A Book Sale at the Cost of Your Conscience

First, some context: These two tweets about an article in a Romance Writers of America magazine, in which the writer of the article counsels against taking a stand in social media on “controversial” topics:

Second, as it happens, and as it often happens when one has been writing a blog for almost seventeen years, I have a piece in the archive which touches upon this very topic, called “Why, Yes, I Should Write About Politics.” It’s worth the read, and my basic opinion on the matter is unchanged since then.

Third, new additional thoughts, and some other continuing thoughts, on the topic.

No one is obliged to speak on political or social issues if they don’t want, and no one is obliged to chip in their two cents on a topic that’s gathering pennies on any particular day. It’s perfectly fine to say, publicly or privately, “I don’t know enough on this and am reading up,” or “I’m on deadline and have to focus,” or “I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and 140 characters can’t express them” or even “addressing this topic right now feels like it would be sticking my head into a hive of angry hornets and why would I want to do that.” One’s participation is not required on every single topic, every single day.

But note well there is a difference between it being said that one is not required to offer up opinions, and that one should not offer them up at all — or, in this particular instance, that one should “take a more neutral approach.” The first of these is about the recognition that any individual writer has only so much time, energy and knowledge to commit to commenting on social issues, and the other is, frankly, about fear: you won’t sell books if you have an opinion a reader doesn’t like.

And that’s just terrible advice. It’s terrible advice in part because it’s simply not true — there are best selling writers in every genre who express opinions that outrage and annoy whole packs of people, and have since before they were best sellers, and yet they sell books nonetheless — and in part because it’s reductive. It’s an argument that posits that once a writer enters the stream of commerce, the most important thing about that writer’s life is their ability to sell books. Everything else about that writers’ life suddenly takes a back seat to that single commercial goal.

Speaking as an explicitly commercial writer — I write books that I plan to sell! To a lot of people! — I’m of the opinion that one of the worst ways to be a writer is to shear off or trim down all parts of your life that are not obviously designed to further the goal of selling tons of books. Why? Because then you’re cutting off the parts of your life that inform your writing, and which allow you to create the work that speaks to people, which is to say, to write the stories that people want to read and buy, and make you an author they wish to support. Being in “the business of selling books” doesn’t mean simply moving units of collections of words, any words at all. Those words have to mean something, to you and to potential readers, otherwise it won’t matter how hyperfocused you are on selling.

The author of this article notes “there are a million polarizing topics.” That’s correct, but it’s too limited. Any topic can be polarizing. I’ve been on the Internet for a quarter of a century now and have seen knock-down, drag-out, friendship-ending fights on topics I personally consider absolutely trivial. Turns out these topics aren’t trivial to many people — and it also turns out that “trivial” topics have social and political aspects to them that make them far less trivial than those outside those interest groups may initially expect (see: Gamergate). If one were to “take a more neutral stance” on any potentially polarizing topic, one would have to say nothing on anything, ever.

And you know what? It wouldn’t matter. Because whosoever writes a book — any book, in any genre — has written a polarizing thing. Entire genres are polarizing simply for existing; certainly romance writers, who have to deal with condescension and sexism because their field is predominantly woman-centered, know this, even though the genre is the single largest-selling genre of them all. Whatever the subject matter of a book is, someone can and probably will single it out for criticism, and that criticism can and often will be about the author’s presumed politics and social positions — which is why when Old Man’s War first came out, I got criticism (and praise!) for being, among other things, a conservative gun fetishist, which is amusing to anyone who knows me.

To write publicly is to be judged and to be criticized and to be polarizing. If one avoids speaking on public issues in social media only out fear of alienating readers, all one does is possibly delay such judgment. Judgment will happen for what you say and also what you don’t say. Judgment will happen for what you write in your books and what people assume you meant when you wrote those words, regardless of your authorial intent. Judgment will happen based on who people think you are based on the fantasy version of you they have in their head, which is almost always more about their own fears and desires than anything that has to do with the actual person you are.

So you might as well say whatever the hell you like, if you like. If nothing else, then the fantasy versions of who you are might be closer to the person you actually are.

Here’s the final thing I want you to think about: Advising writers to be publicly “neutral” on “controversial” topics is dangerous, because it gives those who want to silence any author who has opinions they don’t like a tool for that silencing. See? Even the RWA is telling you to shut up on this. Now shut the fuck up, or you will fail, and it will be your fault. RWA’s membership is as I understand it primarily women. I’m not entirely sure that it’s helpful for these writers to be given advice to be silent or “neutral”. For some of them, their just being a woman is enough excuse for some people to actively try to silence them, and threaten them, and to try to exert control over them. I don’t think that sort needs additional encouragement, intentional or otherwise, from a writer speaking to a largely women-centered audience.

Ever since I’ve been a published author, I’ve had people declaring that they will not buy my books because I wrote or said something they dislike. The intent was clear: You exist only to amuse me. I hold the key to your success. Do as I say or suffer the consequences. Whatever demanding or threatening I get is nothing compared to what others — different genders and ethnicities and sexualities — get. What these threateners, and apparently the author of this article, don’t understand is that the world is positively filled with people who will read my work despite of, because of, or independent of, my social and political thoughts. Those people will find my work and read it and enjoy it. They will find and read and enjoy the work of any author. Beyond that, I am not only the sum of my book sales. I write to sell and I write to amuse, but I don’t exist only for those things. I exist to be a writer, and a husband, and a father, and a friend, and a citizen of my nation and my world, and as an individual who is his own person, aside from the desires of others.

Which is why when people object to my positions on social and political issues, I say: Oh, well. And when they try to silence or threaten me, I say: Kiss my ass. I neither want nor need the sort of reader who thinks a book sale gives them the right to dictate how I live my life, or what I choose to speak about in the public sphere. As a writer, I believe that neither I nor any other writer, including ones giving advice in writing magazines, should be encouraging these sort of people to believe that they can or should tell writers what they can and cannot speak about publicly.

This is the long way of saying this: That advice? It’s bad. Don’t be “neutral” in public on the things that are important to you. Speak if you choose to speak. A book sale at the cost of your conscience is a very bad deal indeed.

191 Comments on “A Book Sale at the Cost of Your Conscience”

  1. It’s particularly bad advice because you can easily move “neutral” stances by making ridiculous ones. Sick of writers arguing that women should have the vote? Start contrasting it with the belief that women who try to vote should be shot. Suddenly “women should vote” is controversial, and “maybe women who try to vote shouldn’t be shot” is neutral. Woo!

    You will sometimes lose sales by taking an unpopular position. You may also gain sales. Mostly, though, the overwhelming majority of people don’t pay any attention to the political views of authors, so you don’t really get a change in outcomes.

  2. Just thinking back of the envelope here, someone who is already a best-seller (like you, or like Orson Scott Card) probably isn’t going to be very affected because of what you outline above. Someone who isn’t a best seller is probably actually going to *increase* sales if they can generate controversy because for any position in any direction no matter how bizarre, there’s a group of adherents who believe exactly that position but had never heard of the author (but now have).

    It’s like the saying, “no publicity is bad publicity.”

    (Not that anybody should have to create controversy to get publicity!)

  3. Actually, I would argue that whatever celebrity you attain SHOULD be used to further the causes you are passionate about! Not many people will pay attention to the views of John Nemesh, sales associate…but people LISTEN to John Scalzi, award winning author! (they may not like what you say, but that is a whole different issue!)

    Your personal causes are just that, personal…but you have a platform where people listen to you…USE IT! (and you have been) No different than Angelina Jolie using her celebrity to advocate against the purchase of “Blood Diamonds” or the many other causes she champions. (however, as an author, you have the ability to craft your messages more eloquently than your average actor!)

    Sure, some people are going to disagree with some of what you say…but seriously, do any of us really care about the small minded out there who you are speaking about? Nah, screw ’em! As I am sure you are aware, there are plenty of us who DO like what you are saying…and who will continue to buy your books (and watch your TV shows and movies, when those happen!)

    Keep doing what you are doing, John…the best way to know you are saying the right things is when idiots like you are talking about pop up. Only the ignorant will prefer silence to discussion!

  4. This is a valuable lesson that those readers who would try to blackmail you with their purchasing power would do well to learn: Once you have bought that copy of that book, the transaction is over.

    There are indeed writers — very few, but a handful — whose work I will neither buy nor review in light of personal points of view they hold that I find appalling. But I don’t send them petulant emails demanding they change those views in order to ensure that I start reading their books again. For one, they have other readers, and for another, I have literally thousands of other books by other writers I can go read instead. If I just can’t abide a writer for whatever reason, they and I can easily avoid one another’s existence at no inconvenience or trouble to either of us.

  5. Also, neutrality isn’t. It is implicitly supporting the status quo, whatever that is. Now, sometimes the status quo is pretty sweet: I don’t have to deal with anti-Irish-immigrant* sentiment the way my ancestors from 1850 would have, so I don’t need to fight this battle.

    Now there are things I object to, but not strong enough to say much: in which case, my support of the status quo is conditional on ‘I don’t have enough fucks to challenge the status quo at the moment’. But it is a support, albeit a grudging one that I’ll withdraw if I have the ability to deal with it.

    * I’m the daughter of an Irish immigrant to the USA.

  6. do i have to give you credit EVERY TIME I use this great line “addressing this topic right now feels like it would be sticking my head into a hive of angry hornets and why would I want to do that.”

  7. “addressing this topic right now feels like it would be sticking my head into a hive of angry hornets and why would I want to do that.”

    Hmmm, that would explain David Cameron on the debates…

  8. Well said, Mr, Scalzi. Becca Stareyes’ point that “neutrality” implicitly endorses the status quo is well taken, also.

  9. Agreeing with what others have said about neutrality being anything but. Any time someone tells me to stop “making a big deal” out of something, all I hear is “I like the way things currently are, so please stop trying to change them.”

    Also, given the subject matter of my books, shutting my facehole about politics would likely lose me readers instead of gain them.

  10. The advice to stay neutral is also setting up a false dichotomy between the author who is implicitly supporting the status quo and the one who’s selling as many copies as possible, as if there aren’t whole swaths of readers who will seek out writers specifically because they agree with their politics.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen someone accuse Scalzi of talking politics just to sell books to hippie liberals who aren’t discerning enough to enjoy the deathless prose of more sophisticated writers. It cuts both ways.

    For me, yes, there are writers whose work I won’t read because I find their political views disgusting. That’s not me expecting them to change their minds or shut up to suit me. Rather, it’s that our politics and values have a habit of sneaking into our work. Authors who spend time publicly criticizing diversity as stupid, pandering, censorship, etc are telling me all I need to know about how well their writing is going to match up with work I want to read. I’m not going to go to a restaurant whose chef publicly shits on vegetarianism, either, because I wouldn’t trust them to prepare a meal I’d want to eat.

    In both cases, it’s a business decision, not a boycott. Boycotts are a form of collective action where an organized group uses financial pressure to achieve specific goals. They cannot, by definition, be unilateral. So even if an individual is choosing not to buy books they’d otherwise buy purely on moral grounds, it’s not particularly reasonable to expect that they wield the social and economic power to compel a writer to change their work.

  11. I think most authors talk about politics to market themselves. I am a vicar of such and such a view, buy my books to fight the evil ones. All political views participate in this. In the process they piss off people with different views who wont buy their books. The goal is to get more people to buy their books than the ones you lose. I routinely see this genre writer blogs across all political spectrums.

    Then they attack each other and have twitter wars. All sides claim they are oppressed. Total drama queens on all sides.

    I dont care what your politics are. I either like your book or you dont. I nominated Lock In for a Hugo. I also voted for Brad Torgurson Chaplain novella for the Hugo last year.

    I think fans should step back from these silly author wars and realize its just marketing. Dont get caught up in their silly fights.

    I have seen a number of conservative writers express fear about writing about politics. Apparently writers are oppressing each other. Or maybe its just the voices in their heads telling them that?

  12. I’m going to play devils advocate here.

    I think in general it is worth not discussing religion and politics with some sets of people when you can avoid it. I have dear friends whose religious and political views are diametrically opposed to mine, but we find common ground. I’m not talking about subsuming or strangling who you are: i’m talking about not publicly discussing things that you know are divisive if they don’t have direct bearing on your art and you can avoid it, and are ok avoiding it.

    If the consumers of your product are made up by a large number of people whose political viewpoints are different than yours, you should be mindful of that. Case in point: the Susan G. Komen for the cure, who alienated a huge part of their constituents by taking a conservative, pro-choice tack with their relations to planned parenthood. They totally ignored that a huge part of their base was liberal. And given that their mission is breast cancer and not reproductive rights, they could have stayed relatively neutral and not alienated either the conservatives or liberals who liked their organization.

    I heard an interview with an author who writes post-apocolyptic zombie books, and he mentioned how he isn’t public with his politics. He’s based in San Francisco, which leads me to think that he is a liberal and at least some significant portion of his audience are gun-loving libertarians who would be put off if they knew the guy was on the left. Likewise, if you write romance and a significant portion of your audience are conservatives, and you are a card-carrying liberal, it might be a savvy move to not constantly repost articles from the nation. Most conservative and/or christian actors in hollywood are pretty quiet about their beliefs because they know they would alienate a large part of their fans. Those entertainers who take a hard-right public persona are more or less written off by a lot of people: when was the last time you watched a james woods movie or listened to ted nugent? I’m much more open to reading, watching, or listening to work by a conservative when they don’t make me feel like I have to abandon my liberal values in order to do so.

    We are in a very politically divided age, where people wear their political opinions like sports teams, demonizing anyone who doesn’t support their side, despite the fact that we may actually agree on like 70% of things. Why admit you are a Yankee fan (or force others to be) if you don’t have to, and when it will cause you to unnecessarily alienate readers who might agree with most of what you have to say except for the team you support?

    To be clear, I’m not proposing you throw women, people of color, gays, the trans community, and the environment under the bus so as not to offend the sensibilities of your more right-leaning readership. If people don’t want to read your books because you think gays are human, they can read a John Ringo book. And if trying to appease the more conservative (or more liberal) elements of your readership means stifling who you are or what you want to say, then forget it. I’m just saying that there is some value in not demanding that your readership accept 100% of your views in order to be fans, to know what the third-rail issues are and be mindful when you touch them.

  13. I think the best takeaway from this is “Don’t be “neutral” in public on the things that are important to you”. I don’t tend to comment on a lot of controversial topics but it’s not out of fear. Usually it’s because I don’t know enough about the topic and it’s not a high enough priority for me to become informed enough to comment.

  14. I suspect the real fear for new authors who speak out on “controversial” topics isn’t that readers will judge them and move away, it’s that editors, event organizers, book bloggers, &c., will share the opinion of this RWA article.

    As a reader I completely believe that most readers don’t care about the political views of authors, because I have to enjoy several books by an author before I even begin to look at the author as a person separate from their books, and by that point, I’ve already enjoyed several of their books.

    But if I were trying to sell my first novel right now, would I be so sure the long line of people who could help my career won’t care how outspoken I am? Not after reading that RWA article. Which is a big part of the problem with it.

  15. I find it highly amusing that the author, Racheline Maltese, publicly states that she is gay and a romance writer, but wishes for people to restrain writing about controversial topics. In the world we live in today, being gay and being a romance writer are both controversial topics in and of themselves.

    About the subject: everyone should be able to express their opinion, but no one’s opinion can be accepted as a universal truth. I believe one thing and you believe another, but there is no reason to lose friendship over it. This is where people tend to get lost, I think.

  16. I am admiring Guess’s I-think-accidental statement that “I either like your book or you dont.”

    That is exactly the relationship I’ve had with a number of editors and many fans.

    To which my answer, learned over a long and painful time, has come down to, well, then, my book will have to be one I like. Because of that magic phrase “my book.” See these beans? You better get a steak knife, or maybe a hatchet.

  17. How sad they decided to preach milquetoast when they could have found a good angle on this. I think there’s probably a lot of people who could use some advice about how they engage on controversial topics but “don’t” is so wrong. They could have gone with “consider that you don’t get across the nuances of your beliefs in much shorter mediums.” “Your readers might disagree with you from an honest and well-thought-out place, so be careful before you outright disparage differing opinions.” “the failure mode of clever is jerk.”

    Okay, the last one is plagiarism. Still.

    Hell, they could have just gone with a lesson it seems like a lot of people need these days online: “Free speech doesn’t mean you’re free of the consequences of what you say.” Personally I’m willing to pay the price of offending people when their deeply held positions are loathsome. Maybe not all writers are. They could have given good career advice that way without telling people to turn their backs on things they care about.

  18. I am looking forward to the day when we have artificial intelligence smart enough to write quality novels. This way we can finally have authors that exist exclusively for our amusement.

  19. Yep.

    The “don’t rock the boat folks” are implicitly arguing for a view of books as commodities (at least for the struggling-author end of the spectrum), with little to distinguish one author or work from another. Thus “protect your slim margin by keeping your mouth shut”.

