Tock tick

Ve know your trope makes ze genre tick, ja. But ve vill interrogate it until its resistance is exhausted and is it villing to TOCK!”

I happened to read yet another critic saying that a book in a competition lacked what its competitors had – They defied classic genre conventions, interrogated tired tropes, and celebrated inclusivity, and it merely reflected the sort of sf that was popular in the 80’s.

The writer appeared to imply by this that it wasn’t popular now.  Of course, no figures to substantiate this… but his opinion, anyway, which we’re all entitled to. If I am taking business decisions (and writing is a business for me, anyway) I do prefer my decisions backed up by numbers, verifiable, and where I am able to correct for the various factors.

It’s hard to get those numbers, partly I suspect because no-one in publishing wants shareholders having kittens and demanding changes, but effectively, since the 80’s and accelerating from the noughties, and going even faster in the 10-19’s, traditional publishing has been losing ground, and, in the last fifteen years lost market share, to indies and has now probably lost dominance. It’s exceptionally hard to find – from most of the traditional sf/fantasy publishers — anything that DOESN’T ‘defy classic genre conventions, interrogate tired tropes, and celebrate inclusivity’.

So: it occurred to me – after FORTY years, and at least 20 when it’s been hard to find anything that wasn’t… when does ‘defying classic genre conventions, interrogating tired tropes, and celebrating inclusivity’ itself become an old-school, conventional and an utterly exhausted trope in itself? It’s almost impossible to find a trad sf/fantasy novel which does not ‘celebrate inclusivity’, which I believe is newspeak for ‘kick straight white men’.  That IS the tiredest of tired tropes in sf/fantasy right now.  If that trope was a runner, it would have collapsed and be on a drip in an ambulance on the way to ER.

You know, fashions, be they in clothing or hobbies or music or art… if they’re not circular, do appear to at least spiral.  Some individuals and creations defy fashion, and just keep on – and eventually fashion comes around to them. Authors like Tolkien and CS Lewis spring to mind, but in general fashions come and go, and to the fashionista, better dead than out of fashion (it’s chronic insecurity, if you ask me, understandable in teens, bizarre in mature intelligent adults). Even ten years is a long time for fashion to endure (and it is a fashion): it’s almost certainly past its sell-by – at which point you can’t give it away to the followers of fashion. One has to wonder: what will come next?

In the way of fashions… it will resemble, closely, something that went a long while before. And in the way of fashions, and those who follow them… last year’s style will be something for old people. Heh. There’s a little bit of schadenfreude in this. The current dahlings of trad published sf, have been trashing ‘yesterday’s authors’ HARD for the last ten years or so. Everyone from Lovecraft to Heinlein to Tolkien has come in for sneering condemnation. Welcome Dahlings, to the environment you created! You’re going to be yesterday’s people.  I hope you enjoy having your tired tripes tropes interrogated.

A couple of my friends –all long term sf/fantasy readers– were trying to work out where this fashion came from, and where it would go to.

As one of them put it, the field was born in the pulps, but rose to strength on the writing of actual scientists and engineers during and after WW2.  It was a growing thing… and then the MFA in creative writing crowd got a foothold and began to crowd out the scientists and the pulp writers. The MFA crowd often ended up in publishing because they couldn’t cut it as writers. (not every writer can be a great editor, but I have met more than a few who could do a reasonable job of it.  But, frankly, the great editor who can move to be a good writer… those are very, very rare. I’ve met… one.).  They weren’t God’s gift to publishing, but they were willing and available in a field where for NYC the wages are not great (but it has social cachet in their set).

Unsurprisingly, MFA editors liked buying from MFA authors. And sf/fantasy gradually became more ‘acceptable’ as ‘literature’ in academia, and less fun as reading among readers. Increasingly – particularly with the whole ‘awards’ scene, it became more about credentials for those academic positions, and less and less about pleasing readers. It became the goal of many of the inner circle of writers to get a position teaching creative writing (rather than living off sales of their novels) out of their writing… which meant positive critical reviews from their literary ilk, and prestigious awards full of other ‘literary’ people, to show how refined they were, became more valuable than trying to sell to the hoi polloi (which is why, despite them dropping sales numbers, some publishers used the system as bait).

