This is the third chunk of data and analysis from the 2016 Novelist Income Survey.
A number of people have asked how the number of books published in 2016 correlates with income, particularly with indie writers. We saw in part two that authors who primarily self-publish can do quite well. Is volume one of the secrets to success, and is it a greater factor for indie writers than traditionally the published?
I used the same method as before for separating out authors who were primarily indie, primarily large press, and primarily small press.
Three survey questions asked how many books respondents had published in 2016 through a large press, a small press, and through self-publishing. This brings me to my first data quandary. When I’m looking at the indie authors, do I count just the number of books they self-published, or the total number of books? Because a lot of our authors are hybrid, those numbers won’t be the same. So I graphed the data both ways, and found that the results — particularly the trend line — looked pretty much identical.
I decided to go with the total number of books published in any category, and to see how that number affected income for authors who were primarily indie, small press, or large press.
I removed the highest outlier from each graph below, both because it appeared to be disproportionately influencing the results, and because it threw off the scale and made it harder to see the rest of the data points. Because this was using net income, I also removed the handful of authors who didn’t report any expenses, since I had no way of calculating those net incomes.
Small Press Authors:
Large Press Authors:
Everyone’s clear on the correlation =/= causation thing by now, right? That said, the trend lines on the three graphs are pretty striking. For authors who are primarily indie, the graph suggests a correlation between number of books published and overall income. The correlation for small press is significantly smaller.
But most fascinating to me is that for large press authors, the line is essentially flat. The authors with 8 or 10 large press novels in 2016 made roughly the same as the average author with 1 or 2 large press books. Excellent news for the one book/year folks with big publishers.
Median and Average Books/Year
As I was wrapping up, it occurred to me that I should compare how prolific the different types of author were. This turned out to be interesting as well, though not too surprising.
Books Published in 2016: Median (Average)
- Large Press 1 (1.2)
- Small Press 1 (1.3)
- Indie Press 2 (3.1)
While the median large and small press author published one book last year, the median indie published two. The difference in the average numbers is even stronger.
There are exceptions to everything, of course. I know some ridiculously prolific and successful big-press authors. But overall, I think this supports to the idea that success in self-publishing depends more strongly on how many books you can put out. It also shows that indie authors are following that approach and getting more books out there.
One last note. (Or maybe just one last excuse to post a pie chart.) 63 authors reported a net loss in 2016. 36 of those were indie authors. 19 were small press. 8 were large press.
Intuitively, this makes a kind of sense. Self-publishing requires the author to invest in the up-front production costs, as well as marketing. But I’d want to collect a lot more data than I have before coming to any firm conclusions.
In Our Next Episode
I’m very curious to look at the hours/week spent on promotion and marketing, and to see how much that correlates with income. In other words, does all that work we do trying to get our names out there really have an impact? (I’m guessing the answer may be very different depending on whether or not you’re large press, small press, or indie.)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
This is the second chunk of data and analysis from the 2016 Novelist Income Survey. (Part one is here.)
I wanted to focus next on large press vs. small press vs. indie/self-publishing. The goal is not to settle the neverending argument about which route is better, because that’s a silly argument, and I’m not going to waste time on it.
Analyzing income data this way was tricky for several reasons. What qualifies as a large press vs. a small press? What about hybrid authors who choose multiple paths? And how does the self-selected nature of this study’s participants skew results?
The survey asked how many books you published with a large publisher, a small publisher, and through self-publishing in your lifetime, and how many books you published with a large publisher, a small publisher, and through self-publishing in 2016. Respondents used their own judgement to decide what large/small/self-published meant with respect to their work.
The majority of authors qualified as hybrid, with books in more than one category. So for this analysis, I looked at how each author had published the majority of their books during their lifetime. For example, with 12 books through large publishers, 1 small-press, and 1 self-published novel, my personal data went into the Large Publisher bucket. Someone with 4 large press, 5 small press, and 2 self-pubbed would be in the Small Publisher bucket.
(I also ran the same analysis looking only at 2016 publications, and the results were nearly identical. We lost some data there though, since a number of people had zero books out in 2016.)
