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Reading and Writing for Love [With Dinosaurs]

Book Plug Friday! And pro writers go indie.

by
Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

Bio

August 1, 2014 - 3:23 pm
shutterstock_158506421

picture of the author as a young dinosaur.

 

(Hi, this is Sarah.)  When I was a  young writer, knee high to a trilogy print out, I subscribed to every possible market listing in the world.  [“What is a market listing?” “That’s what people used to have, back when they needed gate keepers to publish them. Back in prehistory.  Publishing was expensive, on account of having to dispose of the chips you carved out of the rock with your chisel.”]  Partly this was, of course, because there was no internet. [“Seriously, no internet?  Now you’re just making stuff up.”  “Okay, you’re right.  There was internet.  It’s just the t-rexes kept snapping the cable with their toe claws.”]  You couldn’t just search for “markets for science fiction” and then spend three hours reading about Amazon’s dispute with Hatchette and dino porn.  [“I don’t read dino porn.”  “Of course not, the Amazon/Hatchette thing makes you feel dirty enough.”]

Anyway, so I subscribed to all of these in the certain hope that eventually I’d find the one that said, “You, Sarah A. Hoyt, sitting there, with your manuscript of dino porn inchoate pseudo literature, you’re the person we want to publish.”

Alas, this never happened.  But I used to come across this listing that baffled me.  After the pro markets to which I sent for fastest rejections, and the semi-pro markets which were buying me, and the penny markets, where I sent stuff that had been rejected everywhere else, there was a “for the love” column.

Look, I yield to no one in my love for writing. [“Liar, you just say that to get it into bed.”  “Only because the pterodactyl isn’t willing.”]  And I’m one of those people who think if something is not making you rich, and you don’t love it, then you’d be better off doing something else.  [“Unless of course writing is the only thing you can do.  Not that this has ever happened at low points in our personal finances.”  “Er… right, never.”] Writing, in particular, while easier than digging ditches, is still a lot to do day after day if you don’t enjoy it.  But… “for the love?”

I mean, if no one is ever going to pay you, are you going to give this story away just so someone will read it?  [“Yeah, like someone who wrote fanfic so that it would actually get read, when nothing else was selling.”  “That was different.  How many people make money rewriting Jane Austen with dragons? Don’t answer that.”]

Then I broke in, started selling to those pro markets, and then started getting paid more so the pro-markets attracted me, and I never gave this another thought.

Until today when I was thinking about writing for readers and writing for prestige.  For most of my traditional career, I argued with my agents/editors/publishers that I wanted to write popular and accessible fiction, while they tried to push me into writing convoluted, difficult “literary” fiction.

My fault in a way, because I broke in with a series that was a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s biography, this time with elves.  But at least I realized that though I loved that series, it had a limited audience. The average person on the street doesn’t want to relax after a hard day with Shakespearean word-play.  Also, the idea of writing nothing but literary fantasy forever made me want to slit my wrists.

I wanted to write mystery, and science fiction, and funny things, and serious things, and romantic things.  And while some of them would come out in a way that could be described as “literary” that was not what I was aiming for.  I mostly wanted to write to be read and to make a living.

I knew for a fact that “literary” works sold very little.

So why were publishers and agents so interested in them? Because their interests aren’t the same as writers’.  Writers want to make a living, and to get the sincerest form of appreciation in foldable form. Publishers, or at least editors, working for multinational corporations where their salary is assured, don’t want that – they want to be hailed at the next cocktail party as the person who discovered the literary wonder of the century.  And agents, too, want the prestige of being known to have exquisite taste. They won’t object to a lot of money, but mostly they need the prestige.

Eric S. Raymond said that what is destroying mainstream science fiction… (and more so mystery.  I’m going through my shelves to get rid of excess paper books, and if I had a dime for each “high prestige” mystery I got because it was up for some award or other and which is now worth less than one cent, I’d have a lot of dimes.) … is not so much politics, as this entire idea of “worth” that’s predicated on an academic culture which ignores readers and the ludic aspects of reading. [“Ludic. My, aren’t we posh?”  “Ludic means fun.  Like, you know, dinosaur porn.  At least I presume people have fun with it.  Never having read any, I wouldn’t know.” “Yes, but growing up in the Jurassic would give you a different perspective.]

He is right at that. But I don’t think it’s something that can be wrung out of the publishing establishment.  If the shrinking of the bottom line didn’t convince them, neither will our telling them what they’re doing wrong.

Fortunately, though, we don’t have to. It’s entirely possible that, after the shocks and aftershocks, traditional publishing will settle into a prestige and validation role for academic writers, bringing out little gems of books (possibly leather bound) for a small clientele for whom they’re objets d’art and not a way to while away a couple of hours of a rainy evenings.

I’m fine with that.  They can do whatever they want.

