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  1. #1
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    ESR on politics and the Campbell Award

    Well, I've been away from a while, neither writing nor reading but putting the whole question of how and whether to be a writer on the back burner, when I saw this thread at Eric Raymond's place that I just had to share.

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=6661#comments

    Eric complains that he's being used for political ends and that he doesn't weant his writing to be politicized. His commentors seem to think this is naive and unrealistic, and I think I agree. In a highly ideological world, everything that makes any difference is a political statement, whether intended as such or not.

    But this comment jumped at me:

    The Campbell Award has acquired a reputation as the “kiss of death” for aspiring writers. People win it and then are never heard of again.
    Truth? Sour grapes? Both at the same time?

    There are worse things than rejection. I have a nightmare where an army of zombies all fall in love with me, cling to me, and drag me down to the grave with them to make me their king... and I don't even want to be undead.

    This post is informed by a hard-won cynicism about people and politics. That's politics in the broad sense of the word. Better to serve in Heaven than to reign in Hell. I want to be part of something that's worth being part of.

    Or at least something that has a promising future.

  2. #2
    bono malum superate
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    Define "promising". As a Criminology and Criminal Justice student I doubt even anarchists are as critical of politics as I am, but honestly it doesn't matter. Write what your going to write. We as writers of greater or lesser skill and achievements have limited control over how people use and understand our works. Take Kafka's Metamorphosis , I read a 400 page book that was composed entirely of different analysis' of that bloody story ranging from the cosmically absurd all the way to mind numbingly deep philosophical and metaphysical challenges to the base structure of reality and human perception.......and I doubt those views were what Mr. Kafka wanted (or maybe he did that whole story was a bit of a middle finger to the future).

    Oh and if I reign in hell do I have absolute power or do I have to contend with subordinates/have leadership skills?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbles105 View Post
    Write what your going to write. We as writers of greater or lesser skill and achievements have limited control over how people use and understand our works. Take Kafka's Metamorphosis ,
    I think Kafka was trying to work his personal issues with his family, which he may or may not have seen as a microcosm of larger society. If you read Kafka, it should be because you've felt the same way at times. You can relate. Kafka had issues with authority. Lots of intelligent people do.

    The main point of writing is to be read. I want to engage in a dialogue with the reader, in which someone learns something. Editors are middlemen.

    I'm currently leaning toward blogging and online fiction contests. I crave the tight, high-volume feedback loop with the audience. I'm not opposed to middlemen per se, but I think they need to justify their existence by bringing net value to the exchange.

    To be forced to deal with idiot underlings is what it means to reign in Hell. Every supervillain kvetches about his incompetent henchmen. Why should Satan be an exception? A bad boss eventually ends up with the employees he deserves: either incompetents or passive-aggressives.

    To be forced to deal with idiot superiors is life on earth, which is much closer to Hell than to Heaven. It's what makes competent people go passive-aggressive. Call it the Wally syndrome.

    To deal only with people who aren't idiots -- that's Heaven. I won't be picky about my place in the heirarchy if I can be in Heaven.

    Anyway, I need to learn the ropes... starting with which ropes are the right ropes to learn.

    If Kafka had had access to the Internet, he would have had more options for connecting with readers in his lifetime.

  4. #4
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well, Mr. Raymond has what I would call a skewed view of many of his fellow authors, but he is looking at a real problem, which is that fantasy author Larry Correia has decided that he's on a holy crusade and in that crusade he keeps trying to draft authors as part of an awards ballot slate without their permission. Now technically, he doesn't need their permission to recommend them in public for award nominations, but given that he's asserting that they agree with his political platform and agenda in putting them on the slate, and many of them don't and don't want to be on his slate, it's still a nasty thing to do to them. So I can understand that Raymond is not pleased.

    But that's not really politicizing his writing. It's politicizing him. And that's something that we all deal with to some extent on the Internet. It's going to be a matter of having a stern talking to the person who is politicizing him for his own agenda, and of course, Raymond can always remove his name from any awards consideration. They cannot give you an award or nomination against your will. And if he goes for having a nomination, he cannot control why people vote for him, but most of the people voting on the awards have no idea what Correia is doing, and so will indeed be voting on merit.

