Category Archives: SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

I Quit!

I. Quit.

No, no, not MGC.

But I’m taking a hiatus from my big series and trying some new things this summer.

Now, why would I do a silly thing like that? Well, it’s pretty simple. I’m a (nearly) complete unknown and as such my sales numbers are low. And since I’m in this for the money–yeah, I’ve got an husband bringing home the bacon, but he’s teetering on the brink of retirement, and I’d really like to bump up the projected (post retirement) household income. That means I need to do a number of things. Marketing . . . I’m also working on. But another (and much more fun!) thing I can do is broaden my fan base by publishing in other genres.

But how is a writer of a huge series to break the bad news to her fans?

Well it depends. If the series is at a natural stopping point, it’s easy. This is one of the advantages of an overarching Mega Problem. Once it’s solved, you can give your readers a brief glimpse into the Happily Ever After and then quit.

Hahahahaha! As if!

And the more popular, the more fans will want you notice that there’s a problem behind the problem and keep going.

In my case most of the stories are stand alones . . . but it’s one big saga with a fair amount of background that builds up. But there’s no clear cut end point. It’s just a Cross-dimensional Multiverse full of potential. It has been mentioned that it would make a great SF soap opera.

So again, why quit?

There’s a dozen reasons.

I need to broaden my reader base, so getting out of this specific sub- genre and into Time Travel, Space Opera, and Urban Fantasy sounds like a good idea. I mean, Regency Romance may sell better, but I seriously doubt I could tempt any of those readers to try my older work . . . where SO and UF have plenty of overlapping interests with my old series.

And then there’s the challenge. Something that will stretch my knowledge base and send my research in a new direction. Time Travel hurts my head, BTW. And I have zero knowledge of how Law Enforcement actually works. Which is really necessary when you’ve got a thin blue line standing up against demonically engendered werewolves. Space Opera will be the easiest, what with me being a space fanatic. All I have to do is check that what I know really is so. Ouch! Our knowledge of reality changes so fast it’s easy to fall behind.

I recommend this to all writers. It’s too easy to get into a rut, to coast. “Oh, I know everything about this Universe, after all, I created it. I don’t need to research anything!” Too easy to depend on the character building you did in the previous books and leave your character flat and uninteresting. Or viciously attack and maul him, to give some space for Mr. Perfect to (re)grow. Kill her, because you’ve come to hate her.

It’ll be a good separation, a refreshing vacation. I’ll come back to the Wine of the Gods with a new perspective, new enthusiasm.

I’m breaking the news to my fans gently. Umm, because, being an addict of my own series, I seem to have, umm, let me count. Oh bloody . . . eight stories in the pipeline. Not counting the novella that’s out with the Beta Readers. That will be published next month. So while I’m going to write other stuff this summer, I’ll also get out at least one more big Wine of the Gods book sometime this fall, and the rest at reasonable intervals. So it’s just a slow down, not really quitting.

I can get over this addiction. I can stop any time.

Can you? Tell me how that works, eh?

And, being unfortunately well acquainted with my subconscious, as soon as I post this, it will pop a story into the frontal lobes, crack the whip and make me write it . . . What’s that? Xen teams up with Ebsa, Ra’d . . . and Eldon! To defeat the Cyborg Empire!

Oh, just kill me now!
But first, buy a 99¢ short story. I promise I won’t leave [spoiler] in [spoiler] for too long.

36 Comments

Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

What do you want to read?

First off, I have to give a hat tip to Jason Cordova for this topic. On his FB page today, he commented that he was tired of all the stories where “the US is a fractured dystopia. You know what I want to see? A fractured dystopian world in which the last guardians of the gate is the US.” This started a discussion where another poster commented that his daughter had complained not long ago about YA novels where the protagonist is a teen girl whose parents are either dead or abusive. According to the commenter, his daughter wanted to read stories where the parents were normal and supportive. All that got me to thinking about what I want to read — not to mention write — and what I heard from my son when he was in school about the books he’d been required to read.

Which brings it all around to the issue of whether our kids read more or less than we do and why.

Let me start by saying I agree completely with Jason about wanting to see something than the US in ruins. All you have to do is look at who the gatekeepers are in traditional publishing (mainly the Big 5) right now to understand why they love this sort of book. Hell, all you have to do is look at their social media accounts to see that they believe the US is already on an irreversible course to total destruction. They scream and yell and cry at the mere mention of Trump’s name. You can wander over to the Tor site and find a post about how they simply don’t know what to imagine now because, you guessed it, Trump.

These are the same gatekeepers who have made it almost impossible to be published by the Big 5 and the smaller publishers following their lead if you don’t have the appropriate checklist of character traits in your novel. These are the ones, especially in science fiction and fantasy, who have taken the fun out of reading. And, no, this is not a screed against message fiction. You can have a message and still make it entertaining. You can have literary fiction and have it be engaging and entertaining. It doesn’t have to preach to the point of becoming boring and abrasive.

There is a reason if you look at the best seller lists on Amazon for e-books, you see as many, if not more, indie books there as you do trad published.

So, what do I want to read? I want t read a story that engages my imagination. I want to be entertained. Sure, I read more than my fair share of non-fiction and I enjoy it. But, for fiction, I’m not reading to be depressed or lectured to. I’m reading to be entertained, to escape the pressures of every day life. I want to see characters who are challenged and who do everything they can to overcome that challenge. No, they don’t have to always prevail. Life isn’t like that. Very little will turn me off of an author quicker than every protagonist turning into a Mary Sue.

