The Catholic Geek: On Anthologies 06/18

The Catholic Geek: On Anthologies 06/18 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Jennifer Brozek will call in to talk with us about editing a shared world anthology, Jeff Sturgeon’s Last Cities of Earth Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award finalist and a multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fifteen anthologies with more on the way, including the acclaimed Chicks Dig Gaming and Shattered Shields anthologies. Author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, Industry Talk, the Last Days of Salton Academy, and the acclaimed Melissa Allen series, she has more than seventy published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Lies told about small presses

There is an article up on A Writer’s Path by Steven Capps called Lies told by small presses and as a person running a small press I’d like to offer some thoughts about the authors diatribe.
Here at Superversive Press we endeavour to provide value to our writers and we take a percentage of that to cover our cost and time. There seems to be this strange idea that there is such a thing as a free lunch. I assume the author doesn’t write or read Science Fiction or else I assume he would be familiar with the acronym TANSTAAFL.
Onto the so called “lies” that small presses tell authors. The first seems the most egregious and brimming with weird misinformation.

Lie #1 New authors don’t get advances

Here at Superversive Press we don’t pay advances to our authors. It would be nice but we are a small decentralized operation and we don’t have the funds upfront to pay a large advance to an authors. I make no secret of this. The bit I don’t understand though is, who the hell is paying a new author an advance? An advance is money I pay you upfront for work not yet written for you to live on against future earnings. If you are a new author trying to get a first book published are you submitting half finished manuscripts to presses expecting them to pay you to finish it? Maybe that goes on, I’ve never encountered that. If the work is finished why am I paying you an advance when all the work left to do is on my end?
I suppose I could pay you an initial payment upfront to secure your work but if you are a new author who hasn’t sold any books before with no data on how well your book would sell, why would you expect me to take that sort of a risk on you? That is a serious question.
Additionally it fails to appreciate something important about publishing. If Superversive Press takes on your book and agrees to publish it, then goes on to provide editing services, cover art services, promotional help etc, then we are giving you an advance by bearing that cost ourselves. Go and try and self publish a book, editing and covers aren’t free. The press is essentially giving you an entirely unsecured loan of that money to get your book published and charging you 0% interest on that money. Go to a bank and see if they are willing to float you a few thousand dollars to get your book published with an unsecured loan. You can expect an interest rate in the 15% – 20% range on a loan like that. If your book sells 4 copies the press will have to eat that loss, none of the contracts I have ever seen offer a provision for the press to recoup that investment if the book does terribly.
If you self publish you bear all that cost and risk yourself and you get to reap all the reward, if you go with a small press then you get to reap less of the reward because the press will take a percentage too to repay them for the risk and faith they showed in you. Superversive Press contracts normally pay the authors a good chunk of the money earned, certainly an order of magnitude more than the 6% the Big 5 typically pay authors.
You can decide to self publish yourself if you want but you bear all the risk and costs yourself as well. There are no right or wrong answers to the question just different trade offs made for different approaches.

Lie #2: Publishers don’t help with marketing

This is sort of a half truth. He is right, a small press will not have the muscle with book retailers that one of the Big 5 does. Which lunatic thinks they do? Will you get books prominently displayed in book stores if you go with any small press? Probably not, they lack the resources and the clout to get that. That being said, self publishing will never get you that, and publishing with a Big 5 publisher wont either unless you are bringing them in a lot of money.
If you are a superstar author then I’m sure you can get superstar author treatment by people with deep pockets. But new authors aren’t superstars yet and expecting to be treated like one is madness.
The author also seems to forget that the big publishers who give you all this promotion and have all this clout also take a really enormous share of your earnings. 94% remember! I don’t know the authors background but I have played in bands and worked in the tech industry for start ups. People with money who come along and fund your band/invention/book want a return on their investment and the more they do for you upfront the bigger slice of the pie they will want to do it.
As with all things in life, everything is a trade off and their ain’t no free lunches.

