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April 7, 2010

A simple, mildly incredulous philippic
Posted by Patrick at 08:40 AM *

Teresa sidelighted this opening paragraph of a book review yesterday, remarking “Why do reviewers keep recycling this stupid rant?”

Once upon a time in a world far, far away, publishing was run by editors. People who were interested in finding new talent, and developing that talent with the aim of building an author’s name, which in turn led to profits. Nowadays, publishing is run by accountants, and their sole interest is instant profit. Original talent still slips through, but mostly that is accidental. More likely, the accountants trawl for something vaguely like a book they know has already sold, then churn this out with a bit of fanfare in the hope of making a fast buck.
I have no particular interest in the book the reviewer goes on to slam; for all I know it’s as bad as he says it is. Or not. What interests me is how SF Site, a long-established SF and fantasy review venue run by people with plenty of experience in the SF world, would come to publish a set of, well, basically, insane lies about people they know perfectly well, as if it were somehow reasonable and normal to do so.

As a practicing SF editor working for a particular house, acquiring and publishing specific books by real authors—you know, as an actual person with a name—I realize that the standard instructions on my dance card admonish me to ignore outbursts like the above. And generally I do. But for once I’d like to pause and wonder. First, because it really is nonsense on stilts. Book publishing was never a heaven “run by editors”, and it is by no means today a hell “run by accountants.” If our “sole interest” was “instant profit,” not only would we never do any number of the things we actually do every day, we probably wouldn’t be in book publishing at all. Just thinking about what I did in the office yesterday, about a third of my time was devoted to putting together deals that will immediately put non-trivial sums of money into the hands of writers in exchange for books that we will publish months and years from now, realizing “profit” (if any) only after even more months and years have elapsed after that. In addition, I also spent over $2,000 on a piece of short fiction which will be given away for free on Tor.com, making us no immediate “profit” whatsoever. This was not an atypical day. And I’m quite certain this is true of my colleagues all over town. Betsy Mitchell and the other Del Rey people make long-term investments every day of the week; they are not slaves to “instant profit.” Ginjer Buchanan and Susan Allison at Ace are not “run by accountants.” The folks at Orbit US show every evidence of being in the business of “finding new talent, and developing that talent with the aim of building an author’s name”; if they were interested only in a “fast buck,” they’d be commodities traders.

The people who run SF Site know this. So why is it okay to publish this kind of junk when its subject is the vaguely defined category of “publishing, nowadays”? Do they not notice that they’re sliming actual, particular people—you know, with names—who they know perfectly well and with whom they otherwise show every evidence of wishing to have cordial relations? Were they just asleep in class when the “do not bear false witness” instruction was discussed? I really don’t get it.

There are plenty of things wrong with book publishing, some specific to the industry itself and some endemic to corporate capitalism. You could write a book. Lots of people have. But claiming that it was once “run by editors” and has now fallen to being “run by accountants” who care only about “instant profit” is about as true to the facts as claiming that the contemporary industry is the result of a breeding program conducted by a race of reptilians called Anunnaki from the planet Draco, and about as useful as a jumping-off point for more detailed analysis. If I walked up to Rodger Turner and said things as fancifully abusive about, say, his closest friends and family, I doubt any jury would convict him if he punched me in the nose. Why is it okay to do this to us?

UPDATE: Mr. Steven “Tex” Brust nails it. “Of course modern publishing is run by the accountants. As soon as a guy gets an MBA today, the first thing he says, ‘I want to get into genre publishing, because that’s where the real money is.’”

Comments on A simple, mildly incredulous philippic:
#1 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:21 AM:

If it's a sin for the back cover of a book to have praise from similar writers, there's a lot of Sin in this world. And has been for years.

I have no idea if the book is any good, but I'm certain whether the review is.

#2 ::: Ceri ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:24 AM:

I found it interesting that after the tired rant in the opening paragraph the reviewer goes on to slam a book for being cliched.

I also thought the review itself was rather unnecessarily aggressive and mean, but then I haven't read the book in question.

#3 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:28 AM:

I'm pretty sure that particular reviewer isn't knowledgeable about publishing, on the one hand, and expresses things in that way because expressing things as "they publish this dreck, but not my wondrous book" or as "all books (that are not my book) suck" rather limits one's utility as a reviewer, whereas presenting the appearance of inside knowledge and a worn lament that books aren't as good as they used to be works just great with general primate social expectations, on the other.

(paragraph, sentence, basically the same thing, right?)

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:40 AM:

I for one welcome our Evil Reptilian Editorial Overlords.

#5 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:40 AM:

Right on, Patrick. I got so very, very tired of people saying hideous, cruel, dumb things about my primary publisher, or the whole gaming market, or publishing in general, and then being astonished when anyone took it as an attack or insult. But they are, and people need to be held accountable for gratuitous acts of stupid cruelty.

#6 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:45 AM:

"Why is it okay to do this to us?"

Because to your average reader (or unpublished writer, for that matter) editors are as distant and alien as "a race of reptilians called Anunnaki from the planet Draco"?

"When in doubt, blame the weirdo in the corner" is a lamentably common human failure mode. As editors aren't actually visible as human beings to the folks who come out with this guff they find it easy to point the accusatory finger. Oh, and they assume that what's true of the music or film industries must be true of the other creative sectors because, hey, it's all art, right?

#7 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:47 AM:

"Nathan Brazil" appears to have had several publishing deals "fall through at the last moment", and says more on his authorial website about how utterly wrong the publishing industry is about everything these days than about, you know, his books that he's going to be selling as POD himself Real Soon Now.

I'm REALLY interested to see how his career as a publisher goes.

#8 ::: Tracey ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:54 AM:

The reviewer seems to have two premises:

1) No one would ever write a book about a supernatural modern world, particularly a supernatural modern America, if he or she were not trying to create a conscious imitation of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books.

2) No one would ever publish a book about a supernatural modern world or a supernatural modern America based on the belief that said book was good. The only reason to publish it is a cynical attempt to jump on the Anita Blake bandwagon, which will of course be tantamount to coining money for the publisher.

I would say this reviewer not only does not know how publishing works, he also does not know how writers work or what makes people buy books. But he's trying to give the impression that his dislike of a certain category of book is based on his inside knowledge of publishing rather than a) his being a fan of one author in particular and feeling that all others in the genre are no more than clones and b) possibly sour grapes about his own work. Though I can't be certain about b). He gives that impression, but I might be wrong.

#9 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:00 AM:

"There are plenty of things wrong with book publishing, some specific to the industry itself and some endemic to corporate capitalism. You could write a book. Lots of people have. "

Interesting. Could anyone recommend a good book on the things wrong with book publishing?

#10 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:50 AM:

"Nathan Brazil" appears to have had several publishing deals "fall through at the last moment"

I'm trying to figure out what this means. I mean, surely either publishers wanted his books or they didn't. Do publishers really simply decide not to publish a book after initially making an offer?

My guess is that he wouldn't shift from his own idea of their value (probably somewhere in the 6 figure range, if not actually the 7) in order to negotiate a realistic advance. Or refused to be edited.

From the review:

I note from the front and back covers of Three Days to Dead that the praise being heaped upon this title comes from authors of similarly styled works, like members of a support club.

Or, you know, other people writing in the same sub-genre whose works are likely to appeal to the same readers?

One day, someone will reboot this genre, and produce a stunning novel.

This is where he basically admits that he's reviewing a book in a genre he really doesn't like. Why, then, are we supposed to care about his opinion?

#11 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:00 AM:

I've a somewhat related question, which I've been wondering about for the last couple of days (and I'm sure it's been tossed around for a long time by others). On what basis is the typical Hugo voter supposed to judge the candidates for "Best Editor"? It's not like we get to see before-and-after-editing versions of the books.

#12 ::: jonesnori/Lenore Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:11 AM:

As an accountant, I have to say that he slams accountants, too. Despite popular belief, our primary role is to properly and clearly record financial activity, not necessarily to push for more profit. As people who understand numbers, we're likely to be the messenger that says a particular project is not likely to be profitable. However, it's up to the executives, not us, to decide whether to proceed regardless. There are lots of non-immediately measurable reasons to proceed, including goodwill for the business, marketing, long-term investment in an author, or just because we want to.

#13 ::: Brendan Byrne ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:12 AM:

Dissatisfaction. Which is an answer to, 'Why do people do this?' not 'Why is it okay to do this to us?' It's okay, of course, to be dissatisfied with the current state of publishing. You mention "corporate capitalism," which seems to be a good place to start. There's a Mahler quote, which I can't seem to find, so I'll approximate it here, 'The conservative laments for the past, whereas the liberal laments for the future that could have been.' The appeal to the glorious past of publishing is pretty pointless; if we were living there, we'd find just as many problems with the system as we do now. What we should be concentrating on is creating a future. The best way to do that isn't through lazy mud-slinging, but through detailed, rigorous criticism and, of course, creative work coupled with something like generosity.

#14 ::: cathy ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:17 AM:

My first thought on reading the review was "why did they give the book to a reviewer predisposed to hate the entire urban fantasy/paranormal romance subgenre?"

#15 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:30 AM:

The rant quoted in this thread is indeed wildly grumpy, and (as a reviewer myself) I'd never go on that way about the state of publishing. On the other hand, in the March Locus, Chip Delany laments the state of "literary" publishing and quotes a Young Writer's rejection letter where a "major publisher" says "Your book is much too well-written for us to publish."

A lot of genre publishing has moved to the smaller independent presses. (Tor is one of the fine, bigger-name exceptions.) And some writers still get the run-around from agents and publishers alike -- not necessarily because their fiction has declined. I've heard of a case (not Tor, and not anything of mine) where agent and publisher say "Yes, yes!", then leave a work lying in limbo. Rightfully? Then why bother to sound enthusiastic in the first place?

I hope this doesn't just sound like more of that reviewerly rant. For my own column, I see great stuff all the time, from many sizes of press. But there can still be a darker, or more careless, side to the industry. (Yup, nobody's perfect!)

#16 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:34 AM:

Joel @ 11, I've always interpreted that award as a conflation of three effects: works that do not bear the marks of intrusive editing are a credit to the nominee, works that have few errors that an editor should have been able to correct are a credit to the nominee, and editors that work on books I particularly enjoy are likely to have had some role in selecting those works for publication. All three of these criteria are wholly subjective, of course, and all of them are at least as dependent on the author as the editor, but I feel an editor's style, skill, and influence can be seen if one reads widely enough, and should be praised if praiseworthy.

#17 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:36 AM:

What a silly and cliche review. He doesn't like publishers, he doesn't like accountants, and he seems to have a problem not only with contemporary urban fantasy, but with "...young to middle-aged American women."

And I'm never sure where these cliche "back in the olden days, editors published beautiful quality books by brilliant new writers" fantasies come from, unless he's been to some sort of alternate universe where publishers just have scads of self-replicating money lying around to throw at authors. I wish him joy of his future POD endeavors.

#18 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:43 AM:

The number of received truths regarding all the entertainment industries are, well, numerous. They are held firmly in mind even among many of those who do have sufficient information to know better. Why? Most likely because, like most received truths, they provide the holder with comfort, security and consolation, without the need to, well, think. Gliding is more fun than dextrous hiking and climbing -- unless you're a rock climber.

Love, C.

#19 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:48 AM:

I'm not sure this is unique to editors. I have had people regularly rant about 'civil servants' or 'government officials' when I am right there in the conversation. And they know what I do for a living. They say 'oh, we don't mean people like you' -- but in fact they do, precisely, mean people like me. Lenore @12 identifies that accountants are often similarly abused.

I think one of the things that these professions have in common is that people's perception of the role is often grossly simplified. So they realise that of course their friend is not a simpleton; but fail to make the obvious connection that it's likely that other people in the field aren't either.

#20 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:48 AM:

I have read the book in question. It's not very memorable and it relies on urban-fantasy tropes without a whole lot of examination. The core of the plot is a clumsy dilemma. I'm not saying it's a bad book, but it's the kind of book that provokes one to shout -- however unfairly -- "argh, more of the same *again*!"

(To be fair, the opening scene is loaded with awesome. The protagonist wakes up on a morgue slab, to the receding screams of a mortuary attendant. But also, to be fair, after that it's steadily downhill, to the weakest sort of telegraphed deus-ex-machina happy ending.)

#21 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:49 AM:

On the basis of the first graph, why would I bother to read the rest of the review? Cause: start dumb, what are the odds you're going to get less so?

There's always a golden heyday people look backward to--when education/public discourse/civic behavior/publishing/Scrabble tournaments were better run and more wonderful. I say it's spinach and I say to hell with it.

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:56 AM:

I wrote the site a little love note about the review.

#23 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:01 PM:

You know what was better in the olden days? Kosher wine selection in the SF Bay Area. Nowadays there's like, *one* store that bothers to carry anything other than Mogen David / Manischewitz / Kedem. And don't get me started about the sad little card table of matzah the supermarkets put out for Passover these days. Feh!

#24 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:10 PM:

#10: I've had book contracts canceled. It's not common, but it does happen. I even have a cover proof for a book that wasn't actually published -- Tor Double #37, featuring novellas by myself and Esther Friesner.

Sometimes publishers discover that the marketplace (i.e., distributors and chain store buyers) aren't as enthusiastic about a book as the editors were.

#25 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:16 PM:

Evan @23:

We had the most god-awful Kedem stuff this year, and I've no idea why, as my aunt and uncle, who hosted, are wine snobs. But for Passover, every year, they buy the sweetest, most disgusting stuff imaginable. It's a shame when there are good kosher wines around.

I was happy to see the return--at least in my NYC neighborhood--of Passover noodles, oxymoron though they seem to be. I don't know why I have a sneaking fondness for the stuff--it's a glutinous mass unless liberally drenched in gravy and even then . . . but I do.

What was hardest to find was a chemical-free macaroon.

#26 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:24 PM:

Teachers, btw, have cushy, lazy lives, get paid for doing nothing.

Love, C. *working her butt larger every day grading papers, deconstructing students' sentences to show them what they wanted to say but didn't, planning class presentations -- hours and hours and hours of it*

#27 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:34 PM:

Yes, and college professors run the universities from their oak-paneled offices, and are all pointy-headed snobs who hate ordinary folk, and are very, very well paid.

#28 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:41 PM:

Melissa - Heh! So now that you mention it, I think "a sneaking fondness for the stuff" is the key bit. A few months back, my synagogue ran an experiment, handing out decent wine for Sabbath. It was a bust, particularly with the older folks. I actually heard people say out loud, "Where's my sweet Manischewitz?" Oops.

These folks probably all know from good wine, but they've drinking bad Kosher wine at religious events for decades. It's hard to un-train these things.

#29 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:49 PM:

Constance— my take has been that teachers are overpaid AND underpaid*, and it is impossible to tell from the outside which is which. (Except for certain extreme cases.) The problem is compounded when you realize that the best teachers are not necessarily the most popular. Quite frankly, I believe that most of the problems with the educational system are not at the classroom level, and if teachers had more leeway there would be better results.

At any rate, whenever somebody complains that teachers get paid for having months off and "why don't I get a summer vacation?" I like to point to my teacher friend who spends her summers getting her credentials upgraded and renewed. And whom I almost never see during the school year because she's so busy. And she's not atypical.

On topic— whee. Another person trashing something he knows naught of. If he thinks that publishing has ever had a golden age I invite him to go back and read— what? The Mystery of Udolpho? Any other ideas?

*Obviously, not the same ones.

#30 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:50 PM:

The juxtaposition that endeared the review most to me was:

"invariably written by young to middle-aged American women"

and

"The idea here is that America -- and it's always America -- "

One could at least credit the alleged literary movement with "writing what they know".

#31 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:50 PM:

I have a link to this review set to post later, but I want to say that Betsy Mitchell is my editor, and there was nothing "instant" about my book. It was 18 months from signing the contract to actual publication, and she (along with many others) did a hell of a lot of work making that novel as good as it could be.

So, yeah. It's a stupid review and a waste of thinking time.

#32 ::: skzb ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:55 PM:

Of course modern publishing is run by the accountants. As soon as a guy gets an MBA today, the first thing he says, "I want to get into genre publishing, because that's where the real money is."

I hope they follow this up with a discussion of how today art is just for profit, instead of being pure art, the way it was, um, some other time. I forget exactly when.

#33 ::: L. Baird ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 12:55 PM:

#21

I'm afraid that scrabble tournaments were better back in the day, or in the soon-to-be-back-in-the-day, as the godless heathens have now changed the rules to allow proper nouns.

Which is all well and good if you once had 'Cozumel' on your tray and couldn't bust it out for a triple word score, but Scrabble is supposed to be about words for the sake of words! There are kajillions of them! Must everything be dumbed-down for the weak of cranium? Supposedly, it's to attract those fleeting-of-attention span kiddos to Scrabble, but when I was a wee thing, I knew how to win a game of scrabble without resorting to brand names. (And this after I wasted brain cell after brain cell playing Space Invaders, so you can't tell me video games are responsible for kids these days. Video games have amazing vocabulary. Some I'm sure parents would rather not their kids know, but that's a tangent, and really I'm talking about Vagrant Story's delicious O'Smithian vocab-candy.)

But! All of this is why I prefer Bananagrams.

#34 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:00 PM:

Ranting against the accountants/bureaucrats/teachers usually leads into the rant about how "union members" are all money-grubbing lazy SOBs and somehow are destroying "american industry" and are all part of the Democrat Cabal

'Though my wife notes that one of the strangest things she finds about south Boston is the prevelance of pro-union and Sarah Palin stickers on the same car.

#35 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:04 PM:

Alison Scott #19: Indeed! In fact, on another thread here, I just called out a couple of folks on anti-lawyer comments, and one of them did in fact come back with, "oh, not your family..."!

You could go nuts trying to challenge all of these kinds of comments, but I'd say it's worthwhile to occasionally do so, when you've got the spare energy/time.

Constance #26: Oh yeah... Three of my grandparents and both of my parents were teachers, though Dad later became a lawyer. The last few years of Mom's career, things got pretty rough, and that was in a passably good school on Long Island.

Evan Goer #23, Melissa Singer #25: I actually like the sweet stuff, at least once a year. (Memories... which may explain Melissa's aunt & uncle) But I despite being more of a beer fan, I have to admit that the kosher wine we had at Passover this year was pretty good wine.

#36 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:12 PM:

Xopher, #22: So did I, focusing on the reasons why the review itself is worthless to a reader looking for information about the BOOK, as opposed to information about the reviewer. IOW, I reviewed the review. :-)

#37 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:25 PM:

As a "young to middle-aged American wom[a]n" who writes an urban fantasy series, I regularly observe an astonishing amount of vitriol heaped upon the genre.

It makes me tired.

#38 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:36 PM:

Evan and David: My synagogue has, at least, switched to something a little drier for Shabbat. When my father was still alive and my parents periodically hosted Passover (it rotates, like Thanksgiving, among various members of the extended family in the NYC area), my dad used to let me buy the wine.

Not that I'm an expert (I like beer too, and champagne), but I'd read up enough each year to be able to get a good wine for the service.

Some years before that, my younger brother, still a child at the time, _drained_ all 4 ceremonial cups (because it tasted like grape juice) and eventually slid under the table, totally plowed . . . .

#39 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:36 PM:

#10: When I was a production editor at Marcel Dekker (scientific, engineering and some social science texts and journals) I was working with a quality control engineer who worked for a major corporation. He was supposed to supply Dekker with contacts to the people who planned and purchased books for company education programs and some trade association mailing lists. Dekker isn't quite a vanity press but it depends on direct sales and mail order. The man had signed a multi-book deal with Dekker. We were three-quarters of the way through production of his first book when we learned that his corporation wasn't interested in bulk sales and that a number of things he's said about his position were not true. Work on the book came to a halt, the contract was canceled. And, as I remember it, we also decided his text needed more editorial work than we had thought.

#40 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:37 PM:

nerdycellist @ 17: "He doesn't like publishers, he doesn't like accountants, and he seems to have a problem not only with contemporary urban fantasy, but with "...young to middle-aged American women.""

Can I suggest that perhaps his problem with contemporary urban fantasy has a great deal to do with his disdain for young to middle-aged women?* That perhaps his bitterness over not getting published is exacerbated by fact that all these women are? I mean, contemporary urban fantasy--it's all fang-bangers and sex witches these days, hardly better than *hiss spit* romance. According to him, the only good urb-con-fan was Hamilton, who now wastes spends all her time exploring "deviant sexualities." I mean, talk about a genre in need of a good hard reboot!

*Which begs the question of how he feels about older women writing. (I'll bet he loves them!)

#41 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 01:46 PM:

Alison Scott @ 19: "I think one of the things that these professions have in common is that people's perception of the role is often grossly simplified."

They also all have a fair bit of power over other people--or are at least involved in processes that do. Editors, lawyers, accountants, and civil servants are all people who make judgments that will profoundly affect other people's lives, without being able to explain their criteria to a nonexpert. It's a situation where any potential abuse would be impossible for the average person to discern, so it's easy to assume any time they do something you don't like it is, in fact, an abuse of power.

#42 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:04 PM:

David Harmon, #35: "You could go nuts trying to challenge all of these kinds of comments, but I'd say it's worthwhile to occasionally do so, when you've got the spare energy/time." Thank you; that's entirely the spirit in which I wrote this post.

Carrie V., #37: Hey, I can say something to you while wearing my Making Light hat and my Tor Books hat SIMULTANEOUSLY. And that's "We're glad to have you."

#43 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:08 PM:

Patrick, do you wear one on top of the other? Which way? Or do you put one over each ear, or something?

#44 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:16 PM:

42: he has a special combined hat, like the Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, or the Pope.

#45 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:23 PM:

I've always expected it was a "one on top of the other" look, with the more bowler-shaped one on the bottom and the more top-shaped one on, well, top. That gives you a good rule of thumb (rule of cranium?) when nesting three or more hats. Baseball caps are probably the most skull-shaped hats in a given stack and therefore most likely to be on the bottom.

Carrie V: Pleasure to see you here! I'm an amateur reader.

On the original post: Again, I'm a reader, doing it with more love than skill, but I noticed something: The reviewer has real trouble writing a clear, simple, active sentence. I look at some of those sentences, going "Is that a fragment? Maybe? Wait, I think there's a subject, verb AND object in there. It's hard to tell."

Sentence Fragment:
"Mainly due to the lack of a believable, well conceived back-story, and almost zero alternate perspective."
Not Actually A Sentence Fragment:
"Few of whom are anywhere near as good as Laurel K. Hamilton. "

#46 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:27 PM:

It's these high-and-mighty editors with their Double-Decker Greed Hats that are the problem, here! Not like in the olden days, when editors wore modest fedoras and only cared about Art.

#47 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:29 PM:

What gets me the most about these kinds of "Woe, teh accountants are ruining the art!" rants is that editors never did run publishing. It's always been a business run by businessmen, in a necessary tension with editors who, ideally, are developing books and authors that the public doesn't yet know they want. A good editor understands the business, and a good publisher understands the books. You need both, but a house run by the editors for the sake of literature would most likely go bankrupt. And a house without editors would run out of things to sell.

The original publishers were people who owned printing presses. They'd print whatever people would pay them to. For every Shakespeare there were a hundred...um, I don't know their names. Neither do you. But the publisher made money off them.

#48 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:41 PM:

Hmm, sounds like "Nathan Brazil" is about as engaged by PNR/UF with lead female characters, as I was with Dying Inside about Privileged White Guy (I think it was a White Guy) going through Male Menopause and losing his paranormal powers that gave him even more privileging that the typical White Male of the 1970s...or, as engaged as I by most "Christian SF" or "Christian fantasy" full of coded references to the Other and various allegorical stuff which I either or both fail to comprehend or have allergic reactions to.

There is a large profitable market for PNR/UF, an publishing is a for profit business.... There is also a large market for the sort of Christian SF & F which I'm averse to.... but I doubt if anyone would except as a joke or some such, go out of their way to publish a killer vituperative review by me on a review website the way the "Nathan Brazil" review has been published...

#49 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:46 PM:

Patrick @42: Thank you. I really, really appreciate it.

Heresiarch @40: I think you'd be right on that. I have a rant or two brewing about that sort of thing.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Carrie V @ 37...

Ah, you're that Carrie V.
Planning to go to Bubonicon this year too?

#51 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:55 PM:

rm@27: you are absolutely right on everything but the oak panels. Mine are teak, thank you very much.

