I first came across TANSTAAFL years ago after finding copies of Worlds of If buried in one of my grandmother’s closets. This closet was devoted to storing books, magazines, records and a myriad of other things my uncles and father had left at the house over the years. To the best of my knowledge, these particular magazines had been left by my Uncle John when he’d been home on leave from the Navy. The rest of the brothers and sisters had long since moved out of the house and had their own families.
For those of you who might not be familiar wit TANSTAAFL, it comes from Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It is the “title” of the third part of the book and stands for “There ain’t so such thing as a free lunch.” Think about that for awhile.
I guess what made this come to mind for me is recent events in the publishing world. There’s the Amazon-Hatchette conflict. Amazon has been pretty quiet about what is involved in their ongoing negotiations with Hatchette. Hatchette has been more quiet, officially at least, that I expected. However, there are “unnamed sources” that are supposedly from those in the know at Hatchette that have talked with the New York Times. And, of course, the Times is reporting what was said as fact. I’ll let you read the post but basically, if the source is to be believed, Amazon wants concessions for putting up a pre-order button, for having a person dedicated to dealing with Hatchette, pricing and discounting of e-books, etc.
Now, as the Times noted, much of what Amazon supposedly wants is exactly what is already in place with retailers such as Barnes & Noble. Of course, that little tidbit is buried deep in the article. It is also something we aren’t hearing about from those Amazon detractors who claim that all the retailer is doing is hurting authors and readers.
Well, folks, TANSTAAFL. As an author, when you sign a contract with a publisher, you are signing over all rights to determine where your book will be sold to that publisher. If they don’t contract with a retailer, too bad. If they get into a contract dispute with a retailer too bad. You may not like it but you gave up that control. What’s more, you gave it up for a very small cut of the money pie, trusting that publisher to protect your rights, market your book and give you a fair accounting of your sales.
I’m not going to condemn anyone for going the traditional route. I freely admit there is one traditional publisher — Baen — I would love to work with some day. However, when you sign a contract with a publisher, you do give up your right to determine where your books are sold and at what price point. You can and, more than likely will, find yourself held hostage during contract negotiations between the publisher and its distributor or retail outlets. That is just one of the costs of doing business the traditional way.
But TANSTAAFL applies to what is going on in publishing in other ways as well. For a very long time, the darlings of traditional publishing have benefited from a push from their publishers than many others never received. They were allowed to believe that they are relevant and cutting edge. They fell into lockstep with the cause du jour as decided by the publishers and took great joy in lording it over the lesser beings in publishing, especially in science fiction/fantasy. We’ve seen them flex their muscles — or try to, at least — in how they’ve pushed political correctness as they describe it. Don’t you dare have a scantily clad female on a cover but no sweat having a mostly naked man. To be relevant, you have to have every color, creed and sexual preference represented in your work. Story has taken a backseat to message.
Except there has been a push back and they don’t know how to react. The sacred cows are being sacrificed right and left. We’ve been told people don’t read science fiction and fantasy and yet there are folks out there indie publishing who have been able to quit their day jobs to write full time. Others have managed to make enough in royalties in just a month or two of sales to be the equivalent of an advance from a traditional publisher. What’s worse that these renegade indie authors actually being successful is that they are doing it by writing stories readers want to read. Stories, not messages. How dare they!
The other side has made an art of attacking those they don’t approve of. They have no problems publicly condemning, possibly even slandering, those who might have unpopular beliefs. If you don’t fit into the right-think slot, you are not worthy of being allowed to write. They’ve done their best to ruin Vox Day who, in my opinion, loves to stir the pot of controversy. When Ender’s Game (the movie) came out, they tried to coordinate a boycott of the movie and even called for people to quit buying anything by Orson Scott Card. Why? Because he doesn’t believe the way they do and has said so publicly. Do I agree with him? No, but I also don’t think that is reason to take away his livelihood. Want more examples? There has been a call for Toni Weisskopf to drop Larry Correia because he is a big, mean, scary, gun-loving, heterosexual man and proud of it. Worse, he won’t learn his place and be quiet about his opinions and apologize to those who attack him.
There are any number of other examples out there. The point is this, those folks who are often identified as social justice warriors or GHHers have been allowed to do as they want and say as they want for so long, they thought they basically had a free lunch to continue to do so. They are now learning that they don’t. When they attack one of our own, we tend to fight back now. Why? Mainly because we’re tired of it. But the underlying reason is because we know, as authors, we have alternatives to legacy publishing now. We don’t have to be afraid of our editors dropping us because we aren’t bowing down to their cause du jour. Then there is the fact that we are starting to realize there are so many readers out there who want the kind of stories we write.
