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Filling in . . .

Let me start by letting you know that I received an SOS from Amanda earlier this morning. There was something about it being morning, no coffee and and a raging headache. Let’s just say she wasn’t a happy camper. So, since I happened to be up — sort of — and, as she said, looking for ways to promote my latest book, she asked me to fill in. She did ask me to say she would be posting her thoughts on the YA article she linked to earlier in the week just as soon as she’s online again.

Anyway. . . .

If you guys hadn’t figured it out, I’m pretty new at this writer business. I’d tried some years ago to do it the old-fashioned way. I sent queries out to agents and publishers and got the usual canned responses. Since I didn’t know any better, and since my family didn’t look at writing as a “real” profession, I quit trying to break in and left my writing for my therapy. (Come on, I can’t be the only one who is in a better mental space when I’m writing than when I’m not.) Considering the fact that our family tree is populated with journalists, the attitude sort of surprised me but then I guess there is a difference between journalism and fiction writer (well, there used to be, but I won’t go into my opinion of most so-called journalists these days).

So, I acted like an adult and got a “real” job. Let me tell you, being an adult isn’t as much fun as folks want you to believe, at least not if you aren’t doing the job you want to do. Now, I’m not talking about wanting to be a racecar driver or pro ball player and you don’t have the talent or reflexes for both. No, I’m talking about when you have the need to do something and you choose not to for whatever reason. For me, the need was to write and I made the choice not to because of family pressure and, to be honest, the fact that I do like to eat regularly and have a roof over my head.

Then the day finally came when I realized that the publishing business had changed. Or maybe I’d just changed. I didn’t really care if my work came out from a BIG publisher. What I wanted to do was write and get my work out there for the readers to find. As sure as I’m owned by a mass of cats and dogs, no one was going to read my work with it stashed under my bed. So I started looking at what my options were and finally decided to go with Naked Reader Press — if they’d have me.

I was lucky. They not only wanted me but one of the first novels NRP put out was my romantic suspense Wedding Bell Blues. I knew even then that Sarah and Amanda and company were using WBB as a test case. If it did well, they’d want more from me. Fortunately, it did do well enough for them to ask for something else. There’s nothing like getting that call from your editor telling you that they want to see another novel from you.

Of course, this being Sarah, nothing is ever as easy as it seems. She wanted another novel, but she wanted me to try my hand at something a little different. Paranormal Romance was selling well. She wanted to see me making money, hopefully lots of it, and she’s a business woman. If I made lots of money, NRP would also make money. So, hint, hint, nudge, nudge.

I’ll admit, I fought it. I had never read a paranormal romance at that point. What I’d heard of them didn’t endear them to me. I like a book with a good plot and characters folks can relate to (even if one reviewer of WBB doesn’t believe a doctor can obsess about her daughters getting married). Writing a book that was just a series of sex scenes tied loosely together with an improbable plot didn’t appeal to me.

But, NRP wanted a book and I wanted to deliver one. So I started reading paranormal romance to see what I might be getting myself into. Some were good. A few were very good and a great many were downright porn. Then, in the course of all the reading, I realized I could write my kind of book and still call it paranormal romance. Sure, it wouldn’t have as much sex as some folks would expect and others would be put off by the sex it did have in it. But I’d learned one lesson very quickly with WBB: you are never going to please everyone who reads your book.

huntednewcoverSo, I sat down and started writing. Hunted was the result. To my surprise, it did well. Sarah — damn her — had been right. Paranormal romance does sell. What she didn’t warn me about was that the characters are LOUD and even more DEMANDING. They don’t want to let my fingers leave the keyboard any more than they are willing to let me try to write anything but stories set in their universe. Which is probably a good thing since Sarah, grinning like the evil woman she is, told me that I needed to write the second book in the Hunter’s Moon series ASAP in order to take advantage of how well Hunted was doing.

HUNTERSDUTYAnd that’s where Hunter’s Duty ( formerly known as Blood Moon and, in my less affectionate times kimchee junior) comes in. It’s the second book in the series — and, yes, the third book is already demanding to be written. Of course, being me, I’m trying to hold off as we wait and see what the sales for this book will be. Not that it is keeping my muse quiet. Oh no. SHE assures me the sales will be just fine and that I need to get started on Hunter’s Pride. Yes, she’s already given the book a title and has told me the basic plot.


So, here comes the push. You knew there had to be a push, right? Check my books out. Think of it this way. The more books I sell, the more Sarah gets to tell me, “I told you so.” That makes her happy and a happy Sarah is a Sarah who writes more. So, in a way, by buying my books you are also making sure Sarah writes more books for you to buy. See, it’s a win-win situation 😉

Seriously, I suck at this promotion stuff. Most writers do. So, if you’d like to see a sample of Hunted you can find it here.

You can find a sample of Hunter’s Pride here.

As for the rest of it, don’t keep shoving work under your bed or in the closet. Find yourself a good editor and then get it out there. We’re so lucky as writers to have so many different options for making our work available. Do your homework and choose which works best for you. But, if you have the need to write, write. There can never be too many stories.


