matociquala: (spies mfu facepalm napoleon)
Science fiction is a really big tent.

Hell, not all of science fiction is even science fiction. Some of it is fantasy, or magic realism, or space opera, or...

There have, in fact, been fandom wars fought over the definition of what, exactly, science fiction is. That second "F" in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was only added in much later years. (1992, per Ellen Klages and Michael Capobianco. Thanks both!) It is still unpronounced, and doesn't appear except as a drop shadow in the organization's acronym. (This despite the fact that the early pulps published both indiscriminately, and a number of our forebears wrote both indiscriminately. And I tend to see them as a spectrum, frankly.) But at this point, attempting to exclude fantasy writers from SFWA is a battle only being fought by a last few Hiroo Onodas on their tiny islands, while the world largely carries on unconcerned.

Fandom is a very big tent, too. Large enough for a nearly unlimited number of people. Prodom, too, has room for nearly* everybody. It's a big tent, and here's the thing: it's like the opposite of a TARDIS: it's not so much bigger on the inside as capable of infinite expansion.

The fact is, science fiction is not a zero sum game. Fandom is not a zero sum game. Nor is either one a single thing. Fandom is everything from zine fans, still mimeoing away but with better technology now, to anime kids with blue wigs and pleated skirts and world-changing ideas.

Prodom is also not a single thing. It's everything from the folks peddling their ideas in Hollywood, to the ones self-pubbing their first successful book on Amazon.

The Venn diagram between pro and fan is also largely overlapping, by the way. "Pro" is a smaller purple circle inside the big blue circle we name "fan." There may be a sliver sticking out that's red, but then again, that might be an optical illusion.

Both also need to make room for and include people of every demographic that are interested in being pros and fans.

Which, it turns out, isn't that hard. (I myself consider a number of writers who hold very different political views than myself friends, literary idols, and/or role models. I'm thinking of writers such as Steven Brust, Nora Jemisin, John Barnes, Tim Powers, Robert Silverberg**. I don't agree with all of their ideas, but man, I respect and admire every one of 'em. (Steve is my oldest friend in genre, somebody I love very dearly indeed, and you should see the two of us go at it.)

Hell, I don't always agree with my boyfriend on politics.

And that's okay! Because this is not a zero-sum game! The tent gets bigger! And the best part about the tent getting bigger is that that embiggening creates more opportunities for different kinds of fiction, for different kinds of fandom, for different kinds of ideas. For better arguments.

Diversity is good for us, people. The bigger and more diverse fandom is, the more markets for different ideas there are, the more markets there are. We're not actually in competition here, because the more good SFF there is, the more there can be.

That is, as long as we all play fair. And fight fair, for that matter. There's healthy communication and there's abusive communication, and I think it's good that we've started drawing some strong lines between the two. We need to draw more*.

The point is, we make our own market by reaching readers and not sucking. Those readers make more readers. Many readers support a robust and somewhat tumultuous discourse. This is how it works.

Rather than fighting over scraps, we need to be reaching out for the banquet.

It may sometimes be uncomfortable, because a diverse group is more challenging in discourse than a homogeneous one, but that's not bad.  

*Not having an Office of Asshole Removal, as previously mentioned, we can't actually get rid of some of the worst offenders. But we do have a social practice to rely on--a pretty effective one, known as "shunning." We sure as hell don't have to offer them aid and comfort, or take their advice. Let 'em set up their soapboxes in the park, as [ profile] grrm wisely says, and preach it to the wind.

**The astute will notice that there is more than one end of the political spectrum represented here.
matociquala: (me at wfc)
So, I come to you tonight, on the evening of the World Fantasy Awards, to congratulate the winners--and to talk a little bit about Howie's Head.

First: Congratulations, winners! I'm thrilled for every one of you! And congratulations, nominees! You get to feel almost as smug. 

And now on to the controversy, and my completely personal take on it.

For those of you who don't know, the World Fantasy Award statuette is a wonderfully grotesque Gahan Wilson caricature sculpture of H. P. Lovecraft. It's fondly known as "the Easter Island Head," which should give you an idea of what it looks like, if you haven't seen one.

It definitely has a bit of the Innsmouth Look, if you know what I mean, which is probably only appropriate.

So, there are people in the community who would like to see the statuette changed, because it honors somebody (H. P. Lovecraft) who was in his work and his life undeniably racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic*. And not any garden-variety systemic racist, either: this was a person whose vicious and frankly nauseating racial determinism and belief in genetic "degeneracy" serves as a foundation for his entire body of work.

It's existential despair and visceral horror of "miscegenation" all the way down, like a stack of turtles descending into the abyss.

When it comes to the statue, I... have mixed emotions. I personally would love an ugly stumpy Howie head in my living room, whether it were to be me or that boy I like who were to bring it home. My reasons for this are personal and illogical and completely subjective:

First, frankly, I love Gahan Wilson. I have a complicated relationship with Lovecraft, but his work was formative for me back in the day, and arguing with his racism did win me a Hugo. More objectively, he is one of the people who created the foundations of fantastic fiction and the modern genre of fantasy.

And... the World Fantasy Award is something I've aspired to for decades. I'd love to create something that was found worthy of this recognition someday.

In short, I have a deep personal affection for the ugly old thing. I covet it, the way I once coveted a shiny rocket ship. (I kind of covet a cube of lucite with some planets in, too, but I've never been nominated for one of those.)

What other major genre award comes with a dead-serious warning not to put it in your fishtank? (It kills the fish. Which is, again, only appropriate.)'s the thing. I consider Nnedi Okorafor a friend, and I also consider her to be one of the best writers in the genre today. And she's a recipient of this award. (Interestingly, the year she won, the best novel nominees included two other black female writers.) Her essay on the topic is here.

Go read it.

I'll wait.

Whatever my personal affection for the ugly little lump of fish-poisoning pewter is, my feelings can't compare with the conflict that people like Nnedi feel when honored for groundbreaking work like Who Fears Death (Go read that, too, but finish this first, there's not much left.) with a statuette that is a constant reminder of, in her words: "The fact that many of The Elders we honor and need to learn from hate or hated us."

My attachment to the current statue can never be as important as that.

I understand from twitter that the WFA committee stated this year that changing the statuette is under consideration. [ profile] scott_lynch and I had a conversation about this in the car not long ago, and one of the things we talked about is that one way to resolve some of these conflicts between tradition and attempting to be decent human beings would be to establish a rotating stable of heads, as it were.

I'm a huge fan of the brilliant Octavia Butler, but I'm not sure she's a good choice for this particular honor: not only was she predominately a science fiction writer, but she's a terribly recent loss to the field and remains a much-beloved and mourned friend of many.

