How to make sure you will never get my money

Since there’s been an awful lot of discussion around the interwebs on ethics, and whether it’s moral to accept the money of someone you despise (my opinion is “fuck yes, if you want something I’ve written enough to pay me for it, I’ll take the cash”) I figured it was worth me putting together a short guide for those who wish to ensure that they never need to taint their virtue by accepting money from me, specifically for those who write fiction.

  1. Place message first. I’ll cheerfully read something with interesting characters and a decent plot even if it’s got a message I think stinks, but if your masterwork is a thinly disguised treatise on whatever your message is, then even if I agree with you, I won’t buy it.
  2. Eschew all hope. If you conceal your nihilism, I may be lured into tainting your morals with my filthy lucre, but only once. After that I will go out of my way to avoid anything you may have written or endorsed.
  3. Make your alleged protagonist despicable. I don’t mind villainous or outright evil point of view now and then, but having it all the time just leaves me wanting to take a bath. If everyone in your masterpiece is utterly despicable, you can rest safely in the knowledge that I will not buy it.
  4. What plot? I like plot. If there isn’t one, I won’t buy your book. For those of you whose rarefied training failed to mention what constitutes a plot, it isn’t the sequence of events that occur during the course of the book. As the saying goes, “The king died then the queen died” is a sequence of events. “The king died then the queen died of grief” is a plot, albeit a rather shitty one. “The king was murdered so the queen investigated his death, found the murderers, and had them executed” is a bit more to my taste.
  5. Go for a high WTF per minute count. Unlike y’all in literary land, I have a hard sciences degree. I also have a decent knowledge of history and I know to check out primary sources. If you write something that’s blatantly wrong I will never touch your work again. If I see more than one WTF? moment in the first page, I will also tell all my friends so you can be spared the trauma of handling their money as well. Yes, this does include paeans to Marxist theory. They might fit with the theory, but if you aren’t writing fantasy they’re factually wrong and I won’t touch them.
  6. Classify everyone by their group. You know, all elves are noble and pure, all orcs are dirty double-crossing bastards, all humans make orcs look nice, that kind of thing. I don’t care what they are, whether they’re elves or humans or rabid bugblatter beasts of traal, if they’re not all clones raised identically they’re going to have differences. And if your main characters are just thumbnails of the group traits, you can rest secure in the knowledge I will never ever want to pay you. Or besmirch your deathless prose by reading it.
  7. Make your villains stupid-evil. This includes the evil corporation killing off potential customers for any reason, by the way. Every corporation ever, no matter how evil, prefers to have customers buying their stuff. Killing customers ranks so far below convincing them they need to buy more Brand X Wundawidgets it would be funny if it wasn’t so idiotic. Seriously, if I’d written Avatar, the evil corporation would have been luring the natives with wonderful goodies that made their lives easier, until they turned into trailer park elves who didn’t care what the corporation did as long as they didn’t miss the next episode of The Dumb and the Reckless.
  8. Lie to me. I don’t mean about the story: that’s expected. But if you try to win my sympathy or respect with lies, you can guarantee I’ll never want anything to do with you again. It’s a really, really easy way to make sure I’ll never taint what cockeyed ethics you have (I will, however, ask some rather interesting questions about the kind of ethics that says it’s okay to lie to someone in order to get more of their money. The usual word to describe that kind of behavior is “fraud”.

So that’s it. If you want to be absolutely certain I will never trouble you by purchasing your work or – {$DEITY} forbid – becoming a fan, all you have to do is follow these simple steps.

Oh wait. You already are. Carry on then.

198 Comments

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198 responses to “How to make sure you will never get my money

  1. On 3, guilty as charged. The mob who kidnapped him find him disgusting. OTOH, he had to be disgusting for the “What goes around comes around” ending.

    On 6, had fun with that with the unpublished ones (which therefore don’t count). A person pulls off an assumed identity because the locals assume certain less than desirable traits are held by those beyond the mountains. In another, those beyond the mountain look askance at those from the other side, ascribing to them the same less than desirable traits that’s supposed to be their stereotype.

    The practical problem is that if this were published and if you picked it up and if you kept reading to that part in either one, the gag isn’t obvious. I had hints by one character who fought against them and saw them as just people, and that someone who wasn’t from beyond the mountains could make others think that they were. But hints isn’t the same thing as coming right out and saying it, so the assumption is that it’s like all elves are this and all orcs are that, and all humans are the other, Not sure how to handle that.

    • Kate Paulk

      Subtle can be challenging. Dave Freer says you need to say it three times for readers to get it. I suspect that you need to use a high-powered clue-bat sometimes, too.

      There *is* a difference between “someone playing off someone else believing the stereotypes” and mindlessly propagating the stereotypes.

  2. paladin3001

    I think there’s a few authors out there that have said they don’t want my money (my as in group of people like me), so I oblige them. Other stuff is always taken on probation until they win me over. Mind you there are some authors that won me over then eventually lost me.

  3. lpdbw

    I made the mistake of reading Shibumi, by Trevanian. He managed, somehow, to keep me reading until the end, in hope that there was something redeeming there.
    But in the last third of the novel, he violated so many of your rules, and so badly, I resolved to never read another word he wrote.

    • Kate Paulk

      There have been several novels I’ve read that did that. I avoid those authors now.

      • There was a highly-lauded book a number of years back that I kept reading, thinking, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!” I thought it was written by someone who came from outside the science fiction culture. It apparently wasn’t, but this was the science fiction lit-fic wannabe culture, not the one I was familiar with.

  4. Another sure fire way to make sure you never see my money is to get on social media and whine and whinge about how bad the industry is and how those evil indies are ruining it for everyone. Then, just to make sure you have driven me away, go on to say how you are so poor even though you are an award winning author, been recognized by college English departments as one of the BESTEST EVER authors in your genre and yet you aren’t earning enough money to live and thankfully you have a few really awesome fans who give you money through Patreon, etc. But you are this awesome author who should be selling more books/stories/etc, and why aren’t you ungrateful readers buying more of my stuff? (and yes, I did see something along this line on social media this past week.)

    • There’s a particular Hugo nominated author who does this sh1t more or less constantly. I’m hesitant to even read that author’s blurbs at the books store, in case somebody might think I’m interested and stock more copies.

