Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Interview Swap with Alex Hughes!

Special treat for y'all today. In a joint venture with very talented author and all around cool lady Alex Hughes, we're doing an interview swap! It's always so interesting to see how other authors work, and I absolutely loved her first novel, Cleana terrifically smart near future thriller with a killer magical system and a great voice. Getting to bug Alex with questions was a huge treat for me, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

My part of the interview where I talk about Paradox, writing, self pub, and all sorts of other fun stuff is already up on her blog, so I'd better get the lead out and post my part. So without further ado, here's Alex Hughes!

RA: Thank you so much for doing this!
AH: Thanks for having me on your blog! I'm excited to swap interview questions.

RA: I really, really enjoyed, Clean, the first novel in your Mindspace Investigations series. I especially loved the way you depicted telepathy both on the personal level (where the power is deftly shown as both a gift and a curse) and in how society would react to the sudden appearance of telepaths among them (badly). Can you tell us a bit more about your telepaths and why you decided to write about them?

AH: I'm so glad you liked the book :). I've always loved telepathy, from Babylon 5 to Anne McCaffrey's Pegasus and Rowan series, to a plethora of books, TV series, and films besides. Telepathy is a way of talking about the double-edged swords of human relationships, our desire to be truly known and to experience true intimacy and yet our deep fear of vulnerability and need for privacy. Telepathy blurs the lines of relationships and boundaries, and adding it to a world makes the world work on a different level, which I love. It also adds power and restraint to the conversation, which is interesting. My telepaths work in a physics-based system, where telepathy is weaker the further you are from a person, and where thought-waves propagate across Mindspace. Emotions leave ghosts behind in Mindspace for a few days, and that's useful for crime scenes, for example. Adam, our hero, is a very strong telepath which a tortured past, working with normals who dislike and distrust him because of what he is as much as who he is. The Telepath's Guild, a strong organization which has earned its neutrality from even the normal governments, has an agenda which they work towards throughout the series. This agenda isn't consistent with the ethics Adam grew up with, and he has to decide which side to take, if any.

RA: I know your work is often shelved under Urban Fantasy, and the police investigation-centric story definitely fits in that genre. To me, though, your books feel much more near-future Science Fiction in the vein of Phillip K Dick or David Brin's Kiln People. Do you see yourself more as a Science Fiction writer or an Urban Fantasist?

AH: I can certainly write either or both, as I love both genres. The Mindspace Investigation series is more truly near future science fiction with a dystopian trend in my opinion, though for simplicity I've taken to calling them telepath police procedurals. I end up shelved in urban fantasy because my characters are strong and personal, my tone is approachable and not given to blocks of worldbuilding, and because some people consider any kind of psychic gift (no matter how well explained) to be fantasy. I also have a strong element of the real current world impacting the paranormal (telepathy), which is a hallmark of urban fantasy. But I take my science very seriously, and the political backdrop of the world will get bigger and more important over the course of the series, which takes away some of the personal emphasis that puts me in UF. (I just gave a talk on urban fantasy this weekend and on why my books both are and are not in the genre.) Still, UF is popular right now, and if the label means people love the work and consider it approachable, then I've met my goals for the series. I just still love my science :)

RA: I read in the interview you did with My Bookish Ways that Clean, which was originally intended as a stand alone, is now the first in a 9 book series. That's awesomely ambitious! Are you still aiming for nine books, and what kind of bigger story should we look for in future installments? Also, what sort of planning goes into building the infrastructure for such a long running series?

AH: Thanks! I've always loved long series, as they let you as a reader get really deep into a world. But I also believe in a series with a definite arc and end; I've read too many series that fizzle towards the end because the writer ended up without a plan. I'm about halfway through my original notes that I did in 2012 when writing Sharp and I have the feeling I'm going to have to restructure now. So, 9 books may grow into 10 or 12, or drop back to 8. We'll see. The bigger story is the playing out of threads I've already built in, with the Guild's agenda and the chess-style long-term plans of Garrett Fiske, who plays a bigger part in Book Four. Book Four is a turning point in a lot of ways. This is the first series I've planned out, and I literally have a chart with different threads (the Adam and Cherabino thing, Fiske, Swartz, the Guild, Adam's addiction, etc.) and how they evolve over the course of the books. But, at this point I'm off-book, meaning due to editorial and beta reader input I've made some choices radically differently from the chart for individual books, which means I'll likely need to go back and rechart the thing. The other planning piece I have is a series bible, a list of all the worldbuilding and character building I've done up to this point, but I'm not very successful at using it yet, and I'm already making mistakes, sigh. Bransen in Book One is Branen (no "s") in Book Two, for example. But the overall story and character arcs should still hold together by the end.