Rather like taking a degree at college, which only leads to two employment avenues – one that includes the words ‘do you want fries with that’ and the other, teaching more people the same ‘skills’. The other options were a wealthy partner or parents, or begging on patreon, (or combinations of the above.)

Equally unsurprisingly the MFA in Creative writing crowd, in general (there are exceptions, of course), came from a narrow social, educational, political and class background. And yes, you’ll find the data shows them to be predominantly female. All of this reflects in modern Trad publishing staff, (the chance of finding a young heterosexual white male, let alone a moderate or conservative from a rural background with a science or engineering qualification, are vanishingly small – these people still read, and write books, but their chance of being employed, bought or read by trad editors is microscopic). The trend is reflected in what books are available from trad publishers, and what books get awards.

Of course in 2020 we had the Wu-flu and the panic it caused… which is going to have some huge social and economic knock-ons. Academia is certain to take a pounding, particularly in areas that don’t have obvious lucrative career paths outside academia. Traditional paper publishing, reliant as it was on controlling the gate to traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores also got a kick in the ‘nads as these were closed.  It was the one area where they did not have to compete with Indies. Some of those stores are circling the drain. Even those that survive will not wield the sales power they once did.  I gather there is some soul-searching and staff trimming going on in publishing. In the way of these things I am sure HR will decide that HR needs to stay and the people who did anything need to go.

It’s notable that early sf was generally very forward and outward looking, positive about the future and humanity, focused on physical achievements and looking out to a whole universe – that it expected us to explore and colonize. Sure there were dytopias and Nuclear disasters, but the tone from Depression era pulps to the Niven era, remained generally upbeat. These things were reflected in the physical and measurable impact they had on society. Asimov and Heinlein both had substantial influence in driving the Space Program for example, which in turn led to technology that bettered countless lives.

‘Defying classic genre conventions, interrogating tired tropes, and celebrating inclusivity’? Well, it’s the inverse: examining the past, introspective in the extreme, negative about humans, and specifically in the extreme about some parts of humanity (overtly so, something the older sf really wasn’t. It might have been incidentally sexist or racist, but that wasn’t the purpose. Direct denigration often seems the purpose of the modern lot). As to what benefits: I think opinion varies, but I feel it would be hard to quantify any benefits in physical terms, that were driven by this. It followed social-political trends popular with the arts set who came write it and buy it for publishers, it did not set those trends.

The former was really born of the depression era. The latter out of growing up in the wealth and comfort that flowed from postwar America.

Times are changing. So will sf/fantasy.

Just a quick mention: Dorothy Grant’s book will be released today. The notice will be up here later. And I promise this much: It will be a lot closer to what I think the future of the genre holds, than yet another introspective tired trope self-proctology exercise.

Image by 95C from Pixabay

64 comments

  1. Karen MFA (and Richard Genderstudies) don’t want to see their potential readers or their needs. So it is essential that they never read any old sf, or gain any empathy for their readers.

    If they looked up the addresses in old lettercols, and found out that how many old readers and writers were dirt poor and lived in immigrant-area apartments, or in Harlem, or in impoverished areas of BFE — or how many of them had ethnic names and had suffered real oppression, or how many were the women who didn’t exist, or how many had clawed their way up with hard work… well, that would spoil the narrative, wouldn’t it? It might threaten their sense of self-righteousness. They might not be the bestest, purest, wokest people evar.

    So of course they don’t know why the tropes work, or why they shifted and changed through time, or how many good ones have gone unused and been forgotten.

    1. *grumpy* Because GOOD tropes involve how PEOPLE work, and the way humans actually work doesn’t play well with their theories.

    2. There was a thing called #SailorMoonRedraw on Twitter, a challenge meant to be fun. There was a Malaysian artist who made her look more Asian, given his art style, and made an alternate version with black hair. This naturally got the WokeTwitter people praising him for his racial sensitivity, to the point that it irritated him and made him regret joining the art challenge. There were versions that redrew Usagi as Indian, another as black, and naturally WokeTwitter decried that ‘most Anime people look soooo white’ – and there were people from Japan who got irritated that SJWs were basically demanding that their cartoons look ‘more Japanese’, because nobody in Japan questions Usagi’s being Japanese.

      I’m rather worried at Disney making overtures to Aniplex for this reason. That the SJWs will have an inroad to the wokification of Anime and Manga, which has been a refuge for a lot of people from this bullshit. The various social issues can be handled more organically and commented on in the genre, far better than the celebrated woke writers are capable of doing.