Lie #3: Authors need to pay for editing

This is one of those sections that has some half truths in it. I agree if the press said “You pay for the editing yourself we don’t do that” then that would be a red flag. That being said, if an author wanted a particular editor and turned around and demanded we pay for that editor then I would probably pass on the book. Whoever pays for the editor gets control over who does the editing.
That being said, the author always ends up paying for the editor. The author pays for everything involved in one way or another by either paying for it themselves or giving over a percentage of the work to the publisher to have them do that job instead. The author is still ultimately paying one way or the other, either covering a cost up front and reaping a greater return or deferring an upfront cost in exchange for smaller future earnings. There are no free lunches no matter how much people seems to want there to be a free lunch.

Final Thoughts

In the final thoughts section it is claimed that without an advance an author is always better off self publishing. If by “no advance” it means an author bears all the costs for themselves upfront and handles all of the distribution and money themselves, then yeah, it makes perfect sense to self publish instead. Heck, that is self publishing. You take on all the costs you get all the rewards. If you go with a publisher or any size, they take on some of the risk and get some of the reward as well.
If you want to self publish it basically means becoming a small publisher yourself with all the paperwork and hassle that goes along with that. A publisher takes some or all of that burden away an leaves you free to write. I’d encourage all authors to make whatever trade off works best for them. There are no wrong choices here just different ones.
If you are interested in publishing with Superversive Press then drop us a line, [email protected]
If you would like to support some small press authors check out these books from Superversive Press

A Romantic Distinction

I propose a distinction between two varieties of romance in fiction: Girly romances and manly romances.

A girly romance is a romance where the man, or woman, is willing to give up everything in order to be with the one they love.

A manly romance is a romance where the man, or woman, is forced to give up, or risk, their happiness with the one they love in order to achieve a greater good.

Girly romances don’t necessarily have to be bad (See: “Wall-E”), and manly romances don’t necessarily have to be good (I can’t think of any bad examples off the top of my head, but I’m not a fan of the romance genre generally). But I think the distinction is at least an interesting one.

To see the quintessential examples of both, “Titanic” is THE girly romance, and “Casablanca” is THE manly romance. They’re both considered classics (though I can’t stand “Titanic”, but hey, it’s popular), and both of them fit the categories perfectly: Rick gives up Ilsa in order to aid the war effort, even though it hurts them both, and in “Titanic” Jack is willing to give up even his life in order to save Rose, and Rose apparently happy to give up her posh upper class status in order to be with Jack.

If “Casablanca” were a girly romance, Rick would have run off with Ilsa and Lazlo would have been sad but happy that Ilsa was happy, and they would flee Casablanca together.

If “Titanic” were a manly romance, Jack would be forced to leave Rose behind in order to – let’s say – find and release lifeboats to save the other passengers, and Rose would recognize that she had responsibilities to her family and society that made a relationship with Jack irresponsible and reckless anyway. Both would be sad but would part ways in the knowledge that they were doing the difficult but moral thing. Interestingly, in this version of “Titanic” it actually might make more sense for Jack to live.

Just food for thought.

Standard Right Wing Talking Points and Casual Sexism

This might be the new tagline for John C. Wright’s Hugo nominates story “An Unimgainable Light”. From Nerds of a Feather:

An Unimaginable Light: Imagine a thought experiment dealing with the nature of being human by  playing with the nature of robots and mix in some casual sexism and some standard right wing talking points. Then, imagine the story is even more didactic and poorly written than it sounds and you have the beginning of what John C. Wright’s awful “An Unimaginable Light” is. The reality is so much worse. Rich Horton notes that much of the context for the story is tied to Wright’s collection God, Robot and perhaps it would read very differently in that context, but coming into the story as a discrete piece of fiction I can only say that it is bad. It is not worthy of being considered for the Hugo Award.

Seriously, when will people understand that the story is literally an argument *against* casual objectification of women? It’s not even subtle. The person who “casually objectifies” women is literally nicknamed “Skinner”. Because he flays people. He’s not the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for.

As for “Standard right wing talking points”…here are the other Hugo stories. This is taken from books.zennaro.net. All emphasis mine:

A Fist of Permutations in the Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Hannah and Melanie are two sisters, with the ability to bend time and reality. Unfortunately there are limits of what they can achieve, and when one succumbs to self hate, suicide, family transphobia, and hate crime, the other traps herself in a never ending loop of alternative realities, fueled by her sense of guilt, desperately trying to change an unchangeable past.

