Since People Keep Asking

Yes, I’ve seen the current SFWA vice-president’s rant about “webscabs” and how they’re rotting SFWA from the inside, or whatever. No, I don’t particularly have anything to say about it, other than to classify it as something akin to a buggy-whip manufacturer railing against the pernicious influence of the automobile. In any event, I suspect I don’t have his vote. I’ll survive.

Update: 9:35pm: Nick Mamatas is not above kneecapping the fellow, however.

44 Comments on “Since People Keep Asking”

  1. Nothing really about the substance, but in the second paragraph, listing out his own published novels theres this little twitch that caught me.

    “His sixth novel…”

    The rest of it read like internal union level politics, but the “His sixth novel…” thing makes me think that this guy is a professional writer, but noone unless they are able to put themselves so deep into character that they forget their own identities mistakes “my” for “his,” which makes me think that the first several paragraphs were paper plate inclusions written by someone else.

    It’s a nitpicky thing, but it glared at me.

    Don’t know why I bothered to comment on it really.

  2. brentkellmer – I'm an experienced technical writer with a history of working with ML/AI technologies. I've spent more than 20 years focused on writing clear and concise technical documentation aimed at helping end users succeed.

    I must admit, my favorite part of the whole furor was when someone asked who was going to tell Eric Flint he was a scab…

  3. John,

    Are you in/on the SFWA Livejournal site? The electionblog seems to have died out, with the live conversation moved over to LJ.

    Not that I should be reading either. Rubbernecking an organization’s election is as good as cat vacuuming (or katze spectklebebanding) if one’s goal is to join said organization.

  4. The self-righteousness of that Hendrix post is monumental. I’d definitely vote against him for being such a pompous ass.

  5. I wasn’t aware of the post, before you linked to it, but I have to say that I’m particularly fond of this line: “[…]to the downward spiral that is converting the noble calling of Writer into the life of Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch”.

    If I get to be a Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch one day, I say, bring it on!

  6. You know, I work in a town who’s claim to fame is that they used to make 90% of the world’s buggy whips.

    They need something new to do here.

  7. > Since more and more of SFWA is built around such
    > electronically mediated networking and connection based
    > venues, and more and more of our membership at least
    > tacitly blesses the webscabs (despite the fact that they are
    > rotting our organization from within)

    Sounds to me like he wants to nix all electronic media…

    “Shut down the electronic authors on the detention level!”


  8. Oddly backwards way of thinking for a sci-fi author. Not so much the hard stance against publishing on the web, although calling people who do scabs is a mite churlish. Just the extreme distaste for the net and communities on it and being connected by it in general.

    Heck, I’d like to live on a bunch of acres and heat my house with wood I chop up on my own property too, and maybe I will someday. But you better believe I’ll be as plugged in as I can be at the same time. Or who knows, maybe when I get older (although he can’t be too much older than me if he got a BA in 1980) I’ll want to yell at the kids to stay off my lawn too.

  9. I didn’t read the whole rant (me not being in the SFWA and all), but the rant actually being on the Internet seemed to have such a bite of irony that it made me chuckle.

  10. Well, that was certainly…unique. The ‘Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch’ thing was a nice touch, though.

  11. Nadai:

    It’s too long. “Pixel-Stained Technopeasant” is enough. If you’re a peasant, every knows you’re wretched. It’s part of the package deal.


    Who the hell knows. Maybe his last book didn’t sell well and he’s looking for someone to blame.

  12. By the tenor of the member responses over there (especially the responses to your opponent’s timid contribution), I’d say you were going to win this thing in a walk. There is such a thing as being damned by the company one keeps. Of course anyone who would agree with Hendrix wouldn’t be on the Internets reacting to his little rant anyway.

    I especially liked the part where he said he wasn’t going to comment on the election, and then spent the rest of his rant attacking you without being the least bit subtle about it. Cutting and pasting about two-thirds of his text from other sources, but being too lazy to catch all of the third-person to first-person conversions was also a nice touch.

  13. Crunchbird:

    “By the tenor of the member responses over there (especially the responses to your opponent’s timid contribution), I’d say you were going to win this thing in a walk.”

    You may be surprised. I came in to the campaign late, lots of people in SFWA don’t know me, and some who do know me don’t like me, and also, I suspect lots of people responding at the LJ aren’t SFWAns. I’d give my chances no better than 50/50.

