Have we reached peak virtue signalling yet?


A couple of days ago Sarah mentioned in passing that she thought she was seeing a welcome shift in popular fiction: “I think the mood is changing.  Only six months ago, I swear every cozy mystery released genuflected towards the homeless, who were always laid off computer programmers, or something.  Now… not so much.”

That observation cheered me for two whole days… until I decided to take a break from my current preoccupations (reviewing German and soaking up Appalachian folklore) with the latest Dana Stabenow. I don’t usually name writers with whom I have a bone to pick on this blog, but in this case I think it’s relevant. You see, Stabenow isn’t exactly a struggling mystery writer who might feel a need to keep in good with her publishers. She is extremely successful. And I don’t read her books because I’m longing to be lectured on the correct opinions of the year (Month. Day. Hour. Whatever. They’re moving too fast for anybody to keep up with.) I picked up the new Kate Shugak novel expecting the usual: some malfeasance wrapped up in Alaska Bush stories, an occasional recipe, and the shenanigans of the Aunties who keep the Park in line.


Yeah, I got all that. But I also got whacked over the head with some righteous anger about “kids in cages,” a phrase which was as usual employed to imply that the phenomenon was something personally thought up by the current president out of a desire to be nasty, and had no connection with court decisions and Federal policy predating his administration.

Sigh. Sigh. Okay, I managed not to be annoyed by that, mostly by concentrating on the creativity that must have been required to make the problems on our Southern border an issue in a book set in Alaska. But then, as the story was drawing to a close, our heroine threw in a totally unnecessary reflection on how much she admired the younger generation: “They believed in climate change, Medicare for All, dumping the Electoral College…”

None of which had the slightest thing to do with the story Stabenow was supposedly telling.

Why, Ms. Stabenow, why? You don’t need to curry favor with your publishers; your books have been so successful for so long that you could shoot somebody on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage and your next book would still be another best-seller. You don’t need to curry favor with your readers; five will get you ten that the number of your readers who really want to be beaten over the head with your political views is close to zero. Do you want to make sure that nobody with incorrect opinions sullies your books by picking one up? Way to go. It probably won’t cost you.

It just costs me. You’ll never miss my purchases, but I’ll miss a writer whose books have afforded me a great deal of escapist pleasure in the past.

And that’s why I’m not feeling as optimistic as Sarah about a shift in the culture. From where I sit, today, it feels very much as if American writers are now where British writers were in the eighties, when every bloody novel about any bloody subject had to include at least one slur on the Thatcher administration. The peasants may be revolting in the voting booth, both here and in Britain, but if politics is downstream from culture, we are still in a great deal of trouble.



  1. Drat. I really liked the Shugak stories. They make me homesick. But have you read her Science fiction series? Stabenow has been edging on woke for a long time, it just hadn’t crept into her Alaska mysteries yet.

  2. I stopped reading that series 5 (?) years ago? Because it was this type of thing all the time. From off-the-book appearances and interviews, the author REALLY is so terminally woke that she can’t sleep even with hammer blows to the head. Which obviously is affecting her sanity.
    She IS the establishment. To think she needs to ingratiate herself is the wrong thought. She’s one of those who is so woke she’ll never wake to reality.
    And she’s long since stopped having anything to say.

    1. You, Sara, and You, Cedar, should apply to Dana’s Storyknife women writers retreat. I bet I would see her head explode from my house. She is SO “woke” establishment. But it is a cool facility and I would love to see it used to produce something I would actually enjoy reading.

  3. I recently threw a recently pubbed American historical western romance into the wall when the mail-order-bride stepped off the train to enter a city where all the men had decided that no guns were allowed. The guns had to be checked in with the Sheriff. The real shame is I can’t remember the name of the book or the author as I was recovering from a major surgery so I can’t remember who to avoid! Ugh.

    1. Now that’s a good reason for buying paperbacks. It’s too expensive to wall my Kindle when I come across that kind of nonsense!

    2. Now I know I’ve read that many times and I think it was Dodge City and I think that the author was Louis L’Amour. I don’t know that everyone gave up their guns but coming off the end of a trail ride and getting paid I know I’ve read that the Sheriff held guns and you got them back when you left town.