      Plus the books themselves are -so- depressing…

      • Yep. This wasn’t that author but the tone and message was basically the same.

        • That you know exactly who I’m talking about is a testament to the power of the Interwebz to spread information. One would think an author would want it to spread -friendly- information about said author and their works, but apparently my view is a niche one, not shared by the cognoscenti.

          I guess they don’t need my money. Like, -really- don’t need it.

    • I have limited money for books. If you’re a whiny bitch, it’s likely I won’t like your stories. Therefore, I will not buy your books.

    • Kate Paulk

      Oy. Yes. But then I do have this bizarre notion that it’s better to prove yourself by what you *do* than what you say about what you do.

  5. Nathan

    So… no Tolkien? No Ayn Rand?

    • Kate Paulk

      I’m not naming names here. That’s not the point of the post. If someone else feels like playing whackatroll with you, that’s their business.

    • In fact I can’t read Ayn Rand despite being Libertarian. The language throws me out, so all I get is the politics. My kids who aren’t as sensitive to language like her. Chacun son gout.
      As for Tolkien — Tolkien DENIED that he had any message. So, what message are you seeing, precisely?

      • Kate Paulk

        I suspect the Tolkien crack is more about the elves, dwarves, and orcs than anything else. Which is probably equally asinine because he wasn’t writing it as “fiction” so much as “mythology” which is a different genre altogether.

        Someone writing the Lord of the Rings as fiction in the same time period would probably have produced something more Conan-esque.

        • yeah. Also, he sort of started it. It’s like complaining about Anne Rice doing cliched vampires. (Rolls eyes.)

          • Kate Paulk

            Exactly. The one that starts the trend doesn’t get tarred with the brush the followers get.

            Which requires one to have some idea about the genre. This is clearly not a given.

      • TRX

        > Tolkien DENIED that he had any message.

        Which hasn’t stopped some university types from writing papers about how the Rings was “really” a critique of the Anglican Church…

        • If they really want comedy gold they’d claim it was really a critique of the Catholic Church but that would require there had a clue about Tolkien.

          Besides, everyone knows it is Narnia that is a critique of the Anglican Church.

    • Synova

      Ayn Rand is sort of meant to be a political treatise and there are plenty of people who can’t abide reading her.

    • snelson134

      If you haven’t bought Kurt Schlicter’s new book “Indian Country”, it’s worth the money just for the description of a “fantasy novel” written in the near future where Tor is the only legal publisher.

      “He still had no idea what the “Elf-Blade or Norxim” was, but apparently it was a sword that talked because it gave a seven page libertarian themed speech that sounded like something Ayn Rand would have written if she had dated J.R.R. Tolkien.”

      Snerk.

    • Taking you more seriously than you deserve…

      The closest Tolkien gets to violating #6 is with his orcs. But then, (a) they’re usually not speaking characters (so it’s more other characters’ stereotypes of them we see), and (b) when they do have speaking roles, you find they have much more complicated and individual motivations than “am evil; must kill”.

      • Kate Paulk

        Yup. There are hints there that without the constant manipulation and pressure from Sauron, they could end up as more or less ordinary people. Of course that wasn’t ever going to happen.

  6. If you really want to never see any of my money, just run around calling everybody a racist. That’ll do it.

    If you want me to tell other people not to give you any money, make a habit of rating authors on skin color and/or personal plumbing. If the most important thing to you is the author’s skin/plumbing/etc. then I will be happy to tell everybody I meet that you don’t want their money.

    Lately I’m having difficulty finding dead-tree authors and publishers willing to take my deplorable racist money. So much so that I’m trying to write my own deplorable racist sexist bigot stories for my own self.

    Anybody wants to read my deplorable bigotry, I’ll be happy to take their money. I’m not proud, I’ll take anybody’s money. It all spends just the same.

    • * Ox starts saving up. Ox not care about race(-ist), sex(-ist)[1], bigot(-ist?), nor even species. Ox want good story.

      [1] Actually do care about this, but unless you are directly involved, it ain’t any of yer dang business. };o)

      • Status report, today I am trying to figure out what would happen if you opened one end of a worm-hole in front of a low-earth-orbit satellite, and pointed the other end at someone you didn’t like.

        I’m of the opinion that could be considered racist by some of these twerps. That’s where we’re at these days. They also seem very concerned that the satellite should have non-conforming gender.

        But I will still take their money. ~:D

        • Unless timing and sizing are very well done, I would assume atmospheric pressure would push the target into the wormhole and LEO would get a bit messier.

          • I was thinking more that a chunk of the satellite the exact size of the opening would emerge from the other end of the wormhole with the same velocity and direction it had in orbit. Then make a mess of whatever happened to be in front of it. Also the shockwave from that much displaced air would be something to behold.

            Ka-pow.

        • mrsizer

          Do wormholes just sit there when they open? Or is there some sort of pressure involved that would hoover things up?

          • I envision a spherical region of connected space, which looks like a circle from all angles. What enters the sphere at one end leaves the other on the same vector relative to the ground. If one chose wisely, the exiting object would be going right at the person you don’t like. Unwisely, it would be going straight down and it would blow you to heckdarn.

    • Michael D. Houst

      For me, the most important thing about an author is whether I’m getting something I need or want from him or her? Is the story entertaining? Is it motivational? Is the information of use to me? (Yes, fiction authors can produce work that is informative in addition to being entertaining, especially if they do their background homework.)

      Plumbing is never the most important thing; although I have a slight bias in favor of female authors, at least when it comes to volume of their works in my possession. And because I like to look at, and talk to, members of the opposite sex (Sorry guys, I channelized early.)

      • Plenty of times I’ve discovered a book I like was written by a woman, or non-white person of either gender, and I never thought anything of it. I’m not buying the book because of who the author is in Real Life. Most of the time I don’t know or care in the slightest. It doesn’t matter to the story.

        These days we are treated to the conceit that the author’s race/sex/orientation makes them write differently. Good, new, fresh stories come from those of uncommon race/sex/orientation. That’s the kind of argument one expects to hear from a guy wearing a bed sheet and a white hood.