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
This is the story of Tabitha, and Amira. Their stories, and their roles are the archetypal stories and roles of women in fairy tales. The same fairy tales that we still read to our children, often without realizing how misogynistic they are. One day, as Tabitha walks around the world to repent for having revealed to her mother she was a victim of abuse, she meets Amira. Their encounter will deeply change their lives, their way of thinking, and of living.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
A very interesting, and very fine example of message fiction, focusing on women rights, and rape. Given the brevity of the story, it is hard to say anything about it, without spoiling it. I would just say that it is a great piece from a Hugo / Nebula / Sturgeon / Locus finalist writer.

The City Born Great by N. K. Jemisin
All the great metropolis on Earth, when they get big enough, and old enough, they must be born. Now it’s the turn of New York, and a homeless queer black man find himself tasked with the role of facilitate this birth [sic]. But nothing it easy: there are mysterious enemies that want to prevent this from happening. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts his reluctant midwife.
I found the short story interesting, in particular the way it touches some very actual themes like xenophobia, and homelessness. The story is not as good as Jemisin’s previous work.

(Carrie Vaughn’s story seems pretty neutral ideologically, for what that’s worth.)

But, sure, the issue here is that there are “standard right wing talking points” in John’s story. THAT’S what we should be concerned about!

Mostly I notice that this Hugo Award year, at least in the short story category, is divided on deeply ideological lines – there is no question that John’s story is very definitely on the conservative side of the ideological divide. But they’re not even trying to hide it anymore; message fiction is being acknowledged and stories are being praised specifically for the ideologies they happen to be pushing.

If you want to see something from someone who *actually* seems to be neutral, here are some good reviews from Reddit, of all places:

The gist of his notes on John’s story:

It’s an interesting thought experiment and is more metaphysical and philosophical than science fiction in feel.

I really enjoyed this story, though it is up to you to decide if the $5 purchase price is worth it to read this Hugo nominee.

See, this reviewer seemed to like other stories more, including stories I’d probably dislike myself. And, hey, that’s fine; at least his judgments don’t seem to be based on “Is my preferred political viewpoint being expressed?”

Because that seems to be the theme of this year’s Hugo Awards. How depressing.

More on “Sword and Flower”

Jeffro has an interesting post up on the Castalia blog where the pulp guys discuss my “Sword and Flower” review. It more or less stands for itself, but I want to respond to a few points.

Disclaimer: If this sounds harsh, it’s only because I’m being direct. I’m not angry or anything. I’m just trying to cut to the heart of it here. At any rate, I’m hardly more harsh than they are towards me (which I have no problem with).

Its story beats are only a surprise because they haven’t been seen in decades and/or the vast majority of culture creators are constitutionally unable to do them with a straight face.

So? When did I ever deny that? For that manner, when did I mention my surprise or lack of it one way or another?

This thing with “the story is crying out for a redemption arc” bit. I have no idea what that is about. I mean the point of a pulp story is to have somebody punch evil and kiss the girl, right?

Well, in my original review I said that my big problem with the story is that the characters don’t act like people. And they don’t.

The redemption arc is an attempt to solve that problem by giving the characters motivations beyond “survive”. And it’s a superversive motivation that is even suggested by the setting. You can have a more pedestrian motivation that can work perfectly well too, but it would at least be shooting for a lower mark.

Star Wars didn’t have a redemption thingy in the first movie.

“Sword and Flower” isn’t “Star Wars”.

Even if you grant that whatever Anthony is talking about is essential, I just don’t see why you’d absolutely have to have it in the first installment.

It’s not essential. Characters acting like humans? That’s essential.

Still, if the Daredevil television show is more supeversive than Rawle’s story… then I don’t know what superversive is anymore. I just have no idea what they’re talking about!

This is correct. He doesn’t.

“Sword and Flower” never tries to look beyond itself. Sure, it’s set in lesser Heaven. Sure, the protagonist fights demons. But everything is motivated by self-interest; either that, or none of it makes any sense. Dimity admits several times that she doesn’t try to escape because that would be even more dangerous than staying. She fights the demons because she has a stake in it just as much as the Puritans; she says herself that she’s doing it to “never have to worry about rejection from Weatherford again”; they’ve been trying to kill her the whole novel, after all. Jeffro even ADMITS outright that Rawle isn’t shooting for superversive:

I mean the point of a pulp story is to have somebody punch evil and kiss the girl, right?

