Puppies …

No, I’m not doing a post about young canines.  I wish I were, actually; instead I shall be venting some steam on a matter.

I know I write romances, but I’m also a fan of speculative fiction.  This means I tend to be somewhat aware of what’s going on around the matters of WorldCon and the Hugo awards.

For those of my readers (is it pretentious to actually think of anyone who follows this blog or reads my books as “fans”?) who don’t keep up with the SF/F universe this post might not interest you, but you may wish to keep reading anyway if you like reality TV a la Jerry Springer and … buggered if I know, I really haven’t watched TV since 2002 in any capacity that is worth considering.

Oh my gods, where to begin?  Look, if you keep up with this stuff can I assume you’re familiar with the vitriolic, misogynistic, sociopathic troll who calls himself Vox Day?  (No, seriously, this is me being my usual sunny and kind, sweet self … if I weren’t I’m pretty sure I’d have to resort to Russian and German as English lacks the requisite vocabulary to voice my thoughts)  Is it also safe to assume that you’re marginally familiar with the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies?

If not, you can get a really awesome education about them on the blogs of Messrs John Scalzi and George R R Martin.

I just want to chime in with this:  What the fuck guys?!  I mean, seriously?!

There.  Okay, first off, you really spoil your arguments when you can’t keep your story straight from one day to the next.  It doesn’t.  If it’s about diversity in the genre, then stick with that and when it’s pointed out that you’re idiots because Exhibit A, B, C, D … QQ, RR … ZZ1ZZ4%3ERT, etc then just sit down and shut up.

Do not, instead, decide that it’s about bringing back the good ol’ adventure yarn in place of “message fic” (also do not knock “message fic” while it is possible to witness the orgasmic pleasure you derive by merely typing the name Robert A Heinlein, it REALLY spoils your point), but then start bitching that things don’t qualify when numerous items are pointed out, but those items just happen to have females who play a role other than damsel in distress (Uh, one word for you, buddies, little thing you probably never heard of from the early 20th century Triplanetary … she wasn’t a damsel in distress), characters who incidentally are gay or trans or black or fuchsia or vegetarian or ¼ amphibian … If you’re trying to claim you aren’t over-privileged, white-supremacist, homophobic, transphobic, etc it’d help if you didn’t call things that are exactly the old-fashioned classic adventure yarn you claim to want “message fic about gay issues [for example]” just because a character is gay.  Trust me, there’s a difference between a character being gay and a story dealing with gay issues.  My stories touch on gay issues, they aren’t strictly about them, and in SF/F there frequently is the conceit that the society has no gay issues in the first place (some of the talented Ed Greenwood‘s work, for example).

Just … no.  The whole thing?  You can’t have a secret cabal of 8000 people dictating an award you can’t even make up your mind if it is relevant & important or not.  You certainly can’t say various different authors giving non-identical lists of books they liked which number more items than can be Hugo finalists are setting up the ballots and then turn around and create slates of specific items that should be nominated and voted into certain orders.  No.  Just, are you people serious?  Also, you’re authors, have you ever heard of using capital letters?  What are you all … was it Hemmingway who never touched his shift key? [Edit:  Apparently that’s E E Cumming, either way no one I liked trying to read]

Of course these clowns won’t read my post.  It’d be funny if they did, not.  First off, I’m a woman, so they wouldn’t take this seriously, they’d just leave trollish comments that I wouldn’t bother to approve unless they’ve started leaving more intelligent comments than the last ones I saw elsewhere.  I’m trans, so they’d have terrible things to say which would probably make me cry and then my wife would be in jail for murder because she lacks the requisite subtlety (especially when angry) to make sure the case is of “a missing person presumed dead” instead.  Oh, and I’m a lesbian, and they’re pretty ugly about that too.  And I don’t write SF/F so somehow this makes my opinion about the genre I’ve loved most of my life invalid (I was born in 1981 and have a few fragments of memory of seeing Return of the Jedi in a cinema for crying out loud!).

Oh, this would be further evidence that their own arguments are invalid given that they are often so dismissive of people who are openly Other.

P.S.  Question:  If I ever were to win a Hugo, since Færie Patrol books would qualify for it even if the genre rarely gets any attention at WorldCon … would it be wrong of me to make some kind of off colour joke about the trophy and its profound resemblance to a sex toy?  Something like “Cool … are batteries included?  Where’re the speed controls?” 😇

[Reblog] Reasonably Unscrewed-Up Character ≠ Mary Sue

Once again, Scalzi says something beautifully that’s been bugging me.

No one’s said this about any of my characters, no, but that’s because of a lack of SF. Fantasy/SciFi is outrageous with this stuff. It’s almost perverse … correction, it IS perverse.

Seriously, I’m waiting for the day Bilbo Baggins is routinely accused of being a Mary Sue.