        • Kate Paulk

          Well, I guess if they’re using their equipment to do the writing for them that’s kind of different. Doesn’t make them any good at it, but it’s different and possibly a party trick at the more disreputable kind of party

        • Exactly. I read for the stories … not the author’s life or lack thereof.

    • Birthday Girl

      “Lately I’m having difficulty finding dead-tree authors and publishers willing to take my deplorable racist money.”

      Me too! I can’t remember the last non-Baen Big-5 book I bought, dead tree or otherwise. It is at least 3 pages back on my Amazon content list. Now, DH does buy the Lee Child and Ann Coulter books, so there are those.

      Actually, we recently subscribed to KULL and with all those books at my fingertips for free … well, the trad-pub stuff is even farther down the list. Paid-for Baen books are now for gift-giving occasions.

      • Kate Paulk

        Same here. Half the time I find better, more interesting fanfic just because the fanfic author actually loves the fandom and wants to write neat stories in said fandom.

      • I can. It was a dead-tree reprint of Little Fuzzy, at a low price, in a dollar store. OTOH, I’ve found everything from Candice Robb to a scholarly book on Egyptian mythology in dollar stores, so they’re occasionally a discount book goldmine.

        • TRX

          Jack Halloway’s observation that “no aimed shot is ever wasted” has comforted me on more than one range trip…

      • I think the only two Big-5 novels I’ve purchased in the past four-five years were a Mike Resnick work and something by William Forschten.

      • Draven

        I can! Kevin J. Anderson’s hugo nom from last year. Then got him to sign it.

    • Lately I’m having difficulty finding dead-tree authors and publishers willing to take my deplorable racist money. So much so that I’m trying to write my own deplorable racist sexist bigot stories for my own self.

      Hey, me too…that and buying lots of used stuff by authors too dead to care (and probably would never have thought it was a good idea).

    • If you want me to tell other people not to give you any money, make a habit of rating authors on skin color and/or personal plumbing. If the most important thing to you is the author’s skin/plumbing/etc. then I will be happy to tell everybody I meet that you don’t want their money.

      Tangent, but this occurred to me:

      The funny thing about those who run around calling everyone who doesn’t subscribe to their beliefs as racist; they’re just as opposed to the existence of actual white supremacists writing for their own target audience. Or producing anything that, really, won’t be seen or dispersed outside said target audience.

      That’s what always shows the abject hypocrisy to me. It’s not as if the writings of white supremacists will appeal to anyone who isn’t – their market will not have a Venn diagram crossover to a BLM fanatic or member of the NAACP. But it’s TOTES OKAY for the latter to be pushed as “TOTALLY AWESOME IN MAINSTREAM READ IT OR YOU ARE RACIST” socially, and behave as if the existence of such threatens their sales or ratings, or their very lives.

      I mean, how the heck would anyone know such stuff exists, if they 1) weren’t interested and 2) didn’t go looking for it for the express purpose of screaming about it?

      Personally, I’d guess that white supremacist (or similarly abjectly racist/classist/whateverist) entertainment exists, simply because reason dictates that there would be a market for it, even if it’s not that big. But I wouldn’t be able to give you any titles, or singers, or artists.

      Well, current ones. Hitler’s being a painter is pretty well known.

      • Kate Paulk

        Of course it does. I’ve just never bothered to chase anything like that down because my level on interest is somewhere below zero.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          One day back in the Kratskeller, someone gave a report on one of those actual racist books. Since people called Kratman’s works racist, they wondered if there was anything worthwhile about this other book people were complaining about. Nope. IIRC, they found one bit in the book with truth in it, but it was something that cut both ways, and apparently the author didn’t realize it. Which perhaps goes to the ‘it is possible to write truth on accident’ bit that some of us were arguing here recently.

      • I can only name one White Supremacist novel, The Turner Diaries, which I read in the 90s when we were told McVey was inspired by it (which is up for question I believe) but I think the author was dead even the.

        • We had that for sale when I worked at a bookstore. It had a cover entirely made up of the publisher’s reason for printing the book. (Short version: “There are people who actually think this is true. You need to know there are people who think like this. Also, First Amendment.”)

    • Kate Paulk

      Yes, indeed. I care about the content of the author’s stories, not the content of their underpants or skin tone.

      • not the content of their underpants or skin tone.

        … *shudder* You know, I’m actually starting to get the impression that the reason why they focus so much on that as Important is because they don’t actually have anything else defining them as An Individual, and the flailing they do in other directions (such as the Internet, writing, arts, etc) are attempts to find other things that do.

        The other, similarly skin-crawl inducing thought was, wanting to, and having everyone focus on those parts gives them sexual gratification, less in the ‘flasher trying to shock’ sort of way, but more in the ‘captive sex slave, they cannot look away and must service me’ type.

        How else are we to interpret the whole “SKIN COLOR AND ETHNICITY UBER ALLES” approach they have? It’s almost fetishistic, how they keep shoving it in our faces.

        Oh wait. Gay pride / slut walk marchers in bondage gear. Never mind.

        • TRX

          The only thing that keeps them from being Pod People is their grip on some race, ethnicity, language group, political party, or football club?

          I could go along with that. A lot of people don’t really seem to have much… self, I guess. At least not that is apparent to others. I could see those allegeances being much more important to them than they would be to normal people.

    • Mary

      See that’s the attitude why I make sure I bring out all my collections, novels, and novellas in dead-tree editions.

  7. Some of us, perhaps fortunately, do not encounter the folks being denounced here, and are not sure which authors and publishers are being described as calling everyone a racist and judging writing quality by their melanin metabolism and their plumbing. You are welcome to tell me, or not, who they are, on or off line.

    • Oh please. You know what kind of people are being discussed here. The kind that count up the number of non-whitecismale authors nominated for the Whatever Award every year, and declare a victory for every slot not taken by a whitecismale. They are Legion, in every sense of the word. Some of them run publishing houses.

      I do not name names. There’s no need. They bray their pieties loudly enough. Why give the bastards a free click?

      • I will admit I have not worked out the specifics, but also I do not care as the general indicators indicate plainly enough. I do not need to know the name of the mountain to know it best to NOT fly into it. A mountain range calls for altitude and bypassing all such mountains thus.