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:56 PM:

If we can get David Hartwell and Tom Doherty on-thread, we're well on our way to reproducing this panel discussion, from about two minutes in.

#53 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 02:59 PM:

But, sadly, without the hats.

#54 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Serge @ 50: "that Carrie V." makes me sound so mysterious...

I'm tentatively planning on being at Bubonicon, but this is complicated by the fact that I'm definitely going to AussieCon and leaving that Monday. So, I'll likely only be there for part of Bubonicon. I want my teleportation device!

#55 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:05 PM:

Lawyers and editors and accountants with spreadsheets
Agents and assistants and bosses who want treats
Books that are all for a profitable sting
These are a few of the scummiest things

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:11 PM:

Carrie V @ 54... It sounds like a few people will be doing a part-time Bubonicon for that reason. As for teleportation devices... Remember what happened to the man who was teleported along a guinea pig in one sequel to The Fly?

#57 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:21 PM:

heresiarch @ 41 -- I think another factor is that many people have had experiences with people working in those professions who were, in their opinion, at least, doing their work badly.

Editors... well, a lot of poor writers have had their work rejected, but I've seen respected professional authors ranting about terrible copy-editing. The last lawyer I had to deal with for something non-trivial wasn't evil but she sure wasn't as competent as I'd have liked. Civil servants... many are perfectly fine, but I've had to deal with way too high a proportion of bunglers. ("Yes, I know that it's illegal to dump rain water into the sewer line. Nevertheless, that's what Ms.[X] in the planning department told me had been approved for that building... Yes, I KNOW that it's illegal, but that doesn't seem to have stopped them from approving it... Yes, I KNOW THAT IT'S ILLEGAL, so would you please go tell that to the planning department, rather than telling me that they can't really be telling me something that's illegal?")

#58 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:24 PM:

I think that tirades such as this post are a sad reflection on the ranting industry these days, seeing as how the blog industry is entirely run by investment bankers. Also, it wasn't in the least bit desultory. Where are the desultory philippics of yesteryear?

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:25 PM:

Actually, Sandy @45, "Few of whom are anywhere near as good as Laurel K. Hamilton" is not a well-formed English sentence as the conjunction "whom" has no verb to finish its clause. It is a different kind of sentence fragment than you were thinking of (a subsidiary-clause fragment rather than a SOP fragment).

#60 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:26 PM:

Is anyone beside me hearing:

"It's good old reliable Nathan, Nathan, Nathan,
Nathan Brazil..."

#61 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:29 PM:

I tend to wonder about reviewers who adopt pseudonyms for their work. Is "Nathan Brazil" concerned that boatloads of writers, editors and accountants might invade his island with foul intent?

I tend to wonder even more about reviewers whose pseudonym is borrowed from a fictional character who is, if not quite God, is certainly God's Repairman, putting the workings of the universe right again when it goes off track.

#62 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:30 PM:

L. Baird@33: But! All of this is why I prefer Bananagrams.

When I learnt it the game that's now commercially available as Bananagrams, it was called Squabble, which I still think is a much better name.

#63 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 03:34 PM:

Melissa Singer #38: Some years before that, my younger brother, still a child at the time, _drained_ all 4 ceremonial cups (because it tasted like grape juice) and eventually slid under the table, totally plowed . . . .

Heh... I tried that when I was 12, but my family cut me off after the second glass (apparently I was getting obstreperous). I woke up on Grandpa's couch... and learned that I was too big for my family members to carry home.

Since then, I've never gotten falling-down drunk outside crawling distance of my own bed. (Not often even then, mind you, but there were a few parties in my co-op at college.)

#64 ::: Rulial ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:04 PM:

@33, the rules of Scrabble aren't changing to allow proper nouns. Rather, a variant of the game allowing proper nouns is being released outside North America. Scrabble tournaments will continue to disallow proper nouns (or rather, words that are only proper nouns).

#65 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:05 PM:

Editors frequently screw up. I frequently screw up. I've screwed up some things this week.

But not because "publishing is run by accountants," or "editors no longer edit," or any of the other, similar, chestnuts.

We don't call these things chestnuts because they're never true. We call them that because they don't reflect any particular knowledge; they're just things people say to make themselves look like they know something.

#66 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:07 PM:

I love how "Nathan Brazil" is all down on the urban fantasy genre with all of its magical creatures fighting humans in the modern world, while his own books (all print-on-demand) are all about -- the return of magical beings to the modern world, where they fight humans!

#67 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:09 PM:

Avram (#66), that would be because his unicorns are special. And accountant-free.

#68 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:27 PM:

...that would be because his unicorns are special. And accountant-free.

No, it's because his unicorns, far from being written by a middle-aged American woman in novels set in America, are written by a middle-aged British male, and set in Britain. Very different, as you can see.

#69 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:31 PM:

Melissa Singer @ 25: What was hardest to find was a chemical-free macaroon So make some instead? I have good recipes for coconut macaroons, cinnamon balls and hazlenut torte if you want them (tried and tested).

(I was going to comment on the stupid review, but lots of people have already made all the points I was going to make).

#70 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:37 PM:

We had a bottle of Kesser languish in our basement for at least a year; we had bought it on the assumption that some day we might have a Shabbat or Passover guest who pined for old-fashioned cough-syrup wine. As it turned out, everyone either appreciates real wine or would rather have grape juice than cough syrup.

This week we finally gave up and used the Kesser as a cooking wine. I resisted the urge to joke about pouring out a libation to the Rebbe.

#71 ::: Brendan Podger ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:39 PM:

I simply read the open bit as "The only way this book could have got to press was that the publisher needed to get X genre book out and chose this as the best of a bad lot that came across their desk. Editorial considerations like quality were secondary to the decision"

Of course this is an easy line, but it does get a point across(unless you are an outraged publisher/editor).

Don't fret Patrick, just go back to your dreams of being in the position of Tolkien's publisher who was holidays when LotR came in. When his son rang him and told him it probably wouldn't make any money, he asked "Is it good?"
"Yes"
"Buy it"(after costs but with a 50% royalty to Tolkien after that)

#72 ::: qiihoskeh ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:53 PM:

Maybe SFSite should put a disclaimer on such reviews, saying they know better but still like to generate controversy?

#73 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 04:57 PM:

So does someone in the accounting department at a publishing house do Net Present Value calculations for authors' advances and all the rest of the costs attached to books? And would that make Mr. Brazil happier?

#74 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 05:05 PM:

Brendan Podger @71: I think you have your facts wrong. LOTR was written at editorial request: Allen & Unwin wanted a sequel to The Hobbit. It was bought before it was written.

#75 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 05:17 PM:

dcb @#69 Melissa Singer @ 25: What was hardest to find was a chemical-free macaroon So make some instead? I have good recipes for coconut macaroons, cinnamon balls and hazlenut torte if you want them (tried and tested).

<hobbyhorse>

How do you get hard vacuum to stay on a baking pan?

</hobbyhorse>

#76 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 05:39 PM:

#75

How do you get hard vacuum to stay on a baking pan?

Gluons.

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 05:42 PM:

I love the image of Patrick wearing the Crowns of Upper and Lower Tor, or of Tor and Making Light, carrying the crook and flail, and intoning "Our Majesty does not LIKE this review!" Nathan Brazil is dragged off to the quarries, to make himself useful at last.

#78 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 05:51 PM:

Eh whatever.

The publishing system isn't working that badly. Last night, I sat down and read Half a Crown (and sat far past when I should be sleeping, I might add). This is apparently is the sort of work that accountants approve of, seeing as it's part of a series and all that. I also suspect that the editor liked it as well.

But you know, it was _good_. More like that please.

#79 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:00 PM:

Xopher #77: I shall be happy to introduce you to a few people who will explain to you that there is a true Original Tor (called Donnellia). There, the editors wield mystical powers, and always know what the readers and writers really want.

#80 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:16 PM:

Well, actually, Half a Crown is arguably an example of the system not working as well as it might. Farthing did okay midlist numbers in hardcover and actually better-than-expected numbers in mass-market paperback. But for reasons best described as "weather" (i.e., nothing whatsoever to do with the book), Ha'penny took a dip in hardcover--fewer library sales, among other things, if I recall correctly--and the mass-market paperback fell off a cliff. This is why Half a Crown hasn't had a softcover edition yet--since we were clearly doing something wrong, I didn't want to spray-paint further lousy numbers onto Jo's track record.

Instead what I intend to do, and I've had trouble getting this going but people in-house still seem to think it's a good idea that will work, is repackage all three books in trade paperback with a very different look, not swastikas but people, something that gets across the books' essential nature as (in the wonderful phrase of the late editor Brian Thomsen, who was a big fan of Jo's trilogy) "dark cozies." I mean to get these out in, or starting in, 2011, not too long after the January 2011 hardcover of Jo's absolutely stone-cold brilliant Among Others.

It's frustrating. It takes time.

#81 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:20 PM:

I'm afraid I literally don't understand what Brendan Podger is trying to say in #71.

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:24 PM:

Patrick, I think he's saying "go on buying things with no consideration to whether you can sell them." Which you don't, of course, but that's what I think he means.

That last bit about "after costs," though: I have no idea.

#83 ::: Raka ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:28 PM:

Gosh, Patrick. I don't know what you're so upset about. Mr. "Brazil" is on your side, after all. He likes editors. He's lamenting the fact that the new dominance of Accountancy has reduced you all to craven, ineffectual sell-outs whose gross pandering has directly created this new dark age of literacy. He's not saying it's your fault that publishing sucks now; he's saying that the fruits of your apparent labor are so thoroughly rotten that they could only be explained by your complete acquiescence to the Machine, that you must do nothing at all in your job except twitch to every stimulus of the soulless Suits above you.

And he's really sad about that. He's sure that the work you do would be much better if you actually did it. So, y'know. Friends all 'round.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:47 PM:

lorax @ 76... Not morons?

#85 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:50 PM:

Patrick @ #80, I can tell you first-hand that Farthing and Ha'Penny weren't bought by the Hawai'i library system, since that lack prompted me to part with a few bucks to buy my copies from the bookselling-website-that-must-not-be-named a year or so ago.

#86 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 06:56 PM:

There are at least two places in the South Bay - Mollie Stone's in Palo Alto, and I'm told the former Albertsons near Homestead in Cupertino is the other source of good kosher wines, due to the community informing them that even them that even though Lucky didn't have Albertsons' policy of ethnic-specialty stores, there were a few thousand people who wanted to make sure that branch would do so. I suspect Bevmo has some choices also, though I don't know if that works for Passover, and I haven't looked at the other Mollie Stone's branches.

We had a couple of reasonable dry wines, a good sweet moscato, and the canonical Mogen David (shades of the 1970s!) which was one of the charoses ingredients but still got finished off.

#87 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:06 PM:

I'm reminded again that I'm not correlated well with markets. I read Farthing from the Tor download, got a paperback of Ha'penny, and got Half a Crown from the library. Which I think puts me totally out of sync.

#88 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:13 PM:

Eric @87, no, that puts you in the plus column for helping to legitimize the decision to release Farthing as a Tor download.

#89 ::: Tyg ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:17 PM:

The Making Light Hat would be knitted surely? And tie under the chin to stay stuck in emergencies. A very practical hat with a small first aid kit, and torch, but in a whimsical colour. It might have dangling stone bears and instead of care instructions it would have a very special gumbo recipe.

The Tor hat would fit on snugly over. It would look a little like an impressive rocky outcrop, with touches of the Flatiron building. On top would be a dragon launching a spaceship and orbiting it a steam powered zeppelin trailing a banner. In a fan on the front would be the editorial pens. I don't know if they come in anything other than red.

#90 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:20 PM:

@89--

love this. love the ml hat. but you forgot one thing:

"it would have a very special gumbo recipe" in verse, in an exquisitely demanding rhyme-scheme.

#91 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:24 PM:

Tyg @ 89: A man walks down Fifth Avenue wearing a hat like that, you know he's not afraid of anything.

#92 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:25 PM:

So that's what happened to Half A Crown. And me waiting so patiently.

Will continue to wait, tho' a bit less patiently. (Goes off to check the local SF dealer for a hardback...)

#93 ::: Tyg ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:30 PM:

kid bitzer @90
Yes! And it should be one of those combi beanie scarves, where the two tails of the scarf would hang down either side, with alternating blue and gold stripes Pharaoh style and on each stripe would be embroidered one of the Spelling Reference words.

Mark @91
Did I mention the zeppelin was armed? Mostly raygun tech.

#94 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 07:47 PM:

"Dark cozies." Yes. That, it seems, is what I like.

And it was The Hobbit that was highly recommended for publication by Unwin's young son.

#95 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 08:02 PM:

Raka@83, :-)

Besides, in the shiny new world of the Future, editing will be crowdsourced, so the prospective writer can simply put their work on drafts.AmazonIpAd.com, and when they decide the editing's done, move it to reviews.AmazonIpAd.com, and readers can move the selections they like to GetThisOnDeadTrees.com. So it won't be a problem, profits will be instant, reviews like that one will save lots of trees from other authors' novels, and my protagonist Mary Sue will (hey, why do I stll hv any vwls lft hr n ths hndbskt? Do y, w, and h count as vowels?)

More to the point, in the past, Sturgeon's Law applied to science fiction as well as to everything else, as did the commentaries about Sturgeon being an optimist, and that's not counting the stuff that didn't get to climb out of the slush piles. Just because derivative sparkly and/or urban vampire imitators are starting to take shelf space away from derivative pseudo-medieval Tolkien imitators or derivative space operas doesn't mean that the publishing industry has fallen prey to a conspiracy of lizard-like aliens who came here to steal our water.* There are good and bad writers, the genre's always evolving, and publishers are willing to publish books in already-overbuilt worlds because readers might like them. And there are writers who may not have anything particularly novel to say, but still tell stories well or write good characters or dialog, or who might not debut with the Great American Novel but seem to have enough potential to grow into good writers so you can risk publishing their early work in hopes you'll get the good stuff when they write it.

(*phrase blatantly plagiarized, possibly from Mike Godwin, but hey, V's back on TV, and the original appears to have fallen off Google if it ever got there.)

#96 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 08:33 PM:

Steam powered zeppelins?

Would they have sufficient buoyancy to carry the weight of their own boilers full of water?

Have a hose dangling into the ocean below?

Condense water from the air on the fly for steam?

#97 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 08:45 PM:

A little reading reveals that there have been steam powered airships, but we seem to have been in the petroleum age already by the time we got to zeppelins.

This message brought to you by the Society For Obscure and Pedantic Objections to Fun Ideas.

#98 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 08:47 PM:

I think that tirades such as this post are a sad reflection on the ranting industry these days, seeing as how the blog industry is entirely run by investment bankers. Also, it wasn't in the least bit desultory. Where are the desultory philippics of yesteryear?

I think that the complaints about the poor quality of complaints have gone badly downhill since the halycon days when people used to write in to Mad Magazine* to complain of a decline in the quality of the letters complaining that the magazine wasn't as good as it used to be.

*Or it might have been Heavy Metal...

#99 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 08:48 PM:

Erik Nelson #96:

IIRC, steam engines can have a closed water path, so supply isn't much of a problem. I guess you could grab seawater to replace leakage, but you'd certainly want to boil it off the salt before you put that into your nice steam engine! Dew would probably be cleaner.

Dumping heat isn't a huge problem if you're at reasonable heights and especially if you can move even somewhat against the wind. That just leaves the power input (that is, heating the boiler), which has all the usual issues.

#100 ::: Tyg ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:03 PM:

@97&99
Editorial Steam?

I was considering a thumb sized zeppelin, which could pull double duty as a thumb drive, I guess.

However, perhaps a zeppelin rooted in conventional, if archaic, tech was an error, as it is circling the brow of an editor in a scifi and fantasy genre based publishing house.

I now propose a nanobot hamster wheel. With elaborate, if very tiny, gears and cogs of an unknown alien metal.

#101 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:03 PM:

kid bitzer #90: Written in Middle English.

#102 ::: Jonathan S ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:16 PM:

I love my accountant. I love that the few people who have published me have accountants who make sure I get my cheques. When I was a publisher of sorts, I loved my accounting clerk because, among other things, she made sure we paid people promptly and still came out ahead.

#103 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:19 PM:

Graydon @3, my shorthand answer to rants like that is "I'm sorry your book got turned down." Someday I'll say that to a person who turns out to be a non-writer, but it hasn't happened yet. And if I do find one who says they're not a writer, I'll check, just to make sure.

Charlie Stross @6, a normal reviewer blames the book and/or the author. When the reviewer blames editors as a class and publishing in general, you're looking at a rejected writer.

Peter Darby @7:

"Nathan Brazil" appears to have had several publishing deals "fall through at the last moment", and says more on his authorial website about how utterly wrong the publishing industry is about everything these days than about, you know, his books that he's going to be selling as POD himself Real Soon Now.
Oh dear, another one of those. This would be a better world if writers who'd decided to self-publish didn't reassure themselves by writing articles and books about the superiority of self-publishing. It leads other writers astray.
I'm REALLY interested to see how his career as a publisher goes.
I hope it goes a lot better than average, because average in self-publishing is dismal.

Tracey @8:

The reviewer seems to have two premises:

1) No one would ever write a book about a supernatural modern world, particularly a supernatural modern America, if he or she were not trying to create a conscious imitation of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books.

Hah. I knew that category was struggling to coalesce before Laurell K. Hamilton's first book came out. She's an example of a developing trend, not its creator.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a bad book and a book that isn't to your taste. If I notice that a book I can't stand has a large and enthusiastic audience, I assume it's doing something for them it'll never do for me. That's okay. There are plenty of smart, well-intentioned readers out there who can't parse science fiction. They want to read it, but it literally doesn't make sense to them.

Scott @9, the problem is that they go out of date so quickly.

Jules @10:

"Nathan Brazil" appears to have had several publishing deals "fall through at the last moment"
I'm trying to figure out what this means. I mean, surely either publishers wanted his books or they didn't. Do publishers really simply decide not to publish a book after initially making an offer?
Not reputable ones, as far as I know. An offer is an offer.

It could be that he has an agent who had high hopes for one editor or another, and prematurely shared those hopes with Mr. Brazil. On the other hand, "at the last moment" might refer to the point at which he found the reply in his mailbox.

My guess is that he wouldn't shift from his own idea of their value (probably somewhere in the 6 figure range, if not actually the 7) in order to negotiate a realistic advance. Or refused to be edited.
My guess is that he didn't get an offer, or that if he did, the figure quoted was what they proposed he should pay to them.
From the review:

I note from the front and back covers of Three Days to Dead that the praise being heaped upon this title comes from authors of similarly styled works, like members of a support club.

Because it makes so much more sense to send galleys out to authors who have neither familiarity with nor enthusiasm for this kind of book.
Or, you know, other people writing in the same sub-genre whose works are likely to appeal to the same readers?
Which is why those authors's names are likely to be familiar to the book's target audience. Tell me again why he thinks we put quotes on books?
One day, someone will reboot this genre, and produce a stunning novel.
"Books of this sort are not to my taste, and yet they sell. Some of them sell really, really well. Yet my beloved manuscript DOES NOT SELL! We hates them, Precious, we hates them forever!"
This is where he basically admits that he's reviewing a book in a genre he really doesn't like. Why, then, are we supposed to care about his opinion?
I don't think he's reviewing a book. I think he's saying "Why them? Why not me?" Which is his right, if he wants to say it; but he ought not present it as a review.

Joel Polowin @11:

I've a somewhat related question, which I've been wondering about for the last couple of days (and I'm sure it's been tossed around for a long time by others). On what basis is the typical Hugo voter supposed to judge the candidates for "Best Editor"? It's not like we get to see before-and-after-editing versions of the books.
It wouldn't be proper for me to show you my edits. It would be less improper for the author to do so, but that's their call, not mine.

I think my authors like my edits and find them valuable. I don't think they're just being nice. The closest I can come to hard data is that books I've edited tend to sell better than comparable books by the same authors that I haven't edited. Also, the only time I've had an author ask to change editors, the book in question hadn't been delivered yet (it was years late), and the requested editor declined to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Lenore Jones @12:

As an accountant, I have to say that he slams accountants, too.
You're right! I should have seen that, and I didn't. What he's describing is nothing like what accountants do.

In the future, I'll object to these rants on behalf of accountants as well as editors.

Faren Miller @15:

The rant quoted in this thread is indeed wildly grumpy, and (as a reviewer myself) I'd never go on that way about the state of publishing.
And if you wanted to know something about the current state of publishing, you'd ask.
On the other hand, in the March Locus, Chip Delany laments the state of "literary" publishing and quotes a Young Writer's rejection letter where a "major publisher" says "Your book is much too well-written for us to publish."
It seems unlikely, but Chip knows quite a bit about the industry, or did back when I hung out with him more often. Perhaps that's the young author's summary, rather than a quote from the rejection letter. Or perhaps some publisher really did say that. Or perhaps a grass-green editorial assistant said that, which isn't impossible to believe. Mostly, the answer is if I haven't seen the letter and I haven't seen the book, I don't know.
A lot of genre publishing has moved to the smaller independent presses. (Tor is one of the fine, bigger-name exceptions.) And some writers still get the run-around from agents and publishers alike -- not necessarily because their fiction has declined. I've heard of a case (not Tor, and not anything of mine) where agent and publisher say "Yes, yes!", then leave a work lying in limbo. Rightfully? Then why bother to sound enthusiastic in the first place?
I don't know. Strange things happen. Or apparently strange things happen which have less-strange explanations. There's no way to tell from here.

Nerdycellist @17:

I'm never sure where these cliche "back in the olden days, editors published beautiful quality books by brilliant new writers" fantasies come from ...
It's usually credited to the period which ended just a few years before the writer started paying attention. This makes it roughly contemporaneous with that golden age when writers could make a decent living off their work.

Alison Scott @19:

I'm not sure this is unique to editors. I have had people regularly rant about 'civil servants' or 'government officials' when I am right there in the conversation. And they know what I do for a living. They say 'oh, we don't mean people like you' -- but in fact they do, precisely, mean people like me. Lenore @12 identifies that accountants are often similarly abused.
Something I've observed about not very thoughtful people is that they assimilate arguments as abstract solid objects. I've gotten some interesting results by breaking down solids like "lazy welfare mothers" into concrete, personally familiar entities like "women whose slimeball husbands have waltzed out on them," or "women who are just trying to get their kids through school so they can go back to work." People who talk about how the government can't do anything right aren't thinking about all the specific things in their lives that the government does right.

It's frustrating, and oddly similar to a problem I observe with trolls: they're deeply attached to their opinions, but they can't modify, extend, or develop them. They just have them, like sofa cushions. I think they pick them out because they see someone using one to win an argument, and imagine it'll do the same for them.

Andrew Plotkin @20: One of the reasons Patrick and I feel free to discuss that book and its reviewer is that we had nothing to do with it.

Madeleine Robins @21:

There's always a golden heyday people look backward to--when education/public discourse/civic behavior/publishing/Scrabble tournaments were better run and more wonderful. I say it's spinach and I say to hell with it.
And children were more polite and the fishing was better. Maxwell Perkins regularly landed five-pound trout on his way to work in the morning, and had them prepared in time for his lunch by the forelock-tugging youth of New York City.

Lawrence @24: We were all sad when that series was canceled. I'm not going to do a tough guy routine and ask you how much red ink you want to have associated with your name. You know that stuff already. You're so savvy about the business end of the industry that I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that you don't work in it. The central fact remains that we loved those books, and good things didn't happen to them.

We did build a short story collection around your half of the double, and we published Esther's, too. It just didn't come out the way it was supposed to.

Harry Connolly @31: Of course your book wasn't instant. And while not all editors are good, yours certainly is.

skzb @32:

Of course modern publishing is run by the accountants. As soon as a guy gets an MBA today, the first thing he says, "I want to get into genre publishing, because that's where the real money is."

I hope they follow this up with a discussion of how today art is just for profit, instead of being pure art, the way it was, um, some other time. I forget exactly when.

Nothing to add; I just like your writing.

Wanna see my imitation of an author? "I notice you declined to answer Joel Polowin's question in comment #11."

L. Baird @33:

I'm afraid that scrabble tournaments were better back in the day, or in the soon-to-be-back-in-the-day, as the godless heathens have now changed the rules to allow proper nouns.
That's heathenish indeed. Scrabble with proper names has no rigor. Anything can be a name.