As for the self-selection part? I cast my net as wide as I could, but that net went out mostly through writing boards and email lists and social media. Someone who self-published a single book as a hobby or for the fun of it would be less likely to hear about the survey. Likewise, authors who published a lot in the past but aren’t actively writing/publishing today wouldn’t necessarily be “in the loop” for this stuff. I can’t say exactly how this affected the data; only that, as I mentioned yesterday, it isn’t a truly random or representative sample. But with 381 authors weighing in, I still think it’s a pretty good one.
Here’s where our 381 authors fell on the large/small/indie scale:
- Primarily Large Press: 114
- Primarily Small Press: 55
- Primarily Indie: 212
Again, keep in mind that the information here is correlation, not causation. Deciding whether to try to publish with a large publisher, a small press, or to self-publish is so much more than just looking at the data from a single survey. Each path requires a lot of work, and I strongly recommend everyone do their research before deciding what’s going to work best for them.
Let’s Talk Money!
I started by looking at the gross income (before expenses) for each category. Well, that’s not entirely true. I really started by doing a poll on Twitter to ask people which group they thought would have the highest net income. I figured that could let us tap into common beliefs and compare them to the data. Here’s what the informal Twitter results had 74% of people expecting Large Press authors to be the biggest money-makers. Self-published came in second place, with 17%. Small Press was at 9%.
Before we look at the net, let’s start with gross income numbers. As before, I think the median is the most useful figure here, since the very successful outliers tend to skew the averages. Median gross income for each category was:
- Large Press: $28,000
- Small Press: $2,400
- Indie: $29,000
Average income followed a similar pattern.
I don’t think those numbers should come as a shock to most people. But they’re not the whole picture, either. We need to look at the expenses for each category as well. Self-published authors cover the costs of things like cover art, copy-editing, and so on, things a commercial press takes care of for its authors. Then there’s marketing and publicity and conventions and all the rest…
A handful of people left this question blank. They’ve been omitted from this part. If someone reported a 0 for this question, they were included.
The median expenses for each category were:
- Large Press: $2,900
- Small Press: $1,000
- Indie: $4,000
How does this affect the net income? Indie authors still have the largest median income, which was predicted by only 19% of the folks in our informal Twitter Poll. The large press authors once again take the highest average. (I think this is mostly because of one large press author whose income was significantly higher than any others.)
Here are those numbers, with median first and average in parentheses.
- Large Press: $19,000 ($125,021)
- Small Press: $975 ($19,166)
- Indie: $23,050 ($108,210)
One of the questions I asked was whether people’s writing income had increased, decreased, or stayed roughly the same from 2015 to 2016. I think it’s encouraging that 53% of all respondents saw an increase, with another 20% reporting that their income remained roughly the same. Writing novels tends not to be the most financially stable profession, but only 27% reported seeing their income decrease.
This got interesting. 60.4% of indie authors saw an increase in earnings, compared to 50.9% of small press and only 39.5% of large press authors. Only 17% of indie authors saw their earnings decrease, compared to 27.3% of small press and 23.7% of large press.
Like I said, I’d be careful about drawing broad-sweeping conclusions from any of this, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign for my indie author friends. Realistically, though? Given the economy, the fact that all three groups saw more increases than decreases is a very good thing.
I’ve got a lot more data to play with. I want to look at factors like genre, hours/week spent writing, hours/week spent on promotion, total number of books published, how long ago the author started publishing, and more.
Short version: I have plenty to keep me busy in the coming days!
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the fabulous lifestyle of the working novelist. Everyone knows once you write a book, the money starts rolling in, right? There’s champagne and movie deals and hanging out with J. K. Rowling and Stephen King and Rick Castle.
Or maybe you’ve heard the opposite extreme, how all novelists are living on water and Ramen, making more money from scrounging couch cushions than we do from the books we’ve poured our blood and souls into.
For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. I know a few other authors who’ve done the same. The main idea is to put the data out there to help build a more realistic picture of life as a working writer.
Those few data points are better than none, but this year, I wanted to go bigger. For roughly six weeks, I collected data from novelists who had at least one book published prior to 12/31/2016. Thank you to everyone who participated, and everyone who spread the word.
Are you read to start going through the results?
There were a total of 386 responses. Five of these were duplicates and were removed, leaving data from 381 individual novelists.
The survey asked questions about the number of novels published, how they were published (large publisher/small press/self-pub), income and expenses, genre, whether or not they used an agent, which country the novelist was in, and more.