Right. That wasn’t the point of Daredevil. It was far more than that. It’s about a deeply flawed and weak human being who overcomes all of that to be a hero. “Sword and Flower” may try for this (and I give Rawle credit for that!), but with cardboard cutout characters that don’t act like real humans and have thin motivations, it just doesn’t work.

Remember, my original review didn’t mention lack of superversive as the main flaw. It mentioned lack of realistic or interesting characters, with the exception of the (briefly appearing) Elizabeth. Plus the egregious oversight of mentioning the dead Elizabeth but not the team of dead warriors at the end of the story.

Later on:

P. Alexander: Usually when a Japanese show is about redemption, the [stuff] went down prior to the start of the story, and the whole show is about trying to make up for whatever the hero failed at, which may be shown in a series of flashbacks.

It’s too bad I didn’t mention a specific character who could literally have that exact arc.

Oh, wait, I did. Mash.

 And, there is a redemption bit. I’m not sure how fighting demons can be seen as anything other than an act seeking redemption for people condemned to a lesser heaven.

Survival? Dimity doesn’t seem particularly concerned with being a demon hunter until Mash convinces her, and Mash convinces her because the demons are threatening their town. There isn’t a hint of redemption there.

And, this continual comparison of short works to full novels or even whole seasons of a tv show just isn’t a fair comparison as to how much can be achieved in a given space.

All right. Then don’t bring that up to me when asking for a specific comparison.

As for “The Wish List”, it’s not very long. It’s also much better, and very pulpy itself. Seriously. Read it. Not to sound like too much of a jerk here, but it’s MUCH better than “Sword and Flower”.

P. Alexander: From now on, I’m gonna read “Not Superversive enough” as “Literal Santa Claus didn’t show up to hand out plot items.”

I’ll leave you all to judge whether or not this is a fair reading. For my part, since I never mentioned anything remotely like that, it just comes off to me as as ridiculous a strawman as anything I’ve seen so far. Come on, man. do better.

Nathan Housley: The funny thing is I can see Jagi Lamplighter recognizing Sword & Flower as a different type of superversive than Anthony is trying to make it. (Anthony is misreading genre and beats here. Sword & Flower is not the type of story he wants it to be.)

Yes, the type of story with characters that act like people.

“Sword and Flower” might try, but it tries in the same way “Suicide Squad” tried to be superversive: When your writing isn’t up to snuff, you’re inevitably not going to hit that mark as well as you should. Rawle tries, but there’s a noumenal level there he misses; perhaps he can hit it in his next book. Or maybe he doesn’t go superversive at all, and just improves generally.

I really want to emphasize here that the bigger issue is the characters. They just don’t work.

Like symbolism, it exists, but in recognition, it usually reveals more about the what the reviewer sees in the text than the text itself. And when fundamentally and intentionally subversive works are held up as superversive, it makes me wonder if superversive is not short for “I like it.”

I will note that this is the exact issue the superversives had had with the pulp rev all along, and now you’re going to pull that same thing on us? Seriously? Without batting an eye or seeing a hint of irony there?

Look, if you think we’re calling subversive work superversive, then yeah, you disagree with us that the work is superversive. It happens; we don’t always agree on everything.

With that said, Nathan is also just wrong. We DO, in fact, have guidelines for what makes a story at least noumenally superversive. Here it is. And here’s why Daredevil meets those guidlines, by the way. If you want to know what makes a story “simple” superversive, you can always read Tom Simon’s original essay.

Jeffro: It’s the first time in years that you see a female character (a) operating in a helper role and (b) not surrounded by a Greek chorus of cheerleaders. It’s astonishing. The fact that she did something “wrong” in order to do something right… the fact that she puts herself at odds with society to do the right thing… that makes her instantly likable in a way that no characters on Iron Fist or Jessica Jones ever achieve.

No argument there. Elizabeth was great.

Jon Mollison: The Superversives want to remind people to do the right thing by having literal angels show up in their stories. I want my stories to remind people to do the right thing.

Full stop. You don’t need angels.

Wait. Were you even taking part of the same conversation? My original example was Daredevil.

Hey, remember that scene from “Daredevil” where the literal angel shows up to help Daredevil?

No?

Me either.