Craig R. @34: People in South Boston know from real unions, so the standard union-busting tropes don't work on them.

Carrie V. @37:

As a "young to middle-aged American wom[a]n" who writes an urban fantasy series, I regularly observe an astonishing amount of vitriol heaped upon the genre.

It makes me tired.

Repeat after me:

"I'm sorry your book was turned down."

"Yes, it does sell awfully well, doesn't it?"

"Blame the readers. They like that stuff."

PurpleGirl @39: That's a perfectly legitimate reason to cancel a deal. Authors should really know not to lie to publishers about stuff affecting rights and sales, but sometimes they do it anyway.

The first deal I saw canceled was because the book was a nonfiction tie-in to a specific event, and the late-delivered manuscript was a POS. There was no time to do the massive fixing it would have needed. The second was because the novel the author had sold was actually a collaboration, and he hadn't told his co-author about selling it. Et cetera. Bought books get cancelled for cause, not because someone changed their mind at the last minute.

Beth Meacham @47:

The original publishers were people who owned printing presses. They'd print whatever people would pay them to. For every Shakespeare there were a hundred...um, I don't know their names. Neither do you. But the publisher made money off them.
Lots and lots of copies of the Legenda Aurea. I bought my edition from Blackwell, which was one of those printer-publisher-booksellers, and is still turning them out.

#104 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:20 PM:

Avram @ 66: "I love how "Nathan Brazil" is all down on the urban fantasy genre with all of its magical creatures fighting humans in the modern world, while his own books (all print-on-demand) are all about -- the return of magical beings to the modern world, where they fight humans!"

Oh, how perfect. The line: "One day, someone will reboot this genre, and produce a stunning novel." led me to suspect that might be the case, and I am now torn between satisfaction and exasperation at being proven right.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden @ 81: "I'm afraid I literally don't understand what Brendan Podger is trying to say in #71."

You're not alone there.

Joel Polowin @ 57: "I think another factor is that many people have had experiences with people working in those professions who were, in their opinion, at least, doing their work badly."

Yes, but my point is that a combination of low transparency and high stakes make people particularly likely to come away from interactions with those professions feeling mistreated, even if that isn't the case. Often times when you have to deal with a lawyer, the options range from bad to worse: even if the lawyer does a great job and you only have to pay a couple of thousand of dollars in legal fees, it's still very possible to feel like you just got hustled.

Fragano Ledgister @ 101: With puns.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:44 PM:

Patrick... Teresa...

Are you suggesting that editors seldom if ever are the way they were depicted in Bell, Book & Candle?
No Kim Novak for Jimmy Stewart?
No office in the Flatiron?
Oh.
Wait.

#106 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 09:53 PM:

Brendan Podger, could you unpack that and iron out a few of the wrinkles?

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:00 PM:

Hmm. Posting dates don't appear on that site. Are we suuuuuure this review didn't go up April 1? Because the more we learn about the author, the more his review seems like a joke—which it is, but I mean an intentional one.

#108 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:05 PM:

Alas, Serge, the only realistic details in movies about publishing are the kipple in Jack Nicholson's office in Wolf and the cover flats on the wall in Romancing the Stone.

#109 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:06 PM:

Taken from this pdf because it's the first link I found.

Raynor Unwin was, at 10, the first reader for :The Hobbit:; as a junior partner he was the acquiring editor for :The Lord of the Rings:. It wasn't a done deal becuase while Unwin wanted a Hobbit sequel that's not at all what JRRT actually wrote.

Raynor Unwin was the junior partner in the
publishing firm and was in charge at the crucial time of its publication. He sent a telegram to his father in Japan: "1 think we have a work of genius and I thinK we shall lose a thousand pounds."
With "the wisdom that comes from distance" (Raynor Unwin's words) his father replied, "If (underlined) you have a work of genius then (underlined) you may lose a thousand pounds."

Presumptively the portion of the point of 71 which fails to qualify as unkind involves Patrick wishing to lose a metaphorically equivalent amount.

#110 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:11 PM:

I've got to wonder why the reviewer didn't use the popular phrase "soulless bean counters" instead of "accountants". I mean, really, if you're going to flame an entire profession like that, you might was well go all in. I can produce a better quality rant than that without breathing hard. heh.

#111 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:13 PM:

Thanks for this post!

You know those things you learned wrong when you were a kid, and then years later something made you realize that you had it all wrong? Do a web search on 'things you thought were true' and you will find all kinds of funny stories about people who never got the memo that a unicorn is a mythical beast until they were embarrassed at a party. Or people who thought 'ped xing' was pronounced 'ped zing' and that xing was a word.

This 'publishing was ruined by accountants' was one of those things for me. I got a lecture when I was in college about how accountants had ruined publishing. I was outraged! Of course, I was a 21-year-old man who was collecting outrages in a desperate attempt to carve out an identity, and 'publishing was ruined by businessmen!' was a good one to latch onto because it demonstrated to lefty chicks that I was literate and I hated capitalism. It was a double efficiency in my desperate attempts to impress women.

Then I grew up (kind of) and got married and met real editors and publishers and writers and yet, this outrage was deep down in my brain, throbbing in time with my heartbeat, unquestioned. To be honest, I could have written a review like this. I feel like I caught a break by reading this post.

It makes me wonder how many things that I KNOW aren't true, that I also fully believe.

#112 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:20 PM:

Sarah E #98: Oh yes, and don't get me started on the decline of recursive meta-commentary about the decline of comments about comments about... <blamf!>

Drat, my brain exploded. :-)

#113 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:25 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 103: "It's frustrating, and oddly similar to a problem I observe with trolls: they're deeply attached to their opinions, but they can't modify, extend, or develop them. They just have them, like sofa cushions. I think they pick them out because they see someone using one to win an argument, and imagine it'll do the same for them."

Or, like sofa cushions, they pick arguments out because they're comfortable.

#114 ::: Sean Sakamoto ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:29 PM:

PS. Please let your accountant masters know that I'll let you publish one of my short stories for only $9.99, but only if they act fast! If they do, I will throw in a collection of my blog posts absolutely free!

#115 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:37 PM:

Teresa #103: "Books of this sort are not to my taste, and yet they sell. Some of them sell really, really well. Yet my beloved manuscript DOES NOT SELL! We hates them, Precious, we hates them forever!"

I've got nothing to add to this, except that I've been giggling over it for 5 minutes now....

Re: Madeleine Robins @21: There's always a golden heyday people look backward to...

With books, there's an extra factor there -- I forget who here pointed it out, but beyond a certain point in time, most of the works you actually see are the ones that survived Sturgeon's Law. Except that trips to used-books stores can acquaint you with the likes of, say, Brian N. Ball, or the "less classic" works of otherwise well-regarded authors.

#116 ::: Avocado of Death ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 10:50 PM:

The nominees are
* G. Warren Schiermeier,
* Constance Plank,
* F. Fenley Farnsworth,
* D. L. "Bob" Wilson, and
* Olga Zelnick-Zelnack.

[FX: envelope opening]

And this year's winner of the Hugo for "Best Accountant, Long Form" is...

#117 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:08 PM:

Sean Sakamoto@111: That's one of the many joys of reading Making Light; hang around long enough and you're guaranteed to have 'things you thought were true' moments. There's about as much debunking of long-held but unfounded beliefs as Snopes.com, but with more iambic pentameter.

#118 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:26 PM:

Teresa @ 103 -- In case I was unclear, I'm not questioning the value of a good editor! I've seen and heard many authors praising their editors' contributions to their books. (I had a bizarre conversation with my boss, years ago when I was updating some technical manuals, when I asked him which of my colleagues I should get to proofread and comment on my work. He asked me if I didn't think I was capable of checking my own work...)

But most of the Hugo voters only get to see the end products. We can rank the novels in order of preference; we can try to compare the cartoons with the bases from last year's Hugos. I don't know how I might evaluate and compare the contributions of the editors, even assuming that I can get good information about which projects the nominees were involved with.

#119 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2010, 11:27 PM:

Avocado 116: * Constance Plank,

I saw what you did there.

#120 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:13 AM:

Teresa @ #103: Someday I'll say that to a person who turns out to be a non-writer, but it hasn't happened yet. And if I do find one who says they're not a writer, I'll check, just to make sure.

I don't think you said it to me at the time I was starting that e-pub thing, but I wasn't a writer then (and arguably ain't now). There are certainly valid critiques to be made about the industry (I believe my favorite was lamenting how 60%+ of Nebula nominated novels were out of print) and in the last 15+ years, some of them have changed, and sometimes even improved.

Jules @10: "Nathan Brazil" appears to have had several publishing deals "fall through at the last moment" I'm trying to figure out what this means. I mean, surely either publishers wanted his books or they didn't. Do publishers really simply decide not to publish a book after initially making an offer?

Not reputable ones, as far as I know. An offer is an offer.

Surely you aren't serious. I've had books canceled after typesetting and series canceled after the first issue had already come off the press. Things get killed for all sorts of reasons.

#121 ::: Brendan Podger ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:47 AM:

Jules #74 & Patrick #81: Unwin did request a sequel to the Hobbit but paid nothing up front so Tolkien was writing largely on spec and what he produced was nothing like what they were expecting. Unwin Snr. authorised losses of up to £2000 and paid Tolkien a 50% royalty after costs. I would have been more explicit but I thought that story was part of publishing folklore. Mea Culpa.

The point of the story is yes sometimes a publisher may need to take a loss to be seen as serious about literature as an art as well as a business. In Australia one of the easy ways to be seen as being more than about the money is to print memoirs of Liberal politicians. The major publishers all bid for them even though they know they seldom do more than break even(Labor memoirs always sell well).

#122 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:52 AM:

"I'm sorry that your book was turned down. See
Me sorrowing. I saw the good in it:
It would have a very special gumbo recipe,

If it were published. Sad that's not to be.
The plot was rather good; you write with wit.
I'm sorry that your book was turned down. See,

Although we all enjoyed it greatly, we
Were not convinced it quite exactly fit -
It would have a very special gumbo recipe,

But vampires? No. Nor angels. Obviously
A book needs both, this week. But do not quit -
I'm sorry that your book was turned down, see?"

And now, I'll read the trades. A new decree
Will issue. Vampires, angels, feh! No, it...
It would have a very special gumbo recipe?

Dear God! And down-home warmth! An apple tree!
I should have taken it. I'd have a hit.
..."I'm sorry that your book was turned down. See,
It would have a very special gumbo recipe."

#123 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:59 AM:

#99 David
Salt does not "boil off" until long after the water's boiled off.... the standard thing to do are to distill the water (boil and condense the water or us the likes of a revere osmosis filter or some such.

#124 ::: Elizabeth Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:59 AM:

Joel @118
I'm curious too. If I were voting on the Best Long Form Editor Hugo, I figure I'd mainly base it on my knowledge of what books they edited* aren't badly edited, since good editing is of course supposed to be invisible. Then I'd throw in my own personal encounters with said editors as well as what my published friends have told me about their experiences. It seems to require a lot more insider knowledge than little old unpublished me possesses.
*Thank you so much, Tor, for including the names of your editors!

#125 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:09 AM:

Dave, 122: *applause*

#126 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:24 AM:

Completely off-topic, I wonder why people always seem to want to dress their virtual mental Patrick in funny clothes.

Don't get me wrong. It's very amusing. Just curious.

#127 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 02:50 AM:

Teresa, #103: This seems like a good place to air a minor personal peeve. I understand the reasoning behind putting positive quotes from similar authors and/or good review quotes from well-known sources such as Locus on books. But it bugs the heck out of me when these quotes entirely replace either the back-cover blurb or the frontispiece excerpt, or sometimes both! Both of those items are fairly important in helping me decide whether I want to open the book and see how it reads, and that's usually my hard test -- if I come up for air 10 pages later, it's worth buying. Different people, of course, use different criteria, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses the back blurb and front excerpt as evaluation tools.

#128 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 03:09 AM:

Now there's one place where ebooks can potentially shine: blurbage can be hyperlinked.

#129 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 06:28 AM:

Dave Luckett #122: Wonderful!

#130 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 06:40 AM:

Kosher wine geekery: the reason you can't get decent K wine this year is because most of it is produced in Israel. And in order for the wine to be kosher, producers have to keep Jewish law (who knew?) And one element of such law that they're all keeping is that you have to leave the land fallow every seventh year (see Leviticus 25, principally). Hence only American produced, sweet cough-mixture type wines are on sale at the moment.

*relurks*

#131 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 06:56 AM:

rm at #27 writes:

> Yes, and college professors run the universities from their oak-paneled offices, and are all pointy-headed snobs who hate ordinary folk, and are very, very well paid.

What's more, all literary novels are about those very same professors having a mid life crisis and an adulterous affair simultaneously. I know this because I read it somewhere.

#132 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 07:00 AM:

This 'publishing was ruined by accountants' was one of those things for me.

It's child's play to cherry pick examples where a publisher (or any other business) has made a bad artistic or commercial decision based on financial advice. So people get stuff wrong sometimes. And Brazil's point is?

My father read Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) for [well respected mainstream publisher], and reported, "If you buy only one foreign language book this year, it should be this one." But they declined on the basis that the asking price was too high. Boy were their faces red! And yet, somehow, they had and have maintained a generally excellent fiction list in spite of that one questionable call. Shocking, isn't it?

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 07:35 AM:

abi @ 126... people always seem to want to dress their virtual mental Patrick in funny clothes. (...) Don't get me wrong.

Of course not.

As for myself, I think my next cinematic project will be about the 'funny' clothes worn by editors in the intimacy of their home. I expect it'll be a profitable venture as I intend to call the DVD "Words Gone Wild".

#134 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:25 AM:

There are three things that seem pretty obvious.

1: There are always bad books being published. But if that sets your zero point for quality, there are a lot of negative-value books out there.

2: In the end, books have to sell. Of course the editor is listening to the salesman about what sort of books will sell. That might seem rather as though he's listening to the accountant. Either way, it might be little different to reading the racing tips. At some point, you have to make your bet. Charlie Stross or Jo Walton have form, but good form isn't the only factor.

3: If you don't have anything in the race, you won't win.

Sort of like this (on YouTube)

#135 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:40 AM:

It's nice to win hands, but the object is to make correct bets.

#136 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:53 AM:

With regard to "One day, someone will reboot this genre, and produce a stunning novel":

1) Why would he assume it's likely to be any time soon? and 2) Why would he assume that this is something for which most readers are waiting with bated breath?

The non-SF subgenre that Anita Blake riffs off, the hard-boiled detective novel, has produced just one really first-rate writer in about 90 years: Raymond Chandler.

This has not prevented several generations of readers from enjoying much more mid-range work.

#137 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:04 AM:

eric 78, patrick 80

I'm glad that came up, since I was about to complain, jokingly, that the fact I couldn't get hold of a shiny new paperback edition of 'Ha'penny' RIGHT NOW was clearly evidence in favour of the reptilian overlords from Annunaki hypothesis.

#138 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:19 AM:

James at #136 writes:

> The non-SF subgenre that Anita Blake riffs off, the hard-boiled detective novel, has produced just one really first-rate writer in about 90 years: Raymond Chandler.

For shame! Dashiel Hammet pls.

#139 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:11 AM:

individ-ewe-all @ 130: At least in the Boston area, there’s plenty of decent kosher wine from France and Italy; I like the Bartenura stuff, although since my wine consumption is roughly a dozen glasses per year, I may not be the best judge. The guy at the local kosher grocery store once recommended Teal Lake, an Australian kosher brand, but after hearing a certain Monty Python sketch I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give Australian wine a fair tasting. Also IIRC there’s some stuff coming out of Argentina.

I knew that Jews out in the hinterlands are deprived of many things that I personally consider essential to heimish civilization, such as kosher Chinese restaurants, religious day schools, and rabbis living in the same city who are not on speaking terms. But no kosher wine, other than Concord cough syrup? In the First World, in the late fifty-eighth century? Scandalous!

#140 ::: IreneD ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:16 AM:

The whole "once upon a time, edition was run by editors" thing is overblown and oversimplified. But I wonder if that reviewer was maybe thinking of some realistic criticism of modern publishing as run by media corporations. Think André Schiffrin and his The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read.

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Steve Taylor @ 138... As a matetr of fact, I once read something by Chandler, who basically said that the field's only worthwhile writer was Hammett.

#142 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:55 AM:

Seth Gordon @ 129: Nu! Nu?

#143 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:09 AM:

Serge:

As a matetr of fact, I once read something by Chandler, who basically said that the field's only worthwhile writer was Hammett.

I believe you're referring to "The Simple Art of Murder."

#144 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:12 AM:

Abi @126 and Serge at 133;
obviously people are really craving a PNH version of this sort of thing.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:27 AM:

Bruce Durocher @ 143... That is indeed it.

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:29 AM:

Eimear Ní Mhéalóid @ 144... That was barely Safe for Work. I do like the dog-like brush though.

#147 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:44 AM:

#122, Dave Luckett: !!! (Translation: That was excellent.)

#127, Lee: "I understand the reasoning behind putting positive quotes from similar authors and/or good review quotes from well-known sources such as Locus on books. But it bugs the heck out of me when these quotes entirely replace either the back-cover blurb or the frontispiece excerpt, or sometimes both!" I agree, and as a rule, I don't do this with books I'm directly responsible for. The occasional exception is when one or more of the quotes contains, in itself, such a good description of what the book is "about" that separate book-description copy is superfluous. A good example of this is Tor's mass-market paperback of Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, on which the Library Journal quote on the back cover describes the whole complicated book with admirable concision. We didn't think we could improve on it, so we didn't try.

#148 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:53 AM:

Y'know I get where Brazil is coming from, but he's aiming the vitriol at the wrong folks - its the damn buyers for the chains (and a fair number of independents) that are causing the proliferation of paranormal romance on the shelves. I'm getting very, very tired of going to my local store looking for Stross, Bear and Reynolds on the shelves and discovering, no they don't have it, and they don't plan on stocking it, but they will order it for you!

Bah.

If I wanted that, I'd go back to Amazon and get a better price and faster delivery time. I want to browse and see if I like it, not buy it sight unseen. I'd like to look around and see if there is other stuff there I might be amused by and like.

#149 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:58 AM:

Individ-ewe-al @ 130 (as reference, not necessarily as target of question)

How does one allow a perennial crop to lie fallow for a year? If it's purely about fruiting, I suppose you could prune the blossoms before or after pollination, but that seems like an awful lot of work. (Imagining trying it on orchards.)

#150 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:09 PM:

Bill Stewart -- yup, Molly Stone's is the place I went to. :) BevMo is great for many reasons, but I discovered this year that there's no reason to go there for kosher anything. I was surprised too.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:38 PM:

Trey @ 148... its the damn buyers for the chains (and a fair number of independents) that are causing the proliferation of paranormal romance on the shelves

You mean, the proliferating paranormal romances that are written by the likes of my wife?

#152 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:46 PM:

@122--

awesome, dave. if you're willing to fulfill bespoke orders, i'm not averse.

now, who's up for writing that gumbo receipt in middle english? (remember that all units of measurement should be vernacular, irreproducible, and ideally, circular: "take a lump of butter, as big as a walnut, and mix it small with as much flour as might cover a sleeping ferret. chop three pippens, good ones, till they be of the size of my lady's seed-pearls. take a walnut, about as big as a lump of butter, mince, and spread evenly over the ferret. if no ferret can be found, or it wakes up, you may instead use a small stoat, about the size of three pippens. mince, then prance. ")

only i did not even attempt to put it in m.e.

#153 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Dave 122: *applause*

Unexpectedly, I've gotten a reply to my letter to the editor of the site. He says he's forwarded my email to the reviewer for reply.

We'll see what happens.

#154 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:52 PM:

Trey @ 148: Why does no one attribute the proliferation of urban fantasy and paranormal romance to the fact that lots and lots and lots of people are reading them?

#155 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:56 PM:

Trey @ 148, I believe that ultimately the reason paranormal romance and urban fantasy is proliferating is that there are an awful of people who want to read it. If the buyers at the big chains weren't selling buckets of the stuff, they wouldn't be buying buckets of it. i.e. the reason the categories are seeing so much shelf space is because they are popular and that is because an awful lot of people think that they are good. Obligatory disclosure, I am not a neutral party on the topic in that I have five contemporary fantasy novels in print and they are often marketed as urban fantasy though they really are an edge case.

#156 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:57 PM:

and when are we going to hear the exposé about the hardy band of tor employees who brought down arthur andersen?

'cause, let's face it, it's the book-editors who ruined accounting.

#157 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 12:58 PM:

Clarification: Which is not to say that I don't like urban fantasy as a reader, I do, it's just not quite what I'm writing at the moment.

#158 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:00 PM:

#147, Patrick Nielsen Hayden: This me is suddenly blinking and wondering what I've missed by skipping back cover quotes for so long. I grew so frustrated with books that had quotes of "This was amazing!" and "A seminal work of modern American literature!" on the back, but no blurb, that quotes on the back of the book occupy the same brain-space as banner ads on a website, for me: my brain skips over them without even registering the gist of the content.

Now I'm wondering if I've skipped books that actually had descriptions on the back because I didn't even think to look for the description among the quotes.

#159 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:02 PM:

Individ-ewe-al @ 130 -- It seems unlikely this is the reason, though. First, the kosher wine situation has been abysmal in the Bay Area for a long time, not just this year. And Seth Gordon points out, there are plenty of non-Israeli Kosher wines out there.

#160 ::: pedantka ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:04 PM:

Seth #139-

And some of us have trouble finding the cough syrup, even.
And spent last week grinding matzo by hand.
Uphill.
Both ways.
In the snow.

#161 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:14 PM:

#130 individ-ewe-al

How does one leave vine planted lands fallow?

Vines aren't annuals, like, say, modern cereal and grain crops, that when the fields are left fallow, are really rather rotated with a nitrogen rich replacing legume like alfalfa.

It takes years for vines -- like olive trees -- to grow to the maturity that they will produce a vintage-quality grape. You don't rip them out post harvest and start all over again the following spring. Olive groves can be centuries old. Vinelands likely less so, since for the health of the grapes you may need to periodically rip out a set and replace them, or at least do a graft.

Love, C., who has much farmgirl still within

#162 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:18 PM:

Tyg @89: The Tor hat would fit on snugly over. It would look a little like an impressive rocky outcrop, with touches of the Flatiron

Here's your impressive rocky Flatirons.

Oh...you mean the building. In NYC.

*nevermind*

#163 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:35 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @ 149: If I’m reading these pages correctly, the essential prohibition is not on working the fields per se, but on treating the fields as your property, i.e., using them for commercial agriculture or accumulating a surplus for later use.

Picking grapes and turning them into wine that you’re going to drink yourself is OK. Having agents of the local religious court harvest your vineyard and distribute the produce to your neighbors is OK. But turning those grapes into wine and selling the wine is not OK, and exporting the wine out of Israel is really not OK.

Selling your whole field to a non-Jew for the year is just barely OK and generally discouraged.

This article describes what one major kashrut organization does to handle the year of rest.

#164 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 01:43 PM:

Xopher, #153: I got the same. My review-of-the-review was pretty scathing; I think we have the potential for a variation on the ABM here.

Would it be ethical for me to paste a reply here for the amusement of the populace, if such seems warranted? Or would that be Not Playing Fair, since it would be making a private e-mail public?

I should perhaps mention that my standards for reviewers have been strongly shaped by reading Linnea Dodson's mystery reviews over at Reviewing the Evidence. She is always careful to specify when something has pinged one of her personal triggers (as opposed to poor writing in general), and to provide specifics. She's also been known to say things like, "While this book wasn't my cup of tea, it's a pretty good example of Type X; if you like Type X books, you'll probably enjoy it." IOW, she recognizes that her personal likes and dislikes are not universal, and tries to look past them in her reviewing.

Fade, #158: Same here. Thank you, Patrick; I'll pay more attention to the content of quotes in the future, at least on Tor books. :-)

#165 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 02:10 PM:

Seth @139, yes, I do indeed live out in the hinterlands, deprived of many things ;-) I was vaguely aware that French and Italian kosher wines existed, but I've never actually set eyes on them. Here, there is sweet horrible American wine, and really quite decent Israeli wine (except not this year).

Heather, Constance and others: fallow was a sloppy translation on my part, it's not about refreshing the nitrogen in the soil. The idea is that you're not supposed to work the vines, or do any harvesting beyond picking what grows naturally for your own personal use.