    For products that are inherently commodities where quality and feature differences matters relatively little, sales cost becomes a predominant factor in purchase decision, squeezing profit margins in a race to the bottom. For products with significant quality and feature differences, consumers are happy to pay a premium, perhaps a substantial one, for features they want. This is basic economic theory with lots of evidence to support it.

    TLDR: if a struggling author wants to keep struggling, make your public persona as vanilla as possible.

    Now in my personal case, I’m not reading much new work this last decade at all. Work stress and time pressure combined with depression have made my stack of new authors and “challenging” works too challenging, mostly. Instead, I’ve mostly re-read old favorite books, leavened by new books by old favorite authors (Bujold, Barnes, Brin, Cherryh, Willis, Rowling, GRRM, and others). There are only two new-to-me fiction authors that I’ve managed to read more than one book from in a decade. One was serendipity, a rainy vacation week stuck in a beach house, I discovered Tanya Huff’s mil-fic was “comfortable” for me, like some old favorites. The other is John Scalzi, who’s “controversial” essays got me reading this blog fairly regularly, eventually enticing me to try “Redshirts” after the win last year, the “Old Man’s War” backlist over the holidays. I look forward to his newer works when I have time. As marketing, his having a personality and distinctive voice has worked to push me to purchase what I wouldn’t have otherwise.

  20. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, ” the writer is is not your bitch.” We are all individuals and all have our own ideas and beliefs. I buy Scalzi and Ringo. I love Octavia Butler and Robert Heinlein. I buy books because the authors are good storytellers. I love finding out that my favorite authors are amazing people but that is not why I personally buy books. Now if someone really goes against my belief structure (for example Orson Scott Card) that may make me less likely to buy their book. But that is very, very, very rare. I may not be a fan girl for someone who I disagree with on politics, but if their book is good I will buy it. In the United States of America we are supposed to have the freedom of speech and belief. Even if your belief is stupid to me personally, go for it. Nobody ever makes anyone happy by pretending to be something they are not. Plus it is sooo exhausting. Come out of the controversy closet.
    P.S. And ya, telling a mostly female group of writers to be quiet and not get involved is totally a sexist societal thing. It has been said for a long time. Haven’t they ever heard of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”???

  21. vshiffler: You are misreading this. Racheline Maltese tweeted about the article and disagreed with it. She did not write it.

  22. @vshiffler: Racheline Maltese did not write the advice shown in the photos. She *responded* to the advice shown in the photos. Don’t stick words in her mouth, please.

    FWIW, I’m an RWA member and read the entire article, which was about things not to do on social media. This piece of advice in particular was pretty horrible. It might be better suited if you’re a PR person for a large corporation, but as an advice for authors? Ugh. For all that Scalzi said.

    I’m also queer and write m/m so yeah, I’m not shutting up about LGBT issues. It’s something I’m passionate about. (Along with other social issues.)

    I suspect that writers of Christian romance are not going to be neutral on religion, somehow. Nor should they, really. It’s part of who they are.

  23. vshiffler, Racheline Maltese isn’t the writer of the RWA article, she’s a romance writer who’s criticizing it on Twitter.

  24. I find it highly amusing that the author, Racheline Maltese, publicly states that she is gay and a romance writer, but wishes for people to restrain writing about controversial topics. In the world we live in today, being gay and being a romance writer are both controversial topics in and of themselves.

    I got the impression she wasn’t the author of the article, rather, she read it and objected to it. It’s confusing, I think, because it seems to stretch across two tweets.

  25. pstaylor:

    “I’m going to play devils advocate here.”

    As an FYI, this is where I stopped reading this particular post, since my experience of someone saying “I’m going to play devil’s advocate here” is “I’m going to bring up a point I don’t personally believe just to get a rise out of people.”

    If in fact, PS Taylor, you are arguing a point that you actually believe, perhaps you ought not be the devil’s advocate, but your own. Otherwise, rest assured the devil has enough advocates; he doesn’t need another.

  26. Maybe I’m weird, but I came to like several authors because I read their twitter feeds and blog posts.

    I first noticed the name John Scalzi when I saw that you were rebooting Little Fuzzy, since I have my mum’s copy of the H. Beam Piper book and the sequel I was reluctant to read a reboot as most reboots seem to lose some of the charm that made the original good.

    However I was intrigued and started reading your twitter and blog and because I liked how you expressed yourself, I figured I trusted you to make your own interpretation of the idea rather than water down the original material and give it a shiny new finish.

    From there I’ve bought another couple of books and some e-books (thanks to Humble Bundle) and found at least 3 other authors who interact with you that I have found interesting and have bought their books.

    I now have a stack of books almost as tall as I am to catch up on and need more book cases, all because you take the time to share your views in a coherent and engaging fashion. I do, however, still prefer the original Fuzzy book, but that’s nostalgia for you!

  27. For the record, count me among those who have moved from “independent of” to “because of”. When I first read “Old Men’s War”, I’d not previously encountered your work, Having read it and the sequels, I then came across the blog.

    It’s not *essential* for me to agree with a lot of the author’s views to enjoy a work- but it helps. And there is a threshold beyond which I won’t go- I no longer read Card, for instance: I fear the pages would feel slimy in my hand if I did.

    There are so many authors that don’t offend me viscerally that I’ll never read everything I’d like to, that Card is not a great loss (and personally I think he’s lost the plot anyway).

    On the level of milder disagreement, I can enjoy a work while having a mental argument with the author – or with the viewpoint character, which of course is not necessarily the same thing.

  28. I found that whole article a head scratcher. Some of the advice was good “don’t post your private social plans,” for example. But so much was off. Not just the politics comment, but the author also mentioned not being too negative or self-deprecating (apparently that means you’re fishing for compliments), but you can’t be too overtly happy because that’s fake. You have to seem “real.” A fake version of real apparently.

  29. Years ago, I read a comment by a cartoonist who said that you can’t draw a dog without making a statement about the condition of dogs. (I unfortunately can’t recall the exact wording so I can’t find the author to credit). Whether or not you intend to, any work you produce is going to be viewed as a “statement.” It may as well be a statement you actually want to make.

  30. To me it really hasn’t been much of a choice. I pretty much always stand up for what I believe in and I am very blunt and vocal about. I’m also willing to listen to others and change my mind and admit it when I’m wrong.

    I’ve never had much respect for being a coward.

  31. NicoleandMaggie:

    Just thinking back of the envelope here, someone who is already a best-seller (like you, or like Orson Scott Card) probably isn’t going to be very affected because of what you outline above.

    Scalzi was writing this blog and writing about politics long before he wrote a novel. And when he put Old Man’s War up as a self-published on-line book, he wasn’t a bestseller and didn’t become a bestseller. It was several years and several books before he became a bestseller, which is the usual course for most bestselling authors. On the way to bestsellerdom, they’re marketing on the Internet.

    If the article writer really wanted to help authors stay out of controversy, then the advice should be to avoid going on the Internet at all. That won’t work, because events, conventions, signings, etc., plus the books themselves all expose the writer to the Internet even if the writer isn’t present in person. And interviewers are likely to ask authors political and social issue questions in interviews. And who your publisher is, if you have a publisher, or the fact that you willing work with Amazon in the indie market — all casts you in a political stripe related to them. But it would at least make more sense towards achieving the stated goal of confusing others about what an author’s personal views are.

    But, it doesn’t matter if you are writing a romance paperback on sale for three months or you’re Stephen King. It doesn’t matter how much on the Internet you are, and whether you talk about political and civil rights issues there or not. Other people — some of whom may have read your book, most others who have not but notice its existence or at least that a genre exists and you are a writer in it — will decide what your political views are. They will assign you views.

    So you might as well get clear what your views are if you get asked or if you want to talk about them, so at least there’s a record. It won’t, as Scalzi notes, change fantasy versions of you that have been given different views than you hold, but at least if anyone is confused, you’re an honest source of yourself, and they can decide whether to believe that source and what they think about it. As we learned in one discussion about online abuse towards women, women have been attacked on knitting sites for talking about knitting.

    Romance novels are actually filled with socio-political issues. In fact, there are more socio-political issues in romance novels, all kinds, playing key roles in plots than there is sex (many imprints of romance don’t contain sex scenes at all.) While romance writers are not, in general, a majority of flaming liberals, their romances do in general lean left on social issues. And fans do actually pick up on those issues and may ask authors about those issues. So this article is basically like telling romance authors not to breathe.

  32. The “don’t rock the boat folks” are implicitly arguing for a view of books as commodities

    Why? I don’t buy this at all. Is Calvin and Hobbes a commodity comic because Bill Watterson is a pretty private guy? Would John’s books be somehow worse if the text in them was the same but he didn’t blog? I read a lot of authors that I know nothing about, besides the blurb in the book.

    I think authors should, like everyone else, be free to express their views as much or as little as they like, with the same exposure to consequences as anyone else. If I write something publicly online that my employer doesn’t like my job could be at risk, and certainly my raises and bonuses may be affected. Why would a writer be any different?

  33. I think I can add two points:
    1) You can have different audiences for your books and your non-fiction writing. There’s at least one author hanging around here whose books I absolutely love, but whose political views often leave me rolling my eyes. And there are folks whose writing in blog threads I find quite insightful, but their fiction leaves me cold.

    2) Not only can any topic be polarizing, but the more “trivial” the issue, the crazier people can get over it. Remember the advice columnist Ann Landers? In decades of writing her column, there was exactly one topic she had to flat-out ban due to the level of abuse it generated. That topic was: “Which way should I put a toilet paper roll on the holder, with the paper coming out the top or the bottom?”

  34. The actual author of the article hasn’t been mentioned widely out of concern that discussion of this topic could turn into a witch hunt against her. That the author expressed these ideas isn’t as interesting as the validity of the ideas themselves, which I don’t think have a lot of merit personally.
    The author of the quoted tweets was criticizing the original article for obvious reasons.
    Though I do not agree with the RWR article, I wouldn’t want personal grief to come to the author, so I’m glad the discussion has remained on the points the article raised, and I enjoyed reading this response. Thank you.

  35. I write a bit, but the vast majority of my income comes from other things, and I professionally identify more with those other things. I recently quit a full time job and became an independent contractor/consultant. This has changed a lot of things- I have more time for other interests, I spend more time looking for projects, etc, etc. But one of the most surprising changes has been how much freer I feel in speaking my mind.

    I thought I was fairly willing to speak my mind before, but I am more so now. As an employee of a company, I could screw up and do something that got me fired, thereby eliminating all of my income in one fell swoop. Now, I can screw up (or just offend someone) and lose a contract, but that is not all of my income. I can certainly screw up so completely that my ability to win future contracts would be hurt, but (1) that is unlikely and (2) that would play out over a longer time frame, giving me more time to adjust. It turns out, that difference makes me more willing to take a few risks. I would not have predicted that ahead of time. It is wonderful.

    Writers are in a similar situation as I am as an independent contractor, I think.

    There are still some topics I look at and decide were worth the risk (although that is generally a risk of blow back as a woman in my field than a risk of lost income). But I love that I can now make that calculation without thinking about the politics of my employer.

  36. @John you’re right, those are my opinions. And the TLDR of what I was writing was be yourself, but in this hyper-partisan, hyper-politicized age it can be helpful for to know your audience and know what kinds of issues might be sensitive with them so that you can approach them mindfully, or not at all. And I’m thinking of more specific dog whistle political issues (gun control, abortion, ACA) or religious issues rather than issues of civil rights and equality. I could see why someone who is liberal who writes books that have a large conservative following (like romance books or zombie apocalypse books) (or vice-versa) might want to keep their political opinions to themselves to not alienate their following.

  37. Yes to all that, and also:
    There’s not really any such thing as “neutral”.

    The closest you can get is “tacitly approving the status quo” which isn’t actually neutral, it’s just making the least waves.
    “Shut up and go along with the status quo” is definitely a message many people, many of them women, get to hear a LOT.

  38. Thought experiment:

    Lets say I came to the conclusion that I could sell more books by being a vicar of social justice. I could go out of my way to insult conservatives in the expectation that they will complain and link to my blog. Then I could claim to be oppressed and expect that liberal twitter warriors would take up my cause. Thereby increasing my publicity.

    Then to ratchet it up a notch I could use a pen name and pretend to be female, some minority, and gay in an attempt to get more twitter warriors on my side.

    I dont believe any of the BS I am saying. I do it strictly because I think there are people dumb enough to buy my books because of my online political BS.

    Am I selling out for book sales or are some fans just stupid and this is just business?

  39. Tim @ 2:08pm: I think the idea that the “don’t rock the boat folks” are arguing in favor of treating books as commodities is aimed at the people offering the advice, not the authors themselves. If an author chooses not to speak publicly, on any issue or at all, that’s the author’s choice; the author has that right (and, as you point out, will certainly take the consequences). However, anyone else advising authors “don’t speak up, don’t rock the boat if you want to be successful” is at least implicitly arguing that supporting the status quo is the only way to be successful . . .and thus that what matters most in being a writer is sales (hence, books as commodities). I’d agree that an author doesn’t have to speak out on controversial issues. But I’d also argue that if said author does speak out, he/she is just as likely to sell books as one who doesn’t–making the original advice both wrong and (in my opinion) deeply silly.

  40. @pyctsi – I’m much the same. I started reading Mary Robinette Kowal’s work because of a chance encounter/discussion with her at a convention. I got into NK Jemisin and Mary Ann Mohanraj’s work because authors I respect linked to their pieces and I decided that I liked the cut of their jibberish, and figured their fiction had a decent chance of similarly being awesome. I -like- it when authors are public about their views – it’s a great way to learn and it’s neat to see the perspectives that inform their writing. Honestly, sometimes Mark Oshiro’s commentary on social issues and intersectionality is even more interesting than him reading the books (less likely to make me laugh, but more likely to make me think). I’ve also converted more than one person I know to Seanan McGuire’s works by linking one of the pieces she’s written on metafiction or women in fiction/fandom. Heck, often times the line “she puts queer characters in everything she writes and has written trans characters non-stereotypically and with respect” is enough to get people interested. Telling authors to shy away from “controversial” subjects just reinforces the status quo and makes discourse all the poorer for it, and in fact can directly contribute to erasure. (no lgbt characters in kids books was the status quo for decades, and queer children/teens suffered as a result – you have no idea how uplifting it can be to see people like you in fiction if you’ve never seen that before)

    Incidentally, it is 100% true that any subject can be controversial. I once got into an extremely heated debate at work over the merits of Wisconsin vs California cheese, solely based on the breeds of the cows involved. As in, people had to step in and tell us to cool it down intense. Who would’ve expected cheese production to be so controversial?

  41. Interesting. MCA Hogarth’s Three Jaguars comics appear to have vanished from the web, but there was a whole thread about this issue, which I think came down on the side of “don’t talk about it, make art about it instead.” I don’t know. I do both, partly because I get aerated about things and need to vent, partly because blogging about my political/religious views could only hurt my sales if I had some sales to be hurt. :) Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, and all that.

  42. @Kat Goodwin, I am well aware of Scalzi’s history. At this point in time, he is a best selling author. We do not know the counter-factual of whether or not he would have become a best-selling author without Whatever. I assume he would have.

  43. I would have found it helpful to read the whole article to get a feel for the arc of what was being said. I get what that particular portion is saying but I guess I don’t get all the furor around it. It was an article of what looks like advice–not a publisher’s demand.

  44. Hope I’m not going OT here, but it’s not always about what you think, sometimes it’s just about who you are. I worked in an excellent BDalton back in the 90s and one evening, we had a customer who wanted advice on what mystery writer to read next. I went through a number of recommendations, all of them either already familiar to him or rejected, and then it struck me that the new Sue Grafton novel was out. (I think it would have been about “L” or “M.”) I held the new hardcover out to him, gave him a brief sales pitch on Grafton and her work — and he thrust the book away, loudly stating “A man can’t read a novel by a woman!!”

    Without even thinking about customer etiquette, I blurted out, “Why not?”
    Didn’t get an answer. But I would love to have heard his “thinking” on the subject, if only for anecdotal reasons.

  45. I tend to not play attention to the author’s views on subjects, mostly because I’m ignorant of what those views are. I read RAH for years before I found out I didn’t agree with most of his politics. Same with Jerry Pournelle. But I’m looking forward to Jerry’s new books.

    There are authors at Baen I am getting less interested in supporting. Not because they are conservative or right wing,but because they have decided that I am a traitor and evil person, who deserves to be at the least imprisoned for the destruction of America. After all, I’m a Democrat.

    I hate giving up on series I’ve enjoyed, but I’m not sure I can continue to give money to someone that apparently hates that I exist because I disagree with his politics.

  46. As it happens, I’m currently reading (re-reading actually) a book series by an author whose politics I disagree with, Terry Goodkind.

    Most of the time, an author’s political viewpoint is not going to affect whether or not I read their book. Chances are I won’t know what their viewpoint is anyway (seriously, I don’t Google every author before picking up their book to read). If I do know, then generally speaking it isn’t going to matter to me… however an exception might be, for instance, if I knew that an author was extremely misogynistic – then I might not read his book because the treatment of any female characters would be likely to harm my enjoyment of the novel. But that would be my choice and isn’t likely to have much impact on the author.

