The Myth of SF/F Publishing House Exceptionalism
Posted on May 1, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 307 Comments
(This is not specifically Hugo neepery, but it is related, so again, ignore if the subject bores you.)
Recently author John Ringo (in a Facebook post previously available to the public but since made private) asserted that every science fiction house has seen a continuous drop in sales since the 1970s — with the exception of Baen (his publisher), which has only seen an increase across the board. This argument was refuted by author Jason Sanford, who mined through the last couple of years of bestseller lists (Locus lists specifically, which generate data by polling SF/F specialty bookstores) and noted that out of 25 available bestselling slots across several formats in every monthly edition of Locus magazine, Baen captures either one or none of the slots every month — therefore the argument that Baen is at the top of the sales heap is not borne out by the actual, verifiable bestseller data.
(This is all related tangentially to the current Hugo nonsense, as Ringo wanted to make a point about Social Justice Warriors and how they’ve tainted science fiction in general, except for Baen, apparently the lone SJW-free SF/F publisher, whose political/social purity is thus being financially rewarded.)
Sanford is correct in his point that as a matter of books from Baen whose individual sales can compete with the sales of individual books from other science fiction publishers on a month-to-month basis, as charted by the Locus list, Baen’s showing is modest (the May Locus lists, incidentally, show no Baen books, whereas Tor shows up five times, Orbit five times, DAW four times, Del Rey three times, Ace and Harper Voyager once each, and non-genre-specific publishers like Bantam and Morrow taking the rest of the slots).
But does that mean Ringo’s larger assertion (sales of SF/F publishing houses are down since the 70s except for Baen) is false? Not necessarily! Here are some reasons Ringo might still be right:
1. Ringo’s first assertion (SF/F publishing houses sales down since the 70s) is independent of how any individual title by any publishing house stacks up against any other title by any publishing house in the month-to-month or week-to-week horse races known as the best-seller lists. That a book is #1 on the Locus list one month does not mean it sold the same number of books as any previous #1; nor does it speak to the overall sales of any particular publishing house.
2. Bestseller lists don’t (generally) track backlist sales or month-to-month sales of books that don’t hit the lists but nevertheless sell steadily. A book that initially sells modestly but keeps selling regularly can (and sometimes does) eventually sell more than a book that cracks the bestseller lists but then falls off precipitately. If Baen books are good backlist sellers — and better so than other publishers’ books — then Ringo’s assertion could be correct.
3. Publishing houses expand and contract all the time, and some years are better than others. If you’re charting the existence of a publishing house over 40 years — genre or otherwise — then its sales history is going to reflect that. It’s possible Baen’s own history has been one of consistent (although, if so, I would suspect very modest) growth, as it’s stuck to its knitting, specializing largely but not exclusively in specific sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy.
Now, in order for Ringo’s assertion to be proven true, he’d need to provide actual data that show all of these things, otherwise, he’s just asserting. Does he have that data? Well, hold up for a moment, because I have some other things I want to get to first.
Ringo’s assertion could be correct. But here are some various ways that Ringo could be — intentionally or otherwise — putting his thumb on the scale:
1. Baen has only been in business since 1983; comparing its sales history to a house like, say, Ace, which was founded 30 years prior and whose own sales history went through a couple of boom-and-bust cycles (not to mention changes in ownership) before Baen even came into being, not to mention other publishers who participated in the business cycles of the 70s that Baen did not, might be misleading.
2. If Baen’s initial sales were modest, then growth from that modest number would not necessarily be all that impressive; one can grow from modest numbers to only slightly less modest numbers and still see significant growth, percentage wise. Likewise, continued growth can be fractionally modest and still be growth. “Growth” without context is not a useful metric.
3. Additionally, “growth” in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that what Baen publishes does particularly well in sales, either by itself or in competition with other publishers. Scale is important. If Baen sells “X” books one year, and another publisher sells 3X, and then next year Baen sells X+1% while the other publisher sells 3X-1%, then Baen has experienced growth where the other publisher hasn’t — and the other publisher is still selling a healthy multiple of Baen.
4. Likewise, “growth,” while a nice thing, does not necessarily directly equate to success as a publisher. A publisher could shrink the number of titles it sells but end up making more money than it did with a larger list by focusing on core titles, paring off costs associated with selling an extended list (marketing, touring, advances, etc) and negotiating better deals with retailers, etc. Whereas growth, unchecked and unplanned, can lead to ruin; off the top of my head I can think of at least a couple of publishers in the genre who experienced enviable growth and then fell on their ass because their businesses didn’t scale.
5. Ringo’s focus on SF/F publishers elides that other non-SF specific houses have done a very good job selling science fiction and fantasy in recent years. The Martian, arguably the best-selling adult science fiction book of the last year, is published by Broadway. Ernie Cline, whose Ready Player One sells very well, is published by Crown. Neil Gaiman is published by Morrow. George RR Martin is published in paperback by Bantam. Lev Grossman is published by Viking. It also elides the entire YA market, which is a huge market for SF/F, almost all of which is published by YA-specific imprints rather than SF/F-specific imprints. So even if Ringo’s claim were broadly true, with regard to specific SF/F houses, the claim is so narrowly tailored with regard to how SF/F written work sells today — and by whom, and to whom — that it is of dubious utility.
6. Finally, Ringo appears to fall prey to the old “correlation is not causation” thing, in that even if Baen is experiencing growth where other SF/F houses are not, it’s not necessarily the case that it’s because its authors (or stories) are “SJW-free.”
Ringo appears wants to make to two arguments: One, that Baen has experienced consistent, across-the-board growth in its sales where other SF/F publishers have not. Two, that this is due to Baen not publishing authors or tales that are “SJW”-y; only “cracking good tales” allowed, the definition of which apparently preclude any Social Justice Warrior-ness (although apparently may include any number of conservative/reactionary tropes).
The first of these, naturally, would appear to be the easiest to prove or disprove. Here’s what you would need: Baen’s complete sales numbers from 1983 onward, and every other publisher’s sales numbers, since 1970 (or whenever they started business).
You’d need the first to establish that Baen’s sales have indeed always shown an upward trajectory of growth, which is to say 32 years of absolutely unbroken sales increases (and you’d need to make sure that sales were actual sales — i.e., exchange of money as opposed to downloading freely available ebooks, which Baen laudably offered well before anyone else). I’m going to go on record saying that while this is certainly possible, I suspect it’s unlikely; if nothing else there’s likely to have been a divot in 2008/2009, when the world economy crashed and everyone freaked out. But it could be true! And if so, good for them.
Then you’d need the second to establish that every other publisher in the genre has seen continuous decreased sales since the 1970s. This will be more difficult. Some of the most prominent publishers in the genre weren’t around in the 1970s; Tor, the largest US SF/F publisher, as an example, wasn’t founded until 1980. Others have almost certainly seen their sales expand as their reach has expanded; for example Orbit, which was founded in 1974 in the UK but which is now an international house with the distribution might of Hachette behind it. Still others have probably seen their sales grow since their founding simply because they are new houses; Saga Press, Simon and Schuster’s new SF/F imprint, will see infinite percentage sales growth this year because it literally did not exist last year. That alone, I would note, would invalidate Ringo’s assertion.
(And in all cases, again, you would have to show that the drop was continuous — that is, no uptick in sales at any point by any of these publisher in at least 35 years. Which seems, well. Unlikely.)
This is of course where the quibbles and caveats would come, but, you know. Words do mean things. If you’re going to say without qualification that every single SF/F publisher except one has seen continuous sales drops for decades, while that lone exception has seen a continuous increase in the same timeframe, it’d be nice to see the evidence of that assertion. Actual data, please!
Which might be hard to come by, as several SF/F publishers are owned by, or are themselves, privately owned companies. Baen is; so is, if memory serves, Tor Books. They are under no obligation to offer sales data to the public. Also, what sales data is publicly available is often incomplete — Bookscan, the most prominent book sales tracking apparatus in the US, does not track all sales (I’ve noted before that it tracks only a small percentage of my own overall sales). Authors can eventually learn their own total sales, but the key word here is “eventually,” as royalty statements can arrive semi-annually, and record sales with a six month lag. And of course authors themselves have no requirement to accurately report their specific sales to anyone.
All of which is to say that I wish John Ringo joy in actually proving his assertion. It’s rather easier to disprove.
The second part of Ringo’s assertion, the implication that Baen’s continuous sales upswing is due to cracking good SJW-free tales, I’m not going to bother to address seriously, because what a “Social Justice Warrior” is at this point is something of a moving target, the most consistent definition of which appears to be “Anyone left of Ted Cruz who certain politically conservative authors want to whack on in order to make whatever dubious, self-serving, fact-free point they wish to make at the moment.” I believe George RR Martin has recently been relegated to SJW status for being upset with the action of the Puppy slates and the Hugos; this is a curious maneuver if we’re talking “cracking good tales” and sales numbers as a proxy for… well, whatever they’re meant to be a proxy for.
It’s also bunk because while Baen is being used by Ringo as a synecdoche for a certain subgenres of science fiction (and the non-SJW agendas of the authors who produce it and the readers who read it), I have to wonder whether Baen itself wants that responsibility or affiliation. I mean, as just one example, we’re all aware that Baen published Joanna Russ, yes? More than once? Joanna Russ, part of the “new wave” of science fiction that Ringo identifies as a proto-SJW movement? Joanna Russ, who was the very definition of what is labeled a Social Justice Warrior before any conservative or reactionary person even thought to spit such an epithet from out between their lips? That Joanna Russ? The only way that Joanna Russ does not fully qualify for retroactive SJW status is if the definition of “SJW” actually includes “cannot be published by Baen Books.” And yet, apparently, she could tell a “cracking good tale,” because that’s what Baen publishes. Strange!
You know, here’s a thing. I am published by, and frequently associated with, Tor Books. I have a pretty good idea of how the place works. I do not presume to talk for them, or to suggest how they might proceed with their business, other than in the most general terms of “They’re going to mostly buy and sell science fiction and fantasy.” Why? Because that’s not my gig. I think if I started to tell people what sort of science fiction Tor is only going to sell, or who it will publish and who it will not, it might eventually get back to me that I should maybe not do that. Because who knows how that would play out? What authors who might be a great success at Tor — and for whom Tor could do a great job — would shy away from the house because I flapped my gums in apparent certain knowledge of what my editor and publisher wanted? What damage might I do associating the publishing house with politics and personalities they might wish to stay far away from? How uncomfortable might I make other authors my publisher works with by asserting what will and will not be published there? And how foolish would I look if I asserted something about what the publishing house would never do — and then the publishing house went and did it?
That previous paragraph is not entirely directed at Ringo, incidentally. I’ve seen a number of authors published by Baen asserting what the house would or would not do, with regard to stories and books and authors, and what is and would be published, and what is and would not, and to whom any of the above is sold. I can’t help wonder how many of them will be surprised one day. Baen is a house that publishes some very good science fiction, mostly of a certain type, and, one presumes, largely to a certain audience. But I would submit that the type of science fiction, and the audience for it, is rather more varied than is currently being asserted. I can scan my own shelves and find at a whole lot of Baen, and a whole lot of other publishers. It all goes into the pot for me. I suspect that it might irritate or annoy certain folks (not Ringo, but some others, I feel sure) that I like, read and promote Baen Books, but you know. The hell with that stupidity. Being a “social justice warrior” means I get to read (and incidentally, vote for on award ballots) what I want, rather than waiting to be told by someone else what I should like and what I shouldn’t.
In any event: Let’s put to rest the myth of exceptionalism of Baen Books. It’s like Tor, or Ace, or Orbit or Del Rey or lots of other SF/F houses (and other publishers) you might care to name. It’s in the businesses of selling books. Sometimes it has good years, sometimes it has less good years. Sometimes its authors win awards, sometimes they don’t. At the end of the day, however, it does the same thing as any publisher: It publishes books that it hopes, when you get to the end of them, you say “I’d like to read more like that.” Good for them. Good for any publisher who does that.
One: Mallet out. You know. The usual.
Two: You’ll note I’m addressing Mr. Ringo’s argument here and not Mr. Ringo himself. He and I get on tolerably well as humans. Do likewise, please.
Three: Likewise, avoid gratuitous slamming of Baen, please. This all is less about the publisher itself than it is about the publisher being used as a stand-in for a particular worldview, which it (or its individual employees or authors) may or may not endorse.
I liked Jim Baen.
Jim Baen paid me for a book.
I like John Ringo, but, sir, he is no Jim Baen…
Moreover, I met and interviewed Eric Flint at a convention several years ago, and if he doesn’t meet the definition of a pure Social Justice Warrior (in the positive, non-Orwellian, complimentary sense of the term), no one does! He’s way left of ME, and I’m Canadian!
So if they’re trying to tout Baen as some kind of SJW-free bastion of liberty and manliness, well, not if they take one of the best-selling authors into account.
Shhhhhhhhhhh. He’s different.
As a fan of a number of Baen authors and a card carrying bleeding heart, it gratifies me to read this… I’ve ben wondering about my liberal purity of late.
That said, I read a number of authors whose politics I disagree with, including John Ringo when he’s writing with other people not directly about the heroism of the Bush administration. And I enjoy a cracking good tale. However, one of the biggest authors at Baen (David Weber) has a female heroine and often talks of sexism in his books. Now, I’m certain he’s right of me on the political spectrum, but that really does put him left of Ted Cruz…
With all these publishing houses, this is beginning to sound like Game of Books: House Baen versus House Tor versus House Ace (though Penguin would probably go with House Firebird, just for the heraldic possibilities…) (Damn, now I wish I could draw so I could do all the coat of arms). Sorry, what were we talking about?
I would think that the Free Library and related things would tend to boost Baen’s sales of not-current-bestseller books significantly. I know I’ve bought tons of not-recent books from them because of those, and that was the effect Flint commented on in his introduction to the Free Library way back when.
Publishers Beware: WINTER IS COMING. And we always pay our debts…
Has Baen author Lois McMaster Bujold said anything about how Baen is the scrappy little publisher whose ideologically pure authors are being blacklisted by the Hugo SJW Cabal, or is she being blocked by her record-tying number of Hugo Awards?
I personally am eternally grateful to Baen Books for their reprinting of the complete fiction of James H. Schmitz, one of my favorite sf writers now, then, or whenever. I don’t know what Mr Schmitz’s politics were — don’t particularly care — but given that he had rather more female protagonists than writers of his era (or ours) generally had, I’d guess that he didn’t fit into the stereotypical two-fisted Manly Writer some would assume fits neatly into the Baen Books catalog. If he did, so be it, doesn’t affect my affection for his writings a jot. He was a fine writer, told a helluva story, so thank you, Baen Books!
John — great article, and great analytics. I have one question that relates to an independent reason whyI personally think that Ringo’s SJW cause/effect argument does not appear hold up. That is, I don’t think publication numbers drawn solely from SF/F publishers can be used to justify the argument Ringo is trying to make, as what may be many of the most popular SF/F works in publication actually come through mainstream and multi-platform publishers. Is there a way to assess how many of the best selling SF/F publications exist in the mainstream outside the main SF/F publishers like Baen and Tor? One immediate example that comes to mind is Michael Chabon — someone who I am confident Ringo would not claim falls within his archetypal SF/F author — who publishis his works, including his Hugo Award winning “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union,” through Harper Collins. Another is Scholastic, which holds the publishing rights to The Harry Potter and Hunger Games franchises, by itself would present a major refutation to Ringo as he would be hard pressed to find any works at Baen in his time frame that have achieved the accumulated sales of those works. I realize those are Young Adult SF/F publications, but that genre would seem to contribute a significant amount of sales in recent years. And how can you ignore mainstream popularity when arguing that a particular viewpoint represents the greater SF/F attitude?
Anyway, all this is to say great Blog piece. I only wanted to note that there are additional logical errors in Ringo’s reasoning.
I like Ringo’s work, but its steady Fascist drumbeat ultimately turned me off.
Point of order: I would like to note that Baen books was “born” in 1983, out of an agreement reached between Mr Baen and Simon & Schuster.
I was not specifically aware that Baen had published Joanna Russ (with the exception of a couple of (very) small presses, I don’t usually pay attention to the publisher of a book), but I was highly amused to see it pointed out. :)
Baen has also consistently published Spider Robinson, who is very likely what you would get if you did a police sketch artist drawing of a Social Justice Warrior.
From what I understand, the chief criteria to be a Social Justice Warrior is to be someone that can conceivably be blamed for things not being the way they should be, that being Just Like The Good Old Days. Because no-one can break something that never existed, it’s not surprising that trying to work out who qualifies as a Social Justice Warrior is difficult.
Here’s the thing though: Baen can respond to this whole thing as it chooses. They have three basic options; refute the people dragging them through the puppy mud, endorse the same, or remain silent. I think silence amounts to tacit endorsement of the puppy positions. This is exacerbated by the presence of Ms. Weisskopf.
So, while I would not judge Baen on what their authors say, I think I can feel free to judge them on how they react.
As they have, in my view, tacitly endorsed the puppy position, they lose my business.
Voting with ones pocketbook is the only way to influence a company.
Another bleeding heart lib here, who also has a large number of Baen books on my shelves. Funny that.
I would note that the U.S. division of Orbit has seen sales increases every year of its short existence.
Reading this, as the other commenters noted, my mind went straight to Bujold and Flint as counterexamples to Ringo’s sweeping characterization of Baen.
Oh, John Ringo, no…
I doubt that his assertions will hold up to examination, because he’s starting with his conclusion (that “SJW” SF doesn’t sell as well as MANLY TALES ABOUT MEN), and then working backwards to cherry-pick data.
If he shows his math and I’m wrong, well, I’ll stand corrected. Seems unlikely.
“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”
— Robert A. Heinlein
Don’t know why I felt compelled to post that here, Just did.
I suspect ALL publishers try to publish books that sell. If a particular sub genre was consistently losing customers, and another was reliably adding customers, those publishers would start buying and selling the sub genre that sells really well. Publishers are in business to make money, not to flaunt their political leanings.
And yeah, I remember reading the article / blog / whatever it was a few years ago saying that Lois McMaster Bujold wasn’t writing REAL SF because some of her characters had romances with other characters… And Baen is her publisher. So by the definition of REAL SF being manly men having adventures in space with spaceships, weapons, etc, in her case Baen is publishing “pro SJW / not real SF” books… which then often go on to win Hugos.
I found Mr. Ringo’s argument that we lay this all at the feet of the New Wave is an even more interesting (and equally fallacious) argument. So, its been decades of destruction of science fiction by “SJWs”? Really?
It makes me think,once again, that the US 1960’s really is a place we haven’t moved past, in some minds, and that decade is the “original sin” that banished us from Eden.
And even if you went with that, I can just look at The Space Merchants, a critique of consumerism that long predates the New Wave, and just wonder at this longing for an imagined past that never was. Someone mentioned Schmitz above, and that’s another great example republished by Baen.
And, as you say, John, the idea that Baen is an “unsullied bastion of SJW free SF” is absurd with just a little research.
And how do they keep forgetting Bujold? BUJOLD, for Crom’s sake. A gajillion Hugos, and her most popular books published by Baen.
I have no idea of LMB’s personal politics, but she created Cordelia Vorkosigan and Ethan of Athos and a lot of other interesting folks across the sexual and gender spectrum who I’m certain John C. Wright (for extreme instance) wouldn’t approve of.
I really don’t understand why people think it’s a good idea to make large, sweeping statements that can easily be disproven, all in the name of trying to make their side look good, look right, and/or look like the winning/correct side. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and it feels like it’s just a way to start arguments. Someone makes a sweeping statement, others on their side take it up and claim it as truth (usually without doing research), and refuse to believe otherwise when someone else points out the facts. What good does that do? What does that accomplish besides starting more arguments? It makes no sense to me.
For the record, I’m not attributing this to any specific viewpoint or way of thinking or what-have-you – no matter what people are arguing for or against, anyone is capable of this and I’ve seen it happen all over. Sometimes from both sides at the same time. Just want to make sure no one thinks I’m accusing one side (of any argument) of doing this while the other doesn’t. It happens everywhere, sadly enough.
thomasmhewlett – Considering the body count on “Game of Thrones,” I’m thinking “Game of Books” could give an entirely new meaning to the phrase ‘publish or perish’. ^_^
I just took a look at my bookshelves and it seems that I have a goodly collection of houses and imprints. Yes, Baen is represented in there, but Ace far outnumbers them. Also a goodly collection of Dell, Bantam, Berkley, TOR, and lots of other really old or short lived imprints.
At the end of the day, I read what I like no matter who publishes it. Mil-SF? Sure, as an ex Army combat engineer I like a good whacking tale with guns and booms. On the other hand I also have enjoyed stuff like Ammonite where you receive a good dose of the unexpected.
Funny enough, two of my favorite Mil-SF sagas–Kris Longknife & The Lost Fleet–are both published by Ace.
Gully Foyle I think silence amounts to tacit endorsement of the puppy positions.
You can think that of course. But they might maintain their silence thinking “Oh for pity’s sake. We have books to publish. Let’s not not getting involved.”
That’s not a disgraceful position. It may even be smarter than you, me and Scalzi all typing our thoughts about the situation.
(Their other positions are effectively “The Hugos are a con, Worldcon is run by SJWs and VD is not our friend, but if he wants to walk on this path with us I can’t stop him,” which alienates a large part of their audience (and some authors) and “Larry, Brad, John, Mike etc. – what are you doing? This is nuts.” which alienates a large part of their audience (and some authors). Neither is a good business decision.)
May I say again that Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Ethan of Athos” in the 1980s, published by Baen, was the ultimate book that the arguments of Brad Torgersen and John Ringo would appear to imply have the wrong kind of cooties? And mayI say that Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen” currently listed as forthcoming in 2016, to be published by Baen, looks to be a book so SJW as to be SJW-raised-to-the-SJW power and to have super-cooties, even if it does turn out to have an Exploding Cuisinart on its cover?
If you ask me why I am more likely these days to pick up a book published by Tor rather than by Baen, it is because my experience is that Tor editors exert, in most cases, with some glaring exceptions, pressure on their authors to control their narrative arcs–that books have a conclusion, and that series have direction that lead to natural stopping points. With Baen, by contrast, my impression (which may be wrong) is that if such pressure exists it is internally generated by the author, with the editor not helping very much. Narrative closure is a very valuable thing in a work of fiction…
I’ve not spoken to anyone at Baen about it so obviously have no insider knowledge. But my expectation is that they are in a very delicate spot. Whether or not they approve of the puppy shenanigans, one of their current bestselling authors is directly involved and it’s very difficult for them to say anything publicly, pro or con. This may or may not be a sufficient excuse to you, but it’s at least one I understand. I’m not inclined to judge them too harshly for it.
Independent of this, I think both Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz are eminently worthy of Hugo Award editor nominations; I regret the presence of the slates makes the argument of their consideration more complicated for so many people.
I do wonder how the “Baen publishes True SF works with no politics, Tor publishes SJW drivel” contingent handles the case of Vernor Vinge, whose earlier works were published by Baen and then moved over to Tor. (His own politics are very much libertarian.)
Social Justice Warrior: any author who is NOT a straight white alpha male* writing about manly men doing manly things, often using absurdly powerful phalluses to get their point across and make everyone around realize just what gods they are.
*If you have to announce repeatedly that you are and ALPHA MALE… you aren’t.
This is even more tangential than this is to the Hugo stuff, but I can’t be the only one who thinks that “Social Justice Warrior” is an awesome epithet that we should totally own. Although we could maybe reserve it for those who actually, ya know, fight for social justice.
I feel more like a spotter than a warrior, personally. Except I’m yelling into my field telephone begging for air cover and everyone back at the base is saying “What are you talking about? There’s no enemy there. Didn’t you hear the war is over?”
Game of Books ??
Well, then. . . . .
Worldcon is coming. . . .
Thanks for your comment John
I fully appreciate the difficulty of the situation Baen is in. I just think that if this is the course they choose, which is absolutely their right to do, they need to accept that they are potentially alienating buyers.
And, depending on how things go, might they see their authors who do not endorse the reactionary mindset think twice about their publisher?
I certainly think it’s true that there is no consequence-free avenue for Baen to take (or not) in this particular situation.
Trying to figure out which nugget of text gives me greater delight; the insight that Baen published Joanna Russ or, “He’s way left of ME, and I’m Canadian!”
Thank you both, John and Metalwriterguy, for your insights this morning (it’s still morning where I am).
@Markjread, I agree, except I’m not a warrior, so I’d probably be a Social Justice Baker, or something.