RA: It's not exactly a radical statement to put forth that the publishing world has changed dramatically over the last few years. If you were starting fresh as a new author today, would you do anything differently? And on that note, do you have any advice for someone just beginning the publishing process?

As a new author, I think I would do more intensive work on writing quickly, and have a better career plan. I would have chosen my first agent very differently (chiefly, taken more time asking questions, etc.), and likely started as a hybrid author out of the gate. The best advice I have to someone just beginning the publishing process is that you are the CEO of your own career and that you should feel empowered to fight for yourself and your long term interests rather than just going along with "what's standard" in publishing. Publishing has no standards right now; everything is in flux, and it's no longer viable to just blindly trust a system the way many writers do. Contracts and many other things are negotiable, and it's wise to negotiate. Also, many writers now jump too soon; work on your craft and get very, very good, so that you're confident in your abilities and the value you're bringing to the table. Write quality work, and learn to write it quickly, or at least quicker. The ability to do good things faster than average will serve you very, very well in this business. I myself am working on doing that myself.


Alex Hughes, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc, has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. She is a graduate of the prestigious Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a Semi-Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novels 2011. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily at the same time! You can visit her at Twitter at @ahugheswriter or on the web at Or, join her email newsletter for free short stories at

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why the Hachette vs Amazon Fight is Both Good and Terrible

A little housekeeping before we get started. I did two interviews last week, one where I interviewed Elizabeth Moon for Orbit (SQUEEE) (Here's where she interviewed me), and another really fun interview where I talked Devi (as well as hints of future Paradox books) with Not Yet Read. I had a blast with all of these, and I hope you enjoy them! Thank you to Orbit and Tabitha at Not Yet Read for having me!

Now, on to the controversy of the day.

(UPDATED with Amazon's official response at the bottom of the post)

As I'm sure many of you have already heard, Hachette Books, the behemoth international parent company of my own publisher, Orbit, is currently engaged in a very nasty round of negotiations with Amazon, the largest bookseller in the world. I, of course, am not privy to the substance of such high level power plays between corporate giants, but considering the entire reason Amazon and Hachette are at the table now is to renegotiate ebook pricing models after the US Department of Justice slammed Apple and the world's five largest publishers for colluding to fix ebook prices in 2012, it's not a big jump to guess that how much ebooks should cost, and who controls that price--the publisher or the bookseller--are the main bones of contention.

This is not a new fight. Amazon and publishers have been going around this same ring since ebooks were invented, and it probably won't be settled any time soon. With more and more of the world moving to ebooks as their primary book buying venue, the quarrel over who controls the prices for that market will only get dirtier and more contentious. What really has people up in arms this time around, however, is that Amazon, in an effort to flex their mercantile muscles at Hachette, has delayed the the shipment of paper copies of Hachette's new releases, and is now removing pre-order buttons from certain unreleased Hachette titles, thus effectively preventing those books from gathering any pre-release sales.

This is a pretty big deal. Though technically not a monopoly due to other booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and even Wallmart (plus indie shops and many other large, non-American chains), Amazon is hands down the biggest online seller, bigger than next dozen internet retailers combined. If they decide not to sell your stuff, then for all practical purposes, it ain't getting sold. Amazon knows this, and right now, they're using that enormous market power to squeeze Hachette into accepting their terms.

