I May Live To Regret This . . .

UPDATE: The comments section for this post is FAR more interesting than the post itself. I’m grateful for all those who’ve stopped by to comment. I’m learning a lot from it, and what I’m learning makes me even more eager to see someone from The Human Wave get out there in front and tell the rest of the world what they do and how they do it. Because honest-to-god, folks, the rest of us DO. NOT. KNOW.

UPDATE #2: Kate Paulk has taken my challenge and made a first stab at a “here’s what we do” piece. Read it here.

photo via Douglas L. Saunders

. . . because I said that I rarely write about writerly stuff. But, damn! Again: from my point of view as a historian, these are exciting times. VERY exciting. So this is more the historian speaking than the author.

A bit of background: as I noted in a blog entry a few days back, publishing is in total disarray at the moment thanks primarily to the power of the digital. Thanks to that, it’s now possible to publish a book without the middlemen who have long held sway.

This isn’t a bad thing, and as I also said here, I wrestle every. single. day. with what to do with my own work. (That was the point of my original post about this: When your work consists of 85 to 90 percent research, and only 10 or 15 percent “writing,” it ain’t easy to give up the subsidy that traditional publishing offers.) (*1)

No one knows how the disarray will shake out because that’s how “history” works: We don’t know the end until the end gets here. (Unless you’re a writer of historical fiction, in which case you can make things turn out any way you please, lucky you!

The ramifications of the “new” publishing are being felt by everyone in the business, as evidenced by this absolutely bizarro article in the New York Times a few days ago. That in turn prompted this response from a group blog I’d never heard of but somehow stumbled across in pursuit of who-knows-what, and there I found a link to this thoughtful commentary on the nature of “writing.” 

But I digress from my main point, which is this: My original post about publishing generated, um, a response. (Not one I expected. I assumed no one would read it.) The response was, well, interesting, not least of which was this.

That got me thinking. Yesterday when I was walking, I contemplated the snarkitude of the response and thought “Wow. This is what a revolution feels like!”

This kind of rage is what, for example, the rich of Moscow likely felt as rebellion gained power and heft in 1916 and 1917. This is what ruling classes feel when the fury of the “oppressed” takes form and turns into outright revolution.  (Not, I hasten to add, that I’m either rich or a member of the “ruling classes.” Rather, my point is that the self-publishing crowd regards people like me as elitist and they wanna see me suffer.)


But then today, I was out walking (again; yeah, like most walkers/runners/swimmers — I do all three — my best ideas come when I’m in motion) and I thought “Well, okay. This is definitely what a revolution would feel like. Except — they’ve already won!”

The self-publishers have won both the battle and the war. They’ve won. The spoils are theirs. They’re making money. They call the shots. They’re building audiences and did I mention they earning money from their work?

And no, I’m not being snarky. They’ve won. I’m the loser, as is anyone else who still clings to traditional publishing. (Which is why I a great deal of time pondering how and when I should move to The Other Side.)

So here’s my question: Why are the winners so angry? I only follow one blog devoted to self-publishing, and its proprietor is a mostly mild-mannered guy; full of snark and condescension toward us losers (which, again, seems normal to me), but through his blog, I’ve landed at plenty of other self-publishers’ blogs, and man! These people are ANGRY. (*2)

Is this normal human behavior when the oppressed finally gain power? They lash out at their former oppressors? (Again, I’m hardly an oppressor. I’m a mild-mannered, middle-aged historian. But in their eyes, I’m an elitist, whiney jerk with an overly developed sense of entitlement.) (*3)

So please: someone ‘splain this to me, because I don’t get it. And I swear this is my last take on writers’ crap for awhile. It IS fascinating to me, but it’s not something I can take a lot of time to ponder because, well, I’ve got to ponder equally historical shifts in the American food system and, hey, a girl’s only got so many hours in the day.


*1: I’ve thought about this often enough that I’m daunted by the prospect. Should I opt for self-publishing, I’d have to get a job, obviously. The only thing I know how to do other than “history” is waiting tables. So I could do that and then use my off-time to research. By my calculation, and under those circumstances, the kinds of books I write would take 10 to 15 years to complete, and that includes giving up any other kind of leisure activity. (Bye-bye, husband!) (*1.1)

*1.1: The self-publishers scoff at such calculations. According to them, people like me simply don’t work hard enough. I think what’s really going on is that they simply don’t know what historians do, and for that, as I’ve said on many occasions, I blame the historical profession for its unwillingness to engage with the public.

*2: I inadvertently got a load of that contempt/condescension/rage myself a few days ago. And again: I get why the self-publishers are smug about their success. I would be, too! But angry? What the hell are they ANGRY about? They’ve won! They should be happy, not angry.

*3: I must say: that’s the other weird thing about the response from the self-pubbers who responded to my blog entry: They somehow got that idea that I believe I’m entitled to some kind of public subsidy. To which I say: Huh? I’m not asking taxpayers to fund my work (something many, many writers do, I might add). My arrangement with my publishers is entirely legal and private and takes nothing from anyone’s pocket.

89 thoughts on “I May Live To Regret This . . .

  1. Maureen, I’m a reader/lurker over at Sarah Hoyt’s blog, and while I’m certainly not a spokesperson for the Human Wave or Self Publishing or anything I’ll try to offer you a polite answer to the question! I’ve never been published, but I have a novel (actually two because I finally accepted that they were serious about that whole ‘over 120k words is too long’ thing) that I’m shopping around, and I’m on the fence myself about publishing vs self pubbing. Its a scary time to be entering this industry on either side of the fence. I’d just like to say that both you and Sarah seem like very lovely and intelligent women and hopefully this little incident can generate something positive for you both.

    About the anger you’re seeing, I think its less about publishing vs self publishing and more about the bad behavior of a lot of publishers and agents towards midlist authors. Especially in genre fiction this has been quite prevalent. The entire Human Wave is the result of people who have had their material suppressed in some cases for decades finally finding a way around the gatekeepers. You can read all about this on Sarah Hoyt’s blog and a lot of others if you’re curious.

    I don’t think there’s so much gloating as there is a palpable sense of euphoria about finally having the freedom and control to write what they (we?) want to write and a release of anger at the bad actors in the publishing community who are grasping at straws to keep them on a leash.

    I don’t see so much gloating about winning or defeating publishing. Its terrifying, frankly, thinking about being your own publisher and marketer, going out there with no safety net and depending on this for your livelihood. The entire self pubber community is largely growing as a response to people’s trying to network and communicate with each other on how to do things, how to work, etc.

    Now about you and Sarah Hoyt and a lot of the ‘self pubbers’ that I think you have inadvertently insulted. I’m not directly involved so I’m just going to go out on a limb here. I think its less that than it is a non fiction vs fiction writers thing. Especially a genre fiction writers thing. Lets face facts. Genre writers get no respect from the literary crowd. I think you drastically underestimate the amount of research that goes into a genre story. I’ve done … gods. Years of research in my own story since its set in a fantasy world loosely based on 1800’s era France with a certain Chinese influence. I’ve researched fashions, weapons, vehicles, city life, town life, how people spoke, how they addressed each other, how they thought about non French, what the life of the mind was like, etc etc etc. I’ve spent so many hours in google search after fruitless google search on message boards, flipping through books on the French, Chinese, Armenians, Tibetans and a thousand other subjects, in libraries, etc. This is not unusual. And this is fantasy! Sci fi is a thousand times more intensive dealing oftentimes with very arcane issues of advanced physics questions and their application to your story. And I know the research I’ve done pales in comparison to what Sarah has done for her historical fiction novels. I’m just speaking for myself here but I felt like you were disrespectful of the self pubber / genre fiction world and the exhaustive work that goes into writing in that space.

    So there you go, that’s my personal answer, not an answer from anyone of note from Self Pubber Island. Hopefully its helpful.

    • Thank you so much for all of this. No, I didn’t realize that some genre writers do so much research (I’ve always envied fiction writers because, hey!, they can just make stuff up and wouldn’t that be GREAT!?). So I appreciate the info on your own experience. (Although I’d take flipping through books and using Google ANY DAY over what I deal with in my own research. I long for the day when the Google guys do what they say they’re gonna do and digitize everything.) (Sarcasm there. The Google guys have no clue…)

      I agree that the literary mucky-mucks can be dismissive of “genre” writers. I still love Stephen King’s rant about that at an awards ceremony a few years ago. And if one more person tells me that mysteries aren’t literature, I’m gonna punch ’em.

      In any case, being disrespectful was the last thing I intended. This whole revolution in publishing is scary enough w/out me or anyone being high-handed……So apologies to you (and anyone else who was offended). (But hey! I clearly don’t have a monopoly on rude, nasty behavior, at least not judging by the Hoyt-rant.)

      Anyway, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate it (and the pleasant “voice” in which you delivered them).

      • Hoyt is really a wonderful person, I stumbled on her site from an instapundit link awhile ago and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. Give her a chance, you two just rubbed each other the wrong way.

    • About the anger you’re seeing, I think its less about publishing vs self publishing and more about the bad behavior of a lot of publishers and agents towards midlist authors. […] You can read all about this on Sarah Hoyt’s blog and a lot of others if you’re curious.

      This is exactly right. Most of the anger you were seeing on Hoyt’s blog and in its comments was directed at the world of traditional publishing, and it was splashing onto you because Hoyt’s commenters perceived you, rightly or wrongly, as defending traditional publishing.

      If you want to know where that anger at traditional publishing is coming from, this post from Sarah Hoyt’s blog is probably the best place to start. Note the title: “He Beats Me But He’s My Publisher” — that should give you a clue as to how she perceives her experience with traditional publishing.

      It may not be the 1,500-word essay on what self-publishers do that wou asked for, but it’ll be a good place for you to start understanding where the volcanic* anger at traditional publishing is coming from.

      * Volcanic anger: A deep reservoir filled with vast quantities of molten anger, that will sometimes erupt with little warning at the oddest times, yet there’s still just as much anger left after the eruption as there was before, because it’s been building up for SUCH a long time. The volcano metaphor is apt in SO many different ways that it’s scary.

      • RObin, thanks for this. And you’ve made my point for me! The rest of us DON’T KNOW what goes into the kind of fiction you write; so we DON’T KNOW why you deserve more respect. So tell us! (See my longer comment above in reply to Kate.) Again: THANKS!!!

      • You’re entirely welcome — and I very much agree with your point that it would be good if the rest of the world knew about this.

        I was going to comment about how unlikely it would be that the Atlantic would print an essay such as you describe written by an author of “genre fiction”, but then I noticed that Sarah Hoyt beat me to it in her reply to your comment on her blog. So I’ll just reiterate the suggestion I wrote over there — that if the gatekeepers at the Atlantic, or any other traditionally-published news journal, won’t take articles written by “genre fiction” authors, maybe the authorial credit on the article should be by… someone else.

      • This is officially turning into a madcap play with people scooting through doors as others enter. I just posted a response about getting past the “The Atlantic won’t bother with us” over at Sarah’s site.

        I think many of you don’t understand how much publishing, especially JOURNALISM, has changed. Go look at The Atlantic: It publishes a dizzying array of pieces from a dizzying array of writers — in the form of op-ed pieces or short essays. And if you think that won’t work (and I believe it would), then post the piece on someone’s blog and tweet and Facebook the hell out of it.

        As long as you (not YOU personally, but your crowd) cling to your ghetto mentality and to the chip on your shoulder, you will continue to be disregarded. You gotta get past that! What you all do is fascinating. I’ve had an incredible education in your genre the past few days. So now get out there and tell others. Please! Again, this isn’t just about YOU guys. This is about the turmoil in publishing. You could go far toward moving the conversation in a more constructive direction and get more respect in the process.