Abduction Report

Hi, everyone. Apologies for my lack of reply to last week’s UFO post, but I was abducted by magical Sidhe folk living in the forest behind my house. As always, time spent in the Sidhe realm follows different rules. Thankfully I did not emerge a day or so later having aged to a ripe old age, but there was definitely some time slippage. Even now I’m not sure if a week or a year has passed.

I’m fascinated to learn that UFOs are pushing up house prices in Canberra (thanks Dave), perhaps some of our politicians are also being robotically controlled? Julia Gillard’s hair colour can’t be real, surely? I also used to often wonder about John Howard’s eyebrows.

I tend to think much the same as many of the post-responders last week in terms of the reality of alien visitations. The pattern of UFO sightings, which exploded post-WWII, corresponds to a time when the number of aircraft in the skies – both of the civilian and secret kinds – also ramped up exponentially. The reduction in sightings thereafter is most likely the populous getting used to aircraft of various persuasions (although the paranoid conspiracy theorist in my hindbrain is whispering that the aliens just got more careful as mankind began to watch the skies).

I’ve also noticed that effect that Wayne mentioned – how a stationary bright object like a star will seem to shoot around the place if you stare at it long enough. This ‘jerky’ motion is remarkably like the unpredictable, swift movements often attributed to UFOs by those who report sightings.

Like Pam, I have often wondered at the similarity between modern abduction reports and older tales of being led into the woods by faeries. I’ve often mused that this probably reflects the structure of the human psyche and its underlying archetypes, rather than real events.

Thanks to Steve for the perspective on radar-boggling devices. Maybe there are more than a few parts of  the prankster element in all this – like uni students who make crop-circles and sit back to watch the fun.

As to the existence of alien life in general. Hey – it’s a big universe! I tend to think life will form spontaneously from basic organic elements, but development beyond nascent forms really comes to down to coincidence and dumb luck. The universe is also a savage place, prone to slamming large bodies into each other and releasing large bursts of gamma radiation.

Anyone care to take a punt on where extraterrestrial life will first be observed? Mars? Titan? Europa? The Oort cloud? Beyond the solar system?

A Quiet Week

Well, to my considerable surprise, we had a whole week go by without any new acts of gratuitous stupidity from TOFKASFWA. For this I give thanks. I’m not sure I can keep up with the new improved shitstorm schedule even as an observer (I can’t call myself disinterested. I am interested, even if it’s only so I can point and laugh).

There was one bad moment when John Scalzi circulated a picture of himself in a dress – a rather fetching Regency gown, actually. While Mr Scalzi is quite welcome to wear whatever he chooses, and if regency gowns are his thing, this is fine by me. I just don’t want to look at the pictures.

This isn’t even an anti-cross-dressing thing. You see, very few adults have the complexion to wear pastels well, and Mr Scalzi is not one of those fortunate souls. He really needs to stick to stronger colors if he wants to wear gowns in public. The gown, while lovely, is simply not him. Now I could see someone with his complexion looking quite the thing in one of the darker toned early to mid Victorian ensembles – although as a male who has limited corsetry experience, I have to admit he could have issues with this. The hats for that era would work better with his beard, too – dark facial hair and pastels is just… Okay, I admit it, my eyes tried to crawl through their optic canals which was a most uncomfortable sensation. With something more appropriate to his coloring and build, he wouldn’t need to worry about small children running screaming for their Mamas.

I mean, really, think of the aesthetics. It’s not that difficult – most women have to do it to avoid being savaged by their fellow women (who, as every adult female bloody well ought to know, are a lot stricter on their… damn it “women” is getting repetitive, and I refuse to use “sisters”). We’ve all seen those lovely outfits that turn into hideous monstrosities when we try them on – but look magnificent on someone else. Some of us have even managed to learn which styles and colors actually work for us (I freely admit to taking longer to do this than most. Possibly this is why Mr Scalzi’s efforts have drawn my attention. I know how difficult it is to find women’s clothes that fit and look good. How much more difficult must it be for a man?) It doesn’t help that those of us like me – or Mr Scalzi for that matter – who could never belong to the Anorexics-R-Us fashion club are often limited to “tent in colors that would hurt the blind” and “Oh my God I wouldn’t be seen dead in that”.

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find clothing that looks good and fits, and if Mr Scalzi really wants to flaunt his tastes without being criticized for poor style and color choice, he can. He can even find clothing that gives him almost as much freedom of movement as male clothing (just don’t confuse “skirts” and “kilts” – trust me, this upsets kilt-wearers, and do you really want people who are the reason Scottish sheep can hear a zipper open at 100 paces upset with you?). It’s just a matter of looking in odd places, being willing to buy when you find that gem hidden away in the back corner somewhere, and refusing to settle for something that just destroys your complexion.

