Done with the Conference

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reading-clipart-6As usual with these things, I’ve finished the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) conference tired but creatively charged. I heard a lot of really good poetry and discovered some genres that I wouldn’t have expected to like (cowboy poetry?). The highlight was the slam competitions, of course, where the kids laid down a lot of great social and political commentary.

I have to admit that I don’t have standard taste in poetry. The current style is too laid back and introverted for me. I like to hear passion and cutting satire. Poets to watch for:

Curtis X. Meyer
Sean Sexton
Doyle Higdon
Bob Calabrese

For anyone who’s interested in linking up with this organization, here’s their website. They have info on the conference that’s just finished up, but in the links there’s info on local chapters and how to get in touch and join up. The next annual convention will be in Minnesota, but there are state conventions, as well.

If you’re a writer of SF&F poetry, also remember the Science Fiction Poetry Association has a magazine and presents annual awards.

Reading poetry

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Am at the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) 2015 annual convention in St. Petersburg, FL. Have heard much wonderful poetry and gotten to read some of my own. More later.FeatherPenClipArt

No such thing as bad publicity…

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Am gone on vacation, but I have to check in with a few words…

I’ve read some posts to the effect that this is the most entertaining Hugo season ever. We now see how the bad press is playing out. Because of the brouhaha, many more people now know that there is a Hugo Award for science fiction and/or fantasy. WorldCon is busting at the seams, and supporting memberships are going like hotcakes. People are busy reading and reviewing the nominations. Do you suppose the Nebula’s could arrange for Vox Day to game their system next year? Nevermind, just kidding.

A few blogs back, I did suggest that Day was in marketing mode with this Rabid Puppies scheme. His name has been up there in the lights for weeks now. The interesting thing is, so has the Hugo Awards, WorldCon, Tor Books, Irene Gallo, Moshe Feder and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. I’d be willing to bet Tor comes out with a little spike in sales.

Why should I write SF, and who should I send it to?

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Edward LearStill in ignore-Vox-Day mode, how does a writer decide whether a SF story is worth writing? The first part of this blog is applicable to everybody, but then I’ll get down to what women might think.

First, life is short. Second, everybody wants to maximize the chances they’ll get their story published. Assume I’m a reasonably competent SF writer and I’ve got an idea for a SF story. Should I devote the chunk of my life that this will require? In order to make this decision, I’ll take a look at the available markets.

First, let’s check out Asimov’s. This is popular market, with slightly in excess of 10K submissions a year. The response time runs about 6 months, so I can make two submissions a year. This suggests that I have about a .02% chance that someone would randomly pull my manuscript out of the pile for publication, nevermind that it’s actually more complicated that than. Asimov’s reserves a lot of room for longer fiction, which cuts down the space they have for short stories. It looks like they published just over 60 SF works of all lengths in 2013. They also have a particular style that they try to maintain to suit their readership. Plus, they’re angling for awards. This means that a story has to be both outstanding and suited for their readership in order to attract their attention. Who are their readers? Hm.

Next, let’s look at Daily SF. This publication posts stories online, but also works on an e-mail format, where the publishers send out a story a day. This means they’re interested in VERY short works and lean to vignettes rather than fully developed stories. Again, they have a very high number of submissions every year, but they advertise a response time of one month. This means I could whip up and submit twelve 500-word pieces each year instead of the two labor-intensive, fully developed stories that I might submit to Asimov’s. Daily SF might also be interested in awards, but the format makes this unlikely. They published about 160 SF stories in 2013.

Given that I’m looking to maximize my chance of publication, which format is the better use of my time? Vignette or fully developed?

Now assume I’m a gal who wants to write SF. I can go to the websites and glance down through the list of who’s been published recently. Asimov’s isn’t the worst, but it looks like only 30% of the authors published in 2013 were women. Daily SF was about 50%. Which is the friendlier market for me?

Of course, there are other considerations, but this is the basic economic analysis. It also answers Connolly’s question in a way. Women are making economic decisions about the best use of their writing time. Regardless that more women (or non-binaries) are writing SF, there are still expectations and complexities that make fully developed SF stories a poor use of writing time.

I like Asimov’s BTW. I always give them a try.

Illustration by Edward Lear.