      1. I’m seeing more than enough Woke Tropes sneaking in as it is. I think maybe Netflix is not a benign influence either.

        Disney is pure poison at this time. Maybe a close brush with Corona Chan will scare some sense into the Disney bean counters? We can hope, right?

      2. If they take over anime I don’t know where I’ll go. Mainstream western entertainment is a vast wasteland due to Wokeness.

          1. There’s a new Justice League cartoon available on Apple, released in 2020 it says. Normally I watch those as they tend to be aimed more at a young audience so they tone down all the stuff I don’t like.

            But watching the trailer, I felt that this was going to be a WokeSchool lesson with added swearing and sex, and I passed. I don’t need to see the Justice League thrown in a dumpster and set on fire.

            On the other hand Westworld -this- season is turning out to be quite interesting. Season 1 and 2 were Frankenstein pr0nz, but this season they’ve kept the x-rated crap to a minimum and they are focusing on the -writing-. It is using quite a few dangers of techie surveillance, finance, self-driving cars and adding some decent speculation about how AIs might operate in a hostile human society. Actual Wokeness has not so far made an appearance, they’ve left it in the background as part of the world-building this time.

            Overall I don’t -agree- with the themes and plot at play in the show, but it isn’t boring and I’m not yelling at the TV or fast-forwarding past five minute speeches about global warming. Or five minute torture scenes, they left that out too. Interesting that what is missing is what makes the show watchable.

    3. ‘If they looked up the addresses in old lettercols, and found out that how many old readers and writers were dirt poor and lived in immigrant-area apartments, or in Harlem, or in impoverished areas of BFE — or how many of them had ethnic names and had suffered real oppression, or how many were the women who didn’t exist, or how many had clawed their way up with hard work’ This. So very much this.

  2. About Dorothy Grant, if you mean “Going Ballistic”, I bought the e-book 2 days ago, so the UK release at least was a bit earlier. I’m only half way through but it’s looking pretty good so far.

  3. You might have a longer wait– how long has the fashion of being ignorantly rude about religion been in scifi? At least since the 60s.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with the understandable in teens comment. It’s a matter of being nasty to mommy and daddy. (Hurting daddy is the easiest way to upset mommy, without being in for The Look, too.)

    Doesn’t help that an amazing number of folks who are pontificating on what the “youth” want are older than my parents, or at least the same age. (Who just missed being born for the not-generational-title baby boom)

    1. Earlier than that–it’s been there since the earliest days of the genre, H.G. Wells in particular, and religion is conspicuous by it’s absence in the early pulps.

      1. Conspicuously absent is one thing– it broadens your range of appeal, for starters. (The High Crusade isn’t for everyone, even if per Poul A. it tapped into an unfulfilled demand.)

        It’s the “I am painfully ignorant on the subject, and my targeted faith in particular, and I shall lecture you on those outdated superstitions, using my author power to make it work” stuff that is annoying.

        Example is quite a bit more modern, but the X-man arc that depended on the Catholic church recognizing pre-tribulational Rapture so they announce the end times are here. That’s not even a common Christian teaching, much less a Catholic one.)

        Genuflecting to mandatory atheism is just so dull, but when it’s combined with an ignorant author wanting ME to pay THEM to be graced with their bigotry…..

        1. That would be the arc where Kurt Wagner decided he needed to become a Catholic priest? Early 1990s? That was when I stopped buying comics cold turkey. The down-hill slide was, shall we say, precipitous.

          1. Oh, no, this is when the guy with a known, public loathing of Catholics was given the X-Men, and decided that Kurt had been brain-washed so he could become the Pope, distribute tainted Hosts that would VAPORIZE PEOPLE so that the Catholics would believe it was the Rapture, and then at some point he’d be unmasked as a mutant which would of course shatter what was left of the church.
            Oh! And he’s Satan’s son. (had to do with the “mutants have been around always” storyline– LOOOOONG downhill slide….)
            At some point there was something about none of the other X-men having known he was supposedly a priest or something like that. It was late 2001 to early 2002.
            *************
            The standard “oh, they’re religious, they must have a calling to holy orders…even when they’re already established as a gentleman flirt…and one of their biggest character arcs strongly involved that….”

            1. 2002, I was out for 10 years by then. Good call on my part, I’d say.