      The only thing I’d have twigged onto reading a western romance that *mentioned* it, was that why would it have even come up and why would a newly arrived young lady be aware?

      1. I’m sure you are all correct, I don’t write American West Romance, I stick to Virginia. The history there is different. But I do read those types of romances and it was the first time I’d run across it. And this was a newly-made town full of men in need of wives. So perhaps I over reacted, but it sure was hard to believe.

        1. Honestly, romance writers sometimes put afterwards in their books to explain that they actually did do their research and some odd thing was legitimately historical because history is so often unexpected. 😉

          Beyond that it depends on how it was presented. Strangers arriving in town? Quite possibly. Stalwart members of the community? Not so much.

          1. Romance? History? I put an author’s note at the beginning of “The Dragon’s Cottage” to explain that this is an Eastern European dragon and so much smaller than the Western variety that we know so much better.

    3. I’ve read in history books that a number of Western cow-towns really did have “no guns” laws. They had to be turned in to the sheriff when you entered town, and you got them back when you left. The townsfolk had learned the hard way that trail-weary cowboys + liquor + guns = trouble. The immediate cause of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral was an attempt by the Earps to disarm the Clantons, in accordance with an ordinance passed by the Tombstone town council.

      1. Honestly, I have seen that as well – cowtowns in the season when young and stupid teenagers are arriving, after three or four months on the trail, working under brutal conditions? Yeah, OF COURSE the local authorities are going to sequester their personal arms, when the kids are going to get paid off and have a rowdy hurrah up and down the streets of whatever trail-end town they were paid off in.

        1. And even then, it wasn’t necessarily universal; basically outside the “red-light district” where they’d herded the lower end bars and brothels off to. Reading the accounts of Hickok, the Earps, etc. the usual way trouble started was when a group of cowboys brought guns into the respectable end of town past the “deadline”.

          1. I’ve seen an account of a town or two in Arizona. where cowboys came in from a drive, got drunk, and started shooting up the place, endangering all and sundry. Apparently it wasn’t an uncommon hazard.

            1. If I remember how it functioned in practice, “cowboys” are exactly the folks it was aimed at– young, unattached strangers with nobody to vouch for them.

              Basically, a concealed carry rule.

                1. It undoubtedly WAS so woke. Because it’s complicated and wouldn’t have really applied to people who were residents. Who might not have always had a gun strapped on but they certainly owned them.

    1. Ghostwriter, possibly. Editors shoving it in… I have NEVER had an editor pull that kind of crap on me. And to judge from what Sarah says about interviews and appearances with this particular writer, the quoted line is completely in line with her sentiments, so I don’t think anybody else had to be involved.

    1. Oh, I think the first dozen or so are pretty good entertainment. They didn’t start sliding into overt wokeness until a few years ago – at least, not that I noticed.

  4. Yes, some of my favorite Brit mystery authors seemed bound and determined to sneak in slams against Margaret T. It was really tiresome, and quite unnecessary.
    And I guess I’ll give a miss to Ms Stabenow. Too many good indies around, who aren’t whamming you over the head with wokery.

    1. The thing is that such references age every book (also films and television) in badly. Especially in retrospect.

      1. Chuckle Chuckle

        I read a SF Novel (near future) where an American “Secret Agent” and a Soviet “Secret Agent” are talking.

        The Soviet agent makes some comment about Reagan.

        Of Course, thanks to Reagan it is the Former Soviet Union. 😈

  5. Peak virtue signalling is a myth. As currently exploitable reserves become more scarce, it becomes economically feasible to employ advanced production techniques in order to exploit previously unavailable woke reserves.

    More seriously, there are three elements. a) How sane and grounded are they naturally? b) What kind of group do they re-calibrate their sense of ‘sane’ from? c) Stuff required as a condition of employment. Some authors will get crazier over time, some will track the craziness of a group, some will write the crazy carefully to editor specification.