To quote a favorite author of my youth: “They say? What do they say? Let them say.”
Gully Foyle: “I think silence amounts to tacit endorsement of the puppy positions.”
By contrast, I think it amounts to a desire not to get dragged into a fight they didn’t start and says nothing about whether or not they agree with the puppies. Whatever Baen were to say, they would have to spend enormous amounts of time and energy dealing with heated reactions. Look what happened to the writers and editors who decided to withdraw their nominations from the ballot, especially those who never knew they were on it in the first place. The puppies’ actions had direct effects on their careers, and they found themselves being used as ammunition in someone else’s fight and having no say in that. Even their attempts to remove themselves from that position earned them more abuse, despite their requests to have their decisions respected. I think the amount of bile spewed on a publisher would be even greater. Baen has no control over how outside parties use them as examples, counterexamples, or champions of crackpot theories. Refusing to get drawn in seems like a smart move to me.
If you see the options as A, B, and C but you think B = C, that reduces the options to two, and there are not usually neatly binary ways of dealing with complicated situations.
Baen does sell e-books directly, at a significant discount, if you are willing to buy their monthly package. It may be that these books are counted in Mr. Ringo’s numbers and not elsewhere. I am quite liberal in my political views, I doubt if I count as any kind of warrior, but I am strongly in favor of social justice. Yes, I sometimes enjoy a good Military SF story, but the truth is, the discount is so deep, and the package is published early, that I have bought a Larry Corriea novel in order to get early access to a discounted Lois McMaster Bujold novel. Or maybe it was a Sharon Lee & Steve Miller Liaden Universe Novel. I don’t read the Corriea, though. I tried once, and he is just not for me. And there is the thing – Baen has come up with a way to get people to buy books they don’t want to read, and more than that, get them to buy such books more than once! And yet, I keep doing it.
That’s the book club model. It’d be interesting to know whether Baen allows the authors to get a full royalty payment out of that, as must book club sales get a rather lower royalty scale. That said, for the purposes of this discussion, I think a sale is a sale.
Good post John. I would respect Ringo more if he left the post public. Doing that stuff privately, while certainly fine, smacks of “I don’t want to hear competing arguments or any disagreement” to me and decreases my respect for the piece. If a post can’t stand up to reasoned criticism the poster should, perhaps, consider that it’s not all that well thought out or supported by evidence.
I’m always puzzled, too, that social justice is held up as a bad thing. What, social injustice is the goal? sigh.
@mtlwriterguy As far as this whole SP/RP/SJW brouhaha goes, Eric Flint has been the smartest person in the room.
It may well be that Baen does well because they are a primary publisher of a particular sub-type of science fiction (milfic, probably), whereas most other sub-types are published by a variety of publishers, so those numbers are spread around a bit. No idea if it’s true, but it’s not completely ludicrous.
Mason: “I really don’t understand why people think it’s a good idea..”
Human nature. We have hyperChristians who dictate to God what He (She, It, or some Galactic Geek With A 20-sided Die, as the case may be) has done, is doing, and will do in the future. We have always had people who hate reality enough to decide that their imaginations are the only Real real (and apparently we have a lot more of them now). This whole “Puppy” silliness is small potatos (or potatoes, if you prefer). It’s what people do – get into big uproars about relatively minor concerns. Making big sweeping judgements based only on impressions and stereotypes is what these people do. [insert appropriate emoticon here; I’m too old to want to do it, let alone know how]. I don’t think anybody actually thinks much about it, beyond the basic hind-brain pleasure/pain response. How much of what we do is the result of any sort of actual analysis, let alone Deep Thought? Personally, I blame microbes.
Yeah, but I think we can all agree; no one has done better covers than the Ace 1980s H. Beam Piper books. Whoever that unknown cover guy was, I salute you!
My bookshelf is full of both Baen and Tor books (as well as many of the other publishers mentioned). Oddly enough, a couple of the Tor authors I routinely read are LE Modessitt and David Weber, examples held up by the Sad Puppy camp. A couple of Baen authors I routinely read are Sharon Lee & Steve Miller and Lois McMaster Bujold, who could, probably, be considered part of the SJW camp. I don’t think Mr. Ringo’s point about the ideological purity of a publishing house is terribly correct…
To be totally fair to Ringo, his characterization of Baen is similar to this ad that Baen used to put in the back of their books in the ’80s:
“Recently we received this letter from Travis Shelton of Dayton, Texas:
“I have come to associate Baen Books with Del Monte. Now what is that supposed to mean? Well, if you’re in a strange store with a lot of different labels, you pick Del Monte because the product will be consistent and will not disappoint.
“Something I have noticed about Baen Books is that the stories are always fast-paced, exciting, action-filled and seem to be published because of content instead of who wrote the book. I now find myself glancing to see who published the book instead of reading the back or intro. If it’s a Baen Book it’s going to be good and exciting and will capture your spare reading moments.”
Interestingly, there’s one Sf/F publisher that does apply an explicit ideological filter on what it publishes. It’s Castalia House.
I believe Michael Whelan did the covers of the Ace 1980s Piper books.
When I look at Baen on my shelves and ebook, I mostly see Lee and Miller, Bujold, Flint, Drake’s back catalog, PC Hodgell, early Weber (haven’t bought anything by him in years), Ryk Spoor…
I own 2 books by Correia — they were ok for airplane/bus reading but I’ve never been moved to go further in the series.
In the past couple of years I’ve been drifting toward an avoidance of buying things directly from Baen. I prefer the Barnes and Noble ereader format (it has page numbers) and I like having B&A around as grit in the gears of the great river, and I am annoyed at quotes from Baen officials that have been propagated. My theory is if I buy from B&A I help them survive, the authors’ cut should not be affected much, and Baen loses part of the distributor slice of the cover price.
I always wondered what Del Monte thought about that particular appropriation of their trademark.
The other technical point is how many of those imprints are all part of the same company, and in many cases have books edited by the same person. For instance, Neil Gaiman, Neal Stephenson, and Terry Pratchett are all published by HarperCollins (in the USA at least) and have the same editor, but at least three different imprints appear on the spines of their books, depending on which author and which format (hardcover/tradepaper/massmarket).
If Ringo is actually talking about numbers, where are the numbers? If he has them, he should provide them.
> ideological filter on what it publishes.
Perhaps that’s true, but the history is too limited to say for sure. I’d say from their own website it certainly has a stylistic filter.
Re: Baen speaking up or not
I think there’s a fine dividing line here and it will be interesting to see when and if Baen thinks it’s been crossed.
On one hand, no business (or individual) has any inherent responsibility to get involved in any conversation where their name comes up. 99% of the time that sort of thing is just background noise and the proper response is to ignore it.
The line gets crossed when discussions start to shape public perception of a brand. No one is going to expect Apple or Coke to comment every time a public figure mentions or is seen with one of their products, but you can bet they would step up quickly if they felt they were getting associated with or against any particular politics or movement.
The complicating factor in this case is that some of the people speaking are in a position to speak with at least quasi-authority. So it’s easier to make the argument that because no one more official is refuting them that their positions really are the official ones.
Yes, Baen is in a really tough spot, whatever their actual leanings and preferences are. But eventually they either need to take control of their own message or after long enough it’s going to be really hard to convince people that the people who have been speaking on their behalf don’t actually speak for them.
@ldgilmoure @zakur Yes, Michael Whelan who has 15 Hugo Awards.
From what I understand, Del Rey is actually kicking the ass of everyone else, when it comes to sales figures. They own the rights to JRR Tolkien’s work (Tolkien is the top-selling SFF author of all time), as well as Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury, etc.
Because when you think strapping, square-jawed hero, Miles Vorkosigan will be your first thought.
I think all my Baen books are by LMB, but I really don’t pay that much attention to who publishes what. Barring lots of editing issues popping up, I probably never will.
The “social justice warrior” label is an interesting bit of semantic jiu-jitsu, an ironic reversal of what might otherwise indicate a praiseworthy set of values and actions. In this it’s not unlike “politically correct,” though that term represents a more complex irony, in that it was originally used by some leftists to describe the positions of colleagues who favored actions or policies for their theoretical or abstract orthodoxy rather than their concrete, practical effects.* The right eventually picked up the phrase as a descriptor for anyone whose policy or (especially) semiotic analyses struck them anything from oversensitive/sentimental to Stalinist.
SJW seems to have taken a much faster path from descriptor to insult–I’m sure lexicographers are working right now to track down the origin and spread of the term, along with its semantic slide. (I was able to Google up a couple of amateur-lexicographer sites**, but haven’t found anything on the professsional side yet.)
* It was explained this way by a Marxist friend some time before the current usage took hold. She also explained “apparatchik,” which is a term applicable throughout human social space.
** One poster found the term used in a 1995 Canadian novel (I Couldn’t Care Less, Timothy Dugdale), where it seems to have a satiric edge.
I know this is slightly off topic, but Ringo’s opening, about white (European) men dominating art, music, culture, politics, and war for centuries is just amazing.
Not in a good way.
I mean, sure, okay, if you define “art, music, culture, politics”* as “things that white Europeans men do” then right, yes, white European men have dominated these fields for centuries.
Otherwise, wow, no. Pull your ethnocentric white European head out and enjoy something that’s not from your own culture one time, how about that?
*(War, maybe, I don’t know, that’s outside my field. Someone else will have to speak to that one.)
I see he’s already gotten mentioned, but isn’t Mr. Social Justice Warrior, Red-and-Proud-Of-It himself, Eric Flint, not only a Baen author, but also one of their main editors now…?
I’m beginning to think the long-term effects of Nixon’s “Suthrin’ Stagedy” was to make all conservatives into brain-dead inbred Bombs&JayZus! Dixiecrats. Unless Mr. Ringo has always been like this?
Actually, that’s not fair – William H. Keith, Jr. is conservative, and he’s perfectly intelligent.
Jerry Pournelle noted, in the obit he wrote for Jim Baen on his blog, that Jim Baen made a point of buying the works that he liked, particularly from older authors, citing Keith Laumer as a case, regardless of whether or not he agreed with their politics.
One gets the impression that, like Steve Jackson Games, a more accurate name for the house would be Baen’s Books.
Come to think of it, there are a number of parallels between the two houses. They both formed about the same time, and are both named for their founders. They both took an active and proprietary interest in the works the licensed, bought and published. They were both early adopters of digital publishing and sales, with a concomitant stance against DRM.
Between this and his diatribe about Redshirts (while bragging about having not read it), Ringo seems desperately determined to double down on the stupid.
If I were Baen, I would not be pleased with him.
I think the ‘mtl’ in ‘mtlwriterguy’ stands for ‘Montreal’, not for ‘metal’. That’s Mark Shainblum, creator of Northguard and Angloman.
As far as a definition for Social Justice Warrior, it always sounded directly ironic to my ears, and I naturally assumed it referred to the likes of PETA, whose antics are actually counterproductive to their cause, or those earnest young things who take it upon themselves to be aggrieved and offended on behalf of a population they’re not a part of, without, you know, actually checking with that group to see whether they should be offended or not.
One thing I’ve noticed about books published by Baen that may have a bearing on Mr Ringo’s claim…Baen generally publishes authors who write series. If a reader enjoys the first book they’ll most likely continue on, and if a reader enjoys a later book in the series they’ll likely backtrack to read the preceding novels. Publishing series seems to be a good way to consistently make sales numbers, instead of publishing “one-off” books that will be hit-or-miss in terms of sales numbers. Kind of a tortoise and hare situation, with the hare sometimes running fast and other times going directly into the stewpot.
(To me a similar model would be a publishing house that has a John Grisham/Greg Iles/Tom Clancy set of writers who consistently sell their next story set in their universe, vice one that has more of a set of writers who publish individual books instead of “series”.)
All I can do in the Publishers discussion is assert that:
personally, I’ve found that I like s-f books published by Tor considerably better & more often, on the whole, than those published by anyone else
Baen publishes Bujold, who (no offense to you, John) I consider the best s-f writer of the c. half-century in which she’ll have been producing books
Tor has more and better proofreaders than Baen, which has far more & better ones than Ace
And I hope Ace today treats its writers far better than back in the day they reported different sales figures to the pair of writers published in their “doubles” series.
Other than that… ummm.. yes, I think Publishers really ought to stay out of the Puppies kerfluffle entirely.
Series are fairly common across all of SF/F, for the very reason you note — people who like one book are more inclined to buy another book like it, with the same characters. There’s a reason why the Old Man’s War series is on book number six.
One thing Baen does that is less usual is pair up writers; it has more collaborative books than most SF/F publishers, so far as I can tell.
If SFF fiction has been dying since the 1960s how come it’s easier to find now than when I was a kid/teen in the 1970/1980s?
This is why we need better education for all. To teach critical thinking & basic logic skills to all. So maybe the next generation or the one after makes better arguments & knows how to find & use facts so they don’t look like idiots when they open their mouth/type.
Here’s a screencap of Mr. Ringo’s FB post: [Screencap snipped because it would display in comments here in tiny, tiny script and look terrible. Also it’s linked to in Sanford’s piece, so anyone who wants to see it can just follow that link – JS]
His dubious sales assertions were actually the most benign part of the rant.
I have to say that MANLY MEN BEING MEN doesn’t necessitate fascist/misogynist dumbassery in writing.
Look at David Drake and Eric Flint. Their books (the Belisarius series in particular) contain plenty of Manly Men–hell, the Belisarius Series is basically a bunch of Manly Men hunting (oh, Ousanas, I love you), fighting (Valentinian), and being manly (Rana Sanga, who loves his wife more than his life or even his honor), so much so that even the eunuch and the female characters are ridiculously badass (CLEAVER OF DESTINY)–and Eric Flint’s a bleeding-heart liberal, and Drake is apparently a pretty cool guy himself.
In a nutshell, I’ve got nothing against Baen. Sure, they publish a lot of right-wing rags, but that’s to be expected when you’re a relatively young publishing house that pioneered a large-scale free library. You’re basically forced to rely on cheap talent of questionable ability and palatability.
So no, I don’t blame Baen. I blame the specific authors who write material that I don’t like. Baen has published some great stuff along with the Puppies crap, and really, it’s not their fault. It is their fault for continuing to publish these guys, but again, I understand the economic rationale.
(written while miserable about a Bio quiz, not fully coherent thought)
Man, I can’t get past that cover. Ugh…
I agree that authors ought not make pronouncements that appear to speak for their publisher. That doesn’t strike me as a good idea.
An important thing to keep in mind is that social justice warrior is a term used sarcastically by Puppy bloggers and a variety of other people.
In one of his recent posts about the Hugo, Eric Flint described himself as a social justice warrior. He used to be a union leader when that wasn’t always a safe occupation, but so far as I can see, he isn’t actually an SJW in the sense that the Puppies mean.
I don’t usually follow Ringo’s commentaries. I wasn’t impressed with one where he built up this elaborate theory about Redshirts which he formulated without actually reading the book. I think he may be on to something with his attempt to change SJW to SJB for Social Justice Bully, because a fair number of people are getting confused.
Correia and Torgersen are well aware of Flint’s way-left-leaning politics. They don’t paper over Flint in their characterization of Baen but use him as exhibit A of a publishing company that strives to publish cracking great tales without making a litmus test of the politics of the author.
I don’t recall the Puppies mentioning Bujold, but she knows how to deliver cracking great tales that may make one think people across the sexual and gender spectrum. She’s the difference between fiction with a message and message fiction. Does anyone actually know anything about Bujold’s politics? I think her work suggests that she’s against the divine right of kings. If so, that puts her in agreement with all major parties in the US. At a guess, I’d put her left of center by US standards, but I really don’t know.
She has tragically been rendered immobile by her necklace of pins commemorating her Hugo and Nebula nominations.
Correia pushed two novels for best novel last year, his novel, Warbound, and Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men. Hoyt didn’t make the final ballot. I’ve not read the Hoyt work, but I’m told the hero is a gay man. Apparently John C. Wright wasn’t consulted.
I’ll step back from nominating a single winner for that prize, but he did write a couple of great essays.
Flint sees himself as disagreeing with the Puppies in a number of ways, but Torgersen praised his first essay a fair amount in the comments.
As far as I can tell, the post is still public, he just converted it to a Note, so people could find it easier.
John, I’ll also say that I think you are mischaracterizing his argument Re: SJWs in the publishing industry. He isn’t saying that Baen is SJW-author free (in fact, in the comments, Ringo repeatedly slobbers praise on Bujold and the Miles saga). He’s saying that they’re chosen on the strength of the story first, where he claims the SJWs in the other publishers chose based on the authors SJ credentials.
I fear that Ringo’s problems with research extend well beyond numbers; his apparent deletion of women authors from his memory banks is not confined to Bujold. Baen’s publications include one of my favourite books by CJ Cherryh ‘The Paladin’, which is fantasy, not SF. Nary a spaceship in sight, swords but not sorcery, and a heroine who simply wishes to kill her enemy.
Of course, he may not be the only Baen author who has failed to grasp that there are plenty of women not of the conservative persuasion who are happy to buy books by a wide range of writers, provided that they actually like the books. Oddly enough, we don’t have to be presented with a slate which tells us what books we should like…
Well, you know, when I look for a new SF/F book, the FIRST thing I do is look at the publisher to make sure I’m reading the “right” kind of book.
Oh, wait. No, I look for authors I like, then recommendations from people who have similar tastes in books. Shockingly, they’re all over the place when it comes to publishers. Heck, an author I have in my auto-buy settings writes for Baen… and also Tor, and Daw, and Luna (a Harlequin imprint). Same author. Yep.
See, I know some people like to read just one genre or type of book. I also know that there are people who read all different kinds of genres. Heinlen was on my bookshelf when I was younger next to Nora Roberts, and that… really isn’t that unusual. Unless you alphabetize your books or something.
I get that people like to identify as part of a group, but as soon as you start drawing the lines you’re leaving the vast majority of people outside of that group, and that never helps anyone. Seriously. The answer to whatever problems people are having with SF/F is not “fewer people and overall fewer books in SF/F”, but MORE. Which is what’s happening. Otherwise, you wind up looking like the Western section in bookstores — just Louis L’Amour. It’s all of one shelf in my local bookstore. Forest silent if only the best birds sang and all. I don’t think that had anything to do with Bantam’s politics, however.
I don’t really want my options to be a single shelf that hasn’t had a new book added to it in 30 years.
“Has Baen author Lois McMaster Bujold said anything about how Baen is the scrappy little publisher whose ideologically pure authors are being blacklisted by the Hugo SJW Cabal, or is she being blocked by her record-tying number of Hugo Awards?”
Other than stating she wrote Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen without a contract, and that when time came to offer it to a publisher she felt it ought to be with it’s Vor siblings, I haven’t seen her commenting on her publisher much at all.
2015 News Flash. The top ten ranked authors on Amazon in SALES in science fiction equal: 8 indie, one from 47North and one from Thomas and Mercer. Not a single author from Baen, Tor, or bumfuck press. Means readers of eBooks (and online print orders), you know those new-fangled electronic things that might have been in a science story from the 50s, are choosing and don’t care where the book comes from.
As a former Green Beret, I know about manly men; and the goats ran scared. Right now two A-Teams that were in-country at the time of the earthquake doing JCET training are now doing triage in Nepal. That’s real-world shit. And you know what? We got some tough women in Special Ops now too.
I have to say that as a Brit, and therefore naturally SJW to certain Republican authoritarian authors, that Miles Vorkosigan is the archetype of a SJW. LMcB’s universe is full of characters who clearly support a more enlightened and empathetic world view than many others in the Baen stable. I love the military Sci fi segment of the market, but am heartily sick of the boorish right wing nationalistic agendas which are pushed. I will mention no names, but will say that certain authors might have better global sales if they cut out the nationalistic crap and focussed on writing a good story. Personally there are some stories that are ruined for me by unnecessary nationalism, and some authors that even though they are capable storytellers I choose not to buy. I buy books to read and be entertained, not to be rather unsubtly brainwashed into American nationalistic fervour. Here’s to the mallet and being flamed….
Clicked the link in Peter O’s post at 4:03 and got “Sorry, this page isn’t available
The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.”
I seem to recall in the only LMB book I read (Captain V’s Alliance, I think) there seemed to be a high degree of focus on the female leads’ breasts from Captain V. Maybe that’s why she gets a pass and is a honorary Manly Man?
I didn’t really think much of the story, I thought it very pulpy (the writing style and general setting felt like something from the 1960s, somehow), but it was at least entertaining. And it didn’t win the Hugo, if I recall correctly.
Peter O: “He’s saying that they’re chosen on the strength of the story first, where he claims the SJWs in the other publishers chose based on the authors SJ credentials.”
Ringo doesn’t offer proof of that either. Anyone can claim anything they want. If he wants to make an actual argument, the claim is just the rhetorical flourish that hooks the reader or listener. Then comes the documentation and the logic and the careful weaving of what are clearly facts with what is clearly interpretation of said facts. A couple of GRRM’s blog posts about Hugos have been good models of taking a position and arguing it.
It’s kind of amusing to find out that the large expansions of the SFF market (largely due to increases in fantasy fiction but not entirely,) in the 1980’s and again in the early oughts, never apparently occurred, much less the expansion of YA from the mid-nineties to today.
It is worth noting that Simon & Schuster has a distribution deal with Baen and gets a cut of most of their sales.
In the 1990’s, the wholesale market (mass market paperbacks mostly,) collapsed and shrank in the U.S. and the world over. This was before anybody, including Baen, was doing much electronically. So there’s absolutely no way that Baen, which as a SFF specialty house utterly relied on mass market until the very end of the 1990’s, did not see a drop in growth in the nineties along with everybody else.
In 2009, SFF actually was a sales growth area for the big chains and bookselling for everybody and especially YA/children’s SFF. In 2014, fiction sales of all kinds dropped in growth, except for YA/children’s. YA/children’s SFF had like a 30% growth rate. (E-book sales have now leveled off in general.)
There is something very weird here in that these authors keep asserting that Baen Books is a political organization, rather than a publishing house.
The only Baen author I’ve read is Mark Van Name, and there are plenty of strong female characters and diversity in his Jon & Lobo series … also the protagonists’ causes are ones that SJWs would appreciate, IMO. I don’t choose books by what company published them – I choose books by whether the plot seems interesting and the characters seem relatable (though not necessarily similar to me), then I stick with those authors going forward. Isn’t that what everyone does?
I recall seeing data a couple of years ago, that the publishing market overall had been experiencing a steady decline in sales for some time, but SFF was the only genre that continued to increase it’s market share at a steady rate. Now whether this translated to larger overall sales for SFF books or simply a bigger share of a shrinking industry, I don’t recall. I searched but couldn’t find a link (still looking). It could at the very least indicate steady sales of SFF books while book-buying in general has gone down. As Tasha Turner pointed out above, it used to be a lot harder to find SFF books. When I was a kid, my local library had two shelves of SFF books. The nearest bookstore had only one. Now most chain bookstores have several rows of SFF titles, and at my local indie store the SFF section is nearly as large as the gen fic section. Their Science Fiction book club has the largest attendance, and the only time you see a Baen book on their list is if it’s Weber or Bujold.
Ringo’s claims are almost identical to the ones Correia and Torgersen use to justify their puppy activities – that nobody reads SFF anymore because it’s full of glittery hoo ha. Their evidence is anecdotal, not factual, and based on self-generated myths they repeat to each other and their fans rather than empirical evidence.
Then John is doing him a favor in that characterization. If Ringo is asserting what you say AND is wrong about the way that plays out, success-wise, then the indication would be that SJWs are intrinsically more likely to be financially successful. So simply betting on them is more likely to get you sales & business success than trying to analyze what is a better story.
More likely than either is that this is just sort of a stupid line of argument anyway. But that’s sort of the historical tradition when trying to find proof that your cohort is intrinsically superior and mom always liked me best.
Peter O.: “As far as I can tell, the post is still public, he just converted it to a Note, so people could find it easier.
John, I’ll also say that I think you are mischaracterizing his argument Re: SJWs…”
How can you tell that? I go to:
and I get a “broken link” message…
And how is John Scalzi mischaracterizing the argument? If I had to summarize Ringo’s argument it would be:
* Redshirts is a novel that has no redeeming social value other than that its characters are a diverse SJW cross-section.
* Redshirts won a Hugo
* Therefore SJWs are sacrificing story to SJW-ness and ruining science fiction
* No, I have not read Redshirts and never will.
It seems to me that Scalzi went the extra mile and more to turn Ringo’s argument into something coherent that could be examined…
JoelZakem, still works for me. Maybe it’s restricted to people who are Friends or followers of Ringo?