Some, like my fellow Orbit author Lilith Saintcrow, have called this type of behavior evil. Amazon supporters like Joe Konrath call it capitalism working exactly as it should. Personally, I think it's both. After all, the entire point of capitalism is to be more ruthless, clever, and efficient than the other guy. It's a system where the strong eat and the weak are meat, and, for the most part, I have no problem with that as it applies to the book industry. Modern publishing is a cobbled together mess of old, outdated business practices and assumptions. It needs to be shaken up, have a few bites taken out of it, before it collapses under its own ponderous weight. My problem with this fracas comes from where, and more importantly, whom Amazon decided to bite.

If you want to know just how much losing a preorder button hurts, consider the debut author. Imagine the following scenario: after years of rejection, you sell a series to a publisher. Hooray! Now, after a year and a half of edits, copy edits, cover designs, and so forth, your book is finally launching in July of 2014. You're racing around to get ready, doing blog posts and trying your best to get the word out. The marketing dollars your publisher has put into launching your book are in full swing--books are going out to reviewers, your cover is being featured on their site and twitter feed, and you're starting to see real buzz about your writing for the first time...and then, due to a dispute so far above anyone involved in your book, Amazon removes the pre-order button from your book's page.

Now, all that buzz you worked so hard to generate, the interest your publisher's marketing dollars bought, has nowhere to go. You can try to point people to other places to preorder your book--other stores, indies, all that good stuff--but you're not even published yet. Most people have no idea who you are. And those potential readers, the ones who read a good review of your book (on that same review site where your publisher sent your book as part of their pre-release promo) and decide to go check it out? They'll click over to Amazon and find no preorder button. Some, of course, will go to another site or call their local bookstore order that way, but most will decide not to bother. They'll go on about their lives and forget all about your book, and you'll never even know about them because no one but Amazon can track how many people visit a book's page and don't buy.

For an author trying to get their first foothold, this is a death knell. An under-performing debut can ruin an author's career before it begins. This is the real fallout of Amazon's tactics--not the publisher or the big sellers or even the midlist authors like myself who already have dedicated readers, but the new writers. People who are just starting their first series, or who only have one or two books out. These are the most fragile members of the traditional publishing ecosystem, the ones who can't easily weather this sort of disruption, and they're the ones whose careers will ultimately pay while all of this shakes out.

The most obvious solution to this of course would be to just get out of this all together and self-publish, but the authors this is happening to signed those publishing contracts two years ago. Even if they did decided to say screw it all and go publish their next work on their own, that doesn't save the book that's losing sales right now. Also, as I've already talked about, not everyone wants to self publish. That is their choice, and it is just plain awful that those authors who did everything right according to their publishing choice are getting bashed around by giant powers they have no control over. And yeah, I realize getting stepped on by massive forces you can't control is life, but we're not talking about tornadoes here. Tornadoes are unfeeling natural phenomenons. Companies, on the other hand, are made up of people. You can bet your bottom dollar that someone at Amazon, probably a lot of someones, knew exactly what their decision to employ these sort of tactics on Hachette would mean for these authors, but they did it anyway. They made the decision to be ruthless. That's capitalism, but it's also cruel and needlessly harmful to the very authors who write the books Amazon and Hachette are fighting over.

Long story short: I don't object to Amazon strong arming publishers. I actually think we'll end up with a better, more efficient ebook market once all of this shakes out. What I object to are the callous tactics being employed. There's always a choice in these things, and Amazon's decision to use Hachette's authors as hostages in their negotiations says a lot about them, most of it not good. We'll never know exactly how many sales were lost in all of this. It very well might be that I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, or it could be enormous, we simply can't know. But I stand firm on my belief while capitalism can and has done great things, it does not excuse bad behavior wholesale.

Just as freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism, good business decisions do not mean freedom from morality. I can't and wouldn't want to keep Amazon from doing business, but I can stand up and call it out when I think it's gone too far. This is the natural push and pull of society. And who knows? Maybe if we all make enough of a stink about it, even a giant like Amazon will think twice before pulling a stunt like this again.

EDITED TO ADD: Amazon has issued an official explanation of the situation from their side. Basically it says that they've been doing this for a while, and they don't anticipate negotiations with Hachette to go anywhere anytime soon. They're also talking about setting up an author fund to cover loss royalties, but that smacks of PR BS to me, and I'll believe it when I see it.

