Communication, subjectivity.

When someone speaks of a neo-Nazi the image that springs to my mind is a large angry skinhead with swastika tattoos, possibly beating up Jews in some inner city. I’m a little confused to find that Irene Gallo, the Creative Director at Tor thinks I am one.

me

Do you think I need to change my appearance to fit her delusions? Put on weight? Get high heels? Perhaps I’m supposed to ‘self-identify’ as a neo-Nazi woman (of dwarfish origins), and, to account for my being married to woman, as a lesbian. Huh I would have thought they’d be threatening me with multi-million dollar contracts to avoid being thought specieists, not abuse./sarc off.

Well – as her words are as accurate a portrayal as I am of a neo-Nazi… I guess that shows how you can all take any supposed ‘truth’ from from the anti-pups: with a steam-shovel load of salt – and that still won’t be enough.

I predicted this. I hate being right when I make unpleasant predictions. I still hate the idea of a boycott, because – as I will explain in this authors have few and poor choices. Still, this goes too far, breaches their own rules,

the Macmillan code of conduct:

The exercise of good judgment is still expected from employees at all times.
• Could this conduct be viewed as dishonest, unethical or unlawful?
• Could this conduct hurt Macmillan – e.g., could it cause us to lose credibility with customers or business
partners?
• Could this conduct hurt other people – e.g., other employees or customers?
• Would I be embarrassed to see this conduct reported in the newspaper?

It goes beyond the bullying we’ve come to expect and mock from them. I have written to rhonda.brown@macmillan.com (Code of Conduct compliance)
asking what steps they’re going to take.

I urge you to do the same if you don’t want the reaction from this hurting your favorite Tor author. I think it fair to give them time to respond, to deal with this sepsis. Let’s see what they do about it. If it is not adequate I am afraid I will have to join the boycott of any Tor author who is not either a Sad Puppy, or who does not speak out publicly against this (which is very hard on authors, and that makes me angry and sad, but eventually you have to stop just hoping they’ll leave you alone.) and encourage my readers to do the same. The company did not make a fortune from me – maybe 50-100 dollars a year. It won’t break them, but I won’t support someone who abuses me and many friends who are better people than I am. As I point out below, publishers get a lot more of a book’s money than the authors. You’d think not badmouthing readers would be common sense.

Anyway – today’s topic – which involves appearances – but hopefully far nicer ones than the grinning monkey above

If I sell you a book- based on its cover, that you, as the buyer think will be about something that you are interested in…
steam mole
I win, yes?

Er. Well that kind of depends, doesn’t it?

I win, simple, short term because that means
(the price of the book) – (the amount everyone else involved in getting it to you gets)

Now if I’m a trad published author and my book is published in the US and that book is a paperback, I get 6-8% of the cover price (unless I am something very large and special). Let’s take that as 8% of $7.99 = more or less 64 cents. And in Australia, that book would be sold in most bookshops for Aus$22-25 (the exchange rate means this is a hard figure to put in US. Today that’s about US $16.75-$19. A couple of years ago they were at parity, and before that book got selling for US$25 – $27. I still got 64 US cents.

But that’s the short term. There’s a huge amount in it for my traditional publisher. Less their expenses – but what is in it for me, is less my expenses too, which is a fact often conveniently overlooked, hidden in the fact many authors pay their expenses via a second job or a spouse or being a trust fund baby. The retailer also gets a good chunk (so you’d think good behavior towards readers a given). There is a lot more, short term for the guys getting 96% of the money, than there is for the author. They have 24 times as much to gain.

Let’s look beyond that $0.64 in my bank account, nine months after the buyer paid his $19 or if they were in the US, $7.99. The reader bought my book under the impression that it was a soppy romance, and they wanted a soppy romance. If it was exactly what they wanted, they identified with the characters (keep this in mind too please, it is relevant later) and the story drew them in, and provided the entertainment they wanted… they would a) Buy my next book. And probably any others they could find, so long as it didn’t let them down. b) Recommend it to their friends – especially those they know have the same taste. This is of course the ‘perfect match’ end of the scale and it’s rarely that absolutely perfect. But in the case of the reader being pleased with getting precisely what they wanted (or more! – it is possible) to the author that sale is worth $0.64 X (a positive figure, greater than 1).

This is OBVIOUSLY first prize for the author. If they’re Indy of course they get 70% of that cover price (regardless of the currency/country) minus expenses of production. That sale might end being worth thousands of dollars over time, if it keeps multiplying…

But let’s say the reader wanted that soppy romance badly… and he got a gritty war story. Or dystopian disaster in which everyone dies. Now sometimes the reader likes gritty war stories. The reader happens to detest dystopian disasters.

What is the long term effect then?

