Another patient day in the endless waiting, waiting waitingggg life of a working author passes. I remember Snoopy, the great author, being sure his mailbox was eating his replies from publishers… And then of course there is that terrible mistake which publishers so frequently make, where they send us this bizarre letter saying that this manuscript was not suitable for their present needs. I have been obliged to point out that I was not waiting for a letter about their needs, which are no concern of mine, but that check for a million dollars, which is very much my need. They really are a bit obtuse about something quite so obvious. Sadly the quality of staff they are able to recruit these degenerate days, is not what we would like to become accustomed to.
That of course is not what I am waiting for. And no, it’s not my royalty statements either. Perhaps because they deal in fiction, due dates are also fictional in publishing land – and I’m sure they would have no problems delaying their wages by three or four months, so why should I? One of joys with Independent publishing is you do know what you are going to be paid, and the lag is much shorter, and payments are monthly and reliable. This does make life a little easier, and something I believe publishers would be well advised to move to. But no: I am waiting for something else.
I have been preparing the gilded stable. I even put up an advert for stable-hands (the only source of advice I have found says it takes a staff of 36 to adequately care for each animal) – as I am the father of two sons it should be obvious I can’t do the job. I haven’t had any responses. Perhaps looking up the most common baby name in Britain for my pseudonym (I wouldn’t everyone to know what the job was, I’d get people taking shameless advantage) was a mistake. I’ve ordered (from Amazon) all the food, as well a pair of suitable silver bridles. Yes I am getting a pair of them. As I said elsewhere I hope to start breeding them. Google has rather let me down though, I don’t yet know if the foals have horns on birth, or if they develop later. My theory now is that they’re soft, rather like baby rhino horn (one of the more unusual delights of my life was getting to pet an orphaned baby rhino. The baby in question adored the attention, and would have made an ideal housepet, if they stayed that size, that affectionate and that cute). Perhaps the reason the animals are so rare is not the shortage of virgins, but the fact that if the horn is hard and sharp… well it’s a caesarian or kill the mummy.
The problem is there is so little good literature on the care and rearing of Unicorns. I’d have read it all while I wait.
Amazon is sending me not one, but two. You get them when you get 50 posted reviews. I know this is true because I read it on the internet. We all know that’s even more reliable than the NYT.
Seriously, I was delighted to see that TOM and CHANGELING’S ISLAND both have hit the 50 landmark. (the pictures are links).
That’s remarkably cool even if I don’t get to go into the bottling of unicorn farts to sell as an alternative power source. (I am sorry to be so mercenary, but the cost of unicorn tucker (complete with sparkles – entirely natural and made from organically grown vampires) is such that it dwarfs California’s deficit, and I have recover the money somehow.)
And now that I have temporarily finished being silly I thought I’d bring up a subject which ought to be close to the heart of all authors.
A reader – a good guy, a hard scientist who shall remain nameless, but a lifelong sf/fantasy reader – asked a facebook group if he had to attend sf cons to be a fan. A group he’d commented on implied such to be a requirement. And, um, did he have to dress up in costume?
He of course got a resounding ‘No, of course not! If you read sf/fantasy you’re a fan, and welcome!’ It was very good to see – especially from my perspective, because it has always been my attitude. As far as I’m concerned if you’ve read one sf/fantasy book and would like to try another… I’m ready and eager to welcome you in to the ‘club’. Aside from my professional interest, we share an interest in something I love. Something I want to foster, encourage, and have as many people enjoy as possible. Suggesting otherwise gets the same dropjawed look of shock that my sons had on their faces when someone said their Physics class was excluding women. The idea was just so bizarre. They wanted EVERYONE to be physicists. And, generally, their group’s idea of wet-dream was a female who even vaguely understood, or cared about their precious subject. The slightest accidental expression of interest would have you in danger of being physically dragged eagerly into their midst, and finding yourself neck deep in quantum tunneling.
Speaking professionally it’s probably even more the case. A fan – as the guy whose entire livelihood hangs on people liking my books, liking my genre enough to even try my books – this exclusionary ‘keep out of our treehouse’ attitude is as welcome as a dose of the clap.
Yet… it’s out there. There are Cons at which this has indeed become the case. They tend toward the pretentious literary ones, but tread with care. WorldCon has sadly increasingly become something you’d probably like to avoid, which is a shame as there are still some great older authors to be met. But it’s become very cliquish, substantially political, and overtly unwelcoming to people who aren’t ‘trufen’ (who don’t fit the ideological mold –something that seems to get narrower by the hour let alone day). There are still good people, both running and attending, and it is possible to enjoy yourself despite this. But seriously, it’s a lot of money, you want to actually mix with welcoming fans of similar interests, get meet authors that interest you and attend panels that interest you, and hear readings from authors you like. You don’t want to watch out that you don’t accidentally cause offence, or find yourself subject to claims of harassment or worse, from which you’re not even permitted to defend yourself. It might never happen… but you are there to have a great experience, not walk on eggs, constantly worrying about whatever the latest ‘offense’ is, that you might unwittingly commit.
My own feeling is: you’re better off at the smaller cons (where there is enormous variation) or the big commercial cons like Dragon Con. Look at the author/guest list. Look at the panels. If your interest is Military SF and firearms, DON’T go to one with one with a GenderQueer intersectional poet as the GoH with panels on the rape of Gaia by the conceptual white patriarchal penis – and vice-versa. Talk to people who have attended recently. Good cons tend to have people like my sons’ Physics crowd supporting them – eager to help and welcome you. Bad ones attract the sneering asses.
You don’t have to ever attend a con to be a fan. There is a delight in sharing your interest with others who also love the genre. There are loads of welcoming groups all over the internet – and a few I would avoid where they’re very keen on keeping the wrong people out of their treehouse.
One of the things about groups with an interest in anything out of the mainstream, from sf to steam railways – or, as in some those I am involved in – Writing, Scottish Country Dancing and Rock Climbing, is that there are always a few jackasses who attain positions of power and influence, enjoy that, and try to keep that power. And the only way to do that is maintain the status quo, restrict entry –or at least make sure it’s only the ‘right’ sort of suitably indoctrinated noobs coming in.
You don’t have to be mathematical statistician (but it helps) to see that this is a recipe for medium/long term destroying that group, that interest and for damaging its reputation. It’s almost mind-bogglingly stupid, except for the shortest of short-term self-centered benefits. That doesn’t ever seem to stop at least some cliques trying the same dumb stunt over and over again. SF-fantasy has its share. The minute they start telling you you’re not a real fan… you’ve found them. They like to pose as the cool kids table, but really they’re more like mean girls table. Ignore as much as possible. They’re worthless.
Which is why I take I take anyone I can possibly gull into it climbing, and have invested thousands of hours in teaching, showing people cliffs, routes, lending them gear, taking them to-and-from airports etc. Do not express the vaguest interest in Celtic music unless you’re prepared to firmly defend yourself from invitations to join us in our capering. And writing – well, Mad Genius Club is just one small part of the efforts this group put into helping anyone who might wish to write.
Because without new writers, and without new readers, without a welcome mat…
Something I see as wonderful would die.