But even if we continue to honor writers who have been gone for at least twenty years--or longer--there are a number of people who could be recognized: Fritz Leiber, C.L. Moore, Scheherazade, J.R.R. Tolkien, T. H. White, Hope Mirrlees, and Sutton E. Griggs, to name a few.  

Gahan Wilson's still around, you know.

*He was also mentally ill, and I suspect some of his incredible churning fear of the Other stems from that mental illness. Which is not an excuse in any way for things like the poem Nnedi quotes.
matociquala: (me and a troll)

The following is an open letter to my friends and colleagues who are established members of the science fiction and fantasy community.

It's easy to lose control of a narrative. It's a little bit harder but not all that difficult, if you have the skills for it, to seize control. To construct a convincing narrative--whether that narrative happens to be true or not--and manipulate your audience into investing in it--into believing it--whether that narrative happens to be true or not.

It's not even that much harder to create so much social pressure, to engage in so much goal-post shifting, that the very target of your narrative begins to believe it herself. This is one of the ways in which sick systems work: we impose a narrative on someone else, and then force them to conform to it.

When one individual does this to another, we call it emotional abuse.


Isn't it curious how often someone who is attacked by the wielder of an abusive narrative is held accountable for everything they may have ever done or said--whether in anger, or in their cups, or just in a moment of carelessness? Editing blog posts, taking down twitter feeds or websites, scrubbing the past, apologizing--all of these are cause for redoubled vituperation. Anything the victim says can be spun, questioned, deconstructed using opaque logic to create any sort of hammer the abuser wishes to swing.

And yet, there are abusers who consider their own right to edit to the narrative sacrosanct. What is past is past; what is true today is only true so long as it facilitates the abuser's narrative. The goalpost shifts and the gaslight flickers.

On the internet, we call those people trolls, but--colorful as it is--the word is a euphemism. What we are really talking about here is predators. Abusers.

Whether they're in it "for the lulz" or for the social capital, they're there to exert power and cruelty over people. They're there to justify their own existence by making others pay for theirs.

To an abuser, motive--which normal people who are not writers call, "What I actually meant, not what you are twisting my words to mean."--does not matter. All that matters is that the abuser finds a way to control the narrative, to control and hurt the victim, and to "win" the engagement. Winning, in this case, means the other guy experiences pain. And then gives up, gives in, lets the abuser have their own way.

It saddens me deeply that some people within communities I consider essential to the health of my industry and my social group (they're largely the same thing, that being how both publishing and the internet work) use those communities as camouflage to hide abuse, as springboards to facilitate it, and as cheering sections, god help us all, to reward them for their most violent behaviors.

You can often spot them because, instead of going after people with a great deal of social capital and perceived strength, they go after those who are marginalized, young, at the cusp of their professional careers, or struggling with a setback. They go after people who would seem natural allies, who would trust them, who would take their violence much more personally than somebody who actually despises them or to whom their opinion means nothing.

These predators gaslight; they reversion the truth; they have an explanation for everything. And all of it piles up to make you feel as if you've lost your grip on reality. As if nothing you perceived was the truth. You think their narrative doesn't make sense, but other people buy it, and because memory is fallible, you start to buy it too.

They're not there to teach, to elevate, to change the system. On some level, they don't want the system changed--because if it were, where would they go to get their kicks?

You can see 'em leading the pitchfork-wielding mobs in Gamergate. And right now, you can see 'em attacking a group of predominately new, predominately less-established, predominately female, predominately brown members of the science fiction and fantasy community.


I am not saying that internet social justice work is inherently abusive. I've engaged in a certain amount of internet social justice work myself. I'm not saying that it's wrong to confront people, or to be angry about injustice.

I'm pretty angry about a repeated pattern of injustices myself right now. And I'm sad. And I want the abuses to stop. I've been holding my peace to allow the victims to come forward and make their own statements, because I believe it is my place to speak out in support of them, not to influence what they might say.

That has begun to happen.

That is why I am going to directly address the actions of three colleagues who, to my knowledge and from firsthand accounts, have been colluding to behave in an abusive, unprofessional, gaslighting fashion against vulnerable people.

I have considered Alex Dally MacFarlane a friendly acquaintance and a respected colleague, and I am most upset to learn of her part in bullying Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and others. (Among other things, she's released private emails between Tricia Sullivan and RH/Bee without Tricia's permission.) I'm saddened, and I'm tempted to defend her; we've been internet acquaintances for years. And yet, I must choose to believe the victims.

Tori Truslow I met for the first time this summer in London and exchanged a few words in passing. Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Bee) I have never met, but I knew of her as a friend of a friend and somebody whose work I'd encountered and thought well-written but as yet unformed. We participated in an online round-table on food and SF together.

Requires Hate never got a lot of consideration from me. I don't think she ever came after me personally, and while I knew she was awful to a number of friends, well, sometimes people are awful to writers. I will totally cop to having made fun of her as a sad little troll on more than one occasion, but my general attitude was "haters gonna hate."

I knew she was an abusive person. I didn't know how abusive, or how long it had gone on, or in how many forums. I didn't know how many people she made complicit in her abuse, or tried to. I didn't know about the chilling effect her abuse has had on the art and discourse of women and people of color, of whole communities. And I certainly didn't know about her association with Alex and Tori, and this summer when the rumors started flying about Bee I was one of the people who defended her, because the evidence presented at that time basically amounted to, "They're both Thai and both activists."

I thought it was racist and ridiculous.

I was wrong.

I also happened to speak with several friends, about half of them women of color, at Loncon and 9 Worlds who each independently told me that they had had a miserable summer. None of them mentioned why. I had been traveling and largely off the internets since May, and I did not make the connection that they had been having the same miserable summer for the same reasons.

I was wrong about that, too.


I am not an expert on the subject but I certainly believe, from reading Bee/Rh's work and from talking with people who are experts on the subject, that she has an intimate knowledge of Asian cultures and certainly lives or has lived in Hong Kong and Thailand--or has access to people who have.

I am, however, an expert on the subject of abusive relationships, of abusers, and of drawing boundary lines around them. I know that Benjanun Sriduangkaew is a pseudonym. Why should we believe that the Bee persona is any more authentic than the Winterfox one?

Can we believe any single thing Bee/RH tells us? Bee's claimed to be in her thirties; now she claims that her RH behavior was teenage malfeasance. She was talking about Tolkien on in 2001 under her Winterfox identity, and yet she claimed as Bee that she hadn't read any fantasy before 2011. 

She's laid claim in various incarnations to a variety of backgrounds. She works pretty hard to erase her backtrail, but this is the internet and traces remain.

Small inconsistencies are human. Not knowing who the hell you are from day to day is a sign of a constructed persona.

I am curious: has anyone in the community ever met a person who identifies themselves as Winterfox/Requires Hate/Benjanun?