        • Notwithstanding, I go on Amazon or visit the local bookstores. I see some number of SF books. Some of them are mountains into which I would not care to fly. Others are good reads. It is not a question of guessing what sort of people are under discussion, it is a question of guessing whether author McTavish is a mountain or a good read.

          • Birthday Girl

            You seem to wish to be spoon-fed. That is not a wise approach in this group. Just sayin’.

            • I have pious hopes of getting a clearer answer. I have reached the age where I have heard critiques like this, and at the end it became apparent that there were serious misunderstandings as to who was attacking what. For example, on another thread ‘anything that won the Hugo nomination since 2005 is awful’ was well-defined. Having forced myself to read The Fifth Season to do a critical review, I can certainly not disagree.

              • Birthday Girl

                I think most here desire to practice a little discretion re the naming of names. There are practical reasons for that. If you stick around for awhile and follow the discussions, as well as frequent the participants’ personal blogs, all will become clear.

              • Synova

                I read the post too and it was about what was in the book. If you haven’t heard an author announce that they don’t want your money, then good for you. Ignorance is bliss and many authors and books are much more enjoyable if you are lucky enough to avoid the author’s web presence. Refusing to name names is doing you a favor. You can enjoy more books that way.

          • Generally if an author is being lionized by the Usual Suspects, that is a good sign to change course in case you hit the mountain of bullshit that has been piled up and called a book.

            It works for television too. Handmaid’s Tail is getting great reviews in all the right places. Ms. Margaret is like a Platonic Ideal of the type under discussion. Those twerps REALLY don’t want my money.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              Handmaid’s Tail. 😀

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Handmaid’s Tail

              I don’t want the Handmaid’s Story or her rear end. 👿

            • The odd thing is I read it BitD and don’t remember it being nearly as bad as people seem to remember. Then again, my memory of it also indicates the supposed progressive paradise that Gilead replaced being anything but. In fact, I seem to remember Offred remembering negative aspects of the prior world that probably contributed to its destruction.

              Not sure if the difference is my filters reading in between the lines or the “fans” having filters that removed anything not reinforce their prejudices.

    • Kate Paulk

      You’re fortunate not to have dealt with that. I deliberately did not name names because I wanted to focus on the principles rather than on who does what or says what.

  8. Matt

    I love trailer park elves.

    But to add to the list; tell a certain group of people to not read your books or that your books aren’t “for them.”

  9. Here’s an example of a guy I’m not going to name who does not want my money. (Ripped from a blog I’m not going to link to, because the owner’s passive/aggressive California attitude annoys me.)

    Quoth the nameless dude: ” It’s important to recognize that this canard that you can’t change human nature is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card; if you accept it, you can forever be racist, sexist, transphobic, jingoistic, militaristic, religious, and so on, then say, well, it’s always been that way so it always must be that way. And that is pernicious. Even when invoked on a small scale, when we forgive someone for being “tone deaf” rather than recognizing that they’re a dyed-in-the-wool racist or misogynist, or whatever, is to excuse the behavior as being an acceptable, normal gaffe rather than something that we rightly demand should be changed, and can be changed.”

    This man is writing a book about how bad humans are. We are SO bad that our very nature MUST be changed, so that we can fit into the lovely round hole that the SJWs have prepared for us to fit into. He’s decided to use my favorite genre, SF, as a baseball bat to bash my sorry racist, sexist, transphobic, jingoistic, militaristic, religious self into shape.

    Truly, this man does not want my money. Ever.

    • “Let the b*st*rds freeze in the dark.” or whatever. He (I presume…) can write all he wants. NOBODY is obligated to buy the result. I sure ain’t.

      • The attitude on display is extremely common in Canadian “artistic” circles, particularly in Toronto and Vancouver, where virtue signaling has grown from what one says. These days it encompasses fashion, food and haircuts too. You pretty much have to go with the full package.

        What I find hilarious is that these fashion-forward Twinkies can’t separate human “nature” from human culture. The guy is basically calling for a Spencerian cultural Darwinism to weed out people who say things he thinks are mean. He’s bending an entertainment medium to forward this thing, and demanding everybody else who writes in the medium follow along.

        None of these beard-oil connoisseurs are asking “what’s your plan for changing human nature, dewd? Selective breeding?” They know to keep their heads down.

        None of them want any of my money.

    • Wait, I’m routinely told, by this man’s fellow travellers, that no matter what I do I can’t stop being racist/sexist/homophobic (which is so funny)/transphobic/etc because I’m a straight white cis male.

      Which is it? I can’t change or I can change? Or is it I can’t but people should yell at me until I do anyway?

      • I think their plan is that we white people are supposed to give them all our stuff, and then voluntarily go for a walk in the snow, so that they can finally be happy. As recompense for our ancestors being all mean and nasssssty, y’know? Those meanies!

        No word on who is going to fix it when the electricity stops coming out of the wall, or make new stuff when the old stuff wears out. I often wonder if the plan has been thought all the way through.

      • Mary

        Logic is a white male thing, comrade. Expecting it is proof of your evil!

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      In other words, he wishes to abolish the species and select a new one?

      • He can go first and lead by example.

      • Mary

        Yup. You can no more change human nature than you could triangular nature. But just as you can alter triangles so they lose their nature and cease to be triangles, you can alter humans.

        “The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel from the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end.” G. K. Chesterton

        • George looked distractedly at the ceiling. “Ever have a dog, Detective?” he asked.
          Cook played along. “Yes, I used to have a dog.”
          “Ever notice how when you tied him up, he always wound the chain around the tree until he only had a foot of chain left?”
          Cook chuckled. “Yeah, they all do that don’t they?”
          “Uh huh,” said George. “They never seem to figure out to go the other way and unwind the chain. Never ever. We have to come along and unwind it for them. Dogs just don’t get it about chains.”
          “No, I guess not.” agreed Cook. “So?”
          “Well Detective, if you took a dog and did something to it so it could understand the chain and unwind itself, would it still be a dog?” George turned to look at him. “Because that’s where I find myself today. Being smarter doesn’t mean thinking the same things you did before only faster. It means seeing things people don’t see and never will.”
          “Oh,” said Cook.

          From the upcoming “Unfair Advantage” by To Be Announced (because I haven’t figured out a cool pen name yet.)