#166 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 02:22 PM:

I think that flat iron steak is particularly scrumptious.

#167 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 02:32 PM:

165
I wonder, have they considered something like only part of the fields fallow in any given year, so that they aren't all fallow at the same time?

#168 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 03:18 PM:

Here's a nice tidbit from Nathan Brazil's page about his books and the evils of publishers:

War Among the Fallen was the first digital novel ever published in the UK. Penguin Books sometimes pretend otherwise, but I have the press clippings to prove prior claim. The Times gave the novel a glowing review, yet to this day traditional hardback publishers have declined to publish the series, and agents were either indifferent or drunk.

#169 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 03:42 PM:

@#33

Video gaming is precisely how I got my children to read SF. They were playing some game and got stopped at a bridge that was protected by an unbeatable troll. None of their usual tricks worked, and nobody posted the cheat to get past the troll on the web. So I stroll into the basement and say, "Ooh, ooh, ooh, type in what is your favorite color!!!" And my sons (then still in their teens) dissed me as only your teen-aged child can diss you.

I refused for 3 days to explain why the troll said something in reply to my question like, "Pink, no blue, no. . ." and then blew up.

Then I made them sit quietly all the way through the movie, since they had never even heard of Monty Python.

A couple of games later, they were stuck again at a question about the meaning of life. Everybody here knows the answer, but my sons were clueless.

So then I said I couldn't spend all my time explaining the good things in life to them and made them start reading SF. They both are fans of the genre still, although not as rabid as their dad.

#170 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 03:58 PM:

Throwmearope, #169: Oh, that's choice! Congratulations on a good job well done.

#171 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:16 PM:

Carrie V. and Kelly McCullough are right. The reason there are so many paranormals on the bookstore shelves is that lots of authors want to write them and lots and lots of readers want to buy them.

It's newly settled territory. A lot of good work has happened there. When readers look at a new paranormal, they think of Buffy, Angel, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, Supernatural, and whoever else they've enjoyed. It would take years of lackluster work to dim that enthusiasm. In the meantime, if something else wonderful comes along, that enthusiasm will be renewed.

Trey @148, I know the SF/fantasy/graphic novel buyer for Barnes & Noble. He's a good guy, very smart, and he loves the genre. He also lives and dies by his sales numbers, professionally speaking. Honestly -- if he's buying lots of paranormals, it really is because they're selling.

Kid Bitzer @152:

Gumbe Lombard

Take fayre wheaten flower and frye in white grece til it be broun as ber. Lay thereto broth with oignons fenkel carats well y-chopt and gode herbes. Take chykens capons hares connyngis pygg and smyte hem on pecys rawe. Let cook until it be enough. Pound almandys in mortar with rose water and make of it a thicke mylk. Add peper, canel, gynger, macys, cloves, galyngal, cubebs, poudre-file, and raysons of coraunce, color it with alkanet, pour it over your Gumbe Lombarde, and messe it forth.

#172 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:26 PM:

<boggle>

I occassionally ponder the hubris with which I have sometimes thought myself well-read.

#173 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 04:29 PM:

Hey Serge,

What books does your wife write? UF reader here, with occasional ventures into PRN territory.

#174 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 05:04 PM:

@172--

nas never pyk walwed in galauntyne
as i in love am walwed and ywounde.

(which is to say: loved it! that's going to be quite a hat!)

#175 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 06:19 PM:

misnumbered back-reference--

my plaudits in 174 were for tnh's 171, not jacque's 172 (though i share his boggle).

#176 ::: Tyg ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 06:30 PM:

@162 Jacque
There are few buildings out there that would make a better prow of an impressive editorial hat. That's a hat that cuts through slush.

For that matter I have thought on hats for other Making Light regulars. It's not only Patrick I want to hat.

#177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 06:37 PM:

mcz @ 173... Her name is Susan Krinard.

#178 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 07:15 PM:

Paula Lieberman #123: Which is why I said "... boil it [the water] off the salt"!

#179 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 07:17 PM:

mcz @ 173... Also, she has a non-romance story in a Tor anthology of Urban Fantasy that's coming out later this year.

#180 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 07:18 PM:

Lee, #164: That's how my taste in criticism runs--I'm easily bored by reviews written in imitation of journalistic objectivity. I like criticism where the critic is present in the review or essay, and doesn't try to hide that it's a personal reaction. It's easier to tell how much the critic's biases line up with mine. And that kind of criticism is usually better written and more entertaining--enough that sometimes I'll happily carry on reading a critic I mostly disagree with.

#181 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 07:52 PM:

Serge: Thanks! I'll go a-lookin'.

#182 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:00 PM:

I like Serge's Susan's books; I am saving the ones I have for when I need a guaranteed good read.

#183 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:04 PM:

Mind you, Gumbe Lombard would be an awful dish. The first two-thirds are a file gumbo recipe that describes procedures in colorful language while slighting some essential steps and ingredients. In the last third of the recipe, the gumbo gets a medieval culinary cliché added to it: currants and an indiscriminately spiced almond milk.

#184 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:14 PM:

They liked things way too sweet for modern tastes.

#185 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:43 PM:

I still like Let cook until it be enough.

I'm gonna embroider that onto my icebox.

#186 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 08:50 PM:

@Serge #177

I really enjoy your wife's writing. I will forgive you for several questionable puns because of your association with her.

#187 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:08 PM:

183
It's probably just as well, since I have no idea where to find cubebs.

On the other hand, I can find za'atar locally (and it's good on a lot of things).

#188 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:10 PM:

@185--

brilliant, right? but not uncommon in older cookbooks, even up through the 19th century, to see a lot of "cook till done" style indtructions.

here's cato the elder from his de re rustica, ie on homesteading:

74 Recipe for kneaded bread: Wash your hands and a bowl thoroughly. Pour meal into the bowl, add water gradually, and knead thoroughly. When it is well kneaded, roll out and bake under a crock.

i also loved "well y-chopt", and the lack of commas in the list of meats to be smitten. makes me want to go back to reading some old friends.

#189 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:42 PM:

"It's probably just as well, since I have no idea where to find cubebs."

I'm told you can find them in the pool hall, along with Bevo and Tailor-Mades, and other paraphernalia of those cigarette fiends loafing around that hall.

#190 ::: Catherine Crockett ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 09:57 PM:

Teresa #171 Fenkel! Well, they wouldn't have had peppers, but fennel would be really strange, even if you hadn't abruptly switched to a lenten rice-pudding recipe partway through. Is sassafras [poudre file] old world as well? That almost slipped by me--poudre fort would make sense in a list of sweet spices.

I promise not to serve this in the consuite at SFContario.

P J Evans #187 If you tell us where you are, I bet someone will tell you where you can get cubeb. If you like cloves, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg, etc., you'll probably enjoy trying it. Hypothetically, upping the quantity on the pepper and cloves would be a pretty fair substitute for the cubeb.

#191 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:04 PM:

John Mark, and braggin' all about how they're going to cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen.

#192 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:14 PM:

John Mark, and braggin' all about how they're going to cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen.

#193 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:40 PM:

Cathy, if you're going for historical period it's an impossible recipe. The challenge was to do a file gumbo recipe in a medieval style.

#194 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 10:47 PM:

oh yes we've got tribulations! right here by the waters of babylon! with a capital tav and that rhymes with vav and that stands for...

something, doubtless. golden idols? fleshpots of egypt?

#195 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:02 PM:

kid bitzer @188 Yup. From now on, I shall not be able to make a stew without smiting the meat. I may, now and then, emit a small battle-cry while doing so.

#196 ::: Catherine Crockett ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:03 PM:

Oh, I got that the recipe was about as viable as an aardvark-bicycle hybrid, I just wanted to play with it a bit. It is very amusing.

#197 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:12 PM:

Trey @ 148... My apologies for the snarky response.

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:19 PM:

Nancy Mittens... Throwmearope... Thanks for the kind words... mcz... I hope you'll enjoy what you find. I've been told that her Urban Fantasy will feature a bobblehead, but no tattoos.

#199 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2010, 11:24 PM:

TNH @171: The reason there are so many paranormals on the bookstore shelves is that lots of authors want to write them and lots and lots of readers want to buy them.

Which raises the question for me of who those readers are. One theory I've heard advanced is that romance readers are increasingly turning to urban fantasy et al. As someone recently pointed out, we (meaning science fiction fandom) "won", our literature has become the popular literature, and, like Wile E. Coyote having caught the Roadrunner, we have no idea what to do with it now that we've got it. And it having become the popular literature also means that it's going to take on a vast panoply of new and varied forms.

Which doesn't make it any easier for my library, faced with an ever-decreasing number of shelf-feet in which to put books, an exponentially-growing body of books from which to choose, and few good hard-and-fast ways to select from them. This year, except for donations and despite spending $1000 a month on books, my library only ended up buying two of the six Hugo nominees, and for an ostensibly authoritative SF library that's hugely embarrassing. (The others were donated often months after their release. The last one we're missing, WWW:Wake, which has been out for at least a year, is on its way to me now to round out the collection. We should not miss a new Robert J. Sawyer book for that long.) We keep trying to figure out where to draw lines so that next year we'll buy the top N% of the non-urban fantasy books, including the majority of the Hugo nominees, and the top N% of the urban fantasy/at-all-SFnal paranormal romance subgenres, or media tie-in novels, or whatever else is wildly commercially successful. Unfortunately it suffers from all the usual problems of categorization, and in the meantime our existing filters are failing us.

(Even though the Hugos are a popular award, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that there's at least an order of magnitude more books sold for a moderately successful urban fantasy novel than a Hugo-award nominated novel in their respective first years of publication, which would suggest to me that they're reaching distinct audiences. People with actual, y'know, knowledge and experience in this area -- is that at all reasonable?)

#200 ::: Avocado of Death ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:11 AM:

Serge @ 177: I really enjoy your puns. I will forgive your wife for any number of questionable novels because of her association with you.

Xopher @ 119: Thanks!

#201 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:36 AM:

Is Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance a form of frontier novel? Are they the modern pulps, at least in the sense of mass-market escapism?

#202 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:17 AM:

Ginger #142: Might I point out that #129 was by me and not Seth Gordon (who wrote #139). What kind of mishegoss is this?

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:37 AM:

Avocado of Death @ 200... Don't believe I didn't notice what you were doing there. Heheheh... Maybe I'll suggest to my wife that she should write a tale of Urbane Fantasy.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:41 AM:

(Cont'd from #203)

Nick & Nora Charles will be back in "Shadow over Vermouth".

#205 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:22 AM:

TNH at #103 "It's usually credited to the period which ended just a few years before the writer started paying attention. This makes it roughly contemporaneous with that golden age when writers could make a decent living off their work."

Very interesting. Who else in the publishing value chain does not make a decent living off their work? If it's only the writers, what would Yog say?

#206 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:35 AM:

Thanks to the magic of the intertubes, here's a selection of purveyors of cubebs, AKA long pepper. I've always liked the little tails that get left on the things when they're processed.

#207 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:37 AM:

Kevin Riggle: "Which raises the question for me of who those readers are. One theory I've heard advanced is that romance readers are increasingly turning to urban fantasy et al. As someone recently pointed out, we (meaning science fiction fandom) "won", our literature has become the popular literature, and, like Wile E. Coyote having caught the Roadrunner, we have no idea what to do with it now that we've got it. And it having become the popular literature also means that it's going to take on a vast panoply of new and varied forms." All of this overlooks a possibility, which turns out to be the case with a lot of urban fantasy readers: they're us too.

That is to say, they've grown up with science fiction and fantasy. They watched Star Trek in its various incarnations with their brothers and sisters, and often with their parents. They read and watched Tolkien and Star Wars, the X-Files and McCaffrey, and on and on. If a little older, they were into Dark Shadows; many of them jumped on the Song of Ice and Fire because they learned Martin's name from Beauty and the Beast and wanted to see him build a world and people and relationships with much greater freedom. They haven't "turned to" anything because they've always been f&sf fans.

They aren't part of this branch of (semi-)organized fandom. But then I can think of half a dozen LiveJournal communities I look at regularly that have more regular commenters than Hugo nominators - it's easy to over-estimate the scope of one's own part of the scene, simply because it happens to occupy a spot of historical prominence. But there's nothing to explain in terms of their arrival or discovery of anything fantastickal at all - they've always been here, just like most of us. They're our neighbors, just ones we often overlook.

#208 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:37 AM:

Serge in #203 and #204:

*applause*

#209 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:04 AM:

A quick footnote to my last, and this will sound self-aggrandizing, but it's what I've got data for:

The obituaries I wrote for Eddings and Jordan, for Tor.com, got linked widely in a bunch of places that might not seem like "us" if your focus is narrow. But I read comments from people for whom these had been favorite authors for a long time, companions of imagination and inspiration, just as much as as any notable author "we" might care to name whom we miss. The experience strongly reinforced my sense of nobody arriving so much as finally getting noticed but having been there all along.

(In the case of Eddings, in particular, there were quite a few adult readers who'd gotten their first copies from parents who'd enjoyed them back in the day. They aren't just part of the f&sf world themselves; their families are.)

#210 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:06 AM:

Teresa@171: you've saved me from a truly absorbing bout of cat-waxing, for which I thank you. (Mine was going to start out "nym ane knobbe of sweete butter, and do thereto ane equal part of floure, and meng hem togedre....", but the okra was a stumper.)

#211 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:22 AM:

pericat @195 --

My favorite (late) Medieval recipe line is, normalized, "take a pig, and hew him in pieces". It's impossible for me to read that without a mental visual of an affronted looking muppet pig.

I think it's possible LOLcat represents a hidden yearning in the population for the grammar of Middle English, but I should not wish to advance this idea too far.

#212 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:28 AM:

@210--

where's your competitive spirit? you've made a brilliant start--forge ahead!

perhaps just "those goordis that been oker highte"?

#213 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:45 AM:

Bruce Baugh @ 207

I think this is exactly right. Both my wife and I are lifetime f&sf readers and I'm a third generation fan and nearly 30 year con-goer. Maybe a quarter of the f&sf I read is urban/contemporary fantasy, a proportion that has grown steadily as more of it has become available and my wife's experience is not dissimilar.

I started down that road with Emma Bull and Charles DeLint and have continued through Jim Butcher and Carrie Vaughn to name a few. I started writing it in '89 with a vampire novel which has mercifully remained unpublished, and I have continued writing it along with other flavors of f&sf from high fantasy to hard science fiction, some considerable portion of which has seen professional publication or likely will over the next decade or so.

Short form: We have met the urban fantasy reader and they is us.

#214 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:45 AM:

212
Okra is a mallow, not a gourd so perhaps
those mallowes that been oker highte?

#215 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:54 AM:

Addenda to me @ 213 (because you always think of something else five milliseconds after you hit post) My experience with interacting with fans via the web and through conventions and readings is that the people who read my urban/contemporary fantasy are exactly the same people* who read any of my other stuff. Which, I should probably note, is not a terribly large sample since I'm down in the low mid-list somewhere.

*With the exception of the hard sf short series I wrote for the NSF—that audience is middle-school students reading stories as part of a science curriculum and very very different from my pleasure readers.

#216 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:54 AM:

Is the paranormal romance a follow-on to Harry Potter for some of the readership? Benefiting from people being opened up to fantasy a bit?

As in movies and TV, it's completely legit to see paranormal romance's popularity as a sign that we "have won". The problem I have with this is that the kind of SF and fantasy I like mostly has NOT won in either medium, and in fact is being squeezed out by the stuff that appeals to mainstream taste. SF is primarily the genre that "asks the next question", and the stuff that's widely popular frequently (I haven't read it all, or even most of it!) doesn't bear thinking about at all, let alone deeply.

#217 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:01 AM:

Dr. Doyle @#210--
My skills at plausible BS lead me to this for okra:
Nym yonge poddes of ladye's fingres, the whiche is called quillobo of Guinea, and cutte hem smalle.

Catherine Crockett @190--I'm pretty sure sassafrass is New World, or at least, unknown in areas in close contact with medieval and early renaissance Europe.

#218 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:18 AM:

for inspiration:

These cookes how they stamp, and strain, and grind,
And turne substance into accident,
To fulfill all thy likerous talent!
Out of the harde bones knocke they
The marrow, for they caste naught away
That may go through the gullet soft and swoot
Of spicery and leaves, of bark and root,
Shall be his sauce y-maked by delight,
To make him have a newer appetite.
But, certes, he that haunteth such delices
Is dead while that he liveth in those vices.

#219 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:56 AM:

Let cook until it be enough
Because for that is what we are doing

I want that embroidered (or rosemailed or something) into something that looks like it could be on my grandparent's wall.

#220 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:13 PM:

>All of this overlooks a possibility, which
>turns out to be the case with a lot of
>urban fantasy readers: they're us too.

Bruce Baugh @207: That describes me. I've been reading sf and f my whole life, and so have most of my friends. None of us have ever been to a convention (although that will change for me--my editor asked me to start attending and only a snafu kept me from last week's Norwescon) or been involved in the subculture.

We've always been out there. We just don't come to the meetings.

#221 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:29 PM:

kid bitzer #188:

Yeah, but the thing is, bread is really hard to screw up! I've been working on my texture, but in 6 months of weekly bread-baking, I don't think I've ever come out with something that wasn't palatable. That includes the time I forgot it in the oven for a couple of hours (supposed to be half an hour), and the time I tossed in eggs without adjusting anything else (water, cooking time, temperature).

Admittedly, I'm not cooking over an open fire, or suchlike, but even so....

#222 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:34 PM:

Bruce, Kelly, Harry -- If there are all these SF/fantasy readers out there, some of them would doubtless also be interested in organized fandom, getting together with other people who share their interests. So how do we reach them and convince them to come out for a con or two?

#223 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:44 PM:

Lee @222: in the case of paranormal romance readers, some of them are already *in* organised fandom and going to cons. Just not necessarily ones with the sf&f label.

I get asked every so often by my readers when I'm going to go to a con. And the answer is "These are the cons I might go to over the next year or so [list]. Remember that I came to writing cross-genre from the sf side, not the romance side. Besides, Worldcon is cheaper than Romantic Times, and *much* cheaper than RWA Nationals..."

#224 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:48 PM:

Harry@220: When I was first getting involved in SF fandom in the 1970s, the standard terminology divided humanity into three groups: "fans", members of fandom who were in SF clubs and read fanzines and attended conventions; "readers", people like you who "just read the stuff", and "mundanes", who were stereotypically boring (really meant people who had shown no interest in SF). So the concept of readers not involved in fandom was well-established at least back then. I remember that it was well-established that, while readers were the group to recruit among for new fans, quite a few readers had no interest whatsoever in fandom.

#225 ::: Shan ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 12:59 PM:

Speaking of Jim Butcher (hope this isn't too off topic, please tell me if it should go in the open thread), I was at his book signing at Powell's last night and some people were frustrated that Amazon had canceled their Kindle orders of the book- he said there was a price war between Amazon and Penguin and that Penguin had pulled all of his books. I don't have a kindle or plan to, but was curious if you guys in the know thought this kind of thing was going to go on much longer- seemed like Amazon didn't come off too well after the MacMillan fiasco, and those readers seemed very frustrated.

(He told a funny/embarrassing story about being on a panel regarding book editing years ago with Patrick Nielsen Hayden and going off half-cocked about how Tolkien could have used a better editor for LOTR.)

#226 ::: Raine ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 01:02 PM:

PNH @80: New covers for Farthing, Ha'penny and Half a Crown! Yes! I'm recommending them left and right (even though I haven't actually read Half a Crown yet...it's next after I finish Cloud & Ashes), but I know when I first picked up Farthing I was a little put off by the cover. There's something about a swastika on the cover of a book that makes me uncomfortable displaying my reading material to the train as I commute to work.

@ 220 and the discussion of fandom:

Me, too. My tastes are more cross-genre (realism, magic realism, sf&f) than they used to be, but even when I was primarily or entirely reading sf&f I wasn't involved in any sort of fandom. And my dad wasn't when he read sf&f on a regular basis (I picked it up from him).

#227 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 01:24 PM:

There is a sassafras in far east Asia, but I don't know if it will 'work' like sassafras root does in the new world.

In any case, in New Orleans, gumbo can be creole (meaning African in this case) gumbo, i.e., okra, or file gumbo, i.e. cajun. Words in New Orleans are as permeable and fluid and boundaryless as the silt swamp ground on which the city sinks.

Love, C.

#228 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 02:24 PM:

Lee @ 222, I don't know. Con-running is completely outside my skill set, though if it were a goal I were actively pursuing I think I'd start by talking with the folks in the Twin Cities who run CONvergence, as that's a vibrant and steadily growing regional volunteer run con. The people running Dragon Con, Comic Con and some of the big regional anime conventions would probably also be good resources. There are cons that are actively growing right now and drawing in new fans, though what they're doing that most distinguishes them from the ones that are contracting I don't know.

#229 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 02:28 PM:

Lee@222: "Bruce, Kelly, Harry -- If there are all these SF/fantasy readers out there, some of them would doubtless also be interested in organized fandom, getting together with other people who share their interests. So how do we reach them and convince them to come out for a con or two?"

This turns out to be a complex and hard matter, which I don't want to go into at length. But a lot of them have had really bad experiences with (this flavor of) organized fandom (there are, after all, plenty of other organized gatherings too) or seen friends have such, and have no desire to poke themselves into the maw again. The distribution of responsibility in such cases is very, very tangled, and I know for sure I can't do it justice here.

#230 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 02:44 PM:

To all I offended with my broad brush, I am truly, deeply sorry.

Yes, the paranormal romance genre fills a market desire.

But why is it that SF that asks the next question (that dbb (post 216) and I both like) keep getting squeezed hard in all mediums?

Related, what the heck is happening to mid-list books?

#231 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 02:53 PM:

Trey@230: What we like is a minority taste, and seems likely to stay there. What scares me most is the loss of the name; if we can't talk about or search for our interest without being swamped by hits on the mainstream thing, we're doomed. And now that there's a much more profitable mainstream thing nearby, a certain number of authors will be lured there and be lost to us as well.

Most mainstream readers reading A Fire Upon the Deep will have as little hope of understanding what's going on as me reading Ulysses -- they just don't have the background. And I seem to remember AFUtD being a Times-list book when it came out; not the more obscure end of publishing! (Joyce, or for that matter Homer, profits by being part of the canon, and by being historically important, and by being taught in many schools, and presumably by being in some senses fantastically good, hence they're both in print after quite a while and still getting pretty good sales.)

#232 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:01 PM:

Trey, maybe it's that a lot of f&sf is asking questions you're less interested in. That's certainly one of the most common complaints from some quarters: "Why are they so tied up with the physics and biology, and so completely blank and cliche-ridden when it comes to love, social relationships, systems of power?" Along with, "Why does there seem to be no interest in the actual or hypothetical existence of anyone like me, my family, my ethnicity, my nation...?"

Being interested in the social life of pasts, presents, and futures that build on existing richness or extrapolate in ways less concerned with preserving the dignity of a status quo that routinely makes their lives gratuitously hard is not the same thing as being incurious, dull, enamored of cliches, intellectually cowardly, or any of the other things it's often dismissed as. Of course I rant here as one whose own tastes have moved pretty hard in that direction this last decade.

DDB: ...no, I can't respond without getting genuinely angry. I'll let it go, go cool off, and see if I can say anything useful this evening.

#233 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:02 PM:

Lee @222--not everyone is going to be recruitable for congoing, SF-club joining values of fandom. There are as many reasons as there are non-goers and non-joiners. Some already have absorbing hobbies that fill their spare time, some are already active in other groups and organizations, some have personal commitments that eat up their time, some are just not group people, some can think of other ways they'd rather spend limited resources, some have no additional financial resources to spend, some have no additional physical energy to spend, and some have no additional emotional energy to spend. Some are a long, long way away from anywhere, and travelling to meetings, let alone cons, can be a bigger hassle than they're ready to deal with. That's not counting the people who've had bad experiences* with one branch or another of fandom in the past, or who have friends who have had them. People who are in online fandoms may be a good fit for congoing, SF-club-joining fandom, and some may not. For some it's preferable, for others it's more doable, for some it can be an entry into congoing, SF-club joining fandom.

The only recommendation I can give for recruitment is: Be Nice, and Remember What You May Find Tolerable, Pleasing, or Necessary Is Not So for Others.