For accessories, I’d recommend Mr Scalzi stick with black or white – gloves, parasol, reticule… a small collection of good quality items that can go with anything will spare him the hassle of trying to match his accessories to his outfits. He might need to find specialist shoe stores, though, because typical women’s shoes just do not accommodate wider feet. I speak from heartfelt, footsore experience here. Just try to get a nice pair of pumps when your shoe width is a DD or an E depending on the manufacturer. Since in men’s shoes I take a size 5 wide, a man with even average sized feet would have serious problems trying to find women’s shoes that fit. I don’t know how those transvestites do it. They always seem to have the most fabulous shoes. Seriously, I envy them. I’m stuck with boring and comfortable if I don’t want to cripple myself (which I don’t).

Now I don’t expect Mr Scalzi to take my advice. He seems to thrive on ridicule, but then, I don’t know that he’s had to deal with the kind of bitchy, backstabbing, smile-to-your-face-and-sink-the-knife-in-your-back-and-twist that characterizes the Mean Girl type. I really don’t want to see anyone else suffer that, so naturally I have to offer a few suggestions – to him and to any other man who feels the need or desire to wear dresses in public.

Lest Darkness Falls

There was a time children’s books were pious and goody two shoes.  They were almost incredibly boring.

I read so many books in which the characters were goody-goody that I was primed and ready for Tom Bailey By Thomas Bailey Aldrich because it was “Story of a bad boy.”  I also loved Tom Sawyer because, within the limitations of my being a girl I identified with him.

In retrospect I love the Countess of Segur’s fairytales, a very girly amusement, with all the dress and glitter stuff.  I will never learn to love her other books, though, the ones in which good little girls never do any evil.  They come across as rather insipid and bland.

And of course, that’s what we see a reaction to in most books nowadays.  You know the books my kids got assigned in school, where every character is a disabled pagan Hispanic lesbian who is mistreated by everyone, until she heroically gets so beat up she wins (you only think I’m joking.)

We had a panel about this at the last con here in town, and all the other people – all older than I, btw, by at least ten and usually closer to 20 years – twittered incessantly about how books now were more “inclusive” and how children should know about children who do drugs, have promiscuous sex, cut themselves and commit suicide.

Uh.  Okay.  They know about them.  I mean, seriously, my kids went to urban schools.  They were the odd ones, with their two parent family, their clean house, the parents who both worked (even when I wasn’t getting paid) and who extended a very small income quite far.  They knew kids who got raped, kids who did drugs, kids who cut themselves.

From friends who live in the suburbs, their kids knew these kids too, though they might not have been in the majority.

The thing I must ask here is: what is the purpose of those books?

The answer from the panel was “to make the outcasts feel included.”

Okay, then, that is even a laudable principle, although as Dave Freer pointed out on Monday, it is not in fact the principal purpose of books.  Books are a product in the entertainment category, NOT in fact a social agency.  However, given that the schools have a captive audience, and that the books CAN give comfort to the outcasts then there should be MAYBE some books available which speak to kids in horrible situations.  Books that say “you are not alone.”

But if that is the intent, they are doing it wrong.  First of all, it shouldn’t be EVERY BOOK.  Why not? Because the majority of kids might come from what was quaintly called once “a broken home” or have some other minor issue, but unless you are in an urban and dysfunctional area, the majority of them won’t be Abused Minority Of The Day With Interesting Dysfunction, Who Gets Beat Up And Often Raped Throughout The Entire Book.  And because even to the kids in these situations, these books say “being a victim is sanctified.  You don’t need to do anything.  And you should only aspire to being a victim forever.”

Oh, these books are also mired circa the 50s, and not even the real fifties, but the imaginary fifties, where every minority and anyone different was marginalized everywhere.  I hate to tell this to the people writing these earnest books, but these days, in our schools, being a minority of color or belief or even illness is to be treated with kid gloves and allowed license for pretty much everything.  True story, when my kid was being given DETENTION for not having a pencil with him – because he’d come late from a school field trip and not been allowed to swing by his locker for a pencil – I went in to protest, and found a whole classroom being held hostage by minority-child-with-bipolar-disorder who was holding knife and standing in front of door, and not allowing people to escape.

The teachers were pretty please, nicely, trying to talk him down, but when I asked if he was going to get detention or expelled, I got treated like I was evil and told “He has problems.  At home.”

Which is all well and good, but of course, letting him run wild at school won’t fix his problems at home, and won’t give him a pathway out – besides disrupting the education of all the other children and teaching them that if you tan an interesting color you can do anything.

I was told this is actually a legalistic thing.  You see, the schools have to show x number of “rehabilitated offenders” – this means the teachers don’t go after REAL offenders.  They’re hard to rehabilitate and don’t comply with detentions/therapy.  They go after middle school kids who will complete the program.  Meanwhile they’re too scared of the real offenders (they have knives!  And besides, they must have horrible lives at home, or they wouldn’t do this, right?) to say “boo” to them and they run rampant.

Into this throw the “would be therapeutic” tell-them-they’re-not-alone books.

The real offenders don’t read them.  (Most of them don’t read.  Fact.)  But the kids from decent backgrounds do.  What do they take away?  That if you’re a victim you have to be respected – even if you attack others.  That people who behave very badly must have backgrounds like those you read in books.  That this is the only explanation for people acting badly.

