okay? Go read something with smaller words.
On the serious side — I don’t expect anyone to love my books. I don’t even expect anyone in particular to love every one of my books. Some people love one series and hate the other. A lot of people love shifters and hate Darkships and vice-versa.
I write a lot of very varied stuff. Almost by definition if you love some you’ll hate others. But that’s why Amazon has samples. And I think Baen did too, actually. Not that it matters, since you could have read the sample on Amazon. And since you’re offended by the possibility of a character being gay, even if it just is and determines his actions, but not the direction of the …. theme of the book, you’d have plenty of warning in that first chapter.
As far as the hermaphrodite species book is concerned: not my thing, but won’t waste my energy or yours commenting about it,
Aw. Aren’t you? Why? Dumbassamide wearing down? Again, listen up, kid: you don’t get to tell me what I write or not, but FOR THE RECORD: how do you know it’s not your thing? Go ahead, splutter. I’ll wait.
Oh, I know, it’s because someone told you AFGM is all chock full of gay romance. So, you know this book is going to be full on hermaphrodite action, right?
Sweetie, if I could write that stuff, I’d be cranking it out by the bucket full. I’d be rolling in money. I’d be sleeping in a house full of money, on a mattress made of money.
Unfortunately it’s not how my head works.
I only mentioned the hermaphrodite book to explain that some idiots — are you on some kind of medication? — might think it was a trans thing. It’s not. It is very much against the idea that gender “is a construct.”
Or are you offended by the very idea that someone in SF/F could write hermaphrodites?
If that’s the case, I owe some serious apologies to some puppy kickers who kept claiming we’d never heard of The Left Hand of darkness.
unless a truth in advertising issue crops up. When you get it done and published, please don’t be coy about it in the blurb.
Oh, truth in advertising is it? Again I’m supposed to guess what offends you and give you full warning on the blurb?
Look, I don’t have the time at four in the morning to go check the blurb for The Left Hand of Darkness, but the one I read long ago had NOTHING about the planet being hermaphrodites on the blurb. It was a surprise when I read that “the king was pregnant” but you know, I was fourteen and I’d read SF/F before, so I rolled with the punches. What offended me about it was sloppy worldbuilding designed to validate the author’s beliefs. This, c’est domage, was also not on the blurb. Which is probably a good thing, because if it were I’d never have read the book, and might never have tried to write science fiction.
No. I’m not going to put on the blurb “the hero finds himself in a planet of hermaphrodites.” You know why not? Because of what I wrote above. “IF I could write that stuff I’d be so rich.” But I can’t. And sucker punching people looking for that stuff is wrong. So it might say they were “tragically genetically modified” and, of course, the second chapter is in that world, so you know…. people can figure it out. And if they don’t like it, they can not buy it or return it to KU.
I can’t possibly be the only person who sometimes stops reading books because something kicks me out, like their worldbuilding involving magicians who don’t actually do anything magical, to mention a recent reject whose title I can’t even remember.
No. I’m not going to distort my whole blurb and my marketing to stop you from reading a sample and figuring out you don’t like it. For the love of light fandango, it’s not like ten minutes after it’s up someone won’t be making jokes on the blog comments.
You’re — presumably — a big girl. Put on your big girl pants and stop wha wha whaing that you found something in a book you didn’t like. (Or more likely, because I give you the courtesy of assuming you’re at least semi-literate, because you heard rumors I sneakily put a gay romance in a mil sf book. The rumors were bullshit. The book is not mil sf, and there is no gay romance. And any semi-literate person would know the character is gay from chapter one.)
Go in peace and don’t leave stupid and insulting comments on my blog; particularly not comments that will mislead people about what I write.
Now, for the rest of you who haven’t lost your minds, two notes: the cover above is the new cover for A Few Good Men. I’ll be uploading it probably Wednesday unless it’s Thursday. There’s also new covers for Darkship Thieves and Darkship Renegades. I’ll put them on the bottom.
Second note: “But Sarah, why write gay characters at all?”
Well…. as most of you know who hang out here, I write what I write, because it’s what is there to be written. This thing isn’t entirely under my control.
“BUT people will think you’re pushing gayness!” Only if they don’t know me. Now, granted most readers don’t know me, till they stumble onto the book on Amazon.
Will it turn off a good number of readers. Sure. Look, I myself didn’t pick up a space opera because the BLURB goes on and on about how this space captain is gay. The story sounded interesting, but the prominent of “she so gay” on the blurb gave me the impression it was a central thing to the book. And I’m so tired of that crap.
OTOH I have no problems reading gay characters where the main point isn’t their orientation. (I liked Island In The Sea of Time.)
So, will it lose me readers? Yeah. Likely. But maybe not more than the fact I have a female name. Because in our troubled times, that’s already a bad sign.
Then why do I do it?
Because you don’t win a culture war by staying away from the confrontation. Yeah, I could put these stories in the drawer. (Though that’s kind of a violation of my principles.) BUT the point is, if every book that has a gay character out there is pushing a crazy agenda, people start thinking that anyone who simply is gay is pushing an agenda.
Now you can think it’s a sin (my religion believes it is a sin, but there are a lot of sins, and I’m out of stones) but I know gay people who are decent, moral human beings. I know a lot of them who are on our side. (Some trans too, of those for whom even “fake looking like the other gender” is a relief.) It’s important to remember that. It’s important to remember that individuals are individuals. Because where we’re going, whether you approve of them or not (you don’t have to approve of anyone. I sometimes don’t approve of me) we need the aid of all men of good will, so we don’t flip from the hellish landscape of the left to a mirror image that’s equally hellish and which again prioritizes the group over the individual.
I have a vested interest into not flipping over into that. You see, I’m female, and I tan. And I have no intention of being punished for the sins of the woke.
IF the only gay characters (or Latin, or black, or purple with polka dots) you read are leftist caricatures, you’ll letting the left claim those portions of the population and convince them you hate them for existing. And all their friends. And all their relatives. And all the acquaintances who know they’re decent human beings.
And that’s how you end up with locked-in electoral blocks that are willing to vote for crazy socialists.
More importantly, when you don’t engage in the culture wars by having off beat characters that the left claims as theirs, you are turning yourself into a caricature of what the left thinks you are
Now, again, you’re not required to like — YOU’RE not required to READ — any of my books. But if you, knowing me, think I’m writing a book to push some kind of crazed leftist agenda, let me tell you, there’s only one answer to that. Excuse me a moment.
Okay, I asked the minotaur and he says I should say “moo”.
And if you think I’m writing romance and putting it up as space opera, you really must think I’m allergic to money or something. Because, let me tell you, I could be making money hand over fist, IF I could actually write romance.
Below, the new covers for DST and DSRenegades. (There is also one for Revenge and one for the one yet-to-be finished, Fuse’s book, Hacking the Storm. Oh, what the heck. I’ll post those too. Darkship Defiance isn’t started, and I haven’t thought of the cover yet.)