The Gloves are Off

by Amanda S. Green

Over the last couple of years, I’ve warned authors to be careful what they write on their blogs, post on Facebook and send out on Twitter. After all, the internet reaches far and wide and that means you can never be sure who will see it. I told the story of an author who was so upset with his editor that he went on a profanity laced tirade against her on his blog. He didn’t care that he might be burning his bridges not only with the editor but also with his publisher and readers. He became the poster child for what not to do.

I’ve also warned folks about not talking politics or religion. Part of that is because I grew up where it was just a given that you stayed away from those hot buttons around the dinner table and most definitely in company you needed for your livelihood. When I first applied that particular part of the warning to writers, we did still rely on legacy publishers for our livelihood. Times have changed but old habits die hard. It wasn’t that long ago when I repeated that warning, reminding you that you need to remember that your peers and potential editors/publishers would still google you and find you. Besides, you didn’t want to upset your readers either.

I can hear you now saying that I’ve been moving away from that prohibition of late, especially when it comes to my feelings about those who consistently claim that Amazon is the cause of all publishing’s woes. To a degree you’re right. But I’ve continued to mainly hold my political beliefs close to the vest because they really aren’t anyone’s business but mine.

But something happened yesterday that showed me how wrong I’ve been. Not just wrong, but how I’ve been falling into the trap that those who don’t have my best interests at heart want me to. And, as that light bulb lit up, so did my understanding for the frustration so many authors have felt for years.

Also, so did my level of rage. Rage because I’ve been foolish enough to fall into their trap and foolish enough not to remember that we live in a country where free speech is something to be valued and not stifled, something they seem to agree with only when you accept their political stance.  But no more.

I don’t know about you, but for the last fifteen or twenty years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to read most authors getting push from their publishers. This has been especially true in science fiction and fantasy. The why I found it hard is easy. I could see the political and social agenda these books promoted. You know what I’m talking about. The big business is evil, the earth mother must be protected no matter what the cost to society, men are evil and here only to dominate and subjugate women, if women ruled there would be no war, humanity is a plague upon the earth, etc., etc., etc., etc.

I found myself feeling like I was being beaten over the head by these books and wondering where the great stories of my youth had gone. Were they no longer being written?  That was the only thing I could figure because why else would publishers be putting out books that most people I knew had no interest in reading?

Then I started trying to break into the business. Now, I’ll admit I am not the best writer out there. But I’m also not the worst. I work hard at my craft and I do my best to write stories that will entertain my readers. If my personal beliefs creep into my work, it isn’t to try to convert anyone to my way of thinking and it sure isn’t to prove to them how wrong they are because they aren’t as enlightened as am I.

I didn’t worry too much about the rejections I got back in the early days. Sure they hurt, but I didn’t know enough about the industry to read between the lines when I got rejections saying how so-and-so liked my writing but my novel just wasn’t for them.  Sure, some of those rejections were from agents or publishers that didn’t really work with books like mine. I was new, remember. But there were those that did and where my book should have fit perfectly with what they were publishing.

So I started doing my homework. Not only did I study the industry, but I also studied the books those agents sold for their clients as well as the books those publishers put onto the market. What I soon discovered was that while my novel fit the genre, it didn’t fit the agenda. It didn’t crucify men because they have all the power and want to keep women subjugated. It didn’t make my female characters paragons of virtue, worthy to rule the world and remove men from the equation. I didn’t figuratively castrate big business, especially big businessmen. I could go on, but I think you get it.

But I still didn’t really put it all together. I didn’t understand that feeling of disconnect so many writers feel from the major publishers or those vocal members of the profession who have appointed themselves the enforcers of proper thought.  That changed over the last year and it came into focus the last few months as I’ve watched a small group of authors charge in to attack their fellow authors on facebook or twitter whenever someone goes against the party line. It doesn’t matter if it is saying agency pricing isn’t good for authors or readers or saying that Amazon isn’t the root of all evil in publishing. Worse, it has flowed into politics, making it feel like any moderate or conservative in the industry has to hide under a rock to avoid the public stoning from these few self-appoint monitors.

Yesterday was the final straw. It started with an innocent post on Sarah’s facebook page. She shared a quote from Heinlein: There is no worse tyranny that to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.. Instantly, the responses came in, bringing the current cause of the day into the discussion. That cause, the so-called Republican “war on women”. The justification for finding offense with the quote? The fact that Heinlein used the word “man”, not “human” or “woman” or “man/woman” or whatever. But he used the M word. How dare he!