Look, prescriptive books never worked very well on people like me.  I looked at the goody two shoes girls in books and wondered how one could dip a fictional character in ink.

Because that’s how I treated goody two shoes girls in school.

BUT they worked at least on a majority of people.  Characters who were upright, did good, etc, if not overdone, worked.  Kids internalized them as “these are the good guys.”

And some kids are internalizing the current dysfunctional model.  When coupled with what the real bad guys get away with in school, you have a generation where up is down and bad and dysfunctional is cool and being a victim is sainted.

Am I advocating a return to goody two shoes books?  Not, but heck there were always other books.  I loved Enid Blyton where the kids had more than a bit of the old Adam, but still tried to be honorable and decent.  Same for Heinlein’s juveniles.

And that is what we need more of.

Look, we’re leaving an impossible mess to our kids.  The last thing we need is to leave them the idea that being a victim or a rebel without a clue is good.

I’m not advocating prescriptive books.  I guess I’m advocating Human Wave books – YA in which the human spirit triumphs, and where the hope for the future is more than an endless psychodrama of victimhood and anger.

There will be a post

I promise, there will be a post later today. At least I hope there will be. I even read the article I plan to base my post around. But let’s just say it has caused me to think harder than my poor early morning brain is ready to do. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to tilting at windmills on this particular topic, especially when trying to discuss it with too many folks in our industry. But it is refreshing to see someone who agrees that there does need to be a gatekeeper when it comes to YA literature. It doesn’t have to be as dark and explicit as novels written for adults. After all, the YA market isn’t a market for adults. Heck, it’s not even a market for young adults. No, it is aimed for readers between the ages of 12 – 18. You know, those hormone ridden, not yet mature (in most instances) young humans who should still be guided and protected to some extent from the hardships of life. Anyway, I’m going to link to the article and let you guys read it while I put together a post on it.

Edited to add:

Sorry, guys, but this is going to take more thought and effort than I have time for today. I’m up to my eyes in edits for NRP and need to get them finished. So I will do this post over the weekend. In the meantime, keep on commenting.

Numbers and the golden calf

Okay before I turn you over to the Zamzummims, once more unto Numbers…

Let me just explain something that seem to still pass a few people by. A probability is just the expression of the likelihood of something occurring. It works real well on large samples. In individuals you actually have to apply that weird stuff: observation and judgment. Try to do it in that order. And for heaven’s sake try to stay away from the ‘If I buy kippers it will not rain’ level of non-causative correlations. If the probabilities say that in the US the chances of a black young man engaging in drug related crime are higher than for almost anyone else, do not hit the young black fire-fighter carrying granny to safety from the blaze with your shovel. Against all genetic probability this level of stupid still exists in humans, and if something that ought to kill can survive, other less-than-probable things will too. Observe and engage brain.

Oh, and we’ve had a few drive-by trolls, who seem think derogatory insults add value to the debate. You’re of course welcome to disagree with me so long as you do so according to local custom: politely and with common sense. There seem to be a few new visitors who take liberty for license, and think they’ll swing a wide loop here. Before you set out to impress me with your cussing skill and pithy worldly wisdom, do remember I learned my genteel use of language in that finest of lah-di-dah schools, the commercial fishing harbor and boats, where I started hanging out – because my dad was there – from an early age. I added some depth to my refined tones at an all-male Military-style boarding school, and did a little journeyman time as an Army NCO, where, because we were all delicate fainting violets, we’d tearfully beg our kindly officers, people like Col. Kratman, to come and gently admonish our uncouth men for us, and then I went to finishing school in a large selection of fish processing plants. You’ve heard of fish-wives? It is all true. Someone out there is bound to be able to school me in vituperation, but it probably would not add value to a sensible conversation. I’ve had occasional ill-informed people tell me I’m being passive-aggressive. Actually, sweeties: It’s more like Godzilla trying wristwatch repair. I’m not good at it, but if I was trying anything but a light touch… I might hurt your tender sensitivities and I actually want to know what you think. Stick with polite.

Now onto topic: Political correctness has come to dominate most of publishing with a rod of iron (painted in tasteful, inclusive colors) and of course science fiction and fantasy, and thus, because except in rare instances of Labrador retriever, the tail does not wag the dog, also to what my friend Kate terms TOFKSFWA. To get into the latter you had to pass through the filter of publishing which increasingly has become far left wing, where PC is the golden calf.

It’s been a slow process, but gradually we got to the point where Baen alone among the larger sf/fantasy houses was prepared to publish whatever they thought they could sell, regardless of the author’s openly declared political or religious or ethnic origins. Distributors, retailers and other publishers did their little bit to make things as hard as possible for them, and it is absolutely obligatory to have as many public sneers at their authors as possible, because they weren’t PC to the core.

“But isn’t PC merely about fairness? About redressing the inequities of the past? You’re Australian. I thought your core credo was: “A fair go”?