When Mary and I were doing the Q & A portion of our Borderlands Books appearance, I went off the ranch a bit and kvetched about one of my pet peeves concerning science fiction reviewers, which is the assumption that any main character who is not screwed-up is somehow automatically a Mary Sue wish fulfillment character for the writer… or perhaps more accurately that my main characters are Mary Sues for me. Rather than recreate the kvetch, let me transcribe it here, edited slightly so you don’t get every stutter and “uh”:

Forgive me father, for I have sinned, I have been reading my reviews. And there’s one thing that just always pisses me off, and that it is that when they mention characters, they say, well his main character is fine and blah blah blah but it’s really just a Mary Sue character. And it just drives…

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Reader Request Week 2013 #9: Women and Geekdom

What more is there to say except, possibly: Ahmen, Mr Scalzi


In e-mail, Brian asks:

Women in Geekdom. Why is this all exploding now? Where is it going?

I am assuming Brian means women in geek-related fields taking a stand against the both latent and overt sexism in those fields and having to deal with outsized, histrionic freakouts some geek dudes are having about it in response.

What’s happening? To explain, let me go to one of my favorite little bits in the film The American President, which I think these days is best known as writer Aaron Sorkin’s rough draft of The West Wing. The scene has President Andrew Shepherd navigating his way through a Christmas party at the White House and coming across a florid, very concerned man in a green jacket:

INT. RESIDENCE - NIGHT An informal Christmas party is underway with maybe 20 GUESTS, some of them familiar faces. SHEPHERD and a GREEN-BLAZERED MAN GREEN…

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Publishing, agents, and my thoughts

To be frank, I think self and indie publishing have a bad rep.  I know that, part of it, is deserved; far too many people out there who went to a vanity press like Lulu without any actual work except pressing buttons on a keyboard until there were thousands of vaguely English (or French, Italian, Japanese, or whatever) words spread across a few hundred pages.  Sad thing is, there’re books out by major publishers that are hardly better, really.

The sad reality is that, while self-published and indie press are gaining momentum and a foothold, while they are being given respectful nods from the likes SFWA president John Scalzi (well, he’s given up the post to someone else, but he hasn’t taken charge yet, that I know of — I’m not a member and doubt I ever will be, so I don’t watch closely), but by the same token no matter how many copies you sell a self-published title and some indie press titles don’t qualify for membership.

The reality ought to be that putting it out yourself with today’s POD and digital options what they are, that a self or indie published title gets the same respect as any other.  If it’s good, it’s good, if it’s bad it’s bad.  This isn’t the case.  A book that sells less than 2000 copies, but through Tor, might get a movie deal.  An indie or self press that sells that many can forget it, unless you know someone.  A book on the NY Times bestsellers list, might get a deal (self or indie, I mean), but they still might not.  Another sad fact.  Apple is the only electronic distribution channel that allows everyone to arrange for pre-orders.  Can’t do that through Amazon’s KDP or CreateSpace, nor Kobo or Nook or … anyone, let’s not be silly here, I mean you’re not a serious author or publisher or whatever!  You’re just a cute child making a four page picture book with crayons and running to Mother.

Until this perception completely changes, for some authors, self publishing really shouldn’t be the way to go.  An agent, a big publisher, years of waiting to see your book … that’s the only way.  Oh, sure, you can say “It’s more important people see it, than anything else, so I’m selfing it.”  Bully for you.  The point is, you’ll have to be a mix of lucky and prolific to make and maintain a living.  If writing is a hobby you’re quite good at, this is fine, but if you wish it to be what you write on census forms as your job, then probably not so much.

Now this isn’t to vilify the traditional publishing methods.  Some agents are very nice people, some publishers apparently try quite hard to do their job well.

The fact remains, some genres and types of books you pretty much can’t self-publish … the market doesn’t really exist yet.  The would-be professionals should stick with agents and traditional methods, while the quality hobbyists pave the way, and of course you could elect to write something to help in this, by all means.  Want to do middle grade reader books?  Want to be in the Scholastic Book Fair?  Yeah, and look around, there’s a reason that Goosebumps and Fear Street, Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley are still fairly common at certain age ranges.

In other cases it’s nothing so dire.  Erotica or Romance?  DIY or take an agent, the question is just how fast do you want to make those sales, and do you want an advance?  SF?  Don’t bother, in my opinion, with traditional model.  If it isn’t Military SF and NEW Space Opera (which in my opinion isn’t Space Opera) you won’t sell it to the big boys, and even if you write the stuff they want the typical rates are just insulting, you may as well go DIY for all the difference it’ll make, unless you really need a bit of lump sum cash to make a downpayment on a car, or some such.  Westerns?  If your name isn’t Louis L’Amour you’re probably better off self publishing … or possibly not depending how you look at it — Westerns are pretty close to dead, so possibly that Advance, if you can get one, will be the only pennies you see for the book.  Mysteries?  I couldn’t say, if it isn’t the Bernie Rhodenbarr books by Lawrence Block I haven’t really read it, well … the first half dozen Sneakie Pie and Rita Mae Brown books, too.

