Witches Float

I’ve been slowly reading my way through an excellent book on psychology. One of the studies the author discusses in detail is what should be done for survivors of some mass disaster or trauma. Oddly, the answer seems to be: don’t force them to relive it. People are surprisingly resilient, it turns out. And forcing them to talk about what happened in an effort to prevent PTSD turns out to actually make the problem worse. If you leave them alone, people will recover, come to terms, and when they need it, seek help. This isn’t always true… some people are not resilient at all. They shatter under pressure. I can give you examples of both, in the writing world, from the past week. 

One is the young lady who became a victim of a Twitter witchhunt (who would have thought we would traverse from dunking women in ponds to see if they could breathe underwater, which of course meant they were a witch, or would drown, which meant they were innocent, to forcing strangers to endure mocking, humiliation, and career death? Remind me to dig up that article on Medicolegal Death Investigation and Social Media for case studies of suicides influenced by facebook and twitter storms). The young writer dared write from her own experience, and it was outside the accepted narrative. So they drowned her career.

On the other hand, you have someone who, after 23 books in a long-running and popular series, was unceremoniously dumped by his publisher. Anyone want to bet he’s making more money in a year if he goes Indie than he could have dreamed? From his facebook post about it:

Tor-MacMillan dumps Repairman Jack
It’s true. Jack is back but Tor doesn’t want him.

The publisher of 23 Repairman Jack titles says “No mas.” They’ve made it known to my agent that they’ve decided not to proceed with any new Jack novels.

I see this as the result of a perfect storm arising from a confluence of poor sales of the very noir, pure-crime Early Years Trilogy (for which I take full responsibility), plus the death of the long-time editor of the series, plus the sidelining of my long-time publisher, Tom Doherty. I suppose it doesn’t help that Jack is not what you’d call a “woke” character and has no allies in the Tor editorial department.

That’s resilience. Refusal to allow his career to be dunked. Not that he’d have drowned, anyway, unlike the young lady F. Paul Wilson has a solid fanbase that has his back… which brings me to another interesting post, about literary circles. My dear readers. Would you like to be in the Mad Genius Club literary circle? Because you are! We have cookies, and advice, and warm words of pungency when the idiots try to kick you while you’re down. Rawle Nyanzi writes about what makes ‘right wing’ writers more resilient and durable to the twitter mobs than the ‘left wing’ who fall prey to a form of cannibalism. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s a pertinent snip:

As we’ve seen with the previous authors mentioned above, hate-mobs often target those they are likely to extract concessions from. In the case of tradpub YA, that means people who want to be seen as progressive and woke. Therefore, attacking a right-wing author is a waste of time since that author is simply not going to care about intersectionality or representation — their literary circles don’t care, their audiences don’t care, so they won’t care either, especially if it boosts their Amazon sales rank. By contrast, a tradpubbed YA author’s brand absolutely depends on being woke since that’s how you get huge publicity and big advances, to say nothing of behind-the-scenes support of various kinds.

Thus any author in the early stages of a career would do well to choose a circle carefully. Make sure they do right by you, rather than hate-mob you based on rumors. And when the hate-mobs do come, make sure they have your back.

I’d argue that it’s not really about the political bent of the circle of people you have around you. Good friends who have your back are worth their weight in gold. Groups of people you can go to for help, to check whether you’re on the right track or barking up an empty tree, to pick you up, dust you off, and give you a little push to regain momentum… you can’t get those on purpose. You find out you have them when things go horribly wrong, but you get them by being a resilient person who has compassion and empathy for others. Because before you got pushed in the pond and held down to see if bubbles came up? You were with the group pulling the assailants off some poor unfortunate soul and helping render first aid. Your innate resiliency, your stubborn refusal to give up and go down into the dark deeps where the plankton would nibble your bones… that’s what drew your circle around you. You get to have the choice to face down the mob, or to kowtow and offer up your life’s work to them in hopes it would placate their ravening appetite for blood.

It’s all you. Stand tall. We’re at your back if you need us.