There is the problem. Political correctness’s central selling point: It’ll fix things and make them more fair, and there is every indication that as a social species the hairless monkeys like fair and understand it. Plenty of good science to back this up. What do you mean you’re not hairless? To me you all are. All things are relative –and this too important. Remember it. Now, let my friend Numbers explain to you why PC isn’t fair, and creates rather than removes inequities. Yes, I know the world isn’t fair, but actually we’ve been putting many centuries of ingenuity into changing that.

Let’s start with the currently fashionable buzzword ‘inclusive’, which is not the same as ‘representative’. It means no matter how small or odd your little subsection of humanity is, it gets an equal seat at the table, an equal place in the book. It is no longer ignored. Isn’t that wonderful? Made you feel all soft and fuzzy inside. Unfortunately, there is this other word ‘demographics’, which has a lot to do with ‘representative’ and my friend Numbers believes it makes great sense to both ‘fair’ and ‘commerce’. After all if—averaged out – it is probable that of any group of people who read, a fixed proportion say 1:100 will seriously want to write, and perhaps 1:1000 of those will have the skill and perseverance to succeed, authors are a measure of readers in your population, and if you aren’t finding about 51% female authors… you’re either not reaching them or stopping them being published, or they don’t read (and if you’re selling books you should want to know which, and why, badly). Taking the above complete thumb-suck figures (which could be established), if there’d be at least one author which fitted your subsection of humanity if your ‘group’ was at least 100 000 strong. And you’d get another for every 100 000. It’d be likely you’d write books which would have special appeal for them, and it’s good business. Of course if there are only 100K – or less — of you, readers might fancy some variation, and a group which has 100 million will have a lot more authors. One could moan they weren’t ‘inclusive’ or politically correct because they have 1000 authors to your one. But it is not _unfair_. Unfair is where you take a substantive section of the populace and you exclude them. Blacks. Gypsies. Jews. Conservatives. And sadly for publishing (and thus SFWA) that ALSO means people you don’t like, who are nasty to you, who hate your guts, who cuss you out, who don’t share your religion, who don’t share your politics, who carry guns, who kill animals for food… It’s not only unfair excluding what amounts to the majority out, it’s just straight out bad business practice, and the shareholders of any large publishing house ought to ask the CEO, and the CEO should be asking acquiring editors what the hell they were doing, just before they get fired – because it’s the CEO or them.

Or that would be true if publishing were all about business. I suspect shareholders might like it if it were. In a command economy – as publishing used to be – they could do whatever stupid they liked. It’s over.

“But… but… but… the historical inequity! You’ve got to redress that. I mean there are lots of old white male conservatives like er… Jerry Pournelle. (Yes, I’m a fan) And they get the reviews and they got most of the awards in the past and… It’s not fair! We need inclusivity to fix that.”

Let Numbers take you for a little walk to the fairground. There’s this ride with all these lovely little dodgem bumper cars. Each of the 100 little cars has a timer on it. Gives you a half hour ride. And the attendant has only been letting on men, because actually they’d been the only ones eager to try it, and they’d been calling their friends – mostly other men, who they thought would like it. The fair owner came along and said he’d had complaints, and he was to let on anyone. So a mixture of folk poured into the little cars, as they came vacant. And yes, the men still outnumbered the newcomer women. And they bumped them mercilessly. After five minutes in the queue women went to the fairground owner and said that it wasn’t right or fair. There were only 10 women on the ride and they were not having a good time. So the fair owner came down and said “we have to redress this inequity! Women first from now on, attendant.” And the women said “so unfair, those bullying men should be kicked off!” But they’re on, and you can’t get them off until the machine’s timer stops. And time passed. The women in the queue chased the men who tried to join the queue away, except for those who wore dresses and red pumps and told them how unfair it all was to women, thereby benefitting themselves. Gradually, all the timers of those who were there first ran out. And as Numbers points out, equity was perfectly restored. And it had been perfectly fair on those men who didn’t wear red pumps who also wanted a go. It was of course their fault that the ride was full of men before they got there.

Numbers says: “If you invent time travel and you can go back and let 50 women onto the ride when it starts its day, you can ‘address inequity by advantaging people’. Otherwise all you can do is create more inequity, punishing people who had nothing to do with the historical inequity, for whom you will try and fix it again, by the same stupid process. Unless of course you want it skewed in your favor and are happy to take advantage of it.”

And you have to ask: who are the real bad guys here? The ones who unwittingly got on the ride first, never meaning to disadvantage anyone, or the ones who knew what it was like to be disadvantaged and deliberately set out to punish and take advantage of… not the ones on the ride, but those who had nothing to do with the earlier situation at all?

Numbers says: “if you want to look at being representative, you HAVE to do so by age cohorts.” I suspect (on the basis of having done a few counts) that, if broken down into age, in fact in the younger cohorts of sf/fantasy if there is overt discrimination and a resultant lack of representative diversity of anyone… it’s Christian white heterosexual conservative males.

Now let’s just talk about this discrimination thing and PC…

“Yes that’s why we believe in PC. To stop discrimination! No matter what you say, we need affirmative action because these victims are persecuted!”