As I mentioned in the comments below, this whole situations is super depressing for me both as a Hachette author and as someone who generally likes traditional publishing and wants it to survive. This failure to come to even a modest agreement over months of negotiations shows there's a fundamental disconnect between how Hachette and Amazon see the future of ebooks. But if history has taught us anything, it's that once these digital revolutions get rolling, there's no stopping them. If that's the case, then the weight of change is already on Amazon's side, and if Hachette, and the rest of traditional publishing, can't adjust and compromise and find a way to thrive within that, nothing's going to get better.

That said, this is just one author's opinion. I do not speak for Hachette or Orbit or Amazon or anyone but myself. Ths is just an armchair publishing commentary from someone with a lot of skin in this game. :D

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tutorial: How to make your own fictional city using Google Maps!

So a few weeks ago, I discovered that you can use Google Maps to draw on existing cities and make custom maps of your fictional locations. Needless to say, I was EXTREMELY EXCITED. Being an author practically guarantees you will struggle with real life details like travel distance at some point in your book. If you're writing about a real city, the bar is even higher. Even if you're writing about your own city, a map can be a life saver just for keeping everything straight in your head.

For years now, I've had to draw those maps by hand, and let me just say: a cartographer I am not. Enter Google Maps. Let's say you're writing a story set in London. Going to Google Maps to look up a street map is obvious, but Google has given us tools to take that even further, allowing authors to draw new boundaries, set landmarks, and make notes right on a custom map that you can save! And best of all, it's free!! (Well, okay, there is a paid version that has more features, but for our purposes, the free version works perfectly well).

All that said, the Google Maps customization interface isn't exactly user friendly. Most people don't even know it exists (I found it by accident). This a crime! Something this useful should be known by all! Lots of people on Twitter agreed with me. So, by popular request, here is my guide to using Google Maps for world building.

WARNING! Lots of big pictures incoming!


Start by going to Google Maps and clicking on the gear in the lower right corner.

Select "My Places."

This will take you to the custom maps interface. When you save your maps, they'll appear in the list on the left hand side (as you see, I have one saved called DFZ). For now, though, we're going to make a new map, so click on the red "Create Map" button.

Congratulations! You are now in the Custom Map interface!!

You can name your map whatever you want by clicking where it says "Untitled Map" in the upper left. Also, your custom map will start at the furthest zoom possible, you go ahead and type in your desired location in the search bar. Since my new novel, Nice Dragons Finish Last (out in July!) is set in a future version of Detroit, I'm going to make my map there, but you can start anywhere you like.

Note: if your book is set in a completely made up place/fantasy kingdom, you can still use Google to make a useful map. Simply find somewhere in the real world that's roughly the shape/size you want (the British Isles, for example, or Japan) and start making it your own.

Okay, so now that we've got our map, it's time to start doodling on it! On to Step 2!


Just like Photoshop, the custom maps editor works in layers. If you got your map to a specific location by typing a place into the search bar, Google will have automatically generated a layer and a location point for you. I typed in Detroit, and as you see, I now have a "Detroit, MI, United States" location and a green indicator.

Don't you hate it when programs try to fill things in for you? Fortunately, map objects are very easy to create and delete. Everything is controlled from the box in the upper left, which I've marked up for you below.

The "Add Layer" button (red circle) does exactly what you'd think, it adds layers! Note that you only get 3 layers in the free version, so don't be afraid to load them up (more on how to do that in the next step.)

In green, you'll see the point Google added automatically. I don't want that nonsense, so I'll click the X (circled in green) to delete it. In addition to this initial location, there's also an Untitled Layer that generates automatically with every new nap. You can click the name (circled in blue) to rename this layer to whatever you want or click the little downwards arrow beneath it to delete the layer all together. You can also click the check box beside the layer name to toggle whether the layer is visible or not (very useful if you've got overlapping elements of your map and you want to work on one at a time).

Now, below this layer, you'll see an option to Import. If, for some reason, you have a list of specific addresses you want to appear on your map, you can put them in spreadsheet and upload all of them directly to your map in one go. That's pretty cool, but I've never needed to do that, so we'll just not mess with this feature for now.