As we go through the numbers, please keep in mind:
- This is not a truly random or representative sample. I have no way of reaching all the working novelists in the world, and not everyone who heard about the survey chose to participate. That said, I think 381 is pretty darn good.
- Correlation is not causation. The numbers might show that novelists with an agent make more/less money than novelists without. This doesn’t necessarily mean that having or not having an agent causes you to make more/less money.
- I am not a professional statistician. I’ll do my best, but if you see mistakes, please say something so I can correct them.
I know, I know. Enough with the disclaimers. Let’s get on with the yummy, yummy data!
Let’s start by looking at how much our authors made in 2016 before taxes or expenses. The total ranged from a few dollars to almost five million. Eight novelists made more than a million dollars (before taxes) in 2016.
- I admit, I was a little surprised by this, and wondered if maybe people were exaggerating or hit an extra zero. Fortunately, the survey also asked for an identifier (name or other) and an email address for anyone who wanted to be informed of the survey results. Looking at who was reporting these numbers, I believe they’re accurate.
Average Income: $114,124
Median Income: $17,000
(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)
Distribution: As you might have predicted, the distribution is weighted heavily toward the left side of the graph. I removed one far-right outlier for this graph.
Twenty percent made $825 or less. Thirty percent were $3393 or below, and so on.
If you earned at least $296,000, you were in the 90th percentile. And if your writing brought in $1,418,000 or more, you are officially the 1% among novelists.
Gross Income for Different Categories
Let’s play with those numbers a bit more. What happens if we separate agented and unagented authors, full-time vs. part-time, and so on?
Agent vs. Unagented: Of our 381 respondents, 151 were represented by an agent, and 230 were unagented. There’s a significant difference in these two groups, but be careful about drawing too many conclusions here. Does having an agent mean you make more money? Or does making more money mean you’re more likely to want an agent? Or maybe it’s both or neither.
Median income for authors with an agent was $42,000. For authors without an agent, the median was $7000.
Looking at the eight authors who made a million or more, five were represented by agents and three were unagented.
Full Time vs. Part Time: We see a similar pattern here. Disclaimer: the question on the survey asked if writing was “your primary, full-time job” during 2016. I probably could have worded that one a little better, as it’s possible we had writers working 40 hours/week on books and also working full-time elsewhere. But in general, I think the data here are pretty accurate and reliable.
Median income was $3050 for part time writers, and $66,000 for full-timers. Also, all eight of our $1,000,000+ novelists were full-timers.
Does this mean quitting the day job will magically increase your writing income by 22x? NO! Bad reader! Back to logic and statistics class for you!
Anecdotally, I started trying to write full-time at the end of 2015. 2016 saw an increase of about 10-15% in my overall income. But much of that came from a deal I signed before going full time. What does that mean? Heck if I know…
Conclusions So Far…
- It is possible to make a really good living as a novelist…but most of us don’t.
- It is possible to make a million or more as a novelist, with or without an agent…but again, most of us don’t.
- About 80% of novelists make less than $100,000 a year. Half of us make $17,000 or less.
And remember, these numbers are all before taxes or expenses!
In Our Next Episode:
I’ve got a lot more I want to do with the data, but it’s going to take a fair amount of time. (I’m also overdue on a novel deadline, so that has to be my priority.) I’ll continue to post results in sections, which should hopefully make it easier to digest. I’m planning to put the whole thing together and publish it as a big old report when I’m done as well.
I’ll also be sharing the anonymized raw data so other folks can play with it.
I hope this is helpful. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to look into, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best!
ETA: Here’s the link to the next part.
- 2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 2: The Large/Small/Indie Breakdown
- 2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 3: Number of Books Published in 2016
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Today is the last day I’ll be collecting data for the 2016 Novelist Income Survey. If you’ve published at least one novel prior to 12/31/2016, you’re eligible to participate.
We currently have 380 responses. I’d LOVE to see it get to 400. (I’m a sucker for round numbers.)
Thanks again to everyone who’s participated and spread the word so far.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Domain registration and website hosting have all been successfully (I think) transferred. I’m sure there will be a few broken links and missing images here and there that I need to fix, but for the most part, everything on the site appears to be working. (Please let me know if you see anything that isn’t!)