Sorry, guys—or should I say fellow sentient beings? Although, I’m not sure sentient applies to a lot of those involved—but that is just flat taking PC to the extreme. Those condemning Heinlein and interjecting their political agenda into the discussion not only failed to take into consideration the time when that quote was written, they refused to consider it. Just as they always do when trying to discredit Heinlein.

In this instance, the person starting the attack should have known better. Even if the commenter felt Heinlein’s ill-phrased quote was all sorts of evil, she should have realized Sarah wouldn’t sit still for her shenanigans. You’d have to live under a pile of rocks a mile high not to have realized how Sarah feels about both Robert A. Heinlein and Ginny Heinlein.

So Sarah did something she doesn’t often do. She posted as close to a political rant on her blog as I’ve seen there. It was well-thought out and well-written. But there was a problem. She didn’t adhere to the “right” position. She didn’t jump on the bandwagon of the sisterhood. Suddenly folks who had never been to the blog were there, calling her names, suggesting she leave the country and engaging in behavior that would embarrass playground bullies.

It didn’t matter that people tried to respond to their posts with logic or reasoned comments. No, it was dog-pile time. And that is when it really dawned on me. This is the same sort of behavior I’ve been seeing in publishing and, I wouldn’t be surprised if, behind those aliases they used, we’d find a lot of the same authors who condemn those of us who don’t jump on the I Hate Amazon bandwagon.

For all that Sarah needed to write her post, she had concerns about it as well. Like me, she is from that time when you don’t air your politics or your dirty laundry in public. But push had come to shove and she  had to do it. Afterwards, she began to worry that she might have lost some of her fan base as a result.

What I saw as I read the comments weren’t her fans suddenly upset that she’d not stayed loyal to her gender—and, yes, that was one of the accusations thrown at her. No, I saw that those making the accusations and calling names had never read her before. However, others who had followed links to the blog from other sites like Instapundit were now going out to buy Sarah’s books because they had found a kindred soul. They suddenly had before them an author who shared their values or beliefs or even just gave them something to think about.

As for her regular readers, they were there in full force, either agreeing with what she said or respectfully disagreeing. There was respect there, even if they didn’t share Sarah’s feelings. That was something sorely missing from those drive-by trolls.

It is also something that seems to be missing with regard to those same vocal authors who refuse to accept there may be those of us who don’t agree with them about where publishing is going, about Amazon or about agency publishing. It’s bad enough that those writers are still who  with legacy publishers have to be careful to couch their political or social beliefs in such a manner that they don’t conflict with the so-called progressive view of society so many editors seem intent on cramming down our throats. Now they have to suffer the attacks by fellow writers when they don’t agree with them politically and actually have the gall to speak out against some political stance.

But what these authors and editors forget is that we no longer need the legacy publishers to get our work out there. For the first time in who knows how long, writers have control. They can choose how to get their books into the hands of readers. Traditional publishing is no longer the only route. The upside—or downside depending on where you stand—is that writers no longer have to worry about toeing the party line.

So, what does that mean with respect to my earlier advice about not airing your politics or religion or dirty laundry in public? It means you can do whatever you want. Yes, you have to consider how it will affect those who read it. You can’t do the internet version of yelling “FIRE” in a theatre. And you have to have a thick skin because you will get naysayers and you will be attacked for what you say.

However, there is one thing about these attacks the mob mentality hasn’t figured out. It causes publicity for the post. People start talking about it. They link to it in their blogs and on Facebook and Twitter. That brings people to the original blog. And guess what? those newcomers will look at what the original post was. While your politics may lose you a few readers, it may also gain you some.

So, if you feel strongly about something, write about it. Talk about it. Just remember a couple of things. One, make sure you are writing what you mean to. Two, make sure your post is well-reasoned, or at least well thought out. Three, set the rules for the post and adhere to them. Four, respond to those who will drive by to pile on and then run away feeling morally superior with logic and reason. It drives them crazy and they can’t respond to it. Finally, and in many ways this is most important, decide if you want to lay yourself out there so the world can see how you feel or think about a hot topic.