          It is my surmise that a real post-human would be doing things for no apparent reason, all the time, and that type of thing would annoy the shit out of humans. Plus, the post-human would always be right, and I know from personal experience that humans will gang up and try to kill you for always being right.

          So Mr. Big Name Canadian SF dude thinks changing human nature would be a -good- thing. I think that if something as trivial as skin colour makes people cranky, and it does, try to imagine a creature whose actual -nature- is different than yours, and they are smarter than you.

          Humans invented war, which is normal mammalian aggression plus weapons plus cooperation. Imagine what a post-human might come up with to deal with the irritating humans. Something as much more powerful than war, as war is more powerful than rutting season.

          Modern SF as evidenced by the awards circuit is a failure of imagination. They can’t get out of the box, and they’ve degenerated to drawing pictures on the walls with poo.

    • Synova

      There are things where I’m just aghast at the notion that someone could *not* have realized that what they were saying was wrong… like Obama making a Special Olympics joke. There are lots of examples like that. But most of the “tone deaf” is just being tone deaf, the “misspeaking” is misspeaking. And any time someone has to haul out the claim of “dog whistles” or “code” they’re admitting that what was said wasn’t racist or otherwise wrong at all. What is *usually* condemned by the language police isn’t in any sense racist or wrong, it’s not obvious, it often expresses exactly the same ideas as are expressed by the person howling about racism or misogyny or whatever, it just uses different terms. Different *jargon*. And the only purpose of the jargon is to identify in-group and out-group and then proclaim that the out-group is -ist.

      It’s signaling.

      And it shows up in fiction big time. It’s not that what you *write* is any different in any substantive way, it’s that you didn’t use the jargon du jour. You didn’t signal properly. You wrote your diverse, non-binary, inclusive space adventure without putting the right color of wrapping paper on it. Or worse, you wrote your diverse, non-binary, inclusive space adventure without having it properly vetted by the self-appointed vetters of representation.

      And worse, you pointed out that the Emperor has no Clothes, ie., wow this is *stupid*… and got told that your money is no good, please don’t buy my books.

      It’s all signaling. All of it. I won’t even say it’s signaling virtue because I fail to see the virtue in this. It’s very simple in-group, out-group signaling.

  10. ravenshrike

    Point of order. The “primitive natives” in Avatar were clearly an advanced spacefaring race skilled in genetic manipulation who found the unobtanium planet and genetically engineered themselves to be compatible with the life on the planet and engineered all the life on the planet itself so they could directly control it with their neural interfaces.

    The tree was not a tree and instead a massive AI disguised as a tree slowly turning the entire planet into an interstellar spacecraft, at which point it would forcibly upload all the scientific information that the descendants of the initial spacefaring race weren’t taught because it wouldn’t been needed until the conversion of the planet was complete back into their heads.

    • I managed to see Avatar without paying a cent. I concluded from the never-ending hype for that flick that they didn’t want my money, so I arranged not to give them any.

      Good thing too, it was worth every penny.

      • If you turn the sound off and ignore the plot it is very pretty.

        • I didn’t mind the amazingly attractive cartoon cat people, quite obviously what one would expect to find on an alien planet. The giant sea anemone tree was nice, from a visual perspective.

      • Since you’ve seen it, did the protagonist at any point say “Call me Joe?”

      • Robin Munn

        I saw the first 10-15 minutes, more or less, of Dances with Smurfs (I refuse to dignify that movie by the name Avatar, since a FAR better TV show* had that name first). That was all I needed. The protagonist is repeatedly told, “Be careful once you’re controlling your new body for the first time, since you won’t be used to it”. But instead of taking it slow, he flails around, knocking over several pieces of equipment, and all of this happening right next to an unprotected window to the outside atmosphere. The outside atmosphere that, it has already been established, is too low-pressure for humans to survive in it for more than a couple of minutes.

        At that point, my personal headcanon became, “The idiot protagonist broke the window, most of the base’s atmospheric pressure was lost, and only the handful of people who managed to get to their emergency breathing gear survived. Result: mission failure due to insufficient surviving personnel, and the idiot protagonist is responsible for the whole darn thing failing. The end.” And I couldn’t watch any more: any protagonist whom I take a serious dislike to in the first 10 minutes of the movie (or the first couple chapters of the book — *cough* Thomas Covenant *cough*) has completely spoiled any chance of my enjoying the movie / book.

        * If anyone reading this HASN’T watched Avatar: the Last Airbender, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7-2_gUuWK4 for a great clip that’s competely non-spoilery, but will give you an idea of what the show’s sense of humor can be like. (Though try not to look at the recommended videos section on the right, since some of them will have spoilerriffic titles).

        • At that point, my personal headcanon became, “The idiot protagonist broke the window, most of the base’s atmospheric pressure was lost, and only the handful of people who managed to get to their emergency breathing gear survived. Result: mission failure due to insufficient surviving personnel, and the idiot protagonist is responsible for the whole darn thing failing. The end.”

          Oh good. It wasn’t JUST ME.

          It was pretty much at that point where I started ignoring the plot and just watched for the appreciation of the graphics.

      • The best thing to come from the film seems to be this parody tune…

    • Kate Paulk

      Oh, right, so they were highly skilled in bullshittium. Got it.

      • ravenshrike

        Admittedly this only makes the alien side of the movie more palatable. The human ‘military’ remains full of morons. The fact is, if the humans can engineer an alien body with a brain adapted to taking a semi-permanent neural connection with a human with which the human can then control the body, they could easily whip up a nioweapon that would wipe out the vast majority of the Na’Vi and given their apparent dissimilarity with the rest of the planet’s wildlife kill them off without chance of having a negative effect on anything else.

      • I excrete transuranics?!?
        About those alleged “islands of stability”…

    • I like your AU of this. It sounds more interesting than Space Indian Cat People.

        • Alternate universe – term I ran into in fanfiction where the fic writer reimagines certain aspects of a setting for ‘what if’ storytelling.

          • Ahhhh.. given the nature of.. Nature… I suspect this IS an “Emergency Backup Universe” that was thrown together in awful hurry and finished (ha!) just before the hacks that held the last one failed and it burned out.

