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Archive for May, 2018

Hello, my name is Brian, and I’m a writeaholic.

Some time ago, I sadly announced that, due to extrinsic factors beyond my apparent control, I was discontinuing my planned series of neo-pulp adventure novels starring my mysterious hero, Nemesis. Some time later, I announced that I had been having some difficulty commencing a new project, but that I was feeling optimistic. I was going to overcome my own self-doubt and write as good a story as I could. Self-publishing was out, magazine stories were in.

I am not only a writeaholic, I am quite naive.

Contrary to writing novels to the exclusion of short stories for magazines, or short stories to the exclusion of novels, I am now doing both simultaneously. You have to understand, that’s not how I work. I don’t do simultaneous projects. I am not one of those writers who has six different ideas in play at once. I work on one thing, then another.

And yet here I am. I am writing a short story for the money and fame. (Ha! That’s a good one, son!) And I am writing another Nemesis novel, Marauders from the Moon, simply because that is what I want to do. And I am writing both at the same time.

Setting myself a short schedule taught me that I could write a novel very quickly. How I learned to do this thing I’m doing now is an open question. Whether I have learned to do this thing I’m doing now is likewise a question.

I feel like a newly-minted superhero exploring his own powers. I’ll try not to destroy the world.

#SFWApro

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Once upon a time, an English professor… No, let me start again. Once upon a time, a geology professor that someone had put in charge of an English class on science fiction (probably because he was the only faculty member who would admit to reading the stuff), lectured that you knew Robert Heinlein was a libertarian because of his book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (which had been assigned in class). Since MHM was libertarian in outlook (and is, in fact, considered a classic in that field, to my understanding), Heinlein must perforce have been a libertarian himself. This view also found expression in the final exam.

A certain student, naive in his outlook and seeking to better his education by exercising free will (ironically, a libertarian ideal), argued that this was, in literary and learned terms, BS. You can’t judge an author by his work. He supported his thesis by offering two other Heinlein works, The Puppet Masters and Starship Troopers, which are by no means libertarian. Both, in fact, feature governments that are willing to do whatever it takes to defend themselves, personal choices taking a back seat.

As you may have predicted if you have any education at all, the student lost that argument. And as you will already have deduced, that student was me. I consider that class to have been the second-worst adventure of my university career, right behind the career-ending catastrophe that was calculus. (See how I used alliteration there? It just proves I should have been an English major all along.)

Unlike calculus, however, my poor showing on that final exam was not my fault. You cannot judge an author from his work. There’s been a lot of controversy lately about authors being banned, or disinvited, from conventions. In some cases it has been based on prior actions, in others on “personal views” which the convention apparently did not want to promote/entertain/risk. How you choose guests is your business, and you may base that decision on the author himself, or on his work. If either does not fit your philosophy of your con, then don’t invite that author. But please don’t make the mistake of characterizing an author on the basis of his work, whether you’re planning a convention or simply reading books. It’s certainly true that many books are a mirror of their creators, but it isn’t a direct correlation. Authors can take completely opposing views in different books if that’s what it takes to tell those stories.

After all, a lot of famous authors got their start by writing porn. If you meet one at a con, ask him if those books are an accurate reflection of his sex life. Go ahead; I’m sure the answer will tell you a lot about that author as a person.

#SFWApro

 

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When you’re just a sidekick, useful for making your boss look good and not much else, is it fair that suddenly you’re supposed to save the world?

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Proud to say that my very first published story, “Where There’s a Will,” will see the light of day once more as part of the Timeshift anthology. There’s a Kickstarter for the project, if you’d like to be a part of that.

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Codes of conduct are all the rage at conventions now–in more than one sense of the word. Not only are more conventions adopting them–and not by choice, but by the necessity of not being seen to be insensitive to various pressing issues–but they are also the cause of rage from various corners.

We’ve always had rules for conventions. Even back in the Stone Age, when I chaired a con, we had rules (such as no guns). But we didn’t have a code as such; our rules were simple: Aside from the “no guns” rule, you had to buy a membership to participate. That was pretty much it. I don’t mean to romanticize “the good old days,” but things are sure different now.

And they are evolving. Worldcon banned one person because he wrote about his plans upon attending, which were ostensibly considered threatening or potentially bothersome to others.* Now, another convention has announced that it is modifying its own code of conduct to include actions taken by potential members outside of the convention itself; in other words, you may be pre-banned for your behavior utterly unconnected to the convention you wish to attend.