Look, I respect the pulp rev guys. We won’t agree on everything. That’s okay! But when they directly contradict themselves (how can you possibly say my idea of superversive has to do with “literal angels” showing up or “Santa Claus bringing presents” when earlier in the same conversation you’re complaining that you don’t see how Daredevil is more superversive than “Sword and Flower”?) to accuse us of things that nobody has even hinted at (where on earth did any of us hint that “Santa Claus had to being presents” for a work to be superversive? How do you even get that reading?), I don’t think it’s unfair for me to call them out on it.

Rawle has potential. He can improve. But “Sword and Flower” wasn’t good because his characters didn’t act like real people, or were two-dimensional cut-outs; the problem could have been solved by giving them stronger character arcs and goals, and a powerful one, hinted at by the setting, even, is a redemption arc.

That was my case.

You should read the work; a lot of people are disagreeing with me, after all. Let it speak for itself, and decide whether I’m totally off the mark or whether I have a point. Who knows? Maybe it really is JUST me.

And also, read “The Wish List”. I’ll have to do a write-up on that one day.

 

Strong Female Characters in the Castle in the Sky

This is a companion post both to my “Castle in the Sky” retrospective (consider that my official “Castle in the Sky” addition to the full Miyazaki retrospective) and colleague Marina Fontaine’s excellent article on strong female characters. This was originally written as a section of the Castalia post until I realized it both made the article too long and didn’t really fit with the rest of the piece. But I liked how it came out, so here you go:

After reading Marina Fontaine’s terrific article on strong female characters, it got me thinking.

Sheeta is a GREAT character, one of my favorite female characters perhaps in all of fiction. She is brave, she is competent, she is important, and she is very, very girly. In frightening or dangerous situations she’ll cry, she clings to Pazu for protection often and throws herself into his arms, and she never even attempts to fight anybody head-on; the few times she engages with someone physically it’s always when they’re paying attention to somebody else, and even then she’s sometimes overpowered.

And yet, she is very much a heroine; her bravery and intelligence are essential to defeating Muska, and even when she is kidnapped she’s always actively trying (and sometimes succeeding) to escape and foil Muska’s plans.

And Sheeta is likable too, even lovable – and I think this is a testament to both her and Miyazaki’s portrayal of men in”Castle in the Sky”.

I’ll explain. There is, of course, that notorious scene at the beginning of “The Force Awakens” where Rey is surrounded by unsavory characters and beats them all up with her amazingly fantastical stick-fighting skills. When Finn tries to jump in and help, Rey snarls at him and throws him away; she is a wymyn. Hear her roar! She don’t need no man.

Well, you know the scene.

In order to make Rey appear more competent “The Force Awakens” minimizes the skills and bravery of its men. When Finn goes to help and is rebuffed, he dutifully obeys; apparently he got the memo that Rey is a Magical Stickfighting Master. I’d say he was hoping that the desperado gang would beat her up, but considering how he follows her around like a puppy dog the rest of the film this is definitely out.

In contrast, whenever Pazu goes to help Sheeta, she is always, always tremendously grateful. Even the several times she doesn’t want Pazu to help her, her rebuffs are never angry, but instead take the form of desperate pleas, made not because she doesn’t need him, but because she’s worried he’ll be hurt. Sheeta knows Pazu is trying to help, knows Pazu is protecting her, and – quite unlike Rey and those other Strong Wymyn Characters (See: Black Widow in “Iron Man 2”) – she appreciates it. When Pazu is obviously outnumbered and unable to effect a difference and he still stands up for Sheeta, unlike in films like “Star Wars” and “Iron Man 2”, it’s never once played for laughs. Pazu isn’t a loser for standing up to people stronger than him. He’s a hero!

And – importantly – sometimes, Sheeta DOES need Pazu’s help. Even more shockingly – shockingly, I say! – she’s actually humble enough to ask for it!

Can you imagine something like this being made in the west? It’s simply not done anymore. Strong Wymyn Don’t Need No Man’s help, right?

And somehow, with pigheaded ignorance, western feminists praise Miyazaki as One Of Them. Nonsense. None of them would dare to make a character like Sheeta the lead when there are Reys to be worshiped.