If the author is lucky and they happen to like the book anyway, it still scores much lower than it would. Yes, the market for romance is bigger than the market for either war stories or dystopias, so the short-term benefit to the publisher and retailer is large. The long term effect on them is non-existent (or so they believe), because authors –especially new ones) are widgets. There is an endless supply and you just find another meat-head, or so they believe. Readers are infinitely tolerant, need books more than food (regardless of what the book is) and never go and play computer games instead. (Keep this belief in mind too. I’ll explain how it all fits in to the numbers and luck game).

If they hated it… that sale becomes – for the author, that sale become anything from the swimming equivalent of a weight-belt to concrete socks. A reader who spent $25 on something they thought would please them… is like lover spurned. They’re not gonna be nice, even if all you got was 64 cents. And they won’t take it out on the publisher, or the retailer. They’ll take it out on the author (who usually has no control over the cover). So that sale – to the author is $0.64 X (a figure less than 1, and possibly less than zero). Keep in mind this punishment doesn’t affect the publisher or retailer (or at least not as obviously or proximally).

Which is why when one the CHORFs over at File 770 said he hated my writing and wasn’t going to buy my books… I was very pleased. The reason he hated my writing – when you really got down to it, was that he profoundly disagreed with my worldview, and that meant if I said that coal was black, he’d have promptly said it was not ever black.

We have a commenter from there, here, last week – Mark, who takes that whole new level. If I say coal is black, Mark will tell you I am a racist and I just said so. If you counter this he will demand you prove it. Proving to Mark that you said nothing of the kind will take you five hundred words and several detailed explanations in which you will quote the relevant science, and mention that yes, you see it as black, so does everyone else you have ever been able to ask. He will dismiss all of it as “Oh, personal anecdotes.” If you have the patience to deal with that, he will not say, ‘Okay, you’re right’, but start on the next strawman. The goalposts have so far circumnavigated the globe 15 times. If I could only attach a zeppelin to them, we could have cheap fast intercontinental transport.

Anyway, Mark desperately wants me to say which authors should not have won Hugos. He is of course the hall-Mark of what is Hugo-worthy, and intends to use MGC as a forum to tell us what is wrong with the Sad Puppies selection and that coal is white. I am telling you so that you’re all braced.

So I said that I would explain why my explanation of to how the Hugos were biased by using the term ‘red ball’ to symbolize far left author was not (as it is by Mark’s you said coal is black you’re a racist logic) actually saying that Author x was not ‘Hugo-worthy’.

You see, Mark operates under the illusion that even the nominees are something special.

In fact… it’s more about luck and subjective tastes than perfect pick. For every nominee there are probably 50 other books which could have been better choices.

To understand this you have to understand something of Traditional publishing, some math and some of those points I asked you to remember earlier.

The first thing to establish is ‘worthy’ is generally a _subjective_ term.

Now this is kind of important to writers, so it’s worth thinking about. We like books based not on relatively easy to measure metrics like ‘how good is the grammar?’ or ‘does this collect all the right PC tokens?’…

We like books on how they relate to us. It’s a one-on-one thing. Somewhere, there is a person to whom “The Eye of Argon” spoke to the heart. Mark may well have resonated perfectly to ‘If you were a dinosaur my love’ despite the fact that it’s a rabid attack on working-class men. That’s his subjective choice.

As a writer – if what you want to do is sell books – getting your book to resonate with as many people as possible is crucial. Mostly, that is done via the characters. That IMO always comes first. How much did I care about that character? Now, sometimes a character can simply be fascinating or appeal to a broad spectrum of people (Which is what I am trying to do with TOM – a wizard’s famulus who was once a cat. The story centers around Tom’s problems in adjusting to life as a human, and has character features that all who know cats, and pass as human should be amused by.) There are lots of ways to skin that cat – Sometimes there is a character we dislike so much we just want to see them die. However, generally it is a character that we care about, identify with, and often who provides some wish fulfillment.

A childless cubicle jockey who works in IT and whose sole ‘outside’ work interest is gaming, who will read a book if he runs out of games, and an ex-army guy landscape gardens for a living, who likes outdoor life and has a slew of kids and will read a book if the kids are asleep, and the weather is too miserable to be out… are rarely going to find the same character (and thus books) appealing. Now, if you’re the former, you’ll tell us the ex-IT cubicle jockey Stross is way, way, way better than Kratman. If you’re the latter the inverse will be true.

If you’re someone like Mark of course you will rationalize a myriad reasons why Kratman is terrible and Stross wonderful. And you will let these rationalizations mislead you into saying the one deserves an award and the other is just bad. However that is really subjective taste, and for the likes of Mark to be right, his taste would have to provably ‘superior’. Now, one of the long-stated problems causing the entire Sad Puppies saga, is that the CHORFs do think they are superior to us common riff-raff. They are Fans. Not just fans or readers, and this Capital F somehow magically confers taste we should be grateful to be guided by.

For an award (of general nature, not for example an award for Military sf or LGBT fantasy) to be working well, the awarded books need to be popular, and remain that way. That way we know the subjective tastes of a bunch of people who voted for them in Hugo awards is representative of fandom produces a reasonably objective result. If you had the patience and foresight you track a number of books over a number of years on Amazon and work out the ‘decay’ rate.