How to feel about this? On the one hand, we all want to think that our cons are going to be fun; we don’t want to have to worry that some jerk is going to hijack the weekend for his own asocial purposes. On the other hand, should going to a con involve a virtual job interview? I don’t know of any con that has the volunteer mojo to check every attendees’ (applicants’) social media presence, but with technology improving, how long will it be? And while each concom certainly has the right to determine who it wants to have at its event (usually a real-time decision), what standards will each use? (See an analysis of the application of codes of conduct at Australian conventions here.)

For fans, conventions can be a highlight of their social life. For pros, conventions can be a marketing/networking/sales opportunity, particularly for newer authors who need the exposure. No question that to anyone, being denied entrance is damaging on some level.

The phrase “slippery slope” is overused, but it is applicable to many situations. Add to that the fact that SF fandom loves a controversy like ants love ice cream. Regardless of the fairness of the policy or its application, this is going to create a hurricane of disputation, and if it continues, it’s only going to grow over time. Look for more pros to be banned, and then fans. It starts with political viewpoints, but it will get uglier. The “race card” will be played (fairly or not), sooner rather than later. Today’s fissures today will be tomorrow’s chasms.

I hope that as I grow in stature as a writer, I will not have to maintain two lists: the cons which I would like to attend, and the cons at which I will be welcome. But we don’t always get what we hope for.

ETA: Origins gaming convention has announced the rescission of author Larry Correia’s invitation to be a guest of honor, for having “personal views that are specifically unaligned with the philosophy of our show and the organization.” Although this does not appear to be a code of conduct issue, I fear it is the shape of things to come.

 

*As this matter is in the process of being litigated, I specifically disavow any knowledge as to what any of the parties was thinking/thinking of doing. I’m just speculating here.

#SFWApro

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Fighting (and slaying) a dragon is an old, old fantasy trope that we’re all familiar with, but there’s one invincible dragon that we seem to have to confront at some time (maybe several times) during our careers, especially when we’re trying to gain some traction in the industry. I’m talking about the green-eyed monster called Envy.

Nobody’s immune to that particular behemoth. Some of us are lucky enough to see success early, but even if that success is sustained (of which there is no guarantee), at some point envy of a colleague’s greater success is going to arise. We’re human; we want what the other guy has. This is not to say we necessarily resent the other person, merely that we covet his (or her) accomplishments. (Note that we covet the accomplishments, not the work that went into attaining them. Even an “overnight success” probably isn’t.)

It’s good that we don’t resent the other person, because the closer you are to the person whose situation you are examining, the more envious you feel. And while reading about the latest seven-figure deal for King or Scalzi may leave you thinking merely, “Wouldn’t that be nice?”, hearing that the guy you roomed with at a writing conference three years ago has just been nominated for a Hugo can drive you up the wall–even if (or perhaps especially) you’re still Facebook friends. You don’t hate him for his good fortune, but you agonize, “I’ve seen his work. I gave him critiques! Why him and not me?”

Knowing the answer(s) to that question doesn’t make it any easier: maybe he writes faster than you and has subbed more stories, or his stories are simply finding the right editors, or maybe he paid off 500 Hugo nominators. Or maybe, worst of all, he’s just a better writer than you are. (Ouch.)

But it gets even worse. We know, deep in our souls, past the envy, that if we want what that guy has, there is only one way to get it. It’s just like politics; if you don’t like the person who represents you in Congress, you have to vote. If you don’t like the reception your stories are getting, you have to write.

And it’s not like the friend of whom you’re envious is immune. You envy the friend with the Hugo nomination. He envies the woman who won the Hugo. She envies the person who won the Nebula, who envies the woman who won the “Best Novel” Nebula, who envies the Grandmaster, who frets about why SF authors never win Nobel Prizes. It affects us all.

But the only one you have to worry about, is you. Compared to a Nobel Prize, winning a Hugo doesn’t seem so hard, does it?

#SFWApro

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Spring Sale

The Choking Rain is available for $.99, and The Scent of Death and The Killing Scar, books 2 and 3 of the Nemesis series, are $1.99 each for a limited time! Classic pulp action in the manner of The Shadow and The Avenger–except that in this case, not only will the identity of the villain keep you guessing, but the identity of the hero as well…
“Highly recommended.” – The Pulp Den

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