Always to see the future, never to be believed…
Or doom and disaster for fun and profit.
Science fiction needs cataclysm, war and destruction. Terrible odds, insane risks, foolish idealism… Not in the genre per se, but the writers need it in their books. We do seem to be getting that back-to-front.
Yes I know: I’m the genre’s Cassandra. Always foreseeing nonsense no-one believes. Well, no one important anyway. Magrathea would go out of business if anyone important listened. And that’s never going to happen…
Pure nonsense. Like the silly idea that e-books would damage paper sales and that traditional publishers would try to defend the paper sales at the expense of e-books by overpricing e-books beyond their perceived value. That it would cost them market share and the traditional publishing industry would shrink. That they’d try lawfare, restrictive contracts rather competitive royalty payments. That they’d stay in New York City, despite having no reader-driven reason to do so. None of that’s been true.
Yep, just as ridiculous as my forecasts that Puppy-Kickers would burn down their Hugo-village to save it, that they would do exactly what Vox Day wanted them to do. That this would have serious consequences… the Dragon Awards are purely a figment of my imagination. I don’t know why they’re so cross at something they said would never happen, that we should do, and would be irrelevant if we did. Could it be a lack of control after all the work they’ve put in? The rage being expressed by the puppy kickers at this imaginary consequence reminds me strongly of the rage of Mike Glyer on being called on his selective quoting. I suspect he thought it was such a neat manipulation trick he’d never be caught. He could always claim ‘the link was there’. And they all do follow it, of course. You know, based on the number visits to MGC referenced to File 770, if they all did it would put their viewership in the tens… So are all the comments by sock-puppets? The Dragon Award comment I’ve found funniest so far was the sulk from Kevin Standlee – you know the guy whose job it is to be neutral and to convey the perception of fairness, who spends his spare time puppy kicking and telling us what a good friend PNH and Tor are. He was very upset by the very idea that Worldcon was not considered representative and large enough to give a good reflection of popularity. Yes. That’s why 17 votes got someone onto the Campbell ballot. Why 20 nomination votes were enough in some fan awards…
And my next crazy idea that threats to the income and livelihood of various Puppies was as dumb as you get, and would backfire tragically were it lead to the retaliation… which inevitably things like this do – and is exceptionally dumb when you have 90% of your trad authors from a 24% extreme of the population – relying on selling to the other 76% of the population. It’s going to be interesting… the penny hasn’t dropped in puppy-kicker and so called SJW areas. David Gerrold was saying that our careers would be be damaged, editors fight shy of us etc. etc, and we would get no invites to cons. Because most of pups were outside the cliques these ‘very important to Puppy-Kicker areas of a ‘career’ (which seems entirely based on industry connections with the ‘right people’, not readers) were never very relevant to the Sad Puppies. “You mean people who don’t buy my books, don’t read me, won’t buy my books and won’t read me?” “You mean cons that wouldn’t invite me won’t invite me?”
But what will happen when the 76% of readers stop supporting them?
Ah well. This is an election year. My prediction is that the Puppy Kickers will double down and become more extreme, rather than ditching their extremists and trying to reach toward the center, despite causing further division being the worst financial decision they could make. They’re still worried about what their clique thinks or could do, rather than the wider world.
I’m still pushing for further economic tightening and more competition for fewer dollars, and more worried, unhappy people looking for cheap, uplifting escapism.
But don’t worry. All the important people know I’m wrong.
So let’s talk about some the other disaster – the kind we write about, for fun and profit. Ghoulish, innit?
So WHY does it work?
Why do readers buy this sort of watched train-wreck… or asteroid impact or mass-murder?
It’s a complicated question, because all readers are not alike. I’m still betting (but this is Cassandra here) that for most of readers it’s the resolution, no the train-smash. It’s the Breaking of Northwall not Margaret Atwood and the tragic end. Yes, people gawk in horror at car (or train) wrecks. But you know what? There is a rule of inverse proximity here. Just as I have a New Zealand friend who loves writing and reading about the disasters and breakdown and violence of Africa… I’ve been there. I don’t.
If I’m right and things get tougher in the next few years (my own take is being elected in the next few years, barring brilliant leadership (to be wished for, but unlikely – such people are very rare, such governments rarer) a black swan event, or war, winning power will be disastrous for your party, but that’s just Cassandra), stories that do not build up will fail to find an audience (because disaster will be too proximal) in people who want to believe it possible. To whom ‘tough times’ are no stranger. And they will want the resolution to, let’s say, fulfil some wishes in terms of revenge. What do you think they might wish for?
I’m off to England in a few hours’ time so I am not sure I’ll be replying at all. For the first time in 17 years I’ve made no attempt to combine this with work, I’m just going to see my older son and daughter-in-law. Make of that what you will.