Every character doesn’t have to agree with my personal religious or political beliefs. Life doesn’t work that way and neither should fiction. I want to see boundaries pushed, but not in a way that it breaks the world or throws me out of the book.  If I’m reading alternate history, I expect the author to have a working knowledge of the historical era and location he is writing about. Alternate doesn’t mean throwing everything out and starting over. It means taking something that happened and changing it. The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick, is a prime example. The Axis won World War II and he goes from there. As you read the story, however, you know he had a feel for the real historical events behind his new world.

Getting back to the original comment that prompted this post, I believe we see so many books coming from traditional publishers where the US has fallen because that is what they want. That is especially true right now. Don’t believe me? Go check out the social media accounts of some of those sitting in the ivory towers of publishing and see what they are posting. I don’t know about your feed, but mine shows more political posts coming from them than news about books or the authors they work with. It’s sad really and, were I one of the authors they worked with, it would piss me off . Why? Because they are turning away readers, not necessarily because of their politics (although that is open for debate) but because they aren’t promoting my work.

As for the daughter’s comment that she would like to see a YA book with a female protagonist with normal, supportive parents, I remember my son saying much the same when he was in junior high and high school. Teachers wondered why students in his class didn’t finish their summer reading list when the books on it were about drug and sex abuse, mental illness, homelessness, poverty and the like. I can’t remember a single summer reading list where there was a book on it that could even remotely be termed entertaining. Instead, the books were chosen by committee to make sure the students learned about all the bad things in society.

Oh, and the books had to meet a vocabulary requirement as well. On the surface, that might look good but it wasn’t. This wasn’t so much an attempt to challenge students by giving them vocabulary that would expand their linguistic skills. Instead, they wanted to make sure the books weren’t too “challenging”. After all, they mustn’t have little Susie or Johnny running to Mom or Dad to ask what a word meant or, worse, looking it up for themselves.

Worse, the subject matter wasn’t always appropriate to the age group. Yes, rape exists and victims come in all ages. However, to assign a book to a kid going into the fifth grade that includes a graphic attempted rape scene is not acceptable. Yet they did and the teacher couldn’t understand why I had an issue with it. After all, no other parent complained. Which wasn’t exactly the truth. I just happened to have been the first because I was at the school waiting to complain the moment the teachers reported before school started for the new year.

And they wondered why kids weren’t reading.

They weren’t reading because the books didn’t speak to them. They didn’t grab their attention and entertain. It is all too easy to put a book down and walk away from it if you aren’t pulled in by the story. If the story bores you or turns you off, it is more than tempting to simply never return to the book. THAT is why our kids don’t read what so many public schools want them to. When school administrations — and, more importantly, the politicians who think they know more about education than the professionals (and yes, I know that’s an oxymoron) — realize a kid can learn more from reading Pratchett than he can from being forced to read a book that is torture to get through, they will see an increase in the number of books read, in reading levels and in vocabulary.

There is nothing wrong with reading for information or to learn. Non-fiction is necessary, at least for my reading needs. But not everyone loves, or even likes, literary fiction. Not everyone wants to read to be depressed. There are other ways of getting those lessons across. It is time we as parents, as adults, as educators and writers, understood one simple truth: if we don’t keep our readers’ attention, if we don’t make them want to continue reading, they will put the book down and walk away. So instead of asking what “lesson” we want to teach with a book and then figuring out a bare minimum plot to go around the sermon, we need to figure out how to build a rich and engaging plot where the “lesson” can be woven in subtly and in such a way we get the point across without resorting to the literary equivalent of a 2X4.

151 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, POLIT(ICK!)S, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Small Press Co-Authoring Madness

Since we’re here, let me regale you with tales of old…

As many of the established readers of this site know, I’m still fairly new to the business. This coming November I’ll be celebrating 7 years since my first novel was published. Part of my highly exaggerated “charm” is that I have no clue as to the little nods and winks in science fiction that bigger names understand. I don’t get the geek humor a lot (I’m not of you, but adopted) and I don’t even understand why there are cliques in fandom now (outside of the obvious psychological need to exclude people when oneself was excluded from social functions many years ago, but that’s a different essay).

So believe me when I am surprised when people mock me when I say I’ve published the majority of my work with small press publishers. I don’t quite grasp their looks of horror when I share how many co-authors I’ve worked with over the years. I am, as they say, naive to the horror stories of small press and co-authors.

Don’t misunderstand, neither is all roses and cash all the time (God, I wish it were!). No, it takes a dedicated focus to succeed at either. To succeed at both takes a certain level of crazy that… uh… gets you invited to… er… write for the Mad Genius Club.

Son of a…

I first approached a big publisher back in 2005 with my completed novel “Corruptor”. It was a decent first novel that needed an editor’s touch (still does) but fit into the (at the time) needs of the growing YA/Teen subgenre. However, nobody would touch it and the book ended up being contracted with Twilight Times, a small press I had heard about through a friend. It was a lengthy book that didn’t fit into the “mold” at the time. You see, this was when urban fantasy was really taking off and people were saying that it would be the death of science fiction, so nobody was taking anything like what I had written except small houses. Unless I had werewolves falling in love with humans while battling vampires and vice versa, I did not have what they wanted.