‘Well now,’ says Numbers… ‘I thought discrimination was what set humans… hell, what set animals apart from the rocks. You can tell the difference between hot ‘n cold, wet ‘n dry, full and hungry and sexually appealing and not, and gradients between. It’s called using your judgment, and the more intellectual capacity you have, the more skilled you can be at it. It’s good stuff. Probabilities. I love those.’

“Tch. We mean _unfair_ discrimination. Like not giving someone a job, or the same pay just because they’re a woman. Or gay. Or black.”

“Oh I see,” says Numbers. “Yes, only a fool doesn’t judge on individual merit.”

“Yes and women and gays and black… uh people of color have not been judged on merit for years. It’s not fair, they were persecuted. It cost them jobs, safety, income. We want you authors to redress that in books from now on. Movies too. Be more inclusive and show their positive aspects.”

A moment of silence from Numbers. “So you mean that white men can’t be persecuted.” (and I owe this all to George on Sarah’s I am Spartacus blog post. He thought one should get one’s news from reliable news sources… like the BBC, Al Jazeera, and…. Wait for it… the NYT. And that Christians or whites COULD never be persecuted. That only Gays and blacks could be the victims of discrimination. Thank you, George. So much talent in one little comment.)

“Don’t be an idiot! They’re persecutors. They can’t be discriminated against. Why even the ex-Archbishop of Canterbury said Christians weren’t persecuted in England, because Syria and Iraq.”

Numbers says: “you do realize (even you, ex-Archbishop) that all these things are relative. The woman who gets 5% less for the same job as a man is not as discriminated against as the woman who gets her genitals mutilated, but the guy getting 5% more is at the checkout next along, and the genital mutilation is in Somalia. You judge how rich you feel by comparison to your neighbors, not by comparison to some Sheik in Paris. But that said, you wanted them all included in one book?”

“All books! They need to be more inclusive! So that’s at least one black guy, One black woman, one gay woman (in a happy stable poly-amorous relationship), one gay man (also in a happy stable relationship), one Hispanic man, one Hispanic woman, one disabled person, one Asian couple and one white woman, And one white man. He’s conservative, Christian, middle-aged, married, a homophobe a murderer, a rapist, abuses children, kills puppies and works for a multinational oil company. He’s the murdering villain. You can tell he’s a psychopath because he likes guns.”

“I’d never have guessed otherwise! Now as this is set in the US, and the demographic probabilities are not exactly equal as you suggest they are, anywhere except on a Hollywood set…

“As long as they’re the main characters it doesn’t matter. And you should have guessed he’s the bad guy. It’s … it’s what is that word you’re so fond of? Predictable! They’re persecutors, all of them.”

“Ah.” Says Numbers. “But the only place it is predictable is in modern fiction, where indeed it is predictable with a 99.998% certainty. However… In actual fact, they’re less likely to be the villain than many of your other characters. The only reason they show up at all in crime figures is that actually there are quite a lot of them, compared to almost everyone else in your inclusive list. And by insisting on inclusivity… you’ve made their numbers effectively the same as the most irrelevant group. Which means, even if gay women in stable poly-amorous relationships make up 0.02% of the population and white middle-aged (as in 35-55) Christian conservative married men make up around 10 % in the real world… in your book they’re given as equal probabilities of occurring, of being heroes, and therefore of committing homicide. Now normally it doesn’t look like there is any chance of a 0.02% of having committed a crime. After all, of the 14748 victims, if the probability of them committing the crime was merely the national average… they’d kill 3 people. At the national average (which in fact they are way under) White non-Hispanics (about 64%) would kill nine thousand some change. Only your inclusiveness just made their share of the total very smaller as a probability, and yet… they’re always guilty. Does not compute. You can’t have it both ways. Either the 0.02% occurs in about that proportion in books, in which case they’ll be murderers (or heroes) so rarely that you may as well ignore it, or if they’re equal and equal heroes… they have to get an equal share of murders. ‘Inclusive’ actually makes your permanent villains even more discriminated against.”

“Humph. They deserve it”

“Actually they don’t. There is of course a probability of homicide for each subgroup that you wanted to ‘include’. It’s actually lower than average for whites – a lot less than black Americans for example, and it’s very much lower for men over 25, dropping rapidly as they get older. Wealth reduces the chances further. And despite serious money going into trying to find evidence to the contrary, people with strong religious beliefs (particularly ones which hold the killing of other humans in abhorrence) actually are less likely to kill, and legal marriages are by the probabilities more stable and happier than other folk, and as mental instability and unhappiness and a lack of a support network are major reasons for homicide… and therefore your married church-goer is less likely than his peer group, and far less likely than average to commit murder. And actually there isn’t, also despite attempts to prove otherwise, any evidence that any political mainstream groups are more likely than others to commit homicide (the extremes are – but actually I think you’d be hard put to find the far left less likely than the far right. More like the other way around). And legal gun owners just aren’t trying hard enough to be bad… But he’s always guilty.”

“But he IS! Can so happen sometimes! There is a chance.”

“Yes, there is a chance. A tiny one. One book in 100 … or 50… or 25, that’s plausible, but not damn near every movie, every book. The guy who the real victim of crime is safest running to for help to… is portrayed as a villain. Almost always. That’s really going to help real-life victims isn’t it? It also does affect his chances, his self-image just as much as it affected any of the ‘included’.”