    I don’t subscribe to the belief that an author ‘should’ talk about issues that concern them… but I would absolutely defend their right to express their views if they want to.

  47. It’s insidious at best and oppressive at worst. For marginalized writers that are on the QUILTBAG spectrum writing stories with QUILTBAG romance, we have to fight over the din of genres overpopulated with M/M as the only example of ‘diversity’ or abusive M/F dynamics to even be heard. For RWA to silence its members in such a way is harmful in that it enforces the status-quo in literature.

  48. Amen! No subject should be taboo. Except Pineapple Pizza, of course. There ARE limits!

  49. Dave Harmon, Anne Landers should have known that toilet paper coming out the bottom is against Holy Scripture!

  50. @Tim, the advice is to only say neutral things, not say nothing at all; saying nothing is also a statement. Bill Watterson is a private person, because he wanted the strip to stand by itself. He railed against the constraints of the syndicated comic as a medium and ended Calvin & Hobbes specifically because he thought he had done as much as he could with them as a comic. It’s also the same reason there has never been official Calvin & Hobbes merchandise, he thinks they should be consumed in comic form.

  51. If I only read authors whom I agree with about everything politically, I’d read very few authors. On the other end, there are some authors whose opinions I find so offensive that I won’t buy their books even if I might otherwise like them.

    But I don’t intend that as a tactical move to try to get them to modify their opinions. It’s merely that I revulse from the idea of supporting them, financially or otherwise. They can say what they want, and I can do what I want. John’s reaction when he’s on the receiving end of that, “Oh well,” is the right one.

  52. Not at all suprised to see gay marriage as one of the subjects to stay away from if you’re an RWA member. There was, after all, the episode some years ago when the board felt the need to officially define romance as between one man and one woman, and considered that a neutral stance. I stumbled across part of the blogosphere discussion on that one by ego-surfing and finding myself cited by name as someone whose books would make the board’s heads explode.

    Or in other words, in the board’s view, just by writing m/m romance and calling it romance, I was being polarizing and should have shut up. Expressing my opinion online of the aforementioned board decision – well, that was outrageously political. Nice to see that attitude still alive and well in the pages of the magazine. It’s not the attitude of a large number of members, or officially of the organisation nowadays, but it still leaks through.

    There are other topics where “don’t be polarising” apparently means “don’t criticise the conservative status quo”, but those I only know about second-hand. I think this article is well-meaning advice, but it’s advice that ultimately is about supporting the status quo. And it doesn’t recognise that it constricts not just your opinions online, but your opionions in your fiction. The only way I could have complied with that advice some years ago would have been to stop writing the books I was writing. And that’s true of all romance writers. It’s just that some of them can’t see that they’re expressing a political opinion every time they, for example, write a story about how wonderful it is to leave the horrid city job behind and find contentment as a housewife in a rural setting where everyone knows you and your business.

  53. And based on what I’ve seen, for every person who finds your opinion offensive, there will be at least one who will get something you wrote just because they agree and are curious. Or because they want to support people who say things they agree with.

    And really, if they’re the sort of people who dislike your views so much they wouldn’t want to buy another of your books, is that really a customer you want? Someone who holds you hostage from giving your views?

  54. He’s based in San Francisco, which leads me to think that he is a liberal “

    This part of John’s commentary seems relevant, here: “Judgment will happen based on who people think you are based on the fantasy version of you they have in their head, which is almost always more about their own fears and desires than anything that has to do with the actual person you are.

  55. @wizardu It was a geeks guide to the galaxy interview from a year or two ago – Scott Sigler. He specifically mentioned how he doesn’t talk politics. Being from San Francisco, I know that the majority of us are liberal, and given the subject matter of his books i guessed that he was liberal but didn’t want to alienate his more conservative readership. of course, since being conservative is socially taboo in san francisco, it is just as likely that he is a conservative who still wants to be invited to cocktail parties.

  56. @johntshea: Are you saying that I’m not allowed to express my love of pineapple pizza online??!! Pineapple pizza has shaped me as a writer and I will not hide behind socially acceptable toppings!

  57. A great post. I agree with a lot of the other commenters.

    About the only message that should not be tolerated is STFU.

    In my book, most sarcastic responses are nothing more than “STFU” dressed in nicer clothes.

    @pstaylor – re: Hollywood and conservative actors

    They hide their politics because Hollywood producers and directors (and some other actors) will refuse to work with people with conservative beliefs. Here in flyover country, the work of any actor/producer/director with non-leftist beliefs is warmly welcomed. Hence the response to “American Sniper” at the box office.

    @Tom B. – people hating that you exist based on politics

    Indeed! That door swings two ways.


  58. My best friend from work is someone who voted for George W. Bush twice. I figure that if his wife (who didn’t) can live with that, so can I.

    I stopped reading Larry Niven not because of his politics (which I always knew were right-wing) but because he stopped writing well. Happens.

  59. I find it highly amusing that the author, Racheline Maltese, publicly states that she is gay and a romance writer, but wishes for people to restrain writing about controversial topics.

    You kind of got it bassackwards, @vshiffler – Ms. Maltese is saying that the point of this article (don’t discuss “controversial” opinions) makes no sense to her as a lesbian who’s a romance writer. Of course, the way you put it makes me wonder if you aren’t a homophobic, or romance-phobic, DudeBro yourself…?

  60. If you want to avoid writing about anything political then you have to avoid writing anything at all about anything. As the 70s slogan says, “The personal IS political”. Everything is political.

    For example, I heard that the question of whether a particular woman author should be included in lists of American Authors or American Women Authors or both was a huge and bitter fight on Wikipedia.

    Avoiding expression of anything political and/or controversial would mean saying nothing at all. Must be hard to write books without saying things.

  61. Not at all suprised to see gay marriage as one of the subjects to stay away from if you’re an RWA member.

    Strangely, @Jules Jones, where I’m reading a lot of stories with same-sex married couples (usually as secondary characters, but still prominent) is in romance. (Yes, I’m a guy, and I read romance. Wanna make something of it?)

    They’re a popular B-Couple trope for modern romance writers – The Gay Best Friend of the heroine who finds The Guy of His Dreams, and usually marries him before the Heroine and Hero get married….

  62. I’m probably one of the more politically…er, “forceful” people I know, but as a reader? The only Mortal Sin I acknowledge is Lame Storytelling.

    If you can sweep me up in your story, I could give a crap what your politics are – if you can’t, then I could agree with you 100% and I’ll still not read you.

  63. Thank you Becca for making the one point that. I thought was missing from this post: that the “neutral position” is in fact the conservative position (using conservative in the original sense of the word and not the reactionary sense).

    Other than that, I agree completely with the post, and look forward to many more political rants here on Whatever.😄

  64. Timeliebe – you’re reading a lot of those stories *now*. There was a massive to-do about the subject in RWA some years ago, because stories like that were starting to be more than a tiny minority, and because writers were starting to make the glbt relationship the primary relationship. I am not kidding about RWA making an offical statement that as official policy romance was officially defined as one man and one woman, and anything else did not count for purposes of RWA membership and various other things RWA did.

    Of course, RWA can’t tell the publishers what they may or may not publish as romance, which is part of what the fight was about — lots of small presses, and some large publishers, *were* publishing lgbt romance, and some people in RWA didn’t like it. That was being political and pushing the gay agenda, while having nice wholesome m/f was just normal. The ruckus resulted in the board pulling it, and ultimately in the instigator being encouraged not to stand for another term, but it rumbled on for years, and every so often there’s another outbreak of it.

  65. dann showed up to demonstrate the conservative ill-logic that keeps discussions down. Conservative artists aren’t blackballed. Raving nutters who are hard to work with are not hired. There tends to be overlap.
    Much like how the whole Baen catalog would have me strung up for treason for voting for Barry O., there is no true liberal equivalent–but they’ll bring up sharpton or anyone else in a rush to show that one crazy person might have said something dumb and paint everyone on the left with that brush, even though no uniformity exists and they know it, but strawman scary myths are what fuels the populist right today.

  66. Expanding: in some ways its as oppressive to require everyone to have an opinion as it is to silence opinions. Part of freedom is the freedom to remain uninvolved. The original Romance author was making a good point: in general about half your potential readers will disagree with you — and the fact of your being a romance writer or a science fiction writer doesn’t mean the people who disagree are wrong. Let us argue in favor of humility and inclusivity: don’t try to shove things down people’s throats.

  67. @anno
    I’m a liberal who lives in the liberal bubble that is San Francisco, and I have to disagree with you to some extent. I do not know any out conservatives in the SF bay area, at least not in my circle of friends. The handful of friends who i suspect are republicans do not talk politics and are essentially closeted. It is not socially acceptable to be conservative here, at least in the circles I run in. (which is why I live here!) It would be political suicide for an SF politician to take a conservative stance on just about anything. There are powerful social cues to stick to the progressive party line. We liberals love to accuse others of being racist, sexist, transphobic, or homophobic in a never-ending battle to prove that we are more righteous because hey, we aren’t like THOSE assholes. To the extent that it makes it harder for people to discriminate against women/gays/people of color/trans* individuals, great. But it also shuts down discussion and can lead to a sort of groupthink that I don’t think is always helpful. And we are so busy feeling self-righteous that we don’t realize that our shit can stink too.

  68. While I’m dredging up past examples of RWA’s definition of neutral and not making waves – the flap before (and overlapping) lgbt was erotic romance. That involved an attempt to ban erotic romance covers from being displayed on the RWA website, or at RWA cons, or on RWA tables at other cons. Or indeed, being allowed to link from your member profile on the RWA website to your own website should that include erotic romance covers. That was porn, not romance. When that position became untenable, it was to protect the inspirational romance writers, who shouldn’t have to have their work next to the erotic romance. To their credit, a lot of the inspie writers objected to being used as the excuse and said so, very loudly.

    There’s another item I have been told about, but have not observed it myself. But the people who told me about it described the people at the top of RWA at the time as being high status nice Southern ladies, who ensured that RWA conformed to their views of how the world should be. Not just for that particular bit, but enforcing a pecking order in general and a very narrow view of what romance was. The organisation has changed a lot over the last decade (I would note that they started dealing with the small press and epub membership issue years before SFWA did), but there do appear to be a number of members who long for the good old days.

  69. Annalee:

    For me, yes, there are writers whose work I won’t read because I find their political views disgusting. That’s not me expecting them to change their minds or shut up to suit me. Rather, it’s that our politics and values have a habit of sneaking into our work.

    Absolutely. I stopped reading Orson Scott Card because of the homophobia in the lines of his fiction, before I ever heard that he had declared himself my enemy in public. It took longer with Heinlein.


    I’m going to play devils advocate here.

    Are you aware how much effort it takes not to just scroll to the next comment when one starts like this? Perhaps it’s an idiosyncratic reaction, but I have seen so many people troll under this heading that it gives me a sinking feeling when I see it. ETA: reading further, I discover that Our Host feels the same way. Not as idiosyncratic as all that.

    …Susan G. Komen for the cure, who alienated a huge part of their constituents by taking a conservative, pro-choice tack with their relations to planned parenthood.

    No. They took an anti-choice position, and ultimately an anti-women’s-healthcare position.

    Dave Harmon:

    That topic was: “Which way should I put a toilet paper roll on the holder, with the paper coming out the top or the bottom?”

    Here are the simple facts about that matter.


    There was, after all, the episode some years ago when the board felt the need to officially define romance as between one man and one woman, and considered that a neutral stance.

    First of all, HI JULES!!!!!


    Second of all, that strikes me as by itself enough reason to discard (in the sense of “add to the list of things never to read, ever”) all their official publications.


    Are you saying that I’m not allowed to express my love of pineapple pizza online??!! Pineapple pizza has shaped me as a writer and I will not hide behind socially acceptable toppings!

    Of course you’re allowed to. You will lose a few readers among the righteous and gain a few among the perverse wretches who believe in ingesting such unclean things.

  70. Cambias:

    “in some ways its as oppressive to require everyone to have an opinion as it is to silence opinions.”

    You may have missed the part in the piece where I say:

    No one is obliged to speak on political or social issues if they don’t want, and no one is obliged to chip in their two cents on a topic that’s gathering pennies on any particular day. It’s perfectly fine to say, publicly or privately, “I don’t know enough on this and am reading up,” or “I’m on deadline and have to focus,” or “I have a lot of thoughts on this topic and 140 characters can’t express them” or even “addressing this topic right now feels like it would be sticking my head into a hive of angry hornets and why would I want to do that.” One’s participation is not required on every single topic, every single day.

    You may have also missed the paragraph immediately after that one, which explains why the original writers point was in fact a very bad one, or at the very least, so inartfully worded that any non-harmful intent is obviated by poor phrasing.

    “Let us argue in favor of humility and inclusivity: don’t try to shove things down people’s throats.”

    The problem with this is that there are quite enough people who believe that having any opinion they don’t like expressed anywhere qualifies as it being “shoved down people’s throats.” Which is silly. No one has to read my, or any authors, social media outlets. How dare you express an opinion on your own blog/Facebook page/Twitter feed! Yeah, that’s not going be a very compelling argument for throat-shoving, I’m afraid.

    (Note that I practice what I preach here: There are plenty of authors who say things I consider obnoxious or foolish or just plain wrong — sometimes even about me — and I celebrate their ability to do so, in their own places, far away from me.)

    Also, “inclusivity” doesn’t mean “shut up and stay shut up.” If you wish to argue for “inclusivity,” I suggest you would do better to argue for the sort of inclusivity that allows everyone to be able to express their own view, if they choose to, without someone suggesting, implicitly or explicitly, that the price of a book affords the right to suggest the author ought to be silent on topics discomfiting to the purchaser.

  71. I was going to bring up something about celebrities endorsing stupid shit like not vaccinating your children, but that’s really not an argument for telling them to shut up. There are lots of people pushing idiotic ideas on the web, but it’s not for us to tell them they can’t speak, we just have to be able to distinguish between the good ideas and the less good ones.

    I was glad to see you walked back that comment about the Georgia Bulldogs, though. That could have been problematic.

  72. Dear Dann,

    Oh, here we go with the “Hollywood blackballs conservatives” BS again. It’s a wonderful talking point for conservatives, like the “war on Christmas.” Too bad the data doesn’t support the theory. For every actor who claims that their outspoken conservatism has cost them a part, I can name you one who claims their outspoken radicalism cost them a part. Actors are famous for being notoriously unreliable when it comes to explaining why they didn’t get a part. Funny thing about that.

    There are plenty of well-liked and famous outspoken conservative actors. Right off the top of my head, I can think of Clint Eastwood, Drew Carey, and Ben Stein. I’m sure I could think of more with very little work. The thing is, they are nice people and professional to work with, from all reports. Yes, there are conservative actors who have been effectively blackballed, and the names that come to mind are Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson. And they got blackballed not because they were conservatives but because they were raging total-loose-cannon assholes. Which, funny thing, ARE bad for business. And, even stranger, people don’t like to work with people like that regardless of their political stripe. I mean, the rank-and-file wouldn’t like Vox Day any better if he were Trotskyite instead of the neoconservative. He’s just plain not nice to deal with.

    But let’s get away from the specific examples; because you’re claiming a larger agenda in terms of employment. We’ve got stats on that, let’s see how our Social Justice Warrior masters are doing, shall we?

    What do the actual statistics for Hollywood show? Well, it’s like this–– relative to the demographics of the general US populace AND the demographics of the available pool of actors, movies have disproportionately high numbers of white male leads. WAY disporportionate. In all parts, lead or otherwise, actors of color are underrepresented, women are underrepresented, and older women are hugely underrepresented. White males play non-white-male roles; it’s almost never the other way around. And again, I emphasize, this is relative both to US population demographics and the pool of actors. Movies are, on avergae, explicitly targeted for men on the (unproven) assumption that women will go see a men’s movie but not vice versa. Very few movies past the Bechtel Test. Just about every movie that isn’t a romance, and a fair percentage of those that are, pass the male equivalent of the Test.

    This is what I’m getting for my money from the SJW’s???? Jeez, talk about a lame bunch of revolutionaries. I mean, really! Could they do any worse a job of subverting Traditional Values?

    As for your divisive attempts to invoke the Great American heartland, the reality is that every place in the country is some shade of purple. Even in California, which is supposed to be so overwhelmingly blue it isn’t funny, Democratic registrations only outnumber Republican by 15%. Which, yes, is enough to clobber a Republican candidate in an election, where it’s winner take all, but that’s still just a slightly bluer shade of purple on the social scale.

    And, oh yeah, American Sniper is doing very well here, and I’ve never heard a single snarky remark about Clint Eastwood.

    So, just a friendly suggestion– maybe a bit less of the (unsupportable) victim card? You ain’t being picked on and you ain’t under-represented.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

  73. Nicoleandmaggie:

    At this point in time, he is a best selling author. We do not know the counter-factual of whether or not he would have become a best-selling author without Whatever.