  14. Yeah, my basic reaction was: “Wow, I am SO not his target audience.” Followed by: “Does he HAVE a target audience?”

  15. I think SFWA has a choice here with this election:

    1. Choose you and move into this century;


    2. Continue to grow irrelevant.

    I think that John’s strength as a candidate is precisely because he is an outsider.

    I am member of a writer’s organization that has done a couple of good things in the last decade, but is increasingly moving into irrelevance. I think that there are so many good things that such an organization can accomplish for its members.

    By the way, should John be elected, my guess is that his chances of creating change in that organization are no better than 20-80. People like status quo. It’s comfortable.

    Which doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t take his shot.

  16. But, to know you is to love you, John. Oh, drat, another of those wild-eyed youthfull myths dispelled. :)

    I’m reminded that the Amish don’t despise technology, they’re just highly selective of which technology they wish to employ. I also wouldn’t mind having a mountain cabin on many acres and chopping my own wood. However, sticking one’s head in the sand over modern marketing techniques is the equivalent of using the Pony Express to send something FedEx.

    I remember something from a panel about this where various editors were asked about ebooks. Several made gestures to ward off the evil eye, one made begrudging comments about how “Baen is somehow doing it.” And then Eric Flint replied by saying something like, “And it seems to work for us very well, thank you.”

  17. Good grid. What ivory-tower moron doesn’t know what “scab” means? It doesn’t mean non-union workers, or people who give away the fruits of their labor for free; it means the people who are hired during a strike to replace the striking union workers.

    He sounds like one of those kitty-butt-mouthed bluestockings who lecture girls about “he won’t buy the cow if he gets the milk for free.” Because, you know, if you give it away for fun, you ruin the market for everyone who uses it as a tool for financial security.

  18. I’m not a SFWA member or potential member, but perhaps Hendrix, by using “his” now and then, was trying to evoke Alfred Bester’s classic story “Fondly Fahrenheit” — “He doesn’t know which of us I am these days,” etc. — and thereby subtly show off his SF bona-fides. I’m just trying to find a charitable explanation…

  19. I agree with Brent. The “Quick, someone go tell Eric Flint he’s a scab!” bit made me IM the URL to my SO, and then we LOLed. That night, the acronyms came and the city PIFed!

    It does make me wonder why someone so technophobic would want to be involved with, you know, people who write about that icky techhie stuff. Soul-killing, technology. Death to the typewriter! A pox upon the printing press! This whole Gutenberg thing is just a phase!

  20. Mythago–

    I actually got the lecture about free milk and a cow in my youth. Since I’ve been living in sin with a guy since 1998 and hope to avoid matrimony in the future, it obviously made a profound impression. Just not necessarily the impression that was intended.

    Much like Dr. Hendrix’s rant.

  21. So when do the election results come out, anyway? I seem to recall the ballot deadline is the 18th.

    I didn’t get my act together in time to join for this election, but fwiw, you’ve produced one of two results: either you get elected and I scrape together membership money in the next couple of months, or you don’t get elected and I scrape together membership money some time before the next election. Whether you make it or not, you’ve lit a fire; now we’ll see if the rest of us can keep it from going out.

  22. Katherine:
    I haven’t read any of his books, but not all science fiction is pro-technology. In fact, a giant continuous swath of it is distinctly afraid of what technology is doing to the human-condition.

  23. “I suspect lots of people responding at the LJ aren’t SFWAns.”

    Thrice damned late-qualifying sale*… third pro sale made last week, awaiting contracts, voting not going to happen.

    *although entirely lovely and wonderful, in every other circumstance

  24. Katherine, you terrible person, you have ruined the market for all those young women saying “No ring, no nookie!”

    (Also, the best rejoinder to this remark, uttered by a blogger who goes by Antigone, is “But why would I want to buy the pig when all I want is a little sausage?)

  25. “I do all the felling of the trees for firewood, all the cutting in rounds, and the splitting”.

    I think the Lumberjacks Union of America would have something to say about that ;)

  26. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, for rizzle.

    What kills me is that as I read this I am just beginning the Nightfall section of Stross’ “Accelerando” (which I am loving, by the way!) and he writes about how the last 2 billion or so unaltered humans are viewing the accelerated humans with fear and shock. Kind of like this luddite.

  27. It’s a pity that the term “Luddite” has become a synonym for “person reflexively opposed to technology.” The actual Luddites had some pretty rational reasons for their desperate behavior. Far more than Hendrix does for his.