At this point it turns into a chorus of “Numbers you racist, sexist, homophobe etc etc.” which seems to be where every unwinnable argument ends.

However: The one thing about your standard PC villain is that he’s a really, really, really bad at being a whiner. The statistical probability that any other ‘inclusive’ group would be howling blue murder if one tenth of the level of improbable discrimination routinely applied to ‘wicked’ people like him was applied to them is 1000:1. Shrug. He’s got broad shoulders. But don’t think it doesn’t irritate him, and gradually stop him buying your books. And because those are most of what’s on offer, any books at all. From what I can gather, his female counterpart, and their kids, their friends and colleagues (all of whom are more likely to read English for pleasure than any other sector–given public schooling’s demise and the loss of parental input in many other sectors of society — barring the tiny group who can afford to send liberal left wing private schools) are just about sick of a diet that batters their suspension of disbelief too. In economic terms PC has destroyed a lot of writers’ livelihoods.

Now for the ‘why do you beat your wife’ question: Why should many publishers and the organizations supposedly dedicated to promoting the welfare of writers… support PC so vocally? I can see the sense of showing parts of society that are not seen and sometimes have an unfair bad rep… but not at the expense of losing your existing readership, especially if there is no evidence that you gain them, or anything like the same numbers.

Well, time to blow my own trumpet (something I always love doing, SO much, but it goes with the job) and leave, I guess. I’ve written a lot of books. Included a fair number of people of various groups, as people to be judged on their observed actions (which is something I do rather passionately believe in, actually). I think I’ve always managed to either explain why they’re there in that setting, use them plausibly, have the proportions within the grasp of possible reality… and not be exclusive about my heroes… or villains. I don’t think I have had any oil executives, but I did have a conservative Christian pacifist learning to shoot someone when it became necessary Slow Train to Arcturus
and a left-wing modern pastor turning into a closet satanist Soot & Cassandra

And this series,
which is exceptionally rare in a modern fantasy set in Europe, in Earth history, where the heroes are what they probably would have been: Christian Knights, white and male, and being human, fighting, drinking, sometimes making mistakes, womanizing, but still men who believed in honor and the crosses on their armor… and standing as a bulwark against the darkness that seeks to devour the fat little burghers they protect. Buy it and you help to keep me writing. Buy Baen books and you keep them publishing.

Elf Blood — Free Novel — Chapter 2


*You guys know we talked about doing a shared world.  We went with a whole continent so that Dave can have his jungle and I can have my big city with diners.  We’re working on a contract which we should have in a week or two (and yes, we’ll post it for your enlightenment although we haven’t decided yet if anyone not in the group can play.  OTOH if it’s very successful, we’ll inevitably enlarge it.  For now, here’s the second chapter of Elf Blood, book one of Risen Atlantis. And for now it is ©Sarah A. Hoyt 2013.  All rights reserved.  Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page.  You do not have the right to alter it.  You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, email This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.*



Chapter Two

*Previous chapter is here:*

“Murdered?” I asked.  I looked at the beautiful face, the shining blond hair, impeccably cut suit, and I wondered how someone like that, whose very appearance bespoke carefully ordered life and wealth, could be in danger.  I narrowed my eyes at his pointy ears, and lifted an eyebrow.  “The devil takes the hindmost?”

He let his mouth drop open.  For just a second it looked like he was going to deny that his people practiced the particular form of elvish ritual that included human sacrifice of a ceremonial king.  Then he bit his lower lip, probably having realized that with who I was and what I was – and of course, he would know, even if my ears were not pointy.  I understand elves can see magical power – he couldn’t tell me the stories my father’s people told humans: that it was all a long time ago, that it was just tales, that these people kept dying in accidents after getting involved with elves out of the merest coincidence.

Or rather, he realized that he could tell it all day long, but I wouldn’t listen.

Something like a a tide of red appeared on his cheeks.  It made him look feverish.  He closed his mouth with a snap and more or less threw himself down on the red leather chair.  His hands clutched his hat in nervous force and probably ruined the brim.

I had just thought that other than giving offense my question was foolish.  Devil takes the hindmost, the seven-year-sacrifice of the ceremonial king, to spare the real sovereign and prolong his life, was always done with a human drawn in to the circle of elves, usually by a love affair, and sacrificed at the appointed time.  If you were very good, you might last two or three seven year cycles, while the less favored ones went first.  But ultimately your role was sacrifice.  I remembered mom and set my jaw.  I really didn’t want anything to do with elves.

But the point was that no elf ever got drawn in and murdered.  That was not how it was done.  The whole point was to protect elves, not to sacrifice them.  The king and queen of each hill were perhaps more important than the other elves, but at the glacial rate elves reproduced and as bad as they were at surviving their early years, ever elf was considered precious by their breed.  Or at least by their hill.  Not loved, necessarily – elves were not good on the love thing – but protected and taken care of.