“He’s saying that they’re chosen on the strength of the story first, where he claims the SJWs in the other publishers chose based on the authors SJ credentials.”
I don’t know, Peter O. “Baen, which only publishes cracking good tales, has seen a continuous increase. Across the board. Not one or two best selling titles. (Which are never SJW, by the way.)” seems to be pretty clear that they are never SJW.
Admittedly, the placement of the parenthetical leaves some room for discussion as to what the “never” refers to, either the bestselling titles or the Baen canon as a whole. But if it’s the former, and Ringo is considering Ms. Bujold as an SJW (as you appear to imply he does), then the argument that they are never bestselling titles goes out the window, unless Ringo wishes to argue that Bujold, advertised by Baen as a New York Times bestseller, is not a bestseller. I suspect he would argue she’s not an SJW, either as an author or as a storyteller. I do believe that Ringo is making a distinction between SJWs (either in content or as person) and people whose politics are merely different from his own.
But if, for the sake of argument, Ringo is indeed arguing that Baen always puts story first and other publishers put Social Justice credentials first, we’re again at the question of evidence. By what evidence does he make this claim? Is Ringo privy not only to the editorial decisions of Baen’s acquiring editors but also the editorial decisions of every other acquiring editor at every other SF/F publisher? I’d like to see the proof of this; likewise I would assume that such proof would be disconcerting to all the acquiring editors involved. No one likes to be spied upon.
If such evidence cannot be shown outside of Ringo’s gut feeling, then he is, with all due respect, talking entirely out of his ass on the subject. Which is fine, but it would be nice to know that up front.
Mind you, speaking as someone whose books are acquired by other publishers, I can say with pretty certain knowledge that to date none of my books have been acquired because of my Social Justice bona fides. My first book was acquired because PNH at Tor (who was not especially aware of my personal politics at the time) enjoyed the story; subsequent books have been purchased by Tor because the previous books sold in sufficient numbers to justify further purchases. I recognize that I am somehow an unreliable witness to Puppy sympathizers as regards my own books and why they are acquired, but, you know.
So, yeah. Even if that is Ringo’s claim, it’s no less tendentious.
Well that’s always the game, isn’t it, Peter O? A black, liberal author couldn’t have possibly written an interesting story that editors liked, because she or he is black and liberal. It must instead be that the book was only published for having a black, liberal author. And then it doesn’t sell, because being by a black, liberal author it must be awful, and because, you know, publishers don’t care about that whole making money thing, no matter what Tor head Tom Doherty — one of Baen Books investors — has said on that matter over the years.
In fact, there’s not a single liberal author who is a best-seller. Oh wait, that’s completely wrong. Okay, there’s not a single non-white, liberal author who is a best-seller. Oh wait, that’s completely wrong. All they are saying is that people who believe in social equality can’t write good books, and publishers must therefore be pursuing political agendas if they publish them. Which on statistics alone is a ridiculous assertion, not even getting to the bigotry of the claim itself.
Not the Reddit Chris S.: Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is specifically from the POV of a character who has long been established as a slacker-underachiever playboy whose main goals in life are not having responsibility for anything important, and having a good time with willing young women.
The main catchphrase applied to him through many of the previous books is “Ivan, you idiot.” Bujold makes clear that at least some of Ivan’s perceived idiocy is Ivan deliberately setting the bar low so people don’t ask much of him.
Bujold gives both male and female gaze plenty of time, relative to the inclinations of the POV character. (She writes almost exclusively from a limited-3rd-person POV, sometimes alternating between two characters.)
In scanning the posts above I’m amazed that, among the lauded names of Bujold , Russ etc. given above, that noted multiple Lambda award (and CAMPBELL award) winner Melissa Scott has not been mentioned, as she began at Baen and had several noted works published by them.
Can this neepery be done now? I used to enjoy reading some of these authors until I found out too much about them– or in some cases, met them personally. . . . . . :-)
Their whole argument hinges on spectral evidence.
“SJW” means whatever they want it to mean. If a pinko commie is a best seller on Baen, then they’ll simply decline to label him SJW. If an author is doing something they dont like (but is no different than what they’re doing except in the opposite political direction), then they’ say he’s an SJW. If an author they don’t like also won the Hugo, that is “proof” of an SJW “cabal”, whatever the fuck that means.
There is no consistent definition to what SJW means that actually fits who they label SJW and who they dont.
What seems to have happened is they’ve found a label that is fluid enough to mean whatever they want it to mean, as they need it to mean it, but serves their purpose of demonizing their enemy as evil because they’re the enemy, not because of whatever it is that “SJW” people by definition actually do.
If I thought the folks using SJW as a perjoratve were actually concerned with logic and consistency, I’d challenge them to define in objective terms what the fuck they mean by “SJW” so that we could actually use the definition to determine who is and is not an SJW. Because right now, an SJW is whoever they say it is, and that’s all they got for an actual working definition.
So, unless SJW editors are entirely confined to SF/F, which seems incredibly implausible, the doctrine according to Ringo asserts that the Reacher books can’t possibly be bestsellers because the author spent two years as a trade union shop steward, which makes it blindingly obvious that he’s a SJW, and thus can’t possibly write best selling books.
Nope; it’s still not working…
DigitalAtheist @ May 1, 2015 at 1:47 pm:
Social Justice Warrior: any author who is NOT a straight white alpha male* writing about manly men doing manly things, often using absurdly powerful phalluses to get their point across and make everyone around realize just what gods they are.
Thank you for reminding of a great parody show-within-a-book in Norman Spinrad’s* A World Between.
*Not published by Baen as far as I know, and probably counts as a SJW.
mintwitch @ May 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm:
On Del Rey publishing Heinlein, Baen has 15 Heinlein ebooks available:
I don’t know about Del Rey, The “Official website” linked on their Wikipedia page seems rather uninterested in actually letting you find books.
mintwitch @ May 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm:
On Del Rey publishing Heinlein, Baen has 15 Heinlein ebooks available:
I don’t know about Del Rey, The “Official website” linked on their Wikipedia page seems rather uninterested in actually letting you find books.
Argh! Sorry for the 1.5 post error.
I think somebody’s Humanities education began with Victorian Men’s Adventure and ended at Lord Clark’s Civilization series, @delagar. Ringo seems to be completely unaware that both India and China had thriving cultures that exist to this day when his precious White European Men (WEMs) where painting our naked bodies blue and charging headlong into getting our fool asses killed by more advanced civilizations and their more advanced militaries, doesn’t he?
Okay, yes – he’d argue “Rome” was part of his WEMs, but to Rome his Anglo-Teutonic notions would be mere barbarian nonsense….
Matthew Stadler of Publication Studio gives a great talk about why they explicitly chose “Publication” as part of the trade name. In his opinion, the point of a publisher is to help a book find its public. Publishers would prefer to stay in business if at all possible, and so they want to bet on books that have big potential “publics.” Some authors struggle to find their public. Some authors surf the zeitgeist to determine what the public wants, and then produce works that are keyed to those wants. Most authors, I think, want to be proud of what they produce, but for a lot of them it’s a job – write a book/story/poem/piece, (hopefully) get paid, repeat.
And many, many authors do not appeal to me. Whether that’s because they’re actually bad/horrible writers, or because they’re good but not to my taste, or because they’re zeitgeist surfers and I’m uninterested in teenage vampire melodrama (for example).
But I always circle back to Mr. Stadler’s point – that the goal of a publisher is to connect a book to the audience that will most appreciate it. The audiences are overlapping circles, almost always. What the Puppies have done is put a “no weirdos” sign on their fort. They want to constrict the circles. Easy enough, especially in this day and age, when the democratization of production has allowed anyone to be an imprint unto themselves.
In the long term, however (and finally we arrive at my point about Ringo’s argument), you have siphoned off a vast number of folks who might have, in fact, been your public. If “only true sci fi fans who like space guns and stuff” can appreciate your book, then there’s going to be a lot of folks taking a pass. So, sure, crow about the consistent success of “books for right-thinking folks” (pun intentended). That will play for a good while longer. And then it’s going to be you and the same bunch of fans. It’s a living, I guess.
Not to entirely go off reservation, but I’ll mention that every time I hear news of the SFWA, I’m forcibly reminded of my decision to attend the Associated Writing Programs conference back when I was getting my MFA. I was frankly horrified at the blatent, endless careerism in every panel I attended. You’d think tenure came with free godhood in addition to dental. You can argue that they were all craven careerists, or you can argue that I was a shithead kid who’d read too much Pound. Similarly, Stadler’s notion is poetic and lovely and entirely suited for a company that doesn’t care all that much about making money, and a lot more about making art. Companies that want to make money don’t often have time for grandstanding about values. So again, to circle around to Ringo’s argument, it seems like an editor that picks up books with stories that need to be told, because capitalism’s bad will lose their job if enough of those books fall flat. Because, you know, capitalism’s bad.
I have a great many Baen books on my shelves, and have read a good many more that I haven’t retained. (I have shelves for about 6000 books, so when the total gets beyond that I have to cull, and tend to get rid of those I no longer think I’m likely to want to reread; when you get to your late 70s the odds of rereading start dropping fairly precipitously.) Weber and Flint are two of the authors I have more books by (some in collaborations, including with each other) than most, and most of their books are published by Baen, though my favorite Weber series (Safehold) is from Tor. And my politics are quite liberal. I even read a fair amount of Ringo back in the 1990s, but after that he got too overtly political so I haven’t read anything he’s written since about 2003 or so. The only thing I dislike about Baen as a publisher is what Don Fitch pointed out – their copyediting and proofreading isn’t very good.
My biggest gripe about all of this is that Ringo has spent sooo much time on this nonsense that he hasn’t written a book in the many universes he has in years. They have NO ending then he just writes a series of books that also have no endings and no timetable for the next one in the series. Even worse, like J.S. mentioned, he colaborates in other peoples universes. Hell even the zombie books he wrote that supposedly had an ending, really wasnt an ending. WTF. Only to read his emotional rantings that have not one iota of fact to back it up. I just want him to finish one of his series even if the universe implodes in the process.
On the “Baen has more collaboration” idea mentioned earlier: this is one of the features that I find most interesting in 21st century sci-fi. Both Weber’s Honorverse and Flint’s Ring of Fire have really gained quite spectacular web communities. And the latter case is really extraordinary in the sheer number of other people brought into the published series by means of discussions/story submissions ect on the Baen website. I actually have a rather soft spot for Baen because of this. I think big online collaborative ventures like Ring of Fire are *really* neat.
On another note, I find the assumption that many people have that military sci-fi means conservative politics to be a fascinating one. First, it is obviously untrue. Sure it is rather true in the case of Ringo and Pournelle, but it is certainly not a genre wide phenomenon. To pick the obvious one, Flint is (as many have noted here) extremely far left.
Second, it creates weird social dynamics where the MRA/Gamersgate ect types are shocked when they find out that [insert writer here] isn’t actually on their political side. I have a hunch that a large portion of the hostility towards Scalzi on the part of people like Vox is a direct result of them having thought that Scalzi was “on their side” after they read Old Mans War. So when they see their “new Heinlein” write a piece like Easy Mode, they react as if they have been back-stabbed.
Pretty sure that’s not the reason as far as regards Beale. I think his problem is straight-up envy.
Except that Baen isn’t their fort. They don’t own it and they don’t have any ability to put signs on it. They are simply posturing — we own this corner of geekdom and it is the best corner of geekdom where all the rest are crumbling into ruin and desolation, because your political views must turn all into ruin and desolation. To which Baen is actually going to just pat the authors on the head and ignore them, because that’s what publishers do with authors.
There is no separation between art and capitalism in retail fiction publishing. (And comparing academia and academic publishing situations to that industry is largely pointless because they have very different parameters.) It isn’t a binary. All publishers put out as much of a variety of works as they can (the overlapping circles.) The bigger the publisher, the more variety of fiction works, even with specialty publishers. Stories that need to be told because capitalism is bad (which is not actually what they’re up in arms about,) become bestsellers. And get turned into movies by big movie studios.
Again, the most successful author on the planet is J.K. Rowling, a liberal fantasy author who tackled prejudice and anti-Semitism, among other liberal themes. The second most successful author on the planet currently is Stephen King, a liberal SFFH author whose work frequently has liberal themes and who is active politically and in the media. King brought amazing growth in the 1980’s, not only for himself, but for a whole cluster of horror authors, many of whom were liberal, and for fantasy in general. Rowling caused YA to expand to ten times its size and helped adult fantasy’s growth in the early oughts.
They told George R.R. Martin to fuck off from their imaginary fort that they don’t actually have. I’m watching Game of Thrones this weekend, how about you? Right after I watch Orphan Black.
Baen publishes my feminist, role-reversed books.
Most of Mercedes Lackey’s non-Valdemar books are published by Baen. I think she would relish being labeled a Social Justice Warrior.
Read this expecting dreck and that is what I got…. Dreck. Just saying… I buy Baen published books 99.9% of the time just because I LIKE the books they publish. Hugo winners do not mean a good read and I have found that sadly more and more for the last 10 years and it has just gotten worst.
I realize we’ve been asked to bear in mind that John gets on fine with Ringo, and to behave accordingly, so I apologize if this goes over the line, but I have to say: who uses their sister as a rhetorical weapon in an internet fight over science fiction novels? There is no level on which the stuff about his sister being “a militant gay” and etc is okay. For that matter, if your sibling has been a “militant” homosexual for “decades,” uh. Do recall what the state of gay rights was “decades” ago. Pretty sure that whatever “militant” means, it was probably an appropriate reaction to the societal prejudice she would have had to deal with on a daily basis, and the evident lack of sympathy does nothing to make Ringo look good.
MERUS said: “From what I understand, the chief criteria to be a Social Justice Warrior is to be someone that can conceivably be blamed for things not being the way they should be, that being Just Like The Good Old Days.”
I see that criteria but then Chief Puppy Larry Correia isn’t an old time just like they used to be sci-fi rocket guy. He is nominated in the Good Choice Awards under “Horror” and his MHI style is somewhat a mashup of Buffy and gun porn. I like it OK. But it isn’t traditional Sci-Fi.
Is that a disconnect or did I miss something?
Yah know… people who use SJW as a descriptor have just joined into my bozo filter. If Ringo, who is a professional writer, can’t do better than try to lump people in a camp and collectively demonize them, then he’s simply not worth anyone’s time. At best, that tactic is intellectually lazy, at worst it’s a step down the path of considering people to be less than human and that road leads to very bad places.
Putting a group of people in an Other category (“oh, they’re SJWs…”) is a step down the road that leads to ‘and they’re not really fully human’ which leads to things that are truly evil. No, Ringo and many of the SP and SP sympathizers likely don’t want to travel down that road. But they’ve taken the first step on it and for me that’s a step too far.
Yknow, the sad bit is once I went to Baen’s Bar (their forum), and stated that I liked John Ringo’s work in general but felt the overt political commentary weakened the work.
It was… Well, the responses didn’t exactly endear me to the people there. This was years ago, before SJW became common internet parliance.
And I still buy the occasional Ringo book.
@jenora Feuer — thank you. I realized many comments later that I had spelled in wrong.
I applaud Mr. Scalzi for his use of the word “synecdoche” in his essay.
synecdoche / siˈnekdəkē/ noun
a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in Cleveland won by six runs (meaning “Cleveland’s baseball team”).
I pride myself on having a wide vocabulary. In the rare event I come across a new word, I can usually I can puzzle out the meaning based on context or by inference based on recognition of the latin or greek underpinnings. This one was truly a mystery.
I award Mr. Scalzi 1,000 SJW bonus points for his use of a word, which I assert most people don’t know or use, but the concept, is nevertheless in universal usage. (see also Aglet, Petrichor, or Armscye).
Double bonus points are possible if he can use Synecdoche and Petrichor in a single sentence of less than 12 words. Self reference like, “I was challenged to use Synecdoche and Petrichor in a sentence.” will not be acceptable.
John: Yeah, I meant something more along that lines of “the people who buy Vox’s arguments” instead of the “like Vox” that I actually wrote.
Though I have to say that I think his particular levels of ire towards you in particular require more than just envy to explain. I think envy is a big part of it, certainly, but it has to be some combination of envy and a sense of you not matching his ideological purity test.
I found this write up (http://www.philipsandifer.com/2015/04/guided-by-beauty-of-their-weapons.html) interesting because of how it found a relatively consistent ideological framework behind the works that Beale likes. In particular, the betrayal of the golden age is a trope that fits his ideology extremely closely.
I think OMW and its reception may fit into that narrative. OMW is a text critically heralded as an heir to Heinlein that is written by someone totally unsuitable to Vox’s worldview as a new Heinlein. Never mind that the actual Heinlein would be unsuitable to Vox. In this case, when he says “Heinlein” we aren’t dealing with the actual author but rather the ideological myth of the author created as a neo-fascist icon. By going after you, Beale manages to both evoke the golden age myth and also point at an individual who is a betrayer of that golden age. It’s a pretty powerful narrative if his audience buys into or doesn’t notice the rather awful assumptions that underlie it.
Of course, that is probably reading too much into something that is quite a bit simpler in reality. I am rather prone to doing that.
From the Facebook page:
why could white males, who were always seriously outnumbered and almost always seriously outgunned do all that?
For a man who writes about violence and weapons, the lack of perspective here is awesome. I can only imagine the bursts of joy when they watch Zulu or discover the history of the Gatling gun.
Ok, I’ll let you into a little bit of a secret here of why all of this is happening: American history is a lie.
Always has been, from tales of colonial rebels alone against the British Empire (France / Natives look on in askance), tales of the Wild West and Savages (thanks Hollywood and John Wayne, let’s not look too closely at the amount of treaties broken), tales of being the Democratic Peaceful responsible Nation in the world (South America says hello) and tales that the American Dream[tm] is all about improving people’s lives (Corporations say hello). And a hundred others.
Of course, I could write an entire book about this (and perhaps I even have), however, post the 9/11 fervour, and the two wars that went no-where, the NSA leaks, the inherent issues with police authority, Wall St. bailouts and a hundred other things.
The last big one, the one that’s really going to start some ruckus is the myth of Capitalism that’s been sold, which everyone is seeing crumble (Robber Barons, E. Bernays, Hollywood is as much to blame as anything else).
Reality is setting in, but no-one likes reality in America. Look at your prescription drug usage – even France has to step back in awe at the amounts of narcotics sold over the counter. 25% of all women on some form of anti-depressant / opioid? Ouch.
Hangovers and broken ideologies lead to conscious pain, and avoiding that always requires scapegoats. “SJWs” are just one. I’m sure there will be more.
As an aside, lifting the term “Special Circumstances” for your SF ninja housewife / Lovecraft mix is a bit hackey, given Iain Banks’ usage of it. Then again – Full Disclosure: I seemingly have never read a single one of John Ringo’s works, and literally thought there was some kind of Beatles meta-joke going on.
Off to nurse a hangover of my own.
I’m not John Ringo, but I think his “argument” was more “total sales in the field” than house vs. House. If you add in all sales F&SF, the Indie/Baen standard of good writing sells repeatedly, and better, makes his point. (Note: I’m an indie author, with 1 book published, and more on the way.) The “message is the major reason to write a book” attitude, as expressed by far too many “Trad 5” houses, is seeing lowered sales.
BTW, as you pointed out, “Best seller” stays is a poor measure. It means, as you pointed out, rapid sales in a short time. *Not,* anywhere close to total sales, which is the only one that matters. Selling 1K items, in just 1 Week, at $2.50 each, is not nearly as good as 25K, over a year (at $2.50 each).
I agree that ‘envy’ doesn’t really catch all of it, but I’m not sure that Beale actually has anything as sophisticated as an ideology.
There’s a subtle difference between envy, and ‘it should be me’; Beale is a failure who desperately seeks ways to convince himself he’s not a failure really. He’s skulking in Italy because if he returned to the U.S. he would most probably join his father in jail; is that the action of the proud leader of men he pretends to be?
The guy who’s going to arrange to destroy those pesky people in the US who regard girls’ education and female suffrage as markers of a civilised society, because the Taliban have the right idea, whilst he’s safely tucked away in his bunker somewhere in Europe?
He has the kind of mindset which equates offering a helping hand with weakness, and he found out the hard way that it comes from strength; John was the person who taught him that lesson, and he hates him because of it. That isn’t ideology; it’s fear. Unfortunately, frightened people do terrible things, often by procuring other people to do terrible things for them; that’s what obsessive stalkers do, and that’s why I have no patience with people who trot out the ‘he’s just a troll and Scalzi could stop it by ignoring him’ line. Its not only nonsense, it’s dangerous nonsense…
And which science fiction author was the greatest Social Justice Warrior of them, so manly, so mighty in his Social Justice Kung Fu that he kicked down the Social Justice door in Science Fiction, breaking the lock and destroying large parts of the wall… making it possible, by this mighty act, for the next generation of SJWs to simply waltz through as if they hadn’t a care in the world?
His name was Robert A. Heinlein, ironically the author most worshipped by the Sad and Rabid Puppies.* In 1955 he published a book called Tunnel In The Sky, which had a Black, female major character. (Given the realities of publishing, he probably wrote the book before Rosa Parks refused to get off the bus.)
In 1957 he published a brilliant anti-slavery polemic called Citizen of the Galaxy.
In 1961 he published Starship Troopers, which starred a Filipino named Juan Rico, who was in love with a girl named Carmenita.
In 1966 he published The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The protagonist as a Hispanic/mixed race person named Manual Garcia O’Kelly Davis who was part of a polyamorous matrilineal line-marriage. Manual lived in a society where rapists were killed horribly after nothing which remotely resembled our American notions of a fair trial.
In 1970 he published I Will Fear No Evil, in which an old rich man has a brain transplant into the body of a woman. The woman’s name was “Eunice Branca” and it was noted that she lived in “the ghetto” but her race was never made clear. There is also a Black main character nicknamed “Shorty” and I think one of the lawyers in the trial scene was Gay.
Then there’s the whole bit about Andrew Jackson Libby becoming female, which took place between books if I recall correctly, but was discussed in The Number of the Beast.
Sad Puppies hold Heinlein books up to their faces, but I don’t think they read them.
*They sacrifice goats.
I had not seen your post before I replied to Joel, since otherwise I would have included my response to you:
Could you please provide the link to your statement in quotation marks? You are obviously quoting someone, so it would be nice to know who; that way we can judge whether the person saying it has any evidence to support it…
Your interpretation of his argument doesn’t really work with what he actually wrote, however. He specifically mentions publishing houses, not the field in general; he specifically mentions Baen, not “Baen-like” writing. Nor is there any particular indication that indie titles, in general, sell more than traditionally published books, or that Baen’s style is particularly “indie.”
All of which is to say I’m not 100% behind your police work, here.
In the year between SP2 and SP3 I spent a certain amount of my web time checking out Puppy Blogs, just to see what they were up to. I saw a remarkable amount of, well, I guess I can best describe it as people standing around in a circle assuring each other that particular unsupported and unlikely-seeming assertions were true. Without anyone ever providing evidence or asking for it.
“SFF publishing is dying,” was one such assertion. I think Mr Ringo is the first one to push it all the way to “since the 70s,” though. “Baen Books is the only SFF publisher that is succeeding,” was another. They don’t seem to really *believe* this, since the logical next step is “So we don’t need to do anything about SJW authors and their publishers, since they’re going to go under any time now, drowned by the inexorable transfer of the SFF buying public to Baen Books” and somehow they never get that far.
It was never my habit to check the publisher before I bought a book. If I like the sound of it, I buy it. On the other hand, yes, I’m a woman so I like main characters to be women who are full human beings with a full human range of capabilities and talents. An author who doesn’t write that is going to lose my business. By contrast, it’s hard to lose my business by making your main character a minority, or gay, or trans, or agender, or disabled–if I do feel uncomfortable I will at least contemplate the idea that this is something so new I can’t appreciate it properly without trying it a few more times. (Mind you a book with this kind of protagonist can lose my business in other ways–being horror, or poorly proofread, or having clunky, awkward prose, for example.)
I’m very unlikely to give Baen up completely no matter what it does in the Puppy mess. Giving up Bujold and Hodgell and the Boundary series would be just too big a sacrifice.
When the Sad Puppies took the tack of “it was never a ‘slate’ it was just a recommended reading list!” I gave up on figuring out what they wanted or meant from what they said. Which goes for “SJW” also. It means “person who wrote a book I don’t like that nevertheless won an award,” as far as I can see.