I know it's weird and rare, but this sort of thing does go on. Predators exist. Con artists exist. Abusers exist. People pretend to be other people. Sockpuppets proliferate. They fact that most of us wouldn't actually consider it--or wouldn't do it in a concerted manner with intent to harm--doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

Bee/RH has moved from internet community to internet community for the past ten years or so, starting fights, preying on people, abusing and threatening and gaslighting people, getting people to confide in her and then using their private confessions of anger to control them. She claims to punch up; what she has really done is grind already marginalized writers and fans into the dirt so she can hop up on their heads and elevate herself a little.

At this point, I think it's an open question whether the individual known as Benjanun Sriduangkaew/Requires Hate/Lesifoere/Pyrofennec/ValseDeLaLune/Winterfox/Winterfennec/ACrackedMoon/how does one person even have time? actually even exists as an independent person, rather than as some sort of bizarre matrioshka doll made of socks.

I would not be surprised if "something terrible" happens to "Bee" soon, given the failure of the unconvincing victim narrative she's been attempting to build. Munchausen's By Internet ("pseudocide") is a frequent outcome in cases like this.

Whatever her background, the fact remains that this individual has had a major chilling effect on discussion and promotion of works presenting diversity in our genre.  

She's not the victim. She's an abuser.


I know Requires Hate has apologized. I know that the narrative she's spinning is that she was young, that she's changed, that she's seen the error of her ways.

I don't believe her.

Abusers apologize.

They blame others for their actions, too, or claim that they'll change. And that's why I don't believe in these sudden, convenient, alleged "impersonators" who perpetuated her worst abuses. I do believe that people with a pattern of multiple abuse in multiple venues gonna sock, and gonna troll.

I believe that she is a abuser, and a bully, and that she shifts the narrative to protect herself and continue her abuse. I have spoken with a number of people I trust, including women and people of color, and I know for a fact that her bullying and vituperation continued in back channels into the summer of 2014. I know that she has engaged in whispering campaigns including character assassination and false allegations, some of them provided to editors or convention organizers. I know this because Athena Andreadis told me, in specific, and Athena's story is supported by the pattern of events and by conversations I've had with people who were inside Bee's circle of influence.

I know (because the stories of Athena and Rochita and Tricia Sullivan and Rachel Brown and other women who have chosen to remain anonymous match up with evidence still available to anybody with Google and some patience), that definitely Alex and possibly Tori supported this, and that everyone involved did and said some really unprofessional things--to and about other women writers, and to women writers of color, in specific.

I know, because of the sheer number of people who have come forward with substantially similar stories, that the evidence supports the idea that RH/Bee has exhibited a pattern of abuse entirely above and beyond her vituperative reviews, a pattern that continued at least into the summer of 2014 and quite probably to the present day--long beyond when she claimed she had reformed in her apologies.

I can't say what her motive might be, but a couple of obvious options do present themselves. The writers that Requires Hate went after were predominately women, predominately early career or midlisters, predominately women of color. People she might perceive, frankly, as competition. Or as potential allies insufficiently toeing her party line.

She policed their behavior. She told them how to write, and what to think, and what to say about books in reviews. When they did not conform to her demands, she set out to make them miserable or damage their careers. She intimidated marginalized writers into silence--on topics they had every right to speak out about, topics relating to their own identities.

It is worth noting that one of her tactics is to (personally or through intermediaries) attack readers and reviewers to suppress conversation about books of which she does not approve--such as works by Cindy Pon and N.K.Jemisin. It is worth noting that these works are disproportionately by women, people of color, and other marginalized writers. And that these writers were disproportionately early-career or emerging.

Those readers and reviewers must be considered her victims as well. Many of them are likely to have been people of color, given the nature of the communities she damaged. It becomes painfully obvious that her goal was never to support a diversity of voices, but suppress and suborn it.

That speaks to me not of activism but of a desire to police and control through intimidation.

I believe she, Truslow, and MacFarlane are and have been working together as a sort of Mean Girl Posse to control and intimidate others, and that MacFarlane and Truslow are currently playing Bad Cop and letting... I don't even know what to call her... play Sadder But Wiser.

They've never come after me, to the best of my knowledge, so I feel comfortable standing up and saying all of this.

Of course they wouldn't come after me. I wasn't vulnerable to them.


Nick Mamatas (a true chaotic neutral, and one of the internet's great drama farmers) has been positioning his defense--if you can call it that--of RH/Bee as a defense against her inevitable blacklisting.

Let me make it plain: I'm pretty plugged in in this community. The only place I have heard of this alleged blacklist is as a talking point raised by RH/Bee, Nick, and RH/Bee's other defenders. I have certainly heard of one or two people saying, "She was awful to me or someone I care about and I won't work with her." I have even more frequently heard of people telling other people the truth--that Bee is RH and RH is Bee.

Telling the truth about somebody is not blacklist, libel, or slander. Deciding you won't work with somebody is not a blacklist. A blacklist is an organized effort, with threat of consequences, to keep somebody from ever working in this town again.

Sort of like the abusive treatment RH/Bee was leveling against reviewers who reviewed books of which she did not approve, or that she and Alex were bringing to bear against Athena Andreadis for the crime of telling RH/Bee that Athena thought her best course of action was honesty.

It's curious how, again and again, this person levels accusations against others for doing exactly what she herself has done.

Likewise, where's the proof of the alleged doxxing against RH/Bee? The only place I have heard of it is from her and her supporters. A cursory Googling suggests, in fact, that her real name is still not a matter of public record.

So it seems unlikely to me that anybody has released her address and other private information publicly, which is the definition of doxxing.

I am not willing to say she can't reform, but I think a continued long-term pattern of obvious change is necessary before I am willing to trust the apology of a person who has literally lied to everyone about everything for literally thirteen years. Especially as she has apologized before, as Winterfox and as Requires Hate, and it doesn't seem like those stuck.

So let me make it even more plain: I'm not calling for a blacklist of Benjanun Sriduangkaew. I'm not calling for a blacklist (like that would even work in SFF, where we have as a community inherited a kind of weird pride in stubborn idiosyncratic wrongheadedness we call "contrarianism" from our forebears) of Alex Dally MacFarlane, either, or of Tori Truslow.

I believe their work should be published as it merits, and as editors see fit to pay them for it. I believe that they should be eligible for award consideration as they deserve it in the eyes of those who select for awards.

And while I also believe that the community I belong to should know that the person publishing under the pseudonym Benjanun Sriduankaew has behaved in an abusive and predatory fashion, I have no interest in focusing on her--or in centralizing her redemption narrative.

What I would like is for our community to take this opportunity for positive action. I believe that the people Bee/RH has harmed should be given as much support and aid in healing as practicable. I believe that potential future victims should be warned. I believe those who may feel trapped by her should be protected. I believe those whom she has abused should be helped to connect with one another as they desire.