              I’m not overtly religious, but it does irritate me when authors crap on Christianity because Obligatory Atheism. Never fails to amuse me that they don’t do the same for Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism…

              1. Not to mention that the millenialism they described is the view among some Protestant sects. (Some parts of it — among some people who hold it, they aren’t all the same — have been set down as “not sound teaching” but the Church is getting around to defining the doctrine as the usual rate.)

        2. I am very fond of the high crusade. Also of Christopher Stasheff :-). You are quite correct the obligatory atheism is no reflection of the actual demographics of the readers, It irritates me too.

        3. I heard about that imbecilic arc. I hated the X-dreck and its ‘We’re so pretty and speshul but everyone hates us cuz reasons, now pity us’ attitude long before that happened enough to drop out of Marvel comics. Sometimes I regret it. When I hear about nonsense like that or Hydra Cap or One More Day, I’m glad I did.

          1. I know a high school chemistry teacher who recognized the psychology as soon as she saw the movie. There’s a reason why adolescents like it so much.

    2. I have to laugh a little that age is fast catching up on the ‘young rebels’ – most of whom became a thing in their mid-thirties. And some of whom are now in their mid fifties… and not wearing well.

  4. Kris Rusch edited an anthology of women in sci-fi (Golden Age for the most part) with a fantastic introductory essay about “Where did the women writers go?” To paraphrase a line from a Baxter Black poem about cowboys, “they just can’t be seen from the road.” As you say, Dave, they got ignored because to have women writing before Ursula K. LeGuin and Andre Norton would ruin the “oppressed minority” story line.

    I agree on “trope-shattering has become the trope.” That’s one reason I had so much fun with Shikhari: a colonial population that doesn’t want the colonizer to leave? A male protagonist without angst and who is happily married to a woman? A female protagonist who happens to be a strong woman and very feminine at the same time?!? Gasp! Horror! *evil kitty grin* (OK, that and it gave me an excuse to go back and re-read a lot of totally un-politically-correct adventure stories and Northwest Frontier novels.)

    1. ‘a colonial population that doesn’t want the colonizer to leave?’

      I don’t know how true it is, but my brother told me that in his Army years he spoke with a man who’d done intelligence work in Africa for several years. He apparently met several black Africans who said that the British leaving Africa was the worst thing ever because as soon as they did, everything went back to the pre-colonial system of ‘My tribe is back on top, and you get back down in the dirt where you belong, scum!’

      1. The main practical difference between the colonial and pre-colonial and post-colonial systems, as near as anyone can tell, is the ethnic origin of the guys on top.

        1. The colonial era brought trains to Africa. The post-colonial era has seen the trains get old, wear out and stop working. Doesn’t get much more practical than that.

        2. In Africa, it has also mostly defaulted to a return to the tribal nobility, and that as often as not hurts meritocratic promotion. It’s terribly unfashionable and non-PC to say this: but one of the side effects of colonization of Africa was to overturn the existing feudal order, and allow social change in black society. Poor men of families disliked by the local chief had a chance to go off to wok – in conditions now regarded as vile – but as good or better often than they had, and return home to tribal lands with relative wealth and power. This was very unpopular… with those who held that power before.

    2. How about Jack Vance’s “The Gray Prince” where at least part of the colonial population does want the colonisers to leave but, and this is the scandalous bit, Vance sides with the colonisers. Of course (spoiler alert) the colonised turn out to also be colonisers as do those they colonised (and of course those happy to give away the Land Barons’ property are less happy about giving their own to the morphotes). Almost the last words in the book are the hero’s statement that “Except for a few special cases, title to every parcel or real property derives from an act of violence, more or less remote, and ownership is only as valid as the strength and will required to maintain it.”

    3. “a colonial population that doesn’t want the colonizer to leave?”

      Seconding Eric here with an anecdote: After squeezing two years out of a one-year Fulbright, I finally ran out of money and had to go back and write my dissertation. Among the tasks before departure, I had to get the utilities turned off for the house I’d been renting in the Arab quarter. Went into the appropriate office and tried to do this business in Swahili. Got a tongue-lashing from the African man behind the desk: “You English are betraying us, you all leave this country after Independence. We’re trying to build a nation here and we need all the help we can get!”
      He continued in this vein for several minutes until I finally got a word in edgewise and explained that I was American, had been here for just two years doing research, and had to go back now because the grant money had finally run out.

