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Sunday, March 03, 2019

Puppies redux: Nebula edition

It was funny to read this in my inbox, as it was the first time I've had any reason to give a thought to SFWA in a long, long time. Possibly the most amusing thing about this latest SFWA kerfluffle is that it is a direct consequence of SFWA adopting my original campaign proposal to admit independent authors to the membership. Sad Puppy leader Brad Torgersen observes, with no little irony, the 2019 version of Sad Puppies:
This past week, some indie authors got on the Nebula ballot, and the taste-makers—many of whom are ardently "woke" political activists—began braying about how a "slate" had ramrodded these indie authors onto the sacred SFWA ballot, and how it was high treason against all things Good and Clean in the genre for *any* "slate" to influence the Nebula final selections.

Nevermind that magazines such as Locus have spent decades publishing "recommended" lists designed and published explicitly for the purpose of influencing both Nebula selection, and Hugo award selection, among others. Such "recommended" lists have been with the genre for a long time, and only now—mysteriously!—has it been deemed evil for such lists to exist. Provided those lists don't originate from Correct™ sources, with Correct™ credentials, Correct™ political affiliation, and so forth.

Well, predictably, the indie authors came in for a caustic drubbing, and many of them—some being overseas, and not at all familiar with the internecine rhetorical warfare of American literary SF/F—were both angered and confused. And I can't blame them. It's difficult to properly unearth the many decades of political and elitist cultural battles which have saturated SF/F in America, and the larger Anglosphere SF/F lit scene, since at least the 1920s.

Suffice to say the whole thing is perhaps best explained through the lens of George Orwell's landmark 1984. Where you have Inner Party, and Outer Party, and Proles.

Inner Party being comprised of long-time Super Fans (aka: "true fans") and some venerable editors and authors who've labored carefully for years to take up positions of influence and prestige within SFWA, and the broader literary SF/F "establishment" as a whole. They are concerned almost
entirely with their own power and influence.

Outer Party being the newcomer political activist writers from the universities who see all of literary science fiction—and the Hugos and Nebulas, as well as other awards—as a tool for "woke" political activism. All of them aspire to Inner Party status, and are just waiting for the extant Inner Party to literally die off, so that the Outer Party members can graduate to places of Inner Party power and prestige.

And finally the rest of us inhabit the land of the Proles. Fans and authors who were never part of the establishment, and do not attend the so-called "World Science Fiction Convention" (which never was 'world' much, even when it went overseas) nor are we active SFWA members. Many of us are indie authors, or hybrids, who often make far more money and have far more readers than any three dozen SFWA trad pub members put together. But we still bear the stigma of self-publishing which is beyond the borders of establishment propriety in the eyes of the Inner Party.

So, when a "slate" created for and by Proles manages to get some Prole selections onto the ballot—which rightfully belongs to both the Inner and the Outer Party!—the Inner and Outer Party take it as an act of ART WAR! And as you know, Bob, nothing is more vicious than ART WAR!

And this meant it was time to launch the social media mobs, Twitter snipers, "woke" punditry, etc. In an effort to get the Proles kicked out of the process, or at least make the world aware of how horrible and evil it is that Proles stood up to be counted. Which Proles are never, EVER supposed to do. Ever. Proles are meant to mind their places in the hierarchy and not cause a fuss. We are to accept what the deciders of "worthy science fiction and fantasy" have declared for us this season, and learn to love Big Brother.

THAT is the state of American literary SF/F, in a nutshell. That is SFWA.

Which doesn't make it any easier for indie authors or fans, much less indie authors or fans who don't originate from U.S. soil. The whole thing can seem both ridiculous and conflicted. Which it is. Because any sane outsider looks at it all and does a W-T-F.

Try as they will to style themselves international, the Inner and Outer Party members of American literary SF/F are hopelessly provincial, sharing a painful overlap in ideology, as well as a kind of homogeneous, mushy globalist-liberal outlook. Which, being "woke", puts a premium on demographics over individualism. Fetishizing ethnicities and sexualities. While remaining borderline-militant about a single-track monochrome political platform.