*for values ranging from "Not the right people/not the right time" all the way to Really Serious Scary Bad Stuff

#234 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:25 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 229: "[How do we reach them and convince them to come out for a con or two] turns out to be a complex and hard matter, which I don't want to go into at length."

I think two important points are: a) there are plenty of people who really enjoy reading sf* who don't want or need it to become the center of their social life, their source of community, or the basis of their identity. They just like the books. And b), while it's certainly true that we "won" in the sense that our tropes and stories have become part of the mainstream, being an sf fan is still (in my humble) considered pretty weird, and there's undoubtedly a fair fraction of people who like the material but aren't interested in getting tagged with the label. The usual minority cultural concerns regarding "passing" are probably fairly applicable.

*substitute playing golf, watching movies, knitting, or any other human activity

#235 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:26 PM:

As someone who has been reading SF&F since I was a child (Is it weird that I read To Sail Beyond the Sunset when I was 10?) I'd like to throw out there the possibility that there are lots of SF readers who don't know there ARE cons. How do you find out about them, if you don't already know? I didn't know until I started reading Making Light, and I've still never been to one. This is the same problem I had with Renaissance Festivals. I'd heard of them, but never knew when or where they were until this year, when I finally heard of one BEFORE it happened.

#236 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:31 PM:

Heresiarch: There are also people for whom f&sf are important pasttimes, ones that occupy their thought and attention, into which they pour a lot of effort, who find some kinds of convention and organized gathering not what they want. It's not like people either go to Worldcon or just read maybe an sf book a year. People gather in other places with varying emphases, and the fact that they don't...comparison time.

There are blogs I've given up reading the last couple of years because I find some of the posters and/or commenters repugnant, and the effort spent sorting through my ire at them a net loss when it comes to information or anything else worthwhile. But my absence from Political Blog X doesn't mean that I don't care about politics - it just means that I don't care to discuss politics in the way that one will discuss it on Political Blog X.

Same deal.

#237 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:32 PM:

Bruce, I'm less interested in the biology, chemistry and physics and more about the possible impact on societies and people. Yeah, hard(ish) SF can be a lot of fun, but its much more fun when the characters are interesting, they interact and the majority of their dialogue isn't an info dump.

I hope I haven't touched on a sore subject for you there. If I have, I'm sorry.

#238 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:39 PM:

Trey: I'm in a state of profound alienation from my own fannish history, basically. Coping with personal stuff and doing a lot of research for a would-be roleplaying book about minority and female protagonists of the pulp adventure era combined with the general awfulness of the '00s to lead me into some sustained introspection. I find myself having bought into a lot of assumptions I wish I hadn't, and frankly to be having a better time overall with communities I used to dismiss. This all bubbles up semi-randomly, and I would prefer not to be one of those guests who demonstrates their gratitude toward great hosts by puking on the table.

(I believe that Teresa and Patrick would prefer I refrain from that, too.)

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to be the sort of educational, mediating bridge I'd like to be, thanks to sundry stresses and distractions, which means I'm stuck fairly often - like in this thread - getting grumpy about stuff I can't properly respond to with useful links, summaries of relevant exchanges, and so on.

#239 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 03:54 PM:

EClaire@235: We used to have a wonderful marketing presence in the introductions to stories in magazines and anthologies. Those are not nearly as widely read any more, so we've lost that. We've gained online, which probably more than makes up for it (not identically, but as a widely-read source of new recruits).

#240 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:09 PM:

Bruce - s'alright. I wish you had the information on hand, but I'll live without it. I'll go poke your post a bit more and bash it against my assumptions and see what comes of it.

Again, sorry. I didn't mean to cause you problems.

#241 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:09 PM:

Trey, be aware that your post @230 states that "paranormal romance" and "sf that asks the next question" are two distinct and non-overlapping categories. Following up with @237 strongly suggests that you believe that "possible impact on societies and people" is something that cannot be found in paranormal romance.

"Possible impact on societies and people" is in fact a large chunk of what I write about. Note well -- my degree was in maths and physics, I had a research career in heavy industry, and my first and (still highest per word) payment for my writing was for an engineering paper. I read across a wide range of sf and fantasy. But I write the paranormal erotic romance because it offers me an opportunity to explore stuff that I find interesting to talk about, and no, that isn't just inserting tab A in slot B.

I also write it as my small contribution to providing gateway drugs. There are plenty of people who read urban fantasy and paranormal romance who might be interested in looking around at other sub-genres within sf&f. But something I keep seeing on the romance forums is that too much of the material they get recommended doesn't address the issues Bruce raised -- and that they get sneered at by sf fen for wanting material that does. Why bother exploring beyond the cross-genre books, if that's the attitude encountered?

Which does not do much for expanding the audience of the books you like.

#242 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:31 PM:

EClaire @ #235: the possibility that there are lots of SF readers who don't know there ARE cons. How do you find out about them, if you don't already know?

I may have sort of known that cons existed, but it never crossed my mind that I might have the time and the money for that sort of thing. Then a guy posted on a newsgroup that Worldcon would be in Glasgow in 2005 and who would be going? "Hmm. I might be able to get there. And it sure looks fun."

And I got there and I had arrived Home.

It's impractical, because I live in the sticks of Scandinavia, but I got to the Worldcon in Montreal and last weekend's Eastercon at Heathrow. (Hello to all you who I met there.)

So next Eastercon is in Birmingham, right...

#243 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:40 PM:

Julia @ 241: I have to ask, can you deal with people of color, LGBT and women in a hardish to hard SF story or novel, keep the characters interesting and play with the implications of science and technologies? I'll bet yes and if you've got one like that, I'll track it down and read it.

Do many authors do this at all? It seems like not, and where they do, it gets routed to other genres or the periphery.

And yes, its a weakness of the SF genre. People want characters they can identify with, and deal with issues they can identify. As a result, the market for it gets smaller.

However, it seems to move into either hard (or at least assumption rattling SF) or deal with social issues (perhaps against a setting including magic and paranormal creatures). Why not a good SF novel that does deal with the social issues (love, social relationships, systems of power to borrow from Bruce's post)?

But still, no one seems to address what has happened to the mid-list books at the local bookstore.

#244 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:51 PM:

Trey, if I may make a recommendation which does deal with some of the issues you've mentioned, try Stirling's _Island in the Stream of Time_.

#245 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:53 PM:

Trey@243: The midlist pretty much died in the 90s, much to the chagrin of a number of authors. I know people who've taken day jobs since then who wouldn't have seriously considered it previously.

There is a lot of mythology out there on exactly what happened, from Thor Power Tools to the collapse of the independent distributors. Basically a bunch of things happening somewhat overlapped in time, and had the result of drastically squeezing the midlist. This has been a horrible thing for the field as a whole.

#246 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 04:57 PM:

Trey, 243: If you haven't read Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain trilogy, run right out and get it.

#247 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:07 PM:

Islands In the Sea of Time and its sequels in the Emberverse are favorites of mine.
I'll try to tackle Crystal Rain again. Hopefully, books 2 and 3 will tickle my fancy a bit more.
River of Gods rocked on toast, but Cyberabad Days was uneven. I will give Brasil a whirl though.
And FWIW, The Patron Saint of Plagues wasn't bad either.

With all respect, does anyone have any more titles to suggest?

#248 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:11 PM:

Trey@243: Yes, it's a problem, but there are examples.

In addition to the earlier suggestions, try E Bear's Carnival. It's an excellent book where nearly all the characters are either women or gay (and it matters) and people of color (and it largely doesn't matter). I'd call it 'hardish' SF, although YMMV.

John Barnes' Earth Made of Glass is hard SF with Tamil and Mayan cultures and issues of cultural imperialism. Fair warning: a wide range of people hate this book, for a wide range of reasons, even people who think it is well written.

#249 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:25 PM:

Trey, define "hardish sf".

That's a serious question, not a rhetorical one. I have a short story which is at the heart of it a riff on one of the plot elements of "Methuselah's Children". It's about a vampire dealing with the impact of modern information technology, and its attendant increase in government records, on his ability to avoid other people noticing the mismatch between his birthdate and his apparent physical age. I dropped Alan Turing's name and fate into it *without* much exposition for the non-sf people. It's a very direct examination of the impact of technology on people's lives. A large chunk of my small readership would probably consider it hardish sf, but from the perspective of a hard sf fan, it isn't anywhere near hard enough, and that vampire makes it fantasy anyway. (And yes, the mention of Turing was also relevant to another of your requirements, as it's an m/m romance.)

Stuff that's really pressed the buttons for me personally of late? Charlie Stross's books, particularly his near-future sf "Halting State". That's got all I want of looking at how tech will affect society, and using well-fleshed out characters to do it. And pushing away slightly from pure sf, the Laundryverse occupies an interesting (to me at least) grey area between fantasy and sf, with the stuff of fantasy being used as something the characters can tackle as essentially a rather warped form of science.

#250 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:29 PM:

I'll second the Charlie Stross recommendation, with particular mention of his Merchant's War series.

#251 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:34 PM:

I've read Earth Made of Glass several times. Its one of my favorites, but I don't read it too often. I think its the strongest of the Giraut series and I wish the others were as strong.

I'll go raid the library on Carnival or see if its the local stores (snort, chuckle).

Julia: Got a copy of Halting State that no one else can have. Its mine! The Laundry series is a lot of fun as well, and I hadn't thought of it as fitting in the criteria I sketched, but yeah, Pinky and Brains are there.

Hardish - well, if Peter Watts can sketch them onto the human family tree (Blindsight) I'll consider them fairly hard. Though turning into mist does make the suspenders of disbelief chafe...

What collection is your story in?

Lori: I'm waiting for the rest of the Merchant's War series to come out in paperback, because, well, after, book three, I started getting impatient. The books weren't delivering enough oomph for the bucks in hardcover (and yes I know the tale of how they came to print the way they did). It looks like it might be worth the wait though.

#252 ::: caffeine ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:44 PM:

I'm in a bit of an odd position re. attending cons. I've been attending Baltimore-area cons for three years now as a dealer, but don't really participate outside the dealer's room. Part of that is that the business doesn't make enough money to allow us to stay in the hotel, so I end up driving back and forth to Virginia every night, limiting both my time and energy for getting involved.

Beyond that, though, I'm not sure why I haven't been participating more. Definitely a fantasy fan, so it's not a lack of interest. Part shyness for sure, which is probably a reason many SF/F readers don't attend cons. Once I get going I'm okay, but rooms full of strangers flick the "off" switch on my brain. Part of the lack of participation may also be that my personal fandoms aren't media based, and no one else seems to be squeeing over McCaffrey these days. There are definitely shades of gray between "not interested" and "completely involved."

#253 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:45 PM:

#205 Doug Very interesting. Who else in the publishing value chain does not make a decent living off their work? If it's only the writers, what would Yog say?

Yog says this:

What we mean by "decent" living may vary, but very few writers can support themselves, and everyone (cover artists, copyeditors, other freelancers) are all either scrambling or have a day job (or two) in addition to what they're doing in the arts.

Yog's Law says that money flows toward the author. Yog's Law is silent on how much or how fast.

#254 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 05:59 PM:

Trey -- the story's not in a collection; I write for an erotic romance publisher that publishes primarily in ebook format, and while they generally publish only novelette length and up, they picked up that short to run as a Halloween special. Ebook only, I'm afraid. (Email me at julia.jones@gmail.com if you really want more details.)

#255 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:35 PM:

Lee @ 222: The web ought to be doing that for you. I'm pretty sure it is, anyway. I've always known that cons were out there, but I didn't know a thing about them until I got online and started reading con reports and LWE's descriptions of what they were like.

But the first time I saw the word "Boskone" I figured it was some kind of pastry.

If fans want readers (thank you ddb @224 for the term) to become fans, they should make their events sound fun and safe.

Kelly McCullough @228, What I've always heard is that the conventions that were contracting are the literary ones, but the ones featuring media like TV and movies were growing and bringing in young people. That's second-hand, though.

heresiarch @ 234

>I think two important points are: a) there are
>plenty of people who really enjoy reading sf*
>who don't want or need it to become the center
>of their social life, their source of community,
>or the basis of their identity. They just like
>the books. And b), while it's certainly true
>that we "won" ((snip)) there's undoubtedly
>a fair fraction of people who like the material
>but aren't interested in getting tagged with the
>label.

Yeah. That's me. I've read the genre my whole life, and I've written several hundred words of fantasy and sf. I may, with great effort, write straight mysteries someday, but I hope not.

But I've run into fannish people at various non-convention events (such as the Jim Butcher appearance in Seattle on Wed night) and I've never had that "My people!" moment others describe.

#256 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:47 PM:

I think that younger fans/readers/whathaveyou are more inclined to think of sf/fantasy as a mode rather than a genre -- for them, it's something that can have its expression in visual media, in gaming, even in fashion, and they don't necessarily privilege the textual forms of expression over the others.

Or so it seems to me, anyhow. I'll have to ask my younger daughter the next time we're discussing such things. She can do quite a rant about the perennial "where are the new young fans?" complaint.

(Our offspring are second, quite possibly third generation fans -- none of their grandparents ever went to conventions or anything, but my mother used to read Doc Savage novels in her youth, and Macdonald's father had a subscription to F&SF for years.)

#257 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 06:49 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 236: "It's not like people either go to Worldcon or just read maybe an sf book a year."

Yes, that's what I was trying to say though I see I didn't do a very good job. People engage with SF at many different levels of intensity. (Though EClaire's point about the difficulty in finding fandom is well-taken.)

Trey @ 243: "I have to ask, can you deal with people of color, LGBT and women in a hardish to hard SF story or novel, keep the characters interesting and play with the implications of science and technologies? I'll bet yes and if you've got one like that, I'll track it down and read it."

Except it seems you have read many such books, but without noticing what they were. Perhaps the problem isn't in the literature, but in your perceptions of it?

"However, it seems to move into either hard (or at least assumption rattling SF) or deal with social issues (perhaps against a setting including magic and paranormal creatures)."

There are two assumptions here that I'd like to challenge: first, that there's actually a clear-cut line within the genre between "hard SF" and "social issue SF," and second, that social systems aren't themselves a form of technology worthy of good hard sfnal treatment.

#258 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:03 PM:

Heresiarch: Yeah, I'm just drawing a big bright circle around the idea there isn't a single axis of fandom, from vague general pop-culture awareness to running Worldcon. Rather, there's a starting zone of vague awareness and an expanding zone of intensity of engagement in all directions: this here part of fandom, the various flavors of fanfic making, online fandoms at LiveJournal and elsewhere, and so forth and so on. Fannish engagement happens in at least three dimensions, and the fannish sphere is best thought of in multiple bright colors. Each individual orbits through it on their own evolving trajectory.

#259 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:04 PM:

By the way, the reviewer Patrick quotes is still being a jerk. This is all about the many interesting alternatives to being a jerk. :)

#260 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:28 PM:

This book I see I will not buy.
I do not want to tell you why.
It fails my tests for worthwhile prose
And that's but one of all its woes.

[alas, I wrote that last night and lost the chain of thought it belonged to...]

#261 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 07:47 PM:

The young fans are out there. The trick is t respect where their interests lie.

#262 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:03 PM:

Doug @205:

Who else in the publishing value chain does not make a decent living off their work? If it's only the writers, what would Yog say?
We can ask Yog.

In the meantime: some authors do make a decent living. Many have incomes that vary from year to year. Not everyone is a full-time writer. Some have spouses with well-paid jobs and medical coverage. Some have family money. Some eat a lot of fish they catch themselves. It varies a lot.

As a rule of thumb, if authors get paid more than their books earn, somewhere along the line the system will break down.

As for the rest of us? It depends on what you think constitutes a decent living. Rates have actually gone up for copyediting and proofreading, which mostly means that some freelancers can afford to do it full time. Editorial assistant wages went up as a result of the dotcom boom, which siphoned off so many bright youngsters that the whole publishing industry had to raise their salaries. Again, by U.S. standards this mostly got them up to a living wage, which is not the same thing as a decent living.

I am a damned good copyeditor, and the rates for doing it have gone up so much than I can now make more copyediting a book for Tor than I would make for editing it. I am nevertheless making less than half as much per hour as a friend of mine was charging fifteen years ago as his absolute minimum hourly rate for writing printer drivers.

Meanwhile, I see Yog has posted his own answer; so there you go.

Bruce @207: Lots and lots of people read paranormal romance. You (okay, I, and for all I know, you) could see it coming a long time ago.

(Sometimes you can see stuff coming in the covers more than in the books. The author tells the editor about the book they yearn toward. The editor tells the art director, the art director tells the cover artist, the cover artist does their best to realize the description, and somehow, when it's made into a cover, you can see the direction they're all leaning. Back before Famous Author Racking, paperback wire racks were good for this kind of scrying.)

As Kelly says, we have met the urban fantasy reader, and they is us. Not all of us read all of it, but I'd say most of us stray into it to some extent.

The new territory's a good place right now, closer to Lewis & Clark than to the first transcontinental railroad. There are lots of stories to be told. Whose work adjoins it? Someone else will have to name the category romance components. I'll semi-arbitrarily name Fritz Leiber, Cecelia Holland, Neil Gaiman, and books and authors edited by Terri Windling (especially Bordertown), though I could name forty or sixty more. Another thing I know about the territory is that it's partly defined by epic otherworld fantasy and by horror, on account of not being either of them.

Debra @210, I was saved from waxing my own nonexistent cat (or triple-waxing Aggie Maggie) by having to leave in time to catch the last U.S. showing of The Book of Kells (thank you, Bill Higgins). Being tight on time meant I couldn't get the grammar and spelling exactly right or figure out what to do about ocre-mallows: a godsend! All I could do was write the joke.

Kid Bitzer @212, if Debra and I got into a serious competition, she'd win. I'm just a hedge-medievalist.

DDB @216, the pedigree's much broader than that. Also, I could feel it in the earth and smell it in the air years before the first Harry Potter novel was published.

Lee @222:

Bruce, Kelly, Harry -- If there are all these SF/fantasy readers out there, some of them would doubtless also be interested in organized fandom, getting together with other people who share their interests. So how do we reach them and convince them to come out for a con or two?
One at a time. Personal contact is the only way I know how to do it.

The other thing I know is that if they're the kind of person who's going to suddenly look astonished and say "I'm home!", personal contact with the community can work even if none of you are attending a convention at the time.

Shan @225: Any idea what he said? Was it something other than "Cut out Tom Bombadil"?

Bruce Baugh @229: Fandom's full of benevolent but socially thumbfingered folk who couldn't make small talk to save their lives. I suspect that's the single biggest reason why it's so white: shy and sensitive fans-of-color don't realize we're that awkward with everyone. The other half of the story as I know it is that there are less benevolent types that hang around the edges of things. Newbies have no way to know that those guys aren't members of the core community, and they take their slights and unkindness to heart.

Which is not to say there aren't other things we're doing wrong. We just don't know we're doing them.

Trey @230:

But why is it that SF that asks the next question (that dbb (post 216) and I both like) keep getting squeezed hard in all mediums?
It isn't getting squeezed. We're always looking for more of it. The problem is that it's hard to write that stuff, or write it well. When more turns up, look for it on the bookstore shelves.

Bruce @232, be encouraged. If you write more on that subject, I'll have a better chance of figuring out what you've already said. It sounds interesting.

Roy @242: Great happiness. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face for weeks after I found it.

Trey @243, I know you mean well.

I have to ask, can you deal with people of color, LGBT and women in a hardish to hard SF story or novel, keep the characters interesting and play with the implications of science and technologies?
Nova, just for starters. Quite a few others I can think of. Do you require that the author explicitly specify the skin colors, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual preferences of all the characters?
Do many authors do this at all? It seems like not, and where they do, it gets routed to other genres or the periphery.

And yes, its a weakness of the SF genre. People want characters they can identify with, and deal with issues they can identify. As a result, the market for it gets smaller.

Excuse me, but what are you talking about? Novels that do all you say and do it well are not going to get pushed to the edge. The core SF audience likes getting its assumptions rattled, as long as the tone and the exposition are properly handled. The market for SF is doing just fine. As for characters with whom you can identify, I don't know what you're looking for. What are you looking for?
Why not a good SF novel that does deal with the social issues (love, social relationships, systems of power to borrow from Bruce's post)?
I'm drawing a blank on what you mean by that, if you're saying you can't find any examples of it in the extant literature. Perhaps there's some particular style of writing you're looking for that's uncommon within the genre? I think you really need to explain more, give more examples, and explain why you liked them.
But still, no one seems to address what has happened to the mid-list books at the local bookstore.
That's a completely different issue. Patrick's written about it a number of times. Main Street has gone away, which is a simple way to describe a very complex thing that's happened.

If by "midlist" you mean the unexciting but passably okay book, the small, safe science fiction or fantasy novel, its day is largely over. The passably okay book was what you settled for when there was nothing else that suited your taste. These days, people don't settle.

The very popular books that lots of readers love are of course doing just fine. Quite a few quirky little books that leave many readers cold but inspire active enthusiasm in a smaller audience can still feasibly be published. It's those books that people liked well enough, but no better than they liked dozens of others, or tepidly liked in ways that were indistinguishable from the ways they liked dozens of others, that have gone away.

The other thing that's happening is that far more authors are getting published. The pie of sales is still big, but the slices are tinier and tinier as more authors come to the table. This could easily be solved if about two-thirds of the published authors out there agreed to stop writing books. So far, there's a real shortage of volunteers.

Bruce @258:

I'm just drawing a big bright circle around the idea there isn't a single axis of fandom, from vague general pop-culture awareness to running Worldcon. Rather, there's a starting zone of vague awareness and an expanding zone of intensity of engagement in all directions: this here part of fandom, the various flavors of fanfic making, online fandoms at LiveJournal and elsewhere, and so forth and so on. Fannish engagement happens in at least three dimensions, and the fannish sphere is best thought of in multiple bright colors. Each individual orbits through it on their own evolving trajectory.
If we gave out an award for cartography, I'd give you three or four of them on the spot.

Paula @260, applause.

#263 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:19 PM:

Harry Connolly:

That describes me. I've been reading sf and f my whole life, and so have most of my friends. None of us have ever been to a convention (although that will change for me--my editor asked me to start attending and only a snafu kept me from last week's Norwescon) or been involved in the subculture.

If you want to start small in the Pacific Northwest, keep Foolscap in mind.

#264 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 08:33 PM:

Foolscap. By all accounts, a very good convention. And while I'm not up on the gossip, last I heard was that Orycon's a good general-interest SF convention.

#265 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:00 PM:

On books that "ask the next question"... are they really getting squeezed? Or were there ever any more than there are now?

Most SF published fifty years ago is out of print and forgotten. (Most books in general published fifty years ago are out of print and forgotten.) Maybe most of these forgotten books weren't asking the next questions either... maybe they told safe, nonthreatening adventure stories and played to their audience's prejudices. (Heck, even in the books we do remember the writers weren't exactly scrambling to, for example, challenge their readers' preexisting assumptions about gender roles.)

Maybe people remember having more books that asked the next question because the books that asked the next question are the books people remembered.

#266 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:08 PM:

And Foolscap this year features quondam Flouospherians Will Shetterly and Emma Bull as guests (plus I'm managing their dealer's room, and will probably be doing massage as a dealer).

#267 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:10 PM:

That should have been Fluorospherians....

#268 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:21 PM:

#241 Julia:

From:

http://stephaniedraven.com/2009/10/23/top-five-tips-for-getting-published-in-silhouettes-nocturne-line/

...the top five tips I’ve learned writing for HQN:
1. Nocturne Heroes Don’t Cry
Editor Tara Gavin once shared with me that she rejects many books for Nocturne because the heroes are too soft. Nocturne readers are looking for an unrepentantly alpha hero. Now, as a writer, I know that showing a hero’s heroism is tricky when he’s not the type to show the chinks in his armor, but there are ways to delve into his emotions without letting him get weepy....

#255 Harry
One thing that tends to get overlooked--back when Boskone had 4500 people, there weren't a dozen other conventions going on the same weekend. Add up the numbers and there are more people going to conventions for SF/F textprint stuff that weekend in North America, than there were at Boskone at its largest, when Boskone was pulling people from all over the USA and in multiple provinces in Canada.

