‘I told you so’

If one is trying to keep folk happy, or get on with someone – or a group, the last thing you should say is: “I told you so.” Trust me on this, I’ve been married a long time.  If you want to stay that way, avoid saying: “I told you so.”

ESPECIALLY if you told them so.

Which brings me onto my topic for this post.

We told them so. No, I don’t think I told Rob Sawyer specifically. I certainly don’t have anything against the guy or disagree that much with what he says in this (he’s wrong on a few things, of course). But he was definitely part of the group of largely left wing Trad authors, when I, and many others were saying: you’re putting Descartes before the hearse.

You didn’t think, and therefore, you aren’t.

Economics comes first. Which means readers have to love the books and buy them, and authors have to make a living as a result.

Without it you end up really newspeak ‘diverse’ – and broke.

‘Diverse’ is the current meaningless buzzword.  ‘Diverse’ isn’t 100 people of identical everything from social background to politics, but different pigmentation, for example. That’s a bowl of M&M. Diverse has to encompass actual diversity of thought, background, beliefs, social strata, and political views. The latter can mean there is something for anyone in the reading demographic. The other: really ‘diverse’ with decreasing numbers of readers.

‘Get woke: go broke’.

Those of us with common sense have said this years. I said this to SFWA. I said it to my region rep, and to the then Chairman, before I gave it up, seeing no value in what appeared to be a pointless school-kid level political game full of incestuous little cliques and futile bickering, complete with its own mean girls (not all of whom are female, but all of whom are mean girls) table in the cafeteria.  Thanks, but no thanks. If real life showed me anything it’s that those ‘important children’ never amounted to much outside that world, and it’s a big world. Back then SFWA was already largely a club for people who enjoyed those games and harking back to that high school behavior and social games – many of  whom often haven’t written in decades and didn’t (like me) rely on the income.

Again, thanks but no thanks, not even for the sekrit decoder ring.

I was amused by the fuss about self-published authors.

“If only. The crisis that led Lawrence to resign was precipitated by an unprecedented loosening of SFWA’s membership credentials, undertaken by fiat by the board, allowing huge numbers of self-published authors to join. Hustlers by nature, some of them immediately organized a successful block-nominating slate to get self-published authors onto the Nebula ballot, hijacking the Academy Award of the science-fiction and fantasy fields.”

Get with the real world, Robert. Already: Self-published authors SELL more than half the books, and earn more than half the income.  They are as ‘diverse’ (in the real sense, not the M&M sense) as an open system driven by economics can be – and likely demographically representative of their readers.  If there is a future for our industry and for our genre, they’re it. And they’re no more ‘hustlers’ than the cliques who did precisely the same thing with the nominations for the Nebs or the Hugos, for many years.

As I see it: The objection wasn’t really to the behavior – that is demonstrably the norm. It’s to upstarts daring to do what their ‘betters’ did (and doing it better).

The bizarre thing is they might even have had a chance of restoring the Nebula award to something of some value – had an author with real popularity and large sales driven by that popularity won.

You see: that’s the core problem. I read a snippet of a discussion between two of the usual puppy-kickers – both failures as authors, despite the push they’ve had not only from Traditional Publishing, but also the literary establishment. They were bemoaning the fact that ordinary writers like me – and less ordinary writers like Orson Scott Card and Larry Correia, still had ‘writing contracts’ and that our publishers hadn’t just let us go.  We weren’t ‘diverse’, like M&M’s. We had WrongFun and did not kowtow. We were just evil, and should go.

Their view – and it would seem, by the context, Rob Sawyer’s too — is that popularity and being widely read is something that happens BY CONFERRAL by publishers and the literary establishment (or the litter-ratty as I call them) — despite their own failure as conferred dahlings.

When Trad publishing was the only game in town… twenty years back — that sort of worked, sort of, even if to the detriment of economics and the genre.

Now… The idea that this is bass ackwards in the modern world, hasn’t got to them.

The successful and popular writer… confers value and legitimacy on his publisher, any awards he gets, and the genre as whole.  If you’re already successful, and Trad published, being ‘let go’ (as Sawyer incidentally points out: “publishers locking in a 3:1 split of e-book royalties—three dollars for them to every one for the writer.”) means nothing more than a substantial increase in the share of sales an author takes home.  He is floating the publisher’s boat: not the publisher floating his.