So, certain Inner and Outer Party folks proceeded to step all over their own unmentionables in an effort to "call out" the "slate" of the indie Proles from the dirty ghettos of indie publishing. And now the Inner and Outer Parties are in damage control mode (yet again!) trying to re-write events, submerge evidence, gaslight the actual victims of the literary pogrom, blame all evils on Emmanuel Goldstein (cough, Sad Puppies, cough) and crown themselves the Good People once more. Who would never, of course, do anything pernicious, because how could they? They are Good! They tell themselves they are Good all the time! They go out of their way to virtue-signal this Goodness on social media! It cannot be possible that they have done anything wrong!

Well, if you've seen the ugly carnival long enough, it's easy to peer through the smog. And I am sorry for all of the Nebula nominees who—being rightfully excited to learn of their nominations—watched that excitement crumble beneath a digital tsunami of accusations and character assassination. I've been there. I remember the lies and slander. I know how it happens, and why.

Just shrug it off, and walk away. Neither SFWA, nor Worldcon, nor the Outer nor Inner Parties, have anything for you. They are not the audience, and never were. And the harder they try to enforce their own relevance, the more plain it becomes that this relevance has fatally degraded in the new century.
Meanwhile, no one seems to have noticed that both Tor and Baen are rapidly sliding towards nonexistence. I've heard that Macmillan is looking to get rid of Tor from several sources over the last three months. The changes you've seen in Castalia's practices of late are the direct result of Amazon destroying the ebook publishing market, and those changes are hurting the traditional publishers a lot more than a company like Castalia that doesn't rely as heavily upon the various channels.

The acid test is going to be in April. It's going to be fascinating to see how well a book that is in very high demand does through the channel versus direct.

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43 Comments:

Blogger Pseudotsuga March 03, 2019 1:09 PM  

Baen is hurting, too? Well, that's too bad-- I understood that they were much less politically biased than other publishers.

Blogger pdwalker March 03, 2019 1:10 PM  

Which book?

Oh right, you’re just teasing us.

The Supreme Dark Lord is cruel.

Blogger Mark Stoval March 03, 2019 1:27 PM  

"Just shrug it off, and walk away."

Good advice no doubt.

But the southern radical in me wants revenge. It is hard to just put the anger down as I watch the SJWs destroy more and more of what little western culture that remains.

And this may be as good a thread as any to say F*ck "woke" people.

Blogger DonReynolds March 03, 2019 1:41 PM  

It is articles like this that remind me that Capitalism is the most democratic form of social organization. Those who would be Monarchs, or Oligarchs, or Elitists of the Ruling Party, crave Monopoly Power. They are Authoritarian. They decide and everyone else hands over their money, bows and scrapes.

It is difficult and expensive to create Monopoly Power, whether in politics, or public opinion, or the marketplace...in fact, it is almost impossible in a Free Society without government protection or government putting their heavy thumb on the scales. As long as men and women are free to speak and invent and innovate and create a product, the monopoly power of the authoritarians is at risk. As long as authors are free to write as they please and self-publish, they can bypass the gatekeepers at the publishing houses.

If this were about profits and audience, the publishing houses would be snapping up anything that sells. But it is not because owning the best selling publications and making the most money is not their primary goal. For the Leftists who have converged the large corporations, the primary goal is the Leftist Liberal agenda and if the customers do not support that, then they need to have no other choice. Publishing houses do not celebrate any popular publication unless it conforms to the agenda, and that is why they are irrational (in economic terms).

Blogger Mr.MantraMan March 03, 2019 2:17 PM  

I liked participating in the puppies because it got the virtue signaling SJW all snappy, which probably leads to cannibalism.

Blogger Skylark Thibedeau March 03, 2019 2:19 PM  

You just can't beat Butt Slammin Velociraptors.

Blogger sammibandit March 03, 2019 2:32 PM  

What? People don't want transgender ghost erotica in their SF? No way!

Blogger Tom Bridgeland March 03, 2019 2:34 PM  

What's happening at Baen? I have thought the quality has been down the last year or two. Other than Correia not much I wanted to pay cash for.

Blogger Brett baker March 03, 2019 2:36 PM  

That's the problem; people think they can.

Blogger S1AL March 03, 2019 2:38 PM  

"What's happening at Baen? I have thought the quality has been down the last year or two. Other than Correia not much I wanted to pay cash for."