I didn’t. But what I did do was to pick on three bellwethers. I took the paperback rank this evening.

Dune (1966 Hugo winner). 649
Left Hand of Darkness (1970 Hugo winner) 5344
Harry Potter and the sorcerer’s stone (1999 – not even nominated) 128

Let’s agree these are great books, which were well chosen and have endured well (you can argue, but it’s pointless)

Let’s accept that there is a slow decline in ranking of even the best. I have no real idea what a fair figure could be. But in the 3000’s from 2014 with a sequel just out isn’t going to make it to under a book of 50 years ago, if it isn’t there now. I think we can probably safely say the only ones of these, by the objective measure of general sales, are 2005 and 2009, which have some chance of showing as well over time.

2005 4759
2006 114698
2007 140299
2008 11765
2009 1567
2010 9389
2010 18914
2011 37330
2012 66684
2013 9960
2014 3655

I think we can safely say that the voting on nominees at Worldcons is subjective, and, for the last 10 years (it may be true for earlier years) is not actually a great predictor of long-term popularity.

I didn’t invest the time in all of the nominees, but I did do 2005 seeing as it was 10 years ago
Interestingly the bestselling remains the winner.
Clarke 4759
Stross 273001
McDonald 374756
Banks 195687
Méiville 41530

But 2006 is different (Martin’ book is currently on TV so I think that’s difficult to compare)
Wilson (winner) 114698
McLeod appears OOP
Martin 804
Scalzi 7975
Stross 108138

So I think we can say, even within a year, it is not necessarily a great predictor.

In practice there are books in every year which would endure better. (Someday one of them might be yours. It is not even necessary to be there to be successful, to have a great career, writing.)

You see, subjectivity affects books – particularly in the Trad pub from the very start. It’s become very obvious to me that some of the rabid anti-puppies really have no idea how traditional publishing works, and what is going on. There are a few among them who do know, but it would not serve their narrative explain. It’s useful stuff to know, even if all it does is make you avoid Trad pub.

You see, to get to the Hugo stage, a trad book has to make it through a sequence of filters. The CHORFs say these mean the books are better.

Which sounds good… but is pure drivel. You see, those filters are subjective filters with limited qualitative value. Many books fall – and it doesn’t mean some of them aren’t way better than anything that gets onto the nomination list or even wins. Guaranteed there is a better book than Dune or Harry Potter, sitting in a drawer or rotting on a hard drive.

This is how it works. Agents – your first stage filter effectively work for the publishers, but are paid for by the authors–to be ‘Slush’ filters. Most publishers outsourced slush reading to agents long, long ago. And they let you pay for them, because except for the very successful authors, the deal you get is no different to the boilerplate deal I got, submitting to the slush back when there were less people trying…

Now let’s explain slush – perhaps Pam wants to put in a word (she used to read slush for Baen). In theory (according to an interview I read way back) the reader should read 10 pages. In practice the decision is reached fast, possibly a paragraph or two, maybe ‘do I turn this page’?

There is a reason for this. The volume is HIGH – Baen got 3000 slush subs the year I submitted. They bought… one. And the decision is taken by someone with no training, no metrics, just ‘did I bind to the story’? (That is a subjective decision, and relies, naturally on the reader identifying with and caring about the character). Of course IF you have contacts (let’s say you went to Clarion West and made friends and got a powerful and influential mentor) you can skip this and land straight on a senior editor’s desk, and he WILL read more than those 10 pages. But for the rest of the hoi polloi we either ended in the top 20 or so (many agents will farm first reads out to their assistants) or got rejected.

Now, those top twenty do not include many great stories that just needed a bit of editorial on the first page. And great stories that arrived on a bad day. And great stories that had an IT geek lead character when the first filter is an outdoor girl (or vice versa).

Then – depending on the agent’s status, the story gets handed on yet another subjective filter. And yes, they also have no real hard metrics, outside their experience (and that can be very deceptive) That subjective filter is possibly an editor or an associate, or maybe even a senior editor… some stories make it through 4 or 5 subjective filters… and then generally face an editorial board, where that editor will pitch for your book. And making an offer depends on that. I got two books to this stage, (I got personal, lengthy hand-written rejections from the managing editor, and from one of the three senior editors and sold the third – which suggests I’m either very lucky or can appeal to quite a range of subjective filters.) I did get about 15 novel rejections, including some in which the manuscript second page (under the title page) had not been touched. It was hard, as that postage represented a month’s disposable income.

So, before we even get to the subjective tastes – and the substantial block votes of large publishers (enough to ensure nominations in some categories), nominating, the book has been through many subjective filters. And then it becomes something which is in the hands of luck and marketing. Sir Terry Pratchett is a vast seller, broadly popular. But his first books, sold to a micro-publisher… just did not get to enough readers. Many great books have fallen at distribution, let alone voting. And of course… some people were in the right place at the right time. There is always an inside track everywhere. Whether it is that you knew the right people, or fitted the right profile to play a diversity card, or had a huge audience outside of what they could do for you – the playing field has never been level, and it’s about as flat as the Himalayas right now. The idea that the 5 books that made it through nomination are somehow objectively the ‘best’ – with the widest appeal and most enduring sales — is self-delusion, and not one I’d ever entertain if it were my book.