While I have had troubles with one or two of the small houses I’ve worked with, all in all it has been a collection of very pleasant experiences. I don’t have the issue of being the sole person responsible for editing and publishing my books, as I could have had if I had gone indie. I’m still responsible for marketing myself, but the publisher usually has ideas that can help. They also design the cover art, something that I suck at, and often get truly commissioned art for the cover and nothing recycled (“Corruptor” and “Wraithkin” come to mind). The other added benefit of working with a small press publisher is that, unlike some of the bigger houses, you get paid far more often at rates that are comparable to that of going indie. It’s part of the reason I haven’t truly gone indie yet: I like writing, but I hate everything else that publishers can take care of for the writer.

As for working with co-authors… well, I can only say that I have had great success with finding them and working together with them. Everyone knows the insanity in a novel when Chris and I work together, and I have had great financial success with Eric. I worked with another co-author, though, who almost soured me on the prospect of writing with others back before I had “Corruptor” contracted. That was partly my fault, since I bought into the “hype” and ignored a lot of the lack of substance he brought to the partnership. Plus, he was a bigger name than I was, so it probably worked out for the best.

Why, you ask? Well, because working with a co-author is harder to make work than a typical marriage.

It is hard to write a book with someone. It takes more than setting your ego aside. It takes a full commitment to the relationship to make it work (oh wow, total marriage comparison). Both authors have to know the limitations of their collaborator, and be receptive to ideas that you might not initially think would work. You have to listen, and not simply wait for them to quit speaking so you can say a rebuttal piece. Active listening is key here, people.  For example…

When Chris and I wrote “Kraken Mare”, we pretty much rewrote the entire book (I’d completed about 35,0000 words before I called in for some help). Even though there was a lot of insanity (and by a lot, I mean immeasurable amounts here… crazy giggling while talking and plotting/writing) we realized that we worked well together. We would easily feed off one another, hound each other when needed, and come up with ideas that the other would never have thought of, and pop culture references that one of us might have missed. It was fun, enjoyable, and we’re planning on more projects in the future once our free time reappears.

All in all, you have to be more than a little crazy to do either. To do both, well, you have to be certifiable Mad Genius. 🙂

And now your promotional news. Jason has a book out right now that you should buy. For a measly $3.99 you too can pick up your copy of the latest, Wraithkin, from Theogony Books. If you have KU then it’s free! Pick up a copy and leave a review.

 

18 Comments

Filed under SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WARP CORDOVA, WRITING, WRITING: LIFE

Sad Puppies 5 and recommendation lists

Sigh. There are mornings when it really doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Or perhaps I should learn not to look at my phone as soon as I get up. What usually happens when I do is that I see something on social media that sends my blood pressure rising and has me racing for the keyboard to fire off a response. Yeah, yeah, I know. It sounds sort of like what the president-elect must act. At least I don’t do Twitter.

Anyway, this morning, the BP rising bit came in the form of a private message from a friend of mine. We are in a number of groups together on Faceplant. In one of those groups, someone had posted a notice with the header of “Sad Puppies 5 Suggestions.” Now, that got my eyes open real quick because the person posting it wasn’t Sarah and, the last I heard – which was last night – Sarah was the one coordinating SP5. So, with coffee starting to brew, I figured I’d go see what I had missed overnight.

That was my second mistake. I should have realized what a mistake it would be. After all, the friend who left me the PM is one of the most even-tempered and nice people I know. The fact he was upset should have warned me that this was not going to end well. See, this is what happens when I try to function pre-coffee.

So, if you woke around 0630 CST to the sound of loud thumping, I apologize. That was me pounding my head against the wall. After reading the post my friend warned me about, I saw why. And I saw red. And I made the mistake of taking to Faceplant to write a response – still before coffee. I should have waited. Then I could have made a more detailed response, complete with link. As it was, it took a couple of posts and I’m still not sure I got my point across.

No, let’s be accurate. I know I didn’t get my message across. Or, to be more accurate, I may have but certain folks didn’t want to hear it. And that, my friends, is a problem and one we don’t need to be dealing with.

So, let’s be very clear. The New Year is here and with it comes the time when we need to start thinking about the books we read and whether we feel they are worthy of being nominated for any of the various awards being offered this year. Be it the Hugo, the Dragon, the Rita or whatever, it is something we need to keep in mind and, if we are so moved, we need to nominate them for the appropriate award(s).

It also means we are going to start seeing folks saying they are “making a little list”. Some will follow through with their lists and keep a running tally. Others will simply have a single post where you can add your comments. What they do is up to them – up to a point. However, when they start implying they are involved with something they aren’t, or when they seem to be stepping up and taking control of something they have not been involved in, then they have crossed the line.

So I will start by saying to be careful about where you leave your recommendations. Read very carefully what the OP is saying he or she will do and judge what their motivations might be. If their post comes across as implying they are with a certain group or cause, verify. That is especially true when someone – Sarah, in this case – has said she is in charge of SP5 and now, suddenly, someone who has been on the fringes at best is suddenly implying they are preparing the SP5 recommendation list.

One of my fears is that folks will post their recommendations on a site they think is associated with a group or cause and then get upset when they find their way to the official site and realize their recommendation isn’t there. That is especially true when someone takes to Facebook and says it is time to start getting those Sad Puppy recommendations in and then says he is starting a list for folks to contribute to. The implication is there for folks to make that he is part of the leadership of SP5 and his list is “official”. It isn’t.