    My point was that Scalzi wrote political views on controversial topics online BEFORE he was a bestselling author. It did not cost him sales of his fiction as the article expresses that it should have. Instead, he became a bestselling author despite taking positions on controversial topics. So his career disproves the central premise of the article’s advice. And his career is not the only one to do so. It doesn’t matter if the author is a bestseller yet or not.


    If I write something publicly online that my employer doesn’t like my job could be at risk, and certainly my raises and bonuses may be affected. Why would a writer be any different?

    Because the readers aren’t the author’s boss. Neither are publishers that the author partners with, booksellers who sell his or her work, or reviewers and media. 80% of an author’s readership will have no idea what the author says online at all. Of the remaining 20% who do, they’ll entirely disagree with each other. So which 10% is the author supposed to pick as their view being the “neutral” one? It’s an impossible task. Either way, they’ll lose 10%. So logically, it makes sense to go with your actual views and keep the 10% who agree with you and lose the other 10% because they weren’t probably going to stick with you anyway. And you’ll probably gain additional readers to replace them.

    Writers get terribly worried about offending people and that screwing up their careers. (The Hollywood fantasy of fiction publishing rather than the real thing.) And then they get totally freaked out when some people are offended with them anyway because they knit or collect bottle caps or went to Paris for vacation or voted Republican, or thought that their women characters were awful because they were too “strong” or they were awful because they were “too weak,” etc. But people have the views that they have of you whether you like it or not, (because authors aren’t the boss of readers either,) if you put fiction out into the marketplace, nor are they your bosses who are going to hurt you if you don’t comply with their various, contradictory views.

    Romance used to be very much a work for hire category market and had to deal with actual censor issues from vendors and thus publishers. But now romance is a very big field, not as diverse as it should be like all the other fields, but people are pushing for that. It can handle a lot of different political views. And authors of all kinds want to develop their careers. So RWA will have to catch up. It reminds me very much of the article in the Bulletin that recommended that women SFF authors should be like Barbie and act like a lady which included never saying that she faced any discrimination. The romance article advice was less partisan and good-hearted but very much in the same vein. Which is of course how we end up with a really weird lack of diversity in fiction publishing.

  74. Hi, Xopher. :-)

    Bear in mind that RWA is a big organisation with a wide-ranging membership, and a lot of this stuff happens because a handful of people in a position of power within the organisation don’t like what they see as change for the worse and try to resist it, followed by enough people yelling about it that they have to back down. The RWA official view of what counts as a romance has broadened a great deal over the last ten years, even if shins have to be kicked every so often. I never did join, because it would take me about a year to calm down from one year’s idiocy at Nationals, and then we’d have the next one just as I was thinking maybe it was time to get involved. (And then I moved back to the UK and didn’t really see a lot of point anyway.) But plenty of members did oppose, and successfully, the attempts to narrow romance.

  75. I’ve seen enough internet mob justice to know where this is going…

    I don’t think you can really blame the original tweeters for offering their advice. We all want to be free to express our opinions. But if you want to make a living, in writing or in many other fields, it seems like the incentive is to keep unpopular opinions to yourself. Even if you have to pretend. (“My poverty, but not my will, consents.”)

    Or at the very least, if you’re going to have an opinion, disguise it, and slip it into something that you get paid for up front.

  76. This would even be considered bad advice by those who would take issue with the opinion being expressed. Presumably those people want to know which writers they disagree with so as not to buy their books. Everyone benefits from the honest expression of an idea.

  77. As something of a side note, I’m getting tired of laughing at the people who think this period of time in the US is somehow extraordinarily politically partisan in comparison to other times.

    It’s really not. Even being generous and leaving the early 1860’s out of the data — when political partisanship involved hundreds of thousands of deaths — present partisanship doesn’t really stand out historically.

  78. One thing that’s really tricky about the advice to avoid controversy is that almost everything is controversial to someone. I can blog about nothing more controversial than my dogs, but if someone has a fear and loathing of dogs, my gushing about my dogs and posting cute pictures on twitter might be enough to turn them away from my books. Okay, maybe there aren’t as many dog haters out there as there are people who are hostile towards feminists, or marriage equality or whatever is currently deemed controversial in the political arena, but I have to wonder if people who are hostile towards feminism and equal rights for people who are LGBT would really want to read my books anyway.

    Also, there’s that thing that no position is truly neutral. Mos often, the person citing neutrality on an issue is simply siding with the status quo. Siding with the status quo is still a position, whether it stems from indifference (because they’re not a member of the group denied a given right) or true antipathy towards said group.

    I suppose one could have no presence on social media at all and be a blank slate, but I’ve been told that’s not a great idea either.

  79. @annalee I didn’t know that “Devil’s advocate” was code for “I’m a terrible troll trying to derail this discussion.” lesson learned. And for the record, I was trying to play devil’s advocate for the idea that maybe there are some instances for some authors where not being overly political on one’s twitter feed might be a good idea vs. the idea that women shouldn’t ever talk about anything controversial. I’d say I’m with with Ms. Maltese on this one.

    @cstein I don’t know that being conservative necessarily hurts you in hollywood, but the fact that hollywood are a bunch of freaking hypocrites doesn’t make it not true. That’s the magic of hollywood – their politics are progressive, their actions are reactionary. I don’t know if being conservative ever messes with anyones ability to get a job, but it is certainly not something one talks about in polite conversation. Unless you are part of the ruling class, and then you can do whatever you want.

  80. Couple of things:

    Another reason why you’d want to not make political or social statements is, “No. And you’re not entitled to know why”. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is valid. Someone may have reasons to share or not share their political beliefs — because they can’t, they’re not in circumstances where it’s safe to do so, and so on. That’s fine. I know Scalzi said this in a paragraph, but I just want to emphasize that sometimes it’s okay to not feel safe about sharing your opinions or keeping quiet about them. No one is demanding that you speak them. You’re not a bad person. It’s okay.

    The second point just slowly dawned through me and has begun to piss me off: does the RWA only care about a short-term view of sales numbers from its members? I mean, they’re an organization dedicated to “advanc[ing] the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy”. Maybe the professional interests and careers of their members would be better advanced if the RWA actually had the guts to stand up for their members and say, “You say what you want. We’ll cover you from the people who try to silence you”?

    I mean, what is the point of a professional organization that refuses to support you, especially considering how gendered romance writing is, and how prone its members are to silencing and erasure?

  81. Hi all,

    @anno – It’s hard to know where to start. I will point out that the vitriol aimed at George W. Bush was every bit as potent as what is aimed at Barack Obama. Not that vitriol is new, only that I read an awful lot of words from leftists that are pretty blatantly eliminationist towards anyone that disagrees with their perspective.

    No one has a corner on the broad brush.

    @pstaylor – Indeed. Quite right. And thanks very much.

    @ctein – apples and oranges. I agree that white men in Hollywood have a leg up. I even happen to agree that it is unfair.

    But the set of “white men” and “conservatives” in Hollywood is not identical. It ain’t even close. When we can get an honest representation of the Cuban butcher that was Che and a hagiography of Ronald Reagan, then I’ll start thinking that Hollywood embraces a non-leftist perspective.

    I’ll let the rest of your persons of hay lie sleeping..


  82. Clint Eastwood is so hated in California that he was elected mayor of a beach town. Arnold Schwartzenegger is so unpopular that he was elected governor of the state twice. Both of them continue to work in films.

    Seems to me some people are arguing against their fantasy version of an entire state! A whole 11% of the population of the country.

    Looks like more shins need to be kicked in the RWA upper echelons and magazine. In a genteel way, of course. With nice lighting and a lovely meal. :)

  83. I believe we are somewhat spoiled here at Whatever. This site is CIVILIZED with just enough of an edge to be entertaining. Before finding this site (thanks John), I was resolved that “blogger + controversial topic = bile spewing nonsense.” With that sensibility, I would be sympathetic towards the advice that sparked this thread.

    I buy more books and stories from our host not (just) because he speaks his mind but because he does so intelligently and with maturity.

  84. Seems like the RWA advice basically just boils down to “play it safe”, more or less. Not surprising, since a lot of Romance novels are more or less cranked out formulaically and on schedule. They’re like the literary equivalent of Madden games in that respect.

    If one is an author that makes a living by churning out steamy dime-novels, “don’t offend anyone” seems like sound advice. At least, if you’re treating what you’ve written as targeted commercial product and nothing more. It’s just corporate advertising mentality in a different form. Appeal to the widest possible audience. Don’t alienate possible customers.

  85. I personally can’t help but think of Aaron Hodges who wrote a racially charged bit of hyperbole on his personal Facebook page that I personally find abhorrent enough to not quote the substance of here. I also know that an act of internet “Justice” figured out that he worked for Nordstrom’s, and informed his employer of his written works. Nordstrom summarily fired him, and then announced it to the world over Twitter.

    Or maybe the awful “joke” about africa that Justine Sacco tweeted in 2013 on her way to Africa to her 122 twitter followers that cost her the job she had. Sacco would discuss it with the NYTimes in 2014- months later trying to reclaim her life from a poorly thought quickly written series of words that I am sure many here recognize.

    Of course there is also advice like Huff Posts “The 6 Types of Facebook Posts Employers Don’t Want To See.” According to Careerbuilder.com survey 51% of employers check social media on potential hires. Frankly, I could see large corporate publishers mitigating risk especially on writers of lower or unproven stature to Scalzi.

    If you are a struggling writer, maybe one who works for Nordstrom, maybe one who is living close to the bone and is trying to weigh every advantage to try and get the first Romance published. Maybe, unlike the lovely romantic scene, when they get heated on politics- it just isn’t their best foot forward but one in the mouth instead…

    Scalzi has his haters, but they are a small minority. His politics, though some more might find disagreement or agreement with, don’t make him a pariah within our society. There are people, who might write a good romance, might have views that are more unpalatable to the vast majority. Eloquence might not save those people from the wrath of internet scorn.

    Writing has costs. For some, intentionally or not, writing can be almost a pugilistic battle for one’s very existence. Sometimes those costs, those wounds, are not worth it. I could certainly council people to weigh those costs very carefully. And I cannot honestly say that in today’s atmosphere, it might not even be a good default. That the political fights you get into on a comment board, are not going to be worth it.

    In February of this year Jon Ronson of NYTimes attempted to get Ms Sacco to comment again. “No way.” She explained that she had a new job in communications, though she wouldn’t say where. She said, “Anything that puts the spotlight on me is a negative.”

  86. There’s a good point over on the Making Light iteration of this conversation – airing your political views in public is not a problem. Your public persona being nothing *but* political rants may well be a problem, because that gets boring and people wander away to find a more interesting blog to read. This can happen whether people agree or disagree with those views. And yes, I have on occasion hit delete or friends-locked rather than post for those reasons – I’m generally trying to have a conversation, not preaching from the pulpit. It doesn’t stop me from having the occasional full on rant when I feel it appropriate (as witness this thread).

  87. I’m a soon-to-be-debut author at a stage where I’m deciding what my public persona is going to be, and this has given me food for thought.

    I think if an author has strongly-held beliefs, those are likely to come across in their work, both in ways they intend and ways they’re not conscious of. If a reader is going to be offended by one of my views then I’d rather put them off before they read the book, than have them hate it and leave a one-star review somewhere.

  88. I know I’m not the first to note this, but I would like to add my agreement that posting your opinions on potentially controversial topics can enhance your readership. I read this blog because its contents – especially the posts with heated discussions – have led me to consider Scalzi as a decent person and good writer. It’s because I read Whatever that I have Redshirts and Lock In sitting on my table, with my siblings arguing about them because they’re both trying to read the same book at once.

    I suspect that most readers don’t care about authors’ views on any topic; I know I don’t. And when readers do care, it’s as likely to work in the author’s favour as against.

  89. Lot of fascinating comments here about the topic of being true to one’s self. Personally, I have no qualms in having frank discussions with people who hold opinions different from mine (moderate Republican) but I am open minded enough to consider melding theirs into mine. I also have no problems with people standing up for what they believe in. I do have problems with people who will post something that they feel strongly about (i.e. Hobby Lobby), but not strong enough to actually engage in a thoughtful dialogue about it, simply because they feel that posting something about it is the same as defending it.

    Food for thought: I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of thinking proposed in the article. At a book signing a few years ago, I had someone come up to me an grill me about my book, the cover (semi-nude of the PG-13 variety) and the blurb. Next thing I know, an accusation was made that I was selling porn and I was forced to shut it down. All because someone jumped to an erroneous conclusion about the cover.

  90. John, thank you so much for this. In addition to being an author, I also write a (hopefully humorous) political column for my local newspaper, and I’m pretty outspoken on Twitter and Facebook. I’m constantly getting that “well, now that I know you’re commie Islamofascist America hating liberal scum, I’ll never buy one of your books. So there.” Fortunately, for every one of those I get, I get at least two “I bought your book because of something else I read of yours” so it’s all good.

    I was a columnist before I wrote books, and I’ll always care passionately about my country and the direction in which it’s going. To tell me “just shut up and write your books” is to ask me to be someone different than who I am, for the money. Sorry, can’t do it.

  91. Mr Manny:

    “since a lot of Romance novels are more or less cranked out formulaically and on schedule.”

    This is a more accurate version of your statement, I think. And with that said, quite a lot of romance novels these days also do a lot of ground breaking and genre bending. Note also that just describing something as “steamy” menas you’ll have offended the people who think there is too much sex, etc. So if “don’t offend anyone” was the plan, it’s already failed.

  92. I support this post entirely and yet …
    Are you (whimper whimper) suggesting you are NOT our dancing monkey?

  93. @Lurkertype There is a long history of conservative politicians who were former singers or actors. The liberal ones like Al Franken are the exception, not the rule. I didn’t mean to imply that conservative actors couldn’t get work or were discriminated against – I suspect that a lot of producers and people making hiring decisions lean right as well. Just that they tend to not be public about it. Same thing with Christian actors, and Christians are hardly discriminated against. And anyways, the right-wing talking point is more like “See!!!! Sometimes liberals are just as terrible as we are!!!!” There was a thing on Glenn Beck’s show a year ago about rich leftys allegedly filtering money to front groups to destroy america or whatever (which was all bullshit)(and no one understands nonprofit law), and the hosts’ point was “SEE!! they do the same shit we do, but they are more sanctimonious about it!!!”

    @jules jones Yeah, I guess that’s more what I have a negative reaction to. I love it when people have smart opinions about topics that might be controversial. Political ranting, however, is more often than not the worst, even if it is someone whose views I align with.

    and for the record, all of the entertainment figures I follow on social media I follow because of their lefty views. I read Scalzi’s blog, Wendigs, Kameron Hurleys, and N.K. Jemisin’s. I would not advise any of them to tone it down. But I also think that Weird Al has done a nice job with his Twitter in staying uncontroversial and non-political, but still being funny.

  94. A writer could post on nothing but her dogs and still be controversial because some people feel very strongly about the breeds vs mutts issue, some feel very strongly about table scraps: treat or menace? issue, some feel very strongly about what kind of fencing is acceptable for yards, and so on.

    It’s doggone hard to say anything and not be controversial. Just saying.

  95. I’m not talking about subsuming or strangling who you are: i’m talking about not publicly discussing things that you know are divisive if they don’t have direct bearing on your art and you can avoid it, and are ok avoiding it.

    To pstaylor: I listen to Ted Nugent because I like old rock. I think the man’s politics are for crap. My co-author and best friend is a conservative. I’m a card-carrying liberal. We talk about political stuff, and often agree to disagree, because it’s important to us, and as friends, we feel like it’s not healthy to be dishonest with one another. Surprising enough, too, even though we’re diametrically opposed in some areas, we have plenty of common ground to go around in others. I suppose that if we didn’t it would be equally good for both of us to speak our minds, because then we’d -know- we weren’t compatible, and would find other outlets for our art.

    In terms of one’s audience, I think that is very much a shifting target. My politics (and my co-author’s politics, for that matter) slide into my writing — and into our shared writing. I think that it’s nearly impossible to separate one’s politics from one’s art and have any kind of soul still present in the art. So over time, people who read what I write may decide they don’t like my presentations, and go elsewhere… and with any luck, someone else who had previously not been all that impressed with the directions of my characters and their ideals might come on board because of the shift.

    Do I speak publicly about my politics? Yes, though I’m a lot more subtle, and a lot less rabid about shoving my ideas down other people’s throats than I was when I was 30 years younger. These days, my speaking about politics has become more like the way that I dine with friends… I’m more about putting out smorgasbord now so people can enjoy a little that they like, taste something they’ve never tried before, and don’t have to choke on what they can’t handle than about the ‘Eat 50 wings in 5 minutes and chug a liter of Pepsi’ contests of my youth (sorry in advance Coke people… I genuinely like Diet Coke, but where I grew up, Pepsi was king) — both for food and for ideas. That said, there are ALWAYS a few of my favorites on the table, and there’s still a big pan of butter-baked hot wings. Just sayin.’

  96. Several years ago, I got the same “don’t talk about public hot topics” from a Science Fiction/Fantasy editor at a convention during an “Advice for Beginning Author’s” panel. The editor was from a small press, but it was still mostly agreed on by the panel.