(header image: by Cedar Sanderson)


  1. I’ve read a number of articles about Amelie Zhao and most of them talk about her caving to pressure and withdrawing Blood Heirs, but she wasn’t the publisher. She may have been told to write the “apology”, but it’s Delacorte Random Penguin who controls the publication. My big question is do the rights revert to the author in this case, or does she just get screwed? And if she decided to self-publish the book after the publisher bailed, would the Penguin sue her?

    1. In the case of Zhao, my guess is that the plagiarism accusation was what sank her boat. I think the publisher looked into that and decided to pull the plug but allowed her to issue a statement that emphasized the other issues so she could save face.

      As usual with Twitter attacks, the original motivation seems to have been envy at her success, but just because the motivation was bad doesn’t mean there wasn’t something to find.

        1. It best explains why the publisher didn’t talk her out of it. This type of thing is free advertising, after all.

          I haven’t seen a picture of her, so I don’t know what dress you’re referring to. 😉

          1. Wow, Greg, way to read into it the sort of narrative you want to follow. It is that or you are psychic. Shall we look at the problems with what you allege? Let’s do.

            First, publishers have had absolutely no problem throwing authors under the bus when plagiarism allegations have been made against them. There are usually statements saying they, the publisher, should have looked closer but trusted the author, etc.

            Second, the MSM always loves to blow up at authors accused of plagiarism. Where is that coverage?

            Third, if you were right and that is why the publisher didn’t talk her out of pulling the book, then why has the publisher said it will still publish not only the book in question but the other books it has her contracted for? (see the NYT article covering the withdrawal)

            It is bad enough this young woman has had her reputation and her career derailed by those who have to find something to be butthurt about. To have someone then come in and promote that she committed plagiarism WITHOUT ANY PROOF is beyond the pale. How dare you, sir? How dare you?

      1. Huh? I’ve heard nothing about anyone accusing her of plagiarism. Of what? It’s not like there’s a huge body of Sino-Russian YA Fantasy for her to draw from.

        1. Evidently the plagiarism is one line of dialogue:

          “Don’t go where I can’t follow,”

          Which seems pretty universal to me. I might have written it.

      2. Not in this case. I’ve seen the actual claims.

        It’s absurd as the claim that one chemistry work plagiarized another because they both had “The valence of carbon is four.”

      3. Hullender on you ‘plagiarism’ accusation: (from Slate because people don’t follow links)

        “The main basis for such an accusation seems to be a line in Chapter 21. The main protagonist, Ana, tells her dying friend May:

        “Don’t.” Ana was crying freely. “Don’t go where I can’t follow.”

        The quote is identical to popular Tolkien quote from the second Lord of the Rings book in which Sam begs Frodo to wake up: “Don’t leave me here alone! It’s your Sam calling. Don’t go where I can’t follow!” But as others have noted, the idea is rooted in the Bible.

        … is that it?
        Not quite. A few people have also pointed out similarities to The Hunger Games. In Blood Heir, Ana sings May’s beloved childhood song to her as May dies. In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen sings her own childhood song as her young, black friend Rue dies. Also like Rue’s burial in the Hunger Games, Ana buries May surrounded by flowers.”

        At this standard just about every author that ever breathed ‘plagiarized’. It’s not what the word means or is even thought to mean by idiots.

        A grovelling apology from you is called for. Both to her and to the readers here. That was a nauseating false accusation on the level with the twitter witch-burners.

        1. Whether that qualifies as “plagiarism” or not, I don’t know. “Plagiarism” can be kind of a slippery term. What I am sure of is that it isn’t a copyright violation or anything else legally actionable. I also have a really hard time imagining that this would be the reason that a publisher would pull a series that they had made a half-million dollar investment in. If it really bothered the publishers so much, seems to me that they could have her rewrite the offending scene and move on.

        2. Lefties like Mr. Hullender are very fond of “thoughtcrimes” like plagiarism (or “perjury” in the case of Justice Kavanaugh or President Trump) that boil down to “In my opinion”. They are impossible to defend against, because the omission of a “the” in 10 different depositions (or a coincidental phrase in a novel based on the idea of death as a journey the living can’t accompany) is enough to make the technical definition, without any need to take into account the other tests of “materiality” and “intent”.