    Significantly less seriously, it’d be nice to think of some woke male examples of descent into nutjobbery that can no longer predict the audience. Female examples suggest a “don’t read females” rule. Which has several flaws. It is boring to joke or troll about, it isn’t something I could implement when reading on AO3 or FFN, and a good chunk of my recently enjoyed fiction purchases were by women.

  6. She’s including it in order to “change people’s minds.” (Not quite sarcasm.)

    Thing is that something like that doesn’t. It doesn’t.

    I’ve been thinking about “message” today related mostly to the latest yawn-fest re-run of whats-his-face-Stewart going on about the political content of the new show “Picard” and the subsequent howls and sub-subsequent preening about how Star Trek was always political.

    Yeah, but.

    You don’t warn people ahead of time that you’re trying to change their mind.

    Unless you’re not actually trying to change their mind.

    Every person who sets the book down and doesn’t pick up the next one, if you care about your influence or your message, is a failure of your part to communicate your message.

    So maybe it’s just self indulgence? Maybe wealth and security is why someone can afford to have half of England tell “Picard” to piss off.

    But what it’s not, at all, is about getting a message out and changing minds.

  7. “None of which had the slightest thing to do with the story Stabenow was supposedly telling.”

    Yes. Herein lies my complaint. The author wants to rant on about something, so they do it in a little speech in the middle of a book where they can put it in a character’s mouth and pretend it fits.

    Once upon a time, probably in the early 1990’s, I read “Twistor” by John Cramer. Fun story, great physics speculation, but in the middle of it there was this incongruous speech by the main character about how dangerous guns are, and how people shouldn’t have them… after he uses a gun to save his own life from an animal attack. It was so weird I still remember it.

    That was the first really overt bit of PC propaganda I can recall being baldly dropped into a story like that, but of course now its very widespread. You look at anything by Charles Stross, you’ll find random rantings against Christianity all through it. Ian Bank’s last novel had quite a bit as well, again surprising because he didn’t usually go there.

    But have we hit -peak- virtue signaling yet?

    Lets just say that every time I think I have heard the dumbest shit ever come out of some SJW, they find a way to top it. They’ll get to the peak, and then they will get a ladder, then they’ll balance on a paint can on the top step…

  8. I’m somewhat more sanguine, Margaret. Writers whose works are conventionally published may still be kowtowing to the Left (and not coincidentally, to the editors of their publishing houses), but indie fiction continues to outsell Pub World’s offerings by a goodly margin, both in total units of sale and total revenues. The marketplace is a better indicator of readers’ preferences than is the behavior of conventionally established writers.

    One of the things I’ve harped on in when I don my strategic analysis hat is that success breeds failure. A successful tactic is prone to being overused; your opponent will develop a countermeasure to it and clobber you with it if you persist in it for too long. I think we’re seeing a case study of this in the behavior of those Pub World houses that still push politically correct attitudes in the fiction they publish. The countermeasure, of course, is indie…and by all the available indicators, it’s doing rather well.

  9. I read every book a certain romance/action writer put out. They were great. They were also always packed full of “message”. Racism, abuse, homophobia, sexism. It was always part of the story and the conflict and when she was dealing with bigotry and expectations it was *good*. She had recurring characters over dozens of books and her readers loved the gay character and even loved when he got his romance.

    And then something flipped. Some switch. And it was *different*.

    And no one could tell her so. Anyone who tried got accused of homophobia. Anyone who had read every book she’d written and who read the new book out and went WTF? Well, it was only because you were a bad person. The changes were really subtle. Little things.

    And that’s a real problem when it comes to trying to talk about the difference between a awesome book where the main theme was racism and some other book that is, somehow, simply *off*. “Well, that one is message fiction,” isn’t entirely satisfying because it doesn’t explain why or how the one is and the other wasn’t.

    As a writer, and since this is a blog for writers, the question of how to be persuasive and effective and not “off” is important. It’s not one way or another, one set of beliefs or concerns or another, one side or another, but how to write good, to draw people in rather than thrust them off.

    And the nearest that I can get is “I know it when I see it”. In others. Most probably not in myself, if I’m honest, and nothing good comes from not being honest.

    1. You gotta tell a good story with the message, not beat people over the heads with the message. Message is fine–so long as it is not the end point of your story. If there’s nothing ELSE interesting going on, it’s going to be off.