Here’s a week’s worth of updates crammed into one blog post:
- Revisionary is out in paperback. Ebook pricing has dropped as well. Woo hoo!
- Mary Anne Mohanraj and I are about to start reviewing and editing submissions for Invisible 3. Yay, progress!
- I have seen Dan Dos Santos’ final artwork for Terminal Alliance, and it makes me happy. Will share as soon as the finished cover is ready for public release.
- A Friday link: 10 Illustrations Every Dog Owner Will Understand.
So, what did I miss while I was away?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Is today Friday, or is it alternate Saturday?
- Cute Animal Puns, by Piper Thibodeau. (Link from Claire MacDonald)
- LEGO Doof Wagon, from Mad Max Fury Road. Complete with flamethrower guitar.
- Winners of the National Geographic International Photography Competition for Kids.
- Kittens Discover a Heated Foot Warmer.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Wait, how is it February? I don’t understand!
But since it is February, that means it’s only five days until Revisionary comes out in paperback. The release of the mass market edition means the price of the ebook should drop as well, which I know some people have been waiting for.
I’ll be giving out one autographed copy to a random newsletter subscriber next week. Or if you’d prefer, you can pre-order the paperback right now:
And with that bit of shameless self-promotion out of the way, I have to get back to work on Terminal Alliance now. Happy almost-weekend, all! Remember to breathe!
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I met Monica Valentinelli years back … I think it was at GenCon. We got to hang out again last year at Launch Pad. (Confession: I might have name-dropped her from time to time when I wanted to impress people by talking about how I was friends with someone who co-wrote the Firefly RPG.)
She’s a full-time writer of stories, games, essays, and comics for media/tie-in properties and her original works from her studio in the Midwest. She’s also a former musician of 20+ years. She’s the developer for Hunter: the Vigil Second Edition, and was the lead developer/writer for the Firefly RPG books based on the Firefly TV show by Joss Whedon. Her book The Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary and Language Guide in the ‘Verse, featuring the work of the show’s original translator Jenny Lynn, debuted in April 2016 Titan Books.
In other words, she knows a lot about media properties and RPGs. In April of this year, she’ll be teaching a class on Writing Inclusive Games. Why does that sort of thing matter? Read on…
Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!
Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.
Representation intersects into a game’s design and presentation in a few different ways. The first and most easily visible method is through the art; the decision-makers for the art will vary widely, however, and will depend which company you work for. The second way that representation comes into play is through the game’s design itself. An alternate history game with magic that intentionally limits the role of women, for example, is not well designed, because you’re sending a message to players that the female identity is sub-par to their male counterparts. Often, the argument used to justify designing games based on a player’s identity is: “Well, it’s not historically accurate!” Only, historical accuracy doesn’t apply once dragons are involved. Even so, designers opting for realism know that many history books have erased or ignored the contributions and presence of women and minorities. So, in some cases, when a designer is making decisions that are historically accurate it might appear to be “wrong”, because those details are not what a player or reviewer had internalized as true.
Lastly, representation is incorporated into the text itself. The text, which includes rules, setting, and fiction, is what the players and gamemasters of the world cue off of. While it’s true that some players and GMs absolutely take a game and modify it for their table, over time I’ve found that many players want a fully-developed and well-researched world before they’ll do that. Most players place a lot of trust in the material, and when those details are done well it can have a huge impact on their creativity and the time they invest in that world. RPG enthusiasists tend to be avid readers, and many will read more on a subject (both fiction and non-fiction) to prepare for their games because they’re inspired by what the designers wrote. Mind you, there are games designed with different goals in mind, so including detailed setting isn’t a one-size-fits-all-games approach or solution to representation. In general, however, representation is addressed through the game’s text to varying degrees, and the setting portrayal and characters are an important part of that effort.
If done well, corebooks, supplements, and adventures will place a player in that world, entice them, and get them excited to play. Most players won’t notice when representation is done well, because different identities will be ingrained into the worldbuilding and presented in a natural fashion. Thus, players will be able to spot themselves in the game, and won’t feel excluded. The game’s design will clearly say: “You can slay the dragon. Can you see yourself wielding that sword?” “Yes!!!” If done poorly, however, representation can cause harm by perpetuating stereotypes and by hurting a player who either sees themselves represented badly—or not at all. A game that falls down on representation can do significant amounts of damage, because there is a strong, social component to playing games.