#257 heresiarch
Some book titles are coming back to me -- Storm over Warlock and its sequel by Andre Norton, Roland Green's Starcruiser Shenandoah series with ensemble cast --Elaine Zheng was a mix of all sorts of ethnicities, Sho Kuwahar [spelling] and nother character were of Japanese culture ancestry, Lena Ropulski and Marcus Langston were dark-skinned, Karl Pocher and can't think of the character's name were a male/male couple.... LGBT Melissa Scott and Elizabeth Lynn's novels....

#262 Teresa
Writing printer drivers is a skill that might be rarer than copyediting ability, and is one of the the least appealing things for most software developers--it's generally something that most programmers deliberately avoid doing, writing device drivers, when I was doing market research, was the single most reviled area of code writer regarding what software engineers given a choice of types of projects and products to work, would voluntarily do. There was ONE person I interviewed, who liked writing device drivers, everyone else who wrote software, was averse.

The core SF audience likes getting its assumptions rattled, as long as the tone and the exposition are properly handled.

Much of the PNR doesn't rattle assumptions--particularly the Alpha Male stuff (ugh.... I often point to romance readers that one of the characteristics of a lot of Georgette Heyer's work, was that the alpha male assholes were NOT always the heroes, sometimes they were not-necessarily-the-villains, but rather, many of them were fellows whose appeal got hollower and hollower and ultimately the fellow who was kind and considerate and able to get things done QUIETLY and effectively ad competently without lots of muss and fuss and trouble, were the ones winning the women's hands for marriage

#269 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:31 PM:

Fragano @ 202: Mishegoss, schmishegoss..a be gezunt! Nu, my fingers slipped. So, nu? You want maybe a piece kugel? Some apple crisp? A cup of tea to go with? It will just be aroysgevorfen.

#270 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:53 PM:

Paula, #268: One thing that tends to get overlooked--back when Boskone had 4500 people, there weren't a dozen other conventions going on the same weekend. Add up the numbers and there are more people going to conventions for SF/F textprint stuff that weekend in North America, than there were at Boskone at its largest, when Boskone was pulling people from all over the USA and in multiple provinces in Canada.

That's an excellent point. There are a lot more local and regional cons than there used to be. Some of them don't survive -- Houston has had a series of short-run (2-4 years) cons over the last 15 years, but ApolloCon looks like it's going to have a longer lifespan.

There are also a lot more specialty cons than there used to be. There are what, 10 or 12 filk-cons now? And at least that many furry-cons, and all the gazillions of gaming-cons, and mystery-cons, and fanfic-cons, and the huge anime-cons, and... (A small anime-con is 3,000 people. Think about it.) All of those are competing for our hypothetical reader's time, attention, and money. The problem is not that the interest isn't there; it's that our particular piece of the sub-culture isn't connecting to that interest as well as many of us would like to see happen.

I often point to romance readers that one of the characteristics of a lot of Georgette Heyer's work, was that the alpha male assholes were NOT always the heroes, sometimes they were not-necessarily-the-villains, but rather, many of them were fellows whose appeal got hollower and hollower and ultimately the fellow who was kind and considerate and able to get things done QUIETLY and effectively and competently without lots of muss and fuss and trouble, were the ones winning the women's hands for marriage.

Very much so, and the Heyer books I like least tend to be the ones where she doesn't go against the standard romance-novel tropes. Though not always; These Old Shades is a bog-standard Rake's Reform story, and it's still one of my favorites.

#271 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 09:58 PM:

I still remember how very small, and unimportant, and unwelcome, and not-one-of-us my first literary convention made me feel. I walked in there thinking that I'd get along with everyone there and fit in as easily as I did in gaming conventions, and it was the complete opposite. Part of what hurt so much was the surprise; I did think of myself as a fan, and one of that group, and the convention proved that I'd been mistaken all along.

I read sf* stuff; it's 90% of my reading list. I watch shows with those elements. I play games with that kind of stuff in them. And I still don't go to literary conventions, because, yes, one bad experience--and it wasn't terrible, just desperately uncomfortable--was enough to convince me that I should stay away.

Mixed-medium conventions I still like. If there's an anime room, a gaming room, and panels on building robots, I'll be happy there. But a literary sf convention? Oh, no. I'm not doing that again.

* I pronounce it "scifi" and have gotten lectured on why I shouldn't do this. It's one of the reason I stay away from the literary conventions. In the room with the DDR pads, no one cares how I pronounce it, but we can probably chat happily about Avatar: the Last Airbender and what we thought of Halting State anyway.

#272 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:04 PM:

Dear Freddy Standen. Who wouldn't fall in love with him, at least a little?

#273 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:06 PM:

Fade Manley, which convention was this where you felt unwelcome?

#274 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:15 PM:

Ginger #269: Kugel? Apple crisp? A shaynem dank.

#275 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:25 PM:

#271 Fade

* I pronounce it "scifi" and have gotten lectured on why I shouldn't do this. It's one of the reason I stay away from the literary conventions. In the room with the DDR pads, no one cares how I pronounce it, but we can probably chat happily about Avatar: the Last Airbender and what we thought of Halting State anyway.

Could have been me, my feeling about that term is less kind than what romance readers feel bout "bodice rippers." Some of it is also kinaesthetic, the sound has a very negative ick feel/sound to it for me, I intensely dislike the -sound- of it -- think of offkey screechy violin with drunk player.... (which I unfortunately have heard.. ugh.)

#276 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 10:35 PM:

Teresa, in #262:

You're welcome.

(What she is talking about.)

#277 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:01 PM:

Trey:

Another set that just occurred to me: Joel Shepherd's books Crossover, Breakaway,Killswitch. They're set in a multiethnic far future. The viewpoint character is a female artificial person, and attitudes towards tech and biotech, and various sorts of xenophobia, are major background issues. Shepherd is Australian, but at least the first volume is available in the US.

There's also some of Melissa Scott: Trouble and her friends, for near future cyberpunk; Dreamships and Dreaming Metal for distant colonial future. These have female viewpoint characters, and most of them have major characters who are LGBT. Dreamships and Dreaming Metal are both set on a planet with a large ethnically-Chinese migrant underclass. Burning Bright and The Kindly Ones have a similar feel, and are about systems of power and how to make working societies, but technology isn't a major part of the story. They have LGBT and female characters, but not so much people of color. At least some of these are in print, and they are often available in good second-hand stores. They tend not to be in libraries, sadly.

I'll stop now.

#278 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:17 PM:

Fade, I suspect you'd feel welcome at ConQuesT here in KC. We try to be a literary con with a lot of extras. This year's extra guest is Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance fame. Last year we had Anime voice special guests.

We're friendly and try not to leave people out if we can help it.

#279 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:34 PM:

Lee @270 brings up something I'd been thinking of while reading the last few dozen comments. The SF cons that old-time SF fans think of as SF cons? They're tiny. I still occasionally see SF fans talking about Worldcon as if it were some huge thing.

The biggest Worldcon ever was LA Con in 1984, with over 8,000 attendees. Denvention 3 in 2008 had fewer than half that many. (See the Long List of Worldcons for more.)

Last weekend, the first-ever PAX East was held in Boston. It drew more than 50,000 attendees. (I wasn't one of them; I somehow missed even hearing about the thing until late last week, when some of my friends tweeted about their plans.) Last year's west-coast PAX drew over 60,000. Dragon*Con regularly gets over 30,000. Last year's San Diego Comic-Con drew almost 140,000.

Pre-reg for the three-day PAX East cost $45, which comes out to $15/day. Pre-reg for next year's Worldcon costs $225, which comes out to $45/day for the five-day con. (In all cases I'm using US$.) If I were trying to talk one of my PAX East-attending friends into giving a Worldcon a try, how would I justify that vastly greater expense for a much smaller con? (Leaving aside the Australia issue.)

#280 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2010, 11:50 PM:

Bruce Baugh writes in #258:

I'm just drawing a big bright circle around the idea there isn't a single axis of fandom, from vague general pop-culture awareness to running Worldcon. Rather, there's a starting zone of vague awareness and an expanding zone of intensity of engagement in all directions: this here part of fandom, the various flavors of fanfic making, online fandoms at LiveJournal and elsewhere, and so forth and so on. Fannish engagement happens in at least three dimensions, and the fannish sphere is best thought of in multiple bright colors. Each individual orbits through it on their own evolving trajectory.

To which, in #262, Teresa responds:

If we gave out an award for cartography, I'd give you three or four of them on the spot.

I second the motion.

Note that the task of convention organizers is to enclose numerous examples of those shifting, colorful, ever-moving clusters, throwing a net around them-- at least for a weekend.

Even if you think your con is devoted to just one interest, attendees will bring their own ideas and organize in their own interpenetrating subgroups. You must relax and go with the flow.

The pitfalls are obvious: you can be so specialized as to be boring, or you can try too hard to cater to a kitchen-sink-ful of interests, and become so diffuse that you serve none of them well. It's one of the many balancing acts you perform.

#281 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:02 AM:

279
About a quarter of the attendees in 1984 were one-day memberships, many there just for the 'Star Wars' marathon.

#282 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:10 AM:

Fragano @ 274: Azoy gich?

#283 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:13 AM:

Avram, #279: I'll tell you something else. The first Worldcon I went to was SunCon, in 1977, and my membership cost me $25 at the door. (If it had been much more than that, I couldn't have gone at all; I'd just started a new job, hadn't gotten a paycheck yet, and I was so flat broke a pancake with a harelip could have spit right over me.) Now, inflation and all, yes -- but honestly, the registration rates for Worldcons (and for some of the old major regionals, too) are just plain outrageous, and that's certainly going to self-select against younger fen, or anybody who's not reasonably well-to-do. And while it's certainly still a good ROI by comparison with most non-fannish live entertainment -- concerts and theater, for example, typically run $50/seat or more for a performance that lasts only a few hours -- you're right that it's not good by comparison to other fan-oriented cons. When and how did that happen?

#284 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:15 AM:

I have to confess I've only read half of the 262 current posts. I know it's the nature of comments to drift away from the original topic, but I think Mr. Hayden's original issue was

"how SF Site, a long-established SF and fantasy review venue run by people with plenty of experience in the SF world, would come to publish a set of, well, basically, insane lies about people they know perfectly well, as if it were somehow reasonable and normal to do so."

So why exactly did they? The review really wasn't professional by any stretch of the imagination. The reviewer obviously had a sad personal axe to grind.

One possible conclusion is that SF Site was desperate for content and traffic.

If one can't be relevant then be sensational. In that regard they accomplished their mission.

I would be interested in any other explanation from those with better knowledge of the subject

#285 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:27 AM:

#270 Lee

...the Heyer books I like least tend to be the ones where she doesn't go against the standard romance-novel tropes. Though not always; These Old Shades is a bog-standard Rake's Reform story, and it's still one of my favorites.

These Old Shades has Leonie, who doesn't want to be a girl, and is bloodthirty. She's much more interested in fighting with swords and such, than social sophistication, and has be to be bribed into studying social graces.

Oh, there is something else that bothers me, breezy particularly breezy shoe-obsessed female leads. The level of sarcastic female leads is far disproportionate to that in the general populace. Most people are not endowed with that level of sarcasm ability....

I suppose I should be grateful that they don't also spout poetry/doggerel on the spur of the moment, or break out into song... hmm, it would not necessarily be a good thing for most writers to copy the style of How Much for Just the Planet!!!

#286 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:33 AM:

Lee @283, well, $25 in 1977 is about $90 in 2010. Divide that by five days, and you've got about the same per-day cost as PAX East.

I've heard it suggested that Worldcons cost so much because they're at an awkward size. They're too big for a single hotel's function space, so they have to rent a convention center, which costs a whole lot more, but they're not big enough to spread that cost over enough members to bring the price down to something reasonable.

I don't know what's specifically changed since 1977.

#287 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:58 AM:

Thomas @ 277: Heck, Kim Stanley Robinson's RGB Mars trilogy is full of multi-ethnic, multicultural, alternate sexuality goodness. Once you start looking, it's not at all hard to find this kind of thing.

Avram @ 279: "If I were trying to talk one of my PAX East-attending friends into giving a Worldcon a try, how would I justify that vastly greater expense for a much smaller con?"

Bigger isn't always better--a smaller con, small enough that one could get a grasp on it and get to know some people, might be a draw versus the impersonal hordes of a 60,000 attendee monster.

#288 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 01:06 AM:

Fade, I'll second what Paula Helm Murray said. ConQuesT is just plain nice. It practically feels like family, assuming your family is charming and gets along peaceably.

#289 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 01:18 AM:

Speaking of things that are and aren't Middle English, I did a silly thing today. I was looking at photos taken in Green-Wood Cemetery, which is half a block from my house, and noticed an early New England-style headstone that must have been transported there from an earlier cemetery. Since it was on Flickr, I blew the photo up to its largest size so I could read the inscription.

It was interesting, so I sent the link to Jim, remarking that I wouldn't have thought there were any headstones in the United States old enough that they'd refer to the body of the deceased as a lich.

Jim wrote back and pointed out that I'd failed to notice that the inscription is in Dutch.

#290 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 02:37 AM:

#286 Avram
There are gory detail breakdowns of income and expenses available for Worldcons.

Covention center rental is expensive.
There is the bill for the "decorator" which provides e.g. tableclothes for the tables in the dealers room and in the exhibit area, there is te ost of the tables and chairs rentals, there is the cost of art show hangings--usually borrowed and transported from and back to smaller conventions' art show hanging collections, with cotributions for the equipment use (which also helps to pay for wear and tear...

There is the cost of rental for all the stage lighting and projection equipment and sound equipment used for the Hugos and Masquerade and otther events and for programming, rental of microphones and loudspeakers, the funding for stocking the consuite and Green Room and the Green Room for the Massquerade, the Food & Beverage spending to the convention center and hotels (I especially remember the price that the convention center food concession company charged per bag (8 - 10 ounce or so range if I remember correctly) of potato chips for Noreascon III back in 1989 -- $10.00 Hotel and convention center coffee typically costs at least $40.00 a gallon these days I think and maybe more like $60.00 a gallon for the steel large coffee pots and coffee mugs setups. Noreascon III had four three layer sheet cakes with the cost per sheet cake $250.

There is the cost of computers--used preconvention for registration, used for lots of other things also. Printers are necessary. There is the cost of producing publications. There are the expenses of website hosting and email lists. There are costs for telephone service. There are costs for office space rental and costs for storage and shipping of things like the permanent Worldcon exhibits of photos and Hugos etc. There are expenses for travel and room and per diem expenses for the official convention guests. There are expenses for publicity. There are expenses for the Pre-Hugo reception, and the Hugo Losers' Party.

There are expenses for the committee/staff/volunteer lounge(s). There is the room rental for any sleeping room suites used for babysitting, for consuite, for volunteer lounge...

There's a lot of stuff that adds up, and up, and up. For Noreascon 4, there were all the materials that went into creating the imitation tavern in one corner of an exhibit hall. There was the cost of renting furnitue to put in the exhibit hall and the cost of all the decorations so that the space didn't look like a big empty concrete cavern. .... The more stuff and activities there are, the more spending gets involved....

#291 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 03:34 AM:

Paula @268: I'd heartily agree that romance provides its own share of Sturgeon's Law fodder -- and I personally find the romance version of the 90% to be far more likely to meet the nearest wall than the sf&f version, in large part because of the Alphole Hero trope and sundry related issues. I started reading a couple of the major romance reader blogs in large part because they write the sort of reviews that tell me whether I have a reasonable chance of not actively loathing a book.

But one of the points Sturgeon was making applies equally well to other low status genres, including romance. That it includes an awful lot of crud does not mean that it is 100% crud. The reward/effort ratio may be too low for someone to make it worth their while looking for the 10%, but that's a different thing to stating that the 10% doesn't even exist.

#292 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 06:32 AM:

Avram @ 279... Denvention 3 in 2008 had fewer than half that many.

"...What's wrong with Denver? (...) Worldcons draw their attendance primarily from three distinct groups: those who are happy to fly wherever necessary to attend; those who will stump up the hotel cost if they can drive there in a day; and the locals whose only costs are gasoline and memberships. For Denver, the number of people in the 1-day drive market is relatively small..."

- Cheryl Morgan, who in the February/March issue of the Bulletin of the SFWA paints a picture of the situation that isn't so dark. Me, I had a blast in Denver, 2 years ago, and not just because I got to have a chat down the elevator (or was it up?) with Jay Lake and Robert Silverberg.

#293 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:04 AM:

@110: "soulless bean counters" instead of "accountants"

Wasn't one of the vampire myths that they're "soulless bean counters" (in the event that you scatter beans in front of them)? If I'd known I could turn into a bloodsucking monster by studying accounting instead of English, my years at college would have been significantly different.

#294 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:26 AM:

Isn't that more of a zombie myth?

#295 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:34 AM:

I seem to recall, from sitting in on a couple of LACon II committee meetings, that the base budget for that year was $900,000 and break-even was 6000 members. We were happy to make that beforehand. ('We have money. You can't spend it.' - that keeps the department heads from assuming that they can have money for what they want and spending it on their own, after the con breaks even.)

#296 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:39 AM:

That's soulless rice counters. Some Asian vampire legends opine that you can escape from them by tossing a handful of rice in their path; they're compelled to count each grain of rice before continuing to follow the (hopefully long gone) potential victim. Beans might work in a Robot Chicken meme mashup, though.

#297 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:50 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 296... But will beans work if the soulless accountant is a heterosexual woman, and if the Bean is named Sean?

#298 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 12:53 PM:

Then there are the TV vampires, who are sesame counters:

Vun!
Two!
Tree!

#299 ::: Shan ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 01:16 PM:

Teresa@262 No, more that he wasn't interested in reading so much about someone moving house, even if it had been a story about moving his own house. But he mainly joked about trying to sound like he knew what he was doing on the panel.

#300 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 02:03 PM:

ISTR several sundry cultural references to quelling spirits with projectile beans-- Lloyd Alexander's quasi-Welsh Prydain series mentions getting rid of ghosts by spitting beans at them, and the Setsubun festival in Japan involves hurling roasted soybeans at a symbolic demon target to repel them and attract good luck (presumably into the resulting displacement vacuum).

In conjunction with the Pythagorean prohibition on eating beans, I've always wondered if the reasoning is something like this:

1.) Life = breath (spirit, pneuma) = the ebb and flow of gases through the body.
2.) Eating beans can lead to flatulence = excess gas.
3.) Therefore, beans are a natural repository for disembodied spirits-- if you eat beans, those spirits will be released into your body to wreak internal havoc, but beans also have enough paranormal suction to entrap unwary ghosts they're hurled at. QED?

#301 ::: Shan ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 02:27 PM:

@299 Just realized I was imprecise, should have said, he joked about trying to sound like he knew what he was doing, on the panel.

#302 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 04:19 PM:

Jim at #253: That sounds as if nearly everyone for whom publishing isn't a day job has to have a day job to be involved with publishing. That's definitely a Thing That Makes Me Go Hmm. And thanks for giving me Yog's definitive view.

Teresa at #262 Thanks for the full answer to my impertinent question. I'm particularly heartened that copyeditors and proofreaders are earning more, because I've done both (though not in the US).

#303 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 04:44 PM:

Teresa @ 273 & 288: The con in question was ConDFW, which, as far as I could tell, was a perfectly lovely convention for people who weren't me. I went to a few panels (I was there to work in the dealer's room, so couldn't go to many), and quickly realized that I couldn't talk to anyone at all, or ask questions that other people would want to hear answers to in panels, or in general participate at all, because I wasn't sufficiently well-read for the crowd at hand. I really don't mean to imply that I'm faulting the convention for this; it was just rapidly clear to me that it was a place for people who'd been reading scifi for 40+ years, and as someone who'd enthusiastically read the entire selection of scifi & fantasy novels available in my rather small high school library--and not a lot else--I just was not going to be able to have a conversation with anyone that was interesting to them.

It hurt, because it made me feel stupid and uninformed, and I couldn't figure out how to resolve the gap. (In one panel, it was mentioned casually in passing that no one could really start reading the books they were talking about without having already read--some list of five authors, none of which I'd even heard of before.) But that was entirely a fault of circumstance and background, not anyone there. They seemed like nice people, but I couldn't hold a conversation that would hold anyone else's interest.

I will definitely look into ConQuest; my family is charming and pleasant (in my opinion), and I'd love to go to a fannish place that has that same feel. (Since I got a lot of my love of certain types of literature from my father, and have taken great pleasure in being able to recommend authors and shows to my family since--the Vorkosigan series and Babylon 5 were received well--then any meet-up that can evoke that feeling has got to be great.)

#304 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 05:03 PM:

Doug @302: That sounds as if nearly everyone for whom publishing isn't a day job has to have a day job to be involved with publishing.

I think you'd be more accurate with, "Nearly everyone for whom publishing isn't a day job has a different day job. Some such people also enjoy aspects of the publishing industry as a hobby that occasionally gives them extra income."

#305 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 05:41 PM:

Fade, 303: My only connection to ConDFW is that I went to it once. But as a member of Texas fandom, please allow me to apologize for having failed you.

#306 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 05:55 PM:

TexAnne @305: I really wouldn't categorize it as failing me. A convention aimed at people who have a whole lot of experience in a genre is a different thing from a convention aimed at people who are new to the genre or dabblers in it, and a small convention can't really be expected to be both. The error was mostly in my assumption that a literary convention would function the way gaming conventions did: a big emphasis on newbie-friendly introductions to various smaller pieces of the overall theme.

I do sort of wish that conventions--or panels in them--would come tagged the way RPG sessions do. "Experienced players only", "For those with some system familiarity", "Newbies welcome - Pre-gen characters provided!" and so forth. It'd make for fewer experiences of walking into a panel thinking it's an introduction to a subject, and discovering that it's for discussing advanced topics for people who know the subject very well. (Or, conversely, going to a panel I think is for discussing interesting advanced theories on a topic, and discovering that the whole panel consists of explaining the basics to people who haven't encountered it before.)

#307 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 07:22 PM:

Comments on going from reader to fan, and also belonging to one of the younger generations. I'm not sure how well this generalizes, as it's my own experience, but I'll give it a shot.

I'd been reading SF for quite a while and enjoying it. I'd also been watching shows like Star Trek and B5. I vaguely knew there were conventions, but didn't give it much thought. And then I found Making Light (I don't remember how, exactly; probably a link from Chad Orzel's blog or Slacktivist) and had a distinct impression of finding all sorts of wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent people who were interested in similar things to what I was interested in.

After the intimidation wore off a bit and I started posting, I decided to look a bit deeper into fannish culture. When last year's Westercon was reasonably close to me, and since it featured our gracious hosts as guests of honor, I decided I'd try this whole con thing.

Now, it is intimidating. Being a bit of an introvert around all these people who have known each other for years is tricky. But I still had fun. Meeting other Fluorospherians helped too. I went to ConDor earlier this year, what with it being smaller and closer, and was scooped up by a nice group of fen.

I'll admit that I'm rather predisposed to fit in a little better to these sorts of things than some: I already liked the sorts of discussions typical of fen, and I had an interest in the history of computing, which overlaps a bit with fandom. As well, my personal reaction to something that I really want to try is to throw myself at it a few times before giving up. I do feel a bit left out when people talk about all these books I haven't read, but I recognize that they've had more time to read them.

I'm not really sure what my point is, or if I even had a point. Probably something like you don't need to have a recruitment drive, and the internet is a good resource for snagging people who are already predisposed to that sort of thing. I do understand where Fade Manley is coming from, though, since, as I said, all these people who know each other and the subject material can be off-putting through no fault of their own.

#308 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 07:59 PM:

Fade, I don't think that panel would be a good fit for a lot of fans; 'you have read x, y and z before you can read this' isn't an attitude most people will take politely (outside of school, anyway).
However, I haven't been going to a lot of conventions in the last several years, either, so maybe that kind of in-group stuff is more common now.

#309 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 08:01 PM:

OK, Fade, I see what you mean. But it still embarrasses me that nobody at all noticed the new person in their midst.

If you ever decide to try again, you might consider AggieCon. It's run by college students--so even though there are people who've been going to it for as long as I've been alive, there's a consistent stream of new attendees. Other things that have helped me is finding a friend to go with, and putting out the word on LJ and ML that I'd like to meet people.

You're not along on the "panels that don't match their descriptions" thing. It happens to me at least once per con, and always has.

In the YMMV Department, the "I haven't read that" bug is one of my favorite features. Finding out what I should read--not just from the book dealers, but also from panelists and audience members. I like the feeling of not being able to take notes fast enough to keep up with the titles, and there's very little more satisfying to me than finding one of them in the dealer's room.