Last year I was telling a friend about Sad Puppies 2 over the phone. When I started trying to explain why they were doing this, I floundered, because even then the rationales were all over the map. She had listened patiently up to that point, but then she broke in. “They’re doing it because they want awards,” she said.
She called it. They want awards. They know they can’t win them any other way.
Baen authors have a cult like love for their publishers which is something you dont see with other publishers. Does Baen treat them better?
Does Toni Weiskopf send them teddygrams and fruit baskets?
Baen authors have a cult like love for their publishers which is something you dont see with other publishers. Does Baen treat them better?
No author in this entire debate has actually mentioned percentages, so who knows.
Talk is cheap, percentages are not.
“Does Toni Weiskopf send them teddygrams and fruit baskets?”
It has to be more than that. Not even a fruit basket is atonement enough for the typical Baen books cover art.
Guess, and others:
I hypothesize that this cult-of-publisher-personality wasn’t actually (directly) created or even wanted by anyone (much) at Baen, but comes out of the “Baen’s Bar” forum. I haven’t spent time there, but I’ve noted a lot of signs pointing to it being a close-knit, supportive community with its own culture and habits of mind.
I don’t know if opposition to Tor and/or the Nielsen Haydens comes out of Baen’s Bar independently of Vox Day. I assume the opprobrium directed toward OGH is a meme that starts with Day, but again, I don’t know.
Whether these are salient points or just anecdata, I dunno, but:
– I have to laugh, in that Tor used to be edited by Jim Baen. In fact, I think it was the first and only imprint to plaster its editor’s and publisher’s names across the cover of every printing: “James Baen Presents: A Tom Doherty Book.”
– Secondarily, I also giggle these days at the fact that Baen Books was a direct copy/swipe of Donald A. Wollheim’s DAW Books model: a mix of avant-garde SF/fantasy with reprints of pulp-era stuff (or imitations – DAW had the rights to John Norman’s GOR novels for a decade or two), distinctive spine idents (the classic bright-yellow for DAW, glittery gold or silver for Baen), and distribution thru a major publisher who’d given up on SF/F themselves (New American Library for DAW, Pocket Books for Baen.)
Tertiary: the giggles now are mostly from the fact that DAW has been probably the most feminist SF/F mainstream publisher for a decade or two – and Baen has been largely the opposite for the same period.
Here’s the thing though: Baen can respond to this whole thing as it chooses. They have three basic options; refute the people dragging them through the puppy mud, endorse the same, or remain silent. I think silence amounts to tacit endorsement of the puppy positions.
Strongly, utterly disagree. Silence does NOT equal consent, and the assumption that it does can be pointed at as evidence when people want to use the “SJW” label.
No organisation, especially one which has a commercial interest in attempting NOT to alienate mutually opposing groups, has a duty to express an opinion on a social issue into which someone is trying to drag them.
Shorter this blog piece: http://www.thesaurus.com/browse/wrong
Besides what everything John and commenters said above, I don’t think Joe or Jane Q Public cares about publishers. Particularly in ebook, where Penguin Random House* is shown equal to JimBob’s House o’Books. They care about genres and authors. Thus, another strike against Oh No John Ringo’s postulate.
“I have a gay sister” is the equivalent of “I have a black friend”. Actually much less a piece of supporting evidence since you can choose your friends but not your immediate family.
And for crying out loud, if you’re using Social Justice Warrior as a derogative, does that mean you’re in favor of social injustice? Who in their right minds is against justice, freedom, liberty, and all that?
*I can never get this right on the first try; I always call them “Random Penguin”.
Huh. If Baen gives them bigger percentages, then that’s a rational reason to like Baen.
Hm. That’s a rational reason for SJW to like them, too.
I hypothesize that this cult-of-publisher-personality wasn’t actually (directly) created or even wanted by anyone (much) at Baen, but comes out of the “Baen’s Bar” forum. I haven’t spent time there, but I’ve noted a lot of signs pointing to it being a close-knit, supportive community with its own culture and habits of mind.
As a rule, this is something ANY company would want, and most companies have been trying to create in the modern era. But only a few have succeeded. (Might say that individual authors like our OGH have an easier time of it….)
Not the Reddit Chris S.: I seem to recall in the only LMB book I read (Captain V’s Alliance, I think) there seemed to be a high degree of focus on the female leads’ breasts from Captain V. Maybe that’s why she gets a pass and is a honorary Manly Man?
As E. has explained, this is because it is written from Ivan’s perspective, and Ivan has already been established as a chronic skirt-chaser. Interestingly enough, we have an EXACT demonstration of E.’s point in the much earlier “Ethan of Athos” in which the lead character, a man who has never even met a woman before, runs up against a woman who has been canonically established as breathtakingly beautiful – and is first puzzled and then frightened by her.
BTW, I just read the spoilers for Gentleman Jolie and the Red Queen. It’s possible that Bujold wrote it specifically to give John Wright a brain aneurysm.
Lurkertype: Random Penguin sounds like the name of an awesome party game.
Guess: I think there are multiple reasons why Baen Authors generally seem to have strong publisher loyalty. The Baen’s Bar tight knit fandom seems like a contributing factor. Jim Baen discovered a few authors from slush pile submissions, and I suspect that would generate personal loyalty from any author (it remains to be seen if that keeps happening).
Additionally, there is something to be said for the view that Baen itself does have a strong branding for a particular type of story, gung-ho adventures with a military influence (showing up especially the world-sharing and collaborative stories that often give Baen authors a solid boost in exposure and frequently in popularity). Not all authors published by Baen seem like Baen Authors, but I can understand some of them that brand themselves strongly.
@mickyfinn: Random Penguin makes me think of either one of the many critters in that movie Morgan Freeman narrated, or Opus the Bloom County penguin. Although I guess Opus was a particular penguin.
timeliebe: “I think somebody’s Humanities education began with Victorian Men’s Adventure and ended at Lord Clark’s Civilization…. Okay, yes – he’d argue “Rome” was part of his WEMs, but to Rome his Anglo-Teutonic notions would be mere barbarian nonsense…”
Indeed. My favorite passage from Cicero’s letter is the one where he puzzles at why Julius Caesar is invading Britain–not an ounce of silver in the entire island, and the Britons are either too stupid or too uneducated to make properly useful slaves…
As a long-time science fiction reader, I do not give the faintest part of a damn who publishes what. I care about authors, and they’re the first criterion in what I read. I find other authors than my favorites by random chance, an attractive blurb (or excerpt or review), or BookBub. Buy because it’s Baen or Tor or Ace or some independent? Yeah, right.
And when authors make ridiculous political assertions, I won’t read them. As far as I’m concerned, the Sick, Sad Poopies have shot themselves in the foot and can continue doing so, just higher.
Every time I see the “Baen only publishes conservative Military SF” line, I want to slam my head into a table. This is the house that published Esther Friesner’s Chicks in Chaimail series, which is entirely built around the premise of smashing the “warrior chick in a gold bikini” trope into tiny bits and then laughing at them. A quick glance at their backlist also shows Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey (her entire Urban Elves series came out from Baen, I believe, along with the Bard’s Tale series), Anne McCaffrey (the later brain ship stuff and Sassinak – okay, yes, that’s technically military SF, but it’s also one of her most SJW-y books), Elizabeth Moon (not just her SF, but also her first three Paksenarrion books), Andre Norton, and, as many others have mentioned, Lois Bujold.
Ok, military SF is what they’re most famous for, and what they’re generally pigeonholed as, but it is not and never has been all that they publish. And it’s *definitely* not all that’s made money for them, so I can’t see that changing in the future unless someone gets put in charge who really, truly wants to ram the company right into the ground.
Ringo bores me, both in his work and his personality. More, he’s an ass and so I almost certainly won’t be giving his future works a recheck to see if his or my tastes have aligned. Flint on the other hand is an amazing storyteller though as I have mentioned elsewhere, I am not a fan of his collaborations, hit and miss as they often are. How does either of these opinions affect my feelings toward Baen? Really, neither plus nor minus. Baen publishes a range of authors I either love, dislike or will likely never read but Baen itself is a professional organization employing good and passionate people. Hat’s off to them.
Oh, gosh, a new Cordelia novel. I’ve waited a very long time for this, and, having tracked down Phoenician’s references, I am really, really looking forward to watching skulls implode. Purely as a scientific investigation, of course.
Interesting that she had no contract for it but felt morally obliged to give first refusal to Baen. Heaven only knows how Ringo is going to try and fit that one into his worldview, but Beale may well succumb to a catatonic state, as opposed to slate, when he realises that his edicts have all the force of a wet paper bag…
I will forever mourn they did not choose the name Random Penguin when they merged.
@timeliebe and Brad deLong: I was reading Livy last night (in translation!) and came across this part where the patricians wanted to go back to the Good Old Days when the plebs Knew Their Place, so they decided to rig the deal to take away the prizes from the plebs so that only the Right People would win and have their voice heard.
Plus ca change.
I keep waiting for someone to bring this up, but isn’t Tom Doherty of Tor infamy a part owner of Baen? A silent owner, to be sure, but still. And as Don Hillard noted above, they worked together on some projects and to all outside appearances were friends who supported each other’s respective publishing houses. Please correct me if I’ve got the history or the facts wrong, but the two publishing houses seem to share more than they differ.
@phonecian in a time of Romans
I love spoilers so I immediately went looking for what you might be referencing. Is it the tumbler post referring to chapter reading?
I’ll be thrilled if it’s true, however I’m not sure it’s going to rile anyone up in the puppy camp. I’m not sure why but a lot of people seem to miss (or dismiss?) how wildly progressive Bujold is. A Civil Campaign had a well adjusted, likable, female to male transsexual playing an important active role in the plot, and he even had the nerve to live happily ever after. Bujolds most popular character has a father who is bisexual, and a hermaphrodite for a friend. She invents the uterine replicator as an alternative to abortion after rape…and then immediately explored all the issues that still remain by showing us a woman forced to confront a biological child whom she did not carry, did not want and cannot stand the sight of because the adult child resembles the rapist father too closely. Can you force a woman to be a mother?
After all she’s already written the rumors of what she has planned for the next book seem tame in comparison. But if Bujold doesn’t qualify as an SJW then I’m going to have to admit to really not understanding what the hell that term is supposed to mean.
Back in the day when I had shelf space for new books, rather than pile them up, I usually noticed the publisher once — as I scanned the spines of the books. Always intrigued by authors who always went with one or those published by more than one house.
Don’t recall ever buying a book based on the publisher. But often I did look at a book based on cover art even knowing full well of the disconnect between book and artwork sometimes.
[waited on preview for someone else to post, but getting sleepy. Sorry for the consecutive posts, John]
People above have noted the culture of Baen’s Bar, and after a few unfortunate interactions of my own, may I suggest that some folks may be conflating the politics of Baen’s Bar with the politics of Baen Books. And some of these folks might be folks published by Baen Books and who really should know better.
I enjoyed some of Ringo’s work, especially the Empire of Man stuff he did with Weber. He writes a good combat scene, and has an ability to evoke a heroic outnumbered struggle pretty well. And then he wrote ghost. I started reading because I got it in the eBook CD with one of the other Baen books. Then kept reading, because each chapter, I would think “surely, surely this can’t get worse” and every chapter, it managed to.
I decided not to read that series any more, but either having his personal quirks drawn to my attention so blatantly made it much more noticeable in other books, or having a tonne of people patting him on the back for the PoS series meant that he started letting those views intrude more into his other books, but either way, I don’t read him anymore. Co-writing Yay Nazis with Tom Kratman did him some damage in my eyes as well, but I initially thought that was him being dragged down by his co-writer.
To add a little bit of information here, TK publishing made a list of the most competitive Kindle categories. Now, it’s not a perfect match, but it probably accurately describes general shape of the book-buying market. Here’s the list of all vaguely Sci-Fi related categories in the top 100:
8 Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Paranormal & Urban
15. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Epic
16. Romance -> Fantasy
17. Romance -> Paranormal -> Werewolves & Shifters
23. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Science Fiction
37. Teen & Young Adult -> Romance -> Paranormal & Fantasy
51. Teen & Young Adult -> Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Paranormal & Urban
53. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Post-Apocalyptic
54. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Sword & Sorcery
55. Literature & Fiction -> Action & Adventure -> Fantasy
59. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Dystopian
60. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Space Opera
70. Romance -> Paranormal -> Witches & Wizards
77. Teen & Young Adult -> Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Science Fiction -> Dystopian
93. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Fairy Tales
94. Science Fiction & Fantasy -> Fantasy -> Historical
General takeaways: As reported everywhere, women buy a lot more books than men. The romance categories just dominate the list.
There really is a bit of a Hugo bias going on – Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance seem to be vastly underrepresented in the nominations compared to their popularity as a category. There’s certainly a much better case for them than MilSF.
Nice rundown of the data, JS. it really demonstrates how, even when a claim is true (and of course that’s a big assumption) it doesn’t necessarily mean what its proponents say it means. Our society needs to be doing a better job of teaching kids how to use this kind of critical thought and analysis as a BS detector.
And @ Alex R and Joel. Great points about Heinlein. I’m often very puzzled that so many remember him as an across the board, old-school conservative when his positions on many issues, social and otherwise, were more nuanced and varied by far. He was no liberal, and I never agreed with his positions on many, even most, things. And I enjoy some of his novels more than others, but to give the man his due, he at least tried to write stories with some diversity in them.
Heinlein also had romances in some of his novels (something I’ve recently learned no true SF writer is ever supposed to have). He didn’t always do it very well (Friday, FFS) but he did do it. I honestly wonder if all these aficionados of the good old days of classic SF ever read many of the authors they claim to idolize. But then, I can’t figure out how people keep saying VD is a libertarian when he wants to impose the laws of his one true religion on everyone and when he seems to think it would be a good idea to deny half the human race the vote (and reproductive freedom).
1-100 Random penguins was, of course, on the encounter tables for the Mountains of Madness RPG.
J. K. Rowling is an avowed Christian socialist. Recent studies in Italy concluded that reading the Potter books, with the themes of pure blood versus mud people and the crushing effects of class oppression always lurking in the background [or occasionally foreground], makes children more sympathetic towards the poor, minorities and gays. Obviously, Rowling is an SJW, and it has crippled her sales.
@Phoenician in a time of Romans
“Here’s the thing though: Baen can respond to this whole thing as it chooses. They have three basic options; refute the people dragging them through the puppy mud, endorse the same, or remain silent. I think silence amounts to tacit endorsement of the puppy positions.”
Strongly, utterly disagree. Silence does NOT equal consent, and the assumption that it does can be pointed at as evidence when people want to use the “SJW” label.
No organisation, especially one which has a commercial interest in attempting NOT to alienate mutually opposing groups, has a duty to express an opinion on a social issue into which someone is trying to drag them.
While I agree with you in principle, I think that it becomes blurry when the people talking are publicly and professionally associated with the people they claim to be speaking for. These are not random bystanders on the internet claiming they are laying out Baen policy. These are people who are presumably in a position to know one way or the other.
If a prominent player on a sports team makes a statement that their teams position on an issue is A, B & C, the public in general will reasonably hold the team to that unless someone in a more official position states that it is actually X, Y and Z.
At some point it crosses over from “Ignoring public statements” to “Allowing someone to nominate themselves as our spokesman”
@Nathand: So Space Opera only comes in at #60 and MilSF doesn’t show up at all.
The Platonic Ideal of Baen Books appears nowhere in popularity.
I wonder how they’re making so much money that some guy who doesn’t own them can brag on Facebook so confidently about them making so much more money than all those loser SJW companies. Must be beyond my tiny girly brain.
@all: Really, the lawyers and such who probably recommended against calling the merged house Random Penguin should be frowned upon. It would have given them an easily-memorable name that makes people happy.
Not having read through all the previous 153 comments…but re: the topic of Baen’s silence on the various issues of the day, and what this silence means: has it occurred to anyone that Baen might have asked Ringo to remove his post? While not taking sides, it would (if actually the case) be making a statement, perhaps along the lines of “You guys play your games, but leave us out of it. We’re just selling books.” Or perhaps something stronger: “Ringo, you DO NOT speak for Baen Publishing.”
Having just re-perused my collection–slimmed down by a couple thousand a few years ago–Ace comes out on top of the Sci-Fi I’ve purchased. Del-Rey and Bantam are neck and neck for second. Baen is a distant N-th.
So John, not that you’ll answer–nor will any others–how would Linnea Sinclair rate with the Sadly Rabid Puppies? She writes romantic sci-fi which is a genre I wouldn’t normally have gotten drawn into, except for the fact I picked up Finders Keepers on a whim based on cover art and back cover blurb. Imagine my shock as a 40+ male that I actually liked the combo of Sci-Fi/Romance!
So, where do I now rank in the world of SF?
P.s. Looking at my library I have noticed that a preponderance of my books are either by FEMALE authors, or about FEMALE characters. I guess that comes from a childhood surrounded by strong females like my mother and grandmother and having strong female contemporaries whom I admired for their “go forth and conquer the world” attitudes.
Ryan H: If a prominent player on a sports team makes a statement that their teams position on an issue is A, B & C, the public in general will reasonably hold the team to that unless someone in a more official position states that it is actually X, Y and Z.
I don’t think your analogy is well chosen. A publishing house is not made up of the authors that it has (temporary) contracts with in the same sense a sports team is made up of the players within, and most people understand this.
It’s not “Game of Books,” people.
It’s Game of TOMES, obviously!
And some of you call yourselves writers. For shame.
“When you play the Game of Tomes, you win or you die. No, wait! Make that — you publish or you perish!”
This argument baffels me since ever I first came upon it.
Sounds to me that there’s a (writer/reader) movement out there that somehow seems to think that _their_ genre got tainted by the inclusion of social mores and ethics… what the hell do they think SF&F (and writing in general) has ever been about?
@Phoenician: If a popular enough author, a title for which I think Ringo qualifies, who’s equally popularly associated with a singualr publisher, makes an open statement about his publishers possible position on certain objects, and if further this statement doesn’t get countered in any official way, then readers may well be swayed to believe such a statement.
Mind, this is not necessarily about baen losing an established readership, but about probably losing prospective readers due to them come to think of bean as a publisher that may actually hold certain opinions they would rather not see supported.
And for every “cracking good tale” from a publisher one may (as a reader) not want to associate with, I’m sure one can find an equally well written one from a publisher one feels less concerned about.
I have never paid any attention to who publishes the books I read and can’t imagine why I would give a hoot. I select books because I trust the author, have heard good things from people I trust or if a quick review of the blurbs on the cover or of the first page grab my attention.
I became aware several years ago that there are a couple of potemkin publishers, mostly of non-fiction, that print garbage (from people you have heard of – often a lot!) with a particular political view that always show huge numbers of bulk sales when they appear on the bestseller list. I also see those same books in the 49 cent bin at my local store so I have come to believe those (privately owned) publishers are making undercover (pun intended) political contributions. I would bet Baen is not like that & would not want to be associated with that behavior as it would damage their reputation & sales in addition to being unprofitable.
If Ringo is right, then mainstream publishers are leaving money on the table! They should publish tales of cracking adventure and use the profits to publish worthy, literary, socially just works. But you know how they could make them more attractive? Since they don’t care about the tales of cracking adventure, they could just tie the novels in with popular TV, Movie and Video game series. Man, why has no one thought of that?
Slightly more seriously, perhaps Ringo is right! Yet Baen books has not been able to expand it’s publishing line in numbers of books published a month. Why is this? Perhaps they have locked up all the authors who write good quality cracking adventure. Perhaps they have all the readers of cracking adventure, saturating the market. In that case, it would be a rational business move for other SF houses to publish works in other niches; after all if they can’t sell good cracking adventure because Baen’s got the whole share, why not sell to literary SJWs? After all sparkly rainbow SJW dollars spend as well as good old-fashioned red-blooded American greenbacks.
Slightly more seriously again: I could say, so what John Ringo, the free market will sort this out. But publishing is already distorted, because books are not commodities and copyright is a monopoly. I could point out that his American-centricity is showing. If he wants cracking adventure, he can find some in British imprints like Abaddon books (which does shared world and collaborations… now I’m wondering if some of the Baen efforts in this area helped inspire them) or a fair amount of the output of Angry Robot.
I submit that if he’s right then cold-blooded capitalists and red-blooded Americans would almost certainly have got together and started a rival publishing imprint that has even more cracking and yet more adventure. Except that other publishing houses are already doing this, already putting their own cracking adventure out, as well as their own literary SF, and their own SJW-fic, however that is defined this week. Just like Baen do.
It strikes me that if all of the words expended in Sick Puppy diagnostics and tossing the Baen bag to and fro were put to a better use, we might get more of them between hard covers (with hot art)! I personally like John’s stuff, with his Kildar series leading, and I admire him taking an apparently controversial position on these issues, however remember, “I don’t care what you say about me – just spell my name right!” :)
Thank you for teaching me a new word today John. It gives me great joy to learn new words.
Ringo must be overlooking the year that Jim put out Newt Gingrinch’s 1945 which nearly took down Baen Books. According to The Washington Post, “for every 100 copies distributed, Baen said 81 were returned unsold.” The article says about 97,000 copies were gathering dust in their Bristol, PA warehouse. So, I guess that wasn’t a year for growth, right there.
Other books might have covered for Newt’s lack.
That said, the email here is interesting (scroll to the bottom), both for the details concerning 1945, and the author of the email.
I really do get the sense here that Ringo is trying to get readers to dump books by Tor, Orbit, Ace/Roc etc because of the alleged SJW content, and create a “Baen is for conservatives” atmosphere.
I hope his taking it private was a means of stopping that mess from happening, but I do think he started out trying to pick a fight against a nebulous audience, and that’s neither a good idea, nor honorable behavior. If you’ve got a beef with an individual, pick it with them. If a group has problematic behavior, point to *specific examples* of the behavior they’re engaging in and tell us why they’re bad.
This has been the problem with the puppies all along – it’s always generalized Big Lie nonsense about how other groups marginalize them, or that there’s a secret conspiracy out to get them (We *can* point to specific examples here – Wright and Torgersen imply SJW collusion all the time, as well as nonsense like how Pratchett was excluded by the SJW cabal)
On another note, the idea the “SJW fic” does not sell is wrong and stupid. One of the few books Nightshade published that made any real money before they went bust was Windup Girl. Despite having flaws it certainly was “message fic” and still sold well. Paolo’s YA book Shipbreaker probably did even better, sale-wise (and won a non-genre award, IIRC).
Message fic sells just fine when it’s well crafted, and IMNSHO, the “message fic” writers out there are flat out better at both the art and the craft of writing than John Ringo is. Which is fine. I tend to like my greasy diner food as well as my haute cusine, but I don’t think the short order cook at the greasy spoon is a master artist, and that because more people eat at fast food places, fast food is inherently better.
For message fic to sell well, it really has to be much better and more interesting than “cracking good” tales of manly man adventure (we’re not gay!) among the exciting stars or what-have-you. Some message fic isn’t going to sell quite as well, but that’s OK too – there is actual room in publishing for books that are not best sellers all the time (Ringo should know – it’s where his books live) and it’s called “midlist”.
The City And The City by China Mieville is an example of that sort of book. It’s deeply interesting, and the “message” is really complicated. But it has a message embedded in it, as well as being a murder mystery. It’s an important book, and it needed publishing even if it wasn’t going to be a tent-pole title. Tent-pole titles make room for books in the mid list, many of which are message fic, and sell well enough.
Didn’t Tor publish Terry Goodkind, for fuck’s sake?
Ah, I was indeed looking for that post, as I had heard later that Baen needed bailing out to survive that mess. But I don’t know if there was any confirmation of that. It’s not like Doherty is going to tell anyone publicly how he’s invested, after all, and under what circumstances. Nor should he.
I do want to throw in that if Baen was doing so well that it wouldn’t have done an 180 on distributing their ebooks into Amazon two years ago. They were steadfast against this for the longest time, insisting that theirs was a sustainable business model and they didn’t need Amazon. It certainly implies that they were leaving a lot of money on the table, then.
“And I hope Ace today treats its writers far better than back in the day they reported different sales figures to the pair of writers published in their “doubles” series. ”
It’s been decades and many owners since Ace published the Double books.
As for different sales figures …
One thing that I long wondered about was which cover of the Double was returned for credit. In case anyone isn’t aware, mass market paperbacks are returned by tearing off the cover, returning it, and (supposedly) destroying the coverless book.
Turns out there was no preferred cover side of the Double to return and it was not unusual for a vendor to return both covers.
Which is not to say there wasn’t bad bookkeeping along the way.
