2016/01/28

Fandom Is Dead. Long Live Fandom!

the medium is the message

If you change the medium, you change the message.

Philosopher of communication Marshall McLuhan argued persuasively that advances in media, regardless of content, can incite dramatic, culture-wide effects.

A best selling print book can reach millions of people, but turn that book into a hit movie, and you increase its sphere of influence by orders of magnitude. Consider The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.

Or, for a meta-example, In the Mouth of Madness.

Now throw in digital technologies--the power to instantly connect with anyone or everyone, everywhere. The effect is compounded exponentially.


A media paradigm shift is playing out in SF fandom.


Dragon Con

Getting back to McLuhan, saying that he was ahead of his time would be an understatement. In fact, it wouldn't be exaggerating to call his work prophetic. Let's put it this way: the dude predicted the internet in 1962.

McLuhan noted that print technology caused a massive societal shift away from the more tribal, logic-focused outlook of the Middle Ages to a more individualistic, rhetorical worldview. He expected the web to swing the pendulum back toward tribalism.

Let's take a look at SF fandom through the lens of McLuhan's "medium as message" theory.

In the early days, science fiction enthusiasts:

A. Got their fix almost exclusively through the printed word in the form of novels and short stories circulated in magazines.

B. Were a pretty nonconformist, iconoclastic bunch. As Andy Duncan recently said on the passing of the great David Hartwell:
Even in the mid-20th century, David continued, science fiction was a haven for gay and bi and trans people, for people in open marriages or triads or even more complex domestic scenarios, for people with physical and mental disabilities, for shameless exhibitionists and unapologetic recluses, for anarchists and socialists and Birchers and libertarians and Weathermen and CIA operatives, for cosplayers and gamers and creative anachronists and people who crafted wholly spurious biographies for themselves that were accepted and therefore became sort of true, for channelers and Scientologists and orthodox Jews and pre-Vatican II Catholics and Mormons and New Agers and heretics and atheists and freethinkers, for Ph.D.’s and autodidacts, for writers of COBOL and speakers of Esperanto, for Forteans and CSICOPs, for astronomers and astrologers, for psychics and physicists, for basically anyone who was smart and passionate and willing to pitch in somewhere— though talent certainly helped, and curiosity, and a zeal for argument, and a sense of humor.
C. Subsisted as a relatively small subculture within larger Western society.

It's often been remarked how sci-fi fandom burst out of the basements, niche bookstores, and cramped con suites of its birth to win new legions of adherents with the 1977 release of Star Wars.
For some fans, the gaming world is where it’s at. They are gamers to the core, not precisely readers per se, nor perhaps even watchers of television and movies. But even among gamers, there are traditionalists (tabletop, pencil-and-paper players, writers, and developers) and there are video gamers. Their two circles can and often do overlap. But among younger players especially, the circle for video games is going to be very large, in comparison to the circle for tabletop.
--Brad R. Torgersen
Most commenters usually emphasize this event's unprecedented effect on C, take A largely for granted, and so gloss over--or misattribute--the causal relationship between the change in the primary medium of SF consumption and B.

Brad is an outlier in his astute recognition that newer media (movies, TV, video games, etc.) contributed to the disruption of old fandom. But he focuses more on what kinds of SF contemporary fans prefer than how they prefer to experience it.
The point I want to make (with the diagram) is that, in 21st century fandom, there aren’t any touchstone movies, books, or other properties which every fan, writer, or editor can rely on being known to every other fan, writer, or editor. There is no longer a central nexus for fandom.
My explanation for the conflicts that have shaken fandom of late differs slightly from Brad's. I agree that relative innovations like movies and TV, and recent developments like video games (which are all reasons why there is no universal canon of SF touchstones), lie at the root of the turmoil.

But I don't think that fandom is tearing itself apart. Instead, what we're seeing is various sub-tribes of SF fans vying against each other to establish the identity of an emerging, consolidated fandom.

Brad gives a good description of this phenomenon: "It’s at the super-cons that one can again get a vague sense of wholeness: all fans of all things merging together for a weekend of intersectionality across innumerable interests."

That, my friends, is the shape of the future. But what will be the content of its character? What sort of men will these post-fans be? Or will the Amazon servers and mega-convention halls of tomorrow be populated entirely by omnisexual, non-binary otherkin?


Fandom will become more communal, but what sort of community will it be?

Star Trek: The Apple

Watching a movie requires less personal effort than reading print. Even eBooks engage readers' senses and thought processes differently than print books do.

Audiences watching the same movie share a much more uniform experience than readers of the same book. Everyone who's seen Star Wars knows what Luke Skywalker looks like, but no two Neuromancer readers have exactly the same mental image of Case.

The film industry dwarfs print publishing. As more people come to SF through movies, their shared experience will restore fandom's sense of community. What the values and customs of this community will be remains undetermined.

The outcome is being decided right now, by self-appointed makers and high priests of culture. If we would have a say in the destiny of fandom, we must wield the new technological tools at our disposal. And we must establish a presence in film.

Currently, I am at best a lowly squire in the battle royale for fandom's soul. Who are the warring tribes, and who are the chieftains that champion their visions?

We'll meet them next time.

2016/01/26

Sad Puppies 4 Update: My Readers Are Awesome!

Fans of Nethereal have been busy over on the Sad Puppies 4 Best Novel recommendations thread.

Throughout all of its iterations, Sad Puppies has been dedicated to making SF fandom at large aware of books that would normally have gone unnoticed by the much smaller Worldcon membership. SP has been particularly effective in helping to level the playing field between indie and big publishers.

The team behind Sad Puppies 4 have stated that their goal is to expand the pool of voters for the 2016 Hugos and bring in as much new blood as possible. How effective have they been so far?

It just so happens that I'm ideally placed to answer that question.

SP 4 is currently taking recommendations for the best SFF works of 2015. When polling closes in February or March, they will publish a suggested reading list composed of the ten most recommended works in each category.

I crunched the numbers, and if SP 4's Best Novel recommendations were released today, they'd look like this:

Sad Puppies 4 Speculative Top 10

Damn, can my readers punch above their weight!

And Sad Puppies gives them a seat at the table right up there with fans of Larry Correia, Jim Butcher, and Neal Stephenson.

Here's a secret: all authors are terrified that no one will like our books. The ability to overcome fear of rejection is the one skill that separates working writers from perpetual daydreamers.

When I wrote Nethereal, I had no idea if anyone outside my circle of family and friends would even buy it. Hitting Publish on KDP was among the most intimidating experiences of my life.

All things considered, I'm just a schlock SF writer trying to entertain people. If you want literary pretensions and civics lectures dressed up in SF clothing by writers who are too ashamed of the genre to write actual science fiction, you're in the wrong place.

I write for the quiet multitude that legacy publishing abandoned in its rush to be socially conscious--people who'd read SF for years and almost gave up, or did give up, on it for lack of the entertainment that was really all they ever wanted.

Unlike the dying legacy publishers who've been dragging the genre down with them, I don't think that a little fun is too much to ask.

It's extremely gratifying to know that my work is paying off. My readers are having a good time, and Sad Puppies is giving them the platform to let me know it.

But that's not the most amazing part. What blows my mind is the fact that more people have suggested me for the Campbell Award for Best New Author than Andy Weir.

Do you people understand what you've done? You have placed me ahead of the dude who WROTE THE FUCKING MARTIAN!

What's wrong with you? Whatever it is, don't change it.

Well, it looks like some folks are actually quite fond of the stories I throw together from bits and pieces lifted off of Frank Herbert, Masamune Shirow, and Dante. Guess I'll have to keep them coming.

Luckily, my next offering is due to arrive any day now.

I hope you have fun with it!


Update of the update: Best selling author and former Sad Puppies mastermind Larry Correia has declined a place on the Sad Puppies 4 recommended reading list, citing his renunciation of all Hugo nominations for his works. We can be sure that the SP 4 organizers will respect his wishes.

2016/01/25

Souldancer Character Study: Nahel

All Dogs Go to Heaven

During the revision process for my new book Souldancer, my editor recommended a character-building exercise popularized by literary agent Donald Maass. I ran several of the book's principle characters through the exercise to help me figure out what made them tick, and thus portray them more three-dimensionally.

Of all the new characters in this sequel to Nethereal, one who was consistently among the most fun to write was Nahel. As a preview of Souldancer and a brief look at events that bridge the two novels, I've reproduced the exercise designed to highlight two of Nahel's contrasting qualities. See if you can figure out which two character traits are in tension during the following scene.


The Castle of Despenser, former Baal of the Fifth Circle

Nahel stood atop the promontory and surveyed the blasted ruin before him. A fortress had once risen—wall within wall and tower upon tower—from the inverted cone of rock amid the Fifth Circle’s fetid sea. Now that Nahel and his friends in Nakvin’s army had done their job, nothing remained of the castle but a dark, smoking foundation.