The dance that is happening right now revolves around how the other side is dealing with the revelation that one of their shining beacons they hold up as an example for all has been named as an abuser by her own daughter. They’d managed to “forget”, if not turn a blind eye, to the fact that this beacon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) had been married to a child abuser and had, iirc, tried to defend his actions. But now they are scrambling around trying to figure out how to respond to the allegations against MZB. I’ve seen everything from condemning the actions, if true, but casting doubt on the daughter’s story to saying basically, “okay, she was bad but that doesn’t make her books, or the message in them, bad.” Then there was the comment I saw on social media this morning which was basically trying to find out if it was one of those well-known “secrets”. The subtext being, if it wasn’t, then the person posting could just ignore what happened and say that we can’t condemn the writing because of actions of the author that weren’t known.
My issue with all that is the double-standard involved. If this sort of revelation had been made against a “conservative” writer, the SJWs would be demanding that their books be pulled from the shelves and the author would be condemned. There would be little to no doubting the allegations against her. There would be no separating the actions of the author from her work. Remember, they want to kill the careers of men like Card and Correia simply because they aren’t “politically correct”.
Well, for those who think it is all right to apply that double standard, TANSTAAFL. There will come a time when people are tired of being told what to do, what to think, what to read. And guess what, that time is here. There is more behind the trouble the publishing industry is in than Amazon and much of it lies at the feet of the publishers and those they have anointed as their dahlings. You attack us, we will defend ourselves. More than that, we will continue to write stories readers want to buy. We will continue to explore alternative ways to get our work into the hands of readers, and at prices they can afford and that will pay us royalties much greater than what your legacy publishers are giving you.
And, along that line, here are some of those books:
Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.
Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.
But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.
The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out.
As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld.
Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own…
Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die.
And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.
In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.
Trickster Noir (Pixie for Hire)
After the battle of Tower Baelfire ended, Lom lay dying. Bella was tasked with not only the job she never wanted, but the one she did. Could she keep Lom alive long enough for him to come to the rescue when their kingdom needed them? And what did Raven, mysterious trickster spirit and honorary uncle to Bella, want with them? If the threat was big enough to have the trickster worried, Bella knew she needed to have Lom at her side. Underhill might look like a soap-bubble kingdom, but Bella and Lom knew there was a gritty underside. Why else would fairyland need a dark man willing to carry a big gun and be the Pixie for Hire?
ConVent (The Vampire Con Series)
A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.
ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.
War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.
Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.
That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.
Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space.
It was going to be an easy payday.
But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy.
Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World.
Baptism By Fire (Edge of Faith)
In the last parts of the Twenty-first century, AI, Artificial Intelligence is commonplace. Highly able computers, and nothing more . . . until some rare and as yet unidentified trigger creates an actual personality.
Artificial Personalities, APs or hals, are illegal. Destroyed upon discovery. Even Beowulf, the AP the government controls, and uses to hunt down emerging hals, isn’t legally recognized, has no right to existence.
So you’d think that when the Special Grid Security Unit started paying extra attention to the area where a certain cooking show operates, Fancy Farmer—the AP who runs the show—would be concerned.
But Fancy has a bigger problem.
She’s been stolen.
I haven’t read ConVent (yet), but I am reading Kate Paulk’s ConSensual right now. It is an absolute hoot. Great fun, and a great read..
“Free” is such a beautiful abstract idea.
But like all concepts, when applied to the real world things get a bit complicated. There’s a cost to everything. *Somebody* is going to pay for that free lunch. Possibly a vendor absorbing the costs of his ingredients, labor and overhead. Possibly it’s spread out among the steadily shrinking pool of taxpayers. And possibly one pays for it oneself, in choosing personal freedom at the expense of family, or choosing to write to please a small audience rather than applying the same effort to pleasing a wider readership and earning more money. Or not writing for the elite and a big advance, to save ones self esteem, again at a cost.
If you pay for it yourself, you can decide whether it was worth it. If someone else is paying, will you value what you’ve received?
And thank you for the push!
Perhaps the SJW sci-fi/fantasy authors (and publishers to an extent) are discovering the price they’ve been paying their gate-keepers and watchmen, and they don’t like it. They’ve been sheltered from readers’ reality, and all of a sudden the cold wind is a blowin’ and the precious darlings of the Right Sorts are discovering that while the gates are still mostly closed, the roof has rotted away. Writers willing to pay the masons and carpenters in advance are starting to enjoy entertaining their readers in snug, attractive little castles, while the SJWs are wondering where their palace roof went, its beams eaten away by the forces of “market” and “economy.” The SJW’s captive readers are gone, flown away.