With that said, Sad Puppies 5 will be getting off the ground very soon with a new website, a blog and more. Sarah A. Hoyt – yes, our Sarah – is running it this year. (The only reason the site isn’t up already is because she has been ill and has had a deadline to meet.) The official SP5 site will be the only place where recommendations for the various lists SP5 compiles will be accepted. If you go to anywhere else and they claim to be speaking for SP5, they aren’t. Not unless Sarah has specifically announced it here, on her blog or on the SP5 site.

Does that mean others can’t support the Puppies and still have their own lists? Absolutely not. But I am asking them to think before posting. After all, we ran into the problem of people becoming confused when Vox came out with Rabid Puppies. The names were too close. There was an overlapping of recommended titles. The result was that Sad Puppies got painted with the same brush as Rabid Puppies and not because of the titles recommended but because of how some folks felt about Vox.

Our biggest hurdle this year isn’t going to be name recognition. It is going to be avoiding clouding the water. We have already had one blogger talk about how he had been involved in the Sad Puppy movement, leaving the impression he had been on the inside when he had not. Now we have someone else leaving the impression that they are collecting recommendations for the SP5 list. That sort of thing is counter-productive. It will only wind up confusing people and, in some cases, upsetting them when they find out they weren’t giving their recommendations to the official Sad Puppy list.

One of the biggest lessons anyone following the Sad Puppy movement over the years should have learned is that perception is everything. So what I’m asking, as someone who is helping Sarah this year and who will be taking over for SP6, is that we do everything we can to make sure there is no confusion over what the Sad Puppy movement is, what it stands for, who is officially in charge of it this year and where the official list is being collected.

So, to be clear, Sad Puppies 5 is under the guidance of Sarah A. Hoyt. Until the new site is up to date, any recommendations for the SP5 lists can be posted at last year’s site (give me a couple of hours to set up a recommendation page). I promise the information will be migrated over to the new site as soon as it goes live. Anyone else claiming to be collecting information for SP5 or speaking for it is misspeaking at best.

And, yes, this post has been run past Sarah before I took it live. She has approved everything said.

59 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, reading, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

Really?

It has been quite some time since I have felt the need to rip apart someone else’s blog post. Well, except when it comes to politics. Usually, I can step away from a blog I don’t agree with, telling myself that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. However, yesterday my attention was directed to a blog that was so filled with half-truths, inaccuracies and more that it left me no choice but to respond. The source material will be in italics, my comments will follow.

What Happened To The Sad Puppies? In 2015 the Sad Puppies were a presence in SF and in culture in general.  In 2016 the Sad Puppies became almost a nonentity.  All through the year it was the Rabids that drove the show and that hurt both the Sad Puppies And possibly the future of Sf in the long term.

Wow, I guess the OP forgot about the years leading up to 2015, years when Larry Correia led the SPs and had the other side foaming at the mouth. Years when the SPs were much more in your face than they were in 2015 under Brad Torgersen, who happens to be one of the nicest guys around. He forgot that, while Brad did engage with the other side, he did so only after he — and his family — were attacked. The OP also seems to have forgotten that Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies made their appearance in 2015, hijacking much of the movement and muddying the waters for so many who weren’t intimately familiar with what the SPs were after, leading people to think the two groups were basically the same. The OP also forgot that, no matter how hard Brad and others tried to make it clear SPs had nothing to do with RPs, it didn’t work. But, I guess if he mentioned that, it wouldn’t fit his narrative that Kate somehow failed.

Also, how in the hell did Kate and SP 2016 possibly hurt the future of SF in the long term? The Hugos are a non-starter for most fans of the genre. You walk into any bookstore or library and ask readers of the genre, or of any genre, if they could name a Hugo winner (or even a nominee) and the vast majority will be unable to. Those who can will probably tell you that they run from books that have won the award because those stories quit being entertaining years ago.

I think that the problem is that Kate Paulk, when she took over leadership didn’t understand what she was getting herself into. I think that she thought that if she had a more moderate approach that the kind of beating around that the Sad Puppies got in 2015 would be moderated.  I’m not sure what led her to believe that, but there was.

Ah, here we go. The “I think” or “I believe” excuse so many bloggers and journalists — and I use that term loosely — use to avoid having to actually do their homework. Did the OP actually go to Kate to ask her if his “beliefs” were right? Nope. He did not. I guaran-damn-tee you that he not only didn’t talk to Kate but that he didn’t talk to any of the rest of us who know what her thought process was. I know because I am one of those who were involved in the discussions about who would take over the leadership of SPs last year and what tact should be taken. Kate knew quite well what she was getting into and she knew — and discussed with the rest of us — the approach she would take.

Then there was the launch of the Sad Puppies site, the nominations and then, nothing.  For months no reviews, no blog entries, nothing. It’s not as if she was off line either.  Yet for months she left the stage empty except for the Puppy Kickers and Vox.   I’m not sure why but it may be that she was hoping to avoid conflict.  Or she just got busy and could not give Sad Puppies the attention it deserved.  Yet there weren’t even any blog posts on either the Sad Puppies blog or the Mad Genius Club.

First of all, SP has never been a 24/7, 365 day a year obligation. Second, there were posts on MGC. Third, I guess the OP thinks being online is the only way to get the message out. He seems to ignore the fact that Kate went to cons. She used face-to-face conversations to discuss with those who had been sitting on the fence, even those who opposed SPs in the past to get the message across. She showed that we weren’t all frothing at the mouth as we had been depicted. But that, too, doesn’t fit the OP’s narrative. Whether it is because he ignored her posts about what she was doing — as well as the guest post and comments by some of those she spoke with — I don’t know.