Generally, I buy Fiction books written by authors who tell a good story very well. In the age of the Internet, I actually find myself wanting to know less about an author’s personal beliefs, habits, etc.
Keep telling good stories well, John.
Tom Doerty on Baen Books:
“And I was lucky enough to start Tor, and I don’t know if you know, but I spun-off Baen. I’m still a partner with Baen. He wanted to do a different kind of thing, so we created a company for him to do it. He — They, it’s now Toni Weisskopf who’s running the company since Jim died. I think they do some things very well.”
Away from home and don’t have my books to hand, but a quick glance at my Baen Books ebook library shows Eric Flint, Harry Turtledove, Elizabeth Moon, Phil and Kaja Foglio, Ellen Guon, Mercedes Lackey, Robert Asprin, Esther Friesner, Joel Rosenberg, Bradley Denton, and lots of Spider Robinson. There are many more in print. I don’t generally look at publishers but for quite a while I did find myself looking more quickly at a book cover with Baen on the title, largely because a lot of my favorite authors were there and it spoke well to me of their tastes.
I’m also noticing it’s been a good long while since I’ve sought out Baen books. The free library had me hovering around the site for years, and I’m always watching for the next Spider book, but even though I still get the newsletter it seems it’s mostly loaded with military SF and with rare exceptions that I’m sure would be heavily SJW-laced, MilSF doesn’t do much for me. It may not be all they publish these days, but it is what is most heavily promoted.
…and that should read “Tom Doherty on Baen Books” ….
I think what Ringo was focusing on was the Authors who Baen publishes that other publishers want nothing to do with because of their politics. Baen only cares that you have a good story politics be damned.
Flint has well and truly put the boot into VD and his supporters in his two essays on the Slates, and has similarly excoriated the inclusion of VD’s piece by the puppies last year. Larrie may be trying to pretend that Flint wasn’t critical of him personally for doing so, but it doesn’t hold water; all you have to do is read Flint’s comments on the subject…
mickyfinn: “And then he wrote ghost. I started reading because I got it in the eBook CD with one of the other Baen books. Then kept reading, because each chapter, I would think ‘surely, surely this can’t get worse’ and every chapter, it managed to.”
For a long, detailed, and fun version of a very similar reaction, in case you haven’t read it, see David Hines’s review of “Ghosts”:
It spawned the “OH JOHN RINGO NO” meme that tends to pop up around here when Mr. R’s name gets mentioned.
That explains why Tor publishes John C. Wright. And Orson Scott Card. And Terry Goodkind. To name just one publisher. Meanwhile, I’ve seen Brad Torgersen speak with confidence that Baen would not publish me; I’m pretty sure the implication was that the publisher would not consort of one of my political ilk. So a) I’m not entirely convinced Baen is the only publisher who is not hugely concerned with the personal politics of its authors, b) at least one Baen author seems convinced that the house does have a political litmus test, and that I, for one, would fail it.
(Note: Pretty sure Torgersen’s wrong about that.)
Hell, perhaps you need to do a single book deal with Baen, JS, just to watch them splutter…
I see that Catherine Asaro, one of my fave SF authors, weighed-in above to note that Baen publishes her novels. For those who haven’t read her work, you really should. But my real point is that her protagonists are warriors who are concerned with issues of social justice. It it were being used for accuracy and not to cast snarky aspersions, the acronym SJW would perfectly describe those protagonists.
BW said: “For a long, detailed, and fun version of a very similar reaction, in case you haven’t read it, see David Hines’s review of “Ghosts”:
Wow. I clicked the link. You talk about something that would even make a puppy sad….
I didn’t read anything wherein Ringo claimed Baen us a bastion of “manly” SF. Baen is, and has always been, focused on well-written stories. Bujold and Flint are deft at writing good stories first, social justice issues being integral to the plot and characters. The Sad Puppies argument is that SJ fiction subordinates story to message, and not always effectively. I tend to agree.
Bujold and Flint are deft at writing good stories first, social justice issues being integral to the plot and characters.
“As long as we like you, you’re fine.”
Josh Jasper said: “On another note, the idea the “SJW fic” does not sell is wrong and stupid. …Message fic sells just fine when it’s well crafted, and IMNSHO, the “message fic” writers out there are flat out better at both the art and the craft of writing than John Ringo is. ”
Is the issue that “only” sci fie should have a ripping good tale and not be message fiction. Or is the issue that message fiction is bad in any genre. Either being bizarre, but….
“The Sad Puppies argument is that SJ fiction subordinates story to message, and not always effectively.”
Oddly enough, the same argument can be equally made about a lot of military science fiction and/or conservative writers, who are not especially subtle about their politics in their fiction. This may suggest that many writers may believe their politics are not in their prose, but the readers may disagree. Or, alternately, if you are a reader (of any political persuasion) who is actively looking to see an author’s politics in their writing, you may indeed find them.
Or, perhaps, intuit them in the text even if they are not there. Again I would point out the fair number of people reading Old Man’s War, who assumed, based on the text, that I was a standard-issue American political conservative.
I never really thought of one publisher as more or less conservative.
But I admit I did always think of Baen as “the publisher with the wretched cover art”
The example our host provides represents a new level, I must say!!
I’ve enjoyed the Honor Harrington books (in spite of the horrible covers) and I liked the Posleen books (in spite of the horrible covers) Popcorn violence porn books really don’t call for fine art covers by Michael Whelan, though.
I’m not sure any publisher would ever change what they do because of what an author stated.
“Being a “social justice warrior” means I get to read (and incidentally, vote for on award ballots) what I want, rather than waiting to be told by someone else what I should like and what I shouldn’t.” – I’m not an “sjw” and I get to read what I want too.
I’m a fan of good science fiction. I don’t care who publishes it. Almost 50% of my library is Baen, but that has more to do with their publishing practices (bought a ton through webscriptions.net back in the day) and that I usually tend to like the stories they do publish.
When it’s an SF book by an author I’ve never read and the back blurb sounds even half interesting, I’ll go ahead and buy it if it’s published by Baen. In that same position with another publisher, I usually hit the net and see how the consumer community feels about it.
In the end though… I don’t care which publishing house puts out a good book. I want as many publishers out there as possible keeping an ear out for good material and feeding my habit.
It’s been noted that Baen has a fairly broad publication record, but a perception that it’s a conservative publisher, and also a cult of conservative devotees. I suspect this perception is one created by those devotees, who make Baen sound like the ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News to outside observers. Since nobody else makes such a fuss about publishers, they dictate the conversation.
I wonder if Baen was fine with this cult’s existence, both due to the personal politics of the editorial staff and from a commercial perspective, since a dedicated conservative base who think you are their refuge from gay sharia can be a reliable money maker. But now that this base is becoming louder and more destructive, and creating some monstrously bad PR by association (last year a lot of people assumed Vox Day was a Baen author), maybe they find it disquieting. On the other hand, indulging in it might be a sensible business move, at least in the short term, if it gets them loyalty from the conservative half of a newly polarised SF fanbase.
Alternatively, is it a question of proportion? The claim that Baen publishes a lot of conservative authors relative to other publishers is a different one to the claim that they publish only conservatives or only they publish conservatives.
Does John Ringo know that Baen once sold ebook versions of The God Engines and You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop (I know because I bought them there). The Baen ebook sales site also lists Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, but it and the previous two books are listed as not currently available.
I also remember that OMW (and several other Tor titles) was scheduled for electronic sale through Baen’s system but Tor pulled the plug on that (over DRM issues I think) just before it went live.
Well, Baen’s authors are, indeed, a diverse bunch; I am particularly fond of Eric Flint’s ‘J’accuse’:
“Harrumph. Well, I hereby and herewith name Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen and their followers to be “Romance Irrelevance Warriors” and denounce them for engaging in a dark conspiracy to deny authors who are way more popular than they are of their just due.”
One of the many points which seem to pass Ringo by is that the people who buy Baen’s books vastly outnumber the people who (presumably) buy Baen books and hang around Baen’s bar, denouncing many of the people who write and buy Baen’s books.
Let’s face it, Cordelia delivering the head of the Imperial Pretender – one of my favourite fictional moments – doesn’t fit into Ringo’s world view at all; he has to pretend that there’s no market for it in order to carry on babbling about an imaginary conspiracy…
An argument like “SJ fiction subordinates story to message, and not always effectively” is vulnerable to the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, even more so than the motivating example; there are, after all, people who call themselves Scotsmen, but nobody I’ve ever heard of describes their own work as “SJ fiction”. The slipperiness, essentially meaninglessness of the phrase, means that one can always wiggle out of a counterexample; if someone gives an example of a story where the implicit politics aren’t what you like but where the politics are an integral part of a good story rather than clumsily tacked on, one can always say that that’s not what you meant by “SJ fiction”.
For a similar phenomenon see Robert Conquest’s couplet (at least David Langford attributes it to Conquest; I’ve sometimes seen people attribute it to Kingsley Amis): ‘SF’s no good!’ they bellow till we’re deaf / ‘But this looks good….’ ‘Well then, it’s not SF.’
Another amusing Baen author. Elizabeth Moon published her space opera/milsf with them. She checks a lot of buttons designed to make VD and Brad’s heads explode. Woman writing Milsf (and cracking good stories) who is also an SJW AND a former Marine Corps officer.
One of my comments is in moderation; let this be a lesson for me to remember which iPad I’m using…
@DigitalAtheist: You have to turn in your man card. As a girl, I’m allowed to have Linnea Sinclair books on my shelf, but you middle-aged Manly Men can’t enjoy that icky romance in your space opera. Even if there’s a cracking good story along with all that talk about feelings.
@Frankly: When my local Borders had its going out of business sale, when it had progressed so far as to the actual bookcases already being taken away, and the Coke refrigerator, and the closed-circuit camera system, I wandered in to where a few tables were left full of stuff they couldn’t sell off. Most of them were those books you speak of. And when I say most, I am not exaggerating. Probably 50% were hardcovers by one pasty guy of Irish extraction, with another 10% by guys who share his viewpoint. They literally could not sell that for a dollar. The few remaining surly employees were trying to give them away so they wouldn’t have to pack them up later — and THAT still didn’t work!
@demonstrablyfalse: I am DOOMED (fashion-wise) if we ever get gay sharia. However, if we also get lesbian sharia as part of the deal, I’m good. I like flannel shirts and sensible shoes.
@Scalzi: I read that email you linked to before seeing the From: line on it. At which point I was gobsmacked.
I think that this FB post is not OH JOHN RINGO NO, but more “Oh… sigh John Ringo… shake head sadly no…”
I like Baen. I got quite a bit out of their free library, spent quite a bit of money with them as a result, and really like their DRM views and general publishing model.
I never realized they were supposed to be the ‘conservative’ publisher. I don’t really think about publishers at all.
They just had some free books, and I thought “Hey why not” and they had a lot of ebooks of older works that I picked up out of nostalgia. They sold me the whole Honor Harrington books (and my father, for that matter, who has a lot more time to read in his retirement) off their free library.
I also picked up everything PC Hodgell had written, since all I had before was God Stalk. Stupid weird lawsuits and stuff. I’d been wanting to read her further works for over a decade….
I mean now I can get it all through Amazon, but I make a point of buying the Baen books through them when possible.
And again, it all boils down to them offering older works for free — a very, very, very effective marketing strategy.
I read John’s essay. It said a few things about Baen. However, the thrust of his argument was that Baen doesn’t publish books that serve to only promote the thinking of the SJW, or on the basis of the author’s politics. Rather it publishes book on the basis of how well the story is told. i.e., The book tells a story people will want to read, period.
John himself said he was a SJW when he wrote “The Last Centurion” because it was message fiction. But, the message did not get in the way of how the story was told. I also read it, and it’s one of my favorite books.
I think many of the posters here did not read the essay. John has nothing against people being classed as SJW’s, just bad story telling. Sad Puppies had the same intent.
Reblogged this on The Blogdom.
Buy or boycott books because of the publisher? That would cut out much of my reading.
Heinlein is not their icon because he was a full-blown conservative. He’s their icon because many of his works have been heavily analyzed and criticized for depictions of women and non-whites. Of course, pretty much everybody’s works are going to get analyzed for social and historical context over time — it’s part of how we study literature. But there is vigorous protest that Heinlein cannot be analyzed in those areas and if you do, you are destroying him and yadda yadda. So he’s their poster boy because he’s one of the SF lions, did write some military SF, and has been criticized for social justice issues by some. That makes him declared conservative whatever his old author friends say, etc.
Likewise, Ringo announces that Baen has had nothing but growth, while other SFF publishers have faltered, even though he nearly a decade ago explained that Baen had a period of loss, not growth, in the 1990’s. Gingrich’s advance was unfortunately for Baen around the same time that the wholesale market collapsed, so making up the shortfall from the Gingrich gamble with other authors was probably not possible for a bit, and therefore led to the delays of payment. So Baen took a gamble on what was entirely message fiction and it didn’t sell well. But it’s only SJ message fiction that isn’t supposed to sell well.
So again we have a series of hyperbolic statements that are easily proved false by clearly evident facts, not only by outsiders and Google, but by the past statements of those who make the hyperbolic claims. The hyperbole is warmed over rhetoric that is similar to what you’d hear in 1915 or 1964, and what we hear from far right politicians now. It’s a continual ad loop. Baen is simply being used for fodder.
Authors who publish with Baen are not Baen’s employees. The house has no control over them, nor do the authors have any control over the house. Nor does Baen have much control nor care to have control over what authors do with their careers. Many of their authors will also publish with other houses and/or independently. So no, Baen isn’t going to say anything about some random hyperbole Facebook post that Ringo spewed once. That is in fact a really bad idea given that they have a license contract with the author and with authors whom Ringo accuses of being evil for their political and social views. They will pat Ringo on the head and ignore him. Now, if he were accusing them of something, like screwing him over in royalties, that would be different. But that would be fairly unlikely, as Jim Baen started Baen Books in part because he wasn’t happy with practices towards authors at Ace and elsewhere back in the 1970’s.
I…I guess I’m not a real man, then. Even though I have a Y chromosome and identify as male.
Because *gasp* I…I like romance with my SFF. I adore Protector of the Small (Raoul x Buri, OTP 4EVAR!!!!!) and its adorable relationships, I ship Bashir and Garak and love every minute of their subtext, and my favorite part of “Warbreaker” has to be Siri teaching the God King to be her husband.
I like romance. I like romance where both partners are into it, and develop alongside and with it. I love the dancing around each other, the clueless guy sure that she doesn’t like him, the friends blatantly forcing the romantic duo to be in close quarters, Bashir and Garak’s hurt-comfort episode….
Ahhh, my feels are warm and fuzzy.
I guess that makes me not a man.
sez marty: “John has nothing against people being classed as SJW’s, just bad story telling. Sad Puppies had the same intent.”
I call bullshit. Sad Puppy Larry Correia directly and explicitly said that he selected that one horrible VD story for the express purpose of pissing off people he disagreed with. Now, I grant you that the Sad Puppies side has produced statements which affirm that Sad Puppies is all about Good Storytelling Über Alles… but the thing is,GSÜA is not the only alleged purpose that Sad Puppies is allegedly all about. The Pups’ rhetoric/propganda has gone thru a number of intermittently-compatible iterations, all very MinTrue and Newspeak; this being the case, it’s hard to see any Sad Puppy declaration of the Pups’ ‘true’ intent as being of a piece with “we have always been at war with Eastasia.”
I’m throwing this in because I think it addresses a substantially different point than what Jon was talking about
I didn’t read anything wherein Ringo claimed Baen us a bastion of “manly” SF. Baen is, and has always been, focused on well-written stories. Bujold and Flint are deft at writing good stories first, social justice issues being integral to the plot and characters.
Like most of the people on the puppy side of the fence, this argument is noticable devoid of counterexamples. Oh, look! Bujuld! Flint! Good! Baaaaaad!
If you’re not going to provide any actual examples, I have no reason to conclude you actually know anything about the genre, or what’s written in it by these alleged SJWs. And note that just because a book isn’t to *your* taste does not mean it’s badly written.
What really annoys me about the entire Stupid Puppies’ conversation is its insultingly simplistic view of readers: we are either fans of SJW or of Manly Men, end the genre divides neatly between the two. Hence we have Ringo’s depiction of an alternate universe Baen that flourished by providing to Manly Men and their fans only the purest of Real Science Fiction Our Boys’ Adventures, with no nasty leftist or women’s cooties on the sacred pages.
But, as this discussion has made abundantly clear, instead Baen, and pretty much all other publishers, offer all the possible flavors – except, perhaps, ultra-pure small publishers who appear to exist entirely for idealogical purposes. But financially viable commercial publishers, like the vast majority of readers, don’t seem to choose books solely on idealogical grounds. Thus even a cursory reading of the comments here shows a small c catholic familiarity with authors all over the spectrum, and often as well a defiantly-stated intention to continue to read what they damn well please.
The puppies seem to miss the point that readers are a flexible-minded lot, and a work has to be egregiously political before ideology will trump a good read. I mean, I’m not a Christian, or a lady, but for the duration of Mansfield Park I totally accept that Sunday traveling and indulging in amateur theatrics are probably good cause for rejecting a lover. And you will only pry my Jane Austen out of my cold dead fingers. Similarly I have a fair amount of what could be characterized as Manly Men stuff about the house. How many of us are such purists that our bookshelves would fit tidily into one or the other camp? And why should they?
For me the most offensive thing about the various ilks of puppies is the attempt to corral writers and readers into one or the other camp, as if there were a huge fissure down the middle of the genre. Frankly, I don’t think you can sort all of sci fi neatly into two boxes, nor can I imagine why any sane person would want to do so. Maybe John Ringo is such a single-hearted reader that he can’t even bear to read Redshirts before discussing it, but most of us read stuff from all over the map all the time.
Amis/Conquest: The “SF’s no good …” squib is one of the epigraphs from the Spectrum SF anthologies edited by Amis and Conquest, who were good friends. It appears with other such epigraphs as “Spectra” in a solo Conquest collection, The Abomination of Moab, but not in any of Amis’s verse collections.
“I grant you that the Sad Puppies side has produced statements which affirm that Sad Puppies is all about Good Storytelling Über Alles”
Yeah, they keep saying that, and then putting up stories which mostly fail to even reach the dizzying heights of mediocrity. I waded through the puppy droppings last year, hoping to find something decent amongst the dross, to no avail.
This year, I’m going to read the slate works, but I can see No Award getting a workout. To my mind, the Hugo is not “best of a bunch of puppy crap that happened to make it onto the ballot”, it’s the best of SF/F, and I’ve no compunction No Awarding a category if the story sucks.
Though I always No Award the long form editor as I’ve no idea how readers can make an educated judgement on that one.
Stevie: Let’s face it, Cordelia delivering the head of the Imperial Pretender – one of my favourite fictional moments – doesn’t fit into Ringo’s world view at all; he has to pretend that there’s no market for it in order to carry on babbling about an imaginary conspiracy…
Who else but a namby-pamby liberal would find a woman’s shopping expedition interesting?
There’s a Terry Pratchett quote (from Maskerade, I believe) which is, roughly, that is is the dream of all publishers to make so much money that they need to employ people just to hold their trousers up.
It is, perhaps, a tad cynical, but it does seem to keep popping into my head when I try to image an industry so famous for chasing trends (hello erotica authors who suddenly and briefly found themselves in clover after EL ̶W̶i̶s̶t̶y̶ James’s triumph!) would decide as one over decades that they would not bother even finding out why that impudent young upstart might be making more money, because profits, eh, who needs them.
This sounds like a lot of the rhetoric we’ve been hearing from the Puppies. I’m betting this stuff is prominent in Baen’s Bar (which may well have been the source for some of it).
The upshot IMHO is that the culture of Baen’s Bar is making it hard for some Baen authors to recognize the realities of their own industry.
Kat Goodwin continues to translate short form (allusions, hints and snifters) into readable and cogent prose, which is a blessing. (If ever there was a case for Nominative determinism, we’re getting closer).
A FB post is propaganda – as is this blog, in a way (a tool is never always negative, it’s merely easier to use it in that fashion, takes a little more skill to wield it respectfully).
Take the silver lining – if ever there were a time where all sides were reading each others’ thoughts, it’s now a tumbling snowball of special snowflakes and rigid snowmen*. Of course, one melts slower than the other. (Yes, GRRM, we know, “Winter is coming” – I have to say I’m perhaps one of the few who doesn’t rate the novels too highly, they suffer the WoT problem).
In the spirit of the times:
*It’s only a carrot, and only rabbits will care how big it is when you’ve melted.
sez me: “I grant you that the Sad Puppies side has produced statements which affirm that Sad Puppies is all about Good Storytelling Über Alles”
sez not the reddit chris s.: “Yeah, they keep saying that, and then putting up stories which mostly fail to even reach the dizzying heights of mediocrity. I waded through the puppy droppings last year, hoping to find something decent amongst the dross, to no avail.”
Vigorous agreement. To buy the Puppies’ pravda about aw-shucks-we’re-just-tryna-promote-Good-Storytelling, you not only have to ignore all their words about all the other purposes they’ve claimed for themselves, but you also have to ignore all their actions which directly refute said aw-shucks-we’re-just-tryna-promote-Good-Storytelling words.
I choose to believe that Marty, the guy I was responding to, is simply ignorant of most/all of the backstory of l’affaire Puppies. If he comes back later and proves otherwise, well, such is life.
One of the things I keep stumbling over, whenever the Puppies crowd gets going about what they see themselves doing and why, is the response, “But geez, why bother?”
I certainly understand the satisfaction in giving a tweak to people one thinks ill of. Snark is part of a balanced mental diet, as far as I can tell, and so’s a bit of Schadenfreude. But so too is a recognition that time spent obsessing over one’s perceived enemies and dedicating yourself to making them unhappy is almost certainly time that could have been better spent. I don’t care about a lot of groups enough to go out of my way to make them unhappy, and particularly not when there’s collateral damage. It would never occur to me for more than some very brief moment that it might be worth, say, pushing a Hugo candidate primarily because I think they’d offend some other part of the Hugo constituency, and if it did occur to me I wouldn’t be inclined to act on on, and if I started to, I expect that friends would sit me down and talk sense to me about it. It just wouldn’t happen.
Likewise with a bunch of the rest of their crusade. I simply don’t understand hating and obsessing over others in that kind of way.
Folks who also find the Puppies’ cavalier disregard for facts, consistency, etc., and who don’t know Harry Frankfurt’s essay “On Bullshit” (PDF link) may find it some solace in the midst of it. Says the professor:
That certainly seems to be what we’re witnessing. The combination of obsessive hatred and disregard for any verifiable truth gets us…this.
Interestingly enough, Eric Flint waded into this mess after he discovered that he was being cited as an example of someone unfairly deprived of awards because of his conservative/libertarian views; since he doesn’t have conservative/libertarian views this is so far from having any basis in truth that bullshit is an understatement.
This willingness to completely misrepresent the facts in pursuit of their goals has characterised the sad and rabid puppies from the start; quite clearly Baen could not object to Eric setting the record straight on his website, whereas it does have a legitimate right to object to an author purporting to talk on Baen’s behalf about Baen’s business.
Again, the fact that this seems to have come as a surprise to some, if not all, of the puppies and their acolytes suggests that they have insulated themselves into a little corner where anything which conflicts with their desires is deemed not to exist. Whilst I applaud Cubist’s ethics I suspect that Marty does not wish to read, for example, Flint’s essays because that would mean he would have to reconcile two of Baen’s authors flatly contradicting each other, in a situation where only one of the authors is proffering anything in the way of facts to support his arguments.
I have been trying to wade through some of the stuff on the slate; it hasn’t sapped my will to live, though I have detected a hitherto unknown part of my character which suggests that anyone with an outhouse and a hook could find a use for the paper. I can, however, say that if this is supposed to be about good storytelling then they have indisputably failed on the stuff I’ve seen so far…
@May Tree: “Game of Tomes”!!! That’s awesome and I am kicking myself for not having thought of it.
Baen doesn’t need to weigh in; Weisskopf already has, in the past, and in ways and venues that really make it feel like a Baen response (come on, she runs the place). Remember last year’s fugghead/Heinlein/culture war ramble? Also I remember Facebook comments before that, pretending neutrality, but basically a nod-and-wink agreeing with some rant from her author about the Hugos being unfair or rigged. (sigh) It just read like more entitled sour grapes. I believe it was a comment on some Ringo rant about being cheated out of a Hugo by a Hugo admin throwing out votes or something ridiculous like that (I forget the deets).