I think it's largely just independent publishing. Baen has been very, very good at picking winners, regardless of politics, but that doesn't matter when the traditional matter itself is collapsing.

Blogger Brett baker March 03, 2019 2:38 PM  

I read something to the effect that some of the underlings want to turn it into Tor 2.0.

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume March 03, 2019 2:48 PM  

Tom Bridgeland wrote:What's happening at Baen? I have thought the quality has been down the last year or two. Other than Correia not much I wanted to pay cash for.

And honestly, Correia's last Monster Hunter book was 'Meh'. I was a big fan from the beginning of the series. But his Owen 'Z' Pitt character is a Mary Sue. The earlier books were entertaining enough in their own right, presence of a Mary Sue or not, and the later books with Earl Harbinger and Agent Franks were fantastic. Unfortunately, I was barely able to finish the last one.

Blogger Nathan March 03, 2019 2:55 PM  

It would not be a surprise if we lost Baen before Tor.

Baen's role as the relief valve for tradpub SFF got taken over by indie, and they haven't been able to cultivate new writers because of it. Four Horsemen Universe should have been the replacement for 1632, but slipped through their fingers, as did Ark Royal and many other series. Right now, with Honor Harrington over, carrying the company falls on Correia's shoulders.

Baen's short fiction is an outright mess, but that's due to them relying on the same handful of traveling editors that all the publishing houses rely on. So it's the same Clarion mess no one else reads. And replacing Seanan McGuire with Sarah Hoyt as the ever-present fixture of the short fiction line is a sidegrade at best. Here indie is indeed doing better work as well.

Blogger Jack Low March 03, 2019 3:02 PM  

I'm way out of the loop. Who exactly are the indie writers? I'd like to read them.

Blogger Skyler the Weird March 03, 2019 3:10 PM  

Anything is better than Seanan's Tapeworm and Asexual Landwhale fiction

Blogger Skyler the Weird March 03, 2019 3:12 PM  

I wouldn't say Owen is a Gary Stu. He and his brother were trained from an early age by their father(The Destroyer) who had been around monsters in SE Asia to be ready for anything.

Blogger Nathan March 03, 2019 3:13 PM  

@14

Richard Fox of the Ember War and Rhett Bruno are the two indie names I recognize from the Nebulas list. Both are on various sci-fi mailing lists such as Sci-Fi Bridge, Sci-Fi Explorations, Discover Sci-Fi, etc.. Both are worth reading.

Also involved in this is the 20 Books to 50K crowd, centered around Michael Anderele. Anderele is the James Patterson of indie, and works with a lot of writers and ghost writers. Alongside Bella Forrest and B. V. Larson, he's one of the big fish in indie, and one many writers listen to on business issues. Such as potentially joining SFWA or not.

Blogger Lovekraft March 03, 2019 3:22 PM  

A movie that takes a pretty harsh dig at the elite (using the painting market) is "Velvet Buzzsaw." Bit slow at first but picks up speed.

Blogger BassmanCO March 03, 2019 3:28 PM  

Seriously? The last book (Monster Hunter: Siege) had much better writing than the beginning of the series along with more character development. And Owen has become less of a Mary Sue over time. Plus, as Vox has mentioned, it doesn’t matter if the character is a Mary Sue if the book is good.

Blogger tweell March 03, 2019 3:29 PM  

Baen has been slowly going downhill since Jim Baen passed away. His ex, Toni Weisskopf, has been running it. She's a fan, but an accountant, not an editor. She isn't able to assist writers and bring them along like Jim could. Jim's stable of authors have been fading away, the replacements aren't able to make up for the loss.

That's the first reason. The second is that indie is increasingly the way to go for midlist authors. Hoyt and company have been making more money off Amazon than Baen can afford to give them. Without Jim's value-add, there's no reason to go through Baen.

Blogger Azure Amaranthine March 03, 2019 3:47 PM  

"But the southern radical in me wants revenge."

Lock the door and keep them in the outer darkness. Don't let them come in to leech the fires others build and the light from lamps others fueled. Best served cold.

Blogger rcocean March 03, 2019 3:58 PM  

I was never much interested in SF, until Vox started his battles with the SJW's in what 2008 ? Which shocked me, since before then I always thought SF was made of white male nerds. But the SJW's are everywhere and even invaded Civil War and Military History.