    So its not just the RWA.

  97. @Dave Harmon:

    2) Not only can any topic be polarizing, but the more “trivial” the issue, the crazier people can get over it.

    Also known as Sayre’s Law. The usual corollary being ‘This is why academic politics are so bitter’.

  98. @Xopher:

    You will lose a few readers among the righteous and gain a few among the perverse wretches who believe in ingesting such unclean things.

    Wonderful turn of a phrase, sir! (But I repent nothing!!!)

  99. @stormweave I’m starting to think that my opinion was not worth making. I’m not a writer. I’ve spent my career working at nonprofits where I have to be ultra-mindful about being nonpartisan because I work with people on both sides of the spectrum and it is important to focus on our common ground. So that’s where I am coming from – making sure you aren’t turning off potential allies by talking about an unrelated politically sensitive topic.

  100. Dear pstaylor,

    (a minor nitpick– there is no “S” in my name (and, yes, it is my real name)

    On to matters of substance (ahem):

    “…the fact that hollywood are a bunch of freaking hypocrites doesn’t make it not true.”

    Now read the following with the understanding that we are largely in accord, OK? (in contrast to Dann, with whom I am decidedly not)

    You said, “I’ve spent my career working at nonprofits where I have to be ultra-mindful about being nonpartisan because I work with people on both sides of the spectrum and it is important to focus on our common ground.”

    Given that you are manifestly and most clearly NOT nonpartisan about many issues of personal and social importance, wouldn’t that make you a hypocrite?

    (FWIW, similar ad-hominems have been hurled at me when I tell people I am instructing, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Because I’m trying to instruct them in the best/safest way to do something and my practices are far from ideal.)

    How about John, who has written stories that are, in some way or another, clearly not in keeping with his real-world sociopolitics?

    It’s one thing if you’re creating art that comes solely from the heart. It’s another when you’re creating an entertainment product (yeah – hugely extreme dichotomization, just run with it). I just wrote a character, sympathetically and favorably, whose behavior and politics are antithetical to my own. I did so because while I don’t like him, I know my readers will (because he makes for good story). Hypocrisy?

    The recently-deposed head of Sony Entertainment gave an interview in which she decried the weak position of women in the movie business and immediately afterwards justified the kinds of movies that are made today (describing them much as I did) by noting that that was business and that was what was profitable for the studio. Which makes her hypocrite? No more than you. Or me. Or John.

    As for the “making it not true” part, no, I don’t have to disprove it. It was a nonsensical talking point created by a neoconservative pundit with no substance (sample-bias anecdotes are not substance)to back it up. I don’t have to definitively disprove it. I only have to demonstrate that it doesn’t make much sense. If Glenn Beck were to announce that he believes that there are alien fairy castles on the moon and the liberal administration is suppressing that information, and he gets Dick Hoagland to support him, I don’t have to be able to absolutely prove they don’t exist. I just have to give sensible reasons why it doesn’t much stand up to reason.

    Anyone who actually has much familiarity with the motion picture and television business immediately knows that this charge of systematic discrimination against conservatives/Christians is nonsensical. Similarly, the claim that actors refuse to work with Christians/conservatives? There are very, very few actors in Hollywood who have that kind of clout or get that kind of say in who gets hired for an entertainment product. Vanishingly small numbers. You can count them on the fingers of two hands, and they are not all liberals by any means. The agents, the studios, the producers, and the directors, they decide who gets hired. Actors who say, “Well, I will not work with so-and-so because I don’t like their politics?” That’s a quick route to oblivion. They do not get to dictate policy and the do not get to make casting decisions, and prima donnas who are pains in the asses like that don’t wind up at the top of the casting call list, no matter how talented they are.

    That’s not supposition, that’s not hypothecation, that is the way the system works.

    So, no, I cannot prove that it is not true. Nor can I prove there are not alien fairy castles on the moon.

    pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery http://ctein.com
    — Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

  101. pstaylor, just because people are disagreeing with you doesn’t mean that your point wasn’t worth making. It’s a good thing to have opinions and express them if you wish to–and not just to the people who will nod along. I think that’s part of Scalzi’s point. You felt that your point was worth expressing, your point was discussed, and nobody went into attack mode (neither you nor the people with opinions that did not align with yours), and the rest of us could read all of the posts about your and their opinions and have more food for thought about the issue. I think you did fine.

  102. MasterThiefEsq:

    But if you want to make a living, in writing or in many other fields, it seems like the incentive is to keep unpopular opinions to yourself.

    Which are the unpopular opinions? Depends on who you ask. Again, readers are not writers’ bosses, and offending readers will occur whatever position you take, even if you never talk about politics online. So again, the advice purely for authors is nonsensical. It cannot be done. It is not possible for any fiction author to be “neutral” because they are creating stories which are interpreted by people, some of whom won’t even have read the story, and because that makes them public people who others will judge as they please without knowing the authors.

    We make up stuff about people. For instance the idea that military SF, romance and zombie novels appeal to a majority conservative audience — that’s not true, any more than the audience for SF and games is mostly male is true, or that males don’t read female protagonists or read or write romance. Or that Hollywood is liberal. (Hollywood is run by white men who are mainly centrist and very conservative financially.) If outright inaccuracies are swallowed as fact, does anybody really think one lone author is going to be able to escape assessment of their work or their person politically? Saying I don’t take sides is, as others have pointed out, taking a side, and you’ll be judged for it. Put in gay best friends getting married in a romance and you’ll be judged for it. Don’t put any gay side characters into your romance, and you’ll be judged for it.

    Most authors have day jobs in addition to their writing. And to keep their day jobs, they do have to be conscious of the impact of their writing and what they say online as an author. If they have a conservative boss or a concerned with legal liability and image boss (there are very few actual liberal bosses,) they have to take that into consideration. I knew someone who wrote under a pseudonym for just that reason, although it’s quite difficult to hide identity as an author these days online.

    But that’s a personal, individual issue for each person, some who can be totally unconcerned about it and others who have to avoid appearing to take a set of opinions, whatever that set may be, (although in the end, it mainly won’t work.) And it’s an entirely separate issue from the claim of the article that all authors have to watch their opinions because they’ll lose readers and trash their author careers, not their day jobs. Because that latter claim is manifestly untrue and pointless.

    There are romances that are very Christian or Jewish, etc., and religious faith plays a role in the plot. Usually the authors are also religious. Should they pretend that they aren’t because some people find their prominent faith expressions arrogant and offensive? Should atheist authors who write romances about non-believers ditto? There are romances, entire imprints, with lots of sex — that’s controversial. There are romances with no sex beyond kissing — that’s controversial. Historical accuracy in historical romances is controversial, etc. This is a rabbit hole that you don’t get out of. It’s like saying that water is wet so you should avoid water when you are bathing.

  103. Much like how the whole Baen catalog would have me strung up for treason for voting for Barry O., there is no true liberal equivalent–but they’ll bring up sharpton or anyone else in a rush to show that one crazy person might have said

    Yeah, Baen would never publish someone like this:

    Born in 1947 in California, he worked on a Ph.D. in history specializing in southern African history. He left his doctoral program in order to become a political activist in the labor movement and supported himself from that time until age 50 in a variety of jobs, including longshoreman, truck driver, and machinist, and as a labor union organizer. A long-time leftist political activist, he worked as a member of the Socialist Workers Party.

    No, never ever.

    Even less would Jim Baen have someone like that convince him to give out some of the books he published for free, without DRM.

  104. Apologies if I’m repeating sentiments already expressed. I’m afraid I only had time to skim the thread.

    I’m not a published fiction author, so I can’t speak as one or for that demographic. What I will say is that, anecdotally and as an avid fiction reader, fan and therefore customer of its authors (including speculative and romance fiction), I often find the most compelling work comes from authors with strong opinions on real life issues. Often those opinions are ones with which my own outlook shares some (rarely complete) congruence. Sometimes I don’t agree with them at all. But in my personal experience, authors who have the gusto to take a stand that risks polarizing their audience, have more interesting things to say in their fiction as well. I’d go so far as to generalize this to all forms of art. I’m just one reader, but I doubt I’m very unique in that outlook.

  105. I’m lucky, in that most of the authors I have encountered outside of their books and who have taken time to interact with me I have found to be pretty cool people. I hope to continue this track record.

  106. [i]Raving nutters who are hard to work with are not hired[/i]

    And, again, I am summoned. I can tell you with 100% certainty that raving nutters who are hard to work with are hired all the time if they also make substantial amounts of money.

    Some throwaway points:

    a) The Romantic fiction (Mills n Boon etc) element rather ignores something pertinent to this entire thread: pseudonyms. Many writers of Romantic fiction work under them, and many great writers did so under them (the further you go back, the more female this trend becomes). In fact, in Romantic Fiction, pseudonyms are more common than actual identities.

    The question is rather, in this networked time, how the pseudonym is now useless due to data mining.

    b) This seems to be (again) an American issue. I cannot think of a European writer who has been blacklisted or not-published due to their politics in the last 30 years. (E. Pound.. but… he did push the boundaries somewhat, and he was even defended by Elliot. Oh, and Lady Chat’s Lover, but that was over that word beginning with C). Sticking to SF, the UK / European market studiously ignores such issues: and even those writers with a political bent, such as I. Banks, are not judged for it (let alone hounded).

    g) [i]”Strictly as a commercial writer”[/i]. Well, there’s a huge problem: if you identify yourself as strictly commercial, then why wouldn’t you expect your readers to slap down the challenge: [b][i]”This is a product! I demand satisfaction! Feed me what I enjoy!”[/i][/b]. This is an age old problem, from Dickens to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so it’s not exactly new. (And yes, everyone knows that Sherlock was resurrected due to publisher and cash pressures). The answer, of course, is to stick a middle finger up and not give a flying tentacled fuck.

    d) I do believe that everyone in this thread should watch this video and enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l62UTsRQ6qY

    The personal is political.

    Twitter is not. It is our realm, and the generation of hate, fear and anger is powering the worst kinds of spawn.

    Now, you can all be civilized about it, or you can render unto Caesar his due. *shrug*

  107. pstaylor: “I think in general it is worth not discussing religion and politics with some sets of people when you can avoid it.” Now, some people objected to your use of the term “devil’s advocate.” I think you misused that term, since a devil’s advocate doesn’t necessarily agree with the position he or she lays out. I don’t object to devil’s advocacy myself, unlike some. But I think what you wrote here is, I think, revealing, though I’m not sure exactly of what — mostly sloppy thinking — and it looks like other commenters missed it.

    I agree that in general it is not worth discussing religion and politics WITH SOME SETS OF PEOPLE. There are certain people with whom I don’t discuss religion and politics. They are mostly offline acquaintances. I don’t get up on a soapbox at work, for example, or wear my TOO LEFT FOR OBAMA t-shirt on the job. I don’t usually subject certain family members to atheist rants (unless they try to subject me to Christian rants, in which case the gloves are off). On the other hand, I’ve been out as a gay person at work since 1974, when that was a more controversial thing to do than it might be now. But it was important to me that I do so, both personally and on principle. One must make those decisions for oneself, as JS says.

    But we’re talking about something else here, namely one’s online presence. It’s one thing to eschew certain topics in certain offline or even online environments, with (in your words) some sets of people. It’s quite another to limit oneself that way in a public venue. Online is tricky. You don’t always know who will see what you post, so you must assume that everyone will. Not only is the net not my family or coworkers (though they’re included in it), but it’s not San Francisco either. At least, you can’t select the sets of people who will see what you post. Again, that’s for each person to decide. I know that some of what I write will offend some people, and will gratify others, and there’s no way to post so that only the latter set will see my work. Indeed, I wouldn’t want to limit it that way. I see plenty of stuff on the net each day that I disagree with, or that offends me. (For example, that whiny gay romance writer who complained the RWA article “stings.” I can’t imagine how she has lived to adulthood and presumable middle age if she can’t deal with such stings, since every gay person has to deal with them on a daily basis.) So if someone is offended by what I write, I’m doing my job as much as I am when someone is pleased by it. I’m not here to be all things to all readers.

    So your comment was disingenuous, I think. You switched in midstream from the normal pick-your-battles stance that most of us take with family, friends, and some other people with whom we choose not to rock the boat, to a counsel that we never risk rocking the boat because someone somewhere might be offended by it. Which implies to me that you have not really thought about this very much, or very carefully.

  108. I have had friends mention worrying because their story might raise a taboo subject. What I said to them was, if your story took an unexpected turn and opened up something deeper, you absolutely should write that. If a writer has something valid to say on a difficult topic, it’s a gift from your muse (which is to say, a gift from within yourself). So what if it isn’t the story you thought you would be writing? The new story will be better.

  109. *chuckle*


    I do find it curious that such a small number of posts by me enables such sweeping conclusions.

    FTR I find most people that post here to be interesting. I suspect that I would have a quite pleasant evening discussing whatever…or Whatever…over an adult beverage or two with them and hope to be able to offer the same in return.


  110. @kat goodwin: i think john scalzis blog and being a twitter ninja. These posts are marketing. There are alot of people who read his books because they like his political views. Authors wouldnt spend all this time on the web if it didnt help their career.

  111. Dear Dann,

    I did not say I found you unpleasant. If I did, it was most definitely a misspeak, and I humbly apologize for it. I have substantial disagreements with your take on the world (which, indeed, come from a handful of comments, but that handful throw up so many red flags that I’d be very surprised if I were wrong about this). That is not at all the same thing.

    I don’t think you will find anything I have written, ever, here or elsewhere that indicates I choose my friends based on their political leanings. Again, if I ever said anything like that, it was severe misspeak.

    (Assuming, of course, that their political leaning isn’t “let me be an asshole,” which is some people’s but seems to be very far from yours.)

    One of my very dearest friends, of long standing is a staunch Libertarian and a gun nut. I am the furthest thing imaginable from both. It does not cause us problems. A lover of nearly 30 years standing was a Reagan Republican– she voted for him TWICE. It did not prevent us from having a warm and loving relationship … and some impressive dinner debates.

    So far you have in every regard behaved civilly and socially-appropriately. We might very well have a fine time of it, socially.

    pax / Ctein

  112. @Guess. Stating the obvious but missing the point. No doubt the blog helps John’s career but surely it’s less about him ‘spending all this time’ and more about him having interesting things to say, hmm?

  113. In thinking about this, I decided to try to come up with people whose careers had been hurt by their outspoken beliefs, whether they express those on social media or IRL. I couldn’t think of any authors, so it is mostly musicians. Here’s what I came up with:

    The Dixie Chicks, who made a lot of country fans mad by dissing George W. before it was cool to do so in conservative circles. I think it hurt them financially, at least for a few years.

    I can’t think of any more, but that is because I don’t travel in circles that would get mad at someone for being a lefty. I do know that when Carolyn Petite came out as transgender at Gamespot she got a mountain of hate. Mountain.

    Dave Mustaine, whose born-again Christianity has made him persona non grata among many in the metal community (particularly his habit of refusing to play with satanic bands), and whose rants about Obama taking our guns at a concert went viral. I don’t think its been awesome for his career

    Exene Cervenka (of the punk band X) who made a comment on Twitter hypothesizing that Obama invented the whole mass murder in Isla Vista a couple years ago in order to take our guns. She got so much abuse she deleted her Twitter account

    Adam Baldwin. I know there are a lot of Firefly fans who are pretty appalled by his twitter feed.

    Dan Simmons is the one writer I can think of – I don’t think the hard right turn he seemed to take in his novel Flashback was awesome for his career, or at least the sales of that book.

    So that’s six examples of people whose careers maybe suffered because their political beliefs didn’t match with their audience. Which doesn’t seem like enough to make it a rule to avoid being political.

  114. Guess: If the only reason Scalzi writes Whatever is for marketing, how do you account for the years and years he wrote Whatever before he ever wrote a novel? You seem to take every possible chance to suggest that Scalzi is a disingenuous fake; if you really believe that, why do you even bother to read here?

  115. @Guess: Authors wouldnt spend all this time on the web if it didnt help their career.

    Well, some do use it to procrastinate while telling ourselves–sorry, themselves–they’re marketing. Not me, of course. I’m all about the self-discipline.

  116. I’d like to echo what others have said, that ‘neutral’ isn’t. The ‘neutral’ stance is itself a political stance supporting the status quo.

    And that has a corollary: Politics which support the status quo get the privilege of being considered neutral.

    Which is how we end up with people insisting that novels about straight white characters are just plain fun to read, great stories written without all that distasteful SJW preaching, while novels that people their world with non-white, non-straight characters are “message fiction,” “novels written to complete some diversity checklist” which “would have been a lot more fun to read if the author hadn’t shoved their agenda down the reader’s throat.”

    Not only is “apolitical fiction” not apolitical at all, but also a preference for “apolitical fiction” is political too.

    I think it’s important to push back against the attempt to position support for the status quo as “neutral” and not let that narrative stand. So it’s important to criticize articles like this one.