Does this mean I’m going to start talking politics on MGC? Only insofar as it relates to publishing. This is a writing blog after all. However, it does mean that I’m not going to pull my shots with regard to those who come driving by to attack simply because I’m not toeing the Turow stance on Amazon and the Department of Justice’s investigation into Apple and five of the big six legacy publishers.

It does mean that on my blog and Facebook, you very well may see more political posts. In fact, I hope more of the silent majority of writers follows Sarah’s example and start speaking their minds when it comes to the hot button topics either major political party bandy about in order to play smoke and mirrors with what the real issues are.

 

39 Comments

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39 responses to “The Gloves are Off

  1. I’m not going to say much here other than… people should check the dictionary definition of man. Just in case they don’t want to, I’ve gone to Dictionary.com and done it for them…

    Man

    2. a member of the species Homo sapiens or all the members of this species collectively, without regard to sex: prehistoric man.

    That has always bugged me– women are also men. Live with it people.

    And yes, other than that, be nice about things when you argue.

    That’s all

    Scott

    • Scott, I’m old enough to remember not having to worry about not being politically correct by using the word “man” to refer to people. As for being nice when you argue, again, I agree–up to a point. There are times, as is evidenced by what happened on Sarah’s blog, when you have to bring the two-by-four out. Otherwise, the minority who love to drive by and stir up trouble will just keep shouting you down. Besides, I’m just crass enough to enjoy playing a game of whack-a-troll on occasion.

      • Oh, I agree with that, if others aren’t being nice then all bets are off. Calm and rational will never work against trolling morons.

        • Calm and rational doesn’t work against trolls, but it does provide a nice contrast for others to see.

          • Yep. But there does come the time when you have to give the stern warning–sometimes with locks of mockery. Sorry, my inner biatch comes out at those times–combined with that two-by-four. Not only because the troll in question needs to be dealt with, but also because they often bring their troll friends who will do their best to derail any attempt at rational discussion of the blog post or issue.

            • ppaulshoward

              Unfortunately the trolls and their little troll friends do derail “rational discussion” at least until somebody (with the power to do so) takes a hammer to them. [Sad Smile]

              • Even then, the damage is done. But let some of us go to their blogs and act as they do and hear the howls of outrage and cries of how we are trying to keep them from exercising their First Amendment rights. Sigh.

        • Amen to that. What truth is that you’ve finally had enough of their b.s. and don’t want to deal with it any longer.

  2. This is a topic that’s been going around Twitter a lot lately that’s kind of bugged me. While I have my own opinions regarding birth control and politics, I take issue to trolls who jump in and give writers a hard time for discussing “political” things. I innocently commented on a tweet from one of my friends regarding the somewhat backwards approach politicians are taking on certain issues and a follower replied back to both of us to inform us that we were the closed minded ones and we had it all wrong and that she was unfollowing us. My response (in my head): ok. Why was that necessary?
    Out of curiosity (I’m a very nosy, curious creature), I went to this former followers tweet stream and read the rant she went on after that saying that authors shouldn’t talk about politics as it alienates “half” of their readers. While she might have a point, I take issue with what is considered “political” these days. To me, political means blatantly aligning yourself with one party or another or taking an extreme view on a subject. I don’t consider anything I’ve said on any public forum to be “political.” Frankly, I think most politicians need to take a remedial Critical Thinking class as well as go through Pre-K again to learn how to play well with others. I am however a free thinking, socially aware human being and I don’t feel like trolls should have the right to criticize me or Sarah or anyone else for having a brain. Are my thoughts a little liberal because of the holistic, global/liberal education I’ve been blessed with? Yes. But as Thumper says: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Rant over 🙂

    • Taylor, this is why I’ve been the one saying to keep politics and religion out of your posts if you are a writer. But then I got to thinking. Why should I? Why should any of us, as long as we are willing to have a discussion?

      My issue, as you know from previous discussions–and what does your weekend look like? I have some editorial notes for you–is when the drive-by trolls come thundering in, in what is so obviously a “call-to-arms” from some other blog or Twitter/Facebook account, to shout down the wrong-thinkers. As with those authors who will come back at you, telling you you are supporting the anti-Christ of publishing if you use Amazon, these folks who come to blogs just to accuse someone of not being loyal to her gender because she doesn’t happen to back social legislation that they have, all too often, misread, drives me batty and I am tired of letting them be the only ones to be speaking out.