As a simple example: Baen turned down TOM. (the pictures are links. I get commission on sales made as a result).

So I brought it out myself. It’s not – in my opinion — nearly as good a book as CHANGELING’S ISLAND.

But… it’s earned quite a bit more money than the latter. And I am neither famous, nor have a large following.

On the other hand if the publisher (or award) confers their favor on the right shade of M&M and it’s some mediocre to boring piece of drekk which has very little popular appeal, it doesn’t magically acquire popular appeal.  All that happens is that sinks the publisher’s revenue and ability to publish, or sinks the award’s value.

We live in changing world.  If you don’t follow the economics rules, you will suffer the consequences.

I hope I don’t have to tell you ‘I told you so.’

Image by Karin Henseler from Pixabay

63 thoughts on “‘I told you so’

  1. [I] If one is trying to keep folk happy, or get on with someone – or a group, the last thing you should say is: “I told you so.” [/I]

    So this is why women don’t like each other?
    (Dives for the bunker)

    1. My favorite quote from a a Star Trek book: “I hate people who say they hate to say they told you so, so I’ll gleefully gloat that I did tell you so.”

    1. The Nebulas are Alt-Right white supremacy now, like Pepe, Rukia Kuchiki, and Black Panther.

      Well, I’m certain that boring joke is far more interesting than whatever the actual situation is.

    2. I’m not particularly sure but there was some fuss because a bunch of newly qualifying indy-authors joined SFWA and voted for their friends.

      Like THAT ever happens.

      I believe there was some knee jerk assertion that it was the “usual suspects” but my understanding is that they weren’t *rightish* in any sense, just the unwashed rabble from the outer darkness.

      1. Standard reaction. Anyone they disagree with is a Nazi. And logrolling was and remains the main nomination problem. Has been for many years. It worked for the clique who did it in Nebs, so precisely the same people moved it to the Hugos.

      2. They are the usual suspects because the usual suspects are those who are called the usual suspects.

    3. It has to do with Indie author Michele Anderle and his group 50BooksTo20K. If you look on Amazon you will find Anderle all over the lists because he started a Scifi Universe that became popular with readers and then invited in others to write in that universe (Without looking I can guarantee there is at least 3 books coming out today in that universe and this happens all the time). So when SFWA let in the indie authors and Anderle joined he brought all his friends with him and you can pretty much figure the rest out from there, but Jon Del Arroz did write on article that was in The Federalist on it. https://thefederalist.com/2019/03/04/indie-sci-fi-authors-upending-traditional-publishing-turned-war/

      1. For future reference, please don’t put links in your posts without asking the MGC author of the post for permission. Sorry, longstanding rule, because some idiots abused the platform.

  2. Yes. Very changing world, potentially impacting everyone.

    Taxes and regulations right now favor the big organizations. We are all going to work for megacorps like in cyberpunk, without choice or alternative? No. Because the economy cannot be predicted or controlled well enough for something like a megacorp to make decisions. Look at Lyft and Uber, that whole business model is a failure of corporate controlled taxicab operators.

    My intuition is that in California we are seeing the late stages of a catastrophic failure of Walter Meade’s Blue State model. The big industries underwriting California’s madness are Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and the power situation potentially effects both. Also consider the union backed law that is turfing out the private sellers of non-fiction writing.

    We have no choice at all between megacorp, small business, and working as a an individual. The megacorp is too rigid, the small business is too rare. A viable plan for the future is a plan to make, market, and deliver on gigs.

    A writer may even need to have outside skills, and count on using them for other gigs as part of one’s business plan for writing gigs. Technical skills or skilled labor of a wide range of sorts.

    1. And the CA law hammering the gig economy will just cause a return to a thriving black market. “I didn’t hire him to drive me; we’re just going to the same place and I offered to split the costs.”

    2. …this is not pedantic, but important. The big industries that have been funding California’s madness for a long time aren’t Hollywood and Silicon Valley; it’s Oil and Farming. Two industries they hate and try their very best to demonize and strangle, while telling the world they’re funded by Hollywood & Silicon Valley.

      And they’re succeeding to the tune of running the farmers out, fields going fallow and never planted again, and no further expansion on oil fields. And they’re going broke as they do this.

      If Silicon Valley & Hollywood actually were their base, they wouldn’t be going broke as their policies succeed, because those industries aren’t going broke… yet…

      Don’t fall for their lies and spin.