  2. Follow up point. Most of the ‘self pubbers’ bridge both worlds and see them as two different strategies. The point is not to destroy or replace traditional publishing but to explore and exploit all your options.

  3. Maureen,

    As a reader of Sarah Hoyt’s blog, and an author myself, I can say that one of the things which bothered me was your implication that fiction writers “churn out” books – in short, that those fortunate enough to be able to write quickly are nothing but hacks.

    It’s obvious you didn’t intend to insult fiction writers, but to someone who writes fast, has been called a hack because of this (yes, there’s a perception in fiction that you need to spend years polishing every last word and making it shine – and no, not every writer works this way. I imagine not every non-fiction writer works the way you do, either, so it all balances out somewhere), and has suffered industry attempts to slow her down (Sarah has chronicled all of this in her blog), your post ended up coming in somewhere between “match to tinder” and “incite nuclear war”.

    Also – from the perspective of someone who’s followed Sarah’s postings – she was not attacking you. She was dissecting your post – in anger and frustration, certainly, but dissecting the post, not you personally. That wasn’t “rude” or “nasty”. Merely blunt: I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sarah pull her punches (as an aside – “rude” and “nasty” is what happens when I get on a rant, which is why I try to stay polite).

  4. So inspired by Dark Eden, I’ve been thinking about all of this, and here’s an idea:

    I gather that there are a LOT of genre self-publishers, and that many feel unappreciated and misunderstood.

    But that’s no wonder: Just about everything written about self-publishing in “mainstream” media is about the exceptions — the Amanda Hockings, the people who somehow make bazillions. AND people like AH are typically dismissed as WRITERS. Think of the stories you may have read about her in which her millions are praised, but her writing? Hmmm, not so much. Because, ya know, it’s just “fantasy.” (Or whatever it is that she writes.)

    So the rest of you are out there busting your asses trying to earn a living, doing substantive research for your books, getting no respect, getting dissed by people like me (albeit unintentionally) because WE DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DO. Right?

    So it seems to me that a) there’s a desperate need for someone to tell the world your story; and b) that now is the perfect time. Journalism itself is in a roil, which has left openings for ordinary people to tell their own stories. I’m thinking of places like HuffPo, which is a swamp of bad writing, misinformation, and fluff, but at least offers outlets for various voices. Although in this case, I’m thinking something much more substantive: like The Atlantic, arguably THE best magazine in the US and hands-down the best digital magazine.

    Recruit one of your number to write a 1500-word (give or take a few hundred) essay about what’s it like to be “on the other side” — tell us what you do, how you do it. Tell us of your legions. Tell us about the sacrifices you make for your art. Tell us about the research you do (truly, that was news to me. I don’t read SF or F — although one of my kids writes it — so had no idea how much research goes into it.) Tell us about your devoted readers who won’t let you get away w/making stuff up.(And no, I don’t not read it because I look down on it; it’s just not what interests me. I pretty much only read fiction, but my tastes run elsewhere.)

    Tell us! Educate the rest of the world. If no one in the outside “establishment” is going to bestow respect on you, then do an end run. Go around the establishment (which you’ve already done VERY VERY successfully in publishing your work) and communicate directly with the public.

    One other, one less obvious, benefit is that you’d provide ordinary readers with better insight into the world of self-publishing. Despite what you all think of me (and clearly many of you were just as guilty of jumping to conclusions about me!), I’m convinced that self-publishing IS the new paradigm, and folks from your world could foster the growth of the new paradigm.

    Who knows? Maybe even “traditional” publishing would be forced to think harder about what they do and why they do it. We all need to be thinking about how we do what we do, because the “how” part is changing so so so fast.

    So here’s hoping someone among you will provide this service. I’m dead serious about this and think you’d create a rich opportunity for opening dialogue (oh, gawd! I’d hoped to get through my life w/out ever using that phrase) between and among the players in the worlds of writing and publishing.

    • I’m going to wait for Kate’s blog at mad genius before I try to comment on the general of what you’re asking for, but I’m going to toss a specific to you to give you a feel for the sort of thing that many of us are dealing with on this subject.

      Since around 2000, I have been a member of the crew of people who have assisted Eric Flint with the “1632” series. Originally written as a stand-alone novel in published in 2000, the series has expanded to nine novels in print in hardcover with three more scheduled to appear in the next twelve months, three “traditional” hardcover anthologies, three “Braided novels” which are sort of novels, or perhaps anthologies set around a novella out in hardcover, four hardcover anthologies which were paper re-prints of electronic magazines “printed” at baenebooks.com (not at that time offered at Amazon) and two hardcover anthologies which are “best of” annuals from the e-zine. That’s twenty-four titles — all still in print. Call it 2.5 million words and you’re around correct.

      Plus, the series has a dedicated electronic magazine published every other month that publishes around 80,000 words of fiction and non-fiction dedicated to the series every other month, all paid at professional rates and a Science Fiction Writers of America qualifying market. We just published the forty-second issue. Call it another five million words.

      PLUS we have an active forum dedicated to the series with archives of around a half-million forum posts.

      The series is a time-travel alternate history series which takes a town, based on the real town of Mannington West Virginia and drops it into central Germany in 1632 at the height of the 30 years war, approximately at the same time that Tilly sacks Magdeburg. Our continuity rules have two origins. 1) if it wasn’t in Mannington West Virginia at 2 PM on Sunday April 2, 2000, it isn’t in Grantville and 2) up until Grantville arrived all history matched ours exactly.

      Our character continuity is tracked using a large GED file (the sort used by Geneologists) and tracks 3600 “uptimers” and some 20,000 historical “downtimers” plus their fictional descendants.

      A recent (and very heated) argument in the forumswas between one group supporting a story idea and another opposing it which depended on the potential transit time for a letter from Nurnberg to Moscow in late 1636. Maps were waved, published rates from the Thurn and Taxes Post from the period were cited, historical records of shipping in the Baltic in the period were brought forward.

      Don’t get me started on conversations about the teen years of Arangzeb and if Sha Jahan can prevent his fate, or the availability of credit and monitization of the Boyars in 17th century Russa or…. You get the idea.

      On the other hand, I will mention that I helped an author re-write an article on producing and pressing records to play on Victrolas through eleven re-writes and send-backs for citations.

      You’re a historian, did you know that there is an on-line database where someone has transcribed the actual prices bid and paid for goods at the Amsterdam port throughout the 17th century, so you actually can find out what the going price was for a pound of Lac, or a mile of one inch hemp rope of a tun of soap?

      What you can’t imagine is what happens when we get something wrong. How we get yelled at for an anachronistic use of a word or a pigment which had not yet been developed.

      Never in my life did I expect that I would be able to recount details of the lives of the English Catholic Martyrs or eagerly buy a book on mule train and wagon routes used by Nurnberg traders for the “Nurnberg Tand” or end up building a steam engine to prove someone wrong.

      Been there. Done that.

      The core writing team has traveled to Germany. We’ve stood where the town “landed” we’ve stood in the building used for the county administration office three years after the town landed in Germany (built in the late 1300’s and vacant in 1634) and discussed how we would have remodeled it while the social workers of the state juvenile welfare department stared at us.

      One of our core writers is a PhD historian who’s specialty is early modern Germany.

      Each year we get together somewhere at an SF con and invite our fans to join us. For the last two years of the core writing team has had a standing-room-only crowd for an hour-long session on how modern music is going to sound to 17th century ears because of the difference between equal, well, and just temperings of tuning scales and what the introduction of syncopation 300 years early might do to musical development. — don’t get me started on Banjos.

      We also had a standing room only crowd on the subject of Money and the fallacy of Gresham’s law.

      Do you get a sense of why it hurt more-than-just-a-little to be told that “we just make stuff up?”

      One of the most difficult things for people who don’t write fiction, and especially people who don’t write GENRE fiction to understand is just how important it is to have and impose rigid rules on your fictional world and character. Otherwise, your readers can’t import motive, they can’t understand why someone’s doing something. World building is critical to genre fiction because without a consistent set of rules everyone knows and agrees to, there’s no ability to build suspense, no mystery, nothing. Things “just happen.” That’s a characteristic of BAD fiction.

      So, that’s why you got beat on. And I apologize for the length of this, but you need to know a bit of what we deal with, and why we get -so- angry some times.

      -_ Rick Boatright

      • But but but … Rick. Don’t tell ME this. Tell the WORLD! This is all truly fascinating and that’s why I’m encouraging you, all of you, to spread the word. THE REST OF US DON’T KNOW THIS!

        I gather many of you feel disrespected by the “traditional” publishing industry. Fine. So do something about it! What you just wrote is absolutely worth “broadcasting” to a more general audience. Don’t waste here, in the comments of a blog five people read (five if I’m lucky…) Put it out there.

        Again: I think this is the ONLY way to move the discussion about “non-traditional” publishing forward; to move it past the “Oh, look at Amanda Hocking” routine. At the risk of repeating myself (but what the hell; why not?): we’re living through a truly momentous upheaval in writing and publishing, and it’s people like YOU and yours who can move the conversation forward.

      • You have a sense of humor so dry it’s difficult to detect. It is not difficult to detect you are a pragmatic rationalist that believes equal is as equal does. I found it inadvertantly hilarious that you say your research is 85-90, because that’s what these “fiction” writers do – they don’t have to and you do but that makes them the same. In fact they don’t have to – they love it because it is in their nature, not a requirement of great fiction, unless Charlotte Bronte was a pedant as well. So, research – great for you and William Darymple, death for fiction, yet that’s what your detractors at Blame.com do. If they spent as much time wondering about why they can’t turn a phrase on its head in a lively fashion instead of blaming others for the result of they’re not doing so, they’d be alright, and writing good stuff.

        I was involved in a minor dust up for (surprise) merely stating my opinion with one of these big minds a couple of months ago. In retaliation, I wrote an SF novel in only 3 weeks, 55,000 words. I’m not a writer. I did no research and there is little doubt in my mind that it is the one thing that evades these people – ORIGINAL. I play with the prose, turn phrases on their head, call inconsequential characters “tall” and “thin” rather than making up a biography for people who won’t appear again like these people do, write dialogue like a comments section instead of killing it with useless descriptions and backtracking and explaining the world and the novel moves. It may stink as a novel but at least I TRIED.

        I did it to prove a point: that even someone who can’t write can in fact be a better artist than someone who does write if they are artistically honest and don’t obsess on nonsensical detail that is a serial killer to creativity.

      • James,

        There’s one incorrect assumption you’re making, which is why you and most of the commenters at Hoyt’s blog spent so long talking past each other:

        … write dialogue like a comments section instead of killing it with useless descriptions and backtracking and explaining the world …

        The phrase I highlighted in bold is what you’re assuming Hoyt, the 1632 authors, and other lots-of-research SF authors do — but they don’t. Their term for that sort of thing is “infodumping” — dumping a load of information on the reader instead of weaving it skillfully into the background of the story — and it’s a cardinal sin against storytelling.

        So if that’s what you think Hoyt & co are doing, it’s no wonder you think they’re bad storytellers. But they don’t. I’m sure you’ve read some who do infodump badly and ruin the story — I’d love to hear what authors those are and which books they do it in — but check out 1632 sometime and see if it has the dry-as-dust infodumping that you think it does. It’s free, part of Baen’s Free Library (which usually contains the first couple books of a series in order to get readers hooked on the series so they’ll buy the rest), so cost isn’t a factor. You just might discover that you’ve been misinformed, and that all that research doesn’t get in the way of the story after all.

        There’s my challenge to you — go read a novel that you think you won’t like, and see if you do like green eggs and ham after all. And I’d be quite happy to reciprocate, if you want to issue me a similar challenge.