Blogger Unknownsailor March 03, 2019 4:02 PM  

The stable of writers that Baen has, would Castillia House be wiling to pick them up?

No way in hell does Tor touch the likes of Ringo, or Michael Z. Williamson. I think the both of them could go independent on future releases, but who gets their prior works?

--Unknownsailor--

Blogger VD March 03, 2019 4:09 PM  

The stable of writers that Baen has, would Castillia House be wiling to pick them up?

The Baen authors, as a general rule, would rather be with Tor than with Castalia. I don't have a problem with any of them, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to call either.

Blogger Dave March 03, 2019 4:25 PM  

Richard Fox is one of those indies nominated for the Nebula Award. BIC recently ran an interview with Fox. https://boundingintocomics.com/2019/02/27/interview-marching-to-war-with-richard-fox/

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella March 03, 2019 5:12 PM  

umm, have pity on a non-tech person. You'll remain publishing on Amazon, as well as your own? I preferentially buy from Amazon b/c I know I have a bad time with tech downloads across types of platforms and styles, even for research papers or sewing patterns.

Blogger Alexandru Constantin March 03, 2019 5:29 PM  

Baen is cuckservative central.

Blogger Pseudotsuga March 03, 2019 6:31 PM  

rcocean wrote:I was never much interested in SF, until Vox started his battles with the SJW's in what 2008 ? Which shocked me, since before then I always thought SF was made of white male nerds. But the SJW's are everywhere and even invaded Civil War and Military History.
And within the last few months, Medieval History has finally jumped the SJW shark, as have the Classics. To study and publish in either of those fields, currently, you have to focus on non-represented victim groups.
The Liberal Arts are in their dying throes, apparently.

Blogger Tom Bridgeland March 03, 2019 6:41 PM  

I don't buy fiction from Amazon. I'll buy directly from Castalia however, and Baen.
Baen's website currently sucks. The new design is simply not friendly.

Anonymous Anonymous March 03, 2019 6:54 PM  

I was reading that Amazon has engaged in a purge of conservative writers - people like Steven Crowder (yes, he's not conservative, but he is to an SJW), Anne Coulter, and Tucker Carlson etc. Even purchased books have disappeared. I hope Castalia House hasn't been targeted.

Blogger Jack Ward March 03, 2019 7:06 PM  

As usual it's a delight to read just about anything Brad has to write. Fascinating, is it not, that a piece critical of those shenanigans within the nubula and sfwa hierarchy can be as exciting to read as one of his first rank novels. Sad, too, that such writers as Brad Torgersen can be relegated to the trash heap by that 'inner' party he talked of. Theres a reason he and his ilk are making good money while self-publishing. The good money should go to the good authors. Kinda like a law of the universe, I say.

Blogger Jack Ward March 03, 2019 7:18 PM  

@13 Right now, with Honor Harrington over, carrying the company falls on Correia's shoulders.
I will have to say here that the latest [I think] monster length Harrington, though some five years or so later, was a good read. 900 plus pages it was like a two novel length thing packed into a single. I liked it. Whether we see more Harrington, I have no idea. What I want to see is more Kratman especially his finishing the 'peace' series. And, of course, Vox his somewhat water logged latest novel. No criticism of Vox, of course, the Man has more important work than satisfying the reading needs of us 'proles'. Far more important.

Blogger Nathan March 03, 2019 7:28 PM  

@32,

I thought Uncompromising Honor cheated like crazy to give Honor a happy ending she never was supposed to get, and did so in a way that fundamentally undermined the idea that she was a tactical/strategic genius. But he concluded the series with a proper ending, which, these days, is a minor miracle.

As for the rest, I'm watching for Corriea's Monster Hunter and Black Sword series. The rest of Baen. including some fun and good authors, need to think about how to wrap things up. I'm not opposed to new series, but abandoned series and endlessly prolonged series are annoying.

Blogger VD March 03, 2019 8:34 PM  

You'll remain publishing on Amazon, as well as your own?

Yes.

I hope Castalia House hasn't been targeted.

Apparently you missed the fact that they completely nuked our account there three weeks ago.