Those who want to read and write for fun can always go Indie.


cover

Blood and Dreams: Lost Years II (Parsival Book 4
By Richard Monaco 

Set some time after Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon and before The Grail War, Blood and Dreams continues the story of Parsival, who in middle age finds himself more the jaded cynic than the wide-eyed fool of his youth. Waylaid as he journeys home from his latest “bloody bit of work for Arthur,” Parsival must escape his captors, save his kidnapped family, and prevent the forces of Clinschor, the mad sorcerer bent on world domination, from finding and exploiting the Holy Grail, all while enduring the disdain of his teenaged son, Lohengrin.

(Charlie here: Richard has been one of my favorite writers for longer than either of us would care to think. This is free for the rest of today, and worth the $4.99 any time.)


cover

The God’s Wolfling
By Cedar Sanderson 

When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir. Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.


cover

Screams from My Father: Stories by Paul F. Gleeson
By Paul F. Gleeson 

Entertaining pulp crime stories written in 1979 and 1980. Paul F. Gleeson was a lawyer, but he ached to be a writer, of tales of murder and intrigue and dark forces and witty twist endings. He submitted manuscripts to the pulp mags, and actually got two stories published, but the rejection letters kept piling up, and he finally stopped writing. After he died in 2012, his sons and daughter found the manuscripts in a cardboard box. They collectively decided that these stories would finally be published for the world to enjoy, the way their dad always wanted.

“Paul F. Gleeson’s hardboiled fiction paints characters who live in swirling cesspools of corrupt human nature in a rich, distinct voice that’s not to be missed.” — David Cranmer, editor of BEAT to a PULP


cover

The Book of Barkley
By L.B. Johnson 

LB Johnson knew how to get things done. The former jet commander was singularly driven, capable and highly educated, immersed in a world of complex puzzles, tangled story lines and the intricacies of the law. So how hard would it be for one redheaded federal agent to raise a black Labrador retriever puppy?

Mayhem on four legs was named Barkley and he led his owner down a path of joyful self discovery, loving frustration and self sacrifice, changing the way she viewed the world, and those that shared it with her. Her home and her heart were never the same.


cover

Stargazer
By Cedar Sanderson 

Free from August 1-5

A short story of a woman who looks to the stars as she tries to protect her children and offer them a future. In a world with no escape for those who cannot undergo a genescan, a fugitive mother has vanishingly few options left to her. Ultimately, only her sacrifice can change the world… but what becomes of the children?


cover

A Warrior’s Path
By Davis Ashura 

Two millennia ago, a demon named Suwraith thundered into the skies and cast down the First World. In a single horrific night, a glorious age of enlightenment was ended, leaving the world in fearful darkness. Humanity survives by a thread, only surviving in cities protected by an Oasis, mysterious places impervious to Suwraith’s power. Throughout the rest of the world Humanity is an endangered species, fodder for Suwraith’s deadly Chimeras. Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another. In the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies. Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.


cover

Kiwi
By Richard Alan Chandler 

Free on 8/1 and 8/2

Alex Sanderson doesn’t like much of anything, but of all the things he hates, getting locked up in an alien prison on trumped-up charges tops the list. All he wants is a fair hearing and he’s sure he can get out. His cellmate on the other hand, she has different plans for Alex….

Note: This story contains profanity, some violence, and sexual situations, although not especially graphic, they may be offensive to some readers.

This story is a Novellette, about 14,500 words long.

Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin write and blog on science, science fiction, self-improvement, culture, and politics for PJ Lifestyle. Send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com for submission guidelines for Book Plug Friday, a weekly listing of independently published e-books.
All Comments   (3)
All Comments   (3)
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“Eric S. Raymond said that what is destroying mainstream science fiction […] is not so much politics, as this entire idea of ‘worth’ that’s predicated on an academic culture which ignores readers and the ludic aspects of reading.”

And since the article itself does not have a link to the essay Sarah’s talking about, I’m posting it here: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=6085 “SF and the damaging effects of literary status envy”.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Those who want to read and write for fun can always go Indie."
I would go so far as to modify that to read:
Those who want to read and write for fun or earn an honest living at the keyboard can always go Indie.
And the verdict is still out as to whether writing about a shape shifting human/pterodactyl counts as dinosaur porn. But once the committee releases their final ruling, if it's in your favor you can count on my vote.
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Time was, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had a movie director named Dore Schary. He was one of the first of the Hollywood directors to make "message" movies...and he hammered his messages so strongly that the storytelling was essentially a tack-on. Needless to say, they didn't do well at the box office. Nor did MGM, while Schary was its foremost director.

(Sarah: Dinosaur porn? Really? Please say it isn't so!)

After World War II, MGM repented of its ways and returned to emphasizing entertainment, and its fortunes rebounded. Perhaps "mainstream" -- i.e., sanctioned by Pub World -- science fiction will repent after a few more years in the wilderness, though if we take the behavior of SFWA in recent years as indicative, that will require quite a lot of repentance. However, SF still offers some pleasures. G. T. Almasi, M. Orenda, Brent Meske, and a few other "maverick" writers have recently provided me some pleasant surprises. Does anyone else have others to proclaim to a thirsty reading public?
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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