      1. None the less, my guess is that an industry based around computers isn’t going to be exactly thrilled to have to deal with rolling blackouts. My guess is that it’s only a matter of time before California’s “prestige” industries start leaving as well.

        1. Yeah, you note where the rolling blackouts aren’t happening?

          Well, yet. It is, as you say, only a matter of time before the favoured industries start fleeing Venezue… California.

          1. They already are. Google was looking at Oklahoma (Pryor or Enid iirc) for a second headquarters location. Amazon’s getting another HQ… and they’re Washington not Cali the way Google is. I’ve heard of others doing similar things. (There are interesting laws that don’t let companies leave for tax reasons and exact HUGE fines… Unless they have another headquarters somewhere else and simply close the original.) They’re Leaving they just haven’t told California yet. Not sure where the Google one is going to go long term because they’re dealing with Diversity Lawsuits and I haven’t heard word about the OK location yet so I’m assuming it’s on hold.

        2. Started happening around the time of the Enron debacle in 2001. I work for a Big 5 tech company; we started building all of our new data centers outside of CA (mostly around Austin TX) because we recognized that server farms don’t deal well with blackouts.

          1. Ehh, there were rolling blackouts in 1999 and early 2000 in the San Gabriel Valley. Losing an hour of productivity in the middle of the workday at a VFX studio is expensive, too.

            1. About 15 years back I saw some hard numbers on the cost of downtime to the average large-scale business:

              8 million dollars per MINUTE.

              The present spate of blackouts rolled around for what, about 4 days?

              1. yeah, but it was the inland valley, not L.A…. the cities don’t care. I bet Sperry got PO’d tho.

              2. It really depends upon the scope and scale of the downtown. Unable to take orders for a big retail company could very well be in the millions per minute range. A couple thousand people unable to do their work for four hours due to an outage might only cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or one guy may have to wait until the next day to do something, costing a little bit of frustration.

          2. Prineville (central Oregon) got a big server farm several years ago, largely due to cheap and reliable power. About 15 years ago, one of the big outfits built a 1 MWe power plant in San Jose for their servers. At that time, there was one path for power to SJ and it was marginal for capacity.

      2. Hollywood and “Silicon” Valley (a misnomer, since the semiconductor companies stopped building there around Y2K) has been pouring money to Democrat politicians’ pockets for a while.

        Victor Davis Hanson has written about the effects on the small farmers in the San Joaquin valley (sucking ground water to irrigate acres and acres of almond trees does a number on the water table), though I doubt they have much of a voting base to help the Dems.

        Yeah, Agriculture and Oil helped generate a lot of tax money for California, but Ag’s clout was starting to fade in Jerry Brown’s first terms, in the ’70s and ’80s. I’m not familiar with the more modern history of the oil industry in Cali.

          1. One wonders just what the income tax revenues are like in Cali with the illegal aliens, whether they’re on welfare or working off the books.

        1. Average Sierra snowpack is about 150% of California’s water needs. Some years it’s far more than that.

          Most of which is allowed to either run into the ocean, or evaporate. If it were captured, there’d be plenty for irrigation and everything else.

          It’s very expensive to pump well water for ag, too… I’ve seen a figure as high as $100k per acre per month, and that’s for diesel. I haven’t bothered to work that one out for plausibility (tho it would explain the $700/ton hay, that being the last remaining profitable crop in SoCal), but I have a figure attested by my well guy from about ten years back for electric well pumps at the ag scale… a golf course client insisted on testing their new pumps during prime time, against his sage advice… running those big 3-phase well pumps for 15 MINUTES during prime time cost them $15,000.

        2. B-but vegan alternatives to milk are supposed to be earth-friendly!!1111


          Oh, my son told me today that for their science class, as an example of ‘extreme weather’, they were shown curated clips from the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Not news footage or documentaries, a MOVIE.

          And said that this was going to happen soon.

          They had their intro to global warming last week.

          1. Is your son going to laugh and point, toss into the arena actual science, or just quietly roll his eyes and regurgitate the expected answers?

            1. Let’s face it: the world is warmer from when we started measuring temperatures. We did come out of the Little Ice Age less than two centuries ago.

              The questions are these: is humanity causing the warming, and if humanity is causing the warming, are the cutest being proposed worse than the disease? The answers are: probably partially, and yes.

              1. 150 years if you use the 1850s end point for the LIA, but I can show you data that suggest it tailed off in the 1940s in southwestern North America.