      • P.S. The sequel, 1633, is free as well, in case you decide one book isn’t a large enough sample size and want to make it two.

      • Robin, I own Hoyt books – breaking up conversations and actions with descriptions and explanations is endemic. These types of artistic hemming and hawing are the sure sign of an “artist” who really has little to say as an artist, but a great determination to do it – they are short stories padded out to novel length. Read Witchfinder’s lackluster opening sequence without one original depiction in it – couldn’t the entire place have been red or something just to wake me up? And the actions with the girl and the dragon – broken to pieces – read the swordfight in the one about the Musketeers. I understand a slow burn and character building but delay towards no purpose, passages with no goal and diversion to add words makes no sense to me. Read The Age of Innnocence – now that is a carefully constructed novel and successful, not because of its detail, but because of the goal of that detail. Wharton does not waste a paragraph and I would recommend van Vogt’s 800 word plan for those who need a kick start.

        I didn’t pull this out of nowhere and I certainly don’t have anything against her personally and it’s certainly not her but the entire nepotistic cabal – they don’t want critiques, not really – stab me in the eyes if any of them are ever in an SF Hall of Fame. I love fantasy. What I don’t love are people who refuse to examine themselves and examine others for the cause of their problems, especially when it is any way turned on me. And they are turning SF into a stereotype factory by pandering to the lowest common denominator rather than challenging readers.

        Read Richardson’s silly stupidity and smugness to me about something he truly knows nothing about. I’ve read his latest “effort.” It’s straight from a children’s cartoon show full of stereotypes. Ideas aside, since many recycle them, do I really need to read prose that is completely undistinguished? And ideas included, can’t we have twists on them so I don’t feel I’m reading the same novel for the 100th time with a few things rearranged? Listen, you’re talking about people who genuflect to Hatchett, a man who couldn’t even write for Mad Magazine in the 60s, and have no respect for Jack Vance, one of the finest American prose stylist’s of the last century – and they’re WRITERS. These people have no sense of their genre’s own history, love obsessive detail, compare themselves to Heinlein while being completely unoriginal writers.

        I especially despise it when I point out the double standard and am told I am a moron, a troll, part of a conspiracy and someone who attacks when in fact I used the exact same language and tone as the original article and the commentors, though I didn’t go as far with the insults. People who think anyone who disagrees are an enemy are goofy. And read today – Maureen is insular? I’ve never been to a more insular and inbred group in my life and with self-supporting delusions based on some kind of a weird inferiority complex where they don’t present arguments, they WIN them.

        The remarks about me today in the aftermath by Paulk are the triumphant “I win” remarks I would expect from a child. The argument then is that I’m either stupid, or a troll disguising my true intent. And your telling me people so self-absorbed and arrogant are capable of artistry? That type of thing is the exact opposite of artistry. Artistry is based on great perception, not a high IQ.

        And if people want to engage stereotypes to appeal to a fan base like Western paperbacks used to do, why would I have a problem with that? But again, people outside of that narrow sub-sub-genre should not be attacked for not recognizing their larger artistic imperative – it simply doesn’t exist.

      • Okay, now that you’ve mentioned some specific examples that I’ve been able to read for myself, I can see what you mean by “killing [dialogue] with useless descriptions and backtracking and explaining the world”. You don’t like that style at all, and would rather have see dialogue concentrated in a short, compact section, with action and/or descriptions elsewhere. I disagree entirely with your taste — I quite enjoy the style in which Ms. Hoyt and others write — but that’s a matter of taste, and de gustibus non est disputandum.

        I do object to your taking your own taste and promoting it to a matter of definitions, saying that what these authors write is no longer “true” SF — who made you the arbiter of what is and is not SF? — but since that’s a matter on which we will never agree, there’s little point in arguing about it any longer. I have understood your opinion and you have understood mine, and it’s time to agree to disagree. Farewell, and I truly do hope you are able to find more books you enjoy. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, reading well-crafted books I truly do enjoy, and wishing you could learn to enjoy them too.

      • Robin, I have read lots of novels I thought I might not like and been won over. That’s happened a lot because of 7 years spent outside the U.S. I’m always scrambling to find something. That’s how I stumbled onto A Song of Ice and Fire. Never had liked Martin but I was in Athens and any port in a storm. I was stunned by how good it was.

        That’s how I read Peter Hamilton who I didn’t know in ’99 and tried in Bali – again, it was fantastic.

        And I’ve read fantasy I thought I would like by 2 authors I’d enjoyed, C.S. Friedman and Christopher Rowley. I hated the Coldfire and Bazil Broketail – their effortless artistry had deserted them.

        I’ve tried recommendations in modern fantasy that seem to be consensus picks – Hobb, Jordan, Goodkind. I don’t think they’re very good. Somehow I made it through the first 9 Jordan’s, sniffing and pulling on my non-existent braid in frustration. They seemed to spend 8 million years hiding in the world’s most boring circus towards no purpose I could see. So these other genius authors at the cabal are angry. Well, so am I. I am especially angry when they promote each other as the next breakthrough and like a fool I believe it and read it. Read “The Forlorn” by Freer. Hmmmm. I am not a writer. I don’t even know how to properly construct paragraphs, sentences or do punctuation, but I can could write a better SF novel than that.

        And so I did, I threw down the gauntlet and wrote. It may not be very good as a novel, but it’s artistically honest, and I tried, I really tried, to twist things up a bit. I hung it on a stereotype and made a depraved dystopian comedy satire. It’s here:


        Or rather, it was there. Suddenly, just now, for the first time in 3 years, the site is down, gone. I leave to you to wonder what kind of people we’re really dealing with here. Angry, internet geniuses and vengeful geeks who do not brook dispute. That is a really dark place.

    • Okay, it’s a start. But again: to those of us on the OUTSIDE, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. You’re still conversing with the insiders. See my comment above to Rick Boatwright. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the start. But if you want respect from “the other side,” you’ve GOT to explain to them/it why you deserve it. RIght? (Or, who knows, maybe I”m totally off base.)

      • Could I add just another thought? (Why, yes, sure, Maureen! Go right ahead…): I gather from a quick glance at comments at Hoyt’s website, in the entry where you also posted your start, that some commenters object to my suggestion that they tell the rest of the world what their work is about. The objection was, I gather, that, hey, why should we bother. If people want to know about us, let them come look for us.

        But my point (which I gather I didn’t make clearly enough) was that it’s impossible for a person to hunt for something that she doesn’t know is there! That’s how oblivious the “outside” world is to your work. So while I gather than my suggestion was taken as yet another example of my arrogant elitism (if only they knew how off-base that was….), that was the last thing I intended.

        But again, I’m not sure anyone over there READ my suggestion except you.

        Anyway……… I gotta get back to work. But please know that I’m so grateful you were willing to step off the base and commune this alien. Hope you’ll come back.

      • I do note that SF&F authors have been ghettoized since… Well, call it the 1970s, because that’s when I started reading SF&F. To a certain extent, your insistence on “tell everyone who isn’t in SF&F” is going to provoke — in some readers — a certain sense of… “We have been. Mainstream doesn’t want to hear it. What rock have you been living under?”

        I do mean that with polite, baffled frustration. The information has been there, but it has been disregarded as “that skiffy trash,” and SF in particular winds up lumped into “Horror” in the media. Unless it’s Star Trek or Star Wars or a parody thereof. (Aliens is SF Horror, and I want nothing to do with it, THANK you very much! I scare myself on my own way too much without giving myself nightmare-fuel.) Oh, sometimes a book will break through and make it “mainstream” — whereupon many people, often including the author, will suddenly disavow all claims that their book has connections with “that SciFi stuff.” Oh, no. Now it’s literature.

        Been there. Seen that. Rolled the eyes. Heard the disdain for “that genre stuff” from the English Department Literature Clique, where the teacher bragged about how they’d turned down Stephan King because he was too much a genre hack. Got the C- in the class because I wrote fantasy and not “literary.”

        You may well find authors and fans who have the energy to put into one more shot at discussing the rigors of intricate SF&F with the “mainstream” folks. (Aka “the mundanes,” to many SF&F fans.) As someone who has seen this since I was a kid and a reader only, and suffered for my genre ideals? Someone who is already burnt out on the idea that I am going to be seen as anything but One Of Those Weird People Who Dresses Like Harry Potter Because All SF&F Lovers Do That? Yeah, I wouldn’t take on that attempt. I can hope more articulate people will. But…

        SF&F has been systematically relegated to “genre trash” for decades. People who stood up and pointed out the literary value the best of SF&F tend to be told, “Oh, but that’s not SF&F, that’s Tolkien.” (Or fill in your author of choice; Anne Rice (The Vampire Lestat) springs to mind, Harlan Ellison (Repent, Harlequin, Said the Tick-Tock Man), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), and Ursula K. Le Guin (The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas) spring to my mind.)

        After all that, please understand why “gosh, why don’t you tell people??” is going to garner responses that may be less than polite.

        But in general, SF&F fans tend to be a friendly bunch; if you ever get a chance to go to a SF&F convention in your area… You might want to try it. Check out some panels that discuss world-building, or analyze works, and see if we’re all a bunch of “aw, make stuff up that sounds good” slobs.

      • I think their rage stems from another source and it has to do with failure. No one is that thin-skinned who thinks their work is good; they’d have an air of breezy confidence and laugh it off. Just like I do because I’m a genius and the best photographer in history too. I could probably jump a hundred feet straight into the air if I wanted to but I don’t want to. The Arab Spring started because of me and Mubarak stepped down from office after he and I had a little chat. I have had anger be wind in my sails but it made me a better artist, not one devoted to making bad art and hating others. Some people develop tools for self-criticism that enables them to take hard looks at themselves and like it. This is the road to art, not thinking others are idiots because they can’t understand your brilliant art. I make art because I have to. Most people never see it. I do it to please myself. When it’s done I’m done.

        By the way, you smell funny.

      • Elizabeth, thanks so much for that. So another layer of understanding added to my schooling. Truly, I appreciate all of this. I’ve learned a hell of a lot this week (not least of which is to keep my mouth shut??) But your insight and examples are interesting and useful and thanks for taking time to comment (and do so constructively!).

      • I agree with Elizabeth in almost every particular except for King and Rice – they are genre hacks. What I learned from being in the ghetto of comics and SF and SF film is to learn to take hard looks at things and try to distinguish when I like something and when it’s something actually with merit. People laughed at me like crazy for reading SF&F but I didn’t really care. They were the ones missing out not me. And now, all these years later, they flock to Avatar, which is basically an Edgar Rice Burroughs story from 100 years ago, and to see The Avengers.

        Elizabeth is right. People have sad biases that amount to believing that soda equals dumb and wine sophisticated. SF stupid and Jane Eyre proper adult reading. I love Jane Eyre, but the Bradbury, Ellison, Leguin stories Elizabeth mentioned are easily just as sophisticated. Anybody who thinks SF is a ghetto of star ships should read A Canticle for Leibowitz and I could name many more. It why I’m so angry about the new SF&F – where are stories like Canticle? In fact, those sad people we have had a run in with write the very stories people thought SF&F were about when I was young. If those stories were around back then, and with that pitiful level of imagination and writing skills, the mainstream would’ve been correct in laughing at me.

        In the end, what this all teaches you is how to escape that perceptual trap, something these hateful people at blame.com haven’t the faintest clue on how to do.

        Here are 3 quotes that says it all:

        To any vision must be brought an eye adapted to what is to be seen – Plotinus

        Be prepared to appreciate what you meet – Frank Herbert

        Good stuff is where you find it – J.E.M.