Feels good to see the tables turned for once, thought Nahel. Everywhere, soldiers in the gold and green uniform of Avalon—both Gen, malakhs, demons, and dead humans—picked through the debris in search of hidden foes and trapped prisoners.

Nahel’s canine ears perked up at a soft sound, barely audible over the post-battle cacophony: a weak tapping drifting up from the pit. He rushed to the crater’s edge and slid down a slope of loose rubble till he stood over the source of the sound.

A slab composed of large cemented stones lay atop the debris before him. Nahel listened. He was sure that this was where the tapping had come from, but he waited several seconds for it to recur and heard nothing.

Nahel sniffed the air. The reek of smoke—and other less mundane; more hateful odors—stung his sensitive nose. Yet a weird mélange of scents wafted up from beneath the slab, combining wolf, bat, rat, and man.

Probably some kind of demon, Nahel thought. He suddenly recalled that he stood in the unroofed bowels of Despenser’s dungeon. Who knew what living nightmares the baal had stashed away down here?

Nahel drew his sword—its short, spade-shaped blade already bloodstained from the day’s work, planted it in the ground beside him, stooped down, and heaved on slab with all his angelic might. Stone scraped against stone, Nahel’s muscles burned beneath his russet fur, and at last the slab went crashing down into the dungeon’s nethermost pits.

Dust swirled, blocking Nahel’s sight of the cavity he’d revealed. He retrieved his sword and crouched, his heart thudding as he waited to see his enemy.

There was movement in the depths of the cavity, which soon turned out to be a crude cell. It had mostly collapsed, but the chains worn by its wretched occupant; who must have been striking them against the slab, told Nahel what the squalid chamber had been.

Nahel’s nose and eyes strove to confuse him. The animal scents remained, but the prisoner was clearly a man—disheveled and emaciated, but still a man.

The prisoner struggled to raise his sandy-haired head and fixed his defiant brown eyes on Nahel.

“Help me,” the prisoner croaked.

Without hesitating, Nahel sheathed his sword and leapt into the collapsed cell. “Hang on, buddy,” he said gently. “You’re gonna be okay.” Nahel lifted the prisoner, who weighed startlingly little, with one arm slung around the man’s back and hooked under his armpit, and hauled both of them out of the cell.

“Thank you,” the prisoner wheezed as he lay panting on the debris-strewn slope. “I am Sulaiman Iason, once a priest of Midras. What are you called?”

Nahel’s maw gaped in a doglike smile. “I used to work for Midras, too! Name’s Nahel. I’m a malakh.”

Sulaiman’s filthy beard may have hidden a grin. “I suspected that you were. I also suspect that Despenser’s reign as baal has ended. Tell me, friend Nahel, to whom do I owe my thanks for this most welcome turn of events?”

“Avalon’s army brought the baal down, but we wouldn’t be here if not for Queen—” The sound of disturbed rubble, and another scent—like grave dirt and lilacs—made Nahel forget what he’d been saying. His hackles rose, and a deep, rumbling growl issued unbidden from his throat.

“What’s wrong?’ asked Sulaiman.

By then, Nahel had seen what was wrong. A pale, gangly thing that smelled of flowers laid to mask corruption swarmed up from the deeper, lightless pits and undulated toward them. Snarling with unrestrained wrath, Nahel leapt upon the demon as the twin sawblades of its slug-like mouth parts extended toward Sulaiman. The malakh put the force of his descent behind the downward thrust of his sword, and the needle-pointed blade sank deep into the demon’s pallid, rubbery flesh. A sigh like an old woman at her last son’s funeral escaped form the wound. The demon collapsed into a shapeless mass and lay still.

Nahel stepped off of the fiend’s deflated remains, shook purple blood from his sword, and turned to Sulaiman. “Sorry,” said the malakh. “I got a little distracted. You were saying something?”

2016/01/24

Geek Gab Episode 39: 13 Hours

Welcome to another drug-fueled episode of Geek Gab!

This time, Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and I discuss the controversial new movie 13 Hours.

Check it out!



P.S. prayers for Daddy Warpig's full and swift recovery from surgery. I hope the bug hallucinations stop.

2016/01/20

You Spoke. We Listened.

The results of the Souldancer cover A/B test are in!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote. We had a total of 31 participants who provided a good sample size and lots of useful feedback.


The poll

The poll ran for two days. It was quite a contest, with the numbers shifting back and forth. But in the end, one concept sketch would capture 21 votes to 10 and be chosen for the final cover.

Even if your favorite sketch didn't win, know that you've made a valuable contribution to this project. Personally, I like both covers, which is why I abstained from voting. I wanted to hear my readers' unbiased opinions, and you guys delivered the goods! My international team of publishing experts now has a much clearer picture of your criteria for an engaging and effective cover.


The Results

But enough flattery. Without further delay, I'm honored to present YOUR victorious Souldancer cover art sketch:


Souldancer concept

Marcelo has been notified of your decision, and he is hard at work transforming the rough concept art above into the same kind of lushly detailed, full color masterpiece that graces the cover of Nethereal.

Nethereal small


The next steps

It shouldn't take long for Marcelo to complete the finished cover. After that, I just need to get the book formatted, and then it's show time.

Make sure to watch this space and my Twitter feed for updates on the imminent Souldancer launch.

Thanks again to my readers. These achievements wouldn't have been possible without you; nor the great things waiting just around the corner.

2016/01/19

Cast Your Vote for My New Book's Cover

Frequent readers will recall that the talented Marcelo Orsi Blanco designed the cover for my space pirate novel Nethereal.

Nethereal sketch

As you can probably tell just by looking, Marcelo's cover was a smash hit. Several readers told me that they decided to buy the novel based solely on his cover art.

I was justifiably ecstatic when Marcelo agreed to design the cover for the next Soul Cycle book, Souldancer.

Whereas Nethereal is a space opera romp with undercurrents of horror, I wrote Souldancer to do what every good sequel does: expand on themes that were only implicit in its predecessor.

My goal was to heighten the sense of horror and wonder by unveiling many of the cosmic mysteries hinted at in the first book, all without sacrificing the action and adventure that's made the series fun.


A deeper story presents new design challenges.

To be honest, I didn't envy Marcelo. An SF-horror novel really just needs a cool, menacing-looking ship on the front. Coming up with a cover that conveys the mood, tone, and general themes of a more complex and metaphysical book like Souldancer presents a much bigger challenge.

I had faith in Marcelo's skills, and he more than proved himself equal to the task. Here are his rough concept sketches for Souldancer.


Souldancer cover 1


Souldancer cover 2


Only one sketch will be chosen.

Which of the two designs above will serve as the basis for the final cover?

You decide!

That's right. I'm doing my modest part to transfer power from NY publishers to the readers by putting Souldancer's cover to a popular vote.

Souldancer AB test

You're invited to participate in the A/B test already in progress here. The sketch that has the most votes at midnight CST tonight will be made into the official cover.

Cover A or Cover B? It's your call. Make your voice heard!

2016/01/18

Cirsova Heroic Fantasy is Here!

Cirsova heroic fantasy

Science fiction used to be a niche market restricted to a small cult following. Back in the day, a sci-fi fan could easily read every novel and short story published in the field each year. A handful of magazines and one or two major conventions could easily accommodate the whole SF scene.

The status quo changed in a big way in the late 70s/early 80s when the Star Wars trilogy blew the lid off of fandom. What had been the tiny domain of a few nerds was suddenly thrown open to everyone. For the first time, it was cool to like science fiction.


Trouble ahead

You have to actually be from Mars not to notice how every entertainment medium from movies to TV to comics has been turned into a propaganda tool for the ruling class. There's no way they'd let a genre as popular and influential as SF go unscathed.

The major publishing houses were only too willing to cooperate. In the last twenty years or so, dull, socially conscious lectures disguised as adventure stories have gotten most of big publishers' attention to the exclusion of stories that put fun first.

As a result, there's a whole generation of sci-fi fans who've been alienated from their own genre. They're called names for wanting pure, simple entertainment. They're told to take the preachy dreck they're given and like it.

From the dawn of modern publishing, the major houses held all the cards. Readers who wanted their SF fix were at the publishers' mercy. Authors inclined to write the stories that fans wanted had to toe the company line or languish in obscurity.


If you want it done right, do it yourself.

The future of SF looked pretty dire when the Big Five were the only game in town. But just like no one expected the paradigm shift in fandom that was Star Wars, no one in trad publishing saw indie coming.

There have been two landmark innovations that have made indie publishing not only a sustainable model, but a more profitable one, than legacy pub.

Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing gave authors direct access to massive audiences.

Crowd funding freed indie authors from reliance on legacy publishers' resources.

These breakthroughs, and the consequent flourishing of independent publishing, have restored power to its rightful place: with the readers and authors who want to enjoy and tell entertaining stories.