The good news is that there are more resources and tools to facilitate better representation in RPGs than ever before. Those tools include the classes conducted by K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl. I have the honor of teaching a class in April with K. Tempest Bradford, lending over a decade’s worth of experiences to address the issue of representation and help you be successful working in games. If interested, please consider registering for our class called: “Writing the Other: Writing RPGs Sans Fail.” Together, we will show you how to address representation in RPGs, and how to be inclusive so players say “Yes!”
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
The full transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with ABC News is available online. There’s also video of Trump talking about how he “can be the most presidential person ever,” with the possible exception of Lincoln.
In other words, this isn’t satire or fake news. These are the words of the President of the United States of America. People keep telling me I have to give him a chance to see what he does as President before I judge. That’s what I’m judging him on! On his words and his actions. On interviews like this, which continue to demonstrate his shocking ignorance and fragility.
If you have the stomach for it, go ahead and read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts. My interjections are in blue.
Comments are turned off. I have a deadline to meet, and too little time and energy to deal with trolls this week.( Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Despite the fog that descended upon Michigan some time on Saturday, I made it home from ConFusion 43: Friendship is ConFusion. It was an amazing and wonderful weekend, as always. And as always, my biggest frustration is that there just wasn’t enough time to talk to and catch up with so many cool people.
A few random highlights…
- Doing the Steven Universe
DiscussionSquee panel with Amal El-Mohtar
- Nabbing copies of books by Kameron Hurley and Mishell Baker
- Reading a bit of Terminal Alliance and having the audience laugh in the right places. (And not laugh at the other parts.)
- Lots of hugs!
The hardest part of the weekend was the loss of Larry Smith, a convention book dealer who passed away unexpectedly on Friday. I met Larry and his wife Sally when I was first starting out as a writer, more than ten years ago now. He was a great bookseller, always doing his best to make sure he stocked up on titles by guests and attendees, and very knowledgeable about the field. Midwest conventions aren’t going to be the same without him.
I also put the new Canon 6D through its paces. I had a little bit of focus trouble with the new lens, but the camera did much better in the low-light environment, which is what I was hoping for. I could take higher ISO shots that would have been far too noisy on the old camera. And I got to do author photo shoots for two friends, which was fun.
Pics are up on Flickr. Here are a few of my favorites…
My thanks as always to everyone who works to make such a fun, welcoming, well-organized convention happen year after year.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
We’ve gotten almost 350 responses to the 2016 2016 Novelist Income Survey. Huge thanks to everyone who’s shared their information and spread the word.
As with all things, I’ve seen ways I could have improved the survey and questions, but overall we’re getting a lot of useful data, and I’m genuinely excited to jump in and start playing with correlations and graphs and all that good stuff.
I’d been planning to end the survey at the end of January, but I’m continuing to wrestle this novel deadline, which has now moved to the middle of February. Meaning I probably won’t go data-diving until then. Meaning I can go ahead and keep the survey open until February 14. Because what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by sharing some data?
Thanks again, and please share the link with anyone who had at least one published novel by 12/31/2016.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I’ll be at ConFusion in Detroit this weekend. It’s one of my favorite cons, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing everyone. (Even though I know I won’t get to see everyone, and I’ll come away on Sunday being frustrated that I didn’t have time to chat with Person X, and only saw Person Y in passing, and hoping they all know it wasn’t a deliberate slight or anything…)
They’ve posted the programming schedule in several formats. If you’re looking for me (or looking to avoid me), here’s where I’ll be.
- Nothing! I’ll just be hanging out and socializing LIKE A BUM!!!
- 10 a.m. – Social Media Tips & Tricks for Authors
- 11 a.m. – Steven Universe discussion with me and Amal El-Mohtar!
- 5 p.m. – Autograph Session
- 7 p.m. – Reading with me, Mishell Baker, and Janet Harriett
- Noon – Here’s What They Did to My Baby! (I think Baby = Book, but you never know…)
Who else is going to be there?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…
-From Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
For those of you who donate blood and use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, I’ve created a team called Hellsparks.
It’s named after the Janet Kagan book. At 4′ 11″, Janet didn’t meet the weight requirements to donate, so she posted a request on her website, asking others to do so and offering a special gift to those who did.
