I’d like to live in boring times

Well now: interesting times indeed. I prefer dull times myself. It appears that it is not an ancient Chinese curse (I’ve even read one theory attributing it Eric Frank Russell and another to Arthur C Clarke) but that’s narrative for you. Dislodging an idea once it has gained traction is near impossible, even when the facts run counter to it. Give a dog a bad name, as they say…

The biggest loser in the last week, as one of my more erudite friends put it, is not US President Donald J Trump. He’s only about fifth in line, if that at all.  The fracturing of the US and the loss of faith in the electoral system by roughly half of its voters (a huge number) has to be the most serious issue.  No matter what the courts decide, that won’t go away any more than the ancient Chinese curse does. Nothing the Democratic Party, or MSM or Facebook or Twitter can say or memory hole will get rid of it. It will stick forever, damaging their reputations and weakening trust in democratic process. In fact, sense would have them rushing to help expose any fraudulent behavior, and demanding transparent investigations and terrible consequences, even if that means losing this time, because the alternatives are horrible… but they haven’t shown much sense so far, and I think they are hoping they can hush it up and pooh-pooh it and quickly brush it aside…

Not likely IMO. That’s just too many angry people, too high a proportion of the population.

Which is why the MSM are probably the next biggest losers. They’re staking what’s left of their credibility (already polled at historic lows among the group calling fraud) on this. I doubt if any (including Fox News) are at more than single figures for trust by that half of the electorate. The biggest losers are Fox – no, the audience who support the Democrats are not suddenly going to abandon CNN etc. Nor will their historic share of the market – the right and center – forgive them.  I fully expect some other new News channels and online papers – like the Epoch Times, to enjoy spectacular growth at their expense. After all, that is really the story behind Fox’s growth.

In third but vying for second place (and maybe they should win it) are Facebook and Twitter. Neither platform are perceived as neutral or fair in their treatment of both sides. Both depend on volume and broad spectrum public participation for financial viability. I’d put Facebook in serious trouble: its audience are older (the young regard it as a fuddy-duddy thing already) and strongly lean toward ordinary people (it’s not ‘cool’ like Instagram) and given the age profile and background of the two main US political parties would put mean that if 50% of the voters are Conservative, at least 40% of Facebook users lean that way.  Facebook’s management and laughable ‘fact checkers’ (you know: the ones who ‘fact check’ Babylon Bee and tell you isn’t true. I gather the Bee tries not to publish the truth, but events in 2020 are making ridicule harder to find.) may be supporters of the MSM and Democrats… but their merchandise – eyeballs – who are already peeved with ‘New Facebook’ (as popular as ‘New Coke’) are substantially not. I am on one of their smaller rivals – where they haven’t played for either side or subjected at least 40% (and possibly far more) of their audience to bans and thought-policing. It was a fairly bucolic forum for the last year or so. It has grown like Kudzu in the last few days.  I think someone should explain what happened to Myspace to Mark Zuckerberg.

In fourth place are the pundits, the polling companies, who managed to take wrong in the 2016 elections to a whole new level. One of the things that fascinates me as a statistician is the way the down-ballot races played out. Look, it is pretty well-known that these reflect the political identity of the top name. If Fred of the Donkponky party got your vote for President, you won’t typically vote downticket for his rival Rinkydink party senators, and congressmen etc.  While Fred might get votes that don’t bother with the rest, the pattern will be very reflective of that. If the Donkponky party does well for Presidential votes so too do the downticket Donkponky representatives. This is historically the case, and is the case in quite a few states in US this time. And then of course there are the states where Donkponks claim to have ‘won’ the presidency, but the Rinkydinks won everything else.  It’s a big ‘please explain’ that the various pundits failed to predict as well as being further out this time on the margins betwixt. I’d be wary to base my business and trust on such statisticians in future.  And of course their actual value to the MSM is directly proportional to how accurate they’ve been. It sounds like ‘out of touch’ is being kind.

So: what does all this have to do with the professional writer – besides being an unwelcome distraction? It’s really about audiences, and trust, and expectations. Look, break a substantial part of your audience’s trust (whether it is in how you deal with a character they love – or an award they trusted to indicate quality) – there really is no easy way back.  Abuse some of your audience… and it’s no use saying later ‘let’s move on, it’s different now.’  Trust is slow-won and even harder to re-win, and a bad reputation, real or not, sticks.  

Secondly, as the Facebook example shows, one the biggest mistakes an author can make is abandon his existing audience to try to please one he’d like to have. And I’d hold off as an author working on using FB for marketing and networking. No point in working hard – or spending money on a platform that’s in that situation.

Thirdly if you’re going to try and guess what sort of books people will like: make sure you know and understand the people you are writing for.