Interesting Article From Doris V. Sutherland

I’m going to start out by being somewhat controversial (for this community, anyway; in the worldwide publishing community they probably dislike or hate me for voluntarily associating myself with Vox Day, however loosely, but whatever): I no longer really have a dog (heh) in the Sad/Rabid Puppies fight.

If I did I’d be supportive of the Rabids, mostly because I was disgusted by the behavior of the Hugo regulars at the Cons. So, die Hugos. But truthfully I’ve basically stopped caring except to say that I genuinely hope the Dragon Awards continue getting more popular year after year and eventually supplant the Hugos entirely.

This is all a lead-in to say that when I call Miss (Mrs.?) Sutherland’s article interesting, I actually mean it. I found it interesting.

This is probably not going to make me too popular among some of the superversive folks, who seem to have decided Miss Sutherland is an enemy. And maybe she is; I haven’t been following along with the exchanges all along. All I know is that this particular article is one I thought was mostly fairly well-written and reasoned. There was a bias, of course – there always is, it’s human nature – but, I thought, not an angry one.

That’s not to say I agree with everything, of course.

Miss Sutherland says this:

Towards the end, he makes an abrupt change of subject from heroic horror films to heroic horror literature: but does he mention Robert E. Howard, whose sword-and-sorcery protagonists regularly faced Lovecraftian abominations? Does he acknowledge the writers who have shaped the occult detective genre, from H. and E. Heron through to Jim Butcher? Does he namecheck anyone from the legion of authors, from Bram Stoker onwards, who have thrilled readers with tales of cross-wielding vampire hunters?

Nope, nope, and nope. It is Brian Niemeier who has the distinction of being the only writer mentioned in Young’s survey of horror.

This is a very odd complaint to make. The article Miss Sutherland is referring to is this one, by Josh Young. In the article, Josh made one – one – extremely brief name check of a horror novel that he liked and happened to be superversive. There was no “abrupt subject change”. After that extremely brief name check of a guy who happens to be part of the superversive team and wrote a book Josh enjoyed, Josh continued making his overarching point. He even asked people to offer other recommendations for superversive horror.

Which point of hers Miss Sutherland thinks this supports completely escapes me. Superversives like his novel? Well, sure. Since he’s part of team superversive Josh made a point to mention it? Okay. It illustrated Josh’s point? Sure. But why are any of these problematic?

Miss Sutherland’s point that “Souldancer” is not popular among the sorts of horror fans who follow the Bram Stoker awards seems solid enough, though I’m not sure if this really makes her case that “real” horror fans don’t like Brian’s novel. One of the main puppy points is that we’re trying to end the sort of divide between fans and trufans, who REALLY know what’s what and look down on “Not really” horror fans.

If anything her argument seems to be that the Dragon Awards should get more exposure, so that the long time and hardcore horror fans can have more influence. Good point. They should. But so what?

And I think that’s the biggest point here. Miss Sutherland seems to be saying that, though Brian won, it doesn’t really mean his work is the most popular horror novel, since most horror fans haven’t been following the Puppies controversy and the various literary movements that have sprung up in opposition to SJW convergance. Okay. If that’s the case, vote for something else. Seriously. The option is there. Nobody is stopping her. If she wants to get the word out to the horror community that there’s a new horror award, and see if people are interested in voting for it, that’s great! Go for it.

The problem here is that she’s acting like this delegitimizes Brian’s win. But why? Brian won an open vote fair and square. It’s not his fault that hardcore horror fans didn’t vote for it. He still won.

Miss Sutherland makes some decent points that Brian’s novel wasn’t actually the most popular horror novel written that year, sales wise. Fair enough; I don’t think Brian said it was, but maybe I missed something. He did say it was voted most popular by Dragon Award voters, which is quite true. She also makes the fair point that as of her writing, Jemisin’s traditionally published novel was outpublishing Neimeier. Fair enough. But none of that changes the fact that the Dragon Awards 1) Weren’t started by Puppies groups, and 2) Aren’t open only to puppies groups.

The reason Puppy writers won is that more people voted for them.