      That said, Thumper has the right of it (in most situations).

      • Daniel Neely

        That might be good advice in general; but when dealing with trolls or other non-sentient pests, the only thumper whose input I want is the one that’s a euphemism for ‘mass driver’.

        • Well, Thumper got his name for a reason. [VBEG]

          I like the mass driver idea. Maybe we can get Rex to design one for us.

          • Daniel Neely

            Are you sure about that? He’s liable to decide that if throwing rocks at planets really fast is fun, throwing the planets instead would be even better…

  3. patrickrichardson71

    But thwapping trolls is so much FUN

    • But it does get a bit boring after awhile, Pat. I mean, when they all but beg you to thwap ’em, you have to ask yourself if they might just be enjoying it a bit too much.

  4. Pingback: Bring Back That Wonder Feeling | According To Hoyt

  5. Pingback: Here there be troll-whackers « Amanda S. Green

  6. I couldn’t imagine Tom Kratman’s books without his politics. I also think some of the best works of Eric Flint have pretty explicit politics in them (1632 series, Joe’s World, etc).

    If you’re passionate about something, talk and write about it. Sure, you’ll lose some people. But passion tends to attract people with a similar passion, and the worst threat for authors is obscurity.

    • Ori, I have no problem putting it in my books and short stories. Nor do I have problems with other authors doing so. The key is to do it in such a way you aren’t beating your reader over the head with it. My reticence was in doing so on blogs, etc., because there was a time when it could be a career killer. There are agents, editors and publishers who wouldn’t sign authors who didn’t toe the “party” line. Talk to Sarah, or any other author who has worked with publishers other than Baen, and you’ll hear stories about how certain social or political ideals are encouraged to be included in their books.

      But that was before the doors were thrown open for small presses and self-published authors via programs like Amazon’s KDP. I still say you need to be a bit circumspect, but that there is no reason not to discuss politics if you want to.

    • Well, at least I was passionate in A Few Good Men. Mind you, it will probably leave most people somewhat confused about me, but that’s FINE. But like Amanda, I’ll keep my politics timeless and non-partisan.

  7. Luke

    I don’t think I would ever have encountered Larry Correia or Sarah Hoyt if they had not put compelling political rants online and been linked by bloggers that I try to read on a regular basis. So I’m thankful that they did, and were.

    While it is a different type of writing, it can be a good hook to prospective readers. In any case, it’s an assurance that you aren’t writing the same-old bland PC pap.

    I can’t help but compare/contrast with some of the rants George R. R. Martin uncorked about Bush (W). To me, they came across as more than a bit unhinged. They did cause me to think a bit less of him as a person, but I was still at the front of the line to buy his next book.
    Granted, commited members of the political Left tend to be a bit more tribal (the personal is political, and all that). But IMX, they’re also not much into escapism in the first place.

    • Luke, first off, glad to see you at MGC. Next, I now agree with what you say. But it took time to separate from the old training and way of thinking. Or maybe it was just that as I got older I figured out that I really don’t give a flip what the “establishment” thinks, especially if it already showed that it wasn’t going to let me in anyway.

  8. Stephen Simmons

    Not to over-personalize but … there is a particular writer whose work I absolutely LOVE, whose politics are nearly as far away from mine as they could possibly be — yet the central characters in his five-volumes-so-far alien-invasion (and we’ve been waiting for the sixth *forever*) series almost all espouse politics fairly close to mine. And there are characters in some of his stories even furter from me than he is. But teh work transcends all of that.

    The problem I have with trolls on-line is that arguing with them is even less effective than cutting the flowers off of dandelions. Most of them are just people begging to be considered relevant, when you come right down to it. And snubbing them is often actually a more effective tactic than logic. There was a time when I (under a nom-de-guerre) frequented severa political discussion blogs. I tired of that activity fairly quickly, because I came to the realization that most of the people there simply weren’t worth the effort — and instead I started channeling that effort into writing fiction. On the whole, I think everyone but the trolls came out ahead in that deal. (Wait, even the Trolls haven’t done too badly in some my stories, come to think of it …)

    I don’t expect I’ll ever be quite as flagrant as MadMike, but I have a very hard time fitting some aspects of who I am under a bushel. I just try to be at least marginally circumspect — mostly because life is a lot easier if my wife’s friends don’t hate me …

    • Steve, I’ve never really hidden my political beliefs. Heck, they are in my stories and books. I just haven’t blogged about them much. I think it really does have a lot to do with when and where I was raised. Then add in the fear of saying something that would get on an editor’s wrong side and, well, it was hard to break the habit. So, I’m sure there will be some who won’t like what I have to say. I’ll do my best to keep an open mind when they respond–as long as they don’t violate the “Don’t be a butt head” rule.

