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Q&A with Award-Winning Author and PJM Contributor Sarah Hoyt

As noted over on the Tatler, our own Sarah A. Hoyt is now an award-winning author, having won the Libertarian Futurist Society's prestigious Prometheus Award for best novel for her excellent book Darkship Thieves. We at PJM are of course very happy for Sarah and happy to have her here at PJM. Toni Weisskopf, editor and publisher of Baen Books, was equally excited for her:

Of course we’re thrilled whenever a Baen author wins an award, but we appreciate the work of the Libertarian Futurist Society so it means even more. I’m very pleased Sarah Hoyt will be joining the distinguished ranks of the Prometheus Award winners.

I contacted Sarah to do a little profile on her earlier this week. I had originally thought to do a basic interview and profile story. Having sent her a list of questions I found basically the same thing I found when I did the science fiction piece a few months back -- when you let authors respond via email, you get way more information than you anticipated, and of course, they're generally better writers than you are anyway. So in this case I thought we'd do a Q&A With Sarah A. Hoyt.

1. What does the award mean to your career?

SH: Honestly? I have no idea. I've been aware of the Prometheus Award for a long time and have always thought it was an award I'd like to win, mostly because of what it meant. But it never occurred to me I would actually win it at some point. My history with awards is to be a finalist, but never to win, so I didn't think of a win as likely even after it was announced I was a finalist. It seemed particularly unlikely after I saw the other nominees.

Awards, in general, are supposed to help the marketing, though at the moment at least one award in Science Fiction and Fantasy has a reputation for reducing print runs and publishers' expectations. I've never heard the Prometheus discussed in terms of its effect on extending your fan base and marketing which, ultimately, is what career is all about.

In the couple of days since the win I've been a little surprised at both the level of publicity for the win and the people who seem to suddenly consider me "big noise" after years and years of treating me like someone who could be safely ignored.

So, I have no idea. Right now I'm proud, and happy, particularly since the legacy award is Animal Farm which is one of my favorite books (not so much for how it's written but for what it says.) I expect the future will eventually reveal itself.

2. What are the challenges facing Libertarian/Conservative authors?

SH: This is another one in which I'll have to sort of hedge and beg. Look, like all the arts, writing is a liberal's game. Science fiction, too, I think encourages extreme ideologies, which almost inevitably default left. It's part of creating a world. You start thinking you could create "logical" rules for "this" world. (I tell you, if Lenin had written SF instead, we'd all be happier.) The climate in the field can best be judged by the fact that I could stand up tomorrow in the middle of a conference room full of my peers and announce I was a communist and they'd all applaud. However, if I announced I'm anti-communist, they would laugh. Some of them might laugh nervously and sympathetically but they would laugh.

Anyone clinging to Marxist theory is immediately believed to be very smart, and someone who goes against it is considered a lightweight.

Do they intentionally discriminate against Libertarians and conservatives? I don't think so. Not the vast majority of them. The vast majority of my colleagues are decent people. They are also, like the vast majority of the human race, conformists. Most of them attended good schools and grew up in upper middle class neighborhoods (at least most of them who came into the field in the last fifteen years. Yes, there are reasons for that, which I'll mention rapidly later, if I have time.) Their parents were taught in college about class struggle and that money was evil. They got it at home. They got it from schools. They got it from magazine articles and newspapers. The books they read growing up were infused with unconscious Marxism. OF COURSE they assume anyone who doesn't agree with them is either stupid or evil. And would you give a leg up to the career of someone who is evil? Would you help them?

The funny thing that always startles me a little is hearing myself addressed as a "conservative." I'm full of wild-eyed radical ideas not proposed out loud since Thomas Jefferson talked in his sleep, and I'm a "conservative" because I am, ultimately, anti-communist. This is a through-the-looking-glass world, since the establishment is as close to soft -- (and sometimes hard) -- communism as someone can go without sewing hammers and sickles into all their undies.

And that's part of the problem there too -- I don't think any of them means to discriminate against me. Some of them even like me, in a slightly bewildered way, but they don't know what to do with me. I was born in a Latin country, I am female, and yet I don't consider myself a victim and you truly don't want to get me going on a-historical theories of great mother goddesses. They don't know what to make of me, or what to do with me. I make them uncomfortable, and it's easier to ignore me or not to have me around too much.

Of course, it's entirely possible these aren't problems of the normal libertarian/conservative (the more... er... left-libertarians can even be embraced by the system at times) but just a problem of being me and cross-grained. This is entirely possible.  It’s also entirely possible my fiction writing sucks.  I don’t think it does, and I hope it doesn’t, but it’s sort of like judging your own kids.

3. What made you decide to come out of the political closet at PJM?

SH: I spent the first ten years of my career keeping quiet and commenting on political blogs on line ONLY under a nom-de-blog. This included the infamous Nebula Awards ceremony where the speaker took the podium and engaged in a campaign speech for... (rolls eyes) Howard Dean, "our next president." It included cozy dinners with friends and editors who suddenly and without provocation started a political rant. One of my editors once went on a foaming at the mouth rant about evil libertarians at breakfast, and I could feel my face set and crack, as I struggled not to show any expression.

More difficult, it involved writing books from which I CAREFULLY expunged every trace of political leanings. This is considerably harder to do than it sounds, even when someone is a writer like me, who prefers not to preach or emphasize politics. I lived in fear that some hint would get me "caught out."

And then strange things started happening. The first one of those is that my editor/publisher at Baen, Toni Weisskopf, called me and asked me to write the afterword to Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein. She didn't tell me what to write, but we'd spent some time in the last few months emailing back and forth on the similarities between that book and the "war on terror." And that's what I wrote, because it had to be written, and because it was the truth.That afterword caught Glenn Reynolds' attention. Imagine still-deeply-closeted Sarah sitting in front of the computer with her cup of coffee in hand and seeing something like "Sarah A. Hoyt says" and a distinctly politically incorrect opinion. I spit coffee all over my monitor. And then I decided it felt good, and emailed Glenn and thanked him.