                If by probably partially, so you mean “the data come from urban heat islands,” then yes. Really? No. Solar cycles and volcanic activity are much, much bigger drivers than any human activity thus far. (But someone could probably come up with a “cure” for global warming that makes life much, much worse.)

  3. Mr. Sawyer seems put out that A) the SFWA is completely useless to him and B) let a bunch of self-pub authors join and bring their fans with them.

    Mr. Sawyer seems confused, as many Canadian Liberals often do. I see this all the time. Middle class and even upper class people complaining about their taxes with one breath, and with the next wanting to know what freebies the government is going to throw their way. (I saw this one time at the county fair in conversation with the Conservative member of parliament and a surgeon. Taxes, then freebies. I had to pick my jaw up off the grass. The MP seemed used to it. He told me everybody was like that, and I was the weirdo. But diplomatically.)

    Mr. Sawyer seems an exemplar of that superbly Canadian individual, the Stupid Smart Person. In his field, a genius. Outside it an -idiot- but still thinking himself a genius.

    Get #reKt, Mr. Sawyer.

    1. Inside of a field, there can be feedback reinforcing the idea that one is smart inside of it. But if you aren’t using a field, and we are stupid in other fields partly because we do not use them, it does not become obvious if you are stupid in it or not. Because very little feedback that we can’t ignore. It is harder to ignore turning everything one touches in one’s job into a steaming mess. People still do that too.

      Testing out smart on paper has nothing to do with having the emotional capability to admit that one does not have the Midas touch, and one’s shit does not smell like roses.

      Anyway, it is a very normal sort of naive everywhere.

      Might even describe me, and I am very much inclined to deny that any Canadian ancestry I may have makes me a Canadian.

    2. And then he complains on his patreon page:

      “But I haven’t sought a publishing contract for this new novel. Why? Well, although the big-five New York publishers are all reporting record profits, it’s just about the worst it’s ever been economically for traditionally published authors like me. Unable to squeeze more money out of Amazon, publishers are squeezing their authors instead.”

      Gee, I wonder how *that* happened.

      1. I guess it doesn’t occur to Mr. Sawyer that it isn’t very difficult for a lot of authors to write to a checklist. They line up for the opportunity to get a prestige contract with TOR that pays them a buck fifty a year.

  4. There was a time when I dreamed of being a member of SFWA. That horse has not only left the barn but died of exposure in the desert.

      1. I joined because I thought I could learn from my peers – ‘Fred is terrible editor, he hates the oxford comma” ‘watch out for this new clause in the Bloggs books contracts’ or ‘there’s a new editor Smiths, Fred Jones. He loves early Heinlein.’ and that as a group we might be able to at least be aware (if not fight) the pitfalls of publishing. I was a working writer who wanted to make a living. Membership was in no way a status thing for me. When I realized what an utter waste of time and effort it was, with no chance of reform, and nothing of value to a working writer, I left.

        1. I kept it for ten years ONLY because it gave me an address list, if I needed to invite someone for an anthology, or to contact a peer and ask a question. Then we got the internet and I dropped it.
          Yeah, there was never that peer to peer help. I don’t know if it’s even possible. Indies seem to be doing it, but the trad system was designed to set writer against writer. It was like the system set up by Louis XVI in Versailles, to keep noblemen powerless and quiescent.
          Now I think about it, exactly like, including demanding costly not to mention demeaning dancing of attendance on the capital. In this case NYC.

      1. “Every organization not explicitly right wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.” — Robert Conquest.

        There are reasons for that — and for why an organization of any sort, regardless of its founders’ intentions for it, once colonized by the Left turns into a politics-uber-alles hellhole.

  5. I think Mr. Sawyer has identified one of the primary problems with the SFWA without realizing it: the primary reason to belong to the SFWA is to say that you do, the whole “people love to join for the bragging rights just as soon as they qualify.” It sounds like the group is more of a fraternity than a professional organization, a sort of Phi Beta Kappa or Sigma Xi for sci-fi writers. Once you’re in, you’re one of the cool kids, and if you keep paying your dues in order to stay one of the cool kids, why would those in charge be particularly concerned about lobbying Tor or Orbit for better pay and benefits for the writers?

    It seems to me that if the SFWA members want to make it a professional organization, they need to do two things:

    (1) Vote for officers who are committed to making it a group that benefits the writers.