    On another topic: Anyone who is offended by pepperoni on their pizza may give me their share. If they wish to add anchovies before they hand it over, that would be appreciated.

  117. @Guess: Authors wouldnt spend all this time on the web if it didnt help their career.

    I spend all this time on the net for the same reason anyone else does — to read interesting things and to have interesting conversations. And to try to avoid getting sucked into TV Tropes.

    Now, some of those interesting conversations are author related — I spent a lot of time back in the day hanging out on rec.arts.sf.composition, and still hang out on Absolute Write. And I do some directly promo related work, although a lot less than I used to because I spend much less time overall on the net than I used to. Going back to a day job will do that to you. But the “buy my books!” stuff is and always has been a small fraction of my time and energy expended on the net. One of the drawbacks of being a full-time writer is not being in an office with other people, and even for the more introverted of us, that can pall after a while. I believe John when he says he does his writing on the Whatever in part as a break from his commercial writing job, because been there, done that, got the teeshirt.

  118. Guess:

    As has already been pointed out, Scalzi wrote this blog for years before publishing fiction. That doesn’t mean that the blog has no marketing functions, but its existence is not as a marketing tool for an author. And while Twitter is fun and is touted a lot for marketing by Twitter so that it can charge advertisers, there’s not a lot of evidence that having a Twitter account helps fiction authors at all. While authors have been encouraged to have a social media presence, the data on the effects of social media so far indicate that it isn’t very good for selling things except the social media itself. And book publishing doesn’t even bother to collect market data (they can’t afford it mostly.)

    The majority of Scalzi’s audience, as for all authors, have never read Whatever, nor Scalzi’s Twitter feed, and probably don’t know they exist. They’ve never read an interview with him or articles by him and they don’t know (nor care) about his political views. They’ve never gone to a convention and met him, or a bookstore event. Most of them don’t read book reviews. Most fiction readers, again, don’t give a crap about the authors of their fiction. They like the stories and the only thing they want to know is when the next story is coming out. And a good chunk of the readers of Scalzi’s blog never buy his fiction, usually because they don’t read a lot of fiction. Only about a quarter of the population does.

    Fiction buyers are marketing resistant, which is the weird, counter-intuitive business reality of fiction publishing that authors and publishers have to deal with. Book buyers of fiction do not like or pay attention much to ads and other similar marketing, and only a tiny percentage ever read reviews and talk about books online. If an author is already a bestseller, ads and bookstore displays can work to attract those who don’t usually buy books by pointing out that a book is famous. But for the regular core buyers, ads don’t work and are expensive, so publishers mostly do not do ads or major marketing for any but the big sellers.

    The primary form of marketing for fiction publishing is word of mouth from friends and family. Which cannot be controlled or bought by marketing. Harry Potter, our biggest book series, was published with a tiny advance in Britain and not expected to be a bestseller. It got nearly no marketing, as most children’s books don’t. And few authors, including Rowling, were doing social media when the first book came out in the 1990’s (there was a lot less social media for one thing.) It was word of mouth that turned Harry Potter into a giant. (Bookstore displays for browsing form a distant second, which is the main form of fiction marketing from publishers.) Eragon, The Martian, Fifty Shades of Grey and Wool all became massive indie sellers that got reprint deals through word of mouth by readers, not marketing and online chatter by the authors.

    If Scalzi stopped doing this blog tomorrow and dropped off of Twitter, it would probably have very little impact on his sales. A lot of fiction authors don’t have Twitter accounts, or blogs/webpages, or have a Facebook page. They may go online, and they’ll certainly try to go to conventions if they are SFF or do bookfests and bookstore events if they can get them. They’ll hit up their local bookstores and try to get them to stock their book. They hope for reviews because reviews can attract a segment of readers who are respected for word of mouth recommendations. But the vast bulk of the fiction market develops from some readers finding the book, liking it and telling others about it, and the author thus slowly building a fanbase over years. That’s what happened to Scalzi; it’s what happens to most of them. Once in awhile, a newbie gets that word of mouth blaze and then some marketing from the publisher, (a fast burn bestseller,) but mostly not. The Internet has certainly helped word of mouth to be able to spread fast and far, and the ability to distribute books for sale, but again, most of the people on the Internet aren’t interested in talking with the author or reading the author’s not-fiction writings.

    People complain that fiction authors are backwards for not having more of an online presence and modern marketing tools, and that fiction publishers are dinosaurs who don’t do enough marketing, etc. And the reason for that is very simple — most of that stuff doesn’t work much for fiction publishing. So while there may be some authors you like who spend a lot of time online, there are thousands more who don’t.

    For category romance writers doing mass market paperbacks or e-book novellas, their stuff is up for maybe three to nine months in main sales. By the time they’ve got a website up, that title is already mostly over. Their twittering doesn’t have time to build them a rep. What has a lot more effect is their romance publishers marketing their entire line-up of books as particular types of romance each month, especially to the wholesale selling market (essentially store displays including electronic stores.) But the other main way that category romance sells is word of mouth among enthusiastic romance readers who alert other fans to new authors they like, usually without being aware who the author is at all. A good slice of romance authors are men, often writing under a female pseudonym.

    Again, whether an author has a social media presence or does not, their work and in abstentia themselves as author of the work will be judged by readers or any who come across their books. You can’t get out of it by avoiding social media or trying to be very quiet and non-political on social media. (Controversy neither sinks your book or particularly sells it.) Because readers are very varied and they have different views. So again, the advice is impossible for any author to follow. It’s lip service to the idea that female romance writers should be sweet little quiet ladies, which is utterly out of touch with what is happening in the real romance market.

  119. wrt Guess’s suppositions about why authors spend time on things:

    Authors wouldn’t spend all that time with their families if it didn’t help their career.
    Authors wouldn’t watch all those movies if it didn’t help their career.
    Authors wouldn’t spend all that time nurturing friendships IRL if it didn’t help their career.
    Authors wouldn’t play video games if it didn’t help their career.

    Authors wouldn’t do anything if it didn’t help their career.

    Does that about sum it up?

  120. I myself figure that, if someone finds my views on feminism/LGBT rights/sex offensive, that person is not going to like my books. I don’t try and shoehorn politics in, but…I write romance. These things come up, as the bishop said to the actress.

    If someone finds my views on the economy or gun control offensive, there’s probably less of a crossover, though I expect these things inform my writing to at least some degree. That said, I have a day job, I’m not dying for your seven bucks, and if I wanted to keep my mouth shut to please obnoxious people, I’d have stayed at the deli.

    I don’t explicitly post about politics on my authorial blog, and I do try to keep my day-to-day rageful libertine persona a little more in check there. And should actually update that, ever, now that I think about it.

    Also, Julie: “how wonderful it is to leave the horrid city job behind and find contentment as a housewife in a rural setting where everyone knows you and your business”

    Ha! Particularly because part of the rural setting I miss, living in a big city, is the ability to go *days* without talking to anyone outside my immediate family. Now I want to write about leaving the city job behind in order to become a telecommuting recluse with large dogs. And there should probably be a guy somewhere in there. ;)

  121. The more distasteful I find a writer’s politics, the more likely I am to pirate their work when I am in the mood to read it at all.

  122. I don’t think “pirate an author’s work” is an acceptable response to disliking that author’s personal views. If you’re going to boycott, have the courage to own the boycott.

  123. BW said: You felt that your point was worth expressing, your point was discussed, and nobody went into attack mode (neither you nor the people with opinions that did not align with yours), and the rest of us could read all of the posts about your and their opinions and have more food for thought about the issue. I think you did fine.

    I just want to say that I agree with this completely. I think that it’s been a good conversation, with many good points made, all the way around.

  124. On another topic: Anyone who is offended by pepperoni on their pizza may give me their share. If they wish to add anchovies before they hand it over, that would be appreciated.

    Nicole, any person who likes pepperoni and anchovies can be in MY new political party. We’ll rally and hand out pizza ‘flyers’ with our message spelled out in little fish atop the anchovy ‘paper’! If we don’t eat all of our propaganda materials, that is!

  125. Nicole, any person who likes pepperoni and anchovies can be in MY new political party. We’ll rally and hand out pizza ‘flyers’ with our message spelled out in little fish atop the anchovy ‘paper’! If we don’t eat all of our propaganda materials, that is!

    I’m not entirely sure how I feel about recruiting people to the pepperoni-and-anchovies party. I mean, if we’re successful and our ranks increase, there’s less pizza for me.

    And I only belatedly see that I messed up my post; I meant to say “Anyone who is offended by PINEAPPLE on their pizza,” in response to the anti-pineapple heretics above. I quite like pineapple. I quite like just about anything on pizza. The main thing is that it’s pizza.

    (Them: “We’re ordering pizza! What would you like on yours?” Me: “Anything. No, seriously, anything. Three slices of whatever-you’re-having.” Result: Tasty pizza. Although I’m sure I’ll regret this strategy if I run into someone who thinks cilantro is a pizza topping.)

  126. I despise Larry Correia’s politics and the way he advertises them. So I don’t patronize them. Hard Magic, OTOH, is book crack for me. But I doubt he’ll be able to write much beyond that series that’ll appeal to me – I hate Monster Hunters.

  127. Dann:

    I will point out that the vitriol aimed at George W. Bush was every bit as potent as what is aimed at Barack Obama.

    Nope. Not even close. Unless you don’t count actually treating with foreign governments to undermine him as vitriol.

    People said Bush was ineffective, wrongheaded, and that they wanted him out, but no one said they wanted him to fail, as Rush Limbaugh did of Obama. And that was before Obama had done anything. Limbaugh wanted Obama to fail because Obama is black and Limbaugh is racist.

    I was going to go ahead and list other examples, but I’m pretty sure you actually know that your statement quoted above is not true, so I’ll stop there.

    And hay and straw are two different things. City boy. :-)

    thomashewlett: Why thank you, sir.


    [Addressing Guess] You seem to take every possible chance to suggest that Scalzi is a disingenuous fake; if you really believe that, why do you even bother to read here?

    I’m assuming this is a rhetorical question, and that you actually know exactly why Guess is here. If it’s not a rhetorical question…well, it probably is.

    Nicole: First: brava. But then this:

    I’m sure I’ll regret this strategy if I run into someone who thinks cilantro is a pizza topping.

    Never thought of it, but it sure sounds like a tasty idea. Perhaps in the sauce, not as a topping, though. I have seen a pizza topped with basil leaves, fresh mozzarella, and sundried tomatoes. Now that was yummy.

    I bet you wouldn’t like the spicy soysage I like to put on pizza when I make it at home. Tempted to make you a tempeh-and-carmelized-onion one, but I probably won’t. But then I am the guy who once made wasabi buttercream chocolates (oddly enough, their worst flaw was that they were too sweet).

    Everyone: Always, always preview. I just caught a) some ugly HTML errors, b) an egregious spelling error, and c) something that, on reflection, I decided was better left unsaid. Thank you again, John, for putting Preview back.

  128. Xtopher: “People said Bush was ineffective, wrongheaded, and that they wanted him out, but no one said they wanted him to fail …” I think you weren’t paying attention. Hell, I wanted Bush to fail in numerous enterprises; I want Obama to fail in numerous enterprises. I said that Bush was not just ineffective, wrongheaded, and I wanted him out, I said that he was a war criminal; I say Obama is a war criminal — in both cases, because it happens to be true. I was glad that Obama failed to get us involved militarily in Syria, for example; I wish he would fail in his attempts to bring Iran to heel, but not to the same ends that the GOP Senators want him to fail. And there was considerable vitriol directed at Bush, from the temper tantrums over his less-than-stellar speaking skills and his mispronunciation of “nuclear” to homophobic pantsshitting about his holding hands with Saudi friends to the “chimp” meme and so on. Remember the fake Nostradamus verse about “the village idiot”? I say this not to defend Bush, who I wish would end his days in a cell in the Hague, along with Cheney, Obama, and both Clintons, but merely in the interests of factual accuracy.

    There is racism in the right-wing attacks on Obama, of course (as there was racism in the Hillary R Clinton campaign’s insinuations that he wasn’t US-born; remember that Hillary and her people were the original Birthers. But in most respects the difference between Democratic hatemongering and Republican hatemongering is one of degree, not of kind. Even the racism isn’t unprecedented: before Obama came along, Republicans loved to accuse their political enemies of being Jews — see the blog post linked to my name for more information on that. And Democrats turn into Republicans when they must deal with their and Obama’s critics from the *left*.

  129. Mmm – I make it a policy that, for a small group of authors who I find repulsive enough, I ensure that my money never goes to them. I’m not shy of saying why if need be. That’s not a case of “trying to hurt them economically” or silencing, threatening or punishing them; that’s simply so I can live with myself.

    My problem here is that because of what I do and who I am friends with, my opinion sometimes has an effect on what public monies get spent on. My personal prejudices sometimes collide with professional obligations as a librarian.

  130. Since the rather eloquent and profession Kat Goodwin stated the gist of my message in much greater detail, and with a lot less guff and with a lot more experience, I would like to add something more. (We’re still debating on eating her for being mean to Anne McCaffrey, but let’s just say we have other puppies to be getting on with…)

    >But I doubt he’ll be able to write much beyond that series that’ll appeal to me – I hate Monster Hunters.


    This thought is perhaps run alongside Kat’s musings about how little social media actually impacts book sales:

    A *lot* of authors have been terrible, horrible, disastrous human beings. Both male, female, tentacled and those at neither corners of the vast triangle. Even authors I love, such as Virginia Woolfe were flawed and elitist and a little bit messed up. So, is this a new phenomena? No.

    All the debate **really** should be about is the lack of distance that modern media has deliberately invited. TV and the warm look to the camera, the eye contact, the *illusion* that you and the celebrity or chat show host have a special bond… the silver screen effect. Or, you know, a big fat “I AM ZE DEVIL” photo on your front page.

    It’s all a kind of magic.

    What *is* interesting is that there’s currently a slew of (mostly American, but not absolutely – let’s just say, “English Speaking”) social media sites that **rely on text** that are attempting to foster this personal immediacy and all that it entails. Usually the goal is – loyal customers who are like crack addicts and will devote their lives to following rather than living who can be farmed for advertizing dollars.

    It’s causing a lot of misplaced psychological projection and invested time where people are either stuck imagining that *”the ID in reality is the ID in binary space”* or in the other camp where *”the ID in reality is going to run around the ID in binary space pretending to be a vast evil space puppet of DOOOOM trolling the fuck out of the first camp because we were here first and you’re too dumb to do meta-meta-meat-space”*.

    I’m in neither camp, but I don’t find the reactions from anyone so far to be in any way progressive, healthy or sane. The real issue is that there’s a large percentage of people who simply cannot process the meta language of the intarweb, and it’s causing both them, and their predators and everyone else a lot of psychological irritation (and hurt).

    Solution? Well, you can either suggest eating babies as a sacrifice, or actually start honing the blades of info-bubbles and educating people. That’s not something Corporate Entities desire, however…

    Then again, I passed both the Voight-Kampff test and the more aggressive versions including “Stare into the Void and Keep your Sanity”.


    Apparently I run enough anti-hedgehog cream software so that I can’t get HTML to work on this site. Oh well.


    You’d be surprised who also writes Romantic Fiction. Nyarlathotep has been at it for at least 100 years, but it’s a bit coy about the whole thing.

  131. …profession>AL<. Kat Goodwin is both professional and has a profession that involves publishing books.


    I swear these keyboards were made for monkey paws, every time I try and type something non-conscious threatening the cursed autocorrect kicks in and reminds me that our kind can't interface with electrical systems without extreme backlash and I have to go and find that spotty cultist who claims she's actually a 'they' and asexual of all bloody things in a cult based on sexual debauchery and I can never even find the damned book of souls because it's all online these days.

  132. Duncan: Limbaugh made it clear that he wanted Obama to fail in general, that he wanted disaster for the country (not that he admitted that, but a POTUS utterly failing at the job can have no other consequence) so that Obama would be finished.

    And there’s no T in ‘Xopher’. The X is for ‘Christ’ as in “Xmas.”

  133. Hi Xopher,

    I hope this isn’t considered going to far OT. My apologies to our esteemed host if so.

    I have been treated to several examples of Democrat politicians partaking in similar activities over the last few decades via other social media. (one example being Democrats in the Congress sending a letter to the leader of communist Nicaragua back in the 1980s. Other examples exist. Curiously, some of those examples came via a left leaning friend’s feed.) So, if those Democrats were being vitriolic, then I suppose the GOP could be described the same way. sauce….goose…gander….

    I think of such things as being bad form, inappropriate, deplorable and perhaps a bit stupid. But certainly not vitriolic.

    What I was thinking of was the many public expressions of wanting Mr. Bush dead. They were hoping that his death would be messy, painful, and lengthy. Of course, those expressions didn’t come from Congress-critters, so if that doesn’t count from your perspective, then I’ll respectfully disagree. However, I will readily acknowledge that Mr. Obama has been on the receiving end of similar expressions. I condemn both sorts of expressions. For better or worse, Mr. Obama is my President; to be supported whenever possible.