Here’s something else OP seems to ignore. The Sad Puppies movement was aimed initially at pointing out the bias in nominating and awarding the Hugo Awards. That takes place over a small portion of the calendar year. Kate announced Sad Puppies 4 officially on May 19, 216. However, a quick search of the MGC archives using only one key term and not the various short hands we have come to use for Sad Puppies, finds at least 2 more posts by Kate about Sad Puppies. But OP says she didn’t blog about them. Sigh.

So, in the interest of accuracy, I went to Brad’s site and looked to see when he announced SP3. His intorductory post is Jan 7, 2015. Kate announced SP4 September 2015. That would be some months sooner, in the grand scheme of things, than Brad.

OP then spends time, after saying Kate didn’t give us reviews, etc., quoting others who take issue with her reviews of the Hugo nominees. Kate did more than most who were telling people who to vote for. She read everything in the Hugo packet and gave her honest opinions. But that obviously isn’t enough, especially since OP quotes notoriously anti-puppy sites to back his stance.

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

OMFG. I don’t know whether to beat my head against the wall or the OP’s. That statement is not that much removed from that of the other side telling SPs they had to denounce Vox or it proved we were all cut from the same cloth. One thing those of us closely involved with the Sad Puppy movement learned in 2015 is that there is nothing anyone can do to rein in Vox. We would have had Raptor Butt no matter what. Vox will do what he wants, when he wants and he doesn’t give a flying fuck who he bumps against in the process.

The problem is that if there any desire to keep the Hugo Awards as anything other than a pissing contest between the vilest people in SF, we Puppies failed miserably.  The Rapids dominated the noms and the Kickers “No Awarded” every thing in sight, again. Both sides followed by crowing victory, when in fact everybody lost.

See, here is the biggest problem with OP’s post. He thinks that Sad Puppies is about saving the Hugos. It isn’t. I’m not sure it ever was. It was about showing how the Awards have been manipulated and ruled over by a very small group of Fans, folks who don’t want the unwashed masses joining in their little club. The Hugos were effectively dead, at least to most fans, long before Larry started Sad Puppies. It is in its death throes now. Don’t believe it? Look at the rules changes that are being proposed and those that have been passed. Fans with a capital “F” want to to make sure they continue to control the awards. Most real fans aren’t going to pay the price of even an associate membership just to vote. Why should they when they can buy a number of books for the same price?

I don’t know about you, but I would rather buy 8 – 10 e-books than spend money to be able to vote one time for an award where the inner circle thinks I’m not worthy of taking part.

The fact is that when you are in the culture wars you can never let up and you never, ever say you are sorry.  I think that Kates more modest approach and attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable only fed the beast.  The failure to create any buzz or even respond just made things worse.  The biggest issue to me is that, for months, Kate never asked for any help, any blog posts, nothing.  She embarked on no politicking and can’t find any evidence of any activity other than setting up a safe space at Worldcon for the yet again no awarded nominees.  For her approach, in the end the Sad Puppies got nothing tangible, no respect, no handshake and no attempts to meet the Puppies half way. The fact is that in the end as little as I like to say this, it turns out that Vox and the Rabids were right.

Ah, there it is. He drank the kool-ade. Because he couldn’t find something, he assumed it wasn’t there. Again, he ignored the cons Kate went to and all the folks he talked with. He ignored the fact that she did exactly as she said she would and that many folks applauded her for it, people who never would have supported SPs otherwise. Why did they support us? Because we were the face of reason in a sea of insanity. But that doesn’t fit the narrative. Sigh, nothing any of us say will change his mind — as is obvious by his comment that it didn’t gain respect, handshakes, etc., and yet a simple search of comments here on MGC and in social media will show the opposite. But, I guess if you aren’t screaming it from the rooftops, it never happened.

At least the war was not only reliant on the efforts of the Puppies, either Sad or Rabid.  Somebody took the Puppy Kickers advice to heart and with DragonCon, came up with awards that returned the emphasis to fans and readers rather than a small clique of people dependent on the fading traditional publishing and the poor stuff that they had been putting up for awards.

Here’s why I started laughing. OP has spent pages telling us how the Puppies failed under Kate to take the Hugos and save them. Now, all of a sudden, he has fled from the Hugos and is applauding the Dragon Awards. Note how he loves that the Dragons took the awards directly to the fans and away form a “small clique of people”. Yes, he added the descriptor they were dependent on trad publishing, etc., but let’s be honest. Sad Puppies is also a relatively small clique, at least when you look at the greater picture of how many people love the genre.

As far as this goes, the Hugos are dead, The Puppies didn’t kill them, they were dead when Larry started the Puppies. The Hugos were dead because nobody cared anymore.  The Hugos died because the small clique that had expense accounts from their employers and could go to WorldCon after WorldCon nominated the kind of stuff that pulled further and further away from what the readers really wanted.  That is death to an award that is supposed to represent the opinions of the readers.  Unfortunately all the WorldCon types wanted was an echo chamber and little hood ornaments on their shelves to appease their egos.

So, if the Hugos are dead, why has the OP spent so much time condemning Kate? I’m confused.

Maybe if Kate had actually been more proactive things might have been different.

Oh, I get it now. He must think Kate is a necromancer. I guess she had some arcane power to revive an award he said was dead even before Larry started the Sad Puppy movement. Wow! I never knew Kate had that sort of power. Apparently, she could have saved the Hugos in one year when a best selling author and the Powder Blue Care Bear with a Flame Thrower couldn’t in 3 years.