She also loses a LOT of credibility by writing this:

Nevertheless, the Puppies – or, more specifically, Niemeier and his immediate circle of friends – kept up the charade that the little-known Souldancer was the most popular horror novel published within the Dragons’ twelve-month eligibility period. Niemeier’s blog post received replies comparing me variously to a spoilt child, a high school mean girl and a wiggling worm for venturing to suggest otherwise. My personal favourite comment came from Niemeier himself; apparently channelling his inner Benjanun Sriduangkaew, he felt it appropriate to threaten me with physical violence:

It’s not the easily excitable guys whose anger you should worry about. It’s the patient, reserved guys quietly sipping their drinks and reading Heinlein novels until they decide they’ve had enough of the loudmouths making a scene, take you out in the parking lot, and bust out your teeth.

(The bold is Brian’s quote.)

As should be clear to – bluntly – anyone with half a brain, Brian wasn’t actually threatenting to bust Miss Sutherland’s teeth. He was making the point that the people who have been quietly taking it for a long time are losing their tempers and starting to fight back; that fighting back is taking the form of the many negative comments and insults she is so concerned about.

More than that – that’s not a threat anyway. Brian’s not threatening to punch anybody, merely warning people that if you keep making a scene, people will eventually get tired of it and fight back. Calling it a “threat” is just an obvious lie.

Later on, she quotes an article by the Injustice Gamer, referring to him as one of Brian’s friends. Well, I don’t know if this is true or not, but she takes issue to this comment by him:

Genesson starts his three-pronged rebuttal by suggesting, bizarrely, that people who give positive reviews to Souldancer are in danger of losing their jobs. He seems to expect us to believe that the legions of Souldancer fans have gathered into some kind of Fight Club-like underground subculture that dare not speak its name.

 

Okay. I read the linked article. I am confusedas to what she is referring to. Maybe this?:

It would seem that Souldancer succeeded in beating out more popular horror nominees, such as Christina Henry’s Alice, merely because its author is pro-Puppy.

Yes, we all trust reviews, do we? Maybe some of us realize how active your type is at disemployment.

Non-bold is Miss Sutherland, bold is the injustice gamer.

Miss Sutherland seems to be extrapolating an extraordinary amount from the Injustice Gamer’s quote. He appears to be observing that SJW’s – which, true or not of Miss Sutherland (frankly, it seems to be true; maybe she wouldn’t even deny it), the Injustice Gamer seems to be referring to – actively try and end the employment of people they don’t agree with. This is observably true; this is a pretty casual article, but if I tried I could come up with quite a few examples of this. This, the Injustice Gamer seems to be contending, means that perhaps some people are worried about leaving positive reviews of Brian’s books.

What this has to do with a “Figh Club underground subculture” escapes me.

For the record, I don’t really agree with the Injustice Gamer. We’ve got enough of a base now that people actually seem to enjoy writing reviews of books a larger segment of the population would denounce as somehow bigoted or dangerous. John C. Wright and Vox Day are far more hated than Brian, but each gets hundreds of reviews of their books. Probably the reason Souldancer doesn’t have as many reviews as either of those guys means Brian doesn’t have as big of an audience. But really, who doesn’t know that?

In that sense, Miss Sutherland is correct. Brian IS held up as the leading Puppy horror author, and he is not one of the most popular horror writers in the world right now. But what Brian IS is an author who is now, by writing horror novels, making enough money to pay bills, gaining more and more popularity as time goes on, and representing a subculture of horror fans that haven’t been catered towards for awhile. He won the Dragon Awards because of those fans, that is true; but other people were perfectly free to vote. They didn’t.

In that sense, the Dragon Awards really are a populist award, because you don’t need to pay to enter, there is no real chance of secret ballot pushing since everything is out in the open, and partially, at least, as a result of that works are winning there that wouldn’t have a chance in the Hugo Awards. That’s important!

She later says this:

If you want to argue that Souldancer is a good novel, then go ahead. If you want to argue that it deserves to be popular, and may someday be popular, then go ahead. But you cannot argue, with any kind of intellectual honesty, that it is currently a popular novel amongst fans of the genre.

This is going to probably get me some hate from all sides, but here it is: I both agree and disagree with this sentiment.

I agree in the sense that of all of the horror books out there, “Souldancer” is not – yet – among the most famous or popular, though its fame and popularity is growing.