I believe their voices should be listened to, if and when they choose to come forward. I believe that the people who have been silenced by this campaign of bullying should be given as much space to speak as they would like.

I believe that, on an ongoing basis and pursuant to our dawning understanding as a community of the need for harassment policies and a pro-active stance against bullying, we--the established members of the science fiction and fantasy community--need to make safe spaces where people who have been bullied and harassed can come forward and find strength and solace, as well as safety.

I believe we need to respond to this series of events in our community by making more space for marginalized voices, and promoting young writers, women writers, and writers of color.

My concern lies in protecting the vulnerable. We, the established members of the science fiction and fantasy community, owe a debt of care to emerging writers and marginalized voices, and those are the people who have specifically been targeted by this predator. We owe them shelter and consideration. Frankly, we need them more than they need us, because they represent our future as a genre and as a community.

Moreover, we owe it to our emergent writers to create a space where bullies cannot silence them, police their writing and their identity, and make them feel unsafe. I'm not just talking about the RH/Bees of the world here, but the Jim Frenkels as well. We need to let our emergent writers know that the Benjanun Sriduangkaews and Alex MacFarlanes of the industry have no power over their careers--really, functionally, literally no power.

To do this, we need to be willing to shine some light in dark corners and to slap some bright paint around the predators and missing stairs. We need to make space for the voices of those writers and the readers who wish to engage with their work.

To those emergent writers: If you are bullied, harassed, abused, or threatened, there are people in the community who will believe you, and who will stand up for you.

Basically, I believe Requires Hate should be treated the same way we as a community treat Theodore Beale/Vox Day: as a dangerous missing stair whose abuses and bullying should be taken seriously, and not justified by the fact that either or both of them may be covering their pathological behaviors under a veil of ideology.

But I also believe that we can use this opportunity to uplift the marginalized and the victimized, and that is where our future as a community shines.


*Blog comments will be closed. I will not respond to messages regarding Winterwhatever, because she's her own problem now. I don't want to talk to her or about her.

All of my available energy for this subject from this point forward is going to signal boost writers, editors, and readers of diverse backgrounds and diverse books.

A safe, moderated space open to the victims of bullying has been provided at Laura Mixon-Gould’s blog.

matociquala: (criminal minds gideon kill fast)
"Blaming The Target" Harassment Report Response Bingo Card

[ profile] elisem has made this charming homebrew old-school and absolutely useful bingo card derived from her recent experiences as a harassment reporter.

In light of recent events, I think it would behoove us all to take a moment out of our day to study these phrases, and eradicate them from our fucking vocabularies.
matociquala: (jarts: internet lawn defense league)
Apparently it's time again for the annual "Kids these days don't read Heinlein" argument, which--to be honest--I don't even understand why it's an argument. Kids these days don't read Heinlein, and you know what? That's their privilege. Heinlein doesn't speak in any meaningful way to their concerns. (As a heavy teenaged Heinlein reader my own self, I, personally, am a little sadder that kids these days don't read Zelazny, Le Guin, Delany, and Bradbury, because I think they'd have more to offer that's relevant, including less tiresome pontificating--as well as a larger serving of actual writing chops--but I also suspect that the people now sadly bewailing the long slide of Heinlein out of the canon of indispensable authors got a ration in their own youths about being insufficiently invested in E.E. "Doc" Smith. Though I also suspect the generation gap was less, for reasons I will explore below.)

Back in the dim mists of history, about ten years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the internet and Livejournal was where the cool kids hung out, I used to get into arguments with certain people who opined that there were no young SFF writers. I would present them with a list of SF writers under 35 (myself included) only to be told that they meant writers under thirty, or maybe twenty-five, and that those writers didn't count because they weren't "Hard SF Writers" (whatever the hell that means), and because they weren't being published in Asimov's and Strange Horizons (still one of the bastions of young writerdom in the SF world) didn't count.

And when I pointed out in return that Asimov's was a hard market to crack (it seems more welcoming to new writers these days), and that literary and craft standards are higher now than they were in 1940 and correspondingly it takes longer to develop a professional skillset--and that maybe the problem was that my correspondents weren't reading the markets that were publishing the young writers, I would generally find myself greeted with the wail, "Where are the Bob Silverbergs?" (Or, from slightly younger handwringers over the Incipient Death of SFF, "Where are the Neil Gaimans?!")

Way to shift a goalpoast, honey.

Because we get more than two or three prodigy geniuses in a generation. And because we can identify them from the scrum of young writers when everybody is not-quite-thirtyish and shooting rockets of possibility everywhere.

Well, I'm older now, and I'm feeling pretty safe in saying that (among many others) Scott Lynch, Seanan McGuire, and Catherynne Valente (All still only in their mid-thirties, ten years later--hell, I think Seanan wasn't even a thing yet when I was still bothering to get in these fights) have some staying power. Also, today is Sam Sykes' 30th birthday, and Max Gladstone just turned thirty last month. Happy birthday, Sam and Max.

It finally dawned on me that the people I was arguing with could not be convinced, and their opinions didn't matter anyway. The best of them, I think, were arguing out of nostalgia. They wanted stories by young writers that would make them feel the way the young Silverberg's stories made them feel when they were twenty. And that's not going to happen, frankly, because they aren't twenty anymore, and because my then-peers (and the writers who are now the generation* after me, to whom I feel an obligation as older colleague now, and how the hell did that happen?) aren't writing out of the concerns that were current and pressing in 1956.

The worst of them weren't willing to accept this new generation of writers because the lists of names I kept handing them were full of female, queer, and person of color names. Because that is what my generation of SFF writers looks like, in large part.

This was around the same time that I got into a certain amount of trouble by pointing out that many of my age-group peers don't read newer work by our older colleagues, and the older colleagues often don't read us at all. Which wasn't meant as a value judgment, but it seemed like one to many people, and no less a light that Bob Silverberg took me to task for it. (There he is again.  And as a certain recent publication of mine may seem to indicate, I have been, am, and remain a fan.)

But my point then stands: there is no due diligence to be a fan. And trying to force fans to consume stuff that doesn't speak to them is, well, pointless and alienating and will only drive them away.

I do feel like the standard is a little more exacting for professionals in the field--writers and critics owe it to ourselves to have a foundation in the history of the genre. But I will be the first to say that that is our own responsibility, and our choice, and how we handle our own professional development is our own lookout. I'm going to tend to give more weight to the opinions of a critic who demonstrates herself to be knowledgeable and well-read--but that also means being well-read among current writers, and I'm afraid we probably have as many critics in the field who judge everything against the standard of Poul Anderson as we do critics who haven't read very much published before 1990.

(1990 was twenty-four years ago, by the way, for people my age and older. Just a little bullet of perspective there. When I was a freshman in high school, the equivalent year would have been 1961.)