Planet Stories


Which brings us to the main topic

Alex Kimball is a science fiction fan who wants to read and tell exciting adventure stories. He saw a whole generation of dispossessed SF fans just like him and decided to take action.

Cirsova, a sword and planet/heroic fantasy pulp 'zine is Alex's love letter to the legions of fans left out in the cold by the declining SF mags and legacy publishers.

In his own words:

Last year I hammered out some sword & planet fiction of my own; rather than spend a year getting rejected by magazines, I figured it would be better investment of my time to start my own semi-pro zine.  My focus is on heroic fantasy and adventure science fiction in the vein of Flashing Swords! and Planet Stories. 

He graciously sent me a review copy of the first issue, and it does not disappoint!

Do you miss Robert E. Howard style sword and sandal adventures in postapocalyptic worlds?

Do you hunger for alternate history war stories with a touch of magic that don't devolve into lectures on the evils of Western civilization?

Is there a Lovecraft-shaped hole in your life?

How about a daring heist flavored with Japanese folklore?

Cirsova has you covered. In the thrilling first issue, you'll find all of these amazing tales--and more!


Weird Tales


Indie publishers need your support.
Entrepreneurs like Alex are working hard to bring you the kinds of stories that legacy publishers won't. Indie publishing gives them the freedom to reach readers directly, but connecting their publications with those readers is a big challenge.

Writers, too need our support. The rates paid by SF magazines haven't changed since Heinlein's day. It's now impossible to earn a living on short story sales alone. Alex Kimball wants to do what he can to improve SF writers' lot:

I wanted to fill a niche both for the readers I've seen complaining about the lack of exciting adventure stories in the main magazines and for the writers who have few markets that pay better than token rates for this brand of SFF.

Cirsova is a godsend for fans who've almost given up on contemporary SF. The first issue proves that tedious message fic, romances with a thin veneer of SF and fantasy, and activism masquerading as entertainment aren't allowed. What you will find inside are genuine adventure tales in the classic style of Howard, Lovecraft, and Campbell.

The first issue is already in the black. If you'd like Alex to keep the fun coming, his Kickstarter page is here.

Indie publishers like Alex Kimball work hard to serve readers. Their success is in your hands. Help ensure that they'll keep on entertaining us for years to come.

Speaking of which, I've been known to do some reader-centric publishing of my own.

Nethereal


2016/01/17

Geek Gab Episode 38: The Revenant

This week on Geek Gab, Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal talk about the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant.

My mic cut out right after we started, but it wasn't much of a loss because I didn't get to see the movie. The technical difficulties were resolved in time for me to send the show into overtime with an off-topic spiel about how The Force Awakens should have ended.

Check it out!


2016/01/14

Goodreads Censors Crimethink

newspeak

As the backlash over Twitter's deverification of British journalist Milo Yiannopoulos reverberates through the internet, a parallel controversy involving censorship and libel against other counterculture figures continues to simmer on Goodreads.

Before we dive in, it's worth noting a few key points of Goodreads' review policy.
Mentioning the author in the context of a review is always acceptable, but reviews that are predominantly about an author’s behavior and not about the book will be deleted.
Reviews with off-topic, irrelevant comments about the author's personal life will be deleted.
Sounds fair. But a problem raises its head when we get to the disclaimers.
It is at our sole discretion and no one else's, that we decide when a review is against our guidelines. 
OK. I understand the legal necessity of covering yourself. But from a business standpoint, if your stated reason for hosting reviews is to help "...the millions of other readers on Goodreads learn what a book is really about, and decide whether or not they want to read it," you may want to close the highly exploitable loopholes in your conspicuously vague guidelines.

Otherwise, the only readers who can be assured of getting useful information from those reviews are readers who agree with Goodreads' nebulous "discretion". And unwritten standards like those tend to invite other problems, such as...


Reader manipulation via ideologically motivated non-reviews

The Goodreads review page for John C. Wright's The Judge of Ages is currently topped by a politically motivated rant by user DMS.

Not only does she violate the letter of the review guidelines by personally attacking the author, her whiny screed doesn't even critique the novel--which, seeing as how she posted this three months before the book's release, she didn't even read.

Instead, DMS instantly veers off-topic, insulting readers looking for a good book with a crimethink checklist of out-of-context quotes cherry picked from the author's personal blog.
"A real heroine does not manipulate good men by their affections, nor copulate out of wedlock." (Slut shaming, check.)
I was concerned that DMS's thought policing might turn readers off from an excellent sci-fi adventure book, but on second thought her diatribe is more likely to turn potential suitors off from dating a keyboard activist who broadcasts her solidarity with manipulative sluts.

Caveat emptor, guys!

Why (as of this writing) is an ignorant polemic that's in blatant violation of at least two Goodreads guidelines still the top review, never mind still on the site at all? Perhaps no one's reported the abuse.

Except the author's wife says they did.


As does the author.


Whether you agree with an author's politics or not, petty social media tyrants have no business trying to manipulate your reading choices.

If Goodreads wants to use their vague disclaimer as a paper shield, that's on them. Looks like writers will have to stand up for themselves. If only an author with a substantial social media following would organize some kind of resistance to the fake review-posting trolls running roughshod over Goodreads.

Well, somebody did. Guess how that turned out.


Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies group purged from Goodreads

Vox is a multiple best selling author and multiple Hugo-nominated editor who's been subjected to his share of fake reviews.
Unlike with A Throne of Bones, I didn't actually read SJWs Always Lie.
I didn't have to. It's all in the title.
"All in the title" indeed, review troll. All in the title, indeed.

Vox finally decided he'd had enough and invited his readers to join a Rabid Puppies group on Goodreads for the main purpose of weeding out fake reviews of his publisher's books. He made it clear that the RPs weren't to violate any of Goodreads' rules.

Goodreads, who have yet to delete a non-review that stands in brazen violation of their policies, promptly banned a group that not only followed those policies to the letter, but strove to uphold them when the policymakers wouldn't.
Hello Vox,
Your account was recently brought to our attention.  Upon review, we have decided to remove it from the site.  A CSV of the books you shelved is attached for your personal records.  You are banned from using Goodreads in any capacity going forward.
Sincerely,
The Goodreads Team
The snitch who reported the RP group soon came out to brag. Here's the best evidence he could dredge up against Vox:





Welcome to Goodreads, where you can pass off personal attacks against authors as reviews of their work--but only if they're of the wrong political persuasion!

If the author or his fans protest, we'll hide behind our vague guidelines and ignore them.

If they have the gall to hold us to our own standards via organized action, we'll ban the rule-abiding yet politically unclean groups while letting violators of the right ideology run free!


A self-solving problem

If there's anything to be learned from this debacle, it's that Goodreads suffers from a terminal lack of vision.

Goodreads could have shown some integrity, as Vox assumed they would. Instead, they squandered their chance. They still don't understand that he was trying to do them a favor.

Amazon, Goodreads' parent company, knows well that a review site's worth depends entirely on its perceived objectivity. Say what you will about Amazon; they don't tolerate anyone mucking about with their reviews.

Unless Amazon steps in and straightens out their wayward subsidiary, Goodreads will soon learn the grim lesson that Twitter's example should have taught them.

2016/01/13

How to Set the Price of Your Self-Published Book on Amazon

self-published book

Most publishers are pricing their eBooks too high.

How much is an eBook worth? Several factors must be taken into account when attempting to answer that question, and the answer can change depending on the book.

Consider Amazon
Amazon reserves their best 70 percent royalty rate for eBooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Books priced above or below this range only earn a 35 percent royalty.

This is an important clue, since Amazon knows more about the eBook business than anybody else. They devote considerable time, money, and effort to determining the optimal prices for eBooks. The fact that they heavily incentivize publishers to price eBooks between $2.99 and $9.99 speaks volumes about the most profitable price range for Kindle books.

It's also telling that legacy publishers are ignoring Amazon's expert analysis by pricing their eBooks above the price range that's proven to optimize profits. They're not demanding unreasonable eBook prices to help their authors (who earn half as much from the sale of a $10.99 eBook as I do at $2.99). They're trying to drive readers away from eBooks to prop up their failing paper distribution cartel.

This desperate, ill-advised gambit is yielding predictable results. Readers and authors alike are abandoning big publishers for indie publishers who are actually interested in success.


What is an eBook?
If you want to price your product effectively, it's essential to understand what your product is. An eBook is really only called a book by way of analogy.

When you buy an eBook, you're not taking ownership of a physical object. You're not really buying anything at all. What you're actually doing is obtaining a license from Amazon to store and display a digital copy of a book on one or more electronic devices.

The differences between buying a print book and licensing an eBook have important value implications.