The process could not be more different for independent books. Yes. There are badly edited, badly written books that never sell much. Yes, readers’ tastes are subjective, but at least it is many readers, with many different subjective points of view, not a narrow little clique. And you have less ‘luck’, and less ‘being well connected’. We’re in shakedown now, but the future does look better to me.

64 Comments

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64 responses to “Communication, subjectivity.

  1. I’d say you look more like Gimli than the last few skinhead-types I’ve crossed paths with. (FWIW, it’s better to have a black cat cross your path than a quartet of skinheads. Not that the guys were actively causing trouble, but the people around them were acting like Old Scratch himself had appeared with a tax collector and the parking police in tow. Kinda hard to concentrate on translating historical markers while that sort of folly is in progress.)

    At one of my flying jobs, the boss pointed out that it takes ten “attagirls” to counteract one “oh sh*t.” The same seems even more true of book sales. One “ugh I didn’t like it, it’s not what I wanted and the characters really bothered me” seems to torpedo sales faster than other complaints (for fiction.)

    • Barbs was a tad Elvish looking :-).
      And yes. Dislikes count more than likes, especially within a group that are normally your buyers. Not that I think anyone on File 770 actually lowered themselves that much.

  2. Christopher M. Chupik

    Irene Gallo, Moshe Feder, the Nielsen Haydens, John Scalzi. You’d have to be an idiot — or a File 770 regular — not to see a pattern emerging in regards to Tor and how they interact with everyone else.

    • They certainly seem to regard customers as people to be treated with disdain

      • Uncle Lar

        Well of course they do. It is after all the readers’ fault. Tor keeps publishing literary masterpieces and those ignorant low class readers just aren’t grateful for the opportunity to read what’s good for them.
        See, once you accept that you yourself are without fault and things are still crashing into the cesspit, it must be someone else’s doing.

      • No, just *some* customers. I’ve been treated very, very well by Tor as a librarian and therefore (assumed: the blinders these people wear–!) a fellow-traveling prog with all the right goodthinks.

        Those of you benighted sods should count your lucky stars for the chance to have your racist, sexist, neo-nazi souls exposed to the good-and-proper tracts they make available to the Real People. And if you *don’t* take advantage if this opportunity, too bad for you, but what can one expect from a bunch of trogs?

        Why should they care if a tiny handful of loudmouthed “customers” (who don’t buy Tor books anyway. Probably. It’s not as if people Like That are even literate) whinge? All the people they know are good, upstanding decent social justice progressives, so why all the fuss about losing the business of a handful of losers?

        Heh.

        I am well and truly embedded in that world.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “This is a great book” equals opinion.

    “I enjoyed this book” equals fact.

    Oh, when commenting on books, I very often include “YMMV”.

    IE Your Mileage May Vary.

    I’m not arrogant enough to think that because I like it, everybody will/should like it (or the reverse).

    • Precisely, Paul. It’s that arrogance, that my taste is BETTER than yours, that burns my multi-colored tail end. I can tell what I like. You cannot. When someone starts telling how bad a book is – I keep wanting to add ‘in your opinion’. And people who think their opinion SOOO superior seem to get it wrong for a common monkey like me.

      • Reality Observer

        I would actually say EMWV – Everyone’s Mileage Will Vary. Get a bunch of people who all liked a book (or series, or movie) together, and ask them which scene they liked best. The future son-in-law loves the running competition between Legolas and Gimli. The wife likes best the comeuppance of Saruman. I like (in the book, not the movie) the battle speech of Theoden.

        I supposed it might be different among those who hated the book, since they usually drop it within the first three pages or so before anything much happened. Unless, of course, it was inflicted upon them by an English teacher – I didn’t hit the part that I *most* hated in “The Jungle” until the very end.

        Side note – while I am not childless (at last count), I am one of those “cubicle IT geeks.” I think that Kratman is one of the neatest things since the miracle of evenly sliced bread. Stross, on the other hand, I think is one of the worst hawkers of hackneyed hacking to be seen outside of publishing Hell…

        EMWV.

        • You’re absolutely correct. Books with broad appeal have that appeal because they touch each reader in a different place. So, yes, EMMV.

          Oh, and I had to read “The Jungle” in 9th grade history. I enjoyed it until the very end. At which point I put the book down and quit reading it altogether.

        • B. Durbin

          I used to work in a bookstore, and my favorite thing was matching people to books. “If you like this for these reasons, you’ll probably like this.” Tanya Huff and Mercedes Lackey have a huge stylistic crossover, for instance, despite their different topics. One of them could easily write a pastiche of the other without the reader noticing. So that’s one.