          After all, a pea was material to the princess no matter how far down she had to burrow, and reading “intent” from any given action is easy when you hate the actor.

      4. There is ALWAYS something to find. Has the Kavenaugh debacle taught us nothing?

        The young lady tossed off one of those “Trump’s America” phrases in a blog post, casually slandering half of her countrymen. So she’s definitely no friend of mine.

        It doesn’t change the fact that what was done to her was vicious and wrong. Mr. Correia said it best. As a bonus, his post on the subject is the perfect answer to the question: When is strong language warranted?

        1. I wonder just how much of her “Trump’s America” postings were pure virtue signaling, saying the Parti Slogans as to not look out of place. One cannot be the first person to stop applauding Comrade Stalin!
          And like with most people under the thumb of would be tyrants, that’s never enough to protect you.

          1. And also Saul held the coats of the men stoning St. Stephen. Mrs. Hoyt has had a few useful essays in the past about how under SJW-esque regimes everybody who suggested survives gets grey.

  2. Larry Correia’s thoughts on this business were spot on, if a tad on the hyperbolic side. Then again, if it wasn’t a tad hyperbolic, it probably wouldn’t be Larry Correia. 😄

    1. This case was very much a “Larry hulk out” and there is no ‘too high’ for this garbage.

    2. I would say that this is one of those times where you run up the Jolly Roger and run out all the guns. Larry’s got LOTS of guns to run out.

      Personally, because I don’t have a huge audience like he does, I pre-ordered the hard cover from Amazon. That’s going to be more of a boost for the girl’s confidence than anything else I can do. And maybe I get a book, if random penguin finds a pair of cojones somewhere.

  3. I come here just for the cookies and advice…!

    What I write, unfortunately, isn’t science fiction or fantasy; in fact I’m still getting over the burn of a friend of mine who said I should try Hallmark as a publisher because I did make people cry — but I haven’t found any other writing circles that are as fun to read.

    1. Hey, we have mystery, romance, YA, and even a smattering of horror and erotica writers around here. Granted, SF/F is the central focus and core, but we’re just trying to help everyone out – glad you enjoy being here, and thanks for helping make the comments lively!

        1. Hubby and I call my little romance novel collection ‘weepy books.’ They’re popcorn, not deep in the least, but entertaining and know how to catch at emotion easily. They also serve a specific purpose: I read them when I’m stressed, get weepy, and release a few tears that are absolutely laden with stress chemicals.

  4. One thing for which I am ever grateful is that I found Kris Rusch’s blog and The Passive Voice, then MGC and some of the semi-affiliated blogs in 2011. That told me not to bother with trad-pub, a decision I have only once regretted, and that for, oh, 5 minutes* before the mild sting wore off and I found something else to think about. As for politics? *shrug* I’m rapidly becoming a member of the Get Off My Lawn Party. Although I will vote for almost anyone who will put a hard limit on campaigning. 20 months of political ads and campaign cr@p is at least 12 months too many.

    *To make a long and tangled story short, I was almost invited to be on a DragonCon panel until I said that I was purely indie at the moment because of writing so cross-genre. The individual gave me a disappointed and pitying look and said, “Oh. That’s too bad.” And the invitation was cancelled. No fur off my back, I couldn’t have made it if I wanted to due to Day Job, but it stung for a minute or two.

  5. I kind of thought that – having read a great deal about the London Blitz. It seemed that it was a great deal more helpful for the various survivors of bombings to be … rather stiff-upper-lip about it all. To insist on going on as if being bombed out of ones’ home, or ones’ place of employment was just one of those things … it seemed that the survivors were in a much better mental place for being encouraged to be resilient and move on, than for being encouraged to moan over and over again about the trauma of it all. (Seen a bit of this in my own life. Better to be stiff-upper-lip and move on, rather than be encouraged to whinge, endlessly, about cruel fate.)