  • Scarcity doesn't apply to eBooks, which are a series of ones and zeroes that can be instantly and infinitely replicated at no cost.
  • You never really "own" an eBook. Amazon can remove any Kindle edition of a book from your library at any time, and they've done it before.
  • Since eBooks don't have to be typeset, printed, physically stored, shipped, or insured, their production costs are infinitesimal compared to the sunk costs associated with paper books (which are, by and large, reasonably priced). Thus, the profit margins on eBooks are so high that there's no ethical justification for charging anywhere near the same price for an eBook and a paperback.


What are other authors/publishers charging?
Here are a few examples of current (as of this writing) eBook prices from a variety of traditionally published and indie authors. See if you can spot a pattern.

The End of All Things

The Kindle edition of The End of All Things by John Scalzi, published by Tor Books, costs $11.99--well beyond Amazon's recommended optimal price range and only twenty percent less than the hardcover!

If you were curious as to why the Big Five's percentage of the eBook market had dropped from 60 to 40, Scalzi's twelve dollar eBook is a big hint.


The Aeronaut's Windlass

I'm shocked that Tor isn't the worst offender, here. Don't take your well justified wrath out on Scalzi and Jim, folks. They have zero control over the outrageous prices their publishers set. Jim Butcher's brand is probably even strong enough that his fans will gladly pay that hefty premium on his book (more on how brand strength can affect eBook prices below).


So much for the Big Five. Let's take a look at some indie eBooks.

Nethereal on Amazon
Submitted for your approval: my first self-published novel Nethereal. This isn't just a blatant plug. Since I'm also this book's publisher, I can offer the inside dope on the factors that went into my pricing decisions.

First and most obvious, you can see that I'm selling it at $2.99, right at the low end of Amazon's optimal pricing range. At this price, I earn two bucks on each copy sold--which is still double what a trad author earns from an $11 eBook under a standard publishing contract. I experimented with prices as high as $4.99 and as low as $0.99, but $2.99 seems to be this book's sweet spot.

You'll also notice that the print versions of Nethereal and The Aeronaut's Windlass are priced almost identically (my book is rather meaty). FYI, that earns me the same amount on a paperback as I get from an eBook: about two dollars (indicating, according to tried and true indie pub consensus, that my paperback is priced correctly).

Which goes to show you how much more expensive print books are to make and ship than eBooks. It also shows that Roc is offering Jim's book, which is a hardcover, no less, at a very attractive price. It's no accident that trad publishers are demanding exorbitant sums for eBooks while their print prices remain competitive.


The Cunning Blood

Up next we have The Cunning Blood by Jeff Duntemann. This is another indie eBook, but a hardcover edition was originally published back in 2006. By the way, I highly recommend it.

Jeff has also priced his eBook at $2.99. Unlike me, he's enrolled his book in Kindle Unlimited, so it's free for KU subscribers to download. Jeff says that he's making a killing off of KENP payments (KU pays authors per page read). I tried KU briefly and had a less than stellar experience with it, but I plan to re-enroll Nethereal soon because experimentation is the name of the game.


Wool Hugh Howey

Yeah, Wool by self-publishing king Hugh Howey is an extreme outlier, but I want to cover the whole field. Hugh was one of the first to make millions in the early indie pub gold rush, and he gives back by sharing his valuable experience with aspiring authors.

Check out that price. That's the main reason I wanted to show you this book. Hugh's got it priced at zero. Zip. Free. How did he do that when Amazon mandates an absolute lowest price of $0.99? Well, Hugh is such a Kindle wizard that he figured out how to play Amazon's own policies against each other.

You can do it, too. If you want to make the Kindle version of your book permanently free (which you should only do if you have a very tight plan), offer your book for sale through other eBook sellers that do allow you to permanently price it at $0. Then you need enough people to tell Amazon that their competitors are giving your book away for free. Amazon's price matching will do the rest.

Note that this tactic will disqualify your book for Kindle Unlimited, since enrolling in KU requires Amazon exclusivity (note that Wool is not available through KU).

I'm not Hugh Howie. You're not Hugh Howey (unless he is reading this post, in which case, hi, Hugh!) Is this permafree trick likely to pay off big time for you? Nope. But the fact that the biggest, baddest dude on the block is using it should at least give us pause for reflection.


Mike Cernovich Gorilla Mindset

Gorilla Mindset is a fascinating case study in self-publishing success for myriad reasons. The brainchild of male fitness guru and mindset pioneer Mike Cernovich gives us a prime example of a seemingly counterintuitive marketing strategy that has paid off enormously.

This book has sold 16.5k copies and counting--despite being non-fiction, which is traditionally an underperforming category, and despite being priced at the high end of Amazon's recommended price range. According to all indie pub wisdom, it is The Thing That Should Not Be.

Mike Cernovich eBook price tweet

The above tweet from Mike is 100% true. How, then, to explain his runaway success?

  • eBooks aren't normally subject to scarcity. By selling his book at a premium price, Mike is, in a way, creating scarcity via introducing an element of exclusivity. He doesn't want people to thoughtlessly buy his book as Kindle filler. That sends a powerful message: "Only serious readers need apply". The higher price is a de facto barrier to entry that's a mark of worthiness for those who meet it. This generates demand.
  • Fantasists like me sell pretty lies designed to distract our readers from the grinding misery of their lives. Mike is interested in showing people how to actually improve their lives, which is cool, if that's your thing. Based on all of those positive reviews, his advice is applicable and actionable. That's where most nonfiction books fail, and that's money in the bank for Mike.
  • Mike has spent several years building up his personal brand--which is what all authors are actually selling. As in Jim Butcher's case, readers will pay a premium for books by their favorite authors.

What all of this means for you
Here are the lessons that indie authors should take away from this post:
  • Amazon recommends an optimal price range out of enlightened self-interest. Listen to them.
  • Most big publishers grossly inflate their eBook prices, screwing their authors and themselves.
  • All else being equal, the infinite abundance and far lower production costs for eBooks compared to print books means that a fair price for an eBook is far lower than the price of a paperback.
  • The pricing sweet spot differs between books. Experiment to find the optimal price for your eBook.
  • Free (e.g. Kindle Unlimited, forcing Amazon to make your book free through price matching, etc.) can pay off big like all risky bets. Make sure you have a solid plan in place before going free.
  • Every market has outliers like Jim Butcher, Hugh Howey, and Mike Cernovich. The overwhelming odds are that you are not an outlier. Then again, experimenting with free/premium pricing could yield valuable data.
  • As an author, your main product is your brand, which is you. Readers will pay more for books from a strong brand.
  • Start building your brand now. Be prolific (release at least two books per year). Blog extensively. Start a podcast. Engage with readers on social media. Will all this hustling cut into your writing time? Yep. Suck it up, because you're a publisher now, snowflake!
As with all things in life, self-publishing offers no guarantee of success. It does guarantee control. Never before have so many vital decisions been entirely in authors' hands. Get informed and take as many steps as you can to maximize your chances of success.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianNiemeier

2016/01/09

The Passion of Milo Yiannopoulos + Superversive SF Livestream

Milo Yiannopoulos

Last night was interesting, to say the least.

Around 5:00 PM Central Standard Time, I'd gathered online with the Superversive SF gang, including Hugo nominees Jason Rennie and John C. Wright for a Google Livestream about SJWs in science fiction publishing. Our special guest of honor was meant to be Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo was running fashionably late, so I was keeping an eye on his Twitter account for updates, when this happened:
Milo devarification
Long story short, Twitter had picked the moment before Milo's scheduled appearance on our show to deverify his account. Twitter verification is a little blue check mark added to a celebrity user's account as a sign of assurance that he is who he says he is. As far as anybody can tell, no one else's account has ever been deverified before.

Milo has speculated that the unorthodox move is a preliminary step toward suspending his Twitter account as punishment for his conservative politics. If the social network's sordid history of politically motivated action against the likes of Adam Baldwin and several members of #GamerGate are any indication, where there's smoke, there's fire.

Dealing with Twitter's thought policing forced Milo to bow out. Yet the show, as they say, must go on. (Luckily, we were able to get Daddy Warpig!) As you might expect, his deverification made for an excellent topic of conversation on a roundtable about SJWs.


As for Milo, his legions of disciples served Twitter swift poetic justice of Shakespearean magnitude. For you see, since verified accounts exist to prevent users from impersonating celebrities, deverification means that all bets are off.

#JeSuisMilo
The Milos are multiplying.
The #JeSuisMilo hashtag immediately sprang into being. Within hours, it became the #1 trending tag in the US and reached #3 worldwide. Milo Yiannopoulos tribute accounts are now multiplying like flies, to the extent that some predict that the whole internet will soon become Milo.

Meanwhile, Twitter's stock and popularity continue to plummet. With calls for users to abandon the site in favor of less totalitarian platforms, Twitter may become the victim of the monster it created last night.