#310 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 08:57 PM:

TexAnne @ #309, the "I haven't read that" bug is one of my favorite features"

Of the Fluorosphere, too. I can't even count the number of books mentioned here that I've borrowed from the library (sorry, authors, budgetary constraints) and enjoyed.

#311 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 09:21 PM:

Hello, everyone, I cannot type today. I meant to say "you're not alone," and I have no idea where that sentence fragment came from.

#312 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 09:24 PM:

Julie L #300: ISTR that Pythagoras is now thought to have had a not-uncommon genetic condition, which made fava beans (in particular) fairly poisonous to him.

#313 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 09:34 PM:

TexAnne @309

That's one thing I really liked about a panel at last years (Minneapolis) Fourth Street Fantasy Con; at a panel on children's lit, one of the panelists (sorry, can't put a name to her just now) brought a handout of titles/authors she was likely to be talking about. So there was a lot of scribbling around the edges, but I didn't have to write down EVERYTHING.

May I suggest that people who find themselves on the sort of panel where they're likely to be suggesting/talking about a lot of books (reviews of the last year, that sort of thing) consider doing the same? So much less frustrating for us in the seats.

#314 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 09:49 PM:

TexAnne @ 309: The silly thing (and I'm not quite sure if that's the adjective I want, but it'll do for now) is that I went to exactly two conventions that year: ConDFW, and AggieCon. In both cases, I went mostly to help in the dealer's room, but with someone else, meaning there was time free for me to go to some panels and the like as I wanted.

And after ConDFW, I just didn't bother even trying to go to any panels at AggieCon. Not a one. Now I'm wondering what I missed out on, and what fun I might've had if I hadn't let myself get tied into knots by shyness and a general feeling of not being tall enough to ride that ride.

I did meet my future spouse at ConDFW, in passing--and then again at AggieCon, and we spent a marvelous evening hanging out together, and started dating thereafter. So even if the panel-and-event aspect of the conventions was a completely bust for me that year, I'll give those conventions credit for fixing up my romantic life splendidly.

#315 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 10:00 PM:

Fade, there are plenty of people who go to cons for the purpose of sitting in the bar with their friends. Or the restaurant, or the lobby, or the patio outside. So you're not alone in avoiding panels. (FWIW, I was petrified before my first AggieCon. And look at me now! Um.)

#316 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 10:04 PM:

David Harmon @312: Pythagoras apparently identified what we now call phenylketonuria (a genetic inability to metabolize phelynalanine); it's a little less clear whether he had it or not.

Cally @313: we're definitely planning to have the whiteboard where folks can write authors and titles down again at 4th Street this year. There may or may not be people who think to write down authors beforehand. Me, I never know which authors are going to come up from me on a panel until I see how the panel goes!

#317 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 10:17 PM:

TexAnne @ 315

Indeed, I've seen people semi-seriously declare there are three stages of convention fandom.

Neofan: I go to panels. What's a party?

Trufan: I go to parties. What's a panel?

Oldfan And Tired: I go to panels again because now I (or my friends) are on them.

(Note that the "parties" thing is primarily a North American convention thing; in other parts of the world, substitute "the hotel bar".)

At North American conventions, except at the very smallest of conventions, there will almost always be some (sometimes a LOT) of room parties starting in the late evening. All convention attendees are welcome to attend. There will usually be free snacks and drinks, which will sometimes include alcohol. I've had lots of good conversations at such parties, and in the consuite, which is the hospitality suite/room that the convention itself runs for the fans. Some convention's consuites even provide actual meal-like substances, which can be very helpful for the fan-on-a-budget.

One trick for shy convention newbies to get to know people is for them to volunteer. It's possible to meet a lot of people as a badger or a consuite wrangler. You might well click with some of them.

#318 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 10:24 PM:

Tom @ 316

Oh, thank you for bringing back the whiteboard! It was a lifesaver (or at least a frustration-saver) several times last year!

#319 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 10:45 PM:

Cally, a comment of yours reminds me: One of the real draws of the big, San Diego/PAX/etc scale cons for some of us is that there's a lot more to do when you really, really don't want to be around booze but do want to socialize. It's one of the major reasons I haven't pushed myself to try more f&sf con-going lately - I'm allergic to the stuff and it can bring back bad memories of trauma for people I care about, and this rules out (depending on the con) a plurality to an overwhelming majority of the after-hours socializing.

#320 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:03 PM:

I was at PAX-East, and the scale was superwhelming. Particularly since it occupied the same space as Worldcon used in 2004, with almost three times as many people.[*] But it was in no way like three Worldcons stuck together. There were *fewer* scheduled events, scaled for many more people each. (Inadequately scaled, as it turned out.)

[* I have heard with some authority that the 53000 count for PAX was person-days, not total attendees.]

#321 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:13 PM:

Fade, #303: May I suggest FenCon as a friendlier con, if you're in easy reach of the Dallas area? ConDFW is primarily oriented toward people who are interested in writing science fiction -- which isn't a fault, but does tend to set the bar intimidatingly high for someone who's just a fan. I've been to it a few times when I wasn't being a dealer, and found that there were very few panels that even interested me; I spent most of my time chatting with people I already knew. FenCon is much more what I suspect you were looking for -- a general-interest con that appeals to fen over a wide range of levels.

Of course, if there's any chance I could talk you into coming down to ApolloCon, I'd be delighted to show you how much better it is even than FenCon! (read: "friendly rivalry")

#322 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:15 PM:

TexAnne, the cons that I go to these days, I tend to go to a lot of panels. My main is Penguicon, and I still feel guilty about missing it this year for the first time in several years. (I mean, I got married at Penguicon. It feels like skipping Christmas.) On that one, it's definitely at the stage of "I go to meet my friends, and, wow, there are also cool things happening!" Lots of great panels there, most years.

It's mostly literary conventions that intimidate me; the focus makes me a lot more nervous about being able to "qualify" to talk to the other guests. I'm not really sure how to get around that. I love sf&f reading, but I tend to like a lot of fluffy/YA/modern stuff, which means that I'm at sea trying to talk to people who are much more interested in hard/adult/classic books. I'm still not sure how to work around that. For now, I've coped by just avoiding conventions that are focused on literary stuff rather than broader geek interests.

#323 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:20 PM:

Lee @ 321: Since I didn't make it to PenguiCon this year, I'd love to make it to some other general geekdom sort of convention. I suspect that the timing on FenCon makes it a no-go (hurrah for academic schedules and my complete unwillingness to miss so much as a single class session, which is what killed PenguiCon for me this year), but I'll take a look at ApolloCon.

#324 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2010, 11:47 PM:

By the way, the Con Finder website appears to have moved slightly, to http://containment.greententacles.com/ - lets you look up nearby cons by zip code, and has a relatively broad range of cons beyond just SF/Fantasy/Comics/Anime/etc.

#325 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 12:18 AM:

In conjunction with the Pythagorean prohibition on eating beans, I've always wondered if the reasoning is something like this:
1.) Life = breath (spirit, pneuma) = the ebb and flow of gases through the body.
2.) Eating beans can lead to flatulence = excess gas.
3.) Therefore, beans are a natural repository for disembodied spirits-- if you eat beans, those spirits will be released into your body to wreak internal havoc, but beans also have enough paranormal suction to entrap unwary ghosts they're hurled at. QED?

Julie L, David 312, Tom 316

I'd heard that with Pythagoras, the first 2 steps of this were right, and the prohibition on eating beans was simply because one didn't want to lose one's own pneuma. Don't have a source for this though

#326 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 02:20 AM:

#306 Fade
#307 keith
#308 P. J.

Each convention has its own character and its own audience/market. Some are more open to newcomers than others, some are more outgoing in terms of not expecting attendees to be familiar with The Most Important (as considered by whoever...) 10000 novels, novellas, noveletted, and short stories published in SF/F in the past 200 years....

#319 Bruce
There are lots of "dry" parties at conventions, though.

#322 Fade
Could you cite specific authors and titles?
I'm not sure there is a true core anymore, as regards what is currently being published--one factor is sheer volume, other factors include taste, and novelty level--in the 1960s stories where a female character breaks into an all-male field was one thing, but such a story being published as "original" work today, I tend to look askance at--back in the 1960s Caltech and Yale and Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Yale and the Citadel and the US Military Academy and Princeton etc. were male only. Big commercial airlines banned women from being pilots. Medical schools were immensely hostile to female applicants and students. There were no women on the US Supreme Court. There were no women serving on sea duty except maybe as nurses on hospital ships. There were no women on military flight crews. Etc. The first half of the 1960s also had racial segregation in many of the state of the USA...

The situation is different today--discrimination certaily hasn't evaporated, but the endemic levels of it that were part of every day custom, don't legally exist anymore in the USA.... and the literature as reflection of the time literature gets written in it, are/ought to be different, concerning topics of the times.

That is, storie about a woman aspiring get into a male-only field, doesn't strike the same chords today as way back when...

The onslaught of PNR/UF with female characters who as a matter of course are military or paramilitary, is a style of story which not only would have mostly been in The Great Unpublishable Void half a century ago, but which I think a lot of writers never even remotely consideredd writing--Heinlein's "Delilah and the Space Rigger" belongs to a different meme era, for example.

Ironically, some of the PNR is in ways recidivist in some of the attitudes (the alpha male stuff) -- note I wrote "some." There has been a backlash against women being looked at as people rather than automatic "dependents" and some very weird admixtures of what looks like hypocrisy regarding the likes of M*ch*ll* M*lk*n, *l**n* D*nn*lly, S*r*h P*l*n, etc.

Getting back to "Is there a core?" though--there are writing style I'm allergic to, which include what I castigate as "bad technical writing." Passive voice usage in the technical press generally is an obnoxious thing, which makes telling who did what hard to figure out when reading, is generally needlessly indirect, hard to follow, and a sign of bad writing and editing styles if the intention is supposed to be to actually communicate information....

When I see that sort of things in fiction, unless the author is doing it in parody I tend to stop reading quickly. That automatically makes a chunk of the SF being published be non-rewardig reading for me.... Lots of other people don't find that style of writing untenable, however.

In addition to writing style issues, there are considerations of theme, characters, plot, location...

#327 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 03:10 AM:

Bill Stewart @324: I took a look at http://containment.greententacles.com/, and was aghast to learn that there will be a Twilight con in Portland, Oregon in October.

#328 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 05:00 AM:

Paula @ 326: "Big commercial airlines banned women from being pilots."

For another (non-SF) example of exactly this meme, see Robert J. Serling's [1] She'll Never Get Off the Ground, which I encountered in the University of Montana library new fiction section ca. 1971. (It's an interesting "time capsule" of a wider variety of attitudes than one might expect, going into the story -- but with a resolution that, even at the time, I considered both forced, and an evasion of the underlying issues.)

[1] Yes, Rod's brother. Good writer, too, who IMO produced quite a few stories worth one's time.

#329 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 10:03 AM:

Andrew Plotkin@320: Our elder son (who's also familiar with the regular sf convention scene, having attended cons with us since he was a mere toddler) attended PAX East, and he had the same criticisms as you about the programming and scheduling.

#330 ::: hedgehog ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 10:51 AM:

re: #317, Cally Soukup


One trick for shy convention newbies to get to know people is for them to volunteer. It's possible to meet a lot of people as a badger or a consuite wrangler. You might well click with some of them.

You can hand Ian M Banks his beer, and discover that one of the chaps in Ops is someone you last saw thirty years ago at Oxford, for example.

#331 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:46 AM:

Wow, there's a Steampunk con in Piscataway* in May. Cool!
____
*Yes, that's a real town in New Jersey. It always makes me imagine Mick Jagger singing in falsetto ("It's just Piscataway! It's just Piscataway-ay!").

#332 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 12:12 PM:

janetl @327: There was a convention called Twilight at the same hotel, same time as Foolscap last year -- not directly related to Stephanie Meyer, though. It was a vampire lifestyle convention, and they brought in one of the producers of True Blood as a guest. Of course, there were odd problems with the overlap -- the Foolscap hotel liaison was a woman who has gone by the name Twilight for many years, a well-known SF convention masquerader. Hilarious confusion ensues.

Cally and others -- I've always found that I have much more fun at events if I'm working on them, rather than being audience.

#333 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:06 PM:

Damn you, Xopher. Now I'm going to have that as an earworm for hours. :-p

#334 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:16 PM:

Xopher @ 331: The Piscataway tribe is well-known in the Middle Atlantic states. (I grew up in Maryland and so heard the name many times, for towns and roads and other places.)

#335 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 01:35 PM:

KeithS @306 mentioned the internet being useful in connection with fandom. I'd say it probably plays a major role.

I've been reading SF/F for lo these many decades. When I was in college in the 70's, I was aware of D&D players and SCA groups. (There would be a fair amount of overlap there on a Venn diagram, I think!) Those things didn't look like they'd be a good fit for me at that time.

If I thought about it at all, I assumed that things like gaming and SCA totally petered out after college, and I had no inkling that SF fandom existed. Not happening to have lived where cons were going on, nor happening to know anyone involved in anything like that, these types of things were totally off my radar. It's only been with the internet -- and even then, specifically mostly since I started reading ML a few years ago -- that I even knew about any of this stuff.

Now I think wistfully sometimes about roads not taken way back in college.

#336 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 02:35 PM:

TNH @262 & BH @276: Netfilx has The Secret of Kells

#337 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 02:41 PM:

Re The Secret of Kells: wait, what? A 12yo illuminating the book while the monks fight the Vikings? Visually spectacular or not, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Please tell me Netflix made that up.

#338 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 03:52 PM:

Micah @304: Some such people also enjoy aspects of the publishing industry as a hobby that occasionally gives them extra income.

Fair enough, though I seem to remember that people got cross when I opined (here and/or at Scalzi's) that six to nine cents per word (as a pro rate for short fiction) was a hobby and not a profession.

#339 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 03:58 PM:

TexAnne #338: No, Netflix didn't make it up. However, the Secret of Kells plot makes more sense than it appears to from that capsule summary. The boy is effectively apprenticed to a brilliant senior illuminator, and the rest of the monastery isn't fighting Vikings so much as trying to keep them outside of the cloister walls.

There are certainly (major) irregularities in the film's portrayal of the monastery, and I didn't see any sign of the Benedictine Rule in practice anywhere.* I didn't care, though, because the visuals convinced me that the filmmakers knew what they were doing. I mean, every time words appeared on screen, they were written in uncials stylized just barely enough so that non-paleographers could read them. The scenery almost always answered the question "What happens if we apply the Book of Kells aesthetic to a forest, or a monastic hall?" (The biggest exception there was the outer cloister wall, which mattered to the plot but looked all wrong to me.)

I would have liked to see more emphasis on the inherent Christianity of the monastery, and of the historical Book of Kells itself. A plot point depended on the stunning chi rho page from the codex, but I don't remember anyone pointing out that the letters chi and rho are the standard abbreviation for the name of Christ.

*IIRC the Benedictine Rule wasn't in use in early Irish monasteries anyway... but I could be wrong.

#340 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 04:01 PM:

TexAnne @ 337... that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard

Last night the Skiffy Channel showed Mega Piranha.

#341 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 04:11 PM:

Rymenhild: Arrgh. I don't see Irish Majuscule as a variety of Uncial, but I guess I shouldn't get too heated up about it.

#342 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 04:15 PM:

Tom Whitmore@316, Dave Harmon@312:

The genetic sensitivity relevant for fava beans is glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency. It's common in the Mediterranean region and (like thalassemia and sickle-cell trait) confers some level of malaria-resistance. This is also the condition whose discovery is often attributed to Pythagoras.

PKU wasn't characterised until the twentieth century, and a suitable infant and child diet would have been difficult to arrange in a pre-industrial society.

#343 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 04:22 PM:

Rymenhild, 339: No, most early Irish monasteries weren't Benedictine. But...argh. Perhaps I should watch it with the sound off.

#344 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 04:32 PM:

Xopher, apologies! I pulled out my paleography texts to double check terms just now, and realized I was conflating scripts. The filmmakers used insular majuscule, more or less, except that they usually closed the upper curve of the g.

#345 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 05:10 PM:

Rymenhild, it was the Wikipedia page for Uncial (showing an example of Insular Majuscule) that I was whining about; that's not your fault.

#346 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 05:51 PM:

Avram, #286: They're too big for a single hotel's function space, so they have to rent a convention center, which costs a whole lot more, but they're not big enough to spread that cost over enough members to bring the price down to something reasonable.

Which suggests rather strongly that one possible solution would be to attract more members. How easy is it for a new fan, or a reader-fan, to find out about the existence and location of an upcoming Worldcon? Do they advertise in science fiction magazines? Do they send flyers to cons that are not so literary-oriented (media, gaming, comics), or advertise in their program books, in an effort to pick up the crossover market? Can they make it more affordable for one obvious class of not-well-to-do fan by offering a student discount rate? If they're not doing things like this, why not?

#347 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 06:15 PM:

Lee, I think you have the right questions. I've been a reader-fan all my life, and active in online fandom for the last six or seven years, but I never once considered attending a Worldcon.

Now that the writers of my generation, the ones I know through online connections, are beginning to get nominated for Hugos and the like, I've begun to wonder how I might participate in voting. But traveling to Australia or other almost-as-distant locales is impossible for me. (I'm a grad student, and I wipe out my travel budget every year on academic conferences.) Until googling five minutes ago, I didn't know that it was possible to buy a membership without attending the conference -- and the fee's still out of my reach for a single vote.

So, what can the organizers of Worldcons do to allow a longtime SFF reader and participant in fan culture like me to join in the fun? Lower student rates would help -- not only for me, but for my friends, who are also SFF readers and fans. If more of my friends attended, I might be more likely to go too. Dragon*Con's collecting more and more fans in my generation every year, and one of these years I'm going to ignore its awful position in the academic calendar and join them.

Publicizing the con and explaining what it does in wider circles would also help. Send those flyers to the SFF bookstores, the other cons, and most crucially, the Internet. Get the word-of-blog out. I don't know what else to suggest, but I think it's important.

#348 ::: individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 06:40 PM:

I think I come into the category of a reader who is on the brink of becoming a fan. Don't know whether you count me as "young"; I'm 31. But I've been reading SF/F all my life, and hovering on the edges of fandom since I started socialising on the internet in the early 2000s. I attended my first SF con, Eastercon, last week. The main reason I made the leap was because my sweetie (my age, so also arguably young) is definitely a con-going fan. He's been willing to trail after me while I wander round Scandinavia doing education for newly started Reform Jewish communities, though he isn't even Jewish. So it seemed fair to get involved in his interests too.

Thoughts: yes, I'm one of those people who have other things to do with my leisure time and non-essential money. The aforementioned Jewish community stuff takes a big chunk. And I'm reasonably well read, but not at the level of every Hugo and Nebula shortlisted book for the last several decades. Eastercon was fun, not a revelatory moment of finally meeting my people, but enjoyable. Somewhat pricey compared to the amount of entertainment I could get for the cost of 3 nights in an expensive hotel (and I wasn't travelling internationally), but not implausible with my budget. I think I'll go to more cons, though probably not outside the UK, and certainly not make congoing my main priority for all the rest of my leisure time forever.

I could not have afforded it when I was a teenager or student, and I would have hated it if I weren't at the extreme end of the extrovert scale. I was a bit put off by people showing off how much more familiar they are with the genre than me, but that was very mild. Some of the threads of this conversation are setting my teeth on edge; I read stuff that isn't SF/F, and I don't think that SF is inherently superior. That may mean I'll never reach "True Fan" status, but I can't bring myself to care. Also, I very nearly went to the Glasgow Worldcon, but was put off by the intense misogyny of the Name Fan who was trying to recruit me; maybe my life would have been different had he been a bit less *cough* socially inept.

Although I watch almost no television, and I'm white, middle-class, geeky, nerdy etc, and in general seem much more of a fit for old-fashioned literary SF and congoing fandom, in various recent internet clashes I've felt myself much more aligned with female-dominated, internet-based media fandom. I can't see myself ever going to a media con, though, because I have only ever seen one anime film and watched one SF show and I don't write fanfic.

#349 ::: Vanessa ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 06:45 PM:

Mary Dell #168:
Here's a nice tidbit from Nathan Brazil's page about his books and the evils of publishers:
Nathan Brazil

I found another quote on this page that I couldn't pass by. It is regarding the newfound ability of readers to discover fledgling authors thanks to the miracle of POD.

Plus, if you buy while an author is still in the digital trenches, you will have something that few other people own.

So true! I wonder how much I will get for my limited edition copy of Night Travels of the Elven Vampire. It is in mint condition.

#350 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 07:05 PM:

#328 Leroy
I read She'll Never Get off the Groun when it came out in I think 1970. Ironically, a few months after it came out, a woman whose name I can almost recall, got media attention as the first women to enter commercial aviation jumbo jet flight training with a path to flying for an US major airline....

These days there are female airline pilots who are captains. Susan Grant is a 747 pilot who graduated from the Air Force Academy, and went from flying military transports to flying airliner, who is also a science fiction romance writer.

The entry of women into airline cockpits was delayed by such factors as
o the airlines getting "free" trained pilots from people doing what Susan Grant did, going from the military to civilian life, with military flight training and experience.
o Northwestern's requirement for pilots to be at least 6' tall
o the airlines demanding militry flight experience and a certain number of hours--
o an abundance of men with military fight training and experience, from WWII, Korea, and then Vietnam, when those conflicts over, especialy when the military didn't need those numbers of pilots anymore
o "old boy network" -- the airline executives were men, the pilots were men, the military pilot were all male... there was a LOT of misogyny....

#351 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 07:31 PM:

#347 Rymenhild

The membership cost for a Worldcon is substantially less than travel and food and room, unless commuting or crammed six to a room eating supermarket coldcuts and such.

I had greater discretionary funds for going to conventions when I was a college student than when I was unemployed in the 1990s...

If the convention is running break-even, giving one group a membership cost break, means others get charged -more- to compensate.... which can make the convention unaffordable for -them-. Lots of cheap below cost memberships aren't to my perspective desirable--each Worldcon is a one-shot. That some convention in the future MIGHT get the expensive memberships from someone who got the cheap student rate doesn't benefit the convention that student got the cheap rate at.

Yes, it would be really nice if the numbers of members increased to where the price didn't look so expensive, for -everyone-... .but the rates get set on the basis of expected revenue and number of members versus expected expenses. Having a too-low price in the expectation of gettig lots more member, is risky. The lowest rates are for people joining earliest, but people joining earliest are not in the majority--those uncertain about going don't want to spend money two years in advance (it used to be three years in advance for a while) on something they might not attend, and those likely to get membership reimbursements (people who work a certain number of hour on the convention or who are program participants) who have limited discretionary funds, don't want to tie the money up for two plus years until the probable reimbursement.

And, as someone noted, Romantic Times, and the anuual Romance Writer of America convetions, in the the $400 to $500 range for attending membership fee...

#352 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 07:46 PM:

Unsurprisingly, Nathan Brazil has not seen fit to reply to my email.

#353 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 08:05 PM:

Fade Manley, #314, when I go to Minicon, pretty much my only con, I usually run the T-shirt table. I go to see my friends from that area and the others that come to the con.

#354 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 09:09 PM:

"If the convention is running break-even, giving one group a membership cost break, means others get charged -more- to compensate"

That doesn't necessarily follow. If giving a cost break to one group attracts more of that group than would otherwise come, then you might actually bring in more money overall, assuming more attendees don't raise costs much. In that case, you wouldn't have to raise charges on others.

A lot of the costs you mention in #290 sound to me like largely fixed costs that don't change significantly when one more person buys a badge. (They do scale up at certain levels-- if you gets *lots* more people, you might need a bigger hall, for instance-- but it sounds from some of the descriptions above that many cons use spaces that have plenty of room for more attendees.) If the marginal costs for the next person to walk through the door are low enough, it makes sense to consider beating the bushes for more persons.

I'm not familiar enough with the business of cons to say with any certainty what kinds of price breaks, if any, would more than pay for themselves. But I do note that many of the buyers that would be most likely to be swayed by a registration price cut would be the ones in the local area.