What I disagree with – what the Puppies have been fighting with all along – is the distinction between various types of fans of the genre. What about the Josh Young fans of the genre? She mentions earlier that Josh didn’t mention Jim Butcher, which is true. What she did NOT mention is that Jim Butcher IS held in extremely high regard by virtually the entirety of the Puppy fandom. She, bizarrely, points out that Josh didn’t mention Robert E. Howard when Howard is 1) Practically a deity in the Puppy world and 2) Is long dead and not representative of the sorts of people who gets votes in awards. Brian won not because he has a bunch of friends – most of us have probably never met Brian in person and know little about him (like me) – but because he catered to a segment of the audience that had been ignored for a long time.

Is this audience small? Apparently not as small as originally thought. And as awareness for Brian’s novel grows, it is quickly becoming apparent that more and more people are happy that a novel like Brian’s exists.

And YES, it is true that the Puppies were knocking a lot of the paranormal romance/urban fantasy varieties of horror. The reason for this isn’t because the fans didn’t count, but because the novels could hardly be classified as horror. So I’ll move on.

Miss Sutherland, in her anger at how polemic some of Brian’s responses and posts directed towards her were, seems to be unable to help herself from lying or misrepresenting Brian’s comments. She says this:

Incidentally, when I first reported on the Dragon Awards at WWAC, I received a reply from one of the non-Puppy nominees where she mentioned her “obscure indie published military sci fi book”. She has the right idea. She sees that there is no shame in being a little-league writer who does what they enjoy, who picks up a few fans along the way, and who may someday go on to bigger things.

Brian Niemeier does not seem to realise this. For him, it is clearly not enough to have a small but loyal readership that has pushed him to the top of an online poll. He has to present himself as being fandom’s favourite horror writer – the “Dragon of Horror”, as he styles himself – even though he knows full well that this is simply not the truth.

Well, let’s look at that post of Brian’s she linked to. Why does he call himself the Dragon of Horror, anyway?

By popular acclamation, authors of Dragon Award-winning books shall now be styled according to the category in which they won.

So what? Now it’s a problem that Brian is proud of the fact that he won the Dragon Award for best horror novel, and can’t mention that when talking about himself? He calls EVERYONE who won a Dragon award the Dragon of [category]. It doesn’t reference anything except for the fact that he won the award – which is true.

Let me end it with this:

Miss Sutherland seems to be mad that Brian is “keeping up the charade” that his novel was the most popular novel during the period of Dragon Award nominations and voting. She goes on to prove – it seems pretty decisively, to me at least – that Brian’s novel is not more popular than Jemisin’s. Fair enough.

But I’m trying to find where Brian said his novel was actually the most popular. I can’t find it. He’s not an idiot.

He DOES say that it is popular. Well, you can quibble with that I guess, but Brian recently paid some of his bills with the royalties from his writing*, so that seems like something of a stretch at best.

You can point out that it’s not up to 50 reviews, as he claimed. That’s true, but really tangential to the main point.

He does try to argue that the Dragon Awards DO represent the fans. I think he is right for the simple reason that anyone can vote for them, and the awards were made public and spread pretty far. I think she DID successfully prove that he misrepresented – probably unintentionally – his sales numbers.

She did not prove that Brian won merely because he is “pro-puppy”. She didn’t really even make the case, except to say “It kind of makes sense”. I would respond that – as the current rise of Castalia, Superversive SF, and others are proving – he won because he filled a niche.

Sure, not as many people voted in the awards as theoretically could have. It’s the first year! That doesn’t mean he didn’t win the vote – the popular vote.

So while Miss Sutherland made some good, intelligent points, I think she missed the forest for the trees – and she would look quite a bit better if she didn’t grossly misrepresent what some of those writers she quoted were saying. So it goes.

*The J List – 

  • Authors who are still getting used to the idea people want to read their crap.
  • Authors who have sold a respectable number of books.
  • Authors who check their book’s Amazon rank every hour.
  • Authors who start to pay most of their bills with their royalties.

EDIT: Brian responds, and points out that he did not say “Souldancer” sold more copies than Jemisin’s book, but rather that it moved more copies. Brian is correct, meaning that Sutherland was actually wrong about that. As far as I can see the rest of my points still stand.

Also, now that I’m already here I shouldn’t forget to mention that I was wrong about it being Miss Sutherland, since it’s actually a man who got disfiguring surgeries. In the interest of accuracy, please disregard the uses of Miss and insert Mr.