Tag Archives: Sarah Hoyt

Covers

Sarah Hoyt offers some advice on cover design for independent publishing: Of Covers and Sales.

I’ve never been entirely happy with the cover for In the Shadow of Ares, mainly because it’s a landscape with no explicit connection to the events of the novel. This is mainly the result of wanting to get the thing out the door without further procrastination – I was worried that if we looked around for an artist and went through that whole process, it would involve another six months of fiddling and dawdling.

So, I did it myself.

It’s attractive, but the problem is that it tells you nothing about the book itself and perhaps gives the impression that it’s meant as a mainstream rather than young-adult book. When it comes time to publish Ghosts of Tharsis, if not before, we’ll have to redo the cover — there are only so many suitable pictures of Iceland-as-Mars in my photo archive, so if we can get some of our stories and sequels finished, we’ll quickly run out of those options anyway.

Ideology (and Ideological Rot) in Science Fiction

Vox Day has an interesting dissection of the problems with “mainstream” science fiction and fantasy nowadays – The Cancer in SF/F:

One need only look at the increasingly mediocre works that have been nominated for, and in some cases even won, science fiction’s highest prizes to realize that the genre is dominated by the ideological left and is in severe decline from both the literary and revenue perspectives.  When six of the top 10-selling SF books in 2012 are either ripped off from an Xbox game or were first published more than a decade ago, it shouldn’t be difficult to observe that there is a very serious problem with the science fiction that is presently being published…

But even if one dismisses me, the problem is that I am far from the only former Asimov and Analog subscriber who no longer bothers to even pirate, let alone buy, The Year’s Best Science Fiction collections because so little of it is worth reading anymore. As an SFWA member, I have a vote for the Nebula, but at least in the case of the Best Novel category, there is simply nothing for which one can credibly vote.

It is simply impossible to call any of the novels presently up for this year’s Nebula or Hugo the best novel in SF/F with a straight face. And if one of them truly does merit the description, then the genre is in even worse shape than I have observed.  It should not be controversial to suggest that it is highly unlikely that anyone from this year’s class will one day be named a Grandmaster of Science Fiction.

I’d have to agree with him. I still look over the new releases at Barnes & Noble or Amazon every couple  of weeks, hoping in spite of experience to find something promising and worthwhile and not larded with left-leaning cliches, but almost always come away disappointed…and have for the past 15 years or so.

He follows up with a discussion of comments Sarah Hoyt made on a similar subject (part of her own ongoing exploration of the theme). And to expand it into other media, this week J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame made some related observations on TV SF.

I do like Sarah Hoyt’s take on the problem as self-correcting – the emergence of alternative distribution channels like Kindle spells doom to those traditional channels increasingly controlled by a single exclusionary ideology, if they are unwilling to change. In other words: the free market works, and competition has benefits.

No More Bushels

Sarah Hoyt discourses on  on the politics of SF writers, and outs herself along the way (heh, like we didn’t already know someone who won the Prometheus Award and writes for Instapundit and Pajamas Media was not a leftie):

And so, whatever it costs my career, it’s time to come out.  I think it’s time for all of you to come out too, wherever you are, though honestly, I wouldn’t presume to judge your circumstances better than you.  Like my gay friends who never judge someone who chooses to continue closeted, I don’t presume to know what’s best for you.

However, everyone sending me “kind” missives on how they’re going to never read me again, because they always suspected I’m racist/sexist/homophobic but now that I’ve said it I’m despicable, and I’ve hurt them, can stop.  What you’re experiencing is neither hurt nor my despicableness.  It’s the cognitive dissonance of KNOWING I’m neither racist/sexist/homophobic nor – amazingly – a Marxist.  You can’t reconcile those two, and so you want me to make it go away and shut up.  That’s understandable, but no.  As a country we have (economically) come to the end of cake and as a person I have come to the end of patience with those who would enslave others and ruin the last, best thing on Earth to make themselves feel good.

If that means I lose readers, so be it.  And you can’t cow me into shutting up by telling me I’m losing readers – guys, we’ve gone well beyond that point.  When a mad woman is running around soaking the bridges with gasoline before setting them on fire, she’s just going to laugh at you when you tell her she’ll now have to swim across.  She knows.  She thinks it’s more important to keep the armies of ruin, starvation and statism from marching  in and despoiling her home.