      Which is why, although there are some interesting things that sometimes happen, Ayn Rand mostly doesn’t work, I think. (I like some of her ideas, and vehemently disagree with others–but the real problem is that a lot of her stuff is *boring* and *preachy*)

      1. I wonder, too, if it takes offering more than one point of view. If the story is heavily about homelessness and you want people to care about it, someone has to present a contrary and *supportable* opinion about it. Some way to state, yes, I’m aware of the complexity and that other concerns are valid, which necessarily lends more weight to the main message because the author has made clear that they’ve explored the complexity of the issue.

        1. I think that’s a very good point. If we do want people to care about an issue (other than “how does my protagonist survive this mess and even come out ahead?” which to be honest is the level I’m usually writing at) it surely helps to present it as complex and to show varying opinions, rather than the usual “woke” option which is nothing more than belaboring the reader with the conviction that your opinion is the only possible one.

      2. Basically, this is the problem of something I’ve been playing around with recently.

        Isekai where the hero starts out protecting something like some Roman latifundae from pirate depredations.

        Thinking it over, I basically was accreting stuff around slavery, with the idea of triggering the libs. Instead of around something that was basically fun in its own right. That said, I already have a very low success rate in terms of putting stuff together that holds my long term interest.

        1. God forgive me: I’m going to reproduce a segment from an old novel. You may have heard the writer’s name, but I’ll withhold it for the moment. It’s set in the Ninth Century, in Saracen-occupied Spain. The central character, a Catholic son of a Gothic nobleman, is arguing with a Jewish trader about…slavery: Citation starts:

          “I like not even associating with a house which deals in human flesh,” Alaric said.

          “Dung!” Saadyah roared “Asses’ dung at that. Setting aside the making of eunuchs for which there is no defense possible and which I’ll never touch, I tell thee, saintly idiot, that nine out of every ten captives brought into al Andalus better their condition over what they enjoyed in their native haunts! Free/ Who is free in this world, Aizun? Thou? I laugh. Enslaved by both thy fair Jimena’s fecundity and by God. I? In thrall to my counting house, my ever-sinking ships, my caravans by Bedu brigands robbed! Tell me truly, thou who has seen the lands of the Bulgars and the Slavs: Who among them there, including their savage kings, live in such comfort, cleanliness, and health, as those of them who’ve had the great good fortune to be brought here as slaves? I’ll press the matter closer to home. Sumayla–leave a mind like that in the jungle to be cowed by superstitious mumbo jumbo and savage Negroid idiocy? Goissuntha–leave a beauty like hers to rot in a cloister in the service of an ice-cold eunuch’s God who demands at least the spiritual castration of His followers? Thy sister–leave her to go to waste in one of your dim, freezing Gothic stone heaps where the true lords are the lice, the flies, the stench; marry her off to one of your classic drunken Gothic louts, instead of gentle Husayn? Asses’ dung, say I!”

          Citation ends.

          The novel is An Odor of Sanctity, by the late Frank Yerby. Yerby, by the way, was black.

          Yes, people really thought that way. People much like us, though we strain to accept it. It’s a question of comparative values….and freedom has not always taken the top spot.

          1. My grandparents had a couple of Frank Yerby’s novels on their shelves … which I read and remember quite well. And they were first-gen British immigrants, and also pretty horribly racist by my mother’s standards … so there was some weird double-standard going on there, I think.

            I also think that Frank Yerby was pretty well channeling the mind-set of a character of that time and place. Which has the charm of freaking out the wokey-brokey set quite thoroughly.

          2. No one is free. You enslave even your sister.

            But see, really, if a person can’t understand why something was normal and accepted, how can they argue against it with any force or depth?

            And maybe that’s part of it. When you’re writing and you believe that something is so obvious that it doesn’t even need to be engaged, you’re unlikely to notice that your narrative is missing depth.

          3. I don’t have a problem with alien societies being alien. I actually like that, a lot.

            I can do political trolling at the fifty or three hundred word length. The length of a full story is too much work to feed on such weak broth.