      • Stephen Simmons

        Amanda, I find that I aso benefit from the fact that I don’t actually HAVE a “writing career” to risk. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be in danger of not needing a day job. And I’m fortunate enough to hold a day job that is entirely compatible with who and what I am …

        I’ve saved your various “Road to E-Pub” posts, in case I manage someday to alienate the only editor who’s ever been foolish enough to buy my stuff. So it’s not like I have a lot to lose, eh? That said, being the child of an alcoholic, I learned a long time ago to take a minute to determine whather this particular battle isworth fighting, or if life might be better if I just run and hide under my bed till the storm passes.

        • Steve, that is a worry that has lost a lot of its punch because of the ability of small presses and self-published authors to get into the market via Amazon, B&N and other stores via Smashwords. As for the Road to E-Publishing, I’m going to be expanding it for some folks online. Do you want in?

          • Stephen Simmons

            “Please, Sir, I want some more.”

            Just re-watched that movie Sunday. And was in the show TWICE, way back when in my acting days. 🙂

  9. Amanda;

    I’m a good deal farther along down this road than you are and have come to several conclusions anent politics and its potential effect on my future success as a writer. Some of these come dangerously close to slogans, and I apologize upfront for that, but that comes from a willful attempt to distill the concepts to aphorisms for the purposes of teaching.

    1) Your political opinions are right. Correct. If they’re not, get ones that are. No point in believing in error. Those on the other side rarely examine their premises. If they did, they’d be more likely to agree with you.

    2) All it takes for evil to win the day is for good men to do nothing. (c) somebody who’s not me. And, make no mistake about it, PC and other leftist diseases ARE evil. On body count in the 20th Century alone, it would be entirely fair to call them the greatest evils encompassed by the mind of Man. I call as witness to this our very own Sarah, whom I respect highly, and who has seen that elephant, up close, and all-to-personal. Do not apologize for raging against the forces of darkness.

    3) Your opinions are the majority opinion. Not en bloc, of course, but by and large. There is room for ecumenity if the other side allows it, but the fact that you feel forced to acknowledge that there ARE sides — through no fault of your own — should speak volumes. If you are afraid of chasing away — as the other side likes to put it — “half your audience,” bear in mind that it’s a lot more like 20% and diminishing.

    And the “other” half — this “half” our “half” of the audience — takes positive JOY in supporting people it perceives to truly agree with its most hearfelt values and principles. Why do you think Rush Limbaugh is a multi-millionaire and Air America is bankrupt? Why do you think Act of Valor, or the Passion of the Christ did and do boffo box office when the forces of endarkenment did and do everything in their power to tank such works? The other side knows the lie in that preachment. To what else can you attribute the success of Tom Clancy, John Ringo, Larry Correia when what they express in their stories is such an anathema to the PC Left? (Well, good storytelling, yes, but…)

    So be not afraid. Let your freak flag fly.

    M

  10. Oh, and BTW: I’m about halfway through Noctournal Serenade, and STILL loving it!

    M

  11. Good luck. I tend to avoid politics because I don’t have the energy to pretend morons aren’t being morons…and those who’ve argued politics with me can tell you that my lack of pretending isn’t gentle.

  12. Ralph Green

    Maybe you’re not successful because you’re not all that talented, nah… it must be the vast left wing conspiracy. Have fun with your rage!

    • Ah, now you’ve hurt my feelings. Not! I’d welcome you to MGC, but it is obvious you’re yet another of the drive-by trolls. So, instead of greeting you, I’ll wave as you drive off to pester yet another. However, if you ever want to actually discuss one of our posts instead of calling names and slinging accusations, you’ll be welcome. But a word of warning, while we love to talk almost as much as we love to write and we love our animals and kids, we don’t suffer fools lightly.

      Oh, and btw, I do pretty well with my small press published novels and short stories, thank you very much.