          Oddly enough, a writer named Mark Anthony (really; he worked with my husband) has large stylistic crossover with David Eddings’ Belgariad, in spite of the fact that the latter is a classic epic and the former series—The Last Rune—is a world-crossover story. (There’s only the one series, but Mark is now writing romance under a pen name. More power to him.)

          The trick is to figure out why somebody likes a particular work and match them to other things they should like. If I review something, I want to say what particularly drew me to it, and who might like it as well. That’s better than generic “I liked it!” reviews, IMO.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Yeah. I resemble the cube farmy indoorsy sort more than the other, and I greatly prefer Kratman to Stross.

          I did initially find Kratman less accessible, because part of what he wrote went over my head.

          Freer needed to simplify a generalization to support his point.

          • gingeroni

            As a long time computer person, I “got” the humor in Stross’ early Laundry Files work. His later stuff is getting too depressing, humorless and nihilistic. Kratman I have trouble with. “Watch on the Rhine” was excellent but his other non-Ringo works just haven’t clicked.

            • I got Stross’s humour, and loved the early Laundry files. Then one day, reading a different series of his, my brain kept trying to place why it seemed eerily familiar, but it was just not quite clicking. I mentioned this to one of my favorite sysadmins.

              The sysadmin replied, “Oh, Stross? Yeah, he’s awesome at compiling six months of slashdot and turning it into a future.”

              …and I saw it. After that, I couldn’t read his scifi, because I kept going “Yep, remember when that concept popped up on slashdot, and here, on the next page, yeah, I remember that one’s flamewar…” It absolutely killed my suspension of disbelief.

              As for the Laundry files, right about the Jennifer Morgue, I just put the book down and never got back to it.

        • 🙂 I chose to use the two examples that Mark cited, as they’re fairly far apart in appeal.

          One of the techniques you can get away with as an author, particularly in ‘big’ books (with a large cast of characters) is to offer different readers charaters and tropes they can ID with. It’s a deliberate choice I made in Heirs books.

    • Part of the thing about crafting a solid review is giving out with “why” you liked, or didn’t like a particular book, either briefly or at length.

      • Yes, otherwise a review is worthless, and calling someone who does that a ‘reviewer’ is an insult to people who do it properly.

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    I’m sure the Puppy-kickers are scratching their pointy little heads trying to figure out Dave’s cover right now:

    “There’s a girl and a person of color, but they can’t be the protagonists, because Puppies are all racist misogynists, even the female minorities. Maybe his stuff about covers is some kind of code and the cover is a trick . . .”

    • Oh they will just do their usual. Make shit up.

    • Reality Observer

      OK, made me scroll… There *is* a melanin-advantaged person on that cover.

      No, honestly, I didn’t notice. I gestalted it, and said “steampunk,” even before I saw the title. Which means it is a *great* cover!

      • Even if you don’t necessarily care for steampunk, it’s still a great YA adventure full of intricate worldbuilding, with plenty of fun and funny bits.

        (I may not like the female main character that much, but her mother made me giggle. A Lot. “They should never have left a chemist alone with her stocks…”)

      • I know. I think it’s because none of the proper signaling modes: Coloured Person Alert! Coloured Person Alert! Content includes Diversity(TM)! Is present. Rick Riordan never gets any credit for the Kane chronicles, either.

  5. Moshe was in my Facebook comments yesterday. When asked if we were all racist homophobic misogynist neonazis… directly and specifically… his response was, and I quote… “If the shoe fits”.

    Then after hours and thousands of words clearly proving significant widespread and influential social and political bias in publishing and literary awards, including in science fiction… dozens of different straw men, and other fallacious arguments Texas sharpshooters, arguing against absolutes with exceptions a when no absolute argument had been made etc.. once again it came down to “if you can’t prove that these specific Hugo nominees and winners won solely because of bias, then there is no bias”

    I stopped bothering at that point.

    • Honestly, they know there is something wrong. But short-term, it favors them and their worldview, and their political outlook – so even as sf sells less and less each year… they come up with these pathetic rationalizations. I’ve seen all before from White apparachnics is Apartheid SA.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        How Dare You! Compare our Glorious Masters to “White apparachnics in Apartheid SA”. That’s Pure Evil! [Very Very Very Big Sarcastic Grin]

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        It is possible that you have never heard, or never cared to remember, my case that a certain US Party is only cosmetically different from when they ran explicitly White Supremacist platforms. You may have heard of the recent high profile event this year, where they orchestrated the burning of minority neighborhoods. Their base insists that this was proper, and not at all racist.

    • Nathan

      It was his comments that set me off on the anti-Tor tear in April. It is because of him that I will buy anything by Brandon Sanderson second-hand and mail him the difference. I want to support authors. Editors who show contempt for me and mine, to the point of wallowing in lies, not at all.

    • “If the shoe fits…,” he says.

