Archive for October, 2015

So now Fox News is defending supervillains. Fox and Friends recently defended the Supreme Serpent against Captain America (who is now apparently not living up to his name), because preying on immigrants only meant that he was concerned with illegal immigration. Yeah, well, other than the fact that Fox is now taking its talking points from a comic book, and the bad guy at that, who could have a problem with this…?

In fact, I think Fox has dropped the ball–and so have comics. For years we’ve been beaten up, kidnapped, threatened, terrorized, and even killed by supervillains who didn’t grow up here. If the government were doing its job, none of these guys would be a problem, and Cap, Batman, Spider-Man…those guys could concentrate of real, home-grown American crooks. As a public service, then, this site is going to call out some of those non-native invasive species who should be deported post-haste.

Doctor Doom. Let’s cover the big guy first. Sure, he’s got diplomatic immunity as dictator of Latveria, but can’t we revoke his diplomatic status or something? I mean, who’s more important, Doc Doom or the New York-born Fantastic Four?

The Red Skull. I know we let in a lot of Nazi rocket scientists after the war, but he wasn’t one of them. So how does he get here to fight Captain America all the time?

Batroc the Leaper. French. Again, Captain America (contrary to Fox) is the only hero living up to his name.

Ra’s Al-Ghul. I mean, the guy’s the head of the oldest criminal gang in the world. And Batman is the only one who wants to send his sorry behind home?

Pretty much everybody Iron Man’s fought in the movies. Whiplash? Russian. The Mandarin? Supposedly Asian, probably English, but certainly not American. And while we’re on the English, haven’t there been about a thousand English bad guys in movies in the last thirty years? We’re way behind the curve here!

Loki. Now there’s somebody we can agree doesn’t belong here. Good thing we’ve got Thor. Wait, what? He just plopped down without a visa? Good gravy, we’re going to need some heavy hitter to boot him out. How about Wonder Woman? Seriously? Okay, Superman. He’ll take them all–no. No way. Superman? Really? I thought he was from Kansas!

I guess he’s not from Kansas anymore…


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I was in the library today, and it struck me: I could be here someday. This is an entire building devoted to what people like me have done. If there were no books, this building wouldn’t be here and we’d have another convenience store in its place. The only reason that didn’t happen is because enough writers made it so.

Is it any wonder, then, that writers have such big egos? (Ironically, they have lousy self-confidence. Go figure.) What other buildings are designed to hold only the kind of work someone does? Yes, you could argue that furniture stores and auto dealerships and Starbucks are devoted to someone’s work, but none of them is subsidized by the government. What other institution, public or private, is as widespread, and gives away all of its wares for free? And nobody ever stages a protest at City Hall because a Starbucks is going to be closed.

Libraries, on the other hand, are community icons. They form the basis for great universities. People set up little private lending institutions in shelters outside their houses. I’ve even seen Starbucks that have little libraries. Libraries are everywhere, they are very important, and they are only there because of writers.

It’s an awesome responsibility. We bear the weight of civilization on our shoulders, because all of our knowledge is contained in our libraries, and all of our libraries are dependent on our writers.

(And yet we get paid lousy wages. You’d think we were teachers or something equally useless.)*

Writers are always looking for ways to get on bookstore shelves, but I think they would be better off focusing on getting on library shelves. Barnes & Noble will move your book after a few weeks; a library will keep your book until the cover falls off. The bookstore can sell as many copies as it orders, which probably won’t be many, and they don’t have to re-order. The library can loan out your book dozens or hundreds of times.

So get out, go to a library, and imagine how cool it would be to be supported by an entire branch of government dedicated solely to making work like yours available to everyone. Forever. For free. See if that doesn’t perk up the old ego.

And while you’re there, donate a few used copies of books to the Friends of the Library. They can even be yours. Every little bit helps.

*Yes, I’m kidding. Without teachers there are no readers or writers. English teachers, anyway. Math teachers I’m not so sure about.


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Writers are philosophical creatures. We contemplate the meaning of Existence, and try to explicate the mysteries of Life through our Art. We know that although we do not possess the One Truth, we do possess the ability to articulate bits of Truth in a way others cannot. This explains our exalted position throughout history and why we are so well regarded (and compensated) today.

Okay, what writers really are is good liars. But the part of about philosophy is true, too, to some extent in every project. And sometimes it’s not in the project, but in the presentation.