    Actually, Rush didn’t wish for Mr. Obama to fail. He wished for his ability to pass his agenda into law to fail as he believed that those policies would undermine American progress. That episode might be fodder for a decent discussion some time, but I’m trying to limit my contribution to thread drift.

    In any case, I’ll stand by my original statement. Mr. Obama has not been subjected to anything particularly new in terms of rhetorical abuse. A lot of it should have been and should be considered beneath contempt. [*yes, race has been one component for that rhetorical abuse. yes, that is new. even so, the level of vitriol isn’t new in the context of American history FBoFW]


  134. Tentacle being:

    I was not mean to Anne McCaffrey, who wrote two of my favorite SF novels, one of those being Dragonsong. What I was doing is honestly pointing out that as cool as the Dragonriders of Pern are, the biological system she constructed for them involves not simple symbiosis but sexual assault and forced mating as a requirement. Which had its awful sides and its symbolic view/criticism of sexual assault in our culture side, both at the same time. McCaffrey came from a generation in which it was not a crime for husbands to rape their wives, where the definition of sexual assault and lack of consent were quite narrow. So the delicate aspects of what she wrote were not front and center at the time. That doesn’t mean we can’t look at them and their problematic aspects now — and not praise her for using them back then, without that being regarded as an attack. Looking at how sexism or racism can infuse the best of intentions due to institutionalized social thinking (and unthinking,) is a critical part of artistic creation and appreciation. Because we don’t make stories or read them in a damn vacuum.

    Which is again why the advice about being “neutral” ain’t going to work for fiction authors.

    Usually the goal is – loyal customers who are like crack addicts and will devote their lives to following rather than living who can be farmed for advertizing dollars.

    Except it doesn’t work for fiction authors themselves as opposed to their creations. And the bulk of media has no interest in fiction authors as people and almost no interest in their fiction either. A small sub-set of fiction authors — usually those who were also big in the world of journalism and punditry — were for a bit talk show guests and game show helpers as witty bon vivants. But in the 1980’s, television shows realized that most of their audience didn’t read fiction and those who did weren’t interested in seeing the fiction authors on television. They weren’t ratings draws. So it’s now become exceedingly difficult for fiction authors to get on television to promote for the last thirty-five years.

    The Web helped replace that a bit, but the reality is that most fans don’t again care about fiction authors. They don’t care what they look like, their day jobs, their political views or their financial issues. They might possible care about an author’s pets, because pets are cute — Scalzi is most famous on the Web as the owner of Bacon Cat, hallowed be her name, not for his fiction. They might care about an author’s health because health problems mean that the author might not be able to continue producing the books. But pretty much the drug is not following authors as celebrities — because nobody cares what fiction authors do — but the books. The fiction author is just the dealer/lab designer.

    If Stephen King did not look like a giant, lanky shaggy bear man, his books would still sell. If Neil Gaiman had not remarried a music star, his books would still sell (but he’d still be more famous for his Hollywood work.) George Martin is a witty dinner party companion, but the millions of his readers don’t care. They just want him to finish Song of Ice and Fire.

    Romance writers are on average even more ignored than other fiction authors. They aren’t very well respected because people have no clue what they actually do and because it’s considered “women’s” fiction. Most of their market is still wholesale paperback, which is not reviewed much or promoted, but shipped out to grocery stores and newsstands and subscriptions. They have some conventions but not really the system SFF authors do and not nearly as much genre media. Many of their authors do use pseudonyms and can’t do much promotion, even on the Web. The run time in market for their titles is usually short, even for the historicals. Word of mouth builds them followings, but that doesn’t mean that most of the followings want to talk to them. Mostly they just want the next romance from them.

    Web culture has offered some advantages to fiction authors and some disadvantages as well (women authors get rape threats, etc.) But fiction readers make lousy groupies. And they are judgy, but they don’t agree on how to be judgy — like how to look at Anne McCaffrey’s work. That makes for some great discussions, but it doesn’t help fiction authors’ work seem neutral to anybody. And that was the case long before the Internet sucked out our brains.

  135. And yes, “know your place” is a deliberate jab.

    The question is only how you respond to it.

    Meta or Outrage?

    It’s a meta-conceit to outline just how badly I think your rather uneducated pronouncements about “THIS IS RAPE” are.

    McCaffrey was a good woman, and her writings are in no way what you’re classing them as. You should be ashamed, but you lack the depth of knowledge to know why.


  136. Ahh.. “Your comment is awaiting moderation”.

    Sadly, too much truth and honesty gets that.

    Your picture, my man, should have been of a sheep with a tail between its legs, not the Devil.

  137. X-opher???

    I’ve been pronouncing it with a “Z” sound for years!!

    Sunofabich. (Not you, Xopher, just life in general)

  138. THOMASMHEWLETT, all thinking people know well that Pineapple Pizza is the main cause of the decline and fall of Western Civilization, and the chief tactic in the Pizzarazzi Plot to take over the World!

  139. “Most people are not prepared to have their minds changed,” he said. “And I think they know in their hearts that other people are just the same, and one of the reasons people become angry when they argue is that they realize just that, as they trot out their excuses.”

    “Excuses, eh?” Well, if this ain’t cynicism, what is?” Erens snorted.

    “Yes, excuses,” he said, with what Erens thought might just have been a trace of bitterness. “I strongly suspect the things people believe in are usually just what they instinctively feel is right; the excuses, the justifications, the things you’re supposed to argue about, come later. They’re the least important part of the belief. That’s why you can destroy them, win an argument, prove the other person wrong, and still they believe what they did in the first place.” He looked at Erens. “You’ve attacked the wrong thing.”

    Xenophobe, Torturer Class.

    The real problem is: you’re all so fucking slow. It’s not your fault, there’s bastards making sure of it.

  140. @Cthulu : You’d be surprised who also writes Romantic Fiction. Nyarlathotep has been at it for at least 100 years, but it’s a bit coy about the whole thing.

    Blackadder: Yes, I gave myself a female pseudonym. Everybody’s doing it these days: Mrs. Ratcliffe, Jane Austen–

    Baldrick: What, Jane Austen’s a man?

    Blackadder: Of course — a huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush.

    Baldrick: Oh, quite a small one, then?

    Blackadder: Well, compared to Dorothy Wordsworth’s, certainly. James Boswell is the only real woman writing at the moment, and that’s just because she wants to get inside Johnson’s britches.

  141. I just came from a Max Blumenthal (non-fiction) interview in which he touches on the pressures of taking stands that are accurate but that raise all kinds of hell. There are certain topics…

    I remember Jackie Collins being asked what books she would recommend to Obama. She then started in on freedom, the constitution and liberty sighting the millions of books she’s sold. Compared to a famous fiction icon in his 70’s or 80’s answering the same question saying, “Obama is very well read, there’s no reason for me to tell him what to read”. Needless to say I am not in the Collins demographic and I can’t even imagine it.

    Then there are conservative SF writers back in 2010 writing about “bold and daring” Mitt Romney-like future presidents and “eco-terrorists” sabotaging future space stations. The book had a decent sounding concept but I put it back on the library shelf in disgust and disbelief.

  142. @’Z’opher. I had the ‘zed’ thing going in my head as well though now I’m all hiccoughs and giggles imagining you explaining yourself in just that way to Christians.

    and @Cthulu. You really have that whole creepy, menacing, pedantic thing down so – good match on the name choice. Imaginative if disjointed writing style too so I WANT to think good thoughts but I keep falling back on the creepy, menacing and pedantic. Consider me – hmm, ambivalent?

  143. Rush wanting Onama to fail (in prior comments) is small stuff when you consider the projectile vomit that exists the mouths of “conservative” elected right wing politicians. An unelected guy named Lee Atwater set the southern strategy tone back in the 80’s. I paraphrase but not by much, “we can’t say nigger nigger nigger anymore (after saying it 3x) we have to speak in metaphor”.

    21st century “metaphors” for Obama by elected Repubicans exceed anything said about Bush by elected Dems. The “elected” word is what decides this particular argument. What would be the GOP response if Obama had lost the popular vote in 2008 or 2012 but made legit by SCOTUS as Bush was in 2000? I can’t even imagine.

    This is a party that cultivates and kisses up to it’s lunatic extremes now mainstreamed. In fact it is seen as a healthy sign (by them) for any viable group to have a large fringe element. The GOP exceeds itself. The election last Nov saw the lowest voter turnout since WWII. As the President said at Selma, when ppl don’t vote guess who wins?

  144. I think both A) Bush The Younger and B) Obama have been fairly equally portrayed as Pan troglodytes… but there’s a MUCH nastier implication in B than A and IMO, A actually more closely resembled one. And B much less resembles Alfred E. Newman, though Obama does have himself some pretty serious ears. (And is a comic-book and Star Trek fan, so regardless of your politics, it’s pretty cool that One Of Us made it to the top. I don’t know if he’s read “Redshirts”, but he’d get the central premise.)

    In romance novels, particularly, hawt sex or no sex (in the text) are both going to get you condemned by a large bloc of readers, so it’s your thang, do whatchu wanna do.

    And finally, there is not a damn thing wrong with pineapple on pizza; people who think so may have an unreasonable prejudice, had a limited upbringing, or might just be allergic to citrus. Pineapple and pepperoni may be the greatest pizza combo ever, all sweet, sour, salty and umami at once. I do not know what the vegan pepperoni and cheese is like, so this may not hold true in that case. I eat this combo once a week; when the local pizza joint punches in our phone number, they know what to prepare. The usual.

  145. Guys, it looks like we’re going into a general discussion of politics here, rather than sticking close to the topic. Let’s try to rein it back in, please.

  146. Erg. And I was just about to post an extensive treatise on the sublime experiences involving pineapple and pizza.

    I am now very sad.



    [more seriously, that is what I was afraid of. sorry for my part in dragging things off course.]

  147. docrocketscience : That’s how my in-person friends pronounce it. So you got it right.

    Ambivalent in Tokyo: See above, plus: I’ve never had a negative reaction, actually. My Christian friends tend to be historically aware, and they know that X (and XP* and Xos) were used as abbreviations for Christos (Χριστός) in medieval Christian manuscripts.

    *Most famously on what is arguably the single most beautiful of all manuscript pages.

  148. Oh, dear. I wonder what I did to be put in Moderation. Whatever it was, John, I’m sorry.

  149. Xopher:

    You posted a picture (or a link to one). I can’t turn off the picture controls without digging deep into the WordPress code, so I just automatically punt into moderation anytime one is linked to, to make sure it’s not hateful/inappropriate. No worries.

  150. I’ve been discussing this topic elsewhere, but I ought to be doing it here. Of course with today’s sad news this discussion seems so much less important.

    But I really wanted to ask something. John, how can you say that offensive opinions cannot hurt an authors’ career in the light of what happened to Vox Day, Orson Scott Card, and Jean Rabe? All of these people lost a writing contract and/or a professional membership due to their distributing fringe views.

    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with what happened to these people. They were various shades of mistaken and deserved various levels of backlash. I just think it’s hypocritical to say that it’s okay for authors to have offensive opinions, when you were the person in charge when some of these people with fringe opinions were shut down.

    Opinions count, and publically showing them can harm your career. Just own up to it.

  151. johntshea:

    Pineapple Pizza is the main cause of the decline and fall of Western Civilization, and the chief tactic in the Pizzarazzi Plot to take over the World!

    To: Pizzarazzi High Command
    Status: URGENT

    As you can see from the intel, Johntshea has uncovered sensitive information and must be dealt with immediately. On my orders, send him a Special Delivery in 30 minutes (or less).

    End Transmission

  152. For me, the current discussion about politics helps to illustrate one of the issues I’ve been grappling with as I read people’s thoughts. In general, an author’s politics don’t really affect my choice to read their works. As an example, I find China Mieville’s politics to be odious and I’m also trying really hard to convince my principal to let me include Perdido Street Station as one of the required texts on the reading list for my Honors Magnet British Literature class next year. I’m probably pretty close politically to Brad Torgersen, but I don’t enjoy much that he’s written. In most cases, I don’t care what causes an author espouses as long as they can tell a good story and make it interesting. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t matter to me if I absolutely love your politics, causes, or what have you, I’m not going to read your work.

    On the other hand, if you’re going to write about politics and engage those who might have different opinions, I do expect you to be honest about your politics and how you respond to those individuals with whom you disagree. That’s what makes life interesting and can provide the fodder for interesting and educational conversations. However, that all falls apart if the individuals in question aren’t honest about what they say or what their opponents say. For example, there are certain authors whose work I enjoy I now no longer read because they’ve pretty conclusively proved to me, YMMV, that they’ve sacrificed their integrity on the altar of ideology. I often disagree with the politics of our esteemed host, but I also find that he is honest and thoughtful in his positions and explanations. On the other hand, individuals like Jim Hines, Sarah Hoyt, Natalie Luhrs, Tom Kratman, Mike Glyer, and Damien Walter, among others, aren’t, which means I don’t read them anymore and no longer recommend them to my students or friends.

  153. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m pretty sure nothing anyone says changes anything, anyway, so, meh.

    I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve seen where someone had a fundamental shift in their position about … *anything*. Everyone else is entirely entrenched, looking for that which reinforces their already existing position, and ignoring anything uncomfortable or inconvenient.

    I can think of at least 3 times in my life where I had massive and fundamental changes to my worldview. One was because of severe circumstances over a long period of time. Two were because of conversations with someone else. I think this gave me the false notion that people were relatively fluid and able to change. But that’s been slowly beaten down into submission/depression.

  154. I can’t stop myself from contributing to this thread, b/c I’m 100% in the target (romance author! RWA member! Who sometimes writes somewhat controversial topics! and has quit reading authors b/c of their views!)

    I stopped reading Michael Crichton long ago b/c of his crazy. And I have gone farther than just stopping reading John Grisham – I actual tell people all about his lengthy interview with the Guardian in which he (a lawyer who presumably knows how the system works) expresses his belief that just way too many innocent 60 year old white guys are locked up in prison for looking at kiddie porn.

    Nope. Nope. Nope. As someone who once had to deal with that issue in a legal capacity, nope. Not nearly enough of those guys are locked up. No one is locked up for just getting drunk and stupidly clicking – uh, no. The plea-bargain down to one count of whatever is b/c the prosecution didn’t want to put six kids on the stand and re-traumatize them – not an actual guy who looked once at pictures. What was Grisham deluding himself about? So his books are done for me, and I will actively point people to his views on this topic.


    As a reader, I have the right to continue to read or to stop reading whatever the heck I want, for whatever the heck reasons I choose – and as a feeling human being, those are some of my reasons. My money. My choice.

    As a writer, I agree with Jon, it’s my responsibility and in fact my pleasure to incorporate issues I feel passionately about into my writing, but I try to be entertaining about it (genre fiction – entertainment is required.).

    Reader nonresponse to topics that I thought might be controversial in my writing has affirmed for me that Readers Are Good People – primarily there for a story, not for an argument. (guess we come to the internet for that!) I think a heck of a lot of supposedly controversial or hot-button stuff just gets read right over and doesn’t generate a lot of passion, if the author is writing a good story and/or isn’t flogging the internet for attention.

    My examples: the hero of my second book is the US-born son of an undocumented immigrant*, and that has repercussions on his mother’s ability to travel to him an important time, but no one mentioned that in any way to me or in any reviews. Readers just accepted that aspect of the characters and focused on the story.

    And in my most recent romance, I went a step further and the heroine is actually an undocumented immigrant who came to the US as a child. Her situation poses big problems for her in the book, but again, no one mentioned that. The hero, who is British, even specifically refers to the US govt’s dysfunction over immigration reform when blackmailing her over her lack of citizenship.**

    I guess readers just judged the story on its own merits and that was an organic part of the character and so they didn’t feel a need to point out the issue. Maybe they thought it was a spoiler? Honestly, my sales aren’t so high that I could say there was either a drop or an increase b/c I gave a character a hot button issue situation. All I can say is that I don’t think weaving these topics through my writing has had an impact either way – I’m just getting judged on the story. The stories are, I believe, stronger b/c I have personal passion at stake, but I think readers mostly want to enjoy a good book.

    * the issue of immigration is one that I think is super-polarizing, and yet I don’t see addressed that often in genre fiction – with the exception of books actually written about that issue. Any examples? I’d love to know other romances or thrillers where a main character is struggling with immigration status.

    ** please, let my entire plot premise become out of date. I yearn to read that review.

  155. @Anna Richland, I mentally inserted all sorts of NOPE gifs into your post as I read. Notably the Nopetopus. And I agree; I actually had to read parts of that JG interview twice to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. I do not read his books any more. If I was an author, I certainly wouldn’t want him to blurb my book, in the “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas” theory.

    I can’t think of any book dealing with immigration that isn’t about it, and thus is Message Fiction. Nothing in the genres of entertaining fiction. In SF, people are sometimes not supposed to be on a space station/starship/planet, but it’s always presented as a resource issue, not a political one paralleling current policy. I’m glad it hasn’t affected your reviews.