I’d just thought that, when my would-be-client sighed.  “Yes.  And no.  That is—”

He twirled the brim of his hat in his hands, like a boy playing with an imaginary steering wheel and taking a sharp turn.  “That is, it shouldn’t–  You see, that is why no one will pay attention to me, even if I go to the police, but things are being so arranged… With solstice approaching.”

Unfortunately, he’d caught my attention.  Solstice was the normal time for the sacrifice of the ceremonial king and queen.  It was less than two weeks away.  But what the devil could it mean that an elf – I looked at those pointy ears again – could be in danger of being sacrificed?

City elves are different.  My father’s people call them Un’uruh, which means some variety of unclean, but more like “tainted” or “mixed.”  I suppose a good number of them are mixed at that.  For one, it is said – though of course, no one can know for sure, since it is considered impolite to doubt anyone’s creation myths no matter how silly – that when Atlantis sank, half the elves stayed on.  They just built magic bubbles under the sea, and went on living there, leading perfectly normal lives.  Some changed themselves into mermaids, whom my father’s people consider just as Un’uruh.  That’s proven fact.  What is not proven is that some pure, untouched elves remained in Atlantis and that those are the ones we call Wood Elves or Forest Elves.

Maybe it’s true.  They are made of different stuff and tend to look Greek.  The city elves are often blond and blue eyed, and freely admit they’re descended from the ones who left with the humans as Atlantis was sinking.  They usually talk about their centuries in Ireland, in England, in Germany, living among humans, disguised as humans.

My father’s people say that they went and mingled their blood with humans, and made themselves all or part human and that their lifespans are shorter and that this is why they can stand to mix with mortals and carry on business.  The fact that their business is usually predatory and that they’re considered worse than mob factions by the police is ignored by my father’s people.

But I’d never heard, not even in my time in the city, not even from my father’s people – who cheerfully considered me Un’uruh too – not even from their worst enemies that city elves sacrificed their own.  Not even in the grand every seven year sacrifice.

My would-be client twirled his hat.  His eyes showed an almost blank fear.  They were the eyes of a wild creature run off its legs by a pack of werewolves, until it still wants to live but it knows it will die.

“Are you serious,” I said.  It wasn’t quite a question.

His hands shifted, turning the hat 90 degrees.  Light glistened on a wedding ring on his finger.  Some polished grey stone.  Probably hematite. Elves cannot stand metal, not over a long time.  It doesn’t kill them, but it gives them a rash.  But the ring was on the wedding finger, so a wedding ring.

He swallowed.  “Yes.  Yes, of course I’m serious. I wouldn’t have come to–   He corrected himself, whatever he’d been about to say, and said instead, “I wouldn’t have come here for help, if I weren’t serious.”

As I said, it was unfortunate that I was interested, but I was.  For one, if – as seemed likely right now – my attempt at getting away failed, it wouldn’t hurt for me to know more of what went on among elves.  I mean, really went on, beyond what everyone knew and the lies my father and his people had told me.  Of course, it was possible that I was too Un’Uruh for even city elves, but maybe not.  Maybe I could move in among them, and maybe they’d accept me despite my somewhat rounded years.  Well, round enough to pass.  They wouldn’t treat me as one of them, but then neither did the humans, and just sorta being one was enough to make me feel completely welcome, I thought, compared to how I’d grown up.

I’d never heard of elves sacrificing their own, or even considering it.  The departure from tradition gave me a glimmer of hope.  I put the pen down on the paper and said, “Your name?”

He swallowed.  “Not—”

“Of course not.”  I wanted to say “don’t be stupid,” but I didn’t.  The time might come, in this investigation, when I needed his true name for a casting or a protective measure, but expecting an elf to give you his true name first thing out is like expecting someone else to give you a lot of hair or a drop of blood.

He seemed to realize what I almost added, the words that hung unsaid between us, because his lips quirked up on the left, an almost human ironical smile and he said, “No.”  Then he straightened up.  “You’ll take the case then?”

“I’ll consider it, at least.  What exactly do you expect me to do?”

“Prevent my being… Don’t let me be killed.”

“That’s more of a magical bodyguard you need,” I said, and hesitated.  I wanted to find out where this went, but I didn’t want to mislead a client.  Even this client.  “I can protect, of course, but not against full elves.”

“No, no,” he said.  “I understand.  That’s not what I meant.  I’m sorry.”  He pulled his handkerchief from his pocket.  Kelly green.  I repressed the urge to snarl “how precious.”  He tapped his forehead, which must be a human-learned gesture, since elves rarely sweated enough to justify that.  He looked back up at me.  “I’m all to pieces.  My nerves are shot.  The feeling has been growing…  I want you to find out how I’m to be exec—killed, and who will do it.  After that I’ll handle it.”

“I’ll handle it” was elf for “I’ll kill the bastard before he can kill me.”

But the idea baffled me.  “You mean you don’t know?”

He shook his head.  “There’s no way of knowing, of course.”

“Of course?”

“Of course,” he said.  “The year’s executioner and executed are never known.  I just got… that is, there was a seeing and other… other reasons. My fear is that the executioner is my wife.”