And finally, drink tea. It did come from China originally and is good in the most interesting of times.

Image by PandaBearPhotographyWales from Pixabay

34 comments

  1. I was reading some new series of stories by an author and while it wasn’t trust of integrity, per-say, the latest one, if not on a kindle would have gotten walled, and it really makes it unlikely I will bother with the other series the same author has, even though that isn’t close to the same kind of storyline. I was willing to forgive a sign the writer knew little about something (a deer rifle taking down a T-Rex or bigger dino mid charge? 5.56 military rifles doing the same? Ha!), but the hits just kept coming (someone who never rode a motorcycle riding a Police bike, at speed, off-road and not falling, then able to easily push the bike, still off pavement. with no issues), and finally smacked into the wall of impossibility in two chapters so hard it killed the other totally fantasy series for me too. The made-up monsters in a fantasy world are one thing, but I know what kind of bikes and rifles and well some healthy “she could be a model” female might well ride a 600 to 700 pound bike with decent skill after years of riding, not a few days after first ride, at high speed, off road, and certainly not going to push it more than a few feet off road, let alone hundreds of yards.
    You’ve lost storytelling and gone full B.S.
    Much like our news and whatnot here. When you go full up B.S. forget it. you’re done. go home.

      1. Was it Mad Mike or Larry, someone else, that had something like that for firearms?
        Not writing but Vanilla Ice made some claims when he came out that were easily caught by those of us involved in the sport at the time. One of the BMX mags wrote [paraphrased] “Be careful what you brag about, some of us might remember you, and you were not all that great.”

        1. I vaguely remember several “how not to totally embarrass yourself about guns” articles, although they usually go full-on religious war in the comments.

  2. Side note: this election was a weird one. The down-ballot incumbent party outperformed the incumbent president pretty much everywhere, and the incoming POTUS’s party seems to be missing that fact.

    1. That’s what happens when hundreds of thousands of ballots show up that are ONLY marked for Joe Biden and none of the down-ballot races.

    2. Alleged incoming PotUS.

      Consent decree out of force, so there will be litigation. We don’t really know how that process is going to go, or what the risks are.

      It is possible that litigation results which impact the executive counts one way will impact the legislative counts the same way. So possibly both could end up in one party or the other.

      But maybe this theory being floated that the voters really wanted both a GOP House/Senate and a Democrat President is true. I’m not sure why they would want Biden in order to achieve racial justice, but then stab him in the back by not giving him the votes to reform federal stats collection so that all the racist murders are revealed instead of concealed.

      Racist deaths would be in the recurring category, and viral deaths avoided by the lock down would be one time. Since if racist deaths are preventable this year, they would also be preventable next year, if protesting for racial justice is more important than the lockdown, that implies that racist deaths yearly are at least comparable with avoidable viral deaths. We know that avoidable viral deaths are at least 230k. Yet the recorded yearly murder rate is only on the order of 10k. So the civil service is institutionalized white supremacism, and should be abolished/defunded. Which is a legislative task, not executive.

      1. People voting for ‘racial justice’ picked the worst possible ticket to support if they voted for Biden/Harris. One wrote the law that disproportionately incarcerated minorities, and the other held minorities in prison beyond what was legally allowed.

        As for the legal challenges and the down ticket races, I don’t think those down ticket races will change. One of the red flags is that while the votes for the down ticket races and President were roughly comparable for the Republicans, and even for the Democrats in non-swing states, in the swing states there is a huge gap on the Democrat side. It’s like ballots showed up with only the Presidential race marked. While there are undoubtedly a few people who would do that, the numbers of ballots that showed up like that is very troubling.

        1. They only pretended to care about those issues because they thought they could use them to divide the country so they could get power. Now that they have the power, their principles will vanish like the morning mist in the bright light of the Harris-Biden dawn.

  3. “Nothing the Democratic Party, or MSM or Facebook or Twitter can say”

    But you repeat yourself.

  4. Look, break a substantial part of your audience’s trust (whether it is in how you deal with a character they love – or an award they trusted to indicate quality) – there really is no easy way back.

    The TV show Bones did this for me, and quite a few other fans with the character Zack at the end of S3. I blame much of that problem on the strike, don’t remember if it was the actors or the writers, and having to rush a season ending. But the point is, they took a beloved secondary character, who is supposed to be the brightest and most logical person on the team, and turned him into bad guy with a really lame excuse that my 4th grader could have reasoned her way past. That was the moment that broke the show for us. We continued watching for another couple of seasons, but eventually gave up on it. It just couldn’t redeem itself fully after that.