      Moshe, the shoe only fits if you cut off our toes and remove half our heel. And if you stretch the shoe more than a little. And if you hold it on with glue. We’re not Cinderella’s sisters, and the label “bigot racist Nazi homophobe” is no live of leisure in the prince’s castle—kindly leave that shoe to those to whom it belongs.

      (Reposted from Facebook)

    • Patrick Chester

      …and if the shoe doesn’t fit, people tend to complain about it.

      What’s next? Is he going to try “the truth hurts” and hope no one notices that lies can also cause pain?

  6. One of the reasons I chose to self publish… And it’s truly sad that it has degraded to this. You’re on point, and no, none of us will get rich writing… Oh yeah, and you’re about as far from Nazi as one can get… sigh

    • (grumble) I don’t want to hear any more that defeatist nonsense. It IS possible to get rich, writing. Not all of us, no, but sure as hell some of the Indies do. And that is easily provable. A lot more of us make some kind of a living at it (far more than do out of trad).

      And my parents both volunteered to fight the Nazis. I take exception to the idea that I would denigrate their – and many others – sacrifice in that.

      • The American Dream: If I work hard, produce a good product and have a little luck selling it to the people I can get rich.

        The SJW Dream: If I get enough of the people to believe they are downtrodden and only I hold the key to their success I can get rich.

      • Reality Observer

        I think that just about everyone here resents it mightily. My father took a piece of a German mine to his grave, after carrying it for many painful years. One grandfather had permanent hearing loss from being too close to the artillery, and had several of his home town friends who didn’t get their gas masks on soon enough (yes, Phase One of the War). The other one isn’t a family shame; he was born after the conflict we do not name here and died before my father was born in 1915.

        Strangely, my maternal grandfather *didn’t* catch any flak from being of German descent when he joined the Army, nor did my grandmother have any stories of it – probably because they were in a part of Kansas that was just about all German (the remainder being Irish and Scandihoovian).

  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Funny story (to me).

    A few years back there was an Animal Farm movie and I read a review of it.

    The woman reviewer acknowledged that Orwell was talking about Stalin’s Russia *but* referred to Orwell’s book as an “anti-fascist novel”.

    Stalin as a Fascist? LOL

  8. Ah! The glories of the Slush Pile! It’s really tough to keep in mind, while trying to catchup with a mountain of manuscripts, that the point of it all is to find good stuff to read, _not_ find any reason to reject this one, quick, so you can keep to your self imposed goal of a hundred books a month.

    I passed on to Jim and Toni . . . I think a total of thirty-six books, of which they bought two. I have no idea how many books i looked at, and I’m not going to see if I’ve kept copies of my reports to count them. Dave is not exaggerating when he said 3000 manuscripts.

    _Now_ if you want an example of how to become a Rich and Famous Author, I believe Larry Correia is the best modern example of how it’s done. (1) Indy Pub. (2) have fans rave to Toni Weisskopf. Ebooks are the new slush pile.

  9. Draven

    And people (including a recently deceased friend) wonder why i never bothered looking at agents and publishers and stuff…

  10. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Does this look like a Neo-Nazi?

    Define Neo-Nazi. In America, they tend to losers who identify with a loser. (This must be understood in terms of American culture.) One of the notable organizations is a prison gang, Aryan Nations. The stereotype is someone with a lot of visible tattoos, who is possibly a habitual criminal. Most of the actual destruction in minority neighborhoods comes from ‘socialists’ and ‘anarchists’ who have ties with and gain the cooperation of one of the major Parties. The Neo-Nazis have no political viability because they stick to the losing strategy of having no allies, and not providing anyone with any political utility.

    Now, long hair and beard can be a biker look, and some bikers do overlap with Neo-Nazis, I guess by way of drugs and crime. However, your look is not a biker look.

    The grey speaks to age, but your stories of a vigorous lifestyle counter any idea of frailty that they could scorn fearing. Failure to consider that one doesn’t survive such long without restraint and judgment say more about the ‘analyst’ than the object.

    That picture does not look like a hippie, a hipster, or a white collar leftist. With that beard, you might be considered acceptable if you were gay or an Arab.

    You don’t look like one of ‘their people’ to them, you are ‘other’, so with the color of your skin, they see no better label than ‘Neo-Nazi’.

    • 🙂 it was intended as a joke. I have been told I look most like like an old mountain man.

      • Jen G.

        You look a lot like the aging earth-children over here in the Pac-NW.

        • Yep. In my neck of the woods you’d either be one of those darn NPR-swilling hippies or in an evangelical Christian biker gang. Either way, you’d probably be a neighbor or a friend.

          It’s the stupid city transplants who call the cops because a “horse got loose in town” when someone rides in to the feed store. Or they try to get a farm shut down with “environmental” rules because manure smells icky who piss me off.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Well, maybe my eyes are bad, because I used to mistake your birdy icon for a pirate outfit.

        Everyone knows the mountain men were about wunderwaffe, girls dancing in white dresses, and the use of acetylcholine esterase inhibiters for purely medicinal purposes.