            The flaw with the project I describe is that it doesn’t have enough to carry me through the process of writing it. Not enough well developed plot and character. The MC so far is a little interesting, but not very interesting. I know what he would kill himself doing, but I do not know what he would destroy himself to do.

            I’m at the point where I need to set the trolling aside, and either find some reason to care about what happens in the story, or shelve the thing.

            1. “I’m at the point where I need to set the trolling aside…”

              One of the really bad things about Twitter is that 280 characters is long enough for trash-talk and mockery but too short to do anything constructive.

              Trolling the Left as a creative process is a waste of time and energy. Trolling is what the Left does, and as we all can see their work -sucks-.

              You want your character to be interesting and your story to flow, then you need to pay attention to that guy and find out what makes him tick. Why is he there? What are his likes and dislikes? What’s his moral compass look like? Is he healthy? What can he bench press? Does he like Elvis? Would he eat octopus sushi?

              None of that has to be in the story, but -you- have to know it all so you can know what he will do.

              Once you know who the people are, the story is written by handing them the problem and watching them run with it. If you want things to turn out a certain way, you have to pick people who would realistically make it that way.

              If you are a scripter, you can construct the character to fit all the needs of the narrative you want. If you’re like me (you poor bastard), people show up and the story is determined by them.

              Still, you’ll achieve your goal of making Lefty heads explode if all you do is have a good person making moral decisions. Its not a high bar to get over.

          4. Read the last story in Poul Anderson’s Trader To The Stars. He portrays it as a mental outlook as much as anything else. “Do you think that they yonder is free?!?”

    2. My daughter was watching a contemporary TV series – 9-1-1 Lone Star, I think it is called. Which is supposed to be set in Austin but produced out of Hollywood and generated entirely out of California misconceptions about Texas, generally. She gave up after two or three episodes, since the wokery just got too much to take.
      It’s OK, she ranted to me – to have gay characters, even trans characters, racial minority characters – but for the love of ghod don’t make that aspect of them the ONLY SIGNIFICANT THING about them. Create and build them, entire, and make them sympathetic, human … and have that aspect of theirs only a minor quirk…
      Yeah, the Daughter Unit went on for quite a bit about this. In our Luna City universe, there is one character who is obviously gay, when you read carefully, another who might be (but is geriatric and just un-enthusiastically heterosexual), a major character who is black, a dozen more who are Hispanic – but that identity is not the whole and parcel of what they are! The series really pissed off the Daughter Unit … especially when two characters apparently took a short-cut through West Texas, in driving from New York to Austin…

      1. I wish I could remember who it was, maybe the Gay Cynic bit I think it was someone better known, who declared that he knew Hollywood had accepted homosexuals when TV and movies would have fantastic characters – who just happened to be gay.

        He was soooo tired of “the fanTAStic! gay guy” only there to be a gay guy. This was over a decade ago.

      2. Ow! Glad to be forewarned about that one. The Austin setting might just have enticed us into trying an episode or two, but now I’ll be sure to give it a miss.

        A short cut through West Texas? Really? Don’t they have maps? Oh, well. My first agent phoned one morning and said, “I’m in Dallas for the day, want to have lunch?” I explained to her that Texas is a rather large state.

      3. Read David Burge twitter opinion on this show.
        A sample, “It’s like “Reno 911!” except less self-serious”.

        1. Oh. Du. Lieber. Gott. I could not have imagined anything so flamboyantly stupid. If I ever really, really need to include a totally insanely woke-stupid TV plot in a novel, I’ll watch this show for pointers.

          1. Doooo eeeeet! My daughter and I were so pissed-off at that awful Texas Rising! miniseries (which could have been fantastic!) that we made a movie-being-filmed part of the B plot in the second Luna City series, and we had a ball with it. The locals are told that it’s a serious historical epic and are all in … and then they find out that it’s … not what they were led to believe. And they sabotage the climactic big battle scene. My daughter thinks that of all the series, that one is purely the funniest!