Gender break-downs in pro markets

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55327_girl-writing_mdHaving decided to ignore the Day/Tor flame war and vendetta, I’ll be going back for another look at complaints the Sad Puppies (as opposed to Vox Day) have raised. I’ve already pronounced these as worthy of consideration.

The most interesting question is about diversity in SF. Since I’m a female short story writer, I’ve always wondered about how gender might affect my submissions. Poking around, I’ve discovered an insightful study by Susan E. Connolly, published last year in Clarkesworld Magazine. For anyone interested in reviewing it, Clarkesworld has it posted in three parts online here along with a math supplement to further explain the author’s research design. Look for the first installment in June, then July and August.

Connolly conducted a survey of several well-known pro level markets (with many thanks to the staffs), collecting 2013 data on the number of SF submissions by women, non-binaries and men, along with data on slush, the number of publications, etc. also broken down by gender. As could be expected, both submissions and publications of non-binary authors was dismal.

Another interesting fact that emerges is how many submissions the various pro magazines get in one year. Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, Daily SF and Strange Horizons got in the vicinity of 8,000-10,000 SF submissions in 2013 or roughly 667-833 subs a month. This says something noteworthy about the competition a writer is facing to even submit to these markets.

The next interesting fact that emerges is how many SF publications some of the magazines take from slush, as opposed to publications from invitation, reprints, etc. F&SF (pre-Finlay) won the prize for taking the fewest publications from slush (no surprise), and appears to come in second. Lightspeed was about half-and-half. This says something about whether it’s worthwhile to submit to magazines with this kind of record, as odds are heavily against a successful submission. 

Looking at publications, the gender breakdown of the various magazines varied considerably. F&SF (pre-Findlay), Analog and Nature seemed to have the biggest leanings to male authors while Apex, Clarksworld, Daily SF, Lightspeed and Strange Horizons published more women than men. What Connolly points out in her analysis is that fewer women submit SF stories. 

She notes that some markets have taken to posting a welcome for diverse authors in their guidelines, with the assumption that this encourages more women to submit. It may. I do always notice that kind of thing because I tend to write stories about diverse characters. However, women are likely to look at other considerations, as well. Connolly’s research puts the data up there for everyone to see, but writers develop a feel for this kind of thing without any quantitative studies. I personally try to make a judgement about the likelihood of publication before I even start to write on an idea.

It doesn’t always work out for me, though. Some stories just take over my keyboard, regardless.

Adding fuel to the flames

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WarriorSo, the Tor editors are hunkered down behind the curtain walls of their fortress while pots of Greek fire splatter against the battlements and brimstone runs down the scarred masonry like water. Vox Day and his cronies man the siege engines, turning a perceived slight into a full scale war in the best Medieval tradition.

What ever happened to that discussion about the Hugos?

What Hugos?

By this time, it should be fairly clear that the current debacle has nothing to do with the Hugo Awards. It isn’t really about the liberal versus conservative content of a few Tor books, either. I concede that there may be an ideological component to the attack. If Day is a a “fundamentalist Southern Baptist,” as he has been characterized, then it is likely that he’s offended by liberal viewpoints in general. Still, that’s no reason to go after Tor in particular. Publication of LGBTQ novels, for example, has been increasing across all major publishers in the last few years. Tor has no franchise on liberalism.

That makes it more likely that Day has launched a personal vendetta undercover of the conflict over the Hugo Awards. He has moved from naming Irene Gallo to Moshe Feder to Patrick Nielsen Hayden in the last few days. Most likely this is his actual target. Hayden is the man quoted in news reports announcing John Scalzi’s recent $3.4 million contract with Tor.

It’s a vendetta, folks. Day is pursuing a long-running feud with John Scalzi. That means that anyone who supports Day’s flame war by responding to him is only perpetuating the problem. Tor has got it right. It’s time to hunker down and wait him out.

John Scalzi has gone on vacation.

Let’s talk about something else for a while.

The joys of poetry sales

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royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779Taking a time-out from weightier themes, I’ve sold a couple of poems this week. One is “Love flowers amidst the blight,” sold to Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and the other is “Living Forever,” sold to Star*line. Watch for these to show up in publication soon!

Replying to intent

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WarriorI’m experiencing a certain déjà vu in the current flame war about the Hugos. I have to come out as a long time resident of the Internet and frequent participant in online flame wars myself. It’s nice to be on the fringes for once and to write unheated commentary from the comfort of my house with a nice cup of tea in hand.