Twitter clearly takes issue with Milo's personal convictions. Instead of prosecuting an online inquisition leading to a global, perhaps fatal, backlash that's already being called "a second GamerGate", Twitter could have just let Milo share his views on a podcast that usually gets a few hundred viewers.

But maniacal overreach has always been the Achilles' heel of totalitarian ideologues.

2016/01/07

Hollywood's Hate Mail to Its Own Audience

audience

This intriguing article over at A.V. Club draws attention to the strange fact that James Cameron's 2009 opus Avatar, despite being the highest-grossing film ever made, has failed to leave a lasting mark on popular culture.

That article is itself sourced from a Forbes piece by Scott Mendelson, the self-admitted "only one who still cares" about Avatar.

Mendelson blames Avatar's lack of cultural penetration on Cameron's tardiness in making the sequels and Hollywood's misidentification of the film's 3D visuals as the secret of its box office dominance:
The positive lessons of Avatar’s success, an original story that resonated on a narrative and socially-topical level with truly eye-popping visuals being delivered by an auteur at the top of his game that touched the entire world for a brief period, were forgotten in favor of 'everything must be 3D.'
While Mendelson brings up some good points, especially about Hollywood's misguided obsession with 3D gimmickry, I think he's overlooking a more fundamental problem.

Hollywood hates its own audience
One of the key societal functions that storytelling serves is explaining a culture to itself. Greek epics, sacred histories, tall tales, and superhero comics are a primary means of handing down civilizational norms and common understandings shared by members of a particular culture.

If a story told on a colossal scale doesn't produce a lasting impression on the target audience, something more than the lack of a timely follow up or an over-reliance on spectacle is at fault. Overbearing spectacle is the last resort of the creatively bankrupt. It's a symptom; not a cause.

However, as a medical researcher friend once told me, "It's the symptoms that end up killing you."

Western culture has fragmented
The explanation that everyone has missed for why mega-blockbusters can't get cultural traction is that film makers are using storytelling forms and tropes that their audiences find unintelligible, or even hostile.
There is this long, wonderful history of the human race written in blood. We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that's how we treat the natural world as well. There's this sense of we're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, therefore we're entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That's not how it works and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't kind of wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural life on Earth.
--James Cameron on the themes of Avatar
SPOILER ALERT (as if everyone hasn't already seen Avatar): the movie bears Cameron's grim assessment out. There is a literal "The only good human is a dead human" moral to the story.

Is it any wonder that, for all its spectacle, audiences may have been in a hurry to forget Avatar?

Why don't movies made in this Year of Our Lord 2016 in Hollywood, California, USA employ the structures and archetypes that American audiences can relate to? Simple. There is no longer a single American culture. The US--and Western civilization as a whole--has split into a common underclass and a ruling elite, with Hollywood firmly in the latter camp.

So that unsettling sense of alienation you feel when walking out of a movie theater is causally similar to the reaction that someone with little knowledge of Japanese culture has to watching a film made by and for Japanese folks.

Tokyo Zombie
Even for an otaku, some films are just too Japanese.
Now, there is a crucial difference between watching a foreign film that one may not be able to fully understand, but that is nonetheless well made and contains universal truths accessible to any human being; and the aggressively contemptuous product churned out by Hollywood that stoops to the level of blatant propaganda.

And of course, no reference to blatant propaganda can be allowed in this context without making mention of:


Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Daddy Warpig and I already carefully articulated the new Star Wars movie's flaws. Only a couple of the issues surrounding the film are relevant to the purposes of this post.
We wrote these characters but when we went to cast it, one of the things I had felt, having been to the Emmys a couple times — you look around that room and you see the whitest fucking room in the history of time. Its just unbelievably white. And I just thought, we’re casting this show and we have an opportunity to do anything we want, why not cast the show with actors of color? Like not for sure, and if we can’t find the actors who are great, we shouldn’t, but why don’t we make that effort because it wasn’t written that way and isn't that the cooler version of doing this as opposed to saying ‘this is an urban show’. It fucking kills me when they call something ‘an urban movie’ like its a separate thing, like ‘its that thing over there.’
--Star Wars Episode VII director J.J. Abrams
Note to pearl-clutching schoolmarms: the issue isn't that women and minorities were cast in Star Wars. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac in particular were superbly chosen. The issue is the director's stated justification for casting them: not to serve the story, but out of Abrams' personal desire to wield the film as a social justice cudgel--which he does rather clumsily, I might add.

In a society that supposedly champions equal protection and abhors racial bias, it's galling that the following exercise is becoming shopworn, but let's try this thought experiment anyway. Cut the term "white" out of the quote above and replace it with any other ethnic description. Like magic, Abrams transforms from a defender of the oppressed to a raging bigot.

There's another, more cynical motive for Abrams' demagoguery: increasing ticket sales by breaking the franchise out of its traditional white male market. The film's stellar box office success indicates that the gambit worked.

In the short term, that is. There's a growing sense that the novelty is wearing off rather quickly, and many who take a closer look are finding the film lacking. This is what happens when general audiences and elitist manufacturers of entertainment speak entirely different narrative languages.

Abrams' Star Wars is a case study in art made in imitation of a culture's artistic traditions by outsiders who don't understand what they're mimicking. The film makers had only a rough idea of the proper framework and proceeded to put the pieces in the wrong position and order, with several parts left over.

Had Abrams put together a story that wasn't lazily derivative of past films in the franchise, had he included an actual protagonist with identifiable, relatable goals; had the writers not forced the audience to do most of their job for them, The Force Awakens might've been more than a moneymaking cultural footnote. As it stands, the movie seems doomed to the same curious fame/obscurity as Avatar.

2016/01/06

Interview: Sad Puppies Spokesmanatee Wendell the Manatee

Wendell the Manatee

Harvard Business School, the Florida state legislature, and interdimensional insurance agents know him as Wendell T. Manatee: CFO of CorreiaTech. Crusaders against Puppy Related Sadness know him as the spokesmanatee for Sad Puppies. But this aquatic American largely remains an enigma to his legions of adoring fans and whiny detractors alike. The manatee himself recently sat down (actually, he floated inside his giant fish tank at CorreiaTech HQ and called me via Skype) to share some insights on his personal motivations.

BRIAN NIEMEIER: Thank you, Mr. Manatee,  for taking time out from overseeing the Monster Hunter Nation server upgrades to address the public's insatiable appetite for all things Wendell.

WENDELL THE MANATEE: Mewoooooooooooo.

BN: Wow. Eloquent though they are, your printed quotes failed to prepare me for the heart-melting rapture of hearing you speak in person. I am utterly disarmed and profoundly stirred!

WM: Weeeewooooooo.

BN: Hilarious! Such a legendary wit would have been the toast of the Algonquin Round Table.

(Starts laugh-crying uncontrollably.)

WM: Mehwhoooo?

BN: (Finally composing self) Sorry. Just needed a moment. I'm still here.

WM: Fleeeerp. Mehwoo?

BN: To talk about your background, your work with Larry Correia, and your involvement with Sad Puppies.

Not to step on your fluke, but fans might take exception to the term "dork fest".

WM: Foooooooooooo.

BN: With your Harvard MBA and your membership in an endangered species, you were free to write your own ticket. Why manage the finances of a D-list author of explosion porn?

WM: Flooooooo.

BN: So it's all because of Lance Henriksen. Fascinating.

WM: Mehoooowhoooooooooon…

BN: Careful. You know how prone people are to misreading those kinds of comments as threats, and Mr. Henriksen is formidable enough to make Alien 3 almost watchable.

Young Wendell
Even as a child, Wendell was right at home in the public eye.
Back on topic, was there a specific pitch you made that convinced Larry to hire you?

WM: Meeeeeww-oooooo.

BN: Yeah. You can only milk thinly veiled B movie and X-Men fanfic for so long. I tried the same thing with 90s anime and Dune, which barely pays for the movie tickets I need to stay out of the cold. (Indie author pro tip: if you buy one for the first showing, they'll let you stay till closing time. And you can hide in the crawlspace under the screen after that!)

Like I told that derelict who lives in the hobo camp in the woods by the interstate: "Punk, I an't trading no electric blanket for no bag of CVS disposable razors!"

Where was I? Oh yeah. Did you have a vision for breaking out of the niche market for war game nerds and gun nuts?

WM: Mewwwooooo. Moooooo-gurgle gurgle.

BN: Great point. Romance is huge. I'd hop on that gravy train faster than you can say E. L. James if only I understood the physical and emotional bonds that are so popular with humans.

WM: Hoooon?

BN: Aquatic mammals, too. Sorry. Why did Larry veto the shift from gun porn to regular porn? It can't be moral qualms. He's a libertarian.

WM: Meew-whooooo.

BN: I suppose that finding the mandatory female pen name for him would be a daunting ordeal.

WM: Moo.