It’s no secret that publishers and editors are people, and people have principles and ideas. Not everyone’s ideas and principles agree, and this applies to writers and the editors and publishers they sell to.

There have been some famous examples of this, the most recent being the Sad Puppies boycotting Tor. (Yes, they started the boycott for a specific reason, but they hated Tor’s editors already.) That’s not my point. I have sold stories to editors and publishers on both sides of the Great American Political Divide, mostly in cases where I didn’t know the “relevant” politics until later. In most cases, though, I still have no clue what politics or causes my editors and publishers espouse. The same applies to writers, although I do read some authors whose politics I know I disagree with.

What to do when I know ahead of time that a publisher holds beliefs I don’t hold? Ah, there’s the rub. I guess it’s just a matter of “what” and “how much.” What position does the publisher take? And how militant is the position? For me, it’s about the fiction. Obviously publishers and editors have their tastes. Aesthetic tastes dictate the magazine’s content. Do political tastes influence the market as well, and am I lending an implicit endorsement by publishing there?

If yes (and I disagree with their position), I’ll stay away. So far that doesn’t appear to have happened. And so far (to my knowledge) every time there has been a disagreement it’s been a matter of conflicting principles. I can write from differing viewpoints, and I like to think I can handle other people’s. If it’s a principled stand, I can handle it. If you’re using it to spew hate, that’s different.

I don’t believe in avoiding an author because I don’t like his politics. I don’t believe in blacklisting a market because I don’t agree with the publisher’s politics. And if I’ve sold a story, it’s a contract I will honor even if I find out something later I don’t agree with. With the way the internet works, however, it’s getting harder not to know ahead of time.

There are only so many markets in the world. It’s a balancing act. You have to be philosophical.


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Vampires. Ghouls. Zombies. Donald Trump.

Sexy vampires. Sexy ghouls. Sexy zombies. Sexy–oh no, not going there.

This is the time of year that boys and girls, men and women of all ages dress up like their favorite fantasy (or fantastical) characters: the kids for candy, the adults for parties. And everyone does it; no matter how much they eschew fantasy and make-believe the rest of the year, virtually everyone dresses up, or has, or caters to those who do.

Why then, do people who have no trouble making themselves into something they are not have so much trouble reading about something that isn’t? Why are SF and fantasy still looked down on–except on Halloween, when horror gets a pass? And it’s not like people don’t like this stuff. How many of the top-grossing films are SF or fantasy? How many TV series? How long have commercials used fantasy trappings to sell cars and soap? It’s the books that are suffering.

Is it reading? Because a lot of today’s young adults grew up on Harry Potter, so they have read for pleasure. Was Harry Potter simply an anomaly, accepted because it was popular, like a Kardashian?

Maybe it’s the conventions. Maybe all those pictures of kids dressed up like anime characters and Batman and female Thors are giving the field a bad rep. Hey, I’ve got news for you–they’re only doing in July what you’ll be doing in October…

Yes, SF and fantasy are more popular than ever, if you go by movies and TV. But while it’s quite normal to see adults in Avengers t-shirts, ask one of them if he reads the stuff. Any SF, not just comics. Because he probably doesn’t. Reading this stuff is for kids, or grown-ups living in their parents’ basement. (Okay, most kids today come back to live in their parents’ basement, but that’s not the point.)

It’s well-known that fantasy thrives in times of economic turmoil, which explains why it’s so popular today. But other than Harry Potter and the Avengers and Star Wars, it’s still not considered grown-up entertainment. We who know the field know this is ridiculous. We’re past ray-guns and BEMs and Mars Needs Women. We deal with climate change and gender roles and politics. We write romances and mysteries and westerns. We just throw in a few aliens now and then.

Do we need better marketing? Do we need more Lucases and Rowlings and Spielbergs? Or should we simply be thankful for our gains and go on thinking we know something other people don’t know?

It should not be difficult to get other folks to read what we like, just to see if they like it too. I mean, if people will accept this current crop of presidential candidates, they’ll swallow anything.

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Stephanie Meyer has written a new version of Twilight with the major roles gender-reversed. There’s now a female vampire pursuing a young male human. (Disclaimer: I haven’t read Twilight.) It’s apparently pretty much a word-for-word reprint with a few mistakes fixed and the aforementioned gender switch. It’s bundled with the anniversary edition of Twilight; at least the publisher’s not charging separately, which to me would be a rip-off. So…go for it.