        2. …and, in the middle of this “Scrubs”-like dream sequence, does
          Tommy Gavin come in and beat the shit out of Rob Lowe’s character and everybody else, by himself, because being a firefighter means you save people that need to be saved. And if you can’t save even complete assholes, this isn’t your job. Especially someone that was a 9/11 survivor, Tommy would have no fucks to give with that attitude.

          (And, woman faking a heart attack? Darling-a strong enough man can crack your ribs doing CPR and I can so easily see Tommy doing this-clearly she was in distress and needed to be saved!)

          1. I though the rib cracking was nearly inevitable – along with a high likelihood of vomit. Hence the warning to watch out for the xyphoid (sp?) process. I’ve only done it on plastic dummies, so I have no real clue.

            1. Little old ladies with Osteoporosis?
              Every. D***. Time.
              Hate that crunch sound&feel with every compression.

              40ish hypertensive daibetic morbidly obese non-compliant AAM?
              Probably not.

              12yo trauma pt (4 wheeler without helmet).
              Worst attempted resuscitation I’ve ever been involved with from a post event decompression perspective — that one is still at times difficult.

              The sternum and ribs are relatively strong. The xyphoid process is sticking off the end, not really anchored or reinforced, so definitely at risk.

              (ED RN)

  10. …why do they think this works? Somebody at some point in the process has to be looking at the numbers and going “this isn’t selling. We print the books, they sit on shelves and a warehouse somewhere, we get them back, we send them somewhere else, and nothing really happens.” This isn’t the classic GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) mistake, this is something fundamentally wrong with the business model. This is the belief that nothing really exists outside of New York, or at least Manhattan, and the rest of the United States is just scenery in their travel montage.

    I want to read stories to see other characters and their perspectives on the world. Even if I don’t like them-hell, especially if I don’t like them-I want to know a bit more about how they are. How they think, what they see the world as. I might find them completely reprehensible, but I can enjoy the different perspective.

    1. I don’t think they can- most have been conditioned all their lives that this is the way.
      The usual result is that those who can’t change inevitably are replace by those who will.

    2. Your post makes it sound like you think the major publishers are run for profit, rather than being used by conglomerates for the dual purpose of influence peddling and tax dodge.

      1. One of the recent suspicions by people is that the comic book brands-at least-are being used to retain control of the IP between movies. As long as they show they’re publishing comic books, the IP is still “current”.

    3. “…why do they think this works? Somebody at some point in the process has to be looking at the numbers and going “this isn’t selling.”

      The accountant definitely is, and the top management is telling that guy to shut up.

      I keep going back to Marvel Comics, their VP-level management were green-lighting Woke stories to the exclusion of all else, -knowing- that the issue or even the whole title would tank. When asked about it they -publicly- blamed the fans, claiming “nerd racism” was the reason their comics were not selling.

      Then there was a near-riot at the Meet the Marvel VPs meeting for comic-store owners at 2017 NY Comic Con, as the people who got stuck with the unsalable copies of their shit comics finally got a chance to get up in the management’s faces.

      Here we are in 2020, and Marvel VPs have not said anything in public about nerd racism since then, as far as I know. Quite a few guys got fired/moved/”promoted” so it seems that rioting, top distributors screaming into their faces and threats of immanent financial ruin will penetrate the Wokester cranium.

      Probably nothing short of a riot will get their attention.

      1. This got me thinking:

        Probably nothing short of a riot will get their attention.

        There’s another possibility short of that. If conventional publishers are motivated at all by pride of product, there are two ways to attack them through it:
        — Open defamation of their product;
        — Invidious but accurate comparisons between their product and that of indie writers.

        I like the second of these better. Consider any “woke” item of Fantasy or SF coming from Pub World. Odds are, there’s something from a capable indie writer that’s comparable in plot elements, Marquee characters, and overall structure. Reviews that contrast the two to the disfavor of the Pub World product would surely be brought to their attention, at least if those reviews were acceptably written.

        Now, I might be generalizing from a single data point here: my own experiences as a judge on a prize jury that assessed the quality of short stories submitted for a contest. But let me tell you: the reactions of those who fell short were vicious. All of them denigrated the winners in no uncertain terms.