Finally, at the very bottom of your list, you'll see the Base Map. You can always click on this to get back to the original Google Map below your layers. Also, see the box circled in pink? You can click that to toggle different map views. You can see your map as a satellite image, or a terrain map with elevations, or even just as landmasses (very useful if you don't want roads all over your map.) This is the COOLEST option! You can change your map view whenever you want at any point, and I highly suggest trying out a bunch of options to get several different looks at your chosen setting.

That's pretty much it for the layers, so it's time for Step 3. Pick a layer you want to work on, give it a name, and let's start drawing!


Time for the fun part! For this part of the tutorial, I'm going to use the map I made for my new novel Nice Dragons Finish Last! In this book, Detroit was washed under by a giant flood caused by events surrounding the return of magic. Now, the city and its major suburbs are an independent territory of the US called the DFZ, as illustrated below.

Tada! How did I draw this boundary? Easy, you see those boxes below the search bar? If you click on the one that has lines and dots (the fifth from the left), you'll get the polygon tool. This can be used to draw shapes all over your map. Simply click the button to select the tool (your mouse cursor will turn into a cross when it's active) and click the map wherever you want the first point on your boundary to be. After that, you'll have a line following your mouse. Click the map again to make another point and then another until you have the shape you want. If you accidentally set down a point you don't want, you can just click on it again to remove it. To finish your new shape, simply close the shape by clicking on your first dot again.

Once you've closed the shape, Google will ask you to give it a name. You can also add a description if you want. When you're done, click Save and voila! Your new area is done! You should now see your new shape under its appropriate layer in your menu box. (As you see in the screenshot above, I named mine DFZ OFFICIAL BOUNDARY).

Now, this is where things get REALLY COOL. Once you've finished your shape, click on it again to bring up its details.

See? Google automatically measured the area and border length of my selection (red arrows in the middle of the screen). HOW COOL IS THAT?! I can also change the color by clicking on the area's name in the left hand menu box and then clicking on the paint bucket that will appear to the right. 

(Note, see the little Style, Data, and Labels buttons right under the layer name? Those apply to all the objects in that layer, letting you change everything at once if you want. That's cool, but a bit too hardcore for what we're trying to do. You can always change an object's color/name/details by just clicking on its name.)

Okay, so that's how you draw in a big area. What if you just want a single point?

To add a specific location, just click the Location button (to the left of the polygon tool, indicated by the red arrow above) and click where you want it on the map. Alternatively, you can enter an address or intersection in the search bar, and Google will place the marker for you. Once the location is set, you can edit it.change its colors it just like you did with your big areas above. 

You can also change the shape of the indicator for easy grouping. Here, I have all the important locations from Nice Dragons Finish Last marked with pink stars (don't worry, no spoilers!), while locations from the second book in the series are shown as yellow diamonds (again, no spoilers). This lets me easily see how the travel in the books overlaps and where my characters are in the larger scheme of the setting. Cool, huh?

So, that's how you draw on your map! You can add up to 100 locations and areas for free to each layer, which is a LOT. More than enough than most books will ever need. Now, as you can see from the screenshot above, I've actually kept my other layers hidden for simplicity's sake. But what does my custom map look like when everything's marked?


Here is my complete DFZ map as it looks today. I had to zoom out to fit it all in one screenshot, but I can zoom all the way down to the street level if I want and walk around the city using Google Street View. Or, I can zoom all the way out and look at my city on a national scale. I can see all the layers together to see how everything fits, or I can look at them one at a time. I can see how my borders line up with the topography by turning on the terrain map, or I can put it on satellite view to literally see my city from the sky.

All of this is very very useful when you're an author. You can see in a glance how everything in your world fits together spatially. For my money, though, the most important tools of all are right here.

The red arrow is the Ruler, and it allows you to measure distances between points right on your map. But of course, these directions are as the crow flies. If you want to know how long it would take your protagonist to drive from one point to another on the existing roads, you just click on your starting location and click the Directions box (green arrow). Note that this option will only work if you have at least 1 layer free to hold the directions. If you do, though, clicking on the directions box will create a new "Directions Layer" that looks exactly like the Google Maps driving directions we're all used to. Simply click to fill in your destination, and Google will not only map out your route and give you a distance, it'll also tell you how long it will take to actually travel it via foot/car/bus/bike/subway/whatever option you pick!