      • Yeah, see, I don’t want to read most of King’s work (I generate my own nightmare fuel just fine, as I said) — but this whole “genre hack” thing? That’s what ticks off SF&F readers and writers, and why you, Mr. May, are going to generate a lot of hate with that sort of commentary. You can dislike King, but the man is successful at what he does. He writes, he writes a lot, and he writes stuff that goes into printing after printing after printing. It may not be to my taste, but by all that is holy or otherwise, I will not disparage someone for being successful.

        I may complain about sentence structure, lack of editing (copyediting and/or “my, this book could stand to lose a few pages” editing), messages that the book may be sending, etc., etc., but even with Twilight, I grit my teeth and acknowledge the unpalatable fact: they’re successful. They must be doing something right.

        Personally, I wish I could sustain the writing speed to be a successful hack. It’d be awesome. If I can’t… Well, I’m not going to sour-grapes about the people who can. (At least, not in public. I’m only human here. 😉 )

      • I am not disparaging people who like King – I read and like Captain Future – but I know it’s dumb. What I am disparaging is the idea of a thing being liked equals good and therefore throwing everything into the arena of subjectivity and popularity. Talent is not a democracy everyone has a right to. I started reading King coming out of Bloch and Bradbury and Lovecraft – it was like a hold up – he’s a hack. I don’t mind King is rich, not at all. But he in fact isn’t even a hard genre horror writer – he is a mainstream version of one, the same way Orwell is of SF – and I love 1984 – and Michael Chrichton is. I love Tolkein, he is not a true genre writer. Genre writers have literary ancestors they respect and whose values they hold up. Ann Rice is not a natural inheritor of the horror genre. But there is little left of those hard genres now. Movies and TV have bounced back into SF&F and not to its credit. I love Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, stupid, silly stuff. I have all the old Outer Limits and love them – some were actually quite good. I’m just making distinctions.

      • I love Tolkein, he is not a true genre writer.

        I rest my case regarding why SF&F authors and readers get burnt out on trying to talk about what’s good in the genre. Tolkein is one of the fathers of the Fantasy genre, if not the founding father. You don’t get to say, “Oh, he’s good, so he’s not genre.”

        Unless, of course, you want to shut up those uppity genre hacks and their rabble fans, who have no taste except in their mouths and don’t deserve to have their opinions respected. Which is what that sort of dismissal sure sounds like, and why people are getting mad at you.

      • This why I laugh at people who despise the idea of gatekeepers. Well, let me keep the gates. Tolkien is the father of the modern and mainstream manifestation of fantasy – in other words, today’s pop take one specific thing, which has cast aside others they don’t like, or are unaware of. Tolkien is not one of the fathers of literary fantasy, not even close. Tolkien is the father of his books, which have become their own overdone genre. He is the father of that and nothing else. Just because the fantasy field has narrowed itself down to nothing is no reason to celebrate or give Tolkien awards he does not deserve. Just because Tolkien in better known today than Robert E. Howard, doesn’t mean Howard wasn’t there first, and many others. In fact, Howard invented single-handedly the genre of Sword and Sorcery before 1930. Tolkien’s The Hobbit came out in ’37.

        Both men have some similar literary ancestors but Tolkien’s are classic and mainstream, and Howard’s hard genre. Even by the time of The Hobbit, this was a split in fantasy literature. There was fantasy in pulps and fantasy released to the public. This is why people are getting mad at me – they insist on making authoritative statements on things they know little about and then will not back down.

        William Hope Hodgson, Abraham Merritt, Francis Stevens, William Morris, E.R. Edison, George McDonald, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert W. Chambers, C.L. Moore, H.R. Haggard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and many others all precede Tolkien. Today, it is forgotten how hugely popular Abraham Merritt’s short career once was.

      • You’re all wrong. HOMER was the father of “fantasy” and SF…. and SF&F (see? I’ve even picked up the lingo!) because in the end, everything falls into one of Levi-Strauss’s seven categories. All of it is story-telling. All of it is about the human experience.

      • Yeah, well, the hate is still there and you still smell funny, so little has changed.

        Your turn.

      • James, don’t even THINK of asking me to call you or bother to call me. As for that odor? It ain’t me, babe. Dig it?

      • My turn? Ummm. You’re addicted to granite.

        Sorry, I couldn’t think of anything.

      • Nah — Homer was a father of Mainstream, if one assumes that the Greeks took their gods seriously. Or possibly a father of Inspirational Religious stories? (Odysseus gets home and, aided at least slightly by Athena/Minerva, slaughters his rivals, while his wife has been faithful all this time; what’s not to Inspire, eh?) At most, Homer could claim some influence in the “Fantasy” genre, but only if he and his fellow Greeks thought of cyclopses, sirens, and sorceresses as “fantasy” and not “real, somewhere beyond the maps.” I don’t think he wrote anything that gets the “SF” label, since that really needs either the trappings of future/future-tech (ray guns! spaceships! hawt girls in skintight spacesuits and bubble helmets!), or the actual focus on future/future-tech (biotech counts) and its implications for those living in that future.

        As for genres and whatnot… I don’t know. I don’t think there is any genre so fluffy and arguably content-free that someone hasn’t done an amazingly well-crafted deconstruction of it somewhere. Take Japanese Magical Girls, for instance — a sub-genre of fantasy anime and manga that, in the US, started with Sailor Moon. Wend one’s way through CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth, Magical Girl Pretty Sammy/Magical Project S, Cardcaptor Sakura, perhaps take a squint at Utena briefly (it uses a few Magical Girl tropes, but only a few), and eventually end up at Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which is one of the most mind-blowingly “let’s take fluffy magical girl tropes and deliberately turn them inside out and stomp on them with cleats until it’s nearly grimdark” anime series that I’ve seen.

        It’s awesome.

        But I think that to deny that a genre includes by definition (or at least bookstore shelving) the awesome “this (is one of the things that) started the genre” work(s) and any awesome current stuff and the awesome deconstructions of it (Snow Crash is to Cyberpunk what PMMM is to Magical Girls, roughly…), as well as everything that proves Sturgeon’s Law? I feel that’s a slippery slope that leads to contorting oneself into believing that having Better Taste than Those Rabble means that what Those Rabble enjoy is Hurting Wrong Fun, to be Disparaged by all Right Minded people. Or certainly giving the impression of it.

        Of course, if that’s how folks ’round here do feel, I’ll head on out and take my Hurting Wrong Fun elsewhere. *shrug*

      • I don’t look down on rabble – I just try to know when I have my rabble hat on and when I don’t. Trust me, you’ll never meet someone who’s enjoyed more sad and stupid expressions of pop culture than me. When I was in Singapore, I did experience some culture, but I didn’t fail to visit the offices of the Shaw Bros. building – the coolest producers of moronic kung-fu movies that ever was. They gave me posters. I’m just saying, popular doesn’t equal good – good equals good. Popular doesn’t equal bad either. I’ve made a lot of art dedicated to that idea that involves catching people out in perceptual traps who’ve tried to ghettoize me. Look at all the people who didn’t see the twin threads in Alien, because it was too stupid to have such a thing, or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance too stupid to have hidden messages. I love Alien, I really do, but it is a mainstream take on SF. That’s not a criticism – not at all – just a distinction. There’s nothing wrong with separate but equal in that sense. It makes it fun to explore the respective influences and histories. Alien owes much more to teenage ’50s SF movies than anything else – specifically It! The Terror from Beyond Space. I am a proud owner of the original one-sheet. Hilariously, the space ship it takes place on has boxes of hand grenades and cartons of cigarettes.

      • My point about Homer (which obviously I didn’t convey well) is that he’s, ya know, regarded as the father of ALL genres.

        Otherwise I can’t contribute much to your debate since I’ve never read any of the authors you’re mentioning. But for what it’s worth (I know! Not much because I’m an entitled elitist!) — I think a “good” book is the book that YOU want to read and the book that YOU enjoy. Because what is “merit” other than whatever trips someone’s trigger?

        Rowling, for example, is an astoundingly bad writer of prose, but she can sure tell a hellaciously good story. I tried reading FREEDOM (“THE novel of the new millenium”!!) and gave up reaaaaal fast because it was a total snore. (I’ve only read a couple of Rowling’s HP novels, because they just don’t interest me that much.) I think most “literary fiction” is total dreck; as a rule can’t plow my way through more than 15 pages of “fantasy” or SF; etc. But that doesn’t mean any of those books are “bad.” It just means they don’t interest me.

      • Maureen, we don’t disagree about Homer in the larger sense of more conspicuous antique writings that could be considered fantasy from a thousand years ago. We were discussing fantasy when it started to take off and conspicuously form itself into a popular genre in the Victorian era.

        As for “good” books, I don’t understand why I’m so consistently misunderstood about this issue. I am not passing judgment about what is good, but talking about the difference between good in a genre’s historic sense and an enjoyable sense. By historic that should be more obvious than obvious – books that did a thing first, books that were seminal, books that were important. If one teaches a class in SF history, you can’t just take in a box of books you happen to like and say, these are important and formed the genre. It’s not an elitist’s stance but a historian’s. Obviously a Star Wars tie-in novel, how ever much you may enjoy it, is not going to figure into that.

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  7. As the other one who was the beneficiary of their tortured logic over at the insular world of self-congratulatory genius, yes the issue is probably one of respect. But no matter how I explained it, they always squirmed away, self-contradicted themselves and came to the triumphant conclusion I’m a troll, even giving pedantic (surprise – research) and self-serving definitions of what a troll is, and member of a microsoft conspiracy who was run off for lack of brains. They will not accept the simplest fact about this simply because they want to believe your success is unfair, and not based on the idea you could be better than them – they can’t accept that. The thin-skinned way they attacked me en masse, although the original author unwittingly agreed with me, is a testament to the vitriol that comes when people decide to take hard looks at others rather than themselves. I couldn’t believe how patient you were with them. For myself, it was easily the creepiest place I’ve been, and I’ve been in some creepy places.

    Hoyt herself agreed with me, and therefore you, in the end, and then, when she found she had – reversed herself, squirmed, and danced away again by saying the reason she wouldn’t be funded to go research Egypt would be because you were in traditional publishing and she was not. Wrong, she wouldn’t be funded because even traditional publishers aren’t going to advance funds for researching a fictional book. There may be exceptions to this rule but in non-fiction, advances to do research that need travel to access primary sources is common. People don’t get research grants to do fiction but non-fiction. This most obvious distinction, as well as the academic NEED for footnotes which are not necessary in fiction, no matter how much research you do, was lost on them. They howled, insulted, told me what geniuses they all were and how stupid I was, and stayed in denial of an elemental fact of the industry.

    There is a lot of research that sometimes goes into science fiction but these people don’t see themselves as people that over do it, even while they admit they’ll spend 7 years researching one short story – how will that ever be a successful business model? If fact the truth is that they indulge this weird obsession with detail where it is certainly not required and which wrecks their stories, are unsuccessful commercially, and they can’t figure out why. Since they refuse to look at the quality of their own work, which is written in trite prose and with ideas right out of a science-fiction stereotype factory, they instead direct their frustration at you, successful authors like Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling, and me if I disagree with them.

    They have little sense of the importance of artistry and instead prefer to approach their work like William Darymple ferreting out the secrets of Khair un-Nissa by over researching and therefore killing their novels. I’ve read them, and 100 years of SF, believe me I know. For people obsessed with historical or technical accuracy, they have little sense of the history of the genre they themselves work in, despising the idea of a gatekeeper mentality or respect for the genre’s own legacy by simply regurgitating hackery and saying no one recognizes their genius as authors.