    As for the Campbell Award comment, the Campbell Award is given out to best new writer for their first professional SFF sale, but a lot of times that involves short fiction instead of novels. And many of the short fiction writers often don't go on to write novels and thus become better known. They may only do some SF stories and then drop out of the field altogether and go write other things. It's not necessarily a matter of them not being published after winning the award. But let's take a look at the Campbell winner list:

    1973: Jerry Pournelle -- a legend in SF, a bestselling, award winning author with numerous novels to his credit, recently had a stroke, published in the 2000's
    1974: Spider Robinson -- a legend in SFF, a bestselling, award winning author best known for his Callahan's Saloon stories, still publishing
    1974 (tie): Lisa Tuttle -- a well known author in SFF, over a dozen novels and collections, still publishing
    1975: P.J. Plauger -- a computer software developer who did some SF stories, but has not pursued a writing career
    1976: Tom Reamy -- he unfortunately died a year later from a heart attack, leaving behind one novel of dark fantasy, Blind Voices
    1977: C.J. Cherryh -- a legend in SFF, bestselling, award winning author best known for her Alliance-Union SF stories, still publishing
    1978: Orson Scott Card -- a legend in SFF, a bestselling, award winning author best known for Ender's Game, still publishing
    1979: Stephen R. Donaldson -- one of the top bestselling SFF authors and of fiction authors in general, award-winning, best known for the Thomas Covenant series, still publishing
    1980: Barry B. Longyear -- a legend in SFF, best known for Enemy Mine, made into a movie, award-winning, still publishing
    1981: Somtow Sucharitkul (S.P. Somtow) -- award-winning writer of SFFH, best known for his Vampire Junction series, also screenwriter, film director, opera composer and playwright, still publishing
    1982: Alexis A. Gilliland -- published several novels, also an artist and cartoonist of note
    1983: Paul O. Williams -- died in 2009, English professor, best known for the Pelbar Cycle series
    1984: R.A. MacAvoy -- a legend in SFF, etc., still publishing, best known for Tea with Black Dragon
    1985: Lucius Shepard -- a legend in SFF who died last year, published over twenty novels and collections, the last in 2014
    1986: Melissa Scott -- well known SFF author, written over twenty novels, still publishing, etc.
    1987: Karen Jay Fowler -- bestselling, award winning SFF author who also writes outside genres, best known for the non-SFF novel The Jane Austen Book Club made into a movie, still publishing, her last SF novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was nominated for the Booker and the Nebula and won the PEN/Faulkner award
    1988: Judith Moffett -- poet, professor and biographer, best known for the award-winning novel Pennterra, has published novels and collections, still publishing
    1989: Michaela Roessner -- well known, award winning SFF author and visual artist, best known for the novel Vanishing Point, also writes historical fiction, still publishing though mostly short fiction in SFF
    1990: Kristine Kathryn Rusch -- well known, award winning SFF author, also magazine editor and publisher, written tons of novels, very involved in the indie publishing scene, still publishing
    1991: Julia Ecklar -- well known SF writer and musician, best known for her Star Trek tie-in fiction and the novel ReGenesis, still publishing
    1992: Ted Chiang -- Chiang hasn't put out a novel, but is very well known and won a lot of awards for his short fiction, we were just talking about him in the SF forum, he works in the tech industry
    1993: Laura Resnick -- well known SFF and romance writer, currently doing the successful satiric fantasy Esther Diamond series
    1994: Amy Thomson -- well known hard SF writer, published four novels and short fiction, still publishing
    1995: Jeff Noon -- award winning British SFF writer and playwright, one of his novels is being made into a film, best known for the Vurt series
    1996: David Feintuch -- well known SFF writer, best known for the military SF series the Seafort Saga, died in 2006
    1997: Michael A. Burstein -- science teacher, award winning SFF writer of short fiction, still publishing
    1998: Mary Doria Russell -- well known SF writer and historical fiction writer, best know for The Sparrow
    1999: Nalo Hopkinson -- well known, award winning SFF writer, professor, anthology editor, and does radio, still publishing, best known for novel Midnight Robber
    2000: Cory Doctorow -- bestselling, award winning SF author, also works in tech and academia, writes non-fiction, co-edits Boing Boing, has written nine novels, a graphic novel, collections, best known for the novel Little Brother, still publishing
    2001: Kristine Smith -- well known SFF author, published novels and short fiction, best known for the Jani Kilian series
    2002: Jo Walton -- well known, award-winning SFF author, writes a column for Tor.com, published over ten novels, still publishing, best known for novel Among Others
    2003: Wen Spencer -- well known SFF author, still publishing, over ten novels, best known for the Elfhome series
    2004: Jay Lake -- well known, award winning SFF author and editor, unfortunately died last year, published many books, best known for his Mainspring series
    2005: Elizabeth Bear -- bestselling, award winning SFF author, has published nearly thirty novels, still publishing, best known for Promethean Age series
    2006: John Scalzi -- bestselling, award winning SFF author, non-fiction writer, screenwriter, game writer, several projects being adapted for film/t.v., writer of Whatever blog, still publishing, written over ten novels, best known for novels Old Man's War and Redshirts
    2007: Naomi Novik -- bestselling, award winning fantasy author, known for the Temeraire historical fantasy series, still publishing
    2008: Mary Robinette Kowal -- well known SFF author, puppeteer, and art director, best known for the Shades of Milk and Honey historical fantasy series, still publishing
    2009: David Anthony Durham -- bestselling, award-winning author of fantasy and historical fiction, also professor, still publishing, best known for the Acacia series
    2010: Seanan McGuire -- bestselling, award-winning SFF author, written over twenty novels, still publishing, best known for the October Daye contemporary fantasy series and the Newsflesh SF zombie series (written as Mira Grant)
    2011: Lev Grossman -- bestselling, award-winning SFF author, journalist and book critic, still publishing, best known for The Magicians series
    2012: E. Lily Yu -- SFF writer, only done short fiction yet, in her early twenties, still publishing
    2013: Mur Lafferty -- well known non-fiction writer, podcaster and SFF writer, written five novels, still publishing, best known for urban fantasy series Shambling Guides
    2014: Sofia Samatar -- well known, award-winning fantasy writer and professor, two novels, still publishing, best known for the novel A Stranger in Olondria