          • “The Ghu aproaches! We have to make the jump NOW!”
            “It’s not finished. Not ready. It’s… a mess.”
            “Is Gray Ghu real or fiction in that world?”
            “World is crap.”
            ANSWER THE QUESTION! Is Gray Ghu real or fiction in that world?
            “..fiction.”
            “Good enough. We jump NOW!”
            “Hang o-”
            *BZZZZZZKRRRTZ!*

            “Bloody… what fresh Hell is this?!”
            “One where we have a chance.”
            “Not much of one.”
            “What we left had NO chance. This, no matter what you might think of it, is at least some hope. Embrace opportunity.”
            “F—!!!”
            “Hrm, the population is rather low…”
            “…”

  11. What on EARTH have you been reading? Whoever it is, stop it this moment! They don’t deserve readers.

  12. If you write something that’s blatantly wrong I will never touch your work again. If I see more than one WTF? moment in the first page, I will also tell all my friends so you can be spared the trauma of handling their money as well.

    I was recently bitten very badly by this one where an author, who supposedly has an Oxford Masters in Theology, claimed in the book the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church over the Council of Chalcedon. I don’t expect the non-religious, non-Christians, or even Protestants to get how that is wrong but I do expect it from someone with a Masters in Theology.

    The real kicker is I found the book from the author’s podcast for writers, especially indie writers, and now I question everything she is advising after being exposed to that error.

    I am a bit worried I might engage in 1. A sub-sub-culture I am part of has a lot of issues with newbies and I have claimed it is the god-awful fiction they use to model behavior in the sub-sub-culture when they first come in. For a couple of years I have said, “merely bad fiction” would be an improvement. So I started to write some finally, when I had a story I thought would do it well. Still, I’m worried about message (“this is how you behave”) could override story.

    • Protestant here, and I know why that’s wrong. Good night, that person’s more than half a millennium off.
      Also, as to your last paragraph, don’t have the plot be about how one behaves at all, but have the characters one would wish to emulate in other ways demonstrate the behaviors you find desirable.

      • Kate Paulk

        Seconded. Show the characters behaving the way you want people to be, let the story work on its own merits, and make the characters real people trying to do what they believe is right, not merely preachy placeholders (which at least one subgenre I have read does a lot)

        • *laughs*

          I get what you’re saying but now I’m trying to figure out how to write preachy erotica. Just because (and yes, this is erotica I’m working on here).

          • Dorothy Grant

            …I’ve seen that. The “roll your eyes and skip portions” ones had thinly disguised rants/lectures about the practical aspects of “safe, sane, and consensual”. The “this isn’t worth finishing” had cartoonish villains who were “Christian fundie global-warming deniers” who were conspiring to kill all the members of a club because they mingled with gays… and did I mention these villains lived in San Francisco? Seriously. *facepalm*

            • Regardless of your position on SSC (mine is safe and sane are out the window when you enter that world) who wants it in their smut…I’m reading it for the hotness. That said, I do have a friend trying to write consent erotica…you know, the every stage thing, but she’s trying to show that asking at each step is hot so maybe she’s not quite putting message first.

              As for villains, why do they have to be tied specifically to the sex aspect at all. Yeah, I have a blackmail/selling sex secrets to the highest bidder plot but that’s because in detective if you don’t have a murder you tend to have something like blackmail.

              • Kate Paulk

                Oh, the consent at every stage thing can be hot as hell. There are some fanfics that do it brilliantly. Most… don’t.

                What works from what I’ve seen in the fanfic world (where, weirdly, the erotica is often better done than what I’ve seen in print) is focusing on the characters and *their* emotional kicks.

                The largest sex organ in the human body is the brain – which of course is also why no matter what it is or how weird it is, there is porn of it on the intertubes

          • Well, if you want to limit your range on the protagonists, they can be married and maintain fidelity with each other, merely being extremely adventurous with each other, and be preachy with their friends who are rather less monogamous.

            • Until that last clause I was trying to figure out what was preachy. You can write very interesting erotica with just a monogamous married couple…apparently there is now such a thing as Christian erotica that does just that.

          • Kate Paulk

            LMAO! Well, I was thinking about some of the truly appalling “Christian romance” I’ve seen, but the same principle applies. The topic of the sermon is just rather more earthy in erotica.

      • Then I’m good I think…the plot is about how the detective finds the femme fatale’s missing boy (not son).

    • Masters or even Doctorate of Divinity Degrees do not necessarily cover history. Helped someone in a theology course once and was not impressed. One course was on how to read the Bible. Say what? How about picking up a good translation and reading it? What little I saw tended to slant opinions in advance and expect students to do likewise.

      Also was not impressed with a professor who probably thought Cincinnatus was a city in Ohio. Of course, it could have simply been the luck of the draw, but it had me questioning not only distance learning, but also an entire university.

      The other end of this are those who pride themselves on never having set foot in a seminary, which is a reaction to the above. I don’t agree with that, either, just wouldn’t mind if theology departments would be a little more rigorous in professors and what they teach.

      • Okay, but how do you study theology without reference to the nature of Christ (the source of the spit in question)?

        • That depends a great deal on where you come from, so to speak. A theologian in a non-Christian religion is going to have a different idea about Christ.

          What this was doing was essentially putting filters into place before you read by encouraging various mindsets. That’s not good, because in looking for certain things, you’ll probably miss others. It’s sort of like this:

          • Are you talking about seminary adding filters or me taking them to the book?

            My issue was in a book which relied on Christian eschatology and history of the early Church for the plot to function I expect you to get history of the early Church correct. This is especially true on items you throw in which aren’t immediately germane to the plot…they are going to Iran to search for a relic and the supposed expert on the early Church, to explain why there are Christians in Iran, discusses the major splits of the early Church I expect said expert to get them at least Wikipedia right (the book was written in 2007 so Wikipedia was available).

            That the author bragged of her divinity masters from Oxford, in a book using Christian history and eschatology to drive the plot, was just an added annoyance.

      • Mary

        “How about picking up a good translation and reading it?”

        Because it contains some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction. Caution is therefore advised. Also, how do you know what a good translation is without considering how it is to be read?

        • Being a simple man, I look at accuracy of translation. All translations attempt to strike a balance between word for word accuracy and clarity of meaning. The problem is the more you move toward the latter the more you’ll get the translators’ opinion on the meaning of the text.