    If you look at the SF Hall of Fame, which are all stories which had to be created under deadlines for SF pulp magazines, you’ll see what the difference is between bright and creative artistry and dull and plodding pedantry passed off as art. They have little understanding of why C.L Moore and Henry Kuttner were great, and why they will never write a short story like Vintage Season. They have no idea is the point, but they will lay out in fascinating detail how in fact they DO have and idea and if you hold on, they will go research exactly why and cross every I and dot every T until the argument itself is as moribund and dead as the work they produce.

  8. Just a tidbit about the anger: no one here has mentioned yet that, though it is starting to change, traditional publishing has had a lockhold on things like The New York Times Bestseller list, awards, etc. Even some genre associations don’t consider self-pubbers worthy of being invited to become nominees for their awards.
    Understandably, this makes some authors, especially those with huge sales, angry. And all their readers are being, well, dissed. Traditional publishing, going up slowly through the ranks, ‘earning’ a place at the table with the grownups, was the only ‘legal’ route to approbation and validation by ‘those in the know’. I’m sure romance writers had this same feeling – it didn’t matter that they were outselling the literary authors in both numbers of books and dollars, they were still not considered good enough, for a very long time.
    People who are dissed get angry. Sometimes they storm the Bastille, or overthrow the Czar, or kick the British out. The legitimate crowd (the former in-group) always call them classless upstarts. Even the new crowd can end up disowning them and their ‘excesses,’ but of course they’re going to be mad. It takes time to sort out the ‘good’ new from the ‘bad’ new, and it is easy to also dismiss the anger, but the revolutions wouldn’t have happened if everyone was being nice to each other, and sharing the wealth and power and awards.
    History, in writing, is quality – that which will last. But there is no shame in producing a product that satisfies the masses (even if it isn’t read 100 years from now), just good honest work to satisfy a legitimate need. If traditional publishing didn’t continually diss this kind of work – popular, genre, and midlist authors – there wouldn’t be so much anger.

  9. Maureen, about this 1632 thing: it illustrates my point and yours wonderfully. These are people who are obsessed with historic detail but refuse to hold themselves to the standards you do. They want their cake, and the respect, and to eat it too. No footnotes or academic community standards for 1632, no, just whatever standards they make for themselves and of which only they themselves hold themselves accountable. It’s why they don’t like you – you are held to traditional standards and disciplines you can’t control, but rise to – hard work. But there is hard work and hard work. These people work hard too. What they don’t get is that they can slack off, put in a Deus ex Machina whenever they wish, and then say you can too. Well, you can’t. That fundamental point will elude them throughout eternity.

    1632 is no longer even science-fiction. It’s a weird amalgam of Dungeons and Dragons, obsessive detail, and Civil War re-enactors. Like true liberals who think they are in fact conservatives, rather than actually rise to the creative standards of fiction or your academic standards, the sit in between and for some reason call it both and it is neither. They have hijacked 2 genres in creating a third which for some reason they want to call what others do and they don’t.

    This happened once before in SF, in the early ’60s. The New Wave (Human Wave?) came in, decided traditional SF was too stupid and illiterate for them and re-defined it and circumvented it and transformed it and took all the fun out of it until much of it wasn’t even recognizable as SF. The million dollar question was why they decided to enter a field they were ashamed of in the first place, something I ask these children of Star Trek rather than Jack Vance now. In fact the entire genre-busting theme wants to co-opt what you do but without having to go through the trouble of actually doing it. It is Orwellian doublethink and semantic gibberish based on calling a thing a name and it becomes that thing. Their egos are soothed, feathers counted and put back in place and they’re happy. And then you came along and disturbed their peace.

    This has happened in many other areas, notably fine art photography which was hijacked by morons, redefined and then destroyed. Truly creative people who were actually photographers and worked within that specific language were marginalized and disappeared. Fine art photography was turned into some weird amalgam of text and empty intellectualism, rolled over and died – it sits in the morgue right now – next to 1632 and the happy, happy fun factory of reenacting the Thirty Years War and calling it SF. These people have no interest in art and creativity, once a hallmark of SF. They want to push little soldiers around on a board, engage murderously tired stereotypes, and have come close to pushing the SF genre to the edge of afternoon soap operas, but loaded with tired and overburdened stereotypes of dragons and shape-shifters who want to take a nap from overwork.

    • 1632 is no longer even science fiction.

      Actually, I think I agree with you almost 100%. It’s historical fiction, or rather alternate-history fiction, which is a weird kind of side niche over on the side of the broad “science fiction” category.

      But I still don’t understand what you think “science fiction” is, as a category. You’ve been pretty clear on what doesn’t fall into it, but I don’t understand what does. Could you give me some examples? Some books that are clearly science fiction, by the definition you’re using? And if you could state that definition clearly, that would be even more helpful — because I don’t have a clue what definition you’re using.

      • Robin, you seem to have the idea I consider there to be a definition of SF – the genre defines itself by what it does, not me. I want quality, not definitions. I don’t want books that fall into my ideas, but have ideas I fall into, and by that, I mean that are artistically honest. By artistically honest I mean that have a long view and awareness of the history they are a part of, and so don’t simply re-invent the wheel, and bore me while doing it. SF and fantasy have defined me in the sense I read them, not me them. I have had teachers, 100 years of them, and it’s a pass/fail system, not a content oriented system. It’s the same for all art – make it good, don’t repeat yourself. If you like dragons, fine, but please don’t tell me the 100th one is some kind of bright artistry while making no attempt to reinvigorate well trodden paths. Look at Robert E. Howard and Karl Edward Wagner – they still seem original. Ask yourself why?

        And here’s another way I know I’m not being entirely subjective: watch what people recommend – often it is something everybody pretty much already knows about. Gatekeepers can see and think for themselves – they don’t need a consensus.

        I can’t give you any books that define SF but rather, books that are well within it, and really good, and arguably obscure. Try “Palace” by Katherine Kerr and Mark Kriegbaum, “The Dragon Never Sleeps” by Glen Cook, “In Conquest Born” by C.S. Friedman, “The War for Eternity” and it’s sequel, “The Black Ship” by Christopher Rowley, “Eternity Beach” by Jack McDevitt, and there is the relatively obscure Forbidden Borders trilogy by W. Michael Gear. Each of these authors have written dreck, and here they do employ stereotypes, but with authority and conviction – they are terribly bright novels.

        To me, the alternative history, UF and Dungeons and Dragons, combined with the 1632 maelstrom, are a sure sign SF is beginning to fall back into itself, become a caricature of itself. We don’t have Sam Moskowitz anymore or Lin Carter, who, despite what he did to Howard, was seminal in defining fantastic literature – and that definition was – “be good, be original.”

        Read The Tale of Satampra Zeiros and The Dark Eidolon by Clark Ashton Smith and tell me there is a fantasy writer today capable of distinguishing themselves with unique prose like that besides a retired Vance. Those stories by Smith are free online. Then come back and tell me when some rigamarole like 1632 which cares more about a soldier’s knapsack accurately portrayed than anything else became fantastic literature.

    • Excuse me one suffering moment Mr May.

      You put words into my mouth. I do not dislike Maureen, I’ve never met her. I disagreed with a single small part of her original post, but that is hardly dislike.

      I certainly don’t dislike her writing. Since being introduced to it I have bought two of her books. (Beer and plumbing)

      Separately, I disagree with your opinion of much modern plot driven SF. You hold up Vance and Moore and Kuttner, when I would hold up Clarke and Asimov and Heinlein. While I would agree with you about Eternity Beach, and almost agree in re the Glenn Cook Dragon Never Sleeps, neither of them (nor anything else of Cook’s or of McDevott’s) work with your “just insert a deux ex machina and go on.) Cook and McDevott are both fanatical about consistency and internal logic, even within something as essentially silly as Cooks Garrett P.I. books.

      Finally, I would argue with your characterization of myself and the other 1632 writers and fans. When Eric chose to open up the world of 1632 to other writers, and especially to neo writers, he did so with a clear and well-stated point. Prior to the existence of the internet, mass collaboration in a fictional setting had never been possible. The purpose of the experiment was straightforward if not simple, to see if mass collaboration was possible, and if it could result in a fictional universe whose history compared favorably with real history in its complexity.

      You may not like the results, you may not like the process. Some people don’t want to watch the sausage being made, and some don’t want to eat sausage at all. That’s certainly fine, but you disparage us for the attempt. We certainly don’t hold the 1632 works on a par with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or Nightfall or The Fountains of Paradise. But to argue that SF authors who “just make crap up” or fantasy authors who do so WITHOUT maintaining rigid consistency is lesser quality literature than works like TMIAHM or Nightfall or Fountains or, in fact, Eternity Beach, is unfair.

      You’re quite right of course,I don’t see myself, and I doubt if any of the 1632 crew see themselves as children of Vance and Moore.

      Not all truly great modern painters see themselves as children of Mark Tobey and Jackson Pollock for all that their abstract drips and whirls have influenced modern taste and expression. Are you then going to contend that Ralph Goings and Glennray Tudor aren’t masters and that their art is of lesser value for being something OTHER than abstract expressionism?

      What you’ve done is turned taste into value.

      I can’t hope to write like Vance, or Moore or Cook or McDevott or Clarke or Asimov or Heinlein. But I can write what I know that I like and what others like me like. I can write plot driven stories with characters who come as close as I can manage to being real rounded people in settings which are within the rules I’ve agreed to play by.

      Meanwhile, you can go read something else. Cook is still writing, as is McDevott. Enjoy.

      -_ Rick

      • Rick’s got a point (his first sentence): He never said, implied, or otherwise did anything to indicate that he “disliked” me. (How could he? He doesn’t KNOW me!)

        But the rest of your comment, Rick, is very interesting. And well-said. So thanks for that. Man, I LOVE it when people show up and give me something to think about. (PS: WHen you first posted, I had to go look you up and make sure you weren’t the Rick Boatwright w/whom I went to high school. Nope! Not him.)

      • I don’t remember saying people disliked Maureen but they sure went after her and, in my judgment, unfairly. If I did say that, so what?

      • Forgot to say: THanks for buying the books, even if you bought used copies, which probably you did because, sigh, that’s how this brave new world works. But maybe you’ll enjoy them and tell someone else about them?

        Re. the plumbing book: that was my “tenure” book back when I was a professor, so it’s written like a tenure book. Which is to say: It’s, um, a bit dry……. THe Key West book was my first attempt to figure out how to write for a general audience, and the beer book my second attempt.

        THANK YOU.

      • Plumbing book? *runs to Amazon* Innnnteresting…

        Ms. Ogle, if by chance you retain the rights to the electronic form of that book, and have the desire to put it into ebook form, I would offer to give you a hand with that. The Look Inside from Amazon suggests it doesn’t have a lot of art, and interior art is the trickiest part of converting something to ebook. (That or Fun With Fonts; best practice is to assume you get one font, that you can format with size, bold, and italics, and anything else needs to break “cleanly.”) The most tedious part would be linking the footnotes.

        (Seriously — email me if it’d be useful. Note that I may take a day or two to respond, depending on how much Life Hits Me, because I have to check my email manually and sometimes forget.)

      • Rick, I would also hold up Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke. But you’ve misunderstood what I said about a deus ex machina – I simply meant it’s not available to someone writing a treatise on Montezuma’s armory. And it isn’t. It can and has been used in SF&F for a long time. I don’t even mind it – I was making a comparison. C’mon Rick, who can forget Hadron of Hastor and Tavia about to be eaten by the cannibals of U-Jor when the invisible airship is suddenly felt in A Fighting Man of Mars?

        And again, I take issue with your projecting your own obsessions with detail onto other authors who clearly have shown no such obsessions in their work. I was particularly amazed anyone would mention James Schmitz in this regard. To me it is using others to prop up and give credibility for your own reasons for doing so. I agree Heinlein got things right, but he was no pedant. Is anyone going to tell me the PB released as Orphans of the Sky is great because of tech details – that’s absurd – it’s a work of art not detail. In short, simply saying they occupy the same intellectual and artistic space you do doesn’t mean they do.