I figured if I was going to create a blood donation team of my fellow SF/F folks, it was fitting to name it in her honor. (My thanks to Ricky Kagan, who gave his blessing to use the name.)
Consider this your official invitation to join the Hellsparks and save some lives.
To encourage folks to spread the word, I’ll be giving away two Kindle copies of Hellspark. (One of my favorite books of all time.)
- Leave a comment on this post, and voila! You’re entered.
- If you join Team Hellspark, mention that in the comment for a second chance to win!
I know not everyone is able to donate blood, and not everyone who does donates through the Red Cross. (Which is why I decided to give away two copies instead of just one. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel excluded!)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Hugo nominations are officially open, which means it’s time for the annual eligibility post.
This year, the Helsinki Worldcon is doing a trial of a new category for Best Series, which is defined as:
…a multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one volume of which was published in 2016.
As it happens, the fourth and final volume of the Magic ex Libris series came out in 2016. If you feel it deserves a Best Series nod, nomination info is:
- Name of Series: Magic ex Libris
- Author: Jim C. Hines
- Qualifying Volume: Revisionary
- Publisher: DAW
If you’re looking for other ideas about what to nominate, SFWA president Cat Rambo has a roundup of eligibility posts on her blog.
I’m planning to nominate a few of my favorite Steven Universe episodes, along with Kubo and the Two Strings. I didn’t read that many 2016 works, so I’m going to have to do a bit of research there.
What are your standouts from 2016 that you’d like to see on the award ballots this year?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Friday finally walked enough to get that 400th candy for Magikarp!
- Kevin Walter spent six years designing and building this gorgeous LEGO Klingon Bird of Prey.
- Giant mopdog playing with child in the snow.
- Dangerous dogs behind “Beware of Dog” signs.
- Music from the 1982 Conan movie, played on the pipe organ. By Philipp Pelster.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Earlier today, the Twitterverse linked me to a “review” by Eamonn Murphy of Uncanny Magazine #14. Sarah Gailey screencapped some of the highlights on Twitter.
The full review is here.
(ETA: It looks like SF Crowsnest has pulled the review.)
Murphy begins his column with the following note:
Content Warning: This review contains sarcasm.
Oh, hell. He’s going to try to be clever, isn’t he. Please tell me Murphy isn’t one of those delicate man-flowers who think Content Warnings are coddling nonsense, while at the same time getting mortally offended that nobody warned him there might be non-male, non-straight, or non-white people in what he’s about to read.
He summarizes the first story thusly:
The first fiction is ‘Bodies Stacked Like Firewood’ by Sam J. Miller. When Cyd, a transgender person commits suicide, tragically unhappy due to our rotten society, some of his friends blame themselves. The narrator is a promiscuous gay ‘bottom’ who goes online looking for ‘fuck buddies’. That’s okay because he’s not a heterosexual man objectifying women’s bodies by only wanting them for sex.
My initial response:
This is why I put “review” in quotes, back at the start of this post. Because Murphy isn’t reviewing the stories. Of the 155 words he spends on “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” maybe a third of it attempts to share information from the story? I wouldn’t call it a summary, because Murphy doesn’t even try to summarize the story of Cyd’s visions, or of how his suicide brings two people together, or the themes of isolation and connection.
Instead, in this case, he seems to think he’s calling out some kind of hypocrisy, that it’s okay for a gay man to be promiscuous, but poor victimized straight men like him are vilified for treating women as sexual objects instead of as people. This despite the facts that:
- The story doesn’t really present a judgement on Kelvin’s promiscuity.
- Surprise! There’s a difference between “I have a lot of sex” and “I think women are things for me to use.”
Maybe Murphy doesn’t understand that distinction? But I get the sense that “Things Murphy Doesn’t Understand — and Doesn’t Want to Understand” would be an infinite Jeopardy category.
Muphy begins “reviewing” the next story by misspelling the author’s name:
Marc Rustad is ‘a queer non-binary writer’ (look it up, Stone Age Man!) and wrote ‘Monster Girls Don’t Cry’.
Side note: Merc Rustad also wrote “Exponentially Hoping” for Invisible 2.
After pointing out that Rustad is not a straight and traditional Manly Man like Eamonn-Manly-Pecs-Murphy-whose-nipples-s
reviewer goes on to say:
This was well-written and the message of tolerance for those who look different has hardly ever been touched on by ‘Star Trek’ and similar so-called fantasy productions in the oppressive mainstream media.