And this is me laughing at you.  And your pious little missives (only one of you, btw, is a recognized reader/fan) only make me angrier, and you won’t like me when I’m angry.  Chiding me on not understanding the current trend won’t save you either – I’ve seen this before.  THESE EXACT POLICIES.

Hate mail? I’d love some hate mail! But then, I don’t think that anyone could ever seriously claim to be butthurt when confronted with our political leanings – we’ve never had to make a secret of them and have always billed In the Shadow of Ares as being pro-liberty and pro-capitalism. This latter point may have contributed to our troubles trying to find an agent in 2008-2009, since despite noticing the misanthropic, anti-West, anti-capitalism, eco-mystic, dismal, and intolerant Progressive contamination of science fiction we were unaware at that time that this phenomenon had its roots in the genre’s publishing gatekeepers.

Larry Correia rants on a similar theme.

Human Wave Science Fiction

I think Sarah Hoyt is on to something:

For too long writing what we do has been considered verboten or at best “stupid.”  By revealing the philosophical underpinnings of our way of writing, we will hopefully convince some reviewers and critics to consider that our way is as valid as what has been accepted as expression in Science Fiction and Fantasy (and other genres as well, because at least some of these apply there too.)  More importantly, by codifying and giving our principles a name, we will free other people to try it out.  And by linking our blogs and cross publicizing, we will perhaps confer upon our congeners a little advantage that, in these transformational times, might be enough to – if not surpass – at least stand up well next to the establishment mode of writing.

The part about “linking and cross-publicizing” is akin to something Carl and I have discussed off and on over the past few years, based on my experience with People’s Press Collective (which does exactly what I think she’s referring to here).

The bigger part, though, is the set of (draft) guidelines she lays out for participation in this literary movement — in a nutshell:

  1. The story is conclusive – “someone wins”;
  2. Villains are crafted, not cast by type (racial, ethnic, gender, species);
  3. Ditto for heroes – “identity group” no more makes the hero than the villain;
  4. Story first, “message” after;
  5. Stories can touch on timeless human themes without serving quotidian present-day politics;
  6. A story concerns events – something happens, or has happened, or will happen;
  7. A writer’s job is to entertain, first – other motivations are secondary;
  8. A writer respects the buyer (i.e.: reader) of his stories by giving him quality and entertainment value that make him want to keep reading;
  9. Science, technology, commerce, and guns are not inherently evil;
  10. Envy is ugly – witnessing another author’s success, respect it as success, respect his readers for buying what they like, and don’t snipe about what they should like.

A few of our readers might quibble (have quibbled) about #4, but I think In the Shadow of Ares and its in-work sequels fit.

This is a good exercise, and I’m glad someone with some clout is pulling it together. A literary stream with an optimistic, human-positive, technology-positive thrust is needed. Indeed, the need for it was apparent back in August 2001 when Carl and I got the idea to write books in that vein, and when I started getting turned off by the negativity, misanthropy, and nihilism I was seeing in Analog and elsewhere.

UPDATE: a valid suggestion here, which might be phrased as: Don’t spread a single story into two or more books. Make each book in a series a worthwhile story in its own right, and stop serializing if you’re just milking the characters/setting.

Good advice, and something we’re trying to do with the Ares sequels.

“Darkship Thieves” – Not on Kindle?

Surprising, but true. I’m trying to read more new science fiction, particular SF with a libertarian slant (since we need more of that), so imagine my disappointment when I discovered that it’s apparently only available on dead trees. I thought Baen was all hip with the e-publishing nowadays.

Of course, my complaining about this is ironic, considering how many people have complained to me that In the Shadow of Ares is only available (for now) electronically. It took me a year, but I’ve gotten to the point that I’d almost rather have a Kindle version rather than the paper version of a book — fiction books, at least. I blame Cthulhu Chick: her H.P. Lovecraft collection led me to actually read the HPL stories I’ve had in book form for several years, and to get accustomed to using an e-reader extensively.