        I understand subjectivity but I have not turned taste into value – did Moskowitz do that with Seekers of Tomorrow, is that what the SF Hall of Fame was? Clearly they were not. These are my opinions, not commandments. I do not mind mass participations in writing or in fact anything people do – in fact I am a huge fan of junk pop culture. I have a 3-sheet of the Queen of Outer Space I am quite proud of – I consider it art – but it is accidental art. I do not cherish it in the way it was meant and I would take offense if the artist suddenly said, “Oh, I meant to do that.” This is my point – I don’t care what people do – I do care when people co-opt an arena they are in fact not a part of and one where they do not have to live up to the values of those that do. It’s like saying a person who didn’t hike the Inca Trail has the same insights about it as people who do. I have actually had people do that to me – many times. I find it disrespectful and a hijacking for people to suggest that sheer intellect and will equals an actual experience. Let there be mass novels – fine – just remember if everyone is talented and an artist, then no one is. I don’t want to see my beloved genre hijacked by political correctness where anyone you happen to know is talented. I don’t want to see SF destroyed to soothe egos. Let’s be harsh critics, like the old New York reviews of plays – let’s make ourselves good.

        You are not held to the same standards as Maureen when writing fiction. You may do the same amount of work, and with the same accuracy, but you don’t have to. Let’s all of us be happy with what we actually do rather than saying we do a thing we don’t and expect respect. It almost rises to the level of saying “I could do that if I wanted to.” Fine, sit with me on an exploding volcano the locals say will kill me if I climb it. I had a friend with me once for that. He refused to come. A Guatemalan later came and saw me and said to my friend “Your friend is a dead man.” The volcano was erupting furiously. That is my thing – it belongs to me – I claim it.

      • Elizabeth, the plumbing book has a shitload of images. It’s about … plumbing. It’s a “history of technology” genre-thingie. (It’s a significantly revised version of my dissertation and it was my “tenure” book. It’s boring.)

        I DO wish that Johns Hopkins would release an e-version; and of course ditto HMH with the beer book and UPF with the Key West book. Thank god the next book will come out in digital. (And, okay, queue the “Oh, you loser, you! This is what happens when you publish with traditional publishers!”)

        Why have they not? Because contrary to popular belief, it costs MONEY to do that, and publishers don’t have the kind of money to do the formatting, the digitizing, buy the server space, maintain the archives, etc. Alas.

      • Should also say to Elizabeth: THANK YOU for that offer, and should I eventually regain the rights (well, okay, WHEN I do), I will remember your offer. And: It’s Maureen, not Ms. Ogle.

      • Images do indeed make for a harder work to get into epub. It’s still possible — I’ve read a graphic novel in epub! — but it’s trickier. You might find it quicker to go to PDF, though PDF does have most of the issues of layout that a print book does, and a few extra besides because of different form-factors on e-readers — and I don’t know if Amazon sells PDF-only ebooks.

        As for how difficult it is to get something there? That also depends on what format the text is already in. If you have it in Word, RTF, or even plain text format, you’re not as far away from electronic as you might think! If it has to be OCRed, or typed in, that’s going to take longer. Same with the images — if you have scans (or high-quality digital photographs!), that makes it easier than if one has to get those scans from the original images or break a book’s spine upon the scanner-bed.

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean about the server-space/archives part, though. My spouse is very computer-oriented (over 20 years in the business), and unless your books are actually movies made with three-dimensional computer models and uncompressed, they’re going to be pretty easily compressed bits, and take up very little space indeed. And that’s if one is hosting the book on one’s personal site; if it’s gone to Amazon, Smashwords, or B&N, those places host the files, and just deposit money to your PayPal or bank account now and then.

        (And for my purposes, dry technical stuff about plumbing wouldn’t be the worst. May be a little “modern” for what I need, but it’s on the List.)

        Sorry about the “Ms. Ogle” — ’twas drummed into my head as a wee little brat that that was the polite thing to call people when one didn’t know them well, and wandering onto people’s blogs is one of those evolving etiquette things.

      • Elizabeth, I agree that the digital age has tossed our notions of good manners out the window. (I STILL have a hard time addressing any of my grad school profs as anything other than “Professor X,” and I’ve been out of grad school for 20 years!

        But here’s maybe a general rule: When someone maintains a public website and blogs —- surely it’s okay to address that person by his/her first name? Because the person has put him/herself out there in the public, face first, rather than staying in an office with a closed door. If I knocked on someone’s door to introduce myself, I’d stick with the Mr/Ms title (unless the person was under the age of 30, in which case, forget it…). But “meeting” someone on that someone’s public site —- well, seems to me that we can skip the formality. Eh?

      • Ah, but the principal of my first school was Mrs. Pisa — and she was surely out there and present to all us bratlings! 🙂

        ‘Sides, more formal can always be corrected. Starting more casual, if someone doesn’t feel comfortable with being addressed “as if we were already friends,” is hard to correct and might cause more discomfort. Or at least that’s how I justify it. *beth looks shiftyeyed*

  10. Again, I thank all of you for your input. I went to Kate’s blog and read her piece (obviously) and then hied myself over to Sarah Hoyt’s blog, and left a comment — and once again was left thinking that no one there has actually READ what I wrote. (Maybe ‘cuz they’re too busy being pissed off? I dunno….) Having done my tour of duty in the swamp of the interwebs (how hip am I anyway!? Finally found a way to work that word into a sentence), I’d prefer not to return to said swamps. So — right or wrong, I haven’t read all the comments over there because, really, life’s too fucking short.

    Anyway: seems to me that solidarity is better than not, and that kindness beats shittiness any day. And we’re all in this together, right (“this” being writing, publishing, and life in a age of tumult). So again, I appreciate your willingness to comment and talk and hope this won’t be your last visit. (Although I rarely write about “writing,” although I often comment on what a whackadoodle mess publishing is in and on the “future of print,” as I grandly, but perhaps wrongly, label it.) So: Come back!

  11. James, you must be Sarah Hoyt’s best friend! I bet that when you post something at her blog, dozens of people jump in to argue with you. She (or any website owner) has gotta love it. ‘Cuz there ain’t nuthin’ like a little controversy to generate website traffic……….

    Hmmmm…. maybe I should take a hint?

      • Other than a single innocuous comment, that was my first time – and last. I’ve never quite met people like that – not ever. Even the soldiers who arrested me during the Egyptian revolution for taking pictures were nicer and they had a Madam Defarge like Dickens who hated me. I’m not joking. And before that, even a dozen of Mubarak’s secret police who surrounded me for taking pictures were more polite.

      • No no! I hate YOU. I. HATE. YOU.

        You suck. No, on second thought, I’m not gonna waste my time with a shithead like you because, well, I’m too busy writing great work and besides you suck and besides THAT you don’t understand me and then there’s the fact that I’d rather be ANGRY than try to understand you.

        Got it?

        On another note and re. Hoyt’s site: Whooo. Last time I wandered into a self-contained nest of hornets like that was back in 2000 when I made my first, very first, foray into the online world of writers at a place called Writersnet (or something like that). Ai yi yi! Got called a troll my first comment in (not that I had any idea what a “troll” was — or why I was being called that.)

        So: I’ve been through the swamp and I don’t wanna go back. It’s so much more fun being productive and nice. And hey, this is all MUCH more fun than what I’ve spent the day doing: reading up on corporate hegemony in the world of food. Talk about conspiracy theorists. (Not, I guess, that we WERE talking about that…) Holy shit, those folks (academics all) live in another universe.

      • Wow, I actually am angry now. I’ve met shrill people before – as individuals, but never of disconnected people like that who so stuck together and were so nasty. I don’t know anything about sites so I guess maybe they’ll invite me back to up the page hits or whatever they do. The funny thing is that I wasn’t trolling at all or trying to get anyone angry. I started with them the way they started with you and apparently goose/gander was an impenetrable Gordian Knot. You could practically feel them quivering to defend my impertinence. They have anger management issues and maybe so much self-doubt about themselves and low-self esteem it makes them happy to trot out their resumes and math and go crazy with the details. I think they’re probably just on the right side of obsessive compulsive. Whatever’s the case, they sure as hell don’t take criticism well and are as arrogant as Napoleon himself, which I’m sure they’d give me the life history of. They’re so arrogant they used the term “red herring” and I said what’s that? They bit and came back with what I expected, so I guess that one part was trolling. I’m not aware of any adults who don’t know what a red herring is. If you don’t, keep it to yourself, remember, I hate you.

      • I would agree with you on the anger thing. Which was what prompted the blog entry to which we’re all attaching our comments. I couldn’t fathom why they were so angry especially because, as I pointed out in said blog entry, they’ve WON. They’re the winners; I’m the loser in the publishing revolution. Until I figured out, today, that they need their rage. It fuels them. And we all need fuel, right?

  12. Maureen wrote:
    …..Why have they not? Because contrary to popular belief,
    …..it costs MONEY to do that, and publishers don’t have the
    …..kind of money to do the formatting, the digitizing, buy
    …..the server space, maintain the archives, etc. Alas.

    Maureen, this is the sort of comment that makes us bang our heads against the wall until they bleed.

    Assuming your book was published since 2000, it was published based on a digital layout file, not by pasting words onto paper and taking photographs of it. They did the formatting and the layout digitally, They have the file in InPub or one of the major commercial layout programs. The cost of producing an epub from that is the incremental cost of a trained operator opening the file and hitting “Save as epub.”

    For the plumbing book, while I admit that it is graphically heavy and would require some work to make re-flowable, never-the-less, the academic publisher who produced it has produced all their books electronically for “rather a long time” and at absolute worst again, the cost of producing an ebook file is the cost of a trained operator pulling up the file and hitting “Save as pdf” — nothing more. Any claim to any other reality is simply a lie. Producing the ebook costs under $10.

    IF you were able to claw back digital rights to any of those books, any one of many of us would be happy to help you take your word processing files and the stack of images for the books and produce epub and or pdf’s for you for under a hundred bux for the beer book and key west, and for one to three hundred for the plumbing book.

    The “kind of money” argument is bs. They -had- to digitize the images to print them, no one does physical halftones anymore, and no one has for a longish time.

    Then, we have the rest of your statement:
    Buy the server space… Amazon and B&N provide that for free.
    Maintain the archives — Amazon and B&N provide that for free.

    Plus,even if your plumbing book was stored as a SCANNED HIGH QUALITY PDF — just images of each page (ick) it would be only tens of megabytes and if you wanted to distribute it yourself, you could merely post it as an attachment to a post in this blog. The cost of on-line storage has fallen to the point that for all practical purposes, THERE ISN’T ANY.

    The reason your publishers have not brought out e-editions of your books is because they are traditional publishers. Sit in a room with Toni, the executive publisher at Baen some time and let her explain it, how they were told over and over there was no money in e-books. 🙂

    Does your contract specifically say that the publishers for those books have digital rights? What is the reversion clause? Is the reversion for digital separate from the reversion for print?

    Is it worth seeing if you can claw back digital rights for the Key West book? Is it actually still in print?

    • Well, I accept completely what you’ve written. (Freely admitting that I’m only parroting what I’ve read elsewhere, some of it from very tiny publishing houses that would love to do digital but can’t afford to.)

      all my books are still in print, and only one of them (the beer book) has a contract that says ANYTHING about electronic rights (because back then, no one was thinking about ebooks). The one book I’m surprised is not in e-form is the plumbing book. Johns Hopkins has been in the vanguard of digitizing content for well over a decade, so I don’t know why they’ve not also applied that mentality to books.