Blogger Doktor Jeep March 03, 2019 9:16 PM  

Having witnessed firsthand how a writer so swiftly got SJWs and other leftoid writers in a constellation around him, including domineering girlfriends who are so far left they would make Stalin wonder, it's apparent that this stuff is deliberate. It reeks of "think tank" and purpose. Good thing the writer kind of sucks. He puts in the work, but it's so mainstream and bland, he's background noise. Poor fellow. I wonder at times if the goal was to ride on his coattails and push the agenda IF he was successful, or prevent him from becoming successful.

Blogger ADS March 03, 2019 10:43 PM  

@16
I think self-insert is a better label for Owen Z Pitt than Gary Stu. A weight-lifting, gun nut accountant character written by a weight-lifting, gun nut accountant author. I don't find Owen to be an interesting or engaging character at all, and the "chosen one" plotline is seriously played out and boring. I don't regret buying the early MHI books, they were a fun enough read, but they're not great. Correia's writing has improved greatly as the series develops, and his non-Owen characters are pretty good. Son of the Black Sword even does "chosen one" plot in a way that's actually fresh and interesting. I buy pretty much everything he writes and it keeps getting better.

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume March 04, 2019 7:25 AM  

BassmanCO wrote:Seriously? The last book (Monster Hunter: Siege) had much better writing than the beginning of the series along with more character development. And Owen has become less of a Mary Sue over time. Plus, as Vox has mentioned, it doesn’t matter if the character is a Mary Sue if the book is good.

If you enjoyed it, that's awesome. Its nice to enjoy the books we buy.

And I hope you'll notice, I agree with VD about Mary Sue's not mattering if the book is good. After all, I have always thought Owen was a Mary Sue but I enjoyed the first book quite a bit.

I just thought Monster Hunter: Siege was a step back for Correia.

Blogger OvergrownHobbit March 04, 2019 11:11 AM  

Amazon will always be an unstable alternative to trad pub as long as it is the only serious one. A two-legged stool cannot stand. Which is why anyone with an ounce of sense should support Castalia.

Build up, build over, build around.

Blogger Worlds Edge March 04, 2019 12:11 PM  

FWIW, the guy behind the whole business of getting Indie authors Nebula nominations has bent the knee with an apology of unadulterated cringe that must be read to be believed. Unfortunately the only place I'm aware of to read it is on Vile 770, so I'll not link to it. But it is there, entry dated March 1, 2019, titled Jonathan Brazee, SFWA Make Statements on Nebula Awards Issues.

Cockroach Floppypants or whatever the hell his name is, is (of course) also commenting on the whole business, both on his blog and on the comments section of File770.

Blogger GK Chesterton March 04, 2019 4:33 PM  

For a moment I was all excited about a new release from you guys. And some sort of dastardly Nebula plot.

Did pick "The Prometheus" in audio and am playing it as a trip novel with the family. Good stuff.

Blogger Chris Lopes March 04, 2019 5:26 PM  

The Nebula Awards have the virtue of not even pretending to be about what readers like, which is why most of us tuned them out a lot earlier than the Hugo's. The independents will just have to settle for actually earning a living at writing SF/F, instead of winning awards and complaining about there being no money in it.

Blogger Bill Peschel March 05, 2019 12:07 PM  

"FWIW, the guy behind the whole business of getting Indie authors Nebula nominations has bent the knee with an apology of unadulterated cringe that must be read to be believed"

I read his comment on the 20Books group (I'm a member and have nothing to do with the running of it). He thought he was doing a nice thing by listing all the members who were eligible for nomination. It was a long, long list, and he was simply making members aware if they were in Nebula's neighborhood, that they might want to consider these people.

That's it, and he was totally unprepared for the shitstorm it would unleash. After all, the whole 20Books ethos is centered around a) writing books, and b) making money by marketing them and sharing information about what works.

That's it. No politics (the mods are ruthless in deleting posts). No marketing, either. Share information, encourage each other, that's it.

And, yes, that includes everyone. We have people who write gay erotica on there sharing marketing tips and asking for advice on ISBNs and building newsletters.

Blogger FlashGordon March 05, 2019 11:50 PM  

Looks like there are 5 SFWA insiders on the finalist list this year. Read here:
https://lelaebuis.wordpress.com/2019/03/02/patterns-in-the-nebula-finalist-list/#comments

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