    1. I take it you didn’t watch any of the post-marriage episodes that went ridiculously Left. I always thought it was FBI propaganda. Given the FBI these days, I don’t think I could watch it, at all.

      1. I caught an episode in one of the late seasons that had something to do with a baby, but I wasn’t following along at that point.

      2. The funniest one was the Menninist episode.The writers were completely out of touch when they weren’t toxic.

        I’ve completely given up on any Hollywood show. Even NCIS, which held a sweet spot for the “Abby goes to social Justice class episode”.

        Propaganda is the death of art. Whore out your creative powers to appeasing that pimp Marx often enough, and none of the muses will want to be seen in public with you.

  5. I’ve had that happen with an author. A series works but then they get the brain transplant and nothing they write after that works for me because real people simply don’t behave that way, no matter how author >thinks< they should.

    Because, you know, the laws of nature and physics and human behavior were repealed because people of today are so much more evolved and enlightened, unlike those deplorables clinging to the past (last week).

    1. Yes. It’s not even “jumped the shark” but ” ‘Scuze me, what species are you writing about, and why are you using character names from another series?”

  6. In fact, sense would have them rushing to help expose any fraudulent behavior, and demanding transparent investigations and terrible consequences, even if that means losing this time, because the alternatives are horrible…

    Exactly.

    It could have been an EPIC show, that would’ve pulled folks into trusting them– even if there was still a fix in, if you can get a buy-in you can get folks to follow you.

    But they’re acting like there is something to hide.

  7. Secondly, as the Facebook example shows, one the biggest mistakes an author can make is abandon his existing audience to try to please one he’d like to have.

    Dear Scifi-and-Fantasy-and-Super Hero producers:
    Read this, please.

  8. make sure you know and understand the people you are writing for.
    I’m going to pretend this is why I have (temporarily, I hope) given up on my world. I’ve changed my target audience, but the story hasn’t budged, which will lead to disaster (or at least not-success). I suppose that since I’m still on my first million words, I should just write it, anyway. Nothing requires that I publish it.

    1. Yes. It’s good practice, and you may find later that you can use bits and pieces from Original Work in other places, or as story-seeds.

    2. Not necessarily a factor. If you haven’t published yet, you just have a theoretical audience. Your real audience could be much broader. Often people like things just because they like them, or because there is something universally appealing about your local, selective audience story.

      It kills the Japanese when they do an inside baseball, obscure subject, insular small town Japanese anime, and Westerners love and understand it, usually more than they like anime set in Europe or the US.

      1. I am learning that one of the great things about watching Japanese anime or Chinese Costume Dramas (that *is* the correct term, right?) or various other non-Western stuff I’m beginning to explore … is that when the characters do something I find inexplicable I can shrug and say “different culture” instead of getting dragged into a Stupidity-Pisses-Me-OFF! rage.

        1. Dave said: “That’s just too many angry people, too high a proportion of the population.”

          Yeah. What I’ve been reacting to for the last ten years or so is the books/stores that hate me and hate my culture. I’ve commented about this many times, but I just saw a BEAUTIFUL example last night. “Shadow of the Moon” on Netflix.

          The Big Bad in this movie is a political movement so horrible and nasty and awful that it gives evil a bad name. It is the “Militia Movement” as Lefties like to style it. The movie would like you to believe that crushing said movement is such a worthy goal that any sacrifice at all is worth it.

          It’s a propaganda film, and a pretty good one as these things go. Reviewers seem to completely miss the point of the film, choosing instead to focus on draggy pacing, dorky dialog, social justice issues, blah blah blah. But the real point of the film is that given a horrible enough foe, it is morally correct to kill not only the members of a movement, but also people merely peripheral to it.

          Because “that’s what it takes to kill an idea” you know. You can’t just kill Hitler. You have to kill his mother, father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors… because it takes a village to raise a child up to be Hitler. The movie makes that point rather well.

          Major step up from the usual “conservatives are stupid bad people” thing. Now it’s “all conservatives need to die right away.”

          I sat through it because it kept getting worse and worse, and I wanted to see how far they’d go. Wasn’t disappointed, they really went there. I find it “interesting” that this movie is right up at the top of the suggestions this week, given that it was destroyed by the critics and audience ratings alike in 2019.

          My reaction is the same one I had when Drudge Report went hard Left earlier this year. I’m thinking I really don’t need to watch Netflix anymore if this is what they’re showing. My money would be better spent on a subscription to CrunchyRoll.

            1. I haven’t even seen that one show up in “trending” suggestions here in Canaduh. It might actually be illegal child pr0nz here, for all I know. One can hope, I suppose.

  9. My own desire for boring times is getting to the point where I need to look into getting a pointy hat that says “Wizzard” in sequins.

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