      In any case, my reversion clauses only kick in if the books are out of print, and thus far, that’s not the case. I know the meat book will be digital and I’m hoping to persuade my house to also digitize the beer book when the meat book comes out.

      I will also add that this past month is the first time in six years I’ve had a chance to take anything like a breather from my work. The only reason we’re all sitting around chatting about this, that, the other, is because I was FINALLY able to start blogging again. I had to put the blog on hold for nearly 18 months. The meat book was so complex and all-consuming that there was no way to blog and research and write. (I’m not superhuman.)

      And of course, in the time since I started the meat book (back in Jan. 2007), all hell has broken loose in publishing and I’m only now surfacing for air and taking in what’s been happening. Which, ahem, is no doubt WAY more than you wanted to know.

      But one more point: In all this minor kerfuffle, somehow people got the idea that I’m opposed to ebooks and digital content. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, I’ve got a contract w/a conventional publisher, one that I signed back in 2006, when the landscape was VERY different than it is now. As I said in one of the relevant blog entries, every. single. day. I struggle with what to do with my next book. I’m WELL AWARE of the potential of digi-publishing, self-publishing, whatever we’re calling it. Well aware. I’m not nearly as stupid as Hoyt and others believe me to be.

      (Nor, for the record, do I believe myself to be “entitled” to subsidy. I have NO FUCKING IDEA how anyone arrived at that conclusion. Of all the crap tossed at me by the Human Wavers, that was the screwiest. Where the HELL did you all come up with that idea??)

      • So, while the key west book doesn’t mention e-rights, presumably the contract says something about “all rights” or “all formats” or something equivalent, because if it doesn’t it would pay you to take it to an IP lawyer and have them check to see if you actually already own the electronic rights.

        As for the tiny publishers, forgive me. “Fah.” and furthermore “Pshaw”. Honestly, really and truely, having done the entire process of creating a bi-monthly professionally paid electronic magazine with full color custom digital art for every story and custom full color digital covers, and distributing it on four different electronic sales platforms, for 42 issues, I say “Phooey”. They are either ignorant or afraid. There is -no- excuse.

        Back when a web site account bought you 5 meg of storage, sure. but now, $10 a month gets you “unmetered storage” and unmetered bandwidth and the conversion process is, using a phrase my business partner hates, trivial.”

        Sorry. Just not true any more. Things changed. That’s why the self-pubbers can. If an AUTHOR can do it themselves then even the smallest publisher can. They may well be afraid to, but they could if they wanted.

      • anyway: No the KW book contract, if I’m reading it correctly, has me locked in until they let it go out of print (and since it sells pretty well, they probably won’t do that for some time.) (Let us hope.)

        But I want to add that I TRULY AND REALLY appreciate your ass-kicking on this subject. Honesttogod — it helps me think about it. And as I keep saying, I’ve got to think about it so I can make a decision before I commit to my next book project. So pleeeeease, help me keep thinking! It’s been so much more useful than you can imagine (and by that I mean all of it — even the Hoyt-bashing). (Although, again, I still don’t get why people think I’m some kind of elitist who is entitled. Huh???)

  13. I’ll also just toss this out there: I just finished reading COGNITIVE SURPLUS: CREATIVITY AND GENEROSITY IN A CONNECTED AGE, by Clay Shirky. It’s absolutely worth reading, especially for you genre folks because he talks about the way groups built on shared interests can thrive,survive (and, yes, collapse) in a digital age. (Anger, it turns out, can work both for and against a group.) It’s a fascinating take on the new era. Also well-written and therefore “easy” to read.

    • Its funny because anger is the furthest thing from what Human Wave is about, and if you could see beyond your own hurt feelings you could experience a very warm, open welcoming, open minded group. Discovering Sarah Hoyt and Human Wave has been one of the most positive experiences of the last decade for me. Try seeing it for what it is.

      • Thanks for having an obsession with winning arguments rather than actually making them.

      • Actually the Human Wave is born of anger, the kind of anger and frustration that, surprise, says the lack of artistry in their own books is someone else’s fault. If the Human Wave ever took hold, it’d send SF into a dark ages it has never experienced before, with a wave of stories rehashing endless stereotypes as shallow as water on glass. Saying that group of ultra-pedants is warm, open, welcoming and open minded without a trace of irony is a skill that could probably get you a job at a circus. On the one hand the HW is a manifesto that seeks to constrict the genre while supposedly angry at people who seek to constrict the genre.

        HW is supposedly against “conformity of style and opinion” while they light up anyone who has the gall to disagree with them and who’s own writing styles are so similar they could exchange names on books and it would be indetectable. I could write more lively prose while out for a bicycle ride.

        To me it’s completely telling that the original HW article and 83 comments only provide one actual example of what “grey goo” is. That’s because these people are more angry at a system that doesn’t recognize their genius than anything else and make no mistake about it, these people are geniuses: they trotted out their impressive resumes to me at the drop of a hat to prove it.

        It’s also telling one of the commenters links to an article that says not enough SF is based on, ready for this, Star Wars, a movie that was only about 30 years behind the literary genre of SF. Relevant to that, and even worse, is the article makes the argument that SF should ignore it own history and start recycling ideas because SF’s current evolution is to “respond to or build on ideas novels so long out of print that libraries and specialty used bookstores no longer carry them.” That’s like saying if Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were largely forgotten by all but people really interested in literary history, it would be okay to basically pick them over for ideas because a new generation is born and unaware of them.

        What these people really want to do is to not only dumb down SF to their own level because they find the easy artistry and creativity of other writers difficult to compete with, but because they admittedly don’t know their own history, aren’t aware of when they repeat themselves, but are aware of people who DO know SF’s history that say they are repeating themselves. My Tolkien talk is proof of this – he was the father of squat. We have endless rehashes of Star Wars – does that make George Lucas the father of SF? We don’t need the wheel re-invented to soothe the feelings of a small cabal of hacks and game players who want to redefine SF the same way they wanted to redefine what Maureen does to mean what they do – to make themselves feel better and pretend all SF should be reduced to heavily researched based and detail oriented work that stifles art. In other words the HW wants what disguises their own weakness and addresses their own specific and goofy slant on writing where they proudly announce they take 7 years to research a short story like it’s a badge of honor.

      • I don’t have any “hurt” feelings. (Writers who have hurt feelings over anything except death are in the WRONG BUSINESS.) (I was more intrigued by teh response over at H’s site than anything else. Intrigued; not “hurt.”)

        I believe you when you say the HW is not about anger — but you’d never know that by the hoo-haaing over at Hoyt’s site in response to my post. And if I didn’t think so then, then it sure as hell came off as anger when I suggested that someone try to communicate what the HW is about to a general audience. Holy shit. Had I known, I wouldn’t have bothered.

        Also, I suspect that the “welcoming, open minded group” extends only to those who, ya know, do the same kind of work and understand the jargon.

      • James May, you certainly seem to have an obsession with believing you have special insights into what I am thinking and why I am motivated to do things. The number of times you’ve imputed motives in me alone in a handful of posts is rather astounding! I’m in awe.

        Things James May has inferred about Dark Eden, a person he knows absolutely nothing about:
        1. That Dark Eden should abandon writing
        2. That Dark Eden does not understand what a perceptual trap is, or how to avoid one (what a cheeky monkey you are James)
        3. That Dark Eden engages in Orwellian semantics (! Not quite Godwinning yourself but grinding against Godwin’s crotch in a short skirt)
        4. That Dark Eden sees anyone who doesn’t completely agree with him as ‘the enemy’
        5. That apparently Dark Eden agrees with him about the low quality and character of vast swaths of the writing world, and further that Dark Eden thinks this state of affairs is a coincidence and that this means Dark Eden has ‘a lot to learn’. Wow the assumptions just pile on top of one another with this one. Who am I going to marry? What will life be like in a million years? Your powers of prognostication are astounding.
        6. That Dark Eden is boycotting his own mind because he’s happy people like James May can no longer effectively stop books from being published and readers now have far more choices than before. Bad choices!
        7. That Dark Eden thinks everything is the same, equally worthy everyone is a bright ARTIST. I have no idea on this one. I don’t recall the Human Wave article stating that everyone is just as good an ARTIST or writer as everyone else. (I don’t recall a stress on ‘ARTISTRY’ actually, that seems a literary bugaboo. Personally I have the belief that the Establishment is selling ART, and the Public is buying Entertainment, and so much of your ART is just godawful Entertainment, and so much of my Entertainment isn’t trying to be ART in the first place.)
        8. That Dark Eden’s goal is to write an average book that will be seen as average. (Again I have no idea what you’re going on about here)
        9. That Dark Eden is apparently lacking in conviction, enthusiasm and a unique viewpoint, because if I had those traits, I’d be writing more of what James May likes, even though he’s never read any of my books and has no idea what he’s talking about as usual.
        10. That Dark Eden is skilled enough to get a job in a circus because Human Wavers were nice and welcoming to him and were crotchety to Maureen Ogle.