Okay, so I know I seem perhaps a little too excited about this, but you have to understand how long I've spent calculating character travel distances by hand. To just be able to let Google do it for me blows my mind. Now, of course, Google Maps is most useful for authors writing in the real world, but let me tell you, I would have found a place to be the Eli world and made a map if I'd had this back when I was writing.

Long story short: if you're writing a book and you need a map (which is kind of redundant in my mind), Google Maps is a super powerful tool and I can not recommend it enough. I hope this tutorial helps you overcome some of the weirder interface issues and recreate the world of your books in a real and useful way. If any of this doesn't make sense, or if you see anything I've left out, please let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading, and happy map making!!


Thursday, May 8, 2014

The loudest sound in the world is a bigot screaming that he's being silenced

I didn't want to write this post.

Wait, that's not honest. I wanted to write this post with the burning fires of righteous rage, but I've held off for a long time because I didn't want to give these idiots any more of the attention they clearly require to continue existing. But then this happened, and I'm afraid my anger has finally overridden my common sense.

Warning: Rant Ahead

For those of you who don't want to read a whole OpEd of a middle-aged white man pining for the Good Old Days when SF fans were "real" and didn't get offended over every little sexist/racist thing (or at least didn't make a fuss about it where he could overhear), the general gist of the article is exactly what you'd imagine. "Oh woe! Science Fiction is under siege by whiny minorities and fun-killing feminists! It's a leftist conspiracy! The PC police are silencing our voices! Won't the Real Science Fiction fans stand up and take back our genre?!"

You get the idea.

Now, I could go in and rip this apart, but I'm not going to because 1) take downs aren't in the spirit of my blog, and 2) Foz Meadows already did a way better job. But I do want to take a moment and talk about idea of genre communities "silencing" writers.

Authorship is an opinionated business. The very act of writing puts your core values and world view front and center. Your characters, your plot, your moral conundrums, the way you build your world--these are all reflections of you, the writer behind the curtain. If you hold and put forth opinions in your writing that other people find repugnant or offensive, they're going to offended. And since you, the author, put those opinions in a public medium widely distributed and sold for money, otherwise known as bookselling, these offended people are going to criticize your work publicly. They're going to say that these stories don't deserve awards and/or public recognition because of the ideas espoused therein, they might even band together to get you booted out of your genre organizations, publications, and/or fan groups so they don't have to put up with your crap anymore.

I'm sure you think that sucks. I'm sure you think that the mob is turning against you, silencing your voice and robbing you of your right to free speech. And while that all sounds very dramatic, it's just not true. You're not being silenced. You're still yelling as loudly as ever, we're just choosing not to listen.

Genre is not a government. It's not even really an organization. It's just a bunch of people who like the same sort of things. Sometimes this means a rich community of fans and conventions and critique, other times it's as simple as knowing what part of the bookstore you like best. Personally, I think that's great, because it means genres like SFF belong to everyone and no one at the same time. The whole process of grouping creative works into categories is one we create as a culture. Genre is what we make of it, and that's why it's so important for those of us who want our genre to be bigger and better and more fun for everyone to speak out when we see other people messing it up--sort of like yelling at a drunk when you see him taking a shit on the slide in your community park.

Did you write a book where women are nothing but sex objects and rape victims? I'm going to call that shit out. I'm going to say you're sexist, and I think your book is sexist, and I don't care how good it is. I don't care if you wrote the freaking War and Peace of sexist rape books, I'm not going to read it, I'm not going to vote for it for awards, and I'm going to tell other people to stay away as well if they don't want to read sexist garbage.

Now, that might seem unfair. What about the story? What about the context?! But deciding I don't want to read yet another sexist book full of women being violently raped for plot is my right as a reader, as is calling those books out publicly for what they contain. The same goes for racist books or homophobic books or any other form of bigotry, because I don't want that poison in my genre. I don't want it in my world, period. I can't stop you from writing it or thinking it--that's your right, your free speech--but just because you wrote it doesn't mean we as readers and fans and members of the genre (which, by the way, belongs to all of us, not just those you anoint as "real fans") have to read it or take it seriously.