On the other hand, Michael Martinez, author of the Daedalus trilogy of SF/fantasy/alternate history, just posted an essay talking about leaving his successful series to start a new project. (Disclaimer: Michael is an acquaintance. Second disclaimer: The Daedalus Incident is awesome. The others are on my TBR list.) He has no assurances it will work out for him, but he feels his Daedalus characters have reached their logical conclusion. Again, I say–go for it.

Two authors, one with an extremely successful trilogy, the other with a critically-acclaimed trilogy. One is tilling the same ground for what will doubtless be another best-seller, the other is striking out in a new direction. Is one route better than the other? That depends on what you want out of your writing.

But I’m more interested here in journeys than goals. A lot of writers have worked in other writers’ universes, some quite successfully. I’m not talking about work for hire, like a Star Wars novel, for example. I’m talking about writing new Sherlock Holmes stories, or Chthulu mythos, or even pastiches such as I’ve written in the style of P.G. Wodehouse. Is that less meritorious than creating a completely original piece?

As little as I know about Twilight, I assume that the characters have completed their arcs. If they haven’t, keep going. I love series. Most readers do. Just ask mystery fans. But is going back and re-writing the same book with sex-swapped characters just tilling someone else’s field, even if the “someone else” is you?

Every writer, when it comes down to it, is looking to make some money, maybe even enough to live on. I have authors and forms I prefer, other people have theirs. It’s a big world; there’s room for all of us. And if I want to tell other people how to live their lives, I’ll just write a story and they’ll all do exactly as I say. Because when you write, that’s what your characters do.

Yeah, right.


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A while ago, I wrote about an example of rampant sexism in SF and how I felt about it. As it happens, an article was pointed out to me today, and in fairness, I feel this point of view should be disseminated.

Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.

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If there’s anything we can count on in today’s world, it is that if you dare to put any sort of opinion forward on the Internet, a million people will attack you for it. Amazon apparently feels it is big enough to stand the hit, and it is publishing various lists of 100 Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime, categorized by genre. Today it’s science fiction and fantasy’s turn. Well, to take my inspiration from the Bard (who better?), I come not to praise Amazon nor to bury them. I just want to nit-pick a little bit.

First, in a flurry of self-congratulation, I have to admit that I’ve read–or tried to read–a good number of the recommended books already. (Okay, 37.) Although “tried to read” is a more accurate description in several cases, I count them. Intent is important, and in almost none of those cases did I simply give up for lack of time. No, it was nearly uniformly for lack of interest. And therein lies the nit-pick.

Now, I am not going to say that every one of those books I failed to finish was bad and doesn’t belong on the list. Most of the time, they simply weren’t my cup of tea. And a couple were just too damned long. There are only so many hours in a day. I mean, I read A Song of Ice and Fire, but I gave up in the third book because the story’s just too complicated and I haven’t the time–nor can I remember each book for five years until the next comes out. But a few of these titles…yes, one or two I simply cannot hold with. And while I realize they have their defenders (I’ve had the arguments), and they certainly have the sales, I would not have put them on this list.

Three books stand out for me: Pawn of Prophecy, Perdido Street Station, and Guilty Pleasures.

I didn’t hate The Belgariad. I read the first five Eddings books straight through. They were entertaining. They just weren’t award-worthy. I thought they were derivative, stereotyped, and thoroughly run-of-the-mill. It’s on this list because it sells, and Amazon is a book-seller.

Perdido Street Station is hailed everywhere I look as a transcendent work of art, a masterpiece. Me? I finished the book, looked at the cover, and asked: “What was the point of that?” It might belong on this list, but I wouldn’t put it there.

I loved Guilty Pleasures. I bought it when it first came out, and read the next half-dozen or so like clockwork. I got some signed. Then I stopped. The story veered way off in the wrong direction, and the last I heard, it was a parody of its former self. More to the point, though, there’s nothing ground-breaking or life-changing about that first book. Again, it’s there because it sells.

Bonus title: Why The Curse of Chalon? Why not one of Bujold’s Vorkosigan novels? Not a quibble, just a question.

What would I have picked? Why, I thought you’d never ask. Off the top of my head…

Telempath, by Spider Robinson. Blew my mind. A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s been in print for over a century for a reason. And for heaven’s sake, any of a dozen novels by Tanith Lee. They’re like Pringles, except that you can’t read more than one without a break, because they are so rich.

So, there. Only three or four disagreements out of a hundred. Who says you can’t be reasonable on the Internet? Now, if you wanted to rate all the Godzilla movies…


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