  28. Scott–

    Yes, there is that. Mea culpa.

    On the other hand, I remain simultaneously amused and annoyed that Dr. Hendrix has managed the “flame and unsub” as part of a rant about how online culture sucks and he’s not a part of it.

  29. Scott–

    Yes, there is that. Mea culpa.

    On the other hand, I remain simultaneously amused and annoyed that Dr. Hendrix has managed the “flame and unsub” as part of a rant about how online culture sucks and he’s not a part of it.

  30. For this public-policy junkie, what irks in Hendrix’s argument is that in invoking the whole union/non-union zero-sum logic, Hendrix is implicitly assuming that books, and to some extent their authors, are like sugar cubes: inherently interchangeable, the difference between them mostly dictated by price.

    But books are not like sugar cubes. They don’t all taste the same, and people don’t have the same taste in them. It’s not like you see people in the bookstore with a copy of Swann’s Way in one hand and 101 Toilet Jokes in the other, saying, “hmmm, which one should I buy?” (They usually just buy both. Only partly kidding.)

    So authors aren’t even really competing with each other–not in the sense that sugar-cube manufacturers are competing with each other. It seems to me that authors are seeking to find, and to a certain extent create, a market for what they do; and if one author finds himself to be similar to another, economically speaking, there is more to be gained from cooperation than competition. The idea of one author undercutting another author through manipulating the price for the book doesn’t make much economic sense, since avid readers are likely to buy *both* books (unlike the guy at the grocery who really is just there to buy *one* box of sugar). And writers giving away some of what they do for free, like musicians do when they put some songs on their website, or like grocery stores do when they put out the bean dip with a little spoon and crackers, is a pretty good idea. It’s advertising! Sure, some people will just download the song or eat the dip and move on, but I’d argue that those people probably weren’t going to buy the goods anyway. Another way to put it: It seems to me that artists of all kinds aren’t competing with each other so much as they’re competing with total obscurity. Less obscurity is a good thing, for artists and for audiences that might dig on what they do.

    Which is all a way of saying that it makes a lot more sense for folks to get along and promote each other’s stuff, however they do that. After all, reading begets reading, and readers beget readers. We’re all in this together.

  31. Speak for yourself, Slattery. I’m out to get you.

    Which reminds me, more seriously, that I need to let you know I got your ARC for Spaceman Blues the other day. You’re definitely on the interview list for August.

  32. ‘He sounds like one of those kitty-butt-mouthed bluestockings who lecture girls about “he won’t buy the cow if he gets the milk for free.”‘

    Mythago, you did see the part where that very argument came up in one of the newsgroups, right?

  33. ‘He sounds like one of those kitty-butt-mouthed bluestockings who lecture girls about “he won’t buy the cow if he gets the milk for free.”‘

    Mythago, you did see the part where that very argument came up in one of the newsgroups, right?

  34. I’ve been a “science fiction scab” since 1999.

    (Must… not… make… lame On The Waterfront joke…)

    It helped me find a publisher for my work — not to mention invaluable reader feedback. (Not all writers live in New York, you know…)

    Vote Scalzi.

    I coulda been a contendah!!

    (Damn. Almost made it.)

  35. Why are you mean people bad-mouthing kitty butts? Judging from the way he was always putting it in my face, my late kitty’s little butt was his proudest possession.

  36. He seems to have real issues with technology – the whole wood-chopping isolationist thing is kinda creepy. I wonder what he’s doing in speculative fiction when he should be writing thrillers about brave survivalists out-smarting g-men with their new-fangled technology and black helicopters.

  37. Judging from the way he was always putting it in my face, my late kitty’s little butt was his proudest possession.

    Not to mention the amount of time he spent grooming it!

    the whole wood-chopping isolationist thing is kinda creepy

    Might be kinda cool to have a house in the Sierra Nevada, but apparently internet access is a problem. =)

  38. You know, Mr. Vice-President might want to read Heinlein’s “Lifeline” to get one of the giants of the industry’s thoughts on trying to halt progress.

  39. Skipping the kitty-butts and continuing the irrelevant topic, I’d like to politely question the use of ‘bluestocking’ above. My Oxford Dictionary says this is a ‘woman having or affecting literary tastes or learning’, and the context above suggests it should be a moralist, particularly a prudish one.
    Mrs. Grundy, perhaps?
    Unless there’s a subtle play on words between blue-stocking and black-leg, the British term for a scab…

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