    So it does not seem like an actual curse.*

    *This was fun. I had to add some books to my possible reading list.

  5. #5
    and Noumenon was his name Andrew Leon Hudson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    1995: Jeff Noon -- award winning British SFF writer and playwright, one of his novels is being made into a film, best known for the Vurt series
    Oh yes, do you know which one?

  6. #6
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Impressive list, KatG! (Impressive that you put it together and cool to see all those names.)

    Take note, I see that Scalzi and Kowal (two of Mr. Raymond's Rabbits) are on that list. Just saying.

    Bestertester - write what you want! Really, just write what you want. I am sure if you are careful with your craft, you'll find an audience for it.

  7. #7
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Leon Hudson View Post
    Oh yes, do you know which one?
    The first one, Vurt. However, apparently things are stalled in development right now, according to the author. So it might not happen. But clearly, he didn't disappear after winning the Campbell.

    Quote Originally Posted by NEWhite
    Impressive list, KatG! (Impressive that you put it together and cool to see all those names.)
    I just downloaded the list of winners. I had to then look a few of them up who I didn't know as more than a name, but most of them I knew who they were. C.J. Cherryh is a favorite writer of mine, though there are a ton of her very prolific list I still need to read, and Seanan McGuire is one of the biggest names in SFF right now. So, no curse. Maybe Raymond was sort of joking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bestertester
    I have a nightmare where an army of zombies all fall in love with me, cling to me, and drag me down to the grave with them to make me their king... and I don't even want to be undead.
    You should definitely read the fantasy novel The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby. (I just finished the sequel, The Marching Dead.) Here's the cover copy:

    Marius dos Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers, is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead. The dead need a King--the King is God's representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.

    Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do. Just as soon as he stops running.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bestertester
    Editors are middlemen.
    There are several different kinds of editors and none of them are middlemen as their jobs. Middlemen has to do with retail selling. Wholesalers who supply bookselling vendors with inventory, for example, are middlemen. Booksellers are also middlemen, taking the product from the producers (author/publishers) and selling it to the customers, instead of the customers buying directly from the producers.

  8. #8
    Beast on Board Luka Datas's Avatar
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    There's a thing called Lulu where you just self publish your own stories, choose your own price and get monthly additions to your bank account if the story sells. I'm thinking of putting up a short story collection or a novel there to save me from the hassle of needing to deal with a string of form letters and months and months of waiting, waiting and more waiting. For nothing.

    Only thing is that you seem to need an author blog or wikipedia page if you self publish... but any idiot can write one of those blog things. Seems all you have to do is be aloof and highminded for blogs. And invent some arbitrary decorum rules. Wikipedia entries require a certain degree more skill, though.

  9. #9
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luka Datas View Post
    ...but any idiot can write one of those blog things. Seems all you have to do is be aloof and highminded for blogs.
    Ha! I think you may have managed to insult just about everyone on the internet (most folks on the internet have a blog). I am, yet again, impressed.