If only she had asked for more help if she thought she needed it, if even to just keep up a weekly Sad Puppies blog post.  I’m sure that there were those of us who would have been willing to do more.  In the end though, I doubt that any minds would have been changed.  So let Vox continue his games, that is if he hasn’t found bigger targets to play with.  In any case, like so much that the progressives have taken over, the Hugos and what was the science fiction establishment are dying. The plain fact is that what they had to sell, nobody wanted to buy.  They should have read their Heinlein and tried to understand what he was talking about when he said, :”We are writing for Joe’s beer money and Joe likes his beer. It’s our obligation to give him at least as much fun from our books as he’d  get from a six pack.”

Ah, here we are again with the vague assumptions and passive-aggressive condemnations. I ask again, if the Hugos were already dead and a best selling author could not save them in 2 years of battling with the powers that be, what was Kate supposed to do in a single year? Why weren’t these criticisms leveled against Larry or Brad for not saving the Hugos?

The puppy kickers have forgotten, in the corporate, commoditized, NYC bubble that they live in, that simple fact.  Science fiction fails when it tries to be something it’s not.  Much of the old pulp stuff is available online for free and before sneering at what the Puppies were talking about, the kickers should read the stuff that already has met the “six pack test.” The fact is that there’s a lot of competition for that beer money and if Joe doesn’t like what you are plumping out at eight bucks a pop, Joe is putting his money some place else.  That’s the essence of the Puppy message and that’s what the Puppies need to  keep repeating.  We need to do better, much better next time.

This one paragraph is something I can agree with, mostly. Yes, the other side should read and figure out why we love those old stories. There is an entertainment factor they have forgotten about, just as they have forgotten that the Hugos were meant to be a fan award. Instead, they want it to be a literary award. They have worked for years to make it one. That is what is killing the award.

Whether the OP wants to admit it or not, the Sad Puppies movement has won. It brought attention to a number of authors who never would have made the Hugo nominee list. SP4 was particularly good about it by opening the process up and letting people post their recommendations to the list — something that went on for months before Hugo nominations opened.

Ask yourself this. What is more important: reclaiming an award that means nothing to most fans of the genre or expanding the awareness of the genre and authors within it to those fans and to bring in new fans in the process?

 

It is so very easy to sit back and criticize someone when you haven’t walked in their shoes. Kate announced from the beginning what she was going to do. She was going to have an open and transparent process where people recommended works they felt should be nominated for the Hugos. She collected those recommendations on the website and then collated them and presented those with the most recommendations for everyone’s consideration. She used social media to promote SP4 and she took the hits, and there were many, from the other side. She spent her own money to go to cons and make the case for SP4 in person.

No one who has been involved behind the scenes with Sad Puppies thought it would be a quick skirmish. Far from it. The question has always been, can the Hugos be saved with a sub-question of “should they?”. I’m not sure they can be saved, whether we think they should be or not. As long as a small group of Fans think they are better than the fans who put money into the pockets of authors and artists, as long as they refuse to admit indie published works can be as good — or better — than traditionally published works, and as long as they refuse to admit that the Hugos were meant to be a fan award, they will continue to disenfranchise most fans of the genre.

Sad Puppies 1 – 3 beautifully pointed out, and proved, the pettiness in Fandom. Sad Puppies 4 continued what Brad started with Sad Puppies 3, the ourtreach to those fans who didn’t understand what was going on. Fans who had been drawn in by the outrageous rhetoric from the other side started looking closer at Sad Puppies when Brad and his family were attacked. They started listening closer when Kate engaged only when she was forced to. So explain how, when Kate reached out and made connections with people how had never before considered backing the Sad Puppies, she failed in her job?

There is more to this battle than whipping out your dick and proving it is bigger than the other guy’s. Kate understood that. We should be thanking her for taking on the job instead of condemning her because she didn’t do “the job” the way someone else wanted her to.

Before anyone starts throwing stones at this post, be sure you aim them at me. I’m springing this on my fellow MGCers at the same time I spring it on you.

65 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WRITING

What happens when your muse hijacks you

I’ll admit it. I’m drawing a blank on what to write this morning. I think part of it is because I’ve been deep in editorial mode the last few days. Another part is I made the mistake of reading an article that continues to equate indie publishing with vanity presses and telling those who would listen that the only way to prove yourself is to make it past the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. So, until I can come up with something that doesn’t involve me getting on my soapbox and screaming profanities — I try not to do that here because it embarrasses Monkey — I’m going to inflict, er, treat you to a snippet from the work that hijacked me last month. It is untitled so far and, as I’ve said before, something of a mash-up of Slay Bells Ring (a romantic suspense) and Skeletons in the Closet(UF/modern fantasy and still unpublished). That’s mainly because it demanded it take place in the same setting as Slay Bells but it has elements of modern fantasy/UF. Oh, and it has a semi-sentient house. There are also character overlaps between the books. And I have no idea how or why this book decided it had to be written, much less by me.

Now, this is the rough draft. There will be changes made, including fixing spellings and punctuation, before the book goes live. Also, the usual cautions apply. This is my work, copyright 2016 by Amanda S. Green.

***

 It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cell phone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Mama, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, not recognizing the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a man asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. He might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about his voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, he had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Peter Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Mr. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you but have you spoken with your mother recently.”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want her involved.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there is no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I had moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mama belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?” I asked.

