Based on feedback from workshopping it at Taos, I’ve rewritten the opening of Shrivers: The Substrate Wars 3. The book won’t be done for months, but if you want a preview, here it is in PDF format: Shrivers First Look. Now if I could only find an agent or publisher!
One thing that’s lacking among our progressive brethren is humility, a sense of what they don’t know and should not try to fake knowing. They are ahistorical and programmed by a faith-based belief system (for example, the faith that “all gender roles are social constructs with no biological basis.”)
So you suggest gently to a young writer that they should not try to write science fiction without understanding the science well enough to project it plausibly. Especially if the writer is a young woman, she will protest and say something implying science is also just a social construct, meaning “whatever I feel it should be, it is.” Or ask that historical novels be reasonably well researched and plausible — which is asking too much for some. They believe it is unfair to criticize some people for writing implausible or inconsistent stories, because by doing so you are discriminating against them and interfering with their right to succeed. Ultimately, of course, readers determine what is read, but by influencing what is promoted and made available at retail, progressives are insuring readers get less of what they want and more of what the nomenklatura think is good for them. And these literary-progressive writers are encouraged by academia and grants to think their status entitles them to success as writers — and while the very best of them will be successful writers, the majority will not be read by anyone outside their mutual support group.
Initially science fiction was about future science and the reactions to it from individuals and societies not too different from those of the day. Then the New Wave introduced a greater emphasis on imagined future or alien societies with quite different motivations and systems — when well-done, the rules of the imagined societies were plausibly projected from the biological, social, and economic motivations of the members of the society. In fantasy, you again had plausible workings-out of magic systems, fantasy entities, and societies of elves and the like. It’s the working out and understanding of the story problems presented by an imagined plausible world that expands the mind and increases understanding of very different Others.
If stories include mostly characters who behave as modern progressives think they should, any broadening effect is lost. Modern taboos and habits of thought were developed to match a modern milieu, and it is wrongheaded and anti-diversity — a variety of cultural imperialism! — to imply that people of the past and future would adopt and benefit from current ideas of “correct thought.” This error is a variety of presentism — applying standards of the current day to past and future societies.
Progressives accept an alien biological imperative and will sit still for stories where, say, the male sex of the G’Tharr are confined to their homes but no one in their society is especially interested in equality. But when the society is recognizably human, then suddenly the correctness goggles appear, and characters who behave like the perceived recent enemies of their tribe are not tolerated.
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]
Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”
Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.
Ah, “pimp Sunday.” Another fine tradition that starts today!
I got back from Taos Toolbox three weeks ago. It was interesting meeting people mostly going the tradpub route, working hard to get short fiction into publications. It was suggested I need to write some short stories to get my name known, so I wrote one, which has so far survived the winnowing process at a new ‘zine, Mothership Zeta, which looks like it’s going to be a fun read.
Also interesting to learn that even what I would consider to be proven great writers — Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, who ran the Toolbox — have trouble getting and keeping good agents and publishers. Walter is now doing well self-publishing his backlist, but even he has difficulty getting major projects off the ground. Meanwhile, Nancy (a self-described pantser, meaning she doesn’t plot out a book in advance) has written one good novel she can’t get published, and despite winning a Nebula for her latest novella and being one of the better-liked writers around, has a spotty record in getting publisher support.
The takeaway lesson is that changes in the publishing business are pushing writers into self-publishing, where at least they have a chance at making a living if they work hard and develop a deep backlist. The total revenues in conventional SF&F publishing are stagnant or falling, and new markets like media tie-ins, flash fiction, and new venues like phones for reading are where many of the readers have gone. There’s a great hunger for SF&F works in developing countries, and anyone looking ahead has to consider getting their work out in Simplified Chinese and publishing with some of the phone media platforms out there. Which all ties in to the Hugo controversy, where a tiny US-centric group has defended their award as “the best of SF&F” but retreat to “what Worldcon-going fans (less than two thousand voting each year before 2014) think is best” when questioned closely.
But wait, I’m supposed to pimp my work here. My current series, The Substrate Wars, is about a group of libertarian-ish students who discover that the universe runs on a computational substrate, and by hacking the substrate with quantum computers, they can create not only quantum gateways to anywhere, but weapons of unimaginable power and replicators that can end material shortages for everyone. They are pursued by Homeland security and the intelligence agents of many nations before they escape to a New Earth, then work from there to free Earth’s people from their security and surveillance states. Working out how you would actually do that while doing minimal damage was a lot of fun.
My Taos readers found the going a bit rough on the start of the third book, tentatively called “Shrivers.” So I’m reworking the beginning to provide a stronger narrative line. OTOH, several spontaneously commented they thought the series would make great movies (based on the synopses I had prepared.) So I’m working on that now, heading to the Calliope Workshop, a new weekend seminar at UCLA meant to introduce new writers to agents and publishers interested getting liberty-oriented stories into pop culture outlets like movies.
The “logline” started out as a single-sentence description encapsulating the setting, protagonist, story problem, antagonist, and goal, which would be hand-written on the spine of a script or in the reading log as an executive summary. The idea is to demonstrate the basic appeal of the story so that a decisionmaker can quickly reject it if it doesn’t work for their purposes, or ask for more if it does. Time is short and no one in the industry has time to do more than reject 99% of what’s presented to them as quickly as possible. So remember the lesson of Powerpoint’s dominance: you only have a few seconds to get someone interested enough to stop for your work.
Loglines for the Substrate Wars books:
In a near-future US surveillance state, California college students invent quantum gateways and have to fight Homeland Security to gain their freedom on a new planet.
From their base on a new planet, freedom-fighting techno-rebels use their discovery of quantum gateways to steal all the world’s nuclear weapons and bring down Earth’s oppressive governments.
As humanity expands to new colony planets and enjoys a Golden Age of peace and prosperity, the new government has to fight a fleet of robotic destroyer ships to save humanity from extinction.
[In progress: release date around November 2015]
One of my earlier books on applying attachment theory to relationships and mate-seeking is still free today: http://amzn.to/1IibPVO