Folks from out of town still have to pay for travel and lodging, so a cut in con registration for them wouldn't make much difference proportionally in the overall cost. So I can't see a price cut swaying many of them, at least not those who have enough income to regularly travel to faraway cons. Though as Serge mentions above, folks right nearby might have no other costs other than gas; in that case, cutting the price for locals might cut their costs proportionally largely as well, and, combined with good local promotion, could potentially convince many more to come than otherwise would.

I imagine something like "show proof of address less than X miles away for a discount" has probably been tried before. Do folks here know how well it's tended to work?

#355 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 09:32 PM:

me @336: Argh. I misread Netflix. Kells is in their list of "DVDs coming RSN." They don't actually have it yet. My apologies.

#356 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 10:18 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @354:

I can imagine being real irritated at something of that type (Not only do I have to pay for a hotel, and a plane, but I also have to pay an extra surcharge for not being local???)

But maybe: Discount for students of $LocalCollege, if we're worried about students being able to go? Discount if you pre-register for ThisCon at OtherLocalCon? Oh, and: one thing that locals can do more easily than nonlocals is volunteer. If you drum up a lot of publicity for "discounted attendance for X hours volunteer work"...

#357 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:44 PM:

Disclaimer: Speaking only for myself here, this is personal opinion....

#356 Emily

There are what I think of as fairness issues, plus:

Once upon a time there was a generally oriented science fiction convention known as Boskone. It had films, it had a costume competition, it had panels, it had an art show, it had gaming.... it had had lots of teenaged "parasites," some of whom were paying members, many of whom were not. There were ratpacks of them roving, going to parties, looking for a good time for cheap.... and their antics were among the main causes of the abrupt end of the giant Boskones.

I overhead someone a couple years before tht at a Boskone saying, "This is the last year I can trash Boskone, next year I'll be 18."

I am NOT saying "Teenagers are Undesirable! Teenagers are Irresponsible! Teenagers are Scum!" and such. Some teens are, some aren't--college students, too. The parts of Boston and Brookline near BU and Boston College have lots of complaints about students' behavior in their neighborhoods. One of the latest appalling example of badly behaved teenagers that got reported on local TV was that of a couple who came back from vacation and discovered $45,000 of damage to home and possessions. Classmates of their teenaged son forced him to open the house for them to come and party in, and the proceeded by the dozens to have a drunken nihilistic extended vandalizing malicious destructive party, drinking, smashing, urinating throughout the house....

The antics at Boskone were less vicious and less destructive than that, but there was malcious damage to hotel property in addition to fire alarm after fire alarm after fire alarm from the fire alarms being overly sensitive, and the hotel disinvite Boskone from coming back the following year.

My viewpoint is influenced by that, and not wanting to try to give a cut rate by class to a class which does not demonstrate that as a class it provides a general benefit to the covention worth getting a cut rate--working on the convention provides a benefit to the convention, including working on the convention as a program participant. Regarding general attendees, giving lowered prices to a class which tend to cause problems at a higher rate than other classes, strikes me as inappropriate.... People who are unemployed with mortgages to pays and/or children to house and clothe and feed and educate don't get cut rates, people on fixed incomes don't, why provide a special cut rate based on age!?

Again I am not saying teenagers as a group are destructive offensive convention-destroying vandal! What happened at that Boskone involved a density of teenagers with ratpack/punk mentality--sort of in some ways like the friendly family pet dog which when joined up with other dogs running loose in a dogpack, becomes a vicious animal pulling down livestock, and sometimes even attackig children--it's a mob mentality thing. Another example is individual grasshoppers versus swarming locusts--it's the same species, but the behavior is different when individually out versus swarming.

I don't want swarms of privileged-feeling teenagers and students.... and no, I have not seen swarming behavior at the college SF/F conventions I've gone to (most recently I was at ConBust at Smith a few weeks ago for a day), but some of that is that the people running it are mostly college students, the student running things are "stakeholders." People who don't have a personal stake, showing up for entertainment value as consumer, or as freeloader, can have different ideas....

Some of my attitude is that people who don't pay full price, don't necessarily value what they're getting for cut rates, as much as people who have to pay full price.... The "I'm a minor, I can get away with vandalism without being called to account for it" attitude is the extreme version... I remember my college dormmates' * petty public property habits, and doubt if that sort of thing has ceased.... one of the reasons for the lack of street signs in various places in Boston was and probably still is, the propensity of college students to steal street signs.... The students weren't the one who were paying for the street signs through property taxes.

* synchronicity strikes,
http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/2010/04/will-lava-lamp-work-on-jupiter.html involved some of them.... file under "Mad Scientists at Play!"

#358 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2010, 11:51 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 326: By naming authors, I assume you mean ones I'm most interested in, and would be interested in a con with a focus towards 'em and that area of the genre? Hmm. WIth a quick glance at my bookshelves... Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Sarah Monette, Justine Larbelestier, Octavia Butler, Connie Willis, Robin McKinley, with odd scatterings of Tamora Pierce, Andre Norton, and Garth Nix.

But if you mean the authors/titles they were recommending... No, I'm afraid I can't really name any, at this much of a distance. I once tried to compile a list of authors/books in the scifi genre alone that could be considered definitive. I gave up reading through that list at about the second book* that was a wallbanger for me.

I recall a general impression that the authors I'd thought were the classics, and had read accordingly--sometimes quite against my own preferences, because I was trying to be a Good Science Fiction Reader--like Heinlein, and Asimov, and Herbert--were seen as... I'm not quite sure how to describe it. I got the impression that everyone thought that a complete knowledge of those works was so much a given that they weren't even going to be referenced. But I mostly remember being intimidated, not specifics.

* I do remember which one that was, quite distinctly: Hyperion. It was certainly an effective book, in that years later, I could still recount at length what I disliked about it. Now there's a book that sticks with a person.

#359 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:29 AM:

#358 Fade

Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette were at Readercon two years ago, but not last year. TNH, PNH, and Jim Macdonald are usually at Readercon. The list of program participants saying they're coming this year is at http://www.readercon.org/guests.htm#participants and includes Elizabeth Bear and Jim Macdonald. (Burlington, MA, in July http://www.readercon.org )

#360 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 12:53 AM:

Fade Manley @358, you're not likely to see Octavia Butler at many conventions, as she died several years ago.

I'm thinking about pointing out at 4th Street this year that for every person there, there's something that person has read that another person hasn't. I'd wager money that there are no two people where one person's "books read" list is a proper subset of another person's. There's always something for me to learn from other people's reading (even if it's only something to avoid). I'm probably one of the more widely read people in the field -- and there are popular, award winning authors that I Just Can't Read. I've usually tried, more than once. Or I'll like the one atypical book that nobody else likes.

#361 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:48 AM:

Fade Manley @ 358: I went to my first con in March -- Potlatch, in Seattle. I was a bit nervous about being an ignoramus, and my friend the con regular told me the following: You've probably read as many SF books as any one person there*. In a discussion, the group will know an amazing amount, but that's the pooling of all the individuals' information. Don't let it worry you.

I was perfectly comfortable. I found everyone very friendly and welcoming. I'm sure it helped that I already knew some people there, and that Potlatch is a small con.

*He didn't think to exclude Tom Whitmore, but he would have if he'd thought of it.

#362 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 01:59 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ 360: I was under the impression that I was being asked what sorts of scifi books I liked to read and wanted to talk about at conventions, not which authors I wanted to meet. Perhaps I was mistaken.

I do think it's possible to have a convention focused on the sorts of stories written by specific sorts of authors without needing those people to be there in person; if nothing else, all the Heinlein panels I keep seeing listed would seem to suggest that.

#363 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:23 AM:

Fade, anyone who would say, or even imply, that you MUST have read certain SF novels to be considered a legitimate fan is a dolt. Of which, yes, there are some in fandom, but they're a long way from being the whole of it.

I am not quite 54 years old, and I've been a con-going fan for over 30 of those years, and you would be amazed at the list of SF-canon books that I haven't read. Nobody can read it all! More importantly, nobody is going to like it all, and IMO that's a much more important criterion for something that's intended, at root, to be pleasure reading. If Hyperion made you want to throw it across the room with great force, then there's no good reason for you to make yourself read it. (I haven't read it either.)

There are times when I feel a bit left out as everyone else is discussing this or that book or series or author and I can't participate, but then a while later they'll be talking about something else that I have read, and maybe some other person will be feeling left out while I'm merrily arguing the fine points of world-building and characterization.

#364 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:31 AM:

Fade Manley @362 -- you're right, I misread and I apologize.

#365 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:05 AM:

#362 Fade

Both, more or less, in the sense that a significan percentage of SF/F authors come to conventions, and like to talk about books, and people who come to conventions tend to be communities, where people talk about common interests. There's "timebinding involved, that goes and includes fanhistory, including ones no longer around, the human touch of general continuity, the personal anecdotes about Janet Kagan bringing a dead vole to Lunacon, about Larry Niven explaining the cause of one of the Man-Kzin wars, the marathon pseudo-dialogue between Steve Brust and Jim Macdonald at a Readercon over "subtext does/does not exist" which went on with breaks from when then both arrived to when they left, with a large cast of kibbitzers tossing in comments, including various Flurorospherians.

There was a World Fantasy Convention where for close to two hours, Bill Wu and another writer and I stood around talking about The Witches of Karres by James Schmitz.

As for Hyperion, add me to the list of people who haven't read it. I think I tried to start a few times....

Oh, aslo--in Montreal in the afternoon, an amoeba formed around Teresa in a corridor on second floor of the north side off the convention center , and kept accreting people. Some would come, some would go with panels ending and panels starting. It was rather like several simultaneous Making Light threads, but live in person, complete with lot of groaner puns (I don't remember if there were any verse. At one point Teresa looked around and exuberantly said, "I love being with my tribe!" The amoeba came to end just prior to 6 PM, was it, or maybe 5 PM, breaking because a panel about Mike Ford was about to start--and that's where most of the amoeba went.

One of the night of the convention there was a Making Light party, which got moved around the hotel not through the intent of abi et al, but by various circumstance... it finally wound up down in the lowest function space area floor, after much consternation, and ran until 2 or 3 AM. There was also a live connection chat going on....

#366 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:40 AM:

Lee@127, with replies from PNH@147, Fade Manley@158 and Wesley Osam@180:

I agree with Lee, Fade, and Wesley. The signal to noise ratio on most non-blurb/frontispiece stuff on books these days is so bad that I skip reading them. I want to read about the book, not about someone else's reaction to it. I won't start bothering just because there might be a nugget in the dross. It's just not worth my time.

I should mention that I've decided against buying books that didn't carry at least a brief blurb.

Side note: I've noticed that the more of these review things on a book, the less likely I am to like it even if I do read it (for reasons which I haven't quite figured out yet). So their presence has a negative conotation that way, too, for me.

YMMV.

#367 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:02 AM:

Renee #366: as an example of mileage-variance, I hate blurbs and make a conscious effort not to read them. An example of why is here, where - on some editions of Iain M. Banks' excellent Excession - the blurb on the back refers largely to a dream a character has over three pages.

Blurbs have an unpleasant tendency to brutalise and make banal things which in the book are wondrous ("he reaches an understanding with one of the Gethenians - it might even be a kind of love..." is so inadequate a treatment of The Left Hand of Darkness that it could just as well describe someone's relationship with a dog). They reduce books to their plot points, which makes pretty much every book sound bad - Fledgling is about vampires, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is about robots, yawn. I've never known a blurb to communicate much worth knowing about a book.

If I'm holding a book in my hands, I don't want to read a short description of the book by somebody trying to sell it to me - I want to read the book itself. This is the only reliable method of figuring out if a book is worth buying that I've found: flick to page 69 or thereabouts, read a couple of pages. If it sings, buy it, if it grates, put it back.

#368 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 11:45 AM:

Fade Manley #358: As far as which authors are considered "classics", there are also age factors involved!

I read early Heinlein and Asimov as a kid, from Dad's basement. Now I'm in my mid-40s, and when the "new kids" in the crowd hear "Heinlein", they likely think of his last few books, including the "brain tumor" books, before his short stories and juveniles. Similarly, much of Asimov's work, and Niven's earlier stuff, has, bluntly, not aged well -- many of their social and technological concerns have been mooted or "been done enough". And such luminaries of their time as Burroughs, Carter, and Howard have completely fallen out of fandom's Overton window! But coming in, we have Baxter, Brin, Egan, Westerfield, Scalzi, Sanderson.... Some authors' earlier works seem to have aged better, at least for a decent number of "keepers": Saberhagen, Silverberg, LeGuin, Butler, Zelazny.... I sometimes wonder how surviving old-timers like Vinge, Clemens and Modesitt think of their earlier works.

#369 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 02:07 PM:

Lee @ 363: Now that I have the benefit of hindsight (and greater self-confidence), I do wonder if I'd have liked that convention more if I'd had a chance to go to a few more panels. The ones I attended discussed only books I'd never read, and largely never heard of; but if I'd waited long enough, maybe I could've hit those conversations about the books I had read.

Tom Whitmore @ 364: I apologize for the snippy tone of my response. Octavia Butler's writing had a great influence on me in college, and I would've done my honors project on her if my advisor hadn't talked me out of it. (At the time, she was living very near to the college I attended.) Hearing about her death came as a terrible sense of loss for missed opportunities at the time. But my instinctive response of "Of course I know whether my favorite authors are alive or dead!" really isn't an "of course"; when I was younger, I certainly didn't know whether or not any of my favorite authors were, and the appearance of new books by an author whose books I'd read before was a miracle as wonderful and inexplicable as that of the loaves and fishes.

David Harmon @ 368: I'm vaguely in the "new kids" crowd, but due to spending my youth in another country with a really limited selection of books in English, almost all the Heinlein I've read has been his juveniles. I hit a moment of subculture shock, as it were, the first time I tried to discuss Heinlein at a convention, and found that what I thought of as his style/plots/characters had only a vague overlap with the sort of Heinlein everyone else was discussing.

I also thought that Starship Troopers was a witty satirical novel about the dangers of letting the military gain too much control in a culture. It still makes for interesting conversations at times, though not, alas, always very friendly ones. Heinlein is rapidly reaching my list of topics I know better than to discuss with strangers (and certain friends), rather like climate change, tax policies, and g*n c*ntr*l.

#370 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:02 PM:

And I have to wonder if I might have seen you at that con. ConDFW isn't very old, and I think I've been at all but one of them, either as a dealer or as a fan. But I might not have been on ML yet at the time.

#371 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:13 PM:

That sounds as if nearly everyone for whom publishing isn't a day job has to have a day job to be involved with publishing. That's definitely a Thing That Makes Me Go Hmm.

My perspective may be skewed as the result of having grown up around theatre people, and thus having a baseline assumption that "of course it's almost impossible to make a living at one's creative enterprises". (I'm not saying this is The Way It Should Be, it's just The Way It Is.)

To me, though, that doesn't make me go Hmm at all — it's just saying that Everyone Has to Have a Day Job. If publishing isn't your day job, you'd better have another day job if you want to be able to spend your time and energy on publishing-related matters. If singing isn't your day job, you'll need another day job if you want to be able to devote your time and energy to singing.

#372 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 03:59 PM:

Xopher:

Unsurprisingly, Nathan Brazil has not seen fit to reply to my email.

Probably busy at the oldest established permanent floating snarkfest in New York. Which, now that Vicious Circle and Spy Magazine are both gone, would be what?

#373 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:15 PM:

SeanH@367: And yet, plot points are exactly what I'm looking for. Snarky characters who get themselves in trouble? Check. Romance? Uncheck. Vampires (sparkly)? Double-uncheck. Etc. The comment on the Pynchon novel re: 'If I went to the moon and had to take only five books with me, this would be one of them' is completely useless; it tells me the reviewer loved the book but not WHY.

Your comment re: the Banks novel is well taken--there are certainly useless blurbs out there, too. However, I don't find that blurb as utterly useless as the above Pynchon review, because the blurb tells me things like SF, far future, conspiracy, stellar mystery, old culture... the first four of which are checks for me, and the last an uncheck. And the blurb just tells me if I want to read that type of story; I don't use it as a guidepost once I get into the thing. Blurbs are teasers, after all, and they're like other forms of advertising--cheerleaders with pancake make-up on. Whether the make-up is necessary is what reading the book is for.

If you're not using blurbs as your signpost to work you might be interested in, what do you use?

#374 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 04:43 PM:

With the popularity that urban fantasy seems to have gained, I mourn the books I was waiting for that apparently never had enough of an audience -- I was looking forward to watching Rosemary Edghill's Bast coping with being HP of her own coven and I would have liked to read the last two Diana Tregarde mysteries...sigh.

I'm sorry, but the thought of "sparkly vampires" makes me ill.

#375 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:00 PM:

If you're not using blurbs as your signpost to work you might be interested in, what do you use?

Well, after recommendations and reviews (which I assume we're taking for granted), I tend to grab books off the shelf on the basis of very little and flick to an early-ish page and read.

My problem with plot-points is, well...

It was January 2021, and Rick Deckard had a license to kill.

Somewhere among the hordes of humans out there, lurked several rogue androids. Deckard's assignment - find them and then... "retire" them.

Trouble was, the androids all looked and acted exactly like humans, and they didn't want to be found!

Sure, that's the basic premise of DADES. Accurate, if bare-bones. But that could easily be a terrible book. Frankly, going on nothing but the blurb, I think it sounds more likely than not to be a throwaway potboiler. Bounty hunter story with robots instead of outlaws - why should I care? The blurb doesn't distinguish this book from the hundreds around it in the shop. And yet if I flick to a random page - I have just turned to 58 - I find:

"But an empathy box," he said, stammering in his excitement, "is the most personal possession you have! It's an extension of your body; it's the way you touch other humans, it's the way you stop being alone. But you know that. Everybody knows that. Mercer even lets people like me-" He broke off. But too late; he had already told her and he could see by her face, by the flicker of sudden aversion, that she knew. "I almost passed the IQ test," he said in a low, shaky voice. "I'm not very special, only moderately; not like some you see. But that's what Mercer doesn't care about."

And I see alienation and loneliness, and an author who can draw them out and leave them naked on the page. Nothing that is great about DADES is even hinted at on the back cover.

Basically, it seems like the plot of a good book could easily be the plot of a bad book; not so for the writing itself.

#376 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:18 PM:

SeanH, #367: I read blurbs because the premise of a book is part of what I use to decide whether I want to read it. So I do want the blurb to give me some idea of the premise...

...but I don't necessarily want the blurb to say too much. In fact, if a blurb is misleading in the right way, that can be good! The best recent example I can recall is the jacket copy to Charles de Lint's The Mystery of Grace. (The hardcover--I haven't read the back of the softcover.) Technically, everything in the blurb is accurate--but whoever wrote the thing was clever in what they left out. So it caught me off guard, in a good way, when the plot jumped in unexpected directions.

#377 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:24 PM:

I also like to evaluate books by flipping to a random page and reading a couple lines.

#378 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 08:56 PM:

I'll read the first page. If I don't want to stop reading after a couple of pages - it's worth the money.

#379 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 10:10 PM:

David Harmon wrote @ 358:

I sometimes wonder how surviving old-timers like Vinge, Clemens and Modesitt think of their earlier works.

I once asked a regular contributor to my fanzine to write an overview of Modesitt's works when he had only published a few short stories in the magazines.

I am now officially an Old Phart.

#380 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2010, 11:39 PM:

Just gotta say -- I loved "Hyperion" (but not the sequels).

#381 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 12:48 AM:

Xopher @ 331: It always makes me imagine Mick Jagger singing in falsetto ("It's just Piscataway! It's just Piscataway-ay!").

Me too! That's a bit scary.

#382 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 02:34 AM:

I read blurbs, on back or front. (And also find myself miffed when the publisher has seen fit to include only splurts of the form "One of the best books of the year. If you read it you won't need to read another book for weeks! A wonderful example of its type.", etc.; give us some idea of what this book is ABOUT, not of what temperature the reviewer ended up at.)

There was a Usenet thread a while back on "blurbs that would make you certain not to buy the book", including things like "Compares favorably with the best of Kevin J. Anderson". I've recently seen a couple that are the opposite of this; Carriger's two fairly-new novels have "A novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols" on the front corner of the first one, which made my brain sit up and go "ding!". The sequel has "A novel of vampires, werewolves, and dirigibles", which appears to have a similar effect... But that sort of minimal perfection is rare.

--Dave

#383 ::: Wesley Osam ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:22 AM:

David DeLaney, #382: Conversely, "A novel of vampires, werewolves, and dirigibles" is an example of a blurb that would make me less likely to pick up a book. It wouldn't have five years ago, but there are so many vampires and werewolves floating around the zeitgeist, and so much steampunk, that I'm sick of them all.

The same will probably hold for whatever the internet is obsessed with five years from now.

#384 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 08:57 AM:

Lori Coulson @ 374:

Ditto on the remaining Tregarde mysteries. I even remember the titles they were going to have:
Arcanum 101 and Triangle Park.

#385 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 09:04 AM:

I continue to hold out hope for a book with a cover blurb that says:

Repays close reading. —C.J. Cherryh

#386 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 10:16 AM:
Unsurprisingly, Nathan Brazil has not seen fit to reply to my email.

Oh dear, he might be busy rebooting the universe.

#387 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 11:58 AM:

Re: culturally diverse sf -- there are probably people who were doing it before Poul Anderson, but I don't know who. As for more recent stuff, I'd second other posters' recommendations of Kim Stanley Robinson and John Barnes. I haven't read Maureen McHugh's novels, only some of her short stories, but I've heard them recommended in this respect.

Re: conventions -- I've enjoyed most of the ones I've gone to, the Worldcons rather more than the DragonCons. DragonCon is local for me, but I don't find it worth the time and money to go every year; I went last year for the first time in a while and enjoyed it more than usual, largely because of the presence of Gene Wolfe, whom I'd not met before in spite of being at Worldcon at the same time as he one or more times.

Re: cover blurbs etc -- I tend to avoid reading them because I've encountered a few with annoying spoilers. I generally read the first couple of pages and a few random passages from the early part of the book, instead.

#388 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2010, 11:53 PM:

David DeLaney:

The sequel has "A novel of vampires, werewolves, and dirigibles"

I enjoyed the book until the last chapter, where I developed the urge to quote Rule 10 of Twain's essay "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the "Deerslayer" tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together. When I start shouting "In a romance novel you'd just be an asshole. As the Alpha of a wolf pack you're an asshole with involuntary slaves and hair" at a book it's not a good thing.

#389 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 07:00 PM:

David Harmon@368, on old-timers' views of their previous work: It looks like Neal Stephenson's view of his first published book "The Big U" has changed; some years ago, he wrote things to the effect of "If you find a copy in a used bookstore, please buy it and burn it so that thing isn't walking around with my name on it", while these days, either he (or his publishers) are more like "Ok, fine, my reputation is solid enough that it won't be significantly damaged if you reprint it as an overpriced trade paperback edition." Having acquired one of the latter, I'd say his earlier view was in fact correct, but he did go on to be an occasionally spectacularly good writer.

#390 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 09:04 PM:

Bill Stewart #389: Well, I haven't read it (or much of Neil's work, I bounced right off Snow Crash), but it strikes me that perhaps the work qualifies as "juvenalia", to be grouped in with "bear-skin rug" baby pictures and other embarrassing relics of youth.

#391 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2010, 11:48 PM:

re: cover blurbs: Awhile ago, I bought a hardback fantasy novel by a new author who-shall-remain-nameless based purely on a glowing blurb by an established author who-shall-remain-nameless. I can't recall why I didn't at least flip through the book a bit (my mistake), but I didn't.
I didn't get to it until a few months later (no hope of returning it for a refund). I read the first paragraph, and recoiled in horror. I persevered for a few pages, and it wasn't getting any better. I know it's my fault for not perusing the book more before buying it, but I do still feel a mild irritation with the blurber. I just can't see how it could have been remotely sincere.

#392 ::: Xopher HalfTongue sees le spam français ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2011, 04:30 PM:

"I put the leaves less sugar as possible to limit the preservation of my jams" Commercial link.

#393 ::: Xopher HalfTongue says DRAT ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2011, 04:31 PM:

The cleaners got to it before I could report it. Move along, nothing to see here.

#394 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2011, 04:33 PM:

Actually, I'll put the kill message back, just for you.

#395 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2011, 05:02 PM:

*big smile*

I love you, abi!

#396 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2011, 05:05 PM:

I love you too, Xopher, though restoring spam messages might seem like kind of a funny way to show it.

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