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” She thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they have heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I did not wait for him to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cell phone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case and then dropped it inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Mama, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

***

As for the book I’m supposed to be finishing, Dagger of Elanna, I am. One thing this hijacking did was it let me come back to Dagger with a fresh set of eyes. I figured out what was hanging me up in the book and have pushed forward. Hopefully, I will have it finished in another three weeks or so. In the meantime, check out the first book in that series, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

17 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WRITING

Defying the Appropriation Police

If you’re in the fic biz, you’ve probably gotten fish-slapped with the concept of Cultural Appropriation. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who’s not been browbeat with this latest politically correct dogma, let me give you a quick definition. Cultural Appropriation — as used by those who push it — is when a person assigned to an Oppressor Identity writes about, or employs character(s) from, an assigned Victim Identity.

I remember (way back in the stone age of the 1990s) how people were hot about inclusion: deliberately salt-and-peppering books and stories with women, non-Caucasians, and non-straights. This trend continued for about a dozen years, until the includers suddenly began to be attacked for “doing it wrong.” The inclusion was deemed “inauthentic” for various reasons, usually relating to questions of voice, protagonist positioning, and research.

And when I say voice, I mean the semi-tangible cadence and quality of how a given character in a fictional work “reads” to the audience — ergo, how this individual sounds in your head when you’re going through the book or the story. So, even if your hero is from a Victim Identity, if (s)he doesn’t sound like (s)he’s from that Victim Identity, boo on you. Make it double-boo if you’ve given Victim Identities only to the ensemble, not the leads.

Protagonist positioning has to do with a character’s relationship to the hero (or heroes, or heroines) of the piece. Put too many Victim Identity characters into supporting or antagonistic roles, and you’re going to get a pantsload of verbal buckshot from people who’ve made it their business to police this stuff. You must not only write Victim Identities as the heroes, you must write them with correct voice to boot.

Research is when you’ve failed to sufficiently enhance your characters or your setting with enough details that objectively match the culture(s) or the time period(s) in which your story happens to be set. So, even if you’re doing Victim Identities in your lead roles and you’re getting the voice(s) right, if your details — say, for instance, a mythic medieval Chinese Dynasty story — don’t reflect extensive reading and note-taking, for that specific time in that specific place . . . you’re still doing it wrong.

Are you ready to throw up your hands and quit fiction-writing altogether? Who needs to tip-toe through that much of an ideological minefield?

You are not the only one. In fact, more and more writers are mustering the courage to push back against the mantra of Cultural Appropriation. Precisely because fiction-writing of any type or sort is, by its very nature, borrowing from the world around us. To include when authors who are assigned (or self-assign) Victim Identities, tell stories about or which include characters from designated Oppressor Identities.

Yes, gentle reader, Victim Identity authors get it wrong too.

Somehow, this isn’t ever the problem we’re talking about though; with Cultural Appropriation. As per usual, with the doctrines of 21st-century Political Correctness, the “wrong” always flows just one way.

I myself am in favor of scuttling the whole concept of “wrong” — especially when applied to science fiction and fantasy. With SF/F, we’re not just talking about people both past and present, we’re talking about people past, present, future, alternate past, sidewise present, hypothetical future, extrapolative future, and so forth. To include people who aren’t people at all: alien life forms, or humans who’ve changed so much, they might as well be aliens by our current standards and sensibilities.

There is literally no way to “get it wrong” in this context, because you’re not writing a historical drama set in Feudal Japan. Writing a book like Shogun necessarily ought to involve extra effort, just because a book like Shogun — written wholly in make-believe mode — ceases to be Shogun. And becomes something else.

Science Fiction and Fantasy don’t necessarily have the same restraints.

Consider the all-time classic bestseller of the field: Dune. Set ten thousand years in the future, Dune doesn’t have to accurately or correctly reflect any extant identities or cultures, because none of the identities and cultures that currently exist in 2016 A.D., existed in 8016 B.C. And it’s unlikely that, even with our miraculous digital mass storage and preservation of music, movies, television, and books, that the culture(s) and identities of 12,016 A.D. will have much relation to our present culture(s). Artifacts of our present culture(s) may persist, but we — who we are, in this decade, on this planet — will not.

So, how can Dune get it wrong? Too few women in leading roles? Too many men occupying pivotal parts in the story? The roles men and women play — being sexist or misogynistic?

But wait, why should a hypothetical society set ten thousand years in the future, have any relation to 21st-century A.D. concepts of gender equality, or affirmative action? These concepts themselves are only a couple of hundred years old, at best. The vast bulk of human history reflects societies where gender and ethnic and sexual stratification not only existed, but was commonplace.

It might be that way in the future too. Or it might be that way in a fictional fantasy Earth where dragons are real, and wizards wield magic wands. Or a parallel timeline where all of the European monarchies still reign, controlling a globe filled with colonies. Or an alternate history where the Enlightenment occurred in Classical Greece, or Pharaoh’s Egypt.

In fact, caste societies are ready-made canvases for drama. Thus a feudal interstellar dynasty, replete with dukes and barons, not to mention slaves and concubines, becomes instantly tangible. The author doesn’t need to laboriously erect a believable framework for the war between House Atreides, and House Harkonnen. The framework is baked in, and we (who are not that distant from feudalism ourselves) intuitively grasp the meaning and import of Paul Atreides’ journey through that universe.