    1. That’s an excellent example of it. And yes, I too have seen in my own life it’s better to move on, dream of the future, than to dwell in how the past went wrong.

    2. There’s a lot to be said for accepting that bad stuff has happened, you’re not the only one, and let’s rebuild and carry on, but better this time. And defeat the bastages who flattened your house!

  6. One of the studies the author discusses in detail is what should be done for survivors of some mass disaster or trauma. Oddly, the answer seems to be: don’t force them to relive it. People are surprisingly resilient, it turns out. And forcing them to talk about what happened in an effort to prevent PTSD turns out to actually make the problem worse.

    As someone involved in an officer involved shooting (dispatcher), I gotta say that the hardest part for me was the debriefing. And it wasn’t my part in it that was the hard part, it was listening to what everyone else was doing and/or feeling about what they did.

    1. Some events, you do have to relive; analysis may (or may not) prevent their recurrence.

      I took this more as “Don’t dwell on that which you could not have changed.” Good advice, whether the event was traumatic, or barely annoying.

    2. I’d draw the line to argue that the debrief is still part of the “event” – it’s what one does after the immediately required actions are complete that can head one into trouble or not.

      And based on experience, the assertion that carrying on as well as one is able probably works best in the long run is prretty much spot on.

  7. “Would you like to be in the Mad Genius Club literary circle?”

    Yes please. ~:D If a ShirtStorm comes for my first book, we can all go wind surfing on the strength of it.

    1. Seconded! I may lurk more than I comment, but reading MGC is a critical part of my day, and why I felt confident going indie in the first place.

      Now I just need to get my output up around chasing after the young master.

      1. Where’s your ShirtStorm Allene? Clearly you aren’t trying hard enough to outrage the NPCs.

        Maybe you should make a white man the hero of your next short story. That’ll get ’em going. ~:D

        1. LoL maybe so. When I put my epic up, I was worried about calling down the wrath for being insufficiently brown. But my Viking Man doing Manly Things hasn’t raised a peep, either. Not sure if I’m doing something wrong or if I’m just still flying under the radar….

          1. I had to…

            Now, boys, we got three engines out; we got more holes in us than a horse trader’s mule; the radio’s gone and we’re leakin’ fuel, and if we’s flying any lower, why, we’d need sleigh bells on this thing. But we got one little bulge on them Rooskies, at this height, why, they might harpoon us but they dang sure ain’t gonna spot us on no radar screen. — Major T. J. “King” Kong (Dr. Strangelove)

  8. One of the things I’ve noticed in both art and writing circles (and probably photography or engineering or any other creative endeavour) is how great stuff seems to come out of these little clusters.

    It’s as if the spirit of the group is bigger than the sum of the individuals. Or something. I don’t actually know why, just that this week’s Sunday School lesson was about encouraging one’s fellow man, so it’s on my mind.

    I don’t think it’s even a left or right thing (based on some of the storytelling clusters -like the one I MN or one in my own professional life), except that the crab-bucket mentality of Marxism will kill it dead.

    Which ought to chuff the writers of a rightward bent who’ve been exiled and forced to go it, mostly alone, who still manage to create nifty stuff.

    N.B. thanks for the 2 book recs. I will check them out.

  9. If your tribe believes in absolutes–things bigger than the tribe–then you can rest assured that as long as you are true to those absolutes, you’ll be OK–even if you have to oppose the tribe. OTOH, if the tribe’s ends ever justify the means of putting a knife in your back, then your best hope is to be cannibalized last.

    Now, apply this concept to the woke tribe versus the 2nd amendment tribe, libertarian tribe, cis-male heteronormative fascist tribe, Randian objectivist tribe, or Christian fundamentalist tribe. Choose your tribe and target market wisely.

  10. In _Starmind_ (1995), the third book of Spider and Jeanne Robinson’s _Stardance_ trilogy, an early and recurring theme can be summed up as a question, asked of one’s beloved: “[If you truly love me,] how can you want to go where I cannot follow”?

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