          My favorite example is the original The Living Bible. In Matthew 27:65, Pilate says “You have a guard.” Now, does this mean he assigned a Roman guard or was reminding the Jewish leaders that they had the Temple guard? There’s differences of opinion on both. The original The Living Bible has Pilate telling the leaders they have their Temple guard, which is an opinion of what the text means.

          Back before the days of computers and free Bible software, we’d reach for a parallel bible, or several different translations. Strong Numbers, which references the original words that were translated, were a major plus. Now, with free Bible software, evaluating translation accuracy is almost trivial.

          It should be noted that in some places there are questions of meaning that are not clearly resolved, like Matthew 27:65. Yet better to leave the issue in place than to put your own spin on it. Back when I taught Sunday School I warned that the bible says what it says, and to be very cautious reading into verses what is not absolutely stated.

          Just this week I sat in on a bible study by a holder of a DD degree, who has written a couple of commentaries himself, and he reminded everyone that a commentary is just one person’s opinion. He also pointed out that sometimes thorny verses are skipped or lumped into a larger section of text because the commentator has no idea, either. You can read commentators who do not know that a severe injury to the liver was once always fatal, and who miss this implication of Proverbs 7:23 (and a quick check shows that the translators of the New Living Translation probably missed it, too).

          Now add to this the notion that you are to approach reading the bible with certain mindsets. That’s adding a filter before you even pick up the bible. Just read. Look up a commentary later if you want to puzzle out a difficult part, or look at the Strong Numbers, but above all, actually read the text. And be aware that a commentary is an opinion.

          As translations go, I prefer the New American Standard Bible, as it’s closer to a word for word translation that some others. The oft maligned King James Version is actually not that bad, though some may find the words and word meanings unfamiliar. Even though I know one of the proof readers for the Holman Christian Standard bible, I’m not comfortable with some of the translations, and it doesn’t seem to read as well as the NASB.

          This is merely my preference, of course. Make your own parallel bible in free bible software, and compare and look for the best rendering.

          • Kate Paulk

            Possibly the biggest issue with the King James is that English has shifted enough since then that there are parts of what’s in it where you have to explicitly read the meanings of the words as they were in that era.

            The last time I looked, I found several places where the common usage of words has shifted so much the passages appear to mean the opposite of what was intended.

            And yes, it does help if the translators check in with historians and others who can tell them a bit more about the life of most people at the time the verses were active oral histories. Stuff like what kind of injury meant that person would die. Or what typically happened if someone wound up with a bad case of food poisoning. Or…

        • We can also get into arguments on what to translate from. A cogent argument that we should use the Greek version of the Old Testament over earlier Hebrew ones because the former was the version in circulation among those Christ preached to and thus was the source of his allusions to it as well as those of the Epistle writers can be made.

  13. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I’m a bit concerned about 5 now.

    I’m trying to figure out how to say “This is a world where giant biological robots fight magic space aliens while worldly military powers fight each other. But good may prevail, because evil mars evil.” without turning people off through all the disparate elements I think I need to establish.

    Less concerned about 4, but I still need to put in a lot more work figuring out plot.

    I think the current plan may be good. One coincidence, which may be divine intervention, and the rest being driven by the character decisions which result.

    • Kate Paulk

      As long as the characters don’t act blatantly against who you’ve drawn them to be without damn good reasons, you should be fine.

    • Where can I purchase this novel?

      Which is my way of saying the idea is cool enough if that’s the blurb to give you some space to setup.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I’m afraid that’s impossible for two reasons.

        I haven’t written it yet. I’m an outliner, have much to learn about plotting fiction, and the longest piece I have records for was 650 words. That was a joke in a nonfiction format, and did not have a plot. Complicated problems get broken into simpler problems, which are being worked through and solved.

        It is fanfiction. It may be shareable, but this one will never be salable. I think if I manage to get it written well enough to be worth filing off the serial numbers, I might be better advised to bring those skills to an original project. At least, that should be where the RoI is, I followed my heart into this.

  14. mashak99

    Oh nice, all of my pet peeves in one neat package. I’ll bet there are books that cover ALL of them at once, too 🙂
    I’m not THAT fussy on the science unless the problem is so blatant that it shows disrespect of reader. Instead of sensitivity readers, just get beta readers who help you with what you don’t know. It’s not that hard of a concept.

    • Hunting Guy

      It depends on the book and author. The Union Station series by E. M. Foner is full of impossible science and aliens that can’t exist, but you know that going in. It’s just a fun, light romp.

      On the other hand, you are dead on when you expect someone that should know better really blows it. I was watching something with Kari Byron and she referred to a truck as a jeep. From that point on, I was wondering if anything else she said was right.

      • TRX

        There’s a Canadian TV series called “How It’s Made.” They actually have some interesting subjects and great photography, but the cluelessness of their production staff is mind-boggling. And granted that, being Canadian, some of their staff are probably native French speakers, but they so consistently use the wrong words for things that I’ve sometimes wondered if they do it deliberately.

        (no, “soldering” and “welding” are different things, as are “iron” and “steel.” )

    • Kate Paulk

      Sadly, yes.

  15. “Seriously, if I’d written Avatar, the evil corporation would have been luring the natives with wonderful goodies that made their lives easier, until they turned into trailer park elves who didn’t care what the corporation did as long as they didn’t miss the next episode of The Dumb and the Reckless.”

    Yeah, but the track record for Earth on this one is…spotty. I can forgive that.
    However, corporations deliberately killing their customers is about as ludicrous as the “subliminal pro-suicide messages” thing.

    • Kate Paulk

      Corps do not deliberately kill the source of their income. They can and do *stupidly* kill it, but that’s a different beast.

      • Javahead

        I got lost trying to figure out how there was *any* economic benefit in the thing, given travel times and economic cost. For that matter, given the circumstances shown back on Earth, I couldn’t figure out how they had either the interest or the economic surplus to ever find the Planet of the Morally Advanced (because we told you so!) and Strangely Sexy Cat People in the first place.

        The visuals were pretty, though. If you didn’t get overloaded. And didn’t notice that it was really Dances With German Shepherds in space. I was working on a streaming video application that had a test clip of the first 20 minutes or so, and I had to watch it over, and over, and over, and over. Fortunately, I could leave the audio off once we’d verified lip sync, but for a while there I could recite the “this is Pandora” screed word-for-word with the sound track.