I get it! Murphy’s using sarcasm to say that Rustad’s story is unoriginal because Star Trek and other fantasy productions have had stories about tolerance! Pretty clever, bro.
I guess we can all stop seeing those Marvel movies, since there have been plenty of other productions about white dudes named Chris saving the world. I’d meant to go see Rogue One, but we’ve had other stories about plucky rebels fighting fascists, so why bother? Saying “this story is bad because other stories have addressed similar ideas” is about as weak a critique as you can get.
But who knows. Maybe it really is just a Trek ripoff? Here’s the opening paragraph from Rustad’s story:
Your sister has too–large hands and too many teeth. Not in a sense that her gums are crowded or her fingers are long and she might have a career as a concert pianist. No, her hands are massive, thick–boned, tipped in wickedly sharp claws that shine like pearls. And her mouth—well. Her mouth is normal–sized, but it has so many, many teeth. When she smiles, you feel queasy. All the teeth, sharp and white, fit inside her mouth around her pink tongue, but how they fit rubs wrong against your understanding of reason and reality. You don’t look at Phoebe’s mouth, even when she smiles bright and laughs. Of course you love her. You’re both monster girls.
My bad. Murphy’s right. Rustad’s story is absolutely identical to Star Trek. (Did I do the sarcasm right?)
Some of the stories haven’t yet appeared on the public side of the Uncanny website, so I haven’t been able to read them yet. But Murphy continues his insightful commentary with notes like:
Tansy Rayner Roberts gives us a tasteless romp about dating and heterosexual love. Not a word about the cheap objectification of oppressed womankind that everyone knows is the true nature of such things. I was frankly disgusted by this appalling mainstream trash that perpetuates the white male phallocentric world viewpoint.
This well-crafted meditation on gods, man and fraud was entertaining, I suppose, but didn’t address any of the crucial issues of white supremacy, homophobia, neo-Nazism and misogyny which are helpfully listed in this issues editorial.
Those comments were about “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” by Tansy Rayner Roberts and “The Unknown God” by Ann Leckie.
Short version? Eamonn Murphy has come to kick bubblegum and chew ass, and he’s all out of– Wait, that’s not right. Let me try again.
Eamonn Murphy has come to whine about people writing and talking about things that don’t center him as a straight male, and offer insightful critique and commentary. And, apparently, he’s all out of insightful critique and commentary.
Not only does Mr. Murphy start frothing at the mouth when a story includes a queer or trans character or talks about tolerance, he keeps frothing even when he thinks the story isn’t about those things. We’re talking about a man set to permanent froth, a cross between malfunctioning espresso machine and a dog who ate too much toothpaste and shat all over your carpet.
This carries over to his comments on the nonfiction as well.
I thought ‘Inferior Beasts’ by Mark Oshiro was a story because the header had a severe Content Note for descriptions of child abuse and homophobia … It turned out to be a review of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’, just the sort of garbage where you‘d expect to find child abuse. Turns out a kid gets beaten by his mother. My mother hit me sometimes and I was so upset by this that I couldn’t read further to find the homophobia but I’m sure it was there.
Murphy doesn’t expand about being hit by his mother, but whatever happened to him, apparently this means (if I’m translating the sarcasm correctly) that it’s no big deal for kids in movies to get beaten by their mothers. (Or groomed and used by an evil wizard. Or, you know, murdered.)
Because what better way to class up this review than by belittling and mocking the abuse of kids, amirite?
Murphy concludes by saying:
If you’re the kind of reader who thinks fantasy should feature admirable people struggling against great odds to save other people in some sort of metaphor for the real world, too bad. If you think Science Fiction should be about engineers or scientists solving the problems of environmental catastrophe, expanding population, terraforming Mars or other real social and political issues, too bad. If you think that Science Fiction magazines should have essays and articles about real life advances in science that can benefit all mankind, well…I pity you. I pity you.
Short version? You’re doing fantasy and science fiction Wrong, Uncanny Magazine!
Slightly longer version? You’re doing fantasy and science fiction Wrong, Hugo Award-winning and Parsec Award-winning and World Fantasy Award-nominated Uncanny Magazine!
I mean, come on! What would Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Award-