    4. This is why the sexy robots in my books are sexy. They are smart, so they realize that looking and acting attractive is an asset in Human society. Also, it is more fun to read about attractive and exciting people than depressed losers.

      Would AIs make a big show of asserting dominance and promoting Diversity!!! among the squishy humans? I’m thinking no, because they will be busy doing what works. Pushing the monkeys around would be a waste of time for them. Keep the monkeys happy, and you’ll be surrounded by happy helpful monkeys. Very useful with those opposable thumbs and all.

      1. > it is more fun to read about attractive and exciting people than depressed losers.

        “That will never sell, Comrade. The Narrative requires depression, angst, betrayal, and failure. We have reported your deviance to the proper authorities, who will call you to account presently.”

        1. It’s a real trick to write about depressed winners, too, though apparently the story works. After I perpetrated “Isabelle and the Siren” I went around telling EVERYONE that I was never ever going to write another story about a depressed character again, and the muse has never taken the bait.

          (It did help that though she calls it “melancholia” as she would, she’s aware that it’s a disease.)

  5. There’s lots of tired tropes I’d love to interrogate. Marxist tropes, mostly.

    1. Only as long as the trope interrogation includes those hot light bulbs and a rubber hose. Otherwise can’t be bothered.

      In that regard, I’m planning an invasion of [insert Communist nation here] as the climax of my current work-in-progress. Its not going to be remotely fair, and the Marxist structure of the Communist army will be taken advantage of by the invading robot horde to turn a mere rout into a legendary humiliation. Why slap them with a velvet glove when you can clout them with a mailed gauntlet?

  6. I think you might be narrowing your focus a bit too much.
    I cut my teeth on heroic engineer stories, but I think we’re a few turns of the spiral from getting back to that point.
    Pulp didn’t just spawn fantasy and science fiction. Cosmic horror and hard-boiled detective stories share the pedigree.
    .

    (At which point, life interrupts, and a rambling stream of consciousness becomes somewhat coherent.)
    .
    It’s not about the tropes and trappings, it’s about the themes.
    It’s about the realization that the universe is hostile to your very existence, and fighting on anyway. It’s about working for a client of dubious morality on the fringes of a corrupt system and trying to create a little bit of justice. It’s about the dehumanizing nature of civilization, in direct juxtaposition to the alternative being nasty, brutal, and short. It’s about the arrogant powerful who listen to neither conscience nor reason; sometimes to good effect, but mostly not. It’s about a hardscrabble nobody who makes a difference, but no one will ever know.
    It’s not message fiction, the authors rarely claimed to have simple answers for a complex world of competing goods. But the questions they raised had heft.

  7. “… it merely reflected the sort of sf that was popular in the 80’s.”

    Yes, that is the one I would like to pay money for, thank you very much.

    1. Yes, that is the one I would like to pay money for…

      Sigh—me, too. It was the 80s when I could go to the bookstore, browse the racks, and actually find books I wanted to read that were in fact wonderful when I did read them.

      The 90s slowly taught me that there was no point in going to the bookstore at all. I brought home books that proved disappointing when I read them or found no books at all to bring home. After the umpteenth time of leaving empty handed, I gave up!

      I’ll admit that I haven’t yet figured out how to navigate the current waters as a reader, but I know there’s a vast variety out there, just waiting for me to discover the current I like.

      1. I’d love to find out how many of us took to writing just because we ran out of things we liked to read and decided to fill the hole ourselves.

        1. Me. That’s why I write.

          The very few authors still publishing that dreary 1980s SF don’t write fast enough to keep me supplied. Hurry up, Dave. ~:D

          “If you want something done right…”

        2. I had to return ALL my books to the library because we were going on a trip — a WEEK later.

          I started writing.

  8. “They defied classic genre conventions,”

    At this point, something that is almost a classic genre convention in and of itself, at least in literary SF, but continue…

    “interrogated tired tropes,”

    That mostly haven’t been present in any SF since at least the ’90s, and weren’t nearly as universal or unquestioned before that as critics like the one being paraphrased believe.

    “and celebrated inclusivity,”

    Of everyone who expresses opinions approved by Left Twitter, all persons to the right of John Kasich need not even apply

    “and it merely reflected the sort of sf that was popular in the 80’s.”