So I fully encourage people who want to develop a sense of the history of the genre to go back and read, say, Fritz Leiber. Hell, I regularly read Fritz Leiber, and I'm hugely fond of his work. Not in the least, because Fafhrd is a great big fluffy feminist. (Mouser is friendzoned forever though; man, what a douchecanoe.) But even with Leiber, who wrote strong female characters with agendas and agency, I have to keep myself firmly in rein sometimes and remember that he was writing for a predominately white heterosexual male audience that was un-accepting of seeing anybody else placed in the role of protagonist. The white dude always has to save the day, no matter how cool everybody else is. And he usually has to get laid along the way.

And you know, if you don't want to read that, who the hell am I to tell you otherwise?

Which leads me to a point about privilege, before I end this rambling dissertation and go for a nice long run before it gets too hot outside. I too-often see (almost always white, almost always male) commentors and bloggers saying that they don't have a problem reading books in which the protagonists are aliens, or elves, or women, or black people--so why is these so much fuss about the need for diversity and representation in literature? Isn't it about getting out of your own skin and seeing somebody else's point of view?

Other people have tackled this far more in depth than I have time or patience for, but I'm going to take a swing.

It's easy to say that when one has never found one's self in a position of being disenfranchised and erased. When one has that safety of an entire world that considers you the default to return to. When what one is is assumed to be normal and comfortable.

All I can think is that somebody who says he's not worried about representation has never found himself placed constantly in an object position, which is, quite frankly, unpersoning. He's never been told over and over again that he exists only as an accessory to somebody else's story.

Stories are important. Stories are the mechanism that our pattern-making brains use as an engine to understand the world. And our stories need to show all people that they have an important place in that world, and that they are the heroes of their own narratives, not the color in somebody else's.

And I think writers with privilege in any given situation--be it gender, gender presentation, sexuality, race, class, ableness, what-have-you--have the responsibility to make space in our work for readers who do not have those privileges. And I also think that we have the even more important responsibility to make space for the actual voices of other writers who come from different backgrounds, and that the onus upon us to read widely is even more important when talking about writers of our own generation who come from less-widely-represented backgrounds than it is when talking about writers from the depths of the 1930s.

Everybody deserves stories.

And to anyone who is tempted to argue with me on that point: Hey. Isn't it about getting out of your own skin and seeing somebody else's point of view?

*writer generations are a funny thing. They go by publication date rather than chronological age. Which makes me the same writer-age, roughly, as Scott Lynch and as Peter Watts, even though there's about a sixteen-year spread on our physical ages.

(Comments are screened, because I'm going for a run and I have better things to do.)
matociquala: (writing plot octopus)
A cool thing came in the mail today, which is to say, my Random House royalty statements. Royalty statements are kind of fascinating, not just because it's how I get paid, but because I can do things like watch the market share of ebooks burgeon over time. Or that mysterious thing where book two of a series sells fewer copies than either book one or three. (How does that even work?)

This was a particular good batch of royalty statements, though, because it came with the news that, nearly nine years to the day after it was published, Scardown has sold through its advance. (Hammered sold through much much more quickly, but it was my first novel and it had a lower advance--and frankly, better early sales.)


These books did super-well for first novels. They won me a Campbell (not a Hugo) award, and they also collectively as a trilogy (since they were all published in the same year) won the Locus award for best first novel. Hammered is in its fifth printing, the last time I checked.

For those of you who have joined me in the years since they were published, the Jenny Casey series concerns the adventures of Canadian Master Warrant Officer (Ret.) Genevieve Marie Casey, a foulmouthed fiftyish disabled vet who is seriously out of fucks to give, in a post-climate change future in which I anticipated smartphones but made the mistake of using mid-line 2002 predictions of what we could expect in terms of global warming effects.

Jenny still has my favorite voice of any character I've ever written. There are spies, badass older women, teenage girls who think they know how to save the world, morally ambiguous antagonists, space travel, perfect storms, an A.I. who thinks he's Richard Feynman, a loving homage to Jonesy the Cat, and my warning shot across the bow to anybody who thinks any of my characters might ever have plot immunity.

Still, talk about a slow burn, right? January 2015 will be Hammered's 10th anniversary, and all three books were published in the same year--2005. They'd be in fifth grade, if they were people. How does that even happen?

The thing that made me laugh out loud and text my friends, though, was that I have learned that Worldwired is $58.11 (fifty-eight dollars and eleven cents) from earning out its advance.

That's approximately a hundred (100) copies at mass market paperback rates.

And so I would like, in a completely self-serving fashion, to remark that the entire series makes a great gift*!

*for any of your cyberpunk, near-future thriller, or military-SF-loving friends.
matociquala: (bad girls firefighters)
Max Barry: TESTIFY!

As I said on twitter, I get more grateful for fathers of daughters every day.
matociquala: (bad girls firefighters)
Max Barry: TESTIFY!

As I said on twitter, I get more grateful for fathers of daughters every day.
matociquala: (criminal minds geeks with guns)
Because I am tired of being told there are no SF writers under forty anymore*, a poll...

ETA: Because apparently this above sentence is getting lost, and folks are being offended by not being included--the object is not to exclude writers over fifty. For purposes of this poll, writers over forty are presumed to exist, and in quantity. It's writers under forty whose objective reality is in question.

I apologize for the confusion, and any offense.

(I admit, my readership will tend to skew the data on this one. But that is kind of my point. I agree that fewer writers in my age group are being published in the Big Three, but I honestly believe this has more to do with the fact that there are more older writers still regularly contributing than due to any failure of existence on the part of my peer group.)

[Poll #1588147]

of course, feel free to refer your friends.

*and your hostess vanishes in a puff of logic.
matociquala: (spies mfu goodliest outside napoleon)
It will probably come as a surprise to nobody, but I love me some science fiction.

But recently, an acquaintance asked "Do you believe in science fiction?" Being in a contrary mood, I answered "no." What I meant, I admitted when pressed, was that I did not believe in the valorization of SF as the literature that's going to somehow save the world.

But then we got into an interesting conversation about what SF is, exactly, and how it feels, and whether it still serves any purpose. Does it serve any purpose?

Well, to that, I say thee yea.

The death of science fiction has been being announced yearly since I can remember, and it hasn't happened yet. It's a niche market--it has been and will be, as near as I can tell, because the joys of good SF are similar to the joys of good mystery: these are stories in which figuring out what is going on is an intrinsic part of the fun, and frankly, puzzles just do not appeal to that many people.

So the way to make SF more mainstream is to take the puzzles out of it--but at that point it stops being SF and starts being Wagon Train to the Stars. Which is fine--I love me a good space opera as much as the next girl (if the next girl is James Tiptree, Jr.)--but it's not what we're talking about here. Likewise, military SF is not really what we're talking about here, because that draws more of its foundation tropes from either Horatio Hornblower or All Quiet on The Western Front, depending on which subcategory of mil-SF we're in.