Research.  All I can say is research, and when in doubt try to get your questions straight, straight forward, and clear and then find a good, helpful person in the industry to ask them of.  An agent, perhaps, or an editor.  Don’t ask them about your work, ask them about the details in general.  Ask them for the numbers, for the fact, for the stats.  Ask them for what one might expect.  Then think, soul search.  Are you writing for money?  Possibly you want to go major publisher, unless you know you’ll be prolific — self-published work doesn’t necessarily sell many copies, but a few copies over several books adds up well, but a few books with an advance might be a nice lump sum you can invest.  Writing an obscure thing?  Is there actually a major publisher out there who’ll touch it?  Might just as well do it yourself.  In the end it’s up to you, what do you want out of your writing, how do you want people to find it, and so on.

I still feel that I’d rather self-publish most thing, but Now & Forever, for example, I have decided (given a positive response from an agent) to traditionally publish.  It seems a better choice given its genre, but I’ll merrily drop it onto the world myself if they say no, because think it’s a fun, cute story and had fun writing it so I’ll have fun sharing it as well, how and via whom doesn’t matter.

An interesting counterpoint

I’ve shared the meat and potatoes of John Scalzi‘s blog posts regarding certain questionable e-book imprints by Random House which included very strong opinions on royalty only publishing models.  This is a counterpoint, not to the ghastly details of Random House’s contracts (truly horrific), but to the royalty only bit.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Defense of the Royalty-Only Model for Digital Publication

John Scalzi, author, blogger, lame-duck (but by no means lame) President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, defender of working writers everywhere, and client of the agency I happen to work for, has been commenting this past week about a shift toward advanceless book deals and the gradual erosion of authors compensation in the digital marketplace (summary can be found here).

While John is mostly right (especially about Random House’s new Hydra/Alibi/Loveswept/Flirt “profit share” endeavor being exploitative) I thought he was perhaps a bit unfair to the royalty-only model, and I thought I might supply a counterpoint to his criticism, and also a bit of context about how the royalty-only model rose to prominence in the digital book sphere.

Hurray for the little guys!

First off there’s the background, located on John Scalzi’s blog referring to a bit of drama between a woman who wrote a space opera story and a miniature’s game company detailed here.

Well, the news progresses toward better with a later entry that the EFF was getting involved.

And according to this (and a quick search of the kindle store confirmed it) the title is back up!

It’s very relieving to see that.

It’s kind of sick, and a sign of something deeply wrong with the world that Games Workshop would feel inclined to try to bully an author out of her book over a term they do not own the trademark to (they do own it for games in the US, but her book is not a game.  Even if she were selling a Warhammer40k rip off book — which she isn’t — that would be a copyright issue, not a trademark issue barring her using the Warhammer40k logo and other such things).  The closest thing to a violation she could be guilty of is IF, and as far as I understand it she does not, she were to sell a print copy of the book in the UK.

Trademark is not like copyright.  It’s not international.  People just think it is.  There’s a reason anyone can sell champaign in the US, but only vineyards in Champaign can do so in the EU.  Cheddar?  Same.  The whole thing over the iPhone in Brazil (or was it Columbia?  Some fairly large S. American country, anyhow)?  It’s all because a trademark is held in the country it was granted in and nowhere else (or in the case of the EU by the trade organisation granting it).

Trademark also only applies to that which it was granted for.  If the South American iPhone had been a children’s toy with no electronic components there may not have been a trademark suit (or there might have but it could easily have been thrown out, or have been ruled in Apple’s favour).  If I trademark a pizza and call it the Lazy Susan, the makers of the Lazy Susan couldn’t say anything — their trademark is on an inanimate object, mine would be on a food product.

Sadly, this doesn’t stop companies.  McDonald’s restaurants  so harassed the clan MacDonald that they actually changed their name to Clan Donald to shut them up!   McDonald’s couldn’t do much, they held a trademark on foods and a restaurant chain, though that did cause problems for various clan members trying to start businesses who’d simply like to use their own bloody name, to the point that the clan has this.  Or a famous golf course in Florida, whose name escapes me and far too many exist to narrow it down, but it’s named for the city it’s in/near — so too were several small mom & pop businesses.  The golf course sued, and won to make them change the name!

No, the little guys don’t always win in these situations, no matter how utterly wrong, or perfectly idiotic the claim.  Sometimes, like with the MacDonalds, they win the legal argument, but then here comes another and another and another until they get too sick of it to argue any more.

Still, we should always fight — and from what I can see the SF community did just that and in spades.  It gets things done, certainly.  I hope that the reinstatement of Ms Hogarth’s book means that her fight with Games Workshop is over.  If it’s not I hope to see the SF community continuing to help her stand up to them.  Maybe by this example other such nonsense will be given pause by companies not willing to face the hellish PR battle that is making arses of themselves in these days of the internet, or by setting up the proper legal precedent that such things will fail, and so forth.

If you’re curious about her books, they can be found here.  She’s also on Smashwords, iBookstore, and Amazon, but I’ve a low opinion of the former, no idea how to do a link to author for iBooks (only link to ISBN), and the latter are the same people who took the book down in the first place (oh!  In case you missed that part reading the other posts and articles out there:  Games Workshop only had the Kindle edition of the book’s sales dropped — the print on Amazon was left be, as well as the eBook in all other distribution channels!).