Anyway, IMHO Weisskopf’s smart to keep out of this. I kinda admire her attempts, at times, to support/encourage crazies without pissing off her customers – it’s a fine line! But while sometimes she’s good at it, usually IMHO she’s not terribly subtle, and kinda stumbles over the line and back again. Somewhat related: Going to a “What’s New From Baen Books” panel at a con is . . . interesting. ;-)
Obligatory: Yes-I-own-some-Baen-books. It looks like many of the ones I own are by multi-publisher authors, FWIW. But maybe many/most authors are published with 2+ publishers?
@demonstrablyfalse: Baen encourages this stuff, IMHO.
@Marty: Ringo doesn’t think his own messages get in the way of his own stories? (gasp!) No true Scotsman! Gimme a break.
Bruce Baugh said: “I certainly understand the satisfaction in giving a tweak to people one thinks ill of. Snark is part of a balanced mental diet, as far as I can tell, and so’s a bit of Schadenfreude. But so too is a recognition that time spent obsessing over one’s perceived enemies and dedicating yourself to making them unhappy is almost certainly time that could have been better spent. I don’t care about a lot of groups enough to go out of my way to make them unhappy, and particularly not when there’s collateral damage. It would never occur to me for more than some very brief moment that it might be worth, say, pushing a Hugo candidate primarily because I think they’d offend some other part of the Hugo constituency, and if it did occur to me I wouldn’t be inclined to act on on, and if I started to, I expect that friends would sit me down and talk sense to me about it. It just wouldn’t happen.”
More than that. They are dancing a jig that they get to spend $40 to do it. I have been over Monster Nation (my post don’t show up there). One minute they are saying the Hugos are terrible just let them die. The next minute they are very happy that memberships are selling and their tribe will be voting – particularly that Martin thinks they may be winning in the subscriber war. I think that may be the most bizarre thing I have ever seen.
Membership is up to 8,375. The convention is in Washington and that accounts for 1,384 of the members. Total US is 6,885. Puppy wars seems to me to be a US enterprise.
The cover of Ringo’s books, and the blurb on the back, have never seemed terribly interesting. They always looked like a fictional retelling of Vietnam or Desert Storm, but in space, though otherwise everything else is essentially unchanged.
Seeing this as well… makes me never want to read any of his books, ever. Seems like a waste of time, especially when it’s barely science fiction at all, instead just 1970s war-stories that happen to be set on another planet. No imagination or forward thinking present at all.
Well, you see, their claim is that SJWs are the ones who have tried to corral writers and readers into two camps, and have then set about persecuting those they’ve placed in the rightward, not accomplished writer camp as part of their political agenda. They have criticized Heinlein, trying to discourage people from recognizing his genius; they are trying to drive conservative writing about white manly men and crackling adventure out of the market (but are stopped because it is way more popular; ) they are trying to convert all of SFF into liberal message fiction and shove those views down people’s throats instead of just telling stories; they have gotten themselves published because their social justice themes are trendy (but not popular,) among the cool set even though the writing and/or plot is poor; they have blocked and rigged award contests and turned them into their own little clubs; they have brought academia in and disdained the old-fashioned storytellers; they have taken over publishing staffs (especially the lady editors,) and turned them into liberal propaganda factories; they claim that they are better than anybody else, etc. etc.
Essentially, the SJWs started it first and the puppies et. al. are just trying to defend themselves. The SJWs are a threat who must be threatened in return or at least stood up to and the field taken back for those who are persecuted. Criticizing the industry for institutionalized prejudice is an attack. Criticizing/having liberal opinions about how women, gays, non-whites are often portrayed in SFFH, any media, is an attack. Getting any recognition, awards, etc. is clearly not based on merit but on schmoozing in a clique. And so on.
They are right that many liberal authors, fans, etc. do regard their political views as oppressive and anti-equality and so criticize them. They are right that some women, non-white, etc. liberal authors try to change institutionalized biases in the industry to remove obstacles from their careers or problems from going to a convention. But they don’t accept the social, legal and financial discriminations that created those efforts. Instead, SJWs are just claimed to be unreasonably attacking them. Which is I guess why it’s okay to throw acid in women’s faces. Or pretend that you didn’t really ally with someone who said that in order to attack other authors for a grand crusade against imaginary persecutions.
In order to justify the attacks, the claims about what SJWs did and did first have to get more and more outlandish. When facts disprove one claim, you make another. This is just another one, kind of elaborate. Meanwhile, the book editors including from Baen will just get together in the bar at WorldCon, like they usually do. I don’t think any of them are actually that happy about this stuff. Again, Baen was not advocated for by the puppies much. But mostly they’ll let the authors alone.
Seems like a waste of time, especially when it’s barely science fiction at all, instead just 1970s war-stories that happen to be set on another planet. No imagination or forward thinking present at all.
I know our host has asked us to keep it about the books, the publisher and so on, but:
After graduation, Ringo joined the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of Specialist as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. During his four years of active duty…
He never saw active combat. Not even in Grenada, the great Reagen Turkey shoot, which was during his service time.
So, please: don’t buy the hype, it’s nothing but a myth: he has no more combat experience than anyone else who spent their time in Germany, doing dodgy stuff.
I HAVE SUBMITTED A WORK TO BAEN PUBLISHING: IT’S GOING TO BLOW YOUR MIND.
“Random Penguin sounds like the name of an awesome party game.”
Otherwise known as: “spin the beaker.”
She can nudge, nudge, wink, wink as much as she likes, but the vast majority of people buying SF/F don’t go to cons and don’t frequent Baen’s bar or Facebook page. Which means she’s happy to provide a helpful little fantasy for people who want to think they are the people who matter, whilst backtracking rapidly when it comes to keeping the authors who sell an awful lot of books.
Pissing off Flint and Bujold is not, broadly speaking, a sensible thing for a publisher to do; Flint’s essays have really underlined just how tiny the percentage is of people buying SF/F who even know the Hugos exist, much less care about some alleged dastardly plot to acquire said award which they don’t know exists anyway.
Of course, she has a perfect right to nudge and wink as much as she likes; on the other hand, involving your brand with a guy who thinks the Taliban have the right idea is unlikely to go down well with the suits…
@Wild Bill: Whenever the Worldcon is in North America, the attendees will be overwhelmingly American. When it’s in Australia, the attendees are overwhelmingly Australian, &c. You can easily find each year’s numbers online.
But Drooling Puppies are indeed a US enterprise, since only in the US (among industrialized Western nations) are there a great number of people who think social justice is a bad thing, and healthcare that won’t send you into bankruptcy is a Satanic plot. It’s probably to do with the precious bodily fluids or something. These same folks are the ones wedded to the simplistic dichotomy of Manly Men vs. Girly Stuff, and enough MinTrue and NewSpeak that Putin would probably croggle at it (or at least at them truly believing it; I doubt Vlad does).
It is incredibly difficult to explain this debacle to people on this side of the Pond, since it’s self evidently ludicrous; it’s even more difficult to explain how Vox Day managed to find people convinced he was being martyred, notwithstanding his belief that the Taliban have the right ideas when it comes to women, and that murdering and throwing acid at women is a sound plan.
One interesting aspect of this division came when Liz Williams reported RH and her collaborators to the UK police last year under our anti-terrorism laws; some people on your side of the pond were outraged by that, presumably on the grounds that threatening to kill people is an accepted form of literary criticism. We don’t see it that way over here…
Jeez. One can only conclude that vitriol has buried reason on both sides of this issue. When Corrreia first opened this can of worms, he did so on the basis that message-heavy fictio, doesn’t sell as well, no matter where it falls in the spectrum, UNLESS IT IS WELL WRITTEN.
Remember the origin of the name? “Because boring message fic is the leading cause of puppy-related sadness”?
No one that I’ve read on this topic ever suggested that Baen is comprised of a stable of right-wing authors, except possibly a few left-wing commenters. Baen has always had a socially and polically diverse community of authors. I’ve read everything Bujold has written, and she’s a damn fine author, who weaves social conflict into her storytelling in a fashion that lends depth to the plot and the characters. Ditto Flint.
That is the kind of SF I want to read, and I don’t give a fart in windstorm about the authors’ social, poltical, or sexual predilictions.
That said, go read Ann Bellet’s blog post announcing her withdrawal. She desperately laid out her SJW badges, not because she was afraid of the opinions of Correia, et. al., but because she feared an irrational backlash from those who share her worldview. What does that tell you about the anti-puppy side of this squabble? Not very tolerant, are we?
@stryker: So where are these publishers that are so eager to make political points that they gladly publish things that don’t sell? And avoid things that do sell well? Mr. Scalzi has done a good job showing that Mr. Ringo’s thesis about Baen’s sales is pretty empty (or just outright wrong). Lots of different publishers publish a variety of authors from across the political spectrum, to a varying degrees of success — so what is the SP complaint? It’s a largely illusory problem they’ve created, driven by their own sense of resentment. No one is being oppressed, no more than the crap of everyday life oppresses all of us.
@Lurkertype: They can have my Manly Man card but they’ll have to get it out of that secret stash of letters Branden Kel-Paten has never sent to Sass! I don’t think the Admiral would like that.
Ms. Bellet had asked people repeatedly, here and elsewhere, not to put words into her mouth or otherwise attempt to spin, regarding why she withdrew. This would apply to you, also.
re: “Not very tolerant, are we?” Good to see you acknowledging your own intolerance. Keeping an eye on your beliefs and actions is a good step towards becoming a better person.
Correia also talked about ‘sticking it to the stuffy literati’ and making SJW heads explode. Perhaps you could point out where he clarifies that he meant rightwing message fic as well?
As for Ms Bellet, she said nothing of the sort in her withdrawal, but she did say that she does not want to be used to score political points. What does it say about you that you cannot respect that?
What is well written is subjective and personal. And quite often affected by a reader’s politics as to what that individual finds believable or engaging. The evaluation of a piece of fiction as “message-heavy” is also subjective and incredibly affected by a reader’s politics. So that particular complaint is simply Correia setting himself up as self-appointed king of judging quality in SFFH, which he does through a publicly declared lens filter of deep distaste for social justice views.
I sincerely doubt that Correia has ever called out a piece of conservative heavy message fiction for being poorly written, nor given a hoot about how well it sells or not. And any work he would consider by a SJW writer which sells well, he can just dismiss as well written and not message heavy, and therefore it doesn’t count. He can give a special pal pass to liberal authors published by Baen or to whom he just doesn’t feel like attacking. (Attacking Rowling or King, the two big liberal authors on the planet, would be a silly thing to do, for instance.)
When Correia, Ringo and others make these claims, they are simply declaring that fiction with a SJW heavy message exists, is a problem and doesn’t sell well (an irrelevant measure for short fiction in the first place,) and that they will decide what is the SJW heavy message fiction and what is not, when they bother to name a title, and we should just go along with their assessments as gospel. And since they get to decide what is and is not the SJW heavy message fiction, when they find one and other people like it, think it’s well written and give it an award, they are clearly wrong, duplicitous and awarding to change the political agenda of the world rather than to good storytelling. That good storytelling being what Correia and Co. say it is.
To back up the assertion that they know what is the good storytelling and what isn’t for everybody, they try to use sales as an “objective” measurement of “good storytelling.” Except that the sales figures aren’t what they say they are and don’t show what they claim they show, and quite often show the exact opposite. Which they either then ignore when it’s pointed out or pretend that it’s a free pass exception that they get to award.
Ringo claims that other SFF specialty publishers besides Baen have been losing sales and growth since the 1970’s because they publish unnamed works of heavy SJW messaging that are not well written. Not conservative and liberal heavy messaging fiction, just SJW messaging fiction. This sales claim is factually a lie. He claims that Baen has never had a dip in growth/sales, which he claims is due to only publishing the good story-telling. By his own admission regarding the book 1945 and Baen’s sales and growth loss, that is factually a lie. For a bunch of sometimes science fiction writers, they don’t seem to understand much about how science and evidence actually works.
The main point of the Ringo claim is to state that other publishers are hurting themselves by publishing fiction that Ringo decrees poorly-written heavy SJW message fiction that doesn’t sell. How do we know that the poorly-written heavy SJW message fiction that doesn’t sell is there? Because Ringo says it is, that’s what, and he’s the self-appointed judge of all fiction. Again, there seems to be a large lack of understanding among the puppies that you cannot scientifically prove that a subjective assessment of an artistic work is fact for all, and simply decree what is “good story-telling” or writing and what is not for all. They seem highly pissed off that others find stories to be well written and fun that they don’t like. And so they’re trying to tell us we’ll all be sorry for not following their choices.
“They seem highly pissed off that others find stories to be well written and fun that they don’t like.”
Worse, if you like stories they don’t like, not only are you wrong, you must be lying & only saying you like stories for political/ideological reasons (because you are a SJW). They cannot admit that someone else can have an honest reading experience that is different to theirs. For people who use their imaginations to create works of fiction, this apparent lack of empathy & ability to to see a different viewpoint is actually rather worrying.
@ Chris S: “This year, I’m going to read the slate works, but I can see No Award getting a workout. To my mind, the Hugo is not “best of a bunch of puppy crap that happened to make it onto the ballot”, it’s the best of SF/F, and I’ve no compunction No Awarding a category if the story sucks.”
Agreed. I’m about halfway through reading Puppy-slate works on the Hugo ballot… and I’m finding there’s no need to worry about whether it would be right or wrong to vote “No Award” as a protest against slates and block-voting. Quality alone is eliminating that from consideration altogether.
The Puppy-nominated works I have read so far are of such mediocre-to-poor quality, there’s no question of my voting for them anywhere on a Hugo ballot. The -best- of the batch so far is “so-so,” and there’s no way I’m going to vote to give a Hugo Award to a “so-so” story. The other items I’ve read so far range from “weak” to “so bad that I’m surprised this ever got published.”
It’s a disappointment to see such clumsy, amateurish work on the Hugo ballot. And apart from all their idiotic posturing and whining… I’m just really puzzled that THIS stuff is what the Puppies have put forth as the best sf/f of the year, as writing that merits a Hugo.
“I can’t be the only one who thinks that “Social Justice Warrior” is an awesome epithet that we should totally own.”
You are by no means the the only person who feels that way. When the Gators started whining about SJWs, many of us took on the label with pride, & some even bought one of the many t-shirts: https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=cr&ei=1vVFVfGEK-TMmwXk3IDQAw#q=social+justice+warrior+t-shirt
@ Josh: The Wind-Up Girl outsold Ship Breaker by two-to-one, actually.
Kat Goodwin “(Attacking Rowling or King, the two big liberal authors on the planet, would be a silly thing to do, for instance.) ”
Going after Pratchett would be worse.
BECAUSE WE KNOW WHO HIS CO-AUTHOR IS NOW.
That was wonderful.
Getting back to Baen, it seems a tad strange that Ringo has forgotten the dust up in 2012 when Baen made its Amazon deal; the explanation given at the time was that Baen would go broke without it. After all, it involved pretty big increases in costs to readers, and the justification given for those increases was that the publisher couldn’t survive without them.
This doesn’t look like the picture Ringo has painted but then again, facts are not his strong suit…
@Kat Goodwin: “Attacking Rowling or King, the two big liberal authors on the planet, would be a silly thing to do, for instance.”
Correia has a blog post attacking King for being liberal on the subject of guns and daring to write an essay to that effect. The post is part of the SP1 series, and features such gems as asking why people care more about King’s opinion than Correia’s. After all, Correia owned a gun store!
Silly stuff, indeed.
stryker: The Sad Puppies argument is that SJ fiction subordinates story to message, and not always effectively. I tend to agree. … [Larry said] message-heavy fictio, doesn’t sell as well, no matter where it falls in the spectrum, UNLESS IT IS WELL WRITTEN.
Stryker, lemme just check in to see if I understand you correctly. You’re argument in defense of the pups is essentially saying this:
If that’s your defense, then why does it fall apart the moment it makes contact with the enemy that is objective sales numbers? Scalzi’s original post at the top links to Jason Sanford who went through a bunch of Locus data about best sellers over the last couple years. And based on those objective numbers, Tor outsells Baen.
So, how can you claim Tor sells lousy SJW message fiction for the message wrapped up in lousy stories and Baen only sells good stories, when Tor sells more books than Baen? How is it that Tor “subordinates story to message, and not always effectively” and yet Tor is more effective at selling books than Baen?
I ask only for clarification.
Jeez. One can only conclude that vitriol has buried reason on both sides of this issue. When Corrreia first opened this can of worms, he did so on the basis that message-heavy fictio, doesn’t sell as well, no matter where it falls in the spectrum, UNLESS IT IS WELL WRITTEN.
I say again, unless you have actual examples, I have to conclude that you’re not interested in talking about real books. Instead you’re just talking without any substance because someone told you something was true about a group of people you don’t like.
So name names. List books. List sales. And then, because it’s 100% necessary and relevant, show us the books on the Hugo list that overlap.
Neither you nor LC/BT/VD started with this list of bad message-fic that was on the Hugo slate, and that’s because nether of you had it to start with. It’s been a phantom menace he used (and you parroted) to justify throwing a tantrum because some SJW somewhere was mean to him, so he’s out to get “them” any way he can, proof be damned. There’s always people out there who’ll buy the lie.
rev: Correia has a blog post attacking King for being liberal
Hey now, that can’t be right. The pups aren’t about politics, they’re about “bad message fiction” in books, that’s it. They hate how everyone else but them has made this about politics.
Oh. My. God.
OH. MY. GOD.
I tend to avoid puppy screeds because they’re little more than shell games with words hiding their true intentions behind subjective nonsense. But this? This is egomaniac GOLD.
I mentioned earlier that my slog so far through the slates hadn’t sapped my will to live, but there is a time when discretion is the better part of valour; in my case it’s not clicking the link you provided to Larry explaining that he’s so much better than Stephen King, sob, sob.
The subsequent extract provoked an almost irresistible desire to call an ambulance for the poor chap, and I don’t know the right number…
Greg @ 10:10 am: He wrote that? He really wrote that? Wow. That’s–impressively confused. I just find it astonishing that anyone believes that any scholar/reader in an “Ivy League English Department” who might be willing to dismiss an sf or fantasy writer as “a mere pulp novelist” would care WHO won a Hugo Award. If there are “Ivy League English Department” professors out there who regard SJW fiction as somehow inherently more literary than–well, “popular” fiction?–and deserving of awards, the awards they are thinking of probably aren’t the Hugos. That particular attitude is getting rarer and rarer in Academia, in my opinion, but I acknowledge that it does still exist. However, even the people in the past who looked down on genre fiction as “popular,” who argued that if a work is “good, it can’t be sf,” did at least tend to be consistent in their idiocies!
Those darn Ivy League Academics, with their snobbery and elitism. Or, you know, the actual ones, who teach courses on Science Fiction. From Cornell’s course catalog:
“Many prominent writers of science fiction, fantasy and alternate history have long had recourse to the texts, cultures and topographies of the Near and Middle East; and some early Near Eastern texts and tales are examples of speculative fiction. In this course, we survey the science fiction genre through works from, about, and depicting the Near East. Our journey will include material from medieval and classical Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. Modern readings and viewings will include Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel, Sandman; Frank Herbert’s, Dune; episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Babylon 5; Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea; The Matrix; McHugh’s Nekropolis; and stories and novels by George Alec Effinger, Leila Aboulela, Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Orson Scott Card. All material in English.”
Love the reading list.
Oh, and ENG 2035:
“Science fiction, as Fredric Jameson put it, is “the only kind of literature that can reach back and colonize reality.” Today more than ever, when science and technology have penetrated everyday life in ways that would have seemed impossible only a few decades ago, it has become apparent that science fiction is not merely a literary genre but a whole way of being, thinking, and acting in the modern world. The course explores classic and contemporary science fiction from Frankenstein to The Hunger Games alongside a rich array of fiction, films, and new media from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Our discussions will position these works vis-à-vis seminal thinkers, ranging from Plato to Descartes and Donna Haraway to Paul Crutzen, who ask the same questions as science fiction does about ourselves, our world, and our future.”
“science fiction is not merely a literary genre but a whole way of being, thinking, and acting in the modern world”
That’s some serious disdain, that is.
DAVID @ 11:29 am: Yeah, the Academic disdain is getting harder and harder to locate, isn’t it . . . there is still some, but in my experience it’s mostly confined to casual conversations before and after faculty meetings, and is far more the (rather muted) exception than the rule, these days.
Yep. I experienced it, as above–and again with the irony, this was back when noted fun-hater Harold Bloom was clutching his pearls over King and Rowling, who aren’t exactly conservative or message-free*–but first, even my school had some classes that were okay with or even concentrated on sf**, second, this was Brown, which tends toward the treacly and purposeful even among academia, and third, that was…
…ten years ago now.
I’m off to have a drink and buy a cane.
*I’m liberal as hell, and I like Stephen King, but reading bits of The Stand, as a chick born in the eighties…Jesus, Steve, you’re an aging hippie, we get it. The fucking Amish get it. It’s a bit like listening to Joan Baez, or “Under Pressure”: I agree with you, dude, but damn, this was clearly an era when you could drip earnestness on people and they didn’t mind. Yikes.
**My crit theory professor let me write about Terry Pratchett for both papers, and then read bits of LotR poetry to demonstrate how language worked. He also referred to “Mr. Sauron”, which was totes adorbs, as the kids say.
I think that if you are sufficiently deluded to believe that people are deliberately plotting to deprive you of the throne which should rightfully be yours then the fact that very few people even know you exist, much less care, has to be edited out as an inconvenient fact.
His ignorance of what is actually happening in English departments is unsurprising because remedying that ignorance would require him to engage with the world as it is, thus leaving him less time to fulminate against those people depriving him of the throne which should rightfully be his.
The more I know of him the more he reminds me of the Terry Pratchett character in ‘Making Money’, who ends up in the Lord Vetinari ward, filled with people convinced they are Lord Vetinari, competing with each other to best emulate, say, raising one eyebrow.
This sort of grandiose pomposity is the kiss of death to good writing; it is hardly surprising that many of the small number of people who know that he actually exists really don’t want to pay money to read it…
@Catherine Asaro: Yeah, I thought you were a Baen author! ::Tammy and I wave hi::
@Greg: “If a pinko commie is a best seller on Baen, then they’ll simply decline to label him SJW. ”
Eric Flint says, “Thanks!” ;)
I don’t think I’m all that old, and I remember when Stephen King was considered a pulp novelist–or maybe one step up from one. Doesn’t that mean there’s hope for Larry Correia if he just hangs in there? I remember when King’s career took off. A co-worker of mine mentioned that her sister taught at the same place in Maine as King and that King had been trying to get stories published in the New Yorker and was frustrated at his lack of success (though he was, the record shows, getting stories published in men’s magazines: Cavalier, Gent, Gallery, Playboy, even Esquire, which wasn’t bad but wasn’t the New Yorker). As I heard it then (second or third hand, so grains of salt may well be appropriate), he wanted to be accepted by the literary world, but mostly he wanted to make a living writing, so he decided to focus on what he could do well instead of what he wasn’t able to achieve, and a very very very successful career was born. King’s work was considered light entertainment, and he was just a horror writer, and there was a fair amount of snark about things like his use of brand names in his novels–something that’s hardly even noticed in fiction anymore but then was seen as lowbrow–but everybody seemed to be reading his books and everybody said how they got sucked into them and couldn’t put them down. (Myself, I never felt that draw, and I’ve never read more than a few passages from any of his books, but then horror is a genre that mostly leaves me cold, especially the type he was writing then and perhaps still, I don’t know.)
Larry dismisses forty years of best-sellers as ” fifty six books where the main character is a drug addled, depressed, whiney, victimized, helpless, alchoholic, sexually frustrated, daddy issues having, perverted, philandering, author from Maine.” As I said, I’ve never read King’s books, but I have known lots of people who have, and I never heard that they were all so similar (doesn’t sound at all like Carrie, King’s first book, which I know vaguely from the Cissy Spacek movie, and I’m assuming the movie didn’t take *that* many liberties with the plot). I would be utterly astonished if anyone could make a credible case for what Larry claims. I realize that Larry is very fond of hyperbole and rhetorical excess, but what, if anything, are we meant to take seriously in his rants if he insists on making ridiculous characterizations to punch up his arguments?