So there's that. Let's just assume for a minute that what we're talking about in this context is the range of "mainstream" SF, if you can justify using any such term. Fiction that's about sensawunda and testing ideas to destruction, in short.

Jonathan pointed out that modern SF treated quantum mechanics as magic, and it was not doing a good job of giving us futures we can believe in.

This was apparently the quarter in my slot, because it crystallized a lot of things I've been thinking lately.

I believe that SF is a useful and revealing narrative tool. I believe that it has applications no other genre can approach, and one of those applications is the alienation and illumination of aspects of the present that may be too buried in the noise of the world to get a good look at.

SF has always had a poor success rate at predicting the future. Thankfully, predicting the future is not what it's for, or we'd have to cop to being utter failures.

What we are pretty good at, though, is raising awareness of the possibilities, and allowing people to make conscious choices between the extremes. It's hard now to write Engineering In  Spaaaace! SF because that's not science fiction anymore--that's the world as it is. And you have to be pretty creative to find an angle that hasn't been mined. Planetary romances are hard--problematic in this post-Prime-Directive age, where we have a set of conventional wisdom about the evils of colonialism and Honky Saves The Day stories that make Barsoom a tad uncomfortable reading.

Quantum mechanics (and nanotech) do indeed get treated as magic much of the time. This is not new: Larry Niven was doing it before I was born. Rigorously adhering to known science has always been the core of a tiny subset of SF. The rest of the time we've been making shit up like mad--slow glass, psychohistory, positonic brains, time travel, aliens with no souls. (There is an entire small subgenre of Jesuit Vs. Alien stories, f or crying out loud. I blame Blish.)

This does not mean I'm agin super-rigorous SF. Dragon's Egg and Blindsight remain two of my very favorite books.

But hard SF (and not the sort of moderately crunchy SF I have been known to write**) has not been a majority of what's printed for at least fifty years, and before that my knowledge of the genre is too thin for me to state with authority. And even the "hard SF" of my youth had Clarke's Law to guide it--where we have Grey Goo, he had omnipotent aliens. Handwaving quantum mechanics is not significantly different, to my mind, than handwaving enormous psychic monoliths.

The fact is, SF is still looking for a unifying force, and has been since cyberpunk. Mundane SF was an attempt to address this, but I think it failed due to prescriptivism. I don't think we need that unifying force.

The genre is bigger and more diverse than it has ever been. Nnedi Okorafor is writing Zelaznyesque science fantasy; Peter Watts is writing hard SF as crunchy as anything the Golden Age could offer; Caitlin Kiernan is writing planetary romances of a dead mars; Kim Stanley Robinson is writing climatological studies imbedded in adventure novels; Jonathan Lethem is writing concretized metaphor; Ted Chiang is writing jewellike little SF stories that take as their starting-point Biblical myth; Chris Moriarty is writing fast-paced thrillers full of AIs and nifty ideas; Richard K. Morgan is writing political critiques under the trappings of reimagined cyberpunkish realities--and on and on--and it's all science fiction.

That diversity in and of itself is the important thing under development right now. I'm not old, and I am old enough to remember when the African-American SF writers were Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, and Steven Barnes--and I could not have named an Asian one. I remember when there were five or six writers tackling queer/gender issues--and many of them were straight and cisgendered. Now, the arguments are about how to open the genre to more voices and faces.

We have the fourth-generation problem, yes. The genre is not being born any more: it's not an adolescent. It's adult, and established, and a little set in its ways. But the diversity of fandom and prodom at this point is unrivalled, and those perspectives are essential to establishing an ongoing literary conversation. It's true: there is no next big thing. Steampunk is an aesthetic, and one that draws more on fantasy tropes than SF. It's possible to write steampunk SF--Julian Comstock is one such book--but it's not common.

That's your trend, SF. The thing you're looking for is here, has been here for a decade, and is being overlooked. The problem is not that the Red Marses and the Spin States and the Blindsights are not being written. It's that there's a whole bunch of other stuff going on too****.

Which, well. I fail to see as a problem.

There's another issue, about giving us futures we can believe in. I'm afraid that all too often, we're getting futures we do believe in, and they're not very nice. No more Kimball Kinnison frying steaks in space (we believed that? Really?) while his wife does wifely things at home. These days, SF wants to talk about world-ending post-colonial messes to clean up, and having inadequate tools to clean them with. It wants to talk about unprecedented lossed of privacy, targeted advertising, inevitable involuntary changes in our way of life, structuring and privileging families-of-choice--


If SFF reflects the zeitgeist (and really, it does, and it always has) then when we express a nostalgia for these older stories, we're expressing also a nostalgia for our own innocence, when it did not behoove us to be aware of the damage our warp drives might be doing to subspace or how the ecological and cultural impact of our space colonies might affect the life on other worlds.

If I were to use SF as a lens to view the world, I would learn all sorts of things about a culture. The economic and fast-forward future preoccupations of the 80's, reflected in cyberpunk, have given way to the fear that there will be no future at all (the Singularity, which might as easily be called the Nerd Deluge as the rapture of the geeks) or the fear that that future will be terrible. (Mr. Bacigalupi, I'm looking at you. And I might as well hold that Ragnarok lens up to my own work, too***.)

The futures we're reflecting now are more ideologically complicated, because the social fabric of fandom itself challenges some of our naive assumptions--a challenging that started decades ago, frankly, and has over the years offered us such answers as Bill the Galactic Hero and "Enemy Mine".

You can't just send a guy to terraform Mars anymore. Now he's got to do an impact survey, and confront the anti-terraforming factions. And maybe encounter a few moral ambiguities along the way.

I'm kind of okay with that, honestly. Everything we do in the world carries a weight of moral ambiguity, even if it's just simply surviving.

These kinds of stories are harder to write, and harder to read, but I feel less like a villain for doing my best to write them, and acknowledge a world full of ambiguities and compromises.

*ob. disclaimer: this post grew out of a twitter conversation with Paolo Bacigalupi, Jonathan Strahan, John Klima, and Caitlin Kiernan. Which of course we didn't think to hashtag.

**this may change, as I am on to a great idea currently and I want to see how crunchy I can get with it.

***funny thing is, that great idea (above) is a Technology Saves The World story. I might be about to write an anti-dystopia.... well, it's always good to change things up, I guess.

****and there has been for forty years, really, to give credit where credit is due
matociquala: (criminal minds garcia the love)
I'm writing book reviews and essays today so there won't be much blogging, but here, have something lovely--

Sandra McDonald's Periodic Table of Women in SFF

Nonexhaustive and there are several things about it that make me smile. Not the least of which is that I am a little sniffly to be included in such company.