        • The expression on the icon’s face was fear I was about to get a ‘deposit’ down my neck. It was one of the weirder things that have ever happened to me at sea, that bird coming to perch on me.

  11. BobtheRegisterredFool

    You know, a range of extreme right to neo-nazi is only narrow if you think that neo-nazi implies right. Between the originals being foreign, the originals have leftist type economic intervention, and the association with criminality, there is a case that the Neo-Nazis properly belong on the Left. If the extreme right is on the right, and the Neo-Nazis are on the left, extreme right to Neo-Nazi might describe as wide a range as three to four standard deviations from the mean.

    • Only people with a knowledge of what Nazis actually were would consider the range of politics that statement actually encompasses. In reality, the Sad Puppies and their nominees probably do fall into that extreme breadth (not that any of them are necessarily are Neo-Nazis or far right wing). However, she meant it as a scurrilous insult.

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  13. Reality Observer

    David Freer in high heels. No. Just NO.

  14. Mark

    Wow, Dave, that StrawMark sounds like a real piece of work, doesn’t he? Forewarned is forearmed, I say! I particularly like the way you mention that StrawMark might even call you a racist. Boo, StrawMark, boo! And you say that StrawMark may have liked that Dinosaur story, you know, the one that’s a symbol of all that is wrong with the Hugos. Foolish StrawMark, no taste in stories at all. And to cap it all, that StrawMark guy thought your stories of people you’d spoken to were anecdotes! Silly StrawMark, doesn’t he know an anecdote is a short account of an incident, whereas you were providing brief tales of an event that happened to you?

    Incidentally, I chuckled at hall-Mark! That was a good pun. You start correctly, stating I want you to say which of the authors you identify as “red balls” weren’t nominated on merit, but you miss out that I challenged you to also say which ones should have replaced them due to greater merit. Well, to be fair, you do sort of say there were books of greater merit – 250 of them per year, in fact. This seems to be a Cunning Plan to flood the field with possibilities so that you don’t have to back up your claims.

    Oh! Here’s StrawMark interrupting again, thinking his taste in books is the One True Way. That StrawMark, tsk tsk. Tell me, Dave, if StrawMark is so convinced of his own superiority, why does he participate in a process in which his opinion is only one in thousands,?

    Now StrawMark collapses under the weight of his own opinions, leaving some material left over for….StrawAward! Err, StrAward? StraWard? “For an award to be working well, the awarded books need to be popular, and remain that way.” No Dave, that’s not the Hugo Award, that’s some other award you just made up (and are welcome to name, operate, and publicise, BTW) The Hugo Award goes to the book that a bunch of people sufficiently interested in SF to pay out some money for a SF convention think is the best that year. There are no direct counts of the number of books sold, no takebacksies in a few years time if the sequel reveals it was all a dream. The Amazon Sales Rank Award As Sponsored by Dave Freer is a different beast.

    Now for the major problem with your analysis of whether the Hugos are getting it right, which is why everything you write afterwards is built on sand: Sales measure how many people think they might like a book before they read it, Hugo-style voting reveals how much people liked a book after they’ve read it. Sales stem from marketing, prior reputation, reviews, random chance selection in airport bookstores, etc etc. Being part of a series often helps, as does recognition from other media.

    Your three bellwethers demonstrate this perfectly. The book with 6 sequels, a major Hollywood movie, computer games and Lego sets – first. The book with 5 sequels, a movie, computer game, and a recent miniseries – second. The book with one sequel and no movie – last. Shocking.

    Amazon Sales rankings are a fluctuating beast, updated anywhere between hourly and daily. They represent recent sales. Your desire to see books “remain popular” long term isn’t measured here. They don’t take account of price point (Dune $3.03, HP $7.62, Left Hand $7.97), and oh what else: Amazon US sells to the US. Both the Hugo Award, and even StraWard, are international awards. Your data is limited and liable to fluctuation.

    So, when I went to have a look at the Amazon SFF sales rankings, what did I see? I saw books with TV series out, I saw books with just-released sequels, I saw a book whose movie trailer had just been released. I also saw The Princess Bride – Inconceivable! Your data is limited and liable to fluctuation.

    Incidentally, you tripped over this exact problem when you discuss 2005 and 2006 – Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has a TV adaption showing right now.

    What have you actually shown? That in a fairly limited period prior to collecting your data, some books got bought at different rates. That doesn’t even help StrAward, let alone the Hugos. Your data is limited and liable to fluctuation.

    So, subjective vs objective, that thing you claimed I didn’t understand. What have you actually assembled here, Dave? Two sets of data, one made up of the subjective opinions on the worth of a book of thousands of people who have actually read the book; the other made up of the subjective opinions of the likely worth of a book by thousands of people who haven’t actually read it yet. I totally agree with you that it’s subjective…both sets of data.