In any case, lots and lots of people have been buying and reading King’s books for forty years, so he’s obviously doing something right. This isn’t some alleged “literary fiction” that only readers of the NYRB and Ivy League English professors supposedly read and discuss. Stephen King’s books are now and ever were popular fiction in both sense of that word, and I don’t think King or anyone else claims otherwise. My understanding of King’s beliefs about fiction is that it should all be entertaining and he strives to provide that, and apparently, lots and lots of people are entertained by it. That would seem to make King’s work just the kind of thing Larry pretends he’s championing. In any case, a best-selling author who started out as a pulp horror writer, became wildly successful, and now does, in fact, get stories published in the New Yorker should inspire hope in Larry. A good genre writer can make it big. And if Larry thinks he’s a good writer, then he should do what King did and keep writing and writing and publishing and publishing, and someday he too may get the recognition that King eventually did but was not given, except in monetary terms, for quite a few years when he was considered “just” a horror novelist.
And Stevie: “I think that if you are sufficiently deluded to believe that people are deliberately plotting to deprive you of the throne which should rightfully be yours then the fact that very few people even know you exist, much less care, has to be edited out as an inconvenient fact. His ignorance of what is actually happening in English departments is unsurprising because remedying that ignorance would require him to engage with the world as it is, thus leaving him less time to fulminate against those people depriving him of the throne which should rightfully be his”
This is me nodding in vigorous agreement. It’s also kind of amusing to think that Larry is achieving a bit more fame now, but for coming across as a bit of a kook rather than what he would rather be known and lauded for. Maybe he’s one of those “any publicity is good publicity” people, but judging by his inability to reason his way out of a paper bag (or paper back, as I originally mistyped) on his own blog, I’m not inclined to look for any of his fiction to read. It was just the reverse with OGH. I came to Scalzi’s writing through his blog and thought, “Hey, this guy writes well, puts together a good argument, and has a sense of humor I really like. Let’s go see what his fiction is like.”
“This blog post alone … threatened to end academia”?
HA HA HA HA… hee hee snerk whoo
Wow. Grandiose much, there, Larry? That blog post was roundly ignored by the Ivy League, who doesn’t know who you are in the first place, and would just give you a bemused look if they did, then forget about you. They’d think you’re “special”, all right, but not with the same meaning of the word. But they probably know a lot of good shrinks and experts at dealing with severe developmental delays.
@stevie: Of course (besides his fixation on and cyberstalking of OGH), Teddy has the terrible (for his ego) problem that he’s an American Christian Dominionist who isn’t allowed to live in America because he stiffed the republic out of a bunch of tax money. So he’s literally got nothing better to do than stew in his own bile and spew online, since obviously if he could communicate his foul ideas to the neighbors, the neighbors are Italian and wouldn’t understand what the hell he’s talking about.* So, in the proud tradition of his ancestors, he’s looking for ways to con people out of money (his “publishing house”) and looking for Useful Idiots to help him do it (Larry and Brad and their chums).
And your entire comment at 12:08 is perfect. Which leads me to…
@Doug: Brilliant. Sir T himself would have liked that, obviously.
@KatG and Soon Lee: Well, yeah. It shows a lack of imagination**, empathy, and theory of mind. Also attribution bias. If someone likes “Baen-y” books of Manly Gun Users, I don’t think they’re reading it just to prove a point against the SJWs; I figure they like it and it’s fun for them. Many of those books are delightful romps and I own them.
@Scalzi and all: Excellent work on explaining all the BS in Ringo’s little preening rant. Maybe he should see a doctor, too. If he’s forgetting things he wrote himself (how the company nearly went out of business over Newt’s book) or things which were announced by his publisher of which he’s very fond (having to join Amazon so as to not go out of business), he needs a checkup. I mean, he’s only in his 50’s, so memory loss is a serious symptom at his age.
I found a quote from a former President that reminds me of the Yaps’ efforts:
“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” ― George W. Bush
Teddy, Larry, Brad, and Ringo got themselves a (very butch) catapult.
* Except they’d wonder if maybe their government could make him move out of their neighborhood or shut up. You don’t want that kind of toxicity around the bambino. Remittance men are always of bad character in the girly novels I’ve read.
** Which @lauowolf neatly dissected way up there; the Pups and Company’s inability to see beyond the binary classifications. Just because they’re puppies who are happy to be in one crate doesn’t mean the rest of us have to only be in one box or the other. Like Maru, we want to look in ALL the boxes! ***
*** I am ridiculously pleased with this metaphor. :)
The next time Correia manages to write as well as Stephen King will be the first time. Correia is what he is, which is mostly a hack writing urban fantasy/gun porn. King has done all sorts of things, including some truly incredible short stories with no horror content whatsoever.
@BW: That tracks with what I’ve always heard about King’s career, and how I remember it from my youth. (I read “The Shining” on the school bus because it was too scary to read in bed. Almost no books actually scare me.) He didn’t become “respectable” until after he’d already written like 25 books that had sold a zillion copies. Maybe with “The Dark Tower”, or some of the short stories @rochrist mentioned. I met him briefly in 1982 at Worldcon, and he was still unknown enough that most people didn’t put the face to the name even though he’d written 7 novels by then which had already spawned several movies. (He and his wife were very nice.)
The Saddos seem to have a problem with opining about books they’ve never read. Ringo thinks “Redshirts” is SJW fanfic — but hasn’t read it — and Correia has seemingly missed not only “Carrie”, but all of “The Dark Tower”, the Bachman books, “11/22/63”, and all the short fiction like “The Body” and “Shawshank Redemption”. I mean, you’da think he’d at least seen the movies. But facts seem to be too inconvenient to deal with.
Pretty confident that if Larry ever were to write a book on the life of an author and how to write, it wouldn’t be a best-seller like “On Writing” was. That’s a fine piece of work all on its own. Maybe Larry would improve his prose if he read it. He says Hugos go to “literary” stories, so perhaps upping his game would work.
Stephen King is friends with a lot of other writers and doesn’t go around insulting them either. Maybe the Saddos could give that a shot.
I’m not going to take the time to check, but I would be surprised if we don’t find post posts where Correia passes along right-wing mockery of academic conferences for their silly paper titles and for giving time to silly subjects….like science fiction.
Well, despite the snark above, I’ve read and enjoyed most things King’s written and:
Drug addled/alcoholic: Tommyknockers and The Shining (and both of those dudes die), Doctor Sleep (where it’s kind of the point), and…drawing a blank.
Can’t remember any clinically or morbidly depressed characters, particularly. The hero of Insomnia is grieving, because, you know, his wife dies before the book starts; various other people become rather depressed about the fact that they’re in post-apocalyptic worlds/being stalked by monster clowns/what have you, but it’s never particularly overwhelming. Likewise with the whiny/victimized/helpless–most of the protagonists are actually fairly active.
And I speak here as someone who thinks Shinji Ikari and Holden Caufield both need a good swift kick in the pants, so it’s not like my heart’s particularly inclined to bleed for the whiny and passive.
Sexually frustrated: …not that I can recall? Some in Christine, I guess, because teenagers, and likewise Harold in The Stand, also because Harold is the kind of self-pitying nebbish Correia’s allies in GamerGate would take as a damn role model.
“Perverted” is a pretty subjective term, so I’ll just note that if Correia thinks the things King protagonists do are sexually outre, dude needs to spend some time on the Internet.
Philandering; Eh? There was that one guy in IT, I guess. And that one woman in Cujo.
“Author” and “From Maine”, yeah, there are a lot of those, especially in earlier books. There are also a fair number of parental slash family issues of various stripes, but a) if you write about horror in the context of interpersonal relationships and small-town drama, and especially if your characters are kids, that’s going to come up, and b) there’s a fair amount of variety to said relationships.
Dude is no Joss Wheedon, you know? ;)
I mean, they’re definitely popular fiction, for what that’s worth, and there are valid criticisms (some of the earlier stuff does, as I mentioned, come off a little Hemp Beads and Birkenstocks for my taste; he occasionally falls into the Alan Moore/Mercedes Lackey/etc trope of Blatant Author Avatar Fucks Improbably Hot Person*, etc) but Correia’s ain’t them.
*I would like to know at what point of success I can get away with writing a short redhead from California named Lizzy who bangs guys I personally couldn’t get with a million dollars and a good steak, because I will totally work toward that.
BW, I don’t think Correia grasps the bit about working really hard to get where you want to go; Stephen King did and does. This may be a generational thing, but I suspect that it’s more to do with personalities; his blog is so ludicrously self-congratulatory that I cannot imagine anyone with even an iota of interest in anything beyond gun porn and sticking it to a non-existent social group being tempted to purchase his works.
I suspect that he really doesn’t understand that only a minute percentage of the seven billion or so people on this planet has a clue what SJW means, or is intended to mean, hence the somewhat farcical juxtaposition of the term with Worldcon. I haven’t a clue what it really means, or is intended to mean, and I speak English, though admittedly it’s English English.
As far as I can tell it didn’t even occur to him or the other puppies that the Worldcon taking place in London, England, was going to have a lot of people who speak English English attending and voting, few of whom give a toss about terms completely absent from our day to day lives, and who are notably conspicuous for our lack of Christian religious fervour by comparison with the U.S. Not believing in God tends to be the default setting over here, which is why atheists get depressed about the absence of people wanting to persecute them for being atheists.
In those circumstances Beale’s effort was inevitably doomed, and only someone cocooned in a little corner of a foreign land could imagine otherwise; what has happened this year is a direct consequence of that fact.
Lurkertype, I agree that Beale is driven almost entirely by the fact that he is stuck in Italy, where tax evasion is a national sport, and accordingly it is impossible to spin it as a principled stand against government, large or small, because Italians would point and laugh at anyone claiming that.
Furthermore, there’s only one Christian who really counts in Italy; he’s called Francis and everything he has ever said demonstrates that he would regard Beale’s views as abominable, if he ever got to hear about them. So, no opportunities there for Beale either; he’s left with trying to portray himself as a leader of down trodden straight white males in the States from another continent via the Internet, whilst obsessively stalking our host and using his money to try to damage the community which enjoys the SF/F genre.
Because he can’t find anything better to do with his time and money. That’s the bit which really brings home just how impoverished his life is; the world is filled with fascinating things to see and do and yet his character is so damaged that he passes them by in favour of petty grudges…
I think that the Pope, introduced to RSHD, would be horrified. Likely to the point of making a public sermon about how love is better than hate and stuff.
Because the Pope, official policy or not, seems to be a pretty cool dude. And I don’t think that RSHD fits with his message of helping the poor and downtrodden.
Stevie: I think that if you are sufficiently deluded to believe that people are deliberately plotting to deprive you of the throne which should rightfully be yours then the fact that very few people even know you exist, much less care, has to be edited out as an inconvenient fact.
But they don’t edit it out. They make it proof of an even bigger conspiracy. That’s the biggest problem with conspiracy theorists: if they claim that there are aliens in area 51 and you show them an indepth news report by Walter Kronkite(*) where he’s going all over area 51 and no aliens in sight, they’ll just reply with horror that the government has pulled Kronkite into the conspiracy as well.
(*) replace with whoever is considered a rock-solid news anchor these days.
isabel: writing a short redhead from California named Lizzy who bangs guys I personally couldn’t get with a million dollars and a good steak
BW: I’ve never read King’s books, but I have known lots of people who have, and I never heard that they were all so similar
I’ve read a few of his books. For me, they do have a “suck you in” quality to them. What I’ve found is that they tend to be great right up to the ending, where the plot doesn’t so much tie everything neatly together, as the plot strings get wrapped around the axle that focuses on keeping the story moving.
There’s not even a need to refute Ringo’s claim about relative growth and sales. As a minor matter, the onus on him to provide the supporting data. He hasn’t done it, and as he’s not a publishing-industry analyst but a fiction writer he’s unlikely to have access to the data that would demonstrate things one way or the other.
As a major matter, where he makes checkable claims, he’s full of shit. The New Wave began in the 1960s, not the 1970s. The New Wave was also not the dawn of progressive social criticism in SF. I believe Theodore Sturgeon’s “Thunder and Rose’s” was published in 1947, and that’s not necessarily the Beginning either, it’s just the oldest relevant story that comes to mind. Nor, as OGH pointed out downblog, was the cast of his “Star Trek fanfic” diverse. That would be the book that Ringo admits he still has never read but keeps making confident assertions about.
Past that there’s all the mind-reading of how “SJWs” decide what we like best, and John W. Campbell is dead and so is belief that telepathy is real.
Or maybe the minor matter is the major matter and vice versa, I don’t know. Either way, there is so much wrong with Ringo’s post that, as God once told Charlie Brown, “This is going to take more than one night.”
I suspect that all of the Christian Dominionists would be anathema to Francis, and that, unless John Wright has found an exceedingly compliant confessor prepared to overlook his insistence in doing and repeating things abhorred by the Pope, his stint as a convert into the Catholic faith isn’t going to last very long.
I am not a Catholic but my father was; the point of Confession is not so much about how you have erred, or what you should do to rectify it, as a promise not to do it again in the future. Neither VD nor Wright is likely to do that…
Stevie: I agree, especially on your first thought. I would definitely pay to see Pope Francis and Pat Robertson in the same room for thirty minutes. I think that the Pope might need a sick bag, but I’m probably underestimating the strength of his stomach.
@BW: Great post, thanks. Interesting to read that King wanted the respect that would come from being in the New Yorker. Stephen Kind’s non-fiction essay, “Head Down” (about Little League baseball) is one of my favorite sports articles ever — published in The New Yorker in 1990.
I’m fascinated by the whole process of how pulp and entertainment genres become accepted and respected by “serious” critics. I remember Stephen King suddenly going from critical pariah to heavily praised 20-25 years ago. Of course, most culture gets forgotten, but hopefully the good stuff rises to the top eventually. It’s just part of how we process culture; no conspiracies necessary.
@stevie: You’re presuming Wright actually tells the truth in the confessional. Or that he considers any of the things he’s doing online to be sins worth confessing.
I mean, he’s got a terrible case of Anti-Gay Panic, and even that Francis chap said not to be so fussed about that part. Maybe Wright’s attending one of those parishes with an equally-reactionary old fart priest who’s still pissed off they dropped the Latin, one of those “more Catholic than the Pope” kinds, in which case his hatefulness fits right in.
Another reason Teddy’s only considering these guys to be Useful Idiots: Christian Dominionists don’t think anyone outside their little cult is actually Christian. Oh, they’re better than Muslims, but Catholics, mainline Protestants like the CoE, and especially Mormons* are still all going to hell.(I don’t think they know about Eastern Orthodox churches, but them too.) They need Israel and the Jews to stick around just long enough for Armageddon to happen, but the instant that starts, they’re off to the hot place too. Sadly, I am not making this up.
If I were independently wealthy and living in Europe, I wouldn’t be spending my time on the internet having a one-sided vendetta about one guy. I probably wouldn’t be on the internet except for long enough to put up photos of the places I’d been and the meals I’d eaten!
* That’s why it took the major Republican evangelist types so long to endorse Mitt in 2012. They held their noses figuring he was better than the Muslim Commie Negro, but they weren’t happy about it AT ALL. Some of the minor ones never did.
Lurkertype, unfortunately, that kind of parish is all too common in the United States (Wright is American, isn’t he?), and there are some that have reinstated the Latin. My mother, who died last year at the age of 91, a was a liberal who had come up in the old Latin Mass days, loved the changes wrought by Vatican II, was dismayed to watch the church backslide into increasing fundamentalism under the following generation of priests and bishops, and was bitter about the Church’s refusal to consider women in the priesthood (while hanging onto all those pedophiles because of the priest shortage). Her parish was in one of the two (I think) dioceses in the United States that doesn’t allow female altar servers. Still, she remained faithful to her religious beliefs and continued to go to Sunday Mass and endure the too-frequent anti-gay and anti-abortion sermons because she refused to let them push her out of *her* church. I left long ago, without needing a push, and as I sat through her funeral Mass, I kept giving thanks that this was the last Catholic service I would have to attend. Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air, but the established American clergy haven’t, in general, been welcoming his ideas with anything approaching enthusiasm.
I suspect we’re wandering off topic, though.
My experience has been that Converted Catholics go completely over the top, and that priest acquire a lot of experience in dealing with said converts. I really don’t believe that a priest, used to hearing many thousands of confessions, has no inkling that someone is lying to them. That one goes with the job, after all; they are not idiots.
Last summer I spent some time tootling around the Black Sea which has a remarkable variety of Christianity, none of which would fit with the Christian Dominationalists.
It’s one of the things which anyone with even a reasonable grasp of the world would be aware of, but Beale and Wright don’t possess it.
Or, as my mother used to say, they are pigignorant and proud of it…
” Sad Puppy Larry Correia directly and explicitly said that he selected that one horrible VD story for the express purpose of pissing off people he disagreed with.”
To be ABSOLUTELY FAIR to Mr Correia, he also said that he enjoyed that story.
Stephen King is…What? I don’t even…. Are we sure Correia knows who King is?
There is a distinct difference between helping the poor and social justice issues. The Catholic Church officially is just fine with Dominionist views, especially still in the U.S. chapter, and allies with the Evangelicals and the Mormons in the U.S. to try to legally prevent not only marriage equality, but keeping gays from adopting children, raising children, working in Catholic schools and businesses, and dealing with their partner’s healthcare in Catholic hospitals. They also continue to take the position that women have no civil rights, including the right to control her own body, healthcare and fertility, and that this should be legally enforced, as well as threatening and in some instances ending women’s lives over it, especially as they own more and more rural hospitals in the States as well as in many countries. So no, Pope Francis would not throw up over some of the puppies’ views, because he’s leading his church to share some of them, and to take Catholic employees who disagree to court. Not to say that the Catholic Church never changes a stance, or that individual Catholics aren’t SJW’s (how about them nuns, for instance,) but the church itself is decided against at least half of the major social justice issues. If you want to look for SJ-friendly Christian sects that favor equal rights and real separation of church and state, the Catholic Church is not among them.
I don’t really think any of the puppies or associates are trying to have a Christian Dominionist takeover of SFF publishing, though. They simply refuse to believe that the fiction market isn’t a pie that they have to fight over in mortal combat with other authors for slices. Witness the obsession over each other’s sales figures and the belief that any success for fiction they deem liberal must be wiping out their stuff or threatening it in some way. Fiction publishing is symbiotic and requires variety, again. Publishers fund lesser lights with bigger hits, take floods of readers who come in from the hits and offer them a smorgasbord of different offerings for their browsing, and pair authors up as much as possible via conventions, guest blogging, displays in stores, etc. Bookstores can use any successes to help grow in size.
So if another publisher does well in the fiction market, it helps all the other publishers get more customers and do better. So if Baen was/is really doing well? It helps Tor and vice versa. (That doesn’t mean that they don’t sometimes compete for top authors or prospects; just that the success of one house in fiction doesn’t wipe out another but increases the size of the market.) If indie authors do well, it helps all the publishers get more customers — and reprint candidates. If Correia does well, it helps Scalzi and if Scalzi does well, it helps Correia. If a paranormal romance does well, it not only helps the other paranormal romances, but also other SFF writers, male and female.
The puppies keep trying to pitch fiction publishing as a war, which the facts don’t back because it’s not, and which completely confuses anybody who knows anything about fiction publishing. It’s not Wall Street trading or smartphone sales. It’s not t.v. or movies even. Whenever someone like Martin tries the explanation process, they seem disappointed. They would have been smarter off just to stick to the Hugo Awards, awards being one of the few times authors directly compete on anything although they mostly do it in the spirit of comraderie, and declaring a conspiracy to steal the votes.
Just wanted to add that I have a lovely whole page of authors/works people have mentioned in these threads that I hadn’t come across before.
(The past couple years I have been pretty tied up in medical awfulness, and mostly just recycling reading already on hand.)
So at least all this vast pile of stoopid has given me a whole treasury of new things I’m likely to like, and introduced me to new authors, and all that kind of good stuff that the stooges said was their purpose.
Just, it’s not quite the stuff the puppies had in mind.
Lurkertype – I’m reminded of the joke where a person dies and goes to heaven, and they’re shown past the various structures there. There’s a huge onion-domed cathedral for the Russian Orthodox (or the Orthodox Russians, or possibly both); a copy of St Peter’s for the Catholics; a large version of St Paul’s for all the Anglicans; variations on the tin-roofed tabernacle for various Protestant sects, a version of the Temple for the Jews, an area for the Muslims which includes the Dome of the Rock and the Kabbah, a copy of Stonehenge for the druids, a Mormon temple, Hindu temples in full Bollywood production number glory, carefully raked Zen gardens for the Buddhists, essentially copies of every place that’s thought of as holy for just about every religion on the planet (yes, even some areas of Indigenous Australian Dreaming and a baseball diamond for the Unitarian Universalists). And then, off to one side, there’s this area of heaven which has big high walls surrounding it, and signs saying “Quiet!” on the outside of them. Our protagonist is slightly surprised, and goes over to one of the angels and asks “What’s behind the wall?”. The angel looks at them, and says “Oh, that’s where the Christian Dominionists are. They think they’re the only ones here.”
 Substitute in the Westboro Baptists, Plymouth Brethren, Exclusive Brethren, Christadelphians, Jehovah’s Witnesses or whichever other excessively smug Protestant Christian sub-sect you fancy.
The United States is not the world. I have to point this fact out so many times to people of the reactionary persuasion that it’s downright disheartening that I have to do so to you as well.
Furthermore, you have provided no evidence whatsoever to support your claims, and in this you are dispiritingly similar to the gentlemen this post is about also.
You may believe that Pope Francis is down with half of Beale’s beliefs but you do not bother to provide details of them, nor do you bother to provide evidence thereof.
You claim that the Pope is a Christian Dominionist without explaining what you think Christion Dominionist means, or why you believe that the Pope is one.
In short, I’m not seeing any evidence to distinguish between you and all the other U.S. Dominionists helpfully explaining to us that, due to the fact that the entire planet is a tiny suburb attached to the US, we non-US people are a) unable to understand that the entire planet is a tiny suburb attached to the US, and b) incapable of thinking for ourselves about anything because reasons.
Which brings us neatly back to Ringo…
Guys, let’s go ahead and close up the Francis/dominionist conversation, please. It’s way off topic at this point.
Thanks for pointing out the part about how much SFF sells in YA these days. And yes, my house is privately held and would never release sales data publicly. And to your point about Bookscan, I don’t even have access to Bookscan, so I have no idea how well my books look on Bookscan, but it’s probably terrible, because our main market is school and library, and direct to reader online. We’re in some bookstores, but not nearly as many as some bigger publishers. In the YA and younger market in particular, you’ll find Bookscan is way off due to the school and library market connection.
I posted this link further upstream, but SJW is not a synonym for progressive.
John Ringo seems to be trying to replace it with SJB for social justice bully.
Sorry John, I forgot about your preferences about sequential posts,
After 1945, Forstchen and Gingrich have collaborated on quite a few novels, mostly alternate history, and a few historical. I had assumed until now that Baen published them, but they appear to be Published by Thomas Dunne, a Macmillan imprint.
I”ve read several and liked them pretty well but I’m guessing they print them in quantities in line with other alternate history titles.
Okay, I will close it up — and didn’t start it — but facts are facts. Christian Dominionism isn’t a U.S. only movement. It’s a world-wide right-wing religious movement that believes all governments should be run and governed by Christian theology, as theocracies, with use of Christian Biblical law and in preparation for the end of days. That all should be the dominion of Christ.
The Catholic Church continues to push forward the belief that homosexuality is a sin and that gay people should not be able to adopt children. They continue to push forward the position that abortion and birth control should be banned in all countries in which they are a presence. They continue to be instrumental in obstructing marriage equality and establishing abortion bans and limits legislatively not only in the U.S. but in numerous other countries. And women have died or nearly died, not only in the U.S. but in countries where the Catholic Church has dominated legislation and controlled a lot of the hospitals, such as in Ireland and Latin America.
The Catholic Church has long advocated establishing parts of Biblical law in secular governments, particularly concerning civil rights they don’t like. And in the U.S., the Catholic Church has teamed up with Pat Robertson’s ministries and others to push legislative campaigns, mainly against gay people. Pope Francis has put in place some reforms, but several essential anti-social justice positions have remained the official stance of the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church have not divorced themselves from secular government concerns in any country. (Which is not the same as beliefs of individual Catholics.)
In that, the official Catholic Church is no different than a lot of other sects and religions, or for that matter, secular groups with similar positions. But pretending that they don’t hold the positions they hold, including outside the U.S., doesn’t help anything. In other social justice areas, the Catholic Church has sometimes been a major force for social justice, but not so much for the gays and women. Big religions are complicated. And that’s the last I’m happy to say about it.