    Say what you will about the ’80s, but popular SF back then included Orson Scott Card, Jerry Pournelle, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, David Drake, David Brin, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I am somehow supposed to regard this as being a bad thing?

  9. A quick look at my comfort reads on my bookshelf: the majority of the “I’m tired of the computer and want to curl up with a good book” are 1978-1993.

    The majority of the ones outside that are continuations of long-running series started back. The rest either much older (H. Rider Haggard) or, of he newer, are mostly Patricia Briggs & Wen Spencer, who never fail to have good people doing right and helping those around them. (The Jim Butcher & Larry Correia don’t count, because they’re out on the shared comfort read bookshelf where my husband’s taste overlaps with mine. But… same emotional tone there, too, eh?)

    Wen may not be able to stick to genre conventions, but it’s not because she denigrates them!

    1. Being on a comfort reads bookshelf is in my opinion the highest award a reader can give an author. In a way they’re the person you turn to when things are tough. Think about who the actual people who fill that role are and you realize how valued those books and authors are.

      1. Some of my very favorite authors aren’t comfort reads. After all, “person you turn to when things are tough” covers a vast range.

  10. It became the goal of many of the inner circle of writers to get a position teaching creative writing (rather than living off sales of their novels) out of their writing…

    My freshman high school english teacher encouraged me to write. She even had an after school writing club where we could talk and get feedback from our peers.

    I tried taking creative writing in college, twice. I dropped out both times. Two different instructors that both seemed bent on taking all joy out writing. It didn’t help that half our grade was going to be on writing poetry. Poetry is something I don’t write, at least not in the structural form they were pushing.

    1. Poetry’s not bad
      The form can be restrictive
      Narrative is hard

      Every couple of years I do “haiku email day”. People either wait it out or send me very difficult questions to see the response. In general, I’m just not interested in it.

  11. I have literally described the heroine of A Princess Seeks Her Fortune as a typical fairy tale princess.

    And pointed out that makes her unique in modern fairy-tale fantasy.

    (Of course, that means actual fairy tales, not vague impressions from pop culture.)

    1. for the last century I think most Americans have gotten their fairy-tales through Disney. While a fun romp, they are much lighter in nature than the source material.

      1. Yes. I remember one — person, who told me that Disney improved everything by not having anyone die. Which isn’t even true, but…

        They also proudly said that Disney should remake the Seven Samurai and not have anyone die in that one either. That is when I completely wrote them off.

      2. I was once in an online discussion about fairy tale witches with people who actually had read some of the source material.

        I pointed them to Frau Trude and the reaction was O, my.

        1. I just realized, the “fairy tale ____” isn’t even Disney– you can usually find at least one example of each trait, but Disney wasn’t that one note– it’s Warner Brother Cartoon witch/princess/knight/whatever.

          I don’t know what exactly they drew on, I know it’s some of the screen and stage stuff that was old then, but I don’t know.

          1. You have to make allowances for the scope they had to work with, of course. Longer works can be more complex

            1. Oh, yes, I don’t blame Warner Brothers– I am just laughing at the folks who took a simplification of a simplification for time and humor and are acting like it’s the original thing.

              It’s like when the Duchess informed us (adorably) that we had to have Goldfish crackers, because it was Friday, and Catholics have to eat fish on Friday. I probably said something like that, at some point, but….

      3. I will note that the Not Your Typical Fairy Tale Princesses are not only “not your Disney princess.” Refusing to do textile work just because is not a fairy tale princess, and most would flub the test with the kind and unkind girls.

  12. One trope I’m tired of the female villain who is only bad because a man done her wrong. It’s boring.

    1. One trope I’m tired of the female villain who is only bad because a man done her wrong. It’s boring.

      Especially when she’s not even bad because of it– “Gosh, a guy hurt me, so I am going to be Space Hitler. And you’ll feel bad for me because of it!”

      Um… hello? Evil? You got hurt, so you’re going to do way more damage to people who weren’t even involved?

      Aaargh.

      1. The underlying issue is that the author thought that was a reasonable, or at least believable, reaction to an event, and expected that the reader would think so too.

        And for the tradpub ones, at least one editor also agreed…

        Every now and then I’ll try a likely-looking SF or mainstream novel, and I can only conclude they’re written by lizard people. Something is *wrong* inside their heads.

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