        Things Jimmie May has inferred about Human Wave, a movement he knows almost nothing about:
        1. Human Wave/Self Pubbers are unaware that people come from different intellectual, ARTISTIC and philosophical spaces
        2. That Jimmie May simultaneously enjoys reading everything (!) and that there are vast swaths of writing (especially us dirty genre hacks) that is awful, rigid, stodgy and repetitive and completely lacking in ARTISTRY or ARTISTIC integrity, self-awareness and honesty, but that James May apparently enjoys reading it because he enjoys reading everything!
        3. That even though there are vast mountains of horrible people writing horrible books, that people should read everything and apparently we disagree with him on this?
        4. That Human Wave IS SO about anger
        5. That the anger (and frustration!) that Human Wave IS SO about is caused by vast swaths of horrible writers blaming our lack of ARTISTRY on someone else.
        6. That if Human Wave took hold it would be the death knell of all that is good and decent in SF. (Heavens! I never knew I was a Horseman of the Literary Apocalypse! Can I be Death? Death was the cool kid, I just don’t want to be Famine because Famine is a lame way to die during the Literary Apocalypse!)
        7. That the vast swaths of terrible writers that James May enjoys reading because he enjoys reading everything(!) will result in a tsunami of rehashed stereotypes as shallow as water on glass. Not like the stereotypes of ‘genre hacks’ because James May totally doesn’t stereotype.
        8. That the Human Wavers are ultra pedants! (if I become any more of a Pedant I think I’ll be a Pedant X-Treme!)
        9. That the Human Wave, which seeks to increase the options available to readers in fact seeks to “constrict the genre”. I’m not entirely sure in a pure mathematical way why having more options that James May doesn’t like even though he likes everything (!) would constrict choices. Unless the existence of entertaining books would mean that the ARTISTIC books James May actually likes couldn’t compete.
        10. That the Human Wavers ARE SO angry at people for constricting choices, but that this supposed anger is all a clever ruse for our own double tricky choice-constriction. Not only am I a Horseman of the Literary Apocalypse (not Famine, please not Famine), apparently I’m a thought criminal ninja assassin. Fear me! Not sure if I have a forehead protector and orange jumpsuit or a hood with facemask.
        11. That the Human Wave ‘lights up’ anyone who has the gall to disagree with us. (That’s just precious considering every post the noble and open minded James May has ever written)
        12. That the horrible writers of the Human Wave who James May nevertheless enjoys because he enjoys reading everything are so similar in horribleness that you could exchange the names from any two Human Wave books and the troglodytes that read this horrible trash James May enjoys reading would never notice.
        13. That Human Wave is only ‘supposedly’ against conformity of style and opinion. James May, who wants everyone that doesn’t write the way he sees fit to go to hell, is actually against conformity of style and opinion.
        14. That James May, who enjoys reading everything, could write more lively prose than any and every Human Waver, all while out for a bicycle ride. Does James May sell shrines where we can worship the wonderfulness of his awesome talent? Does he charge people to lick the sweat from his mighty balls? What a wonderful human being is the Godlike James May!
        15. That Human Wavers mention terms like Grey Goo without explaining them to James May’s satisfaction, and that this lack of explanation does not mean it’s a term we’re all familiar enough to need no explanation within our own comment threads, no. It in fact means that we believe we are geniuses (??? I have no idea where he gets these logic leaps) and that we don’t explain grey goo enough because people like the Godlike James May just don’t recognize our obvious genius so screw them.
        16. That someone commented about wanting more Star Wars books and this is horrible. Unspeakable!
        17. That wanting to read a book set in a universe you like means you want SF to ignore its own history and to recycle ideas. Does this mean the Godlike James May hates sequels and trilogies? Shared World Anthologies? Or just ones about Star Wars?
        18. That re-imagining old dusty forgotten stories and introducing them to a new generation is not okay, because apparently that injures the existing books and won’t at all make people go back and read the originals. And possibly that reading old books is… bad…?
        19. That Human Wavers want to dumb down SF to our own pathetic, nearly subhuman level. How we manage to figure out the keys on the keyboard is amazing.
        20. That Human Wavers who want to increase the choices available to readers and are blossoming now that the gatekeepers can’t stop us from being published, in fact find it difficult to compete with the people who are not blossoming in this new era of ebooks and choice.
        21. Even though Human Wavers are competing so well that the powers that be have declared it ‘A problem’, we in fact cannot compete with the easy artistry and creativity of the authors James May likes even though he likes everything.
        22. That Human Wavers don’t know our own history.
        23. That Human Wavers are unaware when we repeat ourselves.
        24. That Human Wavers are unaware when we repeat ourselves.
        25. That Human Wavers ARE aware of people who actually know our History (like say the Godlike James May for example).
        26. That James May has informed the horrible masses of the Human Wave that Tolkien is the father of squat and yet we continue to disagree with him which means we are conformists.
        27. That the Human Wave is a small (not for long Jimmie) Cabal (now we’re qabbalists! I’m a Horseman of the Apocalypse Ninja with a Golem Sidekick. How’s that for a pound of pure awesome?) of hacks and game players (is that something else I should be ashamed of? Should I hide my copy of Planescape: Torment from the Literary Gestapo?).
        28. That the Human Wave cabal wants to redefine SF. Which is bad.
        29. That the Human Wavers did not in fact try to educate Maureen Ogle that writing SFF is not quite as simple as ‘just make stuff up!’ No, what the Human Wavers actually were saying is that the research we do is exactly like the research Maureen does. Even though no one actually said that.
        30. That researching your historical fiction book to make sure it’s accurate to the stuff that actually happened stifles art. ART!
        31. That Human Wavers want all SF ‘reduced’ to our style of writing (researched and detail oriented) even though we are not the ones telling anyone who disagrees with us to stop writing.
        32. That Human Wavers view it as a badge of honor to research our stories instead of ‘just making stuff up!’ And this is terrible.
        33. That Human Wavers wanting to research stories and read stories that have been well researched is ‘goofy’.

        All this in two little posts! Truly someone who is so quickly and capably able to peer deep into the heart and soul of people he knows nothing about is a visionary of rare and awe inspiring power. May I humbly ask that James May be named God King of Publishing, and that He be the Keeper of the Gate! Huzzah James May!

      • Wow darkeden, that was a lot of words that say very little and actually do more to confirm what I said than what you say. Enjoy your Star Trek and Star Wars tie-ins. Yes, they’re not constricted in any way. If you wanted they could use prose like New Riders of the Purple Wage or The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. They’re kiddie books written to exploit the success of kiddie movies and TV, no different from a James Bond movie tie-in.

        I’m trying to imagine you in a SF history class and telling a teacher that says 1927, 1937 and 1947 and listing who came first doing a thing is an idiot. You seem to think it’s okay to say WW II ended with Pearl Harbor and people who say otherwise are in some manner red necks who don’t “get it” and who threaten you in some way. To whatever extent the legacy of SF&F is in the hands of the Human Wave, and it’s not, it’s to that extent that TV and useless smothering attention to detail in a Civil War re-enactor’s obsessive-compulsive nightmare version of art will kill the genre.

        You’ve inspired me to write an essay about HW and I’ll use their own quotes to show it’s nothing more than a yearning for re-inventing the wheel. Despite their great intellects and heartwarming maturity that concludes I am a “super-genius,” “criminally dense” and an “ass,” this HW crowd couldn’t actually find an original creative thought or win a debate with me even with the aid of the self-aware star ships they’ve only written about a million times. In the true fashion of almost complete hypocrites, they don’t actually understand what “self-contradictory” means since they did it and I did not. It is not rocket science to figure out Maureen is held to larger community academic standards SF is not. To say so is almost completely idiotic. What can you say about people who don’t understand the fundamental reason behind footnotes and what that implies?

        And if you’re so familiar with the concept I was talking about with perceptual traps, which you clearly are not, then tell me about the film Alien (1979) and what the perceptual trap is there. Don’t bother googling it, it isn’t there.

      • James, Jimmie, Mr. May, once again I’m in awe of your posts and the smug sense of superiority that oozes off of you like a blight. Some of your conclusions are so bizarre and out of left field its very entertaining in a strange way reading them. You really are everything bad about the literary community condensed into one person.

      • Darkeden, you think it’s bizarre I say Lord of the Rings was written before Wheel of Time and therefore is more important in a historical sense? Wheel of Time wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Tolkien. For the sake of argument, one can make a case Wheel of Time might be better written but it is surely not as important. Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge this is going to take credit for things they have no business taking credit for.

        I’m not surprised you didn’t respond to my challenge about Alien. It’s one thing to say one is capable of original thought and another to actually demonstrate it. Those who cannot define a perceptual trap reside within it. It’s funny to me because Elizabeth has already indirectly addressed the idea. You only have to read her post about the ghetto of SF to understand. Don’t skirt around this issue: define the nature of the perceptual trap in Alien. I’m challenging you to walk it like you talk it. It’s actually a staggeringly simple concept – the problem is in applying it to areas where it is not already been applied to – in other words – original thought – creativity – something from nothing. Otherwise I’m sticking to the idea I could write more lively prose than the entirety of the Human Wave while taking a nap.

      • James, seriously. Where do you get these leaps of logic?

        As to the perceptual trap business, I’m not your monkey and I’m not going to dance for you. As is a pattern with you, you completely missed what I was trying to say! I’d never heard of the perceptual trap concept. I read what it was about, and I was simply laughing at your audacity in using it, it was such the perfect metaphor for the litsnob view of genre hacks and the complete ignorance that not everyone is interested in lih-trah-chuh or ART! In my opinion, honestly, the art community has so twisted itself into knots that its on its deathbed and completely irrelevant to the average person.

        Its a little sad that what we do, what we hold dear, what motivates us is so completely invisible to you that you have no explanation for our drive to create than that we’re just awful, ignorant people.

        What would happen if a modern town was magically plopped into 1623 Germany? Is that ART? I don’t know but its INTERESTING! Its Entertaining! Its exciting! And all you can do is lift up your nose and say, ‘its not art.’ I don’t care if its art. Its a fun and worthy project that has taught a great many people a great many things, forged a community, and probably inspired thousands of people to harness their creativity in ways that can benefit the world.

        If you added up all the inventions inspired by ‘genre hacks’ all the lives saved by those inventions, all the pains and miseries of life eased by those who dream of starships and green women and light sabers and elves and magic, it would be staggering. We are the dreamers, we are the makers, we are the ones figuring out how to create tomorrow.

        But what we do isn’t art to you. So it goes in the trash.

        I’m reminded of this Kipling quote: “And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart, till the Devil whispered behind the leaves ‘It’s pretty, but is it Art?’ ”

        Anyway, I’m not interested in the opinions of people like you other than for my own amusement. Its been fun trying to list out all the bizarre logic leaps (did I ever say I thought Jordan came before Tolkien? wtf are you babbling about?), the nonsensical insults, the cheeky smugness, all about people you don’t know and are accusing of being angry and mean. But I think I’m done with people like you, and I’ll do a little happy dance that people of your type are more and more irrelevant every day.

        I’ll keep on dreaming my dreams and cataloging them in ebooks that maybe just maybe will inspire another Oddkin to write their own ebooks, or become a doctor, or an astronaut, or a physicist or engineer. You’ll keep on sneering at me for doing so. To each their own. I’m pretty sure I’ll have a lot more fun in the process.

      • I’m not saying 1632 isn’t art – it obviously is, and all the others things you suggested as well. I’m saying it’s not a ham sandwich – it’s gaming and Civil War re-enacting and not a logical successor to Joseph Campbell and Robert Heinlein. You wish to conflate this to add credibility to what you do, the same thing the HW tried to do to Maureen. Empty-headed popularity doesn’t define art – art does.

        If what you do is so great, enjoy it for what it is and stop saying it’s something else in order for you to feel better about yourself. You can put Dungeons and Dragons on an English stage and call it Shakespeare all you want, add the Dick Van Dyke show while you’re at it – everything is everything. Call your car a duck so you can feel snuggly when you wash it.

        Saying I have somehow denied the roll of dreamers in technology is false – it’s true fantastic literature has inspired dreaming technology.

        Not surprised you don’t want to play the game with Alien. Fox and the Grapes.

      • Its like one of those dolls where you pull the pin and “Shitcock!” comes out.

        What will James May, Super Genius, accuse me of next? That I think the air is made of cheese? That crackers wear tophats? That disagreeing with him means I think that Abraham Lincoln was a Cambodian Prostitute?

      • I’m not surprised you’d resort to vulgarity rather than use your innate creativity to address the Alien riddle. The fact you’re not even curious speaks volumes about your desire to learn, and so what you do learn, which I suspect is very little and goes directly into your writing.

    • I’d been meaning to read COGNITIVE SURPLUS for some time, but it’s one of the many books I couldn’t get to while wading through working on the meat book. When I’m deep into research/writing, I can’t BEAR to read non-fiction for pleasure (or, more accurately, during my non-work hours). But now that I’m waiting around for my editor to come back with comments, I’m reading a stack of NF. I wasn’t sure waht to expect from Shirky and was VERY pleasantly surprised. So now I want to read his other book.

  14. Yeesh what a thread. Tldr: I am very happy people like james may no longer have veto power on what I get to read or write.

    • Well you certainly don’t have to worry about the reading part anyway since I’ve been pretty clear I myself read and enjoy everything from Capt. Future and the Space Emperor to A Canticle For Liebowitz to Vampirella to Jane Eyre to Raiders from the Rings. I’m simply acknowledging their imperatives come from completely different intellectual, artistic and philosophical spaces.

      My advice on you writing is to abandon it until you understand what a perceptual trap is and how to avoid it, otherwise you’ll simply see anyone who doesn’t completely buy into your Orwellian semantics as the enemy those folks over at blame.com saw me and Maureen as. If you think it’s a coincidence they write such awful, rigid, stodgy and repetitive books, completely lacking in artistry or artistic integrity, self-awareness and honesty, then you’ve a lot to learn. It’s not a question of me having veto power but of you boycotting your own mind. I personally think people should read everything, since there is no light without shadow. If you come to the conclusion everything is the same, equally worthy, and everything thrown into confusion and everyone a bright artist, then godspeed. Your goal then is to write an average book that everyone will see as average? And with conviction, enthusiasm and a unique viewpoint?

      • Thank you for being such a wonderful living embodiment of everything the Sarah Hoyt Hornet’s Nest has been talking about for so long.


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