BN: Let me get this straight. You're saying that you came up with the idea to do Son of the Black Sword!?

WM: (Pauses to take a bite from what resembles a Primanti Brothers sandwich, except the coleslaw seems to be made from iceberg lettuce, waterlogged straw, and ranch dressing.)

Wendell shark-wrestling
Shark wrestling: one of Wendell's many hobbies.
Meeeeeeeeeeeen.

BN: Congratulations. Still, you have to admit that Larry does all the toiling in the word mines.

Let's take a moment to talk about your personal history. You were born and raised in the ocean off the Florida coast. Manatees are renowned for their fierce determination, but yours took you in an unusual direction. You graduated from the Ivy League. where you earned a reputation as a--pardon the expression--party animal. Your exploits on the wrestling team have led some to call you a jock. You've also found time to cultivate world-class skills in Call of Duty.

WM: Fleeeerp.

BN: Yet you've had your share of setbacks: your narrow defeat in the race for your home state's legislature in 2012, losing Time's Person of the Year to the Ferguson protesters, your arrest for slapping a cosplayer, and most discouraging of all, being mistaken for Chris Matthews by a White House aide. Any one of these tragedies would have crushed a lesser man. To what do you owe your unconquerable tenacity?

WM: Mooorr-gurgle gurgle.

BN: (voice breaking) Your sage words have overcome me once again. If your detractors only had ears to hear, this divisive conflict in science fiction would end, and all fans would embrace as brothers. Have you spoken with George R. R. Martin?

WM: (Shakes his ponderous bulk in the negative) Moowhooooo.

BN: Yes, the resemblance to a whale shark is uncanny. It was clearly an honest mistake. I'm sure you can get the restraining order dismissed.

WM: Mehoooowhoooooooooon…

BN: You've become the public face of Sad Puppies. Why associate with that campaign?

WM: Eeeeewhoooo.

BN: I had no idea! People who think of you as a stoic tough guy will be equally shocked and touched by this intimate revelation.

WM: Hoooooon. Gurgle. Gurgle.

BN: With that single remark, you've put paid to every accusation lodged by the puppy-kickers. I stand in awe of your rhetorical mastery!

WM: (Plunges his yawning jowls into a barrel of CHEETOS.)

BN: (Voice raised over sounds of crunching) Thank you, Wendell, for gracing us with this portrait of courage, ambition, and yes, vulnerability. Before we wrap things up, do you have any parting words for our contemplation and enrichment?

WM: (Munching continues unabated until the connection times out.)


Interviewer's note: a link to this video later arrived in my inbox.



Follow me on Twitter: @BrianNiemeier


2016/01/03

One-man Lynch Mob

hangman

Most organisms have a well-developed flight response that drives individuals away from danger; thus aiding their survival.

As presumably higher lifeforms, the CHORFs in trad publishing should have responded to mounting evidence that the system they're beholden to is crumbling, their shrinking cliques are havens for child molesters, and that no one likes them anymore, by retreating from the new institutions that are unmasking these existential threats.

Indeed, the CHORFs did, for the most part, scurry back into the charred foundations of the once stately house they'd pulled down upon themselves. But now, like rats infected with toxoplasma parasites (or infested by unclean spirits?), defenders of the book industry's declining status quo have reemerged to annoy their natural predators.

It's my sad duty to report that author Scott Lynch has contracted this strange selective blindness to readily obvious facts--but only those that call the intellectually and morally bankrupt features of his worldview into question.

Even stranger than the symptoms is the timing. Scott picked this past Friday to dredge up an incident from last August's Hugo awards. Strangest of all, he rallied to defend Tor Books Science Fiction Manager Patrick Nielsen Hayden against charges that Hayden had shouted profanity at Tor author L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright, and that he was the driving force behind Tor's domination of past Hugos.

How did Scott endeavor to clear Hayden? By simply and brazenly accusing John C. Wright--and by necessity Mr. Wright's wife Jagi--of lying.

Tor Books and Mrs. Wright have stated publicly that they consider the matter closed. Normally, boorish scab-picking like Scott's wouldn't merit comment. But I find myself in the awkward yet relevant position of having more than a passing familiarity with three of the major parties to this reignited controversy.

Of the three, Scott Lynch is the only one I've met. The meeting was quite brief, and I doubt he remembers it. However, I am acquainted with friends and acquaintances of his, both online and in person. I found him to be affable and a delightful public speaker. Our mutual acquaintances all regard him highly.

Though I have yet to meet the the Wrights in person, my relationship with them is much closer. I've exchanged enough emails with Mr. Wright for him to call me a pen pal. During our correspondence he's rendered invaluable advice to me on the craft and business of writing. Not only have I appeared on multiple podcasts with Mr. and Mrs. Wright, she has done me the honor of editing my novels.

Obviously, I'd much rather see three professional authors whom I admire get along. That's too much to ask, though, because Scott has petulantly decided to rekindle old grievances that didn't involve him in the first place.

Scott predicated his meddling on his friendship with PNH. OK. Invoking the goose-gander-gravy principle, I get to defend my friends against his accusations.


It's come to this
Here's Scott's post. I'll reproduce choice samples of his insolence in italics. His burlap sack caning will be administered by me in bold.

One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with my irrational anxiety attacks is the way they have kept me largely shut up when it comes to long-form electronic posting.


Having spent years living with a close family member who suffers from severe anxiety--and possessing a milder form myself--I was tempted to chalk Scott's diatribe up to an anxiety-induced logorrhea.

Then I read the rest of his clearly premeditated diatribe.


...it’s obvious that blog and website updates from me have been scarce for some time.

In light of his flagrant hit piece, not nearly scarce enough.


This was especially frustrating in the wake of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, after which the ponderously self-important blowhard John C. Wright publicly accused veteran editor and lifelong fan Patrick Nielsen Hayden of both assaulting Wright’s wife and masterminding the long-term “corruption” of the Hugo Awards

I'll jump in here to note that Scott's post reads like a syllabus of every John C. Wright detractor's most shopworn errors. It's telling that Scott reaches for the ad hominem attack right out of the gate. If you missed it, don't worry, because his argument hobbles along on that particular crutch all the way to the bitter end.


...Patrick deserved better of his friends and colleagues. He deserved to have someone stand up and state plainly what he could not...

Let it be known that Scott Lynch will bravely face the CHORFs' applause by rushing in to defend the most powerful man in science fiction from a midlist author who still works a day job to feed his kids.

Correction: he's defending the most powerful man in science fiction from that midlist author's meek and gentle wife.

And lest we get ahead of ourselves, why is it that PNH needs Scott for a white knight? Why can't Hayden speak for himself?

Could it be due to a new social media policy imposed by Tor's parent company in an effort to rein in the verbal abuse that their employees--including PNH--have been spewing at their readers and authors?


...John C. Wright talks a big game about truth and courage, but that he is demonstrably full of shit.

Says the internet tough guy who snipes at John C. Wright from behind a closed combox instead of raising these issues on the accused's own blog.

Observation: other CHORFs have been regurgitating the "demonstrably full of shit" phrase on other Sad Puppies-aligned sites. If their rhetorical skills are any indication, it's a safe bet that anyone who claims that "X is demonstrably [negative epithet Y]", without providing a demonstration is projecting.


I wanted to be that person. I prepared a lengthy post to that effect. And then anxiety did its usual crushing, grinding thing, and days became weeks, which became months. It is now the new year, Hugo chat has started up in earnest, and Wright is once again plying his mealy-mouthed combination of false civility and vicious nonsense on the subject.

Translation: I realize how ill-timed and vindictive dredging up PNH's public meltdown looks, but I couldn't come up with a better pretext to disqualify one of the leading Puppies' opinions in advance of the 2016 Hugos.


I have decided to weigh in with a reminder that the narrative Wright wants to push is an absolute full-blown fabrication.

You can't remind us of your own dishonest projection, since it's impossible to know what isn't true.


Here, Scott attempts a fisking/refutation of Wright. I'll spare you all a double-fisking feedback loop and respond only to Scott's comments.

...the tone of Wright’s rhetoric veers wildly from one paragraph to the next. One moment, his “Morlocks” are a dire threat from outside the field, “infiltrating” and “corrupting.” Three sentences later they share a mutual love of science fiction with Wright, and the circumstances of his disagreements with them have acquired a trivial hale-fellow-well-met sort of cast. Oh, what gentle shenanigans! This tonal shift is a constant tic of his...

Let the record show that the dude presuming to criticize another writer's verbal tics just interjected, "Oh, what gentle shenanigans!"


[Wright] secured five nominations on the final Hugo ballot for 2015, and in this respect he was the most egregious beneficiary of a premeditated and publicly coordinated slate-voting campaign run by the people fandom has come to know as the “Sad Puppies”

Scott let go of the ad hominem crutch long enough to flail about with error number two: the painfully wearisome voting slate double standard.