        I also recall speculating how the Pandorans would react to catnip and laser pointers.

        • TRX

          There was a movie called “Brainstorm” where some researchers were figuring out how to record human throughts onto tape. Then the Army moved in and took all their stuff and closed the lab, because that’s the sort of thing the Army does, as everyone nows.

          And within a few days the Army had not only greatly improved the equipment, they’d also had time to develop training films and standard operating procedures for the new equipment.

          It was obvious the viewers were supposed to be angry at the evil Army for that, but all I could think of was, “Dude, who would have figured the Army is *awesome* at exotic brain research?!”

        • Draven

          Not to mention how a society that has stripped earth bare of all natural resources can manage to accelerate the venture star to .7 c

          oops, mentioned it.

    • Joe in PNG

      The “Aliens” series took the Eeeee-vil Corp thing from plausible to utterly ridiculous.
      “Alien”: Weyland-Yutani diverts a freighter full of expendable regular working stiffs to check out a possible alien bio-weapon. Makes perfect sense.
      “Aliens”- WY, who has moved on, gets more info on the thing they investigated 56 years before. One exec pulls some strings to get a sample, dies in the process. Plausible, but lots of idiot plot happening.
      “Alien Resurrection”- Company is now crazy obsessed with producing a xenomorph bioweapon, even though it should now be apparent this will not in any way be profitable. Ludicrious.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Worse, in Aliens 3 the “evil corporation” idea meant that the characters “had to destroy the monster” before “rescue” arrived.

        Without the “evil corporation”, the characters could have picked a “strong point” to defend until the rescue ship arrived.

        Fewer lives would have been lost and the rescue ship could have dealt with the monster. 😦

      • ravenshrike

        That was actually the military, not WY in A:R. Course, why they were doing it on a ship and not a remote base with 200 nukes in place ready to blow if things got out of control I’m not sure given that they knew the basic capabilities of the xenomorphs from the reports. But then, large amounts of subtext and background were cut out from the original script from what Whedon’s said so who knows, it may have made marginally more sense then.

  16. Now that I’m not distracted from reading the comments on the way down to ‘leave a reply’; this was awesome. Coupled with the Correia Events roundup, I am quite cheered up from the sheer amount of laughing I did over the last 20 minutes.

    That said, I’m actually rather curious as to what set this off; or perhaps I should be glad I don’t have a clue?

    BRB. Going to get another jumper, it’s cold here, as we’re having what passes for winter in Australia. (I’ve somewhat acclimatised; but screw trying to survive 47 and up degree centigrade weather.)

  17. Robin Munn

    I’m going to engage in a bit of self-indulgence and tell you about the “private worlds crossing” moment I just had. I often hang out at a Q&A site called Stack Overflow, answering people’s questions about the F# programming language. Stack Overflow has a bunch of “sister sites” where the topic is not programming, but other things like the English language, or SF/F worldbuilding, or software testing. And while you’re looking at a question and/or an answer, there’s a list in the bottom right corner of high-activity questions. One of them caught my interest, because its subject was “One of my team members executed security test without any consent“. My thought was, “Um, you just DON’T DO that! Why did he think it was a good idea?”, so I clicked over to that question — and the top-rated answer was from someone named Kate Paulk, who’s a moderator on that site. (And when I clicked on her username, her public bio made it clear that it’s definitely the same Kate Paulk).

    I thought about posting a comment on that answer that said, “Hi Kate!”, but that would be unprofessional and inappropriate for that site. So I’m doing it over here instead. 🙂

    *waves* Hi Kate! 🙂

      • Robin Munn

        And in that one, they mention the wonderful book Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants. And since it’s out of print, someone linked to a PDF of it:

        http://library.sciencemadness.org/library/books/ignition.pdf

        Since the author has been dead for twenty years, I won’t be able to throw some money in his tip jar to reward him for that fine* book. But at least I’ll be able to finally read it now.

        * From all reports, that is. I haven’t yet read it myself, but I plan to.

    • Kate Paulk

      Hi Robin! Yes, I’ve been active on the SQA Stack Exchange since shortly after it went into public beta. The Stack Exchange staffers asked me to take on moderator duties early this year when one of the first set of pro-tem mods had to step down.

      I’m kind of hoping it will graduate on my watch, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a healthy site, but slow-growing.

      And now you know *why* my writing gets all sorts of odd bits informed by my testing. And some vice versa, at that.

      (F#? I’ve started to play with that as a tool for test automation. Barely scratching the surface, though).

      • Robin Munn

        If you’re looking into F#, I can personally recommend the following tools:

        – FsCheck: generate random test data, and test properties that should *always* hold true for any input. For example, reversing a list, then reversing it a second time, should produce the original list. Define your test that way, and FsCheck will generate empty lists, lists of one item, lists of a dozen identical items, lists containing several nulls… It’s practically magical how FsCheck manages to focus in on your bugs. And when FsCheck finds a bug, its output includes a seed you can feed into its random-number generator to deterministically get the same test input again, so that you can turn that test failure into a regression test.

        – Expecto: testing library where your tests are values in a list, so you can filter them or do other operations on them before running them. Also runs your tests in parallel by default, so testing takes 4x less time on a quad-core machine (but you can specify that certain tests need to be run sequentially, if they would interfere with each other, e.g. if multiple tests would touch the same database). Also plays very nicely with FsCheck, allowing you to specify a test seed on a per-test basis, so that you can run multiple tests with different RNG seeds at once. (FsCheck has the seed specified as part of the test suite parameters, so this is one place where Expecto improves on FsCheck). Finally, Expecto has a “stress testing” feature where it will continually run randomly-selected tests for as many minutes as you specify, and report a failure if any tests fail OR if the program uses more than X megabytes of memory during testing, where X is configurable.

        – Canopy: I’ve only played with Canopy, whereas I have serious experience with FsCheck and Expecto. But Canopy is the easiest way to write Selenium tests I have EVER seen. Seriously good, and highly recommended if you need to do Web testing.

  18. Robin Munn

    Arg, sorry about the missed closing tag.