Those are some hell-raisin' ladies on there.

Speaking of blogging, I'm brainstorming ways to get more process discussion back in this space. It's really what the blog is for, all dog pictures and harrowing caving stories aside, and I'd like to get back to my roots and talk about some writing if I can.
matociquala: (comics bone stupid stupid rat creatures)
Today, my plans are: clean as much of the house as possible, make dinner for friends, conquer the universe.

Starting with the office and my bedroom.

I will do this while listening to Car Talk. Sometimes brainless work is nice, and I am tired and stupid and slow-moving today.

At least there's tea--Carribean blue lady (the coconut kind) and Kousmichoff Prince Vladimir.

In award-related news, [ profile] aliettedb points out that oh, by the way, podcasts ARE eligible for the Hugo. And congrats to everybody who came home with a Nebula nom. Good work, guys!

In me-related news, there's an interview with me at Outer Alliance Spotlight, focusing on the constructions of gender and sexuality in my work.
matociquala: (criminal minds garcia technopeasant)

Somebody just emailed to ask me, in light of Amazonfailers saying how overpaid (and wealthy and greedy) authors are, how long it takes me to write a book. She phrased it in terms of 40 hour work weeks.

I had to answer, I have no idea.

My schedule for today:

6:30 am: wake up, roll over, push cat off laptop and start writing Grail.
8:30 am: 771 words! Good enough. Time to quit and go for a run, do some yoga, shower, eat breakfast. (While running, work on plot elements for Shadow Unit.
9:30 am: back at the laptop, reading a book for review, answering business emails, waiting for mailman, proofreading galleys
12:00 pm: Run errands--bread, dental floss, vitamins, kitty drugs 
1:00 pm: Go to gym, swim, think about a scene for The Steles of the Sky.
2:00 pm: Eat a heck of a lot of sushi.
3:00 pm: Home, working. Write that scene for The Steles of the Sky (already written in my head.) Write another portion of the scene for Grail. Damn character still not dead.  Maybe tomorrow morning.
6:00 pm: Fuck this, I'm starving.
7:00 pm: Brush dog and watch Memento
9:30 pm: take out trash, take dog out, feed dog (OMG we need dogfood yesterday), crap cats have no water, can nobody in this place but me wash a dish?
10:00 pm: answer work emails, pet cats, back to reading that book for review. I thought I might get the review written tonight, and I still might, but I wrote this blog post instead.
Midnight: fall the hell over.

I get paid somewhere around $12,000 for a book. That's before my agent and the IRS get their cut. If you want to know how I write three books a year? That's how. If you want to know why I write three books a year....


You know what? It's a great job, but I'm in it for the love, not the money.

You know, publishing runs on tiny little margins. I happen to think a book that takes me something like three years of my life to write (albeit intermittently) is worth $15.99 if you want to read it as soon as it comes out. (And I also think $4.99 is a fair price for backlist.)

See, only about 10% of the cost of a book is paper and ink. There's all that effort that goes into it, too--the effort of people like me, and my editors, and my copyeditors, and the cover artists, and the book designers.

Every single one of those people has to pay rent and eat. Some of them, poor sots, live in Manhattan, because that's where they keep the publishing industry these days.

I'm a professional, with years of experience and practice behind me. I have a shiny rocketship or two and a couple of cheeseboards that say other people also think I'm halfway good at my job.

I am not a bestseller. I am a midlist author with no spouse, no means of support other than writing, and no family money. I work hard.

(I'm not actually interested in discussing this topic; nor am I interested in arguing it. As far as I'm concerned, the current slapfight is exactly as boring as every other slapfight I've ever seen, and I don't have time to moderate a slapfight. But I did think it would be nice to give a solid answer to the question "So how long does it take you to write a book?" So here it is, and I am taking the unusual step (for me) of screening comments from non-friends.)

And if you excuse me, I have to go read this book so I can turn in this damned book review.

ETA And it's one AM and I finished that book finally. Night, guys.
matociquala: (writing gorey earbrass unspeakable horro)

Toby Buckell and Charlie Stross say everything about the Amazon debacle that I would say, if I weren't so tired. (Jeff Bezos, seriously, you make me tired.) John Sargent of Macmillan has a few words for the industry.

Tired, tired, tired.

The Fearless Kitten is now a 13-pound kitten (he's not yet a year old) and dwarfing the PC, who is an 8-lb cat. We're pretty sure, as he develops a grown-up ruff and long fluffy tail, that there's some Maine Coon in his New England Random Cat genetics. He's growing up to be a lovely boy, however, and once he's out of his adolescent destructive phase I imagine he's going to be a fantastic household companion.

Winter is back. It's cold enough that there is no dislodging the cats from the bed.

I'm back in spider mode this weekend, with the obligations piling up. Working on finishing reading this book I am reviewing (it is reminding me of some essential qualities of genre epic fantasy, in both good and not so good ways).

Right now, I need to get up, get dressed for the gym (it's a balmy six four degrees out there! I think I'm not running outside today!) and spend some quality time in a hot tub, then get ready to go babysit. Maybe I'll bring my poor neglected guitar, although I'm loathe to bring it outside in this weather.

When I get home, I have to put things in boxes so that I can mail them to people on Monday.

Tomorrow, I begin what will hopefully be my final big push on Grail. 180 pages, one major plot thread, some characterization and a climax. I can do that in a month. You betcha I can.

First deathmarch of 2010.

I also need to mail things. And go climbing. Also today I get back on the Discipline, which took a beating this weekend what with one thing and another.

Me and my slunk. We're on it, baby.

matociquala: (bad girls firefighters)
The amazing writer Kage Baker is very ill. She has metastasized cancer, and has been hospitalized.

Details and an address for messages of support are here. Please, no phone calls, as she is not strong enough.
matociquala: (can't sleep books will eat me)
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Google Books Settlement. 
matociquala: (criminal minds diana reid crazy)
20090406 002

Today's teacup: violets
Today's tea: Today is a day requiring both blackcurrant tea and salabat, which I made with jasmine green tea. (See below.)

Temperature this morning: 28 degrees

I'm finding myself a little crabby with the NPR story this morning on Louisa May Alcott, which seems a little disingenuous to me in that there's a deal of censure being attached to Alcott's working toward making a living.

Artists, of course, are expected to spend tewnty years learning a craft and art that they will then do just for the love of it. The fact is, yes, most of us will do it just for the love of it.

But we also need to eat.

Alcott grew up in grinding poverty with a fabulously popular but indigent father. The fact that she was concerned with securing a good encome in her adulthood does not make her less of an artist; it makes her an artist like any other.

 20090406 00320090406 001 High-mindedness and a desire for financial stability are not mutually exclusive, you know.

Alcott supported her family and herself with her work. She was an independent woman in an era when that was not common or encouraged. I am not, personally, a big fan of her work (though the ivy story in A Garland for Girls stays with me to this day), but I am a fan of her life.