I’ve already described the current conflict as a proxy war conducted over the Internet. The important question is what this is really about. In general, this is a question asked too late in any war. For example, was the US Civil War really about slavery, or was it about conflicting economic systems and political influence? Was the French Revolution about no food for the masses, or was it about taxation to service the French national debt? Looking at the current Hugo conflict through the same lens, is this about social justice and diversity, or is it mainly about notoriety and personal influence?

As usual, it’s hard to pin the conflict down to one particular cause. With just a quick analysis, it seems to have components of power, influence, marketing and personal vendetta. Of course, this relates to what’s flying back and forth now, and not to the original mission statement of the Sad Puppies cadre, or the Rabid Puppies, either one.

As a mere short story writer, I’m coming late to the fray. I’m just picking up on the issues here. I don’t know what Vox Day has against Tor, but it looks to me like he’s attacking the editors as a way to get at the organization in general. As a battle-hardened flame warrior, I have to say that it’s important to look at the enemy’s intent instead of what s/he says. Attacks can be shut down if you know what they’re really about.

John Scalzi? Just a guess.

Cracks in the facade


FeatherPenClipArtI’ve been trying to avoid much in the way of comments about the Rabid Puppies attack on Tor. I’ve been attempting to understand and appreciate the points of view here. I like Tor books. I don’t care much for traditional, white male SF. I tend to be a flaming liberal, but like the Puppies, I am personally affronted by SJWs (from either side) and publications that assume I don’t really understand the issues and translate the power plays. Plus, I don’t want my submissions to any editor to be evaluated on hidden social justice assumptions.

Over the Nebula Weekend, Vox Day attacked Irene Gallo, who is an editor at Tor, for comments she made on her personal Facebook page. I support Gallo’s right to express her opinions, but this was ill advised. It looks like Gallo fell for the Puppies’ baiting and made a provocative statement that could be construed to represent Tor. Founder Tom Doherty responded with a post distancing himself and Tor from Gallo’s comments and suggesting that he could be forced into asking her to resign. This provoked an immediate chortle from the Puppy supporters, who then fired the opening salvo of an attack on Moshe Feder, another editor at Tor. There were also calls for a boycott of Tor books.

Until now, Vox Day and the Puppies have pretty much played the victims, but this is going way over the line. Going after people economically is stepping out of the flame war arena and into real life. This also looks possibly misogynist and anti-Semitic, which is what Gallo accused the Puppies of being. My advice to everyone on both sides: Watch yourself. Charges of harassment and libel could become a sticky legal issue.

A word about power structures

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royalty-free-writing-clipart-illustration-1146779One of the problems with social justice attacks in general, and the recent Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy challenge specifically, is that the rants are often mis-aimed. This means they cause hard feelings, and of course, set off nasty flame wars.

Social justice endeavors can have different motivations. For one, the writer is inflamed by something s/he sees and is motivated to climb on a soapbox for a cathartic, fist-shaking rant. For another, the writer is affronted by some injustice and sits down to plan out a calculated crusade against the problem. In either of these cases, the SJW may have a closely held belief or value that trips off the attack. S/he is hoping it will make people mad and therefore lead to some discussion.

So, how much good does this really do? Not much, in my opinion. All real change is carried out through power structures and driven by economics.

Power structures in our society tend to concentrate power at top, so you have a few Big Wheels that turn everything, while the run-of-the-mill member of any community is pretty much powerless to make any changes happen. Ambitious people normally rise through the power structure through a procedure John Scalzi recently called “punch down, suck up.” If you don’t know how to do this properly, or if you don’t care for the method, then you remain outside the structure–you’re just one of the powerless little people.

Take the gaming community, for example. It seems to be a big target just now. Various rants have been flying back and forth about the lack of diversity in the industry, among game players, among game designers, etc., etc. These attacks are directed toward the community in general, leading to some hard feelings and some backlash. The reason for this is that the average gamer has very little influence in the industry at large and s/he knows it. Accusing him/her of prejudice against minorities is an affront, because the gamers literally have nothing to do with how the games are designed. Because this is a business, you’d have to show the Big Wheels some economic incentive before anything will really change. Until then, you’re just causing hard feelings by attacking the little people.

There may or may not be fringe benefits to making people mad, but I just don’t think it will do any real good.

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