        Envy is a powerful force. It seems especially pronounced among those in the arts. Why not try exploiting it before we reach for the megaphones, machine guns, and Bouncing Betties?

        1. Wouldn’t it be easier to let them go bankrupt? To quote the great James T. Kirk: “LET them die!”

          I meant that nothing short of a riot would get their attention, not that we should all riot.

          I much prefer the Virginia method. Show up downtown with 20,000 friends, pick up all the garbage and go home. Have you seen the frothing rage in all the SJW places? They’re losing their frigging minds because redneck racist/bigot/homophobes dared show their faces in Richmond, and absolutely nothing happened. The only arrest of the day was some LGBT “activist” fruitbat taken in by the cops for wearing a mask. He/she/it was trying to get beat up apparently, and none of the dangerous violent rednecks would oblige. Those bastards!

          I really don’t think there’s a compelling reason to engage directly with the Woke at all. I’m going to write what I want, and they can flip out if they want over in their little corner.

          All we have to do is show up.

          1. Wouldn’t it be easier to let them go bankrupt? To quote the great James T. Kirk: “LET them die!”

            (chuckle) Well, if bankruptcy would put an end to their irritating superciliousness and interminable moral posturing, I’d go for it, but…would it really? I mean, the consensus is that they’re being operated as loss-leaders or money-laundering mechanisms, so it’s quite possible that they could go deep, deep into the red yet never, ever expire!

            I’m put in mind of a delightful motif from Glen Cook’s fantasy series about private investigator Garrett. One of Garrett’s assets is a creature he refers to as The Dead Man: a creature with telepathic powers who’s clinically dead, and has been for a long time…but apparently in his species, brain activity continues for centuries after physiological death. Pub World houses could prove to be too much like that!

      2. I think nothing short of a full-scale Stalinist purge, complete with firing squads, will get their attention. After all, they’re still able to cash their checks and write pilots for Netflix…er, comics!

  11. There’s a weird tendency for some people to stick to the familiar during times of uncertainty- even if it’s the wrong thing to do.
    In Hollywood, it’s a lot safer to have an expensive flop that checked off all the ‘right’ boxes, then to have a mild success with something truly original.

    I’m pretty sure there’s something similar going on in publishing. Leftist virtue signaling is ‘safe’ and ‘right’, so best to do it and hope the old days return.

    The usual end result is that those who are able to adapt, who actually understand the untapped market, those are the people who go on to take a risk and become super successful.

    George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg come to mind as great examples of people who became successful by seeing a need for stories that weren’t just the typical New Hollywood exercises in pretty looking but dismal tales with downer endings.

  12. It feels a bit odd to be reading this right now given that I just got an ad for a new fanzine which is ‘all about fandom, just fandom, nothing but fandom’…

    And the very first thing in it is a editorial denouncing straights, whites, ‘Flyover Country’, Christians, and how everyone who isn’t a white leftist is just PO’ed because “white privilege”. But that’s okay because, see, he sympathizes with you people. You all need to vanish in the Bermuda Triangle for the cause, but it’s not because he hates you or anything. You can’t help being evil and stupid. Yes, that was seriously the argument.

    Oh, and ‘freedom of speech’ equals hate speech. Yes, seriously.

    Why would anyone want to associate with a gang of people who make their hatred and contempt for them so obvious?

    1. *lightbulb click*

      Ah. They’re trying to co-opt being a fan, same way they did being female, or black, so that you can have someone who is not any of the above lecture those who are on how they’re doing it wrong.

  13. I have worked for Dana, I really like her. But she is woke. I have seen it creeping into the Shugak series for a long time. Also there is a lot of “Social Justice” BS mixed in with Native Rights in that series. I really like her older books, especially her Liam Campbell series.

  14. Is this the author’s own opinions showing through, or is it Kate Shugak’s POV and opinion? S.M. Stirling says that there’s a word for someone who conflates the views of a character in a story with those of the author: “idiot.” (After he wrote his Draka series, a lot of people thought he wanted to be a slave owner and conqueror himself. Heinlein could also have had a few things to say on that subject.

    1. I see no hint in this or previous books that the author considers any of her character Kate Shugak’s opinions to be questionable.

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