It is an author's right to set forward his or her opinions in their own works. If Orson Scott Card wants to be giant homophobe, that is his prerogative, but I am under no obligation to agree with him or buy tickets to his movie. That's not silencing his voice or even belittling his talent, that's simply choosing not to support what I consider a very hurtful, hateful, and backwards way of thinking. When SFWA ousted Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) for continuously posting sexist and racist messages, including a personal attack on fantasy author N.K. Jemisin, they were not silencing him. They were responding to the overwhelming outrage in their community and removing his ability to, if I may reuse a metaphor, shit on our slide.

If Vox Day wants to call a very successful black female SFF author a "half ignorant savage" or any of the other awful racist BS that I'm not going to repeat because just copy pasting it makes me want to Clorox my keyboard, he can (and has) post it on his own blog or twitter or any of the thousands of other places he can make his voice heard. He does not, however, have the right to force anyone else to give him a platform. That's what's really happening here. Racists and bigots and sexists are not being silenced, they're simply losing their megaphones. As SFF becomes more diverse and accepting and generally moves into the modern area, all of these bigoted voices are finally falling back down to the volume of everyone else's, and as such, they're finding themselves drowned out by the tide of people who want acceptance and inclusion and respect, and I think that's god damn beautiful.

What makes me the angriest in all this is the fact that SFF, at least in terms of its major publishing side, does have a history of systematically silencing voices. You don't have to look too far back to find a time when books were rejected for no other reason than the author's name was female, or the main character was of a race/sexual orientation other than white straight male.

This is entirely different than writers getting pushback for what they say. What I chose to put on a page or on my blog is my responsibility, my gender is not. That's actually one of the core values of feminism and all inclusive movements: that we are judged on the merit of what we say and do, not for our skin color or sex or orientation or anything else we can't control. What's really amazing, though, is that even under this enormous handicap, minority SFF authors still found ways to tell their stories, publishing through small presses and even independently despite the bigots (or as Mr. Wright calls them, "real" SF fans) trying their best to keep the the doors shut. But you can't fence in an idea, you can't close out a genre, because it doesn't belong to you. SFF belongs to all of us, and thanks to the internet and the tireless work of marginalized fans and creators who steadfastly refused to give up on the genre they loved just because some bigots didn't want to share, SFF is more diverse and open than ever. That's a pretty big change for small minded people who don't like that they're now having to defend their indefensible and terrible ideas, but just because you're no longer the loudest voice in the room doesn't mean you're being silenced.

Now, of course, all of this is just my opinion, and you are not obligated to listen to me any more than I'm obligated to listen to you. Still, I would encourage self proclaimed free thinkers and futurists like Mr. Wright who feel they are being silenced to consider the possibility that, if a vast majority of members in a large and respected group of professionals such as, say, SFWA, feel you're being such a giant jerk that they have no choice but to kick you out, then maybe, just maybe, you're actually being a giant jerk. If you post an impassioned article about how you and your fellow authors are being systematically silenced by the leftist boot of an overzealous liberal shadow organization that has infiltrated the highest levels of SFF like some kind of nerdy Hydra, and the internet explodes with otherwise mild mannered authors recklessly taking time out their busy writing schedules to compose giant posts about how you are wrong and all your examples are noted homophobs and racists, then maybe, just maybe, you're on the wrong side of things. Or maybe incurring such responses and the attention they bring was your entire plan right from the start, in which case, bravo, sir! Job well done! You're still wrong.

And thus concludes my rant budget for this month. Thank you all for putting up with my outrage. Normal writing posts will resume shortly. Until then, I remain yours always,


ETA: I wrote a far more eloquent and less ranty post about almost this same topic over at the Book Smugglers for their Conversations in SFF series called Upsetting the Default. It probably has fewer rage induced typos as well, so if you skimmed this post, I recommend going over there for a more civilized and nuanced conversation.