    Have you been to my blog. Nothing aloof and highminded there.

  10. #10
    Man of Ways and Means kennychaffin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bestertester View Post
    .....

    Eric complains that he's being used for political ends and that he doesn't weant his writing to be politicized. His commentors seem to think this is naive and unrealistic, and I think I agree. ....
    I think you must write what you want/are driven to write. That's all that matters. The reader, the response to it is out of your control. This is true of any artform. Be true to the art, let the world interpret it as it will.

    As far as the Campbell award being a curse, I think it's nothing more than the Sophomore curse or slump, the second record challenge. Many writers have only one book in them (and speaking of that I've very skeptical of the 'new' Harper Lee novel that is about to be published).....

  11. #11
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luka Datas View Post
    There's a thing called Lulu where you just self publish your own stories, choose your own price and get monthly additions to your bank account if the story sells. I'm thinking of putting up a short story collection or a novel there to save me from the hassle of needing to deal with a string of form letters and months and months of waiting, waiting and more waiting. For nothing.
    Since you're asking them for money when you try to interest a publisher to invest in your work, you can't expect that everybody who asks for money gets it. Most of them don't. Whereas in self-publishing, you put up all the money for specific types of publication with specific types of distribution, and then hope you can market to an audience who will like the product and spread word of mouth for you to gain more customers. There are pros and cons and responsibilities and costs to each form of publishing. You have to figure out what one is going to work for your particular circumstances.

    Only thing is that you seem to need an author blog or wikipedia page if you self publish... but any idiot can write one of those blog things. Seems all you have to do is be aloof and highminded for blogs. And invent some arbitrary decorum rules. Wikipedia entries require a certain degree more skill, though.
    You don't get to write your own Wikipedia page, and if you try, they'll take it down. Other people have to do it, and all the facts that they present about you have to be proven through media and published sources that are cited. You also have to be considered by the Wiki editors to be a person of sufficient note to merit a Wikipedia page or stub. There are entire procedures for this, and even if you do end up with a Wikipedia page, people can later on challenge whether you are/were a person of note enough to really have one in Wiki forum boards. They have a whole system set up and in many ways it's a crappy one, but no one is able to just wade in, not for long.

    Blogs are not always text blogs where people write essays. They can be picture blogs, article digest blogs, etc., and they can be about anything from cupcakes to historical research. You can get a blog for free from sites like WordPress or Blog Spot, and they'll also sell you a website version for a fairly cheap price. You can do a type of blog at Tumblr for free, Pinterest lets you use photos, etc. There are lots of free places to camp on the Web, because they use your sites and blogs for running ads, which nobody cares about anyway. Hard to know if the Web will stay that way, but for now, you might as well set one up and play around with it.

  12. #12
    Beast on Board Luka Datas's Avatar
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    Thanks Nila and Kat.

    I myself have a Facebook page that is in itself a work of unrivalled genius and low-mindedness and that's a sort of blog isn't it. I may have just disproved my own rule.

    I always thought Wikipedia was better than many people give it credit for being. I use it as my first port of call for most of my research. I never knew it was so elitist though. Although I have heard of certain public figure expressing their frustration at it because sometimes certain people just jump on and change the entries to defame them just a little bit. I suppose everyone has public personas that they regret, I hated Pauly Shore and I really can't stand Kevin Hart and sometimes just not watching their material just isn't enough. I'm not saying acting is easy but some people like the ones I've mentioned make it look painfully difficult so they probably decerve a bit of stick from time to time.

    On what some of you were saying about terrible books though.. I tried reading a newish looking book on the SF shelf recently called Cenotaxis and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. It was written by a New York Times Bestselling writer but it was horrible. Something about computer gods or something and a aborted mission to blow something up. It was supposed to be a standalone adventure but I had to reread every page to try to understand what was going on. My personal wish is that people would stop writing sequels and start writing one off adventures. I have a hard time finding stoiries told in a single book anymore. Which I blame popular television for. Write the best story they can involving the characters they have in mind and move the heck on why can't they.

    As far as Lulu goes I'd only go electric publication if I was self publishing I think. There's no point paying for a thousand print copies of a book that only sells three. And Since I rarely pay for new books I'd probably post it up there for the least possible retail price $0 if possible. I've never really expected to get wealthy from writing though but I would still like to do the best possible job at it regardless. I expect that my modelling career will be my primary source of income
    Last edited by Luka Datas; February 13th, 2015 at 07:29 PM.

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