A couple quick thoughts…
1) Although interesting and informative, refuting Mr. Ringo’s statistical argument does nothing, zero, nada, zilch to refute the allegation that there are folks being subjected to back room political bias.
2) From Edmund Schubers Hugo withdrawal announcement:
Everything else he had to say was pretty good as well. Earned a $15 annual subscription out of my pocket. With any luck, this will be a better magazine than a couple other poorly edited periodicals that I read for a while.
3) SJBullies vs. SJWarriors
Indeed. I’ve been online since the early days of RelayNET and similar services. I’ve had many a decent chat with decent folks of all flavors. Learned a few things. Taught a few things. Got along well with people of almost every political stripe. Mostly enjoyed myself because technology used to require a bit in the G2 department to access public discussions.
These days in many different arenas, the bullying element of the left has become more prominent. IMHO, the further left they go, the greater their intolerance.
It is the bullies that chastised IGMS authors for associating with IGMS. It is bullies that made up stuff about Mr. Correia early on. (He hasn’t done himself a ton of favors after that point, but lets remember that Han shot first.)
Let’s face it, Cordelia delivering the head of the Imperial Pretender – one of my favourite fictional moments – doesn’t fit into Ringo’s world view at all
Indeed, he seems very much like the sort that would protest that she’s a Betan, she can’t do —
And the man who fights for the memory of Raina Csurik is very much a SJW, it seems to me.
On the issue of message fiction, I would like to point out that politics that differ from the reader’s are much more noticeable than politics that agree with the reader, because the latter so easily pass for “common sense”. Which, of course, is not political at all; some people should just know their place, because that’s just the way things are.
Determining to what extent this may be responsible for Ringo’s perception (or anyone else’s, for that matter) of the relative politicization of different publishing houses is left as an exercise for the reader.
But I don’t want to!
I don’t make the argument, I simply reiterated the SP argument. Nor did I conflate Tor with message fiction – you did.
Stryker6 @ 8:34 pm: Well, you did say that the “Sad Puppies argument is that SJ fiction subordinates story to message, and not always effectively,” and that you “tend to agree.” I thought that meant you were “making the argument,” in that you agreed with it. The thing is, you seem to be arguing that any book that is well-written must be a good story first . . . which I’d also tend to agree with, actually. However, that next-last sentence (which seems to be part of what you tend to agree with) implies that there is a category of fiction that could be termed “SJ fiction,” in which the story doesn’t come first. Wouldn’t that just be called “bad writing”? And wouldn’t there likely also be conservative or right-wing fiction that is written equally badly, because it doesn’t put the story first? And if that’s the case–why pick on the poorly written SJ fiction, and Baen’s avoidance of it, as the reason that Baen outsells other publishers? Surely any publisher that puts the story first, that focuses on finding and publishing well-written books of any political stripe, should outsell other publishers.
If, indeed, Baen does outsell other publishers, which also seems to be in question here, and is probably more specific to the topic of the OP . . .
If uncritically reiterating the SP argument is the entirety of your post, we’re going to assume you support it the SP argument.
If you’re doing it in a discussion of John Ringo’s post about how “SJWs are dragging down the sales of everyone except Baen”, we’re going to assume that you’ve at least read the post you’re replying to and, in the absence of any comment on John Ringo’s argument, that you support it also.
And it was Ringo who conflated TOR with message fiction (mostly it was Ringo conflating “every publishing house except Baen” with message fiction, but you may notice that TOR is included in the set of all publishing houses that aren’t Baen)
It might be a good idea if you tried reading a post before commenting on it. It might also be instructive to go and read on the No True Scotsman fallacy, and consider how that might be cropping up in the classification of what is and is not SJW message fic.
Dann: A couple quick thoughts (snip quite a bit more than “quick”)
Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
even though everything the Puppies did was executed horrendously badly, they still have a valid point garsh darnit. It’s valid, I tell you. , if you just dig deep enough, you’ll find some little nugget that’s valid. I promise you. just keep digging and I’m sure you’ll find it. Somewhere.
No, they really don’t. It’s been pointed out repeatedly and in multiple sources that hugos have gone to right leaning stuff. The whole thing is a scam. And you either bought into the scam or you’re selling the scam.
In general, ISTM that the Puppies fall victim to the typical error of the right: they want everyone else to be forced to share their values, and they honestly don’t understand that other people DON’T insist on shared values. Naturally they’re threatened by people with other values, because they don’t want to be forced to share them.
That said, they’re also liars and childish egoizing jerks. Another trait of the right: what’s true is not important; what you can sell to your audience is all that matters. And naturally they’re bad at science (statistics, history etc); they’re against it period.
I just wanted to say ME TOO! to this. (I also like the “but you’re a Betan!” moment, which I think of every time some sea lion/troll says “I thought you liberals were supposed to be tolerant.” (And now I see that chris has said something quite similar; great minds, chris.))
Yes it does; it completely demolishes Ringo’s arguments, none of which contain actual statistics, including the allegation that authors are being subject to “back room” bias by publishers. The fact that publishers all publish conservative authors demolishes it, that publishers have plenty of successes with liberal authors, including the two biggest authors on the planet, refutes it. More to the point, when you make an allegation, you have to provide evidence to back your claim. He’s provided none. And again, “well written” is subjective so claims that a book was published even though it wasn’t well written are bogus. To the publisher, it was written in a way they thought was good and would sell. Ringo’s claims are completely opposite of how fiction publishing actually works. Which frankly, again, Ringo already knows. He’s not trying to expose conspiracies. He’s just making noise. Like yourself.
Schuber is an ass here, which I guess shouldn’t surprise anyone given who he’s working for. He did not pull out of the Hugos because social justice people were oppressing him. He stated that he pulled out because of the puppies. As for the rest, it does not shut someone out of politics to disagree with them and criticize their views (as you should well know Dann, as you do it all the time.) No one is obliged to buy his magazine, or not criticize Card for his views about gay people being disgusting and his legislative efforts to get their rights taken away. Telling other authors that you think they’re making a mistake publishing in Card’s magazine is an opinion, not bullying, and has no ability to prevent an author from working with the magazine. Schuber does the usual thing to claim that nobody is allowed to disagree with nor criticize and dislike conservatives and their values that others should lose their rights. But free speech works both ways.
Since the magazine’s critics are not in charge of its editorial policies, nor have had any effect on the magazine, your example has nothing to do with Ringo’s claims about book publishers at all, except to say that wow, look, liberal people express their views just like conservative people do.
If Ringo and the puppies want to make a lot of fake claims they have no evidence for about how all other publishers except Baen engage in some sort of not very clear skullduggery because they publish stuff you all don’t particularly enjoy, they have every right to do so and nobody has stopped them from doing so. They are expressing their opinions. They are fairly libelous opinions, but I don’t think the publishers are going to care much. In return, everybody else has the exact same right to criticize their claims, point out the facts that refute their claims, argue that they have no logic to their claims, and call bullshit on what they feel is bigotry in those claims or their expressed views.
Shorter version: Ringo gets to shoot his mouth off, but has no right or ability to tell everybody else they have to shut up about it. And if in shooting his mouth off, he’s denigrating the integrity of nearly the entire SFF publishing field (although exactly how publishing a variety of fiction is lacking in integrity is still not clear,) expecting people to ignore those claims and not respond is even sillier. And when he claims obvious whoppers like that Baen Books never had a dip in sales and growth and that Baen Books outsells publishers three times its size, no one is under any obligation to refrain from pointing out that those are factually ludicrous statements.
So if you don’t have anything else except to complain that people are disagreeing with the guy who is calling most of the industry conniving scum on a trumped up conspiracy theory, perhaps you should wait for the next instance of a puppy calling other people conniving scum to try this again.
Chastised? Chastised? Someone got “chastised” and over this, a hissy fit? People get chastised all the time; they often survive the experience, and even make decisions independently of the chastisement.
Wow. Weak sauce.
So, okay. I’m not one of the people Schuber’s talking about, but mostly because I don’t tend to buy magazines anyhow, and I tend to be “eh, you have to pick your battles” about what other people do, different financial situations, etc.* But I’m not buying anything with OSC’s name on it. Ever.
(Or at least barring an alternate universe where he stops being a homophobe and apologizes for using his name recognition to post homophobic rants.)
And no, I don’t regret this, any more than I regret not buying clothes at the Goth store run by The Guy Who Hates You, back in college, or avoiding restaurants where I suspect that the cook spits in my pie. If you’re a dick and my options include non-dick-run businesses, I’m going to go with them, because hey, it’s a more pleasant experience all around. If I’ve never experienced you being a dick to me personally but you’re a dick to my friends…hey, word travels.
This is a little thing called “the free market” in action. If conservatives don’t like that, maybe they need to fetishize another economic model.
*There was a point in my life where I would have submitted to IGMS and then donated half the payment to GLAAD if I’d gotten in, but a) I don’t write short stories these days, and b) I can afford to be choosier. Sort of like my deal with Wal-Mart.
isabel: This is a little thing called “the free market” in action.
But, but, they’d be raking in the dough, if it weren’t for the potential customers who “conspire” to not buy their works. Clearly that proves its a conspiracy.
In fairness, the guy turned it down, which is more than can be said for most involved. I’ve read some of the stories Schubert has put up as his sampler, and enjoyed a couple of them very much; I will keep those writers in mind in the future. That too is the way the free market works…
Is true. And like I said, everyone picks their battles, and I’m not going to be the literary equivalent of That One Vegetarian Friend, because Lord, that person is tedious.
Me? I think the guy’s talented. For myself, I wish he’d found a worthier vehicle for said talent, and one that I felt comfortable supporting financially, but hey, there’s always the future.
@Greg: I need to get involved in a better class of conspiracy. I was promised black helicopters and lizardmen.
Semi-boring I’m sure publishing notes: TOR did start as an independent company. It’s now owned by McMillan, which is owned by Holtzbrinck. Jim Baen was an editor at Ace who went with Tom Doherty when he left Ace (after it had been acquired by Putnam Berkley) to found TOR. A few years later, Jim left TOR to found his own company. ( the source of his financing is a pretty well known supposed secret) Simon Schuster provides sales and distribution. They don’t own the company. To the best of my knowledge, Baen and DAW are the only two mainstream independently owned sf/f companies in the business. DAW has an arrangement with Penguin Random similar (though a bit different) to Baen has with S&S, but it is not owned by them.
It’s all because you won’t shop at Wal Mart, even though they are helping the military take over Texas this summer. :)
isabel: I was promised black helicopters
Cripes, it’s 2015, where’s my “Back to the Future” hoverboard?
GinjerB: nice. You wouldn’t have a website that collates all that publishing info into a single site? I still can’t get my head around who is who, who owns whom, who distributes for whom, who publishes what, or even a sense of scale of the different companies. Probably too much publishing geekery for this thread, but I’d appreciate a URL if you know of one.
Greg–no such website, as far as I know. I guess anyone so inclined could put it all together either thru Wikipedia (maybe) or individual publishers websites. I could give you a short version, but it’s kinda off-topic, unless John thinks enuf folk would be interested?
As the other thread is closed for the moment, I hope that replying here solely for the purpose of thanking those who have graciously responded to me is not out of line. (I do not propose to bring the discussion over here.)
I just want to kiptw, sistercoyote, Mary Francis, Kat Goodwin, and others whom I may have missed to know that I am grateful for your kindness. I was in pain, you took my expression of pain on good faith, and you responded as people with empathy and care who do not wish to cause pain. Thank you.
I’m a long-time Baen reader, and specifically a fan of Baen’s dyamic duo, David Weber and Eric Flint. So it always strikes me as odd when someone suggests that Baen’s publishing reflects some political agenda. Eric Flint is a pretty left-leaning guy and while David Weber does launch into the odd right-leaning economic lecture, he’s hardly a Social Warrior for the right.
Oddly, it’s John Ringo’s writing that has become increasingly politicized over the years, to the point where I can no longer enjoy it.
I doubt Baen would enjoy being labeled as the “anti-SJW” publishing house. Someone over there should really have a talk with Ringo. Indeed, it might be prudent to consider dropping him.
It’s worth pointing out that one of the most egregious pieces of right-wing “message fiction” I’ve ever read — The Last Centurion — was written by one John Ringo.
I don’t follow Mr. Ringo’s blog. My only encounters with him occurred at DragonCon in Atlanta a few years back. I don’t remember if it was two times or three that he walked into an SF/F panel discussion and added himself to that discussion, uninvited.
Each time, he thnthen proceeded to take over the discussion and basically turn the topic into “see how awesome I am.”
We were not impressed. I have never felt so annoyed by a speaker before or since.
There’s no need to have a talk with Ringo or do anything with him for Baen because Ringo’s personal political views are none of Baen’s business unless he becomes an editorial employee in some capacity. Again, book publishers publish a wide variety of authors and they ignore their authors’ politics and personal lives. Authors are their own businesses; they simply have licensing partnerships with publishers. So unless they commit a crime (which has occasionally happened,) or an author is accusing Baen of wrong-doing, Baen isn’t going to run around and tell their authors what to say about Baen or anything else. And neither do the other publishers.
I suppose if Baen decided that they did indeed want to be known as only a conservative house, they might side with puppies on some things. I think their editor-in-chief has expressed some friendliness to some of it. But that wouldn’t be particularly useful in keeping Bujold and Flint, two of their biggest sellers, or other older authors who also sell well for them in backlist. Publishers quite prefer to be neutral, especially when it comes to fiction. Which is why Ringo and the puppies’ conspiracy claims are bizarre to most hearing them.
Nicole: You’re welcome to the extent that I did anything.
John Ringo was GOH at WindyCon several years back, when the theme was Military SF, and although you could sort of tell he probably wasn’t Mr. Liberal, he didn’t hammer any sort of agenda on the attendees as far as I could tell. He seemed pretty cool. And although I’m pretty much the kind of SFW the Puppies despise, I did enjoy reading “A Hymn Before Battle” from the Baen Free Library. I do like a good battle. At least in fiction. I’d run away screaming in real life.
Nicole, I hope you know that I, and many others, all admire your position, and wish you well.
The only exceptions to this rule are the drive-by trolls; I know it’s hugely hard, for someone like yourself, to try and ignore people, but some people have to be ignored, if you want to write again.
Please just remember that you have a vastly wider audience who value you more, as a writer.
As an English English person, living in London England can assert a great deal about the people wittering on about conspiracy theories at Worldcon, because I’ve read them. The fact that none of them gives a toss about people with disabilities is blindingly obvious from reading the reports of the time.
I am sorry they feel that way, but that’s what they feel. Blaming yourself is a fruitless endeavour; they want you to just sit down and shut up.to
@Nicole JLBL: The thread was closed before I got there, but please know I was thinking sympathetic thoughts at you and your cousin. My telepathy’s on the fritz, so you may not have gotten them.
@cadius1: Ringo did that at a con I was at! (Forget which one). I hadn’t heard of him before and this was not an auspicious introduction. I think he added himself to a panel with S.M Stirling and came off as much, much Steve’s inferior. Someone who makes a habit of barging in and announcing his own greatness doesn’t impress anyone over the age of 8. Annoyed is definitely the word for the mood of the room.
Also, I think he’s a bad writer whose politics DO genuinely detract from the story. If I wanted screeds like that, I’d move back to the 50s or read Ayn Rand. He’s half a step short of Gen. Jack D. Ripper. Flint’s a freaking Socialist, but you’d never know it from his work. THAT’s apolitical.
@GinjerB: (who, full disclosure, once bought me a double of bourbon when I needed it) I’d be interested. And it would probably be helpful in further discussions of the field.
@Stevie: Thanks for your continuing… Englishness. I do mean that sincerely.
@BW: Yep, sadly true. My mother’s Episcopal parish was full of ex-Catholics who still wanted bells and smells, but also realized sometimes you gotta get divorced, sometimes you need birth control, and sometimes people are gay. In the time she was there, they had two married straight male priests, one divorced bi priest, one lesbian, and a flaming queer music director who brought his “roommate” to all the parties (He also wrote one of the most beautiful modern hymns I ever heard).
The lead woman of the vestry had been raised Catholic but become Episcopalian when she wanted to remarry. She was divorced because she’d fled in terror from her alcoholic first husband with the kids and only what she could throw into the car while he was at the bar one day. The later, blended family outdid the Brady Bunch.
@megpie: In the US, the punchline of that joke has traditionally been the Southern Baptists. Pretty sure the Westboro bozos are going to the Other Place.
Christians are as varied as snowflakes. Some of them are excellent Social Justice Warriors.
Nicole, I’m a teacher. Something I learned long ago is: when someone tells me that language hurts, I need to pay attention. Thank you for reminding me to watch my word choices.
Thank you :) It’s probably also useful to note the time difference between us English Englishers and you American Englishers; I get even more English when I’m falling asleep…
Ugh, started filling out my hugo ballot. Put no award on all the pure puppy categories. Got hit with a wave of nausea as it really hit home how much damage the puppies did this year. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
I finished my re-read of Ancillary Justice and read Ancillary Sword. I liked Sword better than Justice. Their good I just don’t seem as wowed by these as others are. I did find them easier reads than The Three Body Part Problem although I loved the ending I found it work to make it to the end.
Today I start the Goblin Emperor. Once I’m done with that I will update my Hugo ballot.
I need to ask my husband to see about checking the graphic novels out of the library.
Then I’m pretty much done voting until I get the package. I’ve read everything available and voted NA for all slate items. I don’t want to see slates become the norm. I do believe there is a difference between “I’m eligible and check this stuff out” (and hey what did you read & like?) and “here’s a slate/vote for this slate” (let’s tick people off/if it ticks people off that’s ok with me). Might be 20+ years as a tech writer and mentor teaching people to be very careful how they use their words & the nuances of words…
I’m starting a list for next year’s nominations already. We need to have more people nominating in 2016.
Sorry for the delay. Life, etc.
Of course. I’m mistaken. There are no biases in the SFF cultural pool.
Crap….sorry….forgot to close the tag.
I don’t doubt that Baen Books under Jim Baen was primarily a print-good-stories-that-Jim-Baen-thinks-will-sell-and-get-people-to-buy-more-Baen-books enterprise. And I don’t doubt that Jim Baen was very good to John Ringo.
Consider three things:
First, Walter Jon Williams’s take. Walter Jon Williams tells stories of unhappy dealings with Jim Baen. WJW is a very, very good writer indeed who writes cracking good stories that *have a beginning, a middle, and a (more than satisfactory end*–in fact, who writes stories that are so good that everyone would benefit from some more serious publisher marketing muscle behind him. He casts a rather different light on Baen.
See , on life in the days when Jim Baen was both an editor at Tom Doherty’s Tor Boks and running his own Baen Software computer-game company: “Those were the days when there were only three people in the Tor offices. Jim Baen the editor, Tom Doherty the publisher, and Mrs. Doherty the bookkeeper….
>”When I told Baen I was going to be late, he insisted that I write an ending for the book I’d written thus far and send him the manuscript. I wrote the ending— it was a damn good ending, too, filled with sadness and pathos— and sent him the ms. I had no idea why he was being so insistent, and only found out a few years later, when I told the story to another Tor editor. She thought for a moment, then said, “Oh! Tax fraud!” I don’t know any more details than that….
“I’d never met anyone quite like Baen before…. His politics were extremely conservative, his ideas on race dated from (let’s be charitable) the 1940s, and he had an amazing repertoire of sexist jokes (at one point telling me a whole string of them while his wife and daughter were in the next room, and in a position to overhear). Though his politics were somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, he nevertheless published lefties like Mack Reynolds and Eric Flint. And he published me, which is clearly to his credit.
>”He also bought a number of games from me, for his new Baen Software company…. He’d hire me as a game writer. I’d then hire the programmers…. The games would then be distributed like books, by Simon & Schuster’s highly professional sales and distribution team. This was a recipe for a nightmare. Firstly, the advances Baen was paying, while suitable enough for a writer churning out quickie paperbacks, didn’t even approach the going rate of a first-rate computer programmer…. This meant that the programmers who actually worked with me were (1) hobbyists who were making a very good living elsewhere but just thought it was cool to create games, and (2) bullshit artists…. The latter tended to predominate. And bear it mind it was me who was hiring the programmers, and I lacked the skills to tell one from the other….
>I’d had to fire a programmer off one of my projects, resulting in delays, and Jim didn’t like delays. (I can understand that he was under pressure, running a company with his name on it that had a fatally flawed business plan that was slowly dragging us all into the Pit–but on the other hand it was his damn business plan, not mine.) Anyway, Jim informed me—-at the Baltimore Worldcon, no less—-that he wouldn’t pay me the advance on signing for _Knight Moves_ until I delivered on the [computer] game project.
>”Now, this was a problem on any number of levels. Firstly, the game contract and the book contract were from two different companies. He was threatening to ruin Tor’s reputation for honesty and timely payment in order to solve a problem at Baen Software. Secondly, I had done my work. It was the programmer that had screwed up. Baen was punishing me because I was the guy he had under contract— he had no business relationship with the programmer at all….
>”Baen’s threat to withhold the advance from _Knight Moves_ ended when he left Tor Books. He had started Baen Books, and for a while it looked as if he’d be editing both lines, but the Science Fiction Writers of America, in a rare moment of belligerence, made threatening noises in his direction, and he left Tor. My new editor was Harriet McDougal, with whom I got along very well indeed….
>”How, I wonder in retrospect, did I survive 1983? I conclude that this is because I was as crazy as any of the people I was dealing with. By the midpoint of the year, I was a staggering, raging wreck, filled with madness and raw cunning. I was a complete convert to the Law of the Jungle. Jim Baen had showed me that only ruthless sociopaths could expect to prosper in the world. I was prepared to eat or be eaten, kill or be killed. I simply didn’t fucking care any more. I wanted to grab a ballpeen hammer and start crushing heads. This proved a useful state of mind next year, when I started writing _Hardwired_…”
Second, _San Francisco Planet_. Out there on the internet there is a third-hand report: chain of transmission Scott Raun from an unremembered Minneapolis author from (perhaps) Lois McMaster Bujold. Scott Raun:
>”I recall hearing from a reliable source (a M[innea]p[o]l[i]s Author–I just can’t remember which one) that sometime after _Ethan of Athos_, Jim Baen told Lois [McMaster Bujold] she could write anything she wanted EXCEPT a sequel to “San Francisco Planet” [i.e., another openly SJW book like the cracking good story _Ethan of Athos_]…”
Third, _Island in the Sea of Time_. Emily Mah’s interview with Steve Stirling :
>Emily Mah: “I’ve heard you tell the harrowing story of how Island in the Sea of Time almost didn’t get published. Would you share it with our Black Gate readers?”
>Steve Stirling: “Well, the publisher [Jim Baen] strongly objected to certain aspects of it; primarily, the race and sexual orientation of a major character[, a Captain in the U.S. Coast Guard]. He thought that this would make reader identification too difficult, and wanted it completely rewritten. I disagreed, obviously. In fact, I was convinced that this was my best work to date and the start of a new phase in my work. After much discussion, which got quite heated, I pulled the book and paid back the advance–which, since I was utterly broke at the time was a bit of a struggle, to put it mildly.
>”Instead I got an agent (the incomparable Russ Galen) and he shopped it around after reading it and liking it. At the time he mentioned that there were only two ways to get him to read a 1000-page manuscript; either he liked it a lot, or I was holding a .45 to his head. [Interviewer’s note: I hope I don’t need to tell you which of the above was the case?] (Harry Turtledove recommended me to Russ, for which I’m eternally grateful.)
>”It sold quickly–several publishers expressed interest, in fact. Russ recommended going with ROC/Penguin, a very shrewd decision which I have blessed repeatedly since. Both my editors at ROC, Laura Anne Gilman (since retired to write full-time) and Ginjer Buchanan, have been joys to work with. And since Island in the Sea of Time is now in its 25th printing since the first in 1998, I feel my judgment has been vindicated!
>”Still, I don’t regret my initial spell with Baen Books, either. Jim did me a lot of good when I was starting out, and I’m sorry we quarreled. He’s done the field good, too, and his company continues to do so…”
In Steve Stirling’s _Island in the Sea of Time_, the ingenue is a barbarian moon-priestess, and the hero is a mighty sword-wielding sea-captain. The ingenue, however, is whiter-than-white-white: a Briton from 1200 BC. The mighty-themed sea-captain is an African-American. And their relationship is a lesbian one. And so Jim Baen’s editorial judgment was that readers would find it difficult to identify with Captain Marion Allston…
Note: All stories are unreliable. All people’s recollections of the past differ. Mileage varies…