And I'm pretty sure that the author of Little Women and Hospital Sketches could manage to be both an artist and mercenary at the same time.

Of course, I am a commercial artist myself. If nobody wants to read my books, I don't eat. Fortunately, I do consider accessibility an artistic value (one that I am not particularly good at, but it's nice to have goals) and I don't consider it a value that necessarily lies in opposition to depth of meanng or nuance or ambiguity. The hard trick, of course, is balancing it all. Layers; this is what layers are for.

[ profile] cristalia has been talking a bunch about Dashiell Hammett lately; I also offer Dennis Lehane as an example. (Mystery has figured out how to do this well; I imagine SFF can pull it off too.)

Both of them, I am pretty sure, earn(ed) a living.

Today I must work on The Secret Project With [ profile] kylecassidy (also featureing [ profile] trillian_stars) and The White City. I think part of the problem I am having with The White City is that it is at its heart a very bleak little book, and it ends with a noble sacrifice and a cold wind blowing--and I am a little scared of writing that, because it's so sad. Also, there's the simple logistics of Our Heroes solving the mystery. Which is apparently trickier than it might seem.


Well, blogging doesn't get the writing done. Off we go, avoidant-lass
matociquala: (david bowie realism _ truepenny)

Attached please find one (1) very long .mp3 of me reading "The Horrid Glory of its Wings" to my cat.

I think I edited out most of the neighborhood dog noises.

Hope this works. 

You know, I kind of like my job.

matociquala: (wicked fairy bowie)
This is like the Ninja Quotient*, only better.

*which uses the number of main characters who would have to be replaced by ninjas in order to improve the story as a measure of literary merit, and I believe is original to Some Guy ([ profile] lnhammer).

For example, Romeo and Juliet would be a pretty good play if you just replaced the title characters with ninjas, so the ninja quotient is two... oh, wait. That's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, isn't it?

Also, [ profile] scott_lynch has a very, very funny post on weird emails from random entitled people on the internet who think for some reason they own you. Or maybe it's only funny if you are the sort of person who gets weird emails from random entitled people, but it had me on the floor.

(see above, George R. R. Martin is Not Your Bitch.)

Also, apparently Scott (like [ profile] tim_pratt and [ profile] yuki_onna) is doing a Donation Model Book On The Internets. As somebody who is doing a donation-model hyperfiction collaboration on the internets, I support this endeavor.

See, the whole thing about this donation-model stuff is that we're trying to figure out new ways to exploit the internet that will get you wonderful stories, and allow us to feed our cats. Writers, as Scott points out, are usually actually Starving Artists, and sometimes we go a long time between paychecks. And the distribution models and so forth are changing--

So basically, right now we're all experimenting, trying to find ways to use our professional skill, acquired through years of practice, to continue making a living. In an era where everything is instantly copyable and DRM pisses people off, it's looking less and less likely that selling paper books for a marginal royalty is going to keep us in pretzels and beer twenty years down the line.

Musicians can go out and gig for a living. But writing in the modern world isn't a performance art, though once upon a time, storytelling was. Maybe the internet is a way to revisit the bardic tradition.

Basically, we're busking. We're trying to give you something awesome, and in the process Not Starve.

Seems like a reasonable trade to me.

Mile and 6/10 in 20:18 this morning, including a big hill and a stop to poop in a garden (The dog, not me. Yes, I picked up after him.).

Now, to shower, eat some banana bread, and invent a serial killer. Yeah, it's a pretty good job some days.
matociquala: (ace the wonder dog)
The morning at Volunteer Park (my run was more of an amble, really) I met a rangy natural-eared black-born gray Briard named Buddha. Huzzah!

In unrelated news, apparently it has come around again on the guitar, and it's time to talk about How One Gets Published. Which, honestly, is maybe not the best way to put it, because the object, after all, is not so much Getting Published as Building A Career As A Writer.

However, one step along that path is breaking into print, which is a major milestone in any writer's life, whether we're talking first nationally published short story or first novel, or both. For the purposes of this essay, we're going to talk about novels, with short stories being recognized as a category under that.

And the problem is that I can't give you an easy set of steps to follow to break into print as a novelist, because everybody's path is different. There is still no magic get-published button. But I can give you a series of strategies which either worked for me, or for friends.

1) Write better.

[ profile] ccfinlay once said to me, "There is always room for excellence," and I think it's one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten. Whatever level you're at as a writer, don't assume it's good enough. I've adopted, as my personal artist's motto, two phrases. One of them is There is no such thing as good enough.

2) Develop a voice and a vision.

Art is not about following the rules. (The second part of my motto is, There are no rules. There are only techniques which work or do not work. ) Have something to say, and say it in a manner that is clearly and uniquely your own.

This takes time and practice. Garage bands all sound the same, but I can pick out an unfamiliar Pete Townshend lick in about half a bar.

The infamous million words of shit, and the equally infamous ten-year writer's apprenticeship (mine was closer to twenty, but I've always been slow), are the process by which we develop this voice. Visual artists call it confidence of line; we call it narrative authority. Only practice earns it.

Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids. I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers. But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them.
         --Ursula K. Le Guin

3) Write, edit, submit.

We all know this part, right? Write stories. Revise them. Submit them to paying short fiction markets or to non-shyster agents (or to those few legitemate novel publishers who still take slush) in a manner consistent with the guidelines of those markets and the generally accepted practices of publishing. (Most markets will have their guidelines online. SFWA also has a page where they discuss the business of writing and proper manuscript format.)

It is not necessary to build a career as a short story writer to sell novels, but a few nice short story sales never hurt. On the other hand, my novel sales really drove my short story career into the major markets: before my first novel sale, almost all my short fiction sales were to teeny tiny indie magazines. (I love teeny tiny indy magazines. I still read slush for one.)

4) Build a peer group.

Find some like-minded writers who are on their way up and stick with them. Learn the ins and outs of the business from them. Share what you learn with them. Compare notes, share experiences, talk about editors and markets.

You need each other: trust me on this. Good places to look are serious online writer's forums (Absolute Write, Baen, Forward Motion) and online workshops (Critters, the OWW). Be aware, however, that there's a lot of misinformation out there. Check what people tell you.

Also, this is the most effective form of networking. No, really. As you become a more accomplished writer, you will find your peer group expanding kind of naturalistically. Knowing people as people is far more effective than trying to insinuate yourself into their circle for business purposes. (They can generally tell if that's what you are after.)

5) Get stubborn.

I first submitted a story to Asimov's when I was a sophomore in high school. I finally sold them one when I was 35. My first published novel was my fourth finished novel--and not the first version of that foruth novel either--and there had been many, many false starts before.

Persistence is vital.

March 2017



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