See, Hugo campaigning is bad when it benefits authors like John C. Wright. But it's just fine when Scalzi does it.


...and the associated/overlapping “Rabid Puppies.”

I could deduct more points for dishonestly ignoring the vast differences between SP's and RP's goals and methods, but as Scott would say, meh.


This campaign wasn’t even technically against the rules...

I.e. this campaign wasn't against the rules. Why, then, does Scott describe Mr. Wright's nominations as "egregious"?


...though it was fueled by a baseless sense of paranoid entitlement and was certainly shepherded by a number of vocally antagonistic jackasses.

Oh, I get it. Wright's nominations offend Scott because he personally dislikes and disagrees with Sad Puppy voters.

You know, the voters who paid for their voting rights like all World Con members?

Whose past complaints that there was nothing good on the ballot were answered with exhortations to get involved and vote for works they liked--so they did?

See, Scott, this is the special brand of insufferable elitism that drove hundreds of fans into the Sad Puppy ranks in the past three years. Now, the gentle shenanigans of the CHORFs gleefully fiddling (that's a metaphor--no reports have yet surfaced of minors being violated at the awards ceremony) while fires spreading from the Christians they'd torched immolated five categories will drive once docile pups rabid by the score.

This ain't Jim Crow for fandom. There's no ideological test. I paid my 40 bucks. My vote counts the same as yours. Whether I'm paranoid, entitled, or even a jackass is none of your damn business.

Even if it was, your apparent charism of reading hearts somehow missed Chip Delany. Unless you think that supporting NAMBLA is a lesser offense than garden variety jackassery, get back to us when you've called for stripping Delany of his Hugo voting rights.

In the meantime, the other Puppies and I remain members in good standing of Worldcon. We'll learn to live with the searing shame of your disapproval one day at a time.


...this clusterfuck...was a result of vote engineering by a dedicated minority rather than of general acclaim from the field.

Your hubris is showing again, Scott. The Hugos haven't represented the "general acclaim of the field" for decades. CHORFs of no lesser stature than George R. R. Martin and Teresa Nielsen Hayden have admitted as much.

The Hugos reflect the parochial tastes of a tiny, incestuous subculture that's microscopic in scale compared to the millions of contemporary sci-fi fans. Brad Torgersen's chief goal for SP 3 was to open the insular awards up to greater fandom. Bet he's glad you're here to make sure that no good deed goes unpunished.

By the way, the Puppies are a part of "the field", Scott--whether you like it or not. Better come to terms with that fact now, because we're not going away. Your passive-aggressive lecturing guarantees it.


[Wright] strolled good-naturedly into the Hugo Awards in the blithe expectation that everyone else would conveniently ignore the chicanery that had brought him there. 

Already out of fresh insults, Scott just invokes the double standard again, hoping that this time it'll stick.

I'd say that I look forward to seeing Scott ascribe Scalzi's Hugo wins to chicanery, but we'll get as old and gray as most CHORFs waiting for that train.


Scott takes time out from his dominance displays over the Puppies to finally address the topic of his post.

This [Wright's account of PNH's outburst] is a load of crap. Having heard Patrick’s...version of these events directly, and the version reported by several others, I say without hesitation or qualification that John C. Wright is a liar.

Scott heard Patrick's version of events directly? That obfuscation isn't even subtle! What he means is that he did not witness the event, but only heard about it indirectly.

I can say without qualification...Scott's pretensions of blah, blah...professional writer...doesn't know what words blah...fuck it.


PNH did not “erupt” into anything, and there was no shouting or bellowing.

Here's where Scott's knee-jerk virtue signaling to his peer group gets him into trouble.

Because he's not calling John C. Wright, Catholic bogeyman, a liar. He's questioning the lived experience of L. Jagi Lamplighter, a female author of Jewish descent.

Interesting that Scott linked to Mr. Wright's lower traffic Livejournal instead of his current blog. Perhaps he neglected to share the link to that particular site because Mrs. Wright offers her own testimony contradicting PNH and Scott in the comments.
Folks,
First, I think John has made it sound a bit worse than it was…but this is not his fault. I did not repeat to him all of what PNH said because I did not him to get upset during the reception. (I was afraid he would be very angry if he knew someone had sworn at his wife.)
Mr, Nielsen Hayden did shout, swear, and stomp off…but he was shouting and swearing at/about John, not at me personally and, actually, as far as swearing, he just used the phrase “tell him to shovel it up his…” You can figure out the rest.
This may not seem like swearing to many of you…many folks speak that way normally. But I do not. Nor do people normally speak that way to me.
My first thought after he stormed off was; isn’t it interesting that he yelled at the one person in the room whose only reaction is going to be to pray for him.
I was not the least upset…but I did think it ironic that, of everyone present, I was the person who got shouted at. But I suspect Mr. Nielsen Hayden knows nothing about me personally, has never read my blog, and is unaware of the irony.
Charity and concern for both her husband and her SF Manager inclined Mrs. Wright to downplay the episode. But her account plainly shows that PNH did in fact shout at her and used coarse language that she found uncomfortable.

Vocabulary tip for Scott: the actions of a man who shouts, swears, and yells at a woman over whom he wields considerable power and toward whom professional conduct would normally be due can quite accurately be described as "erupting".


PNH and Lamplighter were at a reception attended by roughly ten dozen people, including a number of notable SF/F creators, editors, and fans. Isn’t it curious that none of them noticed an alleged shouting fit by one of the most instantly recognizable editors in the field? 

This is just lazy. If Scott had done his homework, he'd know about the lady and her husband who traveled to Sasquan with the Wrights and witnessed PNH shouting at Jagi.


...Wright himself, who was physically present at the reception, did nothing there or afterward, but was perfectly happy to take his story to the web a day later?

Scott couldn't be bothered to read the firsthand account of the actual victim, so I suppose we can forgive him for not knowing that Mr. Wright only learned the details of PNH's assault on his wife AFTER THE RECEPTION.


What was that about other people not having the courage to “say to your face the foolish lies they say behind [your] back on the internet,” John?

He was accurately describing the cowardly behavior you're providing a perfect example of, Scott.


The encounter between PNH and Lamplighter took place within arm’s reach of a small group of witnesses, including Laura Mixon...

Would that be the same Laura Mixon who proudly declared that she stands with the Tor employee who called the Sad Puppies--including a number of ethnic minorities--neo-Nazis?

Bonnie Parker would have been a more reliable witness for Clyde Barrow's defense--if both of them hadn't been dead.


...from whom I received a recollection of events before writing this.

How long before? Do you expect us to believe Mixon's account, which could be as much as five months old, over testimony that the victim reported within a day of the event?


As PNH told Mixon: When PNH realized who Lamplighter was, he said (closely paraphrased): “I’m a practicing Catholic, and I found your husband’s comments about me hurtful."

Scott is trying to prove that PNH didn't actually shout at Mrs. Wright by pointing out that PNH had to tell Mixon what was said. What he proves is that Mixon--his star witness--didn't actually witness the conversation.

Perhaps PNH didn't shout at Mrs. Wright. Or Mixon just couldn't hear him shouting over the crowd of "ten dozen" people. Or the incident--which she admittedly didn't hear--happened at a different time than she thought it did: while she was distracted talking to someone else or had stepped away from the table.

Either way, Scott needs better evidence if all he can produce is the account of a non-witness whose back was turned during the event.


Wright’s casual allegation that PNH “destroys the writing careers of anyone who does not support his politics” is another flat-out lie. Who are these writers disenfranchised by PNH for reasons of politics?

Gee, Scott, seeing as how Mr. Wright is a Tor author, I'd say that he's in a better position to comment on the goings-on within his own publishing house than you are.

As for why he's not naming names, here's another vocabulary term: professional courtesy.


As Beth Meacham, another veteran Tor editor, has said many times in public: “We edit books, not people.”

Sure. Ask Sarah Hoyt how legacy publishing regards authors with the wrong political leanings. It's so deeply ingrained that I can't blame you for not seeing the bias.

Still, man, it's hard not to see a pattern of mistrust toward female victims of abuse forming.


My total lack of concern for Wright’s histrionic aesthetic prudery should be pretty clear at this point.

Not as clear as your total lack of concern for the truth.


After bandying about a witness whose powers of observation are just as underwhelming as her objectivity, Scott makes a show of refuting Wright's claim that PNH is the driving force behind an award-rigging clique at Tor. But instead he just falls back on more insults.


I must at this point apologize to the reader for understating my case. John C. Wright is a lying hysteric. Full stop.

Nice touch, putting the full stop in there at the end. It's a not-so-subtle signal that this is a lecture; not a debate. Know what else it signals? That Scott's not too confident of his position.

Another stream of insults, this time making reference to a show that trivialized Nazi atrocities. Keep in mind, Scott is attacking the integrity of a woman of Jewish descent.