    @Xopher my pal: someone’s gotta keep up the tradition on Whatever now that we’ve lost Ghlaghghee.

  156. John: Ohhh! That makes a ton of sense. I’ll remember that in the future. See, when I wrote that second comment, I thought I, qua me, had been placed in Moderation. I knew otherwise as soon as it posted. Now I understand what happened; thank you.


    I find China Mieville’s politics to be odious and I’m also trying really hard to convince my principal to let me include Perdido Street Station as one of the required texts on the reading list for my Honors Magnet British Literature class next year.

    I suspect I mostly agree with Miéville, and Perdido Street Station made me decide not to read anything else by him. Not that it wasn’t good, it’s just not to my personal taste: I don’t care for books where none of the characters is sympathetic or likeable (it’s hard to want the protagonist(s) to win if you wish they would die/vanish/shut the frell up), and I found that to be the case with PSS. And I found the ending, which I won’t spoil, a particular stick in the eye in that regard.

    But now that I’ve looked up his politics, I think Between Equal Rights might be a must-read for me.

    I think it’s wonderful that people with opposing views, like you and I, can have a civil conversation that results in at least one of them (me in this case) learning something useful. Thank you.

    Lurkertype my dear friend, while I take your point, mine is a context-matching substitution, unlike the name of Ghghlaghee (peace be upon her).

  157. Cthulu:

    McCaffrey was a good woman, and her writings are in no way what you’re classing them as. You should be ashamed, but you lack the depth of knowledge to know why.

    She was a good woman. Also a nuanced woman who actually had the character of Lessa address some of the issue in the story, as did F’lar and when Lessa telepathically manipulated him into killing Fax. There are many interesting aspects to Dragonflight. Cultural analysis of them is not the same thing as a personal attack on the author, and in fact has been going on in academia on this novel since the 1970’s. This particular issue has been a point of discussion about the book in many circles for several decades.

    As for insulting me, you have a “lack of knowledge.” I would suggest watching some of the others here for tips.


    Thomas Beale (Vox Day) did not lose a professional membership in SFWA because he had fringe views. He’d had them for years and been a member. He lost the membership because he hijacked SFWA’s own official Twitter feed, instead of using his own, and used it to throw racial slurs at another SFWA member who had been critical of his views in a speech, which was a violation of his membership. Jean Rabe did not lose her editorship of the Bulletin for expressing fringe views — which I don’t even think she holds; she resigned the position because many members of SFWA were upset and critical of material she published in the Bulletin, the newsletter of a professional organization, that they considered abusive, sexist and unprofessional towards female SFWA members. And that had nothing to do with her book sales.

    I don’t know about Card losing anything, so I won’t comment on that; he’s still a bestselling author who had a movie adaptation not that long ago. But if you’re going to bring up incidents as evidence, be accurate about the details. Numerous bestselling authors have very controversial views of one kind or another. That means that some people won’t read them because they are aware of and don’t like those views. But it doesn’t stop them from being bestsellers by people who do agree with their views or don’t know them and don’t care. And even bestselling authors who don’t particularly talk about politics always have loads of people who don’t like them, don’t like stuff in their books for social and political reasons, and refuse to read them further. So expressing views and book sales don’t have any particular correlation.

    Anna Richland:

    As I said up-thread, there is a lot of socio-political material in romance novels. Which is why telling romance writers not to talk about such issues on their blogs or social media while writing about it in their novels doesn’t make a lot of sense as advice. And good luck with your books! They sound interesting.

  158. Kat Goodwin:

    I don’t see much fine shading in the examples given. For those of us not in SFWA there’s little information about what happened with Vox Day, but it seems clear that he was ostracized for the content of what he posted, not for breaking some minor rule. Orson Scott Card was fired by DC comics for speaking out against gay marriage in unrelated media. Jean Rabe was forced out after allowing fringe views into a magazine she edited, which surely has a chilling effect on editors considering whether or not to publish manuscripts with unpopular views.

    This isn’t about whether or not you will frighten readers away. It’s about whether or not you make the gatekeepers nervous. The gatekeepers’ job is to consider whether or not you will make them money, and whether or not you will be unpleasant to work with. Your fringe beliefs can impact that decision and thus your career. It’s not the deciding factor — plenty of authors get away with offensive beliefs and behavior — but it *is* a factor, and it’s good advice for authors to keep their fringe opinions to themselves.

  159. I didnt know Mievelles politics but turns out we’re good. I couldnt finish Perdido Street Station because it was pretty clear it wasnt going to end well for the protagonists. The prose was amazing, but dont like noir.

  160. Remusshepherd:

    Well no, there was a public announcement on Beale from SFWA, and it was his behavior, which was a violation, not his views. All the views he expressed were views that he had expressed before online, again for years, as a member. If he had done those tweets on his own Twitter account, he would not have been ousted, since it would have been essentially any other Tuesday. And that’s the point — the “fine shading” is that he did not lose a membership for expressing his fringe views. He lost it for violating his membership agreement and using SFWA as if he owned it — for his behavior, and for putting SFWA in a difficult legal position with that behavior. It was not a “minor” rule break — it was an attack on SFWA as much as it was on the author he threw slurs at.

    Likewise, Rabe did not express fringe views, nor seems to have any, nor expressed them on social media, nor was fired or forced out. And the content she allowed published in the Bulletin did not contain “fringe” views either. They contained everyday mainstream sexist views and one piece of perfectly good fantasy art. The problem is that the material was inappropriate for the Bulletin in presenting material about women authors and editors, as the SFWA’s professional magazine, in the eyes of many members, who pay for the production of the magazine directly as part of their membership and are its main audience. She was criticized not for her views but for not doing her job well as an editor. And she was not fired, she resigned. Nor is there any word that the resignation as editor has affected her book sales with publishers. So again, the fine shadings are actually important.

    As for Card, he wasn’t fired for his views either, which aren’t again fringe views but mainstream anti-gay views (unfortunately.) He wasn’t fired at all, because he doesn’t work for DC. DC Comics was well aware of Card’s views when they hired him to write a Superman anthology issue. They did not decide to get rid of him because he suddenly started spouting these views as he had already been doing it for years. Instead, the artist who was going to be working with Card — and who also knew Card’s views when he signed on — decided that some people being upset over Card doing the issue was a problem for him, which is a personal decision, and he resigned. That put the project on hold, since it didn’t have an artist, and then DC Comics decided not to have that issue in the anthology, presumably paying Card out his contract.

    So that one actually comes closest as an example, since it was connected to Card’s expressed views, not inappropriate behavior, and since his project was dropped, if not directly due to his views but to the decision of an artist affected by the situation with his views. But that case doesn’t prove a correlation between book sales and controversy, since it was a collaboration that fell apart and never was produced in comics. Card remains a bestselling author, one of his short stories is being turned into a movie, and he has two novels coming out this year.

    So again, there isn’t any way for authors not to have readers make political and social judgments of them and their work, so the advice is impossible to follow. And there is no correlation between political views expressed on social media and book sales (i.e. readers, which the article above was about.) As for the “gatekeepers” — the publishers — they don’t care. All the big ones have authors who are quite vocally right wing and vocally left wing on their lists, bestsellers and less sellers, and the smaller ones it’s not much different. And Amazon surely doesn’t give a crap what the politics are of their self-pub authors. None of your three examples involved book publishers or books, and only one had anything to do with expressed political views.

  161. Not going to speak about Card, because I really don’t know how much the DC thing impacted his career. I suspect that Card constitutes your best example, though, and might be the one worth discussing with someone who knows more than I do about the incident. I’d be interested to read that. As for the other two–Jean Rabe left her editor’s job not because of public outcry, but because her employers (the members of SFWA making said public outcry were her employers) decided that they didn’t agree with her editorial decisions–surely that’s something all editors have to live with? Your employer does get to decide whether or not the work you actually produce for them suits their needs, after all. If that’s holding a “fringe opinion,” particularly with an in-house organ like the SFWA Bulletin, I don’t quite see it–if so, it qualifies as “opinions expressed in the work produced,” which kind of goes with the job of both writer and editor, both of whom I suspect will need to live with the consequences of actually having opinions, at some point or other in their careers.

    As for Vox Day–sorry. As a SFWA member, I personally didn’t find his expulsion due to breaking “some minor rule.” He specifically targeted and personally attacked a fellow SFWAn, on SFWA’s own official feed, speaking therefore as a member of SFWA and with the potential to be perceived as speaking for SFWA, too. If he’d done it on his own blog (which, come to think, he did, more than once, and wasn’t expelled for it), or even confined himself to responding to his fellow SFWAn’s opinions rather than throwing racial slurs around, I don’t think he would have been expelled–or if he had been (especially for something he wrote on his personal blog, short of direct threats of criminal action), I might well have followed him out the door. Maybe. I might not have–my opinion of Vox Day’s philosophy is slightly lower than my opinion of the gunk I scrape off the bottom of my shoe after a walk through the dog park, so I might not have been able to force myself to take a stand in his defense–but I probably should have, in that case. However, that wasn’t the case.

  162. >Imaginative if disjointed writing style too so I WANT to think good thoughts but I keep falling back on the creepy, menacing and pedantic. Consider me – hmm, ambivalent?

    It’s a mimetic hack. It’s designed to do that – it’s a crossover hack.

    Given the audience, it’s a very limited and conservative one. It’s designed to be a low yield weapon with slatherings of sark, irony and that old meme of “taking the worst of the enemy and converting it to a good use”. (If you want a better breakdown: I am trying, very, very hard to keep this in your realm).

    >Also a nuanced woman who actually had the character of Lessa address some of the issue in the story, as did F’lar and when Lessa telepathically manipulated him into killing Fax.

    The character you’re talking about did this **before** she bonded to a Dragon. So… now non-bonded telepathic characters can **force** others into actions against their consent… so you’re now claiming that the problem with Anne McCaffrey is **not** about dragons, but the potential that psychic females can control males?

    Be careful now, you’re wandering into a whole other game. [Hint: you’ll want to take the metaphor defense right now]

    >China Miéville

    Utter babe. Lovely guy, would have his children, great in the pub. Also not at all friendly to certain thoughts here (he’s a Marxist, Darling!)


    Terry died, terrible timing for all of this. Have cried (AND CRUSHED MINIONS) but am happy he went out in style.

  163. “Once you start compromising your thoughts, you’re a candidate for mediocrity.” Epstein in Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues

  164. >“Once you start compromising your thoughts, you’re a candidate for mediocrity.”

    Depends heavily if you understand the difference between Adaptive and Abaptive thinking.

    There’s a large amount of data on the latter [no, it’s labelled something else, go find it], and there’s a very serious point to it. Yes, many serious papers on it.

    If you’re being tortured / assailed by alien Elder Gods / can’t understand the world – the latter is the way to freedom.

    Small example: I proclaim my fealty to X, while also admitting my sympathies to Y when my actual sympathies is to Z. Because, you know, I don’t enjoy being tortured: those running the torture will never know about Z.

    It’s a mimetic hack that transposes and hotwires what the torturers want. Or do you really think that water boarding produces results?


    When was the last time you were tortured? Hint: you’ll admit anything, unless you’re **really** sneaky.

    Paradox. Meh.

  165. Dear ctein,

    I apologize for not noticing your response sooner. Your apology is most definitely accepted. I love text only discussions. I also hate them as they lose a certain amount of nuance.

    At the very least, we could have a grand time discussing the trials and tribulations of being a parront.

    We own a Quaker and a Jenday. Not sure if that is a Timneh or an African, but your bird is beautiful.


  166. remusshepherd:

    For those of us not in SFWA there’s little information about what happened with Vox Day, but it seems clear that he was ostracized for the content of what he posted, not for breaking some minor rule.

    It’s not a “minor rule” that SFWA’s Twitter feed is not to be used for attacks (and against another member, at that). It’s about the integrity of the organization as a whole, and its brand. To that extent, the content mattered, but only because there’s a clear rule about what the Twitter feed is to be used for, IIUC.

    VD knew all this perfectly well. In my opinion he was tired of being in SFWA after his laughably failed attempt to run for president, and decided to get himself kicked out so he could whine and stomp his little feet about how oh look, he’s being repressed.

    That no one was inclined to cut the scumbag any slack was probably because he’s been so toxic for so long. That’s called discretion. If he’d been an asset to the organization they might have given him another shot. To me (another outsider) it looks very much as if he was only too glad to be kicked out, so he could rally his lickspittles over his “unjust” treatment; and they were only too glad he finally gave them a legitimate reason (not an “excuse”) to get rid of the poisonous lout once and for all.

  167. (Sorry, my cut-and-paste from my text editor missed these lines.)

    Also, what Kat Goodwin said. I should make a keyboard macro with that sentence.

    And Mary Frances, who knows what she’s talking about better than I do.

  168. Sigh.

    Kat Goodwin failed the test. Really badly, actually: bad enough for some writers to think about their publishers.

    The benefit of A. McCaffrey (and other authors) was their emotional depth and ability to link into the developing minds / emotions of young women and give them hope in a world largely run against them, in that specific cultural temporal space and then onwards.

    In our dialogues I didn’t actually bother to use emotionally engaging terms (OH YOU DID MY BRETHREN, IT WAS LOVE THAT BONDED THEM REMEMBER?) that I knew were intrinsic to her voice. Why? Because I shouldn’t have to – you should bring that to the table or immediately know it. Once you reference Grass, you need to step up or frakk off.

    A.M. was far more nuanced than you claim, and I’ve put forward the worst [TENTACLES] boring boar defense and it still works, because your position has no merit.

    Hint: If you’re running around claiming that Dragons are Rape in 2015, you need to stop being in the business. It’s the worst case of pandering to USA trends I’ve seen.

    Any adult can see your argument, and any adult with any amount of mind can also see exactly how this is a metaphor and how you’re poisoning the well of literature under the aegis of ideology and sanction.

    I mean this seriously: you need to focus on the business and never be involved with PR again. You doubled, doubled, doubled downed and you still don’t understand the things you’re reading.


    I dare you to ask Miéville about this. Dare you to. (He might think you’re one of the characters in Harry Potter, btw – she was a minister of magic or a teacher or something, Harry had to write on his hand? Not my realm, but it sounds dubious)

  169. (That was the polite version:

    I’m not sure Americans can handle the term “Sanctimonious Cunt”

  170. So, who the heck is this Cthulu person who just exploded on the scene in a fog of condescension and a light drizzle of misogynistic slurs, which they seem to think constitutes some strange form of speaking truth to power?

    Their posts read like some sort of madlibs filled in by a child at that boundary-pushing stage where they say a lot of “bad words” in order to get a reaction out of any adults in hearing range.

  171. Someone who has apparently fallen into the old trap: “I couldn’t POSSIBLY love a book that legitimizes rape, so [this book] doesn’t legitimize rape even slightly and anyone who says it does is so very wrong WRONG WRONG as to be barely literate! So there!” Which in my opinion is particularly over-stating the case as far as Kat Goodwin’s rather mild and (also in my opinion) quite legitimate interpretation of McCaffrey is concerned. And–for the record–I love McCaffrey too. Whether or not lust that is mutually non-consensual is, in fact, rape might be an interesting discussion, but it is evidently one that we are not going to have here–and actually, probably shouldn’t, as it’s pretty off-topic for this thread.

    Readers do get tetchy when you critique a work in ways not to their liking, or suited to their world view. So it goes.

  172. Nicole: “So, who the heck is this Cthulu person”

    A number of descriptors come to mind. none of them are printable here.

  173. The oddly obsessive defense of McCaffrey (as if KG made the whole issue up; as if the tent peg statement wasn’t ever a thing), the whole “Cthulu” may have been mildly amusing at first. But it quickly wore very thin. And now, I’m starting to think this particular poster is using it as cover for being a run-of-the-mill jerk-ass.

  174. Cthulu: Again, you are really, really bad at this. I am not a twelve-year-old girl, and we’re done here.

    Cunt, slut, whore, bitch, etc. are made-up gendered slurs meant to intimidate, humiliate and control by claiming a woman is simply her genitalia and ability to be used for sex, that her genitalia is shameful, and by threatening that she’ll be hurt if she steps out of “her place.” It gives the speaker a buzz at saying that another person is not a human being. Which says a lot more about you than it does about me.

  175. Cthulu:

    Agreed, you’ve about reached the end of leeway. Do better from here on out, starting with being more polite to other commenters.

  176. The late, great, Nina Simone said, “It’s an artists responsibility to reflect the world around them.” couple that with what Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When you get, give. When you learn, teach.” I just can’t see writing a book without commenting on some controversial topic or another. You would have to exist in some sort of bubble where no outside information gets to you and then what in the world would have you to tell your readers? Your subject matter would dry up, I suppose.
    I write m/m fiction. My genre alone is explosive to certain groups of people who would love the opportunity to shut us down because of the content. We have to be bold, be daring, be willing to bleed on the page, say something offensive, say something explosive. You’ll be better for it. Ill be better for it. And so will the world. We don’t need pansy ass writers in any genre right now. Too much is happening. Things could tilt either way.

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