The “perfect” imaginary society, is a boring imaginary society. Just look at Star Trek. If the entire franchise had been set on Earth — and Earth only — it would have been like watching over a thousand episodes and a dozen feature films all focusing on Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, but without the town drunk, nor the foolish deputy, nor the occasional genuine criminal drifting through, to cause trouble. Star Trek Earth is a paradise. But paradise doesn’t make for good storytelling. Which is why the U.S.S. Enterprise was out there on the frontier. Getting a piece of the action.

So, almost every story must contain at least some form of unfairness or injustice. Otherwise, what have the protagonist(s) got to work against?

Moreover, consider the fact that no person — however effectively (s)he embraces a given Victim Identity — has the exact same experiences and outlook as another person. Slice it fine enough, and two people from the same Victim Identity (or Oppressor Identity) are going to necessarily be different.

Want proof? Pick a random sample of two dozen women, and put them into a room. Show them a scenario to which a “real woman” must react, and ask them all to submit their conclusions.

You’re liable to wind up with half a dozen to a dozen (or more) different responses. Because even though they’re all women — ding, ding, Victim Identity — they are individuals first. Informed by individual upbringing, belief systems, religion, traumatic events, and driven by different motivations. Thus there is no single answer to the question of what would a “real woman” do in scenarios X, or Y, or Z.

Therefore, there is no right answer.

And this is true for any other Victim Identity, and Oppressor Identity too.

Perhaps the entire concept of Victim Identities, and Oppressor Identities, is faulty?

I certainly think so.

Just like I think the concept of Cultural Appropriation is faulty too.

I think Cultural Appropriation was invented purely by people who have grown so comfortable and easy in their lives — like Star Trek! — that they must invent some kind of drama, to fill their attention span.

So we have authors being accused of “stealing” culture, and telling stories they’re not “authorized” to tell.

Given the fact culture cannot be copyrighted, how can anyone “steal” what is rightfully in the public domain? Also, from whom does an Oppressor Author receive written permission: to include character(s) or culture(s) from the Victim Identity sector? Is the hall pass obtained from Victim A every bit as good as the hall pass from Victim B or also from Victim C?

What if Victims A, B, and C, are in dispute? Over any aspect of what it means to be a Victim? What if some people in categories A, or B, or C, don’t see themselves as victims at all, either small-v or caps-v?

What if the person from whom you’re seeking a hall pass, is unlikely to ever give you one? Or, as often as not, give you one, but with an asterisk on it: to be rescinded at any time for any reason, just because I feel like it.

Look, there’s a point at which you, the author, simply have to have the courage to not care if somebody complains.

I know that’s a very scary thought, in the era of the internet — where complaining has become a life-wrecking, big-money spectator sport. We inhabit a time when complaining has become a career: professional activism. Journalism isn’t about discovery and dissemination of facts, it’s about lobbying for a particular kind of politics, and enforcing a particular ideological paradigm. Nobody who ever writes a book or story, can ever hope to please everyone in that kind of toxic soup. No matter how well you do your book or story, some asshole on the intarwebz is gonna bitch about it.

Thus, refusing to apologize — in that atmosphere — take’s chutzpah. A willful disregard for the opinions of the complaining class.

But people also respect chutzpah. The field of SF/F used to (once upon a time) pride itself on chutzpah — on thumbing its nose at convention. At the rule-setters and rule-makers. At accepted dogmas and doctrines which were uncritically embraced.

By all means, do your research. Strive for that moving target known as authenticity. But more than that, reach down inside yourself and tell the stor(ies) only you can tell. Because you are a unique reality filter. No other person on the planet, nor any other person in history, has experienced the universe in quite the same way you have. This will inform your stories far, far more than trying to check boxes or avoid shibboleths. Because you are not merely the sum of your demographics. Nor are you merely some role somebody else assigned you, because of your demographics. These things play a part in who you are, but they are not the end-all be-all of you.

And they are not the end-all be-all of storytelling either. No matter how much certain special snowflakes may scream and shout about it.

Because good storytelling — bold tales, told boldly — speaks for itself.

Dune is not the all-time genre bestseller, because it is obediently inclusive of the proper types and kinds of Victim Identities, all arrayed in a correctly-proportioned menagerie of weighted and measured representation. No. Dune is the all-time genre bestseller, because it tells the story of a young man — a prince — cast unjustly from his rightful inheritance, hunted, hardened, made potent by trial and travail, so that when he ultimately returns to seek justice, he’s not only fighting for his own honor and survival, but the honor and survival of an entire misbegotten people.

That is storytelling. Timeless enough, that it’s lasted well beyond the life of its originator, in the hands of generation after generation of eager readers.

And this is the point of the whole damned enterprise, you see? To tell a story that captivates an audience. In the way only you are equipped to tell it.

And if you “get it wrong” according to somebody else’s calculus? Even Dune is not without its nay-sayers. In fact, there is no book or series known, which does not have critics. Criticism will ever be with us, like the poor. You can’t hope to evade criticism.

What you might hope for, is to make them criticize you for the right reasons. Because you’ve written passionately from the heart. And told a story worth remembering. And you didn’t keep looking in your rear-view mirror — for the Cultural Appropriation Police, and their red-white-blue lights flashing at you.

All else is merely a matter of craft. Of skill. Of finding the right combination of setting and plot and characters, that makes peoples’ imaginations light on fire. You focus on these things, and don’t worry about Cultural Appropriation . . . you just might latch on to authorial immortality.

62 Comments

Filed under BRAD R. TORGERSEN, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY, WRITING: ART