    (2) If you don’t see benefits from its actions, quit.

    Otherwise, enjoy your frat house. I hope you have fun. Meanwhile, I’ll be the same geek I always was, sitting in the library, pounding out words.

    1. Yeah, WGA is doing what SFWA won’t or can’t (malice or incompetence?) on the heavily trad side – at least to agents, if not to publishers. NINC is filling the indie side, with far more help and resources than ever. If we ever were to see a forensic audit hit the publisher’s books, that’d be RWA or NINC, and I’d lay money on NINC.

      Not much point in joining the mean girl’s club, no matter how historical the playhouse they took over.

      1. SFWA has publishers, editors and agents in their midst. That was their first mistake. You can’t discuss let alone organize a response to being ripped off under those circumstances.

        1. And THAT is the massive elephant in the room.

          Everything else is fluff… infuriating political idiotic fluff, but even so.

          If your professional organization can not work as a source of equalizing power toward publishers or agents what can it do?

          I guess group health insurance rates, life insurance maybe, but other than that?

  6. Well, if you’re not writing stuff that large numbers of people want to read … then you’re doing it wrong, even if you are a SWFA member.
    (BTW, I bought TOM and really enjoyed reading it!)

    1. But in their opinion you should read what the _right_ people tell you is good and like it. ;-/ Heh. the hoi polloi like me are just _so_ recalcitrant.

  7. I’ve met Mr. Sawyer. He is a polite enough individual, until the second you disagree with him. Then he’s… well, I have nothing nice to say about his behavior when somebody disagrees with him. I shall merely leave it at that.

    1. I heard cannibalism was bad. I disagree with everyone. Don’t eat me. 😉 (seriously I love a good ‘argument’ with people who disagree with me and are prepared to make a rational defense of that in a reasonable fashion. It makes me think, and I’ve changed my mind a few times. When the person you’re arguing (or debating the point perhaps) with is equally willing to concede on some points – I’ve usually found a friend, even if we may agree to differ on other points. My way or the highway doctrinaire? Smile and wave, and walk away. They’re not worth my time.

      1. Was amused by an Australian trying to conflate legal/law = morally good, thus acceptable, on Twitter earlier (I was cheering on the bit of news that a bikie beat up a pedophile, yet acknowledged that he was going to jail for that). There were some bonus points for trying to indirectly claim I was racist for saying that there are cultural groups on the planet that are accepting of pedophilia (this guy went straight to ‘racial profiling’; I pointed out that unlike him, I wasn’t making the mistake of conflating race and ethnicity to religion, culture, groups and such.) It was fascinating the way he jumped around, making huge, sweeping assumptions about …everything.

        Dude vanished when I asked if he was assuming I was white and male.

        1. My objection to assaults on accused pedos prior to conviction, is that I can’t help but see it as law enforcement doing an end-run around actually having to prove their case.

          ‘cos I don’t believe it can be happening as often as is reported without someone, probably uniformed saying to incoming prisoners “the person [who looks like this] is a pedo”, which is not only tacit permission to go outside the law, it is skipping the entire “convict them of this offense” step.

            1. My perception (from across the ditch, & honestly most of what I see of Australians is going to be “big names”) was that the lenience was mostly towards “influential” ones, who wouldn’t have been made available for a biker to beat up either…

  8. Heinlein once wrote that the critic is the ultimate egalitarian, as “he hates all creative people equally.” Something similar could be said about the publisher. Publishers, stripped of all the glamor from their corner offices, are middlemen. They’re not creators…and because of that recognition, they bear a considerable animus toward creators who refuse to bend the knee to them. Now that creators have escaped the publishers’ bottleneck and found their way to readerships without publishers’ approval, that animus is reaching lethal proportions. But it won’t be the indie creators who suffer from it.

    1. You plainly haven’t read the kids book that refers to ;-/. I bet you don’t know about the tree-fort with the sign ‘no grils allowed’ either, and want that spelled girls.

      1. I might have read it. Don’t know. But, googling both “No grils allowed” and “Sekrit decoder ring” produced interesting results. So I missed the joke. (Wasn’t “no grils allowed” on Calvin’s treehouse?)

        1. IIRC the first I saw it was in ‘William’ – but I have come across it in a lot of other places :-). I think it was the label on Calvin’s tree-house… The ‘tree-fort’ I just can’t place now. It was in use on Baen\’s Bar some years back.

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