    Anyway, this is getting very long and StrawMark needs restuffing, so I’ll zoom past you tell us how trad pub chooses books by the mysterious process of people having opinions (next you’ll be telling us Hollywood blockbusters aren’t greenlit by a show of hands at ComiCon?) and how having opinions is unfair to writers. That indie book on Amazon suffers from people having opinions too – the opinion of “shall I buy this?”. There’s always subjective judgements somewhere in the chain. Then there’s the dark mutters of bias and an inside track. Of course, this bias needs something more than proof by assertion, and you’ve just abandoned your previous proof of bias for a new argument of “they’re all bad”.

    You want “the ‘best’ – with the widest appeal and most enduring sales” Dave, the Hugo Awards can’t predict “most enduring sales”. Not even the StraWard can do that. The best, most insightful book of the year may be irrelevant a decade later, because whatever it’s being insightful about is old hat. It may have featured an interesting and novel take on generation starships, or vampires, or time travel, and then everyone and his dog wrote about that and it’s just one among many. Doesn’t change that it was considered best in its year. You’re demanding the impossible, and “proving” its failure with ephemera. Looking at sales only tells you what people thought about a book before they read it.

    Back to those 250 better books per year. It’s a Cunning Plan, I admit. You avoid dealing with the consequences of your “red ball” theory by swamping the field. You want the Hugos to check the slush piles, and that they don’t shows their left-wing bias? You want the Hugos to reflect sales, but you say some of the best books don’t even get sold, so that’s left-wing bias? Sorry Dave, but it won’t fly. You claim the Hugos suffer from left wing bias, pony up and name the unfairly excluded right-wing works. I won’t even hold you to producing 250.

    • Timid1

      Very kind of you to drop by and reply, Mark. I for one feel honored. It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone who’s help make the Hugos into what they are now. Since you’re here, riddle us this:

      1. What do you think of Gallo’s comments?
      2. What do you think of Tor’s policy to select works based on whether the author is an “under-represented group?” It says so right in their short fiction guidelines, if you want to check.
      3. What do you think of Tor and the Foglios?

      Tell us what you think, Mark. This is your moment to shine.

      • Mark

        It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone who’s help make the Hugos into what they are now.

        I’m afraid you’re confusing me with StrawMark. My influence on the Hugos is strictly one-man-one-vote, just the same as yours.
        I’m simply here commenting on Dave’s posts at Dave’s specific request, because he didn’t want to continue talking on File 770. Some other posts on MGC caught my attention, so I’ve commented on those too. If you’d like to talk to me and others about issues more general than Dave’s posts, feel free to post on File 770 in the Hugo roundup threads – I’m often reading them.

        • In other words, you’re not going to answer Timid1’s questions. Or any questions.

          You could have just saved everyone involved a lot of time by not even posting here at all. At least this one was short compared to your previous post which was both a) prolix and b) had zero semantic content.

          • Mark

            If you’d like to talk to me and others about issues more general than Dave’s posts, feel free to post on File 770 in the Hugo roundup threads – I’m often reading them.

            • Timid1

              Thank you for your offer, but I think I’ll pass. File 770 does not meet our needs at this time. Best of luck inviting others to File 770.

        • Timid1

          That’s nice. Yet you never addressed the questions:

          1. What do you think of Gallo’s comments?
          2. What do you think of Tor’s policy to select works based on whether the author is an “under-represented group?” It says so right in their short fiction guidelines, if you want to check.
          3. What do you think of Tor and the Foglios?

          This is your golden opportunity to set the record straight on precisely what you believe. Surely you have no problem in doing that.

          • Mark

            Your belief that my accepting Dave Freer’s invitation to discuss Dave Freer’s assertions with Dave Freer on this site requires that I pass a gatekeeping test on my opinions on unrelated matters from yourself is not based in fact.

            • Timid1

              Yet you are still here – and still will not answer the questions, to whit:

              1. What do you think of Gallo’s comments?
              2. What do you think of Tor’s policy to select works based on whether the author is an “under-represented group?” It says so right in their short fiction guidelines, if you want to check.
              3. What do you think of Tor and the Foglios?

              • Farley

                Mark is too busy stuffing StrawMark to reply.

              • Mark

                Timid1, I’m afraid that MGC Guest Poster Jon LaForce has made it necessary for me to stop commenting here. If Dave Freer wishes to make a reply, I will see it, and respond in some fashion, but otherwise I will not be interacting.

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  16. Arlan Andrews

    As an SP3 nominee (novella), all I have to say was that in WWII, my Dad was in the Coast Guard and assisted in killing a lot of nazis in submarines in a long day’s battle in the North Atlantic in February 1943 (USCGC Campbell — Dad’s incidental photo and a painting with him in it aboard the Campbell appeared in Life Magazine that year). He would not have approved of his firstborn being insulted by association with the national socialist garbage he helped send to Davy Jones’ locker. Nor do I.

  17. Bravo, Mark! You wrote exactly what Mr. Freer predicted you’d write. It’s uncanny.

    Admit it: it’s a parking lot game betwixt you two.