Precisely how a single Tor editor, acting alone, could arrange “the corruption of the Hugo awards” is left to the imagination. Let’s take this utterly bugfuck fantasy and condescend to put it under the lens of a few reasonable questions:

Time out.

First, Mr. Wright didn't say that PNH acted alone. He called him the sole driving force behind Tor's manipulation of the Hugos.

Now that we've shredded that straw man, bring on your questions. I have answers.


How would this campaign of corruption be funded? Do you imagine SF/F editors as a career class are rolling in cash? If so, incidentally, how long until you start kindergarten?

Since the outcomes of Hugo contests often came down to only a dozen votes before the Puppies showed up, dominating the awards could've been done on the cheap.

One possibility: big publishers like Tor give their editors expense accounts--which is one reason they feel the need to charge $14.95 for an eBook.

NB: I'll share my kindergarten transcripts when PNH finishes high school.


How would it be coordinated? Other people would, sooner or later, need to be suborned or at least consulted. How would messages be sent? How could fifteen to twenty years of necessary notes and e-mails remain completely hidden? How is it that in all that time, not one person approached by this alleged conspiracy would have felt uncomfortable with it, refused to participate, and then made its existence public?

Let's see...someone in a position to know about what's going on inside of Tor Books who may have felt uncomfortable with such bugfuckery and gone public. You got me there. Nobody I know fits that description.

Except, oh yeah, John C. Wright.


How would all the non-Tor publishers and authors be induced to cooperate with Patrick’s plans?

Judging by the results of every Best Editor - Long Form contest from the time it was split from the Short Form category until the advent of the Puppies, non-Tor nominees either went along willingly, or they didn't have a choice. However it was done, you can't deny Tor's total dominance of the field (with the sole exception of Lou Anders' single win, which smacks of a clumsy attempt to feign propriety).


Even if Patrick were to dispense with controlling the voters and go straight to fudging the results, how would he have been able to suborn the Hugo vote-counting process that is overseen by a different group of people in a different geographic location every single year?

Tell me, Scott, is Straw John as big a dick as Straw Larry and Brad TorgersOn?

Because those guys are dicks!

Neither Mr. Wright, nor any Puppy to my knowledge, has accused PNH of tampering with the vote count.

He didn't have to. Controlling the Tor.com Reviewers' Choice Awards is enough to determine Hugo outcomes prior to the nomination stage.


I know Patrick. I admire him greatly. He is a brilliant ambulatory living history of SF/F and its fandom, and yet I am fairly confident that he forgets his own phone number about once a week.

I can say exactly the same things about John ;)


Next, Scott dismisses Mr. Wright's claims of PNH spearheading Tor's Hugo machinations as,

...unfettered psychosis, dancing in the moonlight, naked of any last stitch of evidence.

Is it evidence you want, Scott?

How about certain proof that the Nielsen Haydens knew about the Puppies' sweep of the 2015 nominations before the results were officially released?

Take another look at the years when PNH and fellow Tor editor David Hartwell shut everybody else out of the Best Editor award.

Then consider how much influence the Tor.com Reviewer's Choice Award exerts.

Now ask yourself what is the most likely explanation for PNH's seeming prescience re: the nominees. Here's a hint: the Hugo committee contacts the nominees by phone prior to the official announcement.

What odds are you willing to give me that PNH knew that the Puppies swept the ballot because people he'd been expecting to get phone calls didn't?

And unless he's on the spice, the one explanation that fits all of these facts is that PNH expected certain works to get on the ballot because he'd tried to engineer it that way.

It's almost as if the Puppies committed no chicanery at all, and PNH is projecting his own guilty conscience onto us through you.

But that's just a gentle bugfuck fantasy.


If you look at the actual evidence from the Hugo results dating back to 2000, you’ll see that Patrick’s inexorable PC blitzkrieg has been so devastatingly effective that it has delivered best novel Hugos to Tor books a whopping five times out of fifteen. If you examine Wright’s larger figure and count back twenty years, you’ll see that Patrick’s all-consuming Social Justice Shoggoth has crapped out even worse, delivering a mere six out of twenty.

I'll take you up on that offer. According to Wikipedia, Tor has actually won six Best Novel Hugos since 2000. Is Scott omitting The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu? If so, is he admitting the Rabid Puppies' long-denied claim that their voters tipped the scales in Liu's favor?

Observe how Scott frantically handwaves Tor's Best Novel numbers away. Here are some relevant numbers in their proper perspective. Since it first became a Hugo contender in 1986, Tor has won nine Hugos--more than twice as many as any other publishing house won in the same period.

Even if we restrict ourselves to the twenty year period that Scott and Mr. Wright specify, the ratio still holds. Tor wins twice as many Best Novel Hugos as anybody else.

Now that's a Shoggoth blitzkrieg.

OK, I don't mean to go all Godwin's Law here, but Scott is really making the temptation hard to resist.

And if anybody still doubts the longstanding political bias in the Hugos, doubt no more.

The most striking feature of John C. Wright’s religiosity is that it is indistinguishable from a professional troll’s deliberate attempt to discredit John C. Wright’s religiosity.

What does that have to do with--is Scott...


Even an atheist can spot the thinness of Wright’s “Christian” ethos, smeared atop the fluff like the molecule-thin film of petrochemical butter on movie popcorn.

Oh...oh, shit! He is. He's done explaining the Puppies' ostensibly nonexistent reason for existing to the Puppies. Now he's lecturing a baptized, confirmed, and practicing Catholic on theology. He even put the word Christian in quotes.

How quaint. How...gentle.

Scott, you are, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a more successful author than me--and probably Mr. Wright. My readership is infinitesimally smaller than yours. Depending on the month, I'm somewhere on Larry Correia's N-L list of author success.

When it comes to the craft of writing, I bow to your superior skill and achievement.

But we're beyond that snug little world, now.

Aside from your writing career, you've busied yourself looking after rescue cats, volunteering with your local fire department (admirable), and filling any number of positions in the food service industry.

Outside of my relatively insignificant writing career, I'm a theologian.

And after wading through your lying-assed libeling of my friends for the past few hours, I'm disinclined to be gentle.

But in the same spirit of charity that moved Mrs. Wright to pray for Patrick Nielsen Hayden's soul, I'm willing to just say that you are wrong; comically, hideously wrong. This pool is too deep for you. How about we just leave it at that and part ways with--


Wright confuses concrete-dry levelness of tone with actual decency and civility, just as he confuses the Christianity of Christ with a viciously masturbatory conviction that God is his bigger, meaner cellmate who is going to pound every other inmate in the ass SO HARD in the showers, they won’t even believe it.

Damn it, Scott.

All accounts agree that PNH was most offended by Mr. Wright's assertion that Mr. Nielsen Hayden is a Christ-hater. Mr. Wright made this judgment based on PNH's support for:

  • Abortion: Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law... CCC 2271
  • Euthanasia: Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. CCC 2277
  • Sodomy: Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
"He who does not love me does not keep my words..." John 14:24

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." Matthew 12:30

I don't claim to know Mr. Hayden's heart. It's possible that he's in a state of invincible ignorance that could mitigate or even remove guilt.

What the Christianity of Christ, as transmitted through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and interpreted by the Church's Magisterium makes clear is that a Catholic who knowingly and willfully withholds consent from Church doctrine on grave matters of faith and morals at the very least flirts with rebellion against Christ and risks the everlasting fires of hell.

It is that most terrible fate--that ultimate tragedy, which Mr. Wright prays that Mr. Hayden will avoid. In your own ignorance, Scott, you confuse Mr. Wright's attempt to correct PNH's errors for superficial moral preening. All kidding aside, I don't know your heart, but please examine your conscience to be sure that it is only confusion; not projection.

Instructing the ignorant--even in frank language that doesn't mince words; even at the risk of hurting someone's feelings--is a spiritual work of mercy. Drawing fire from people who are manifestly living in ways that are contrary to the Gospel is a pretty good sign that a Christian is hitting the mark.

That's the difference between Christianity and the mutant heterodox offshoot of the true faith that's become dominant in the West. Christ confronts us with our sins, nails them to his Cross, and offers mercy. But the price that Moderns pay for rejecting any notion of sin is the impossibility of mercy.

But disbelieving in sin doesn't make it go away. Everybody falls. Continually. The only solution for those who can't acknowledge their own sins is to project them onto someone else--a ritual scapegoat. Yet their sin remains.

John isn't preening. He's publicly admitted his own sinfulness countless times. And me? I'm a monster. We don't think we're better than you and PNH, Scott. We know how bad we are, so we know how bad others can be.

The good news is, none of us have to stay evil pricks. There's a way out, and we Christians are so insistent on telling you about it (those of us who aren't "Christians"), because we love you dumb bastards and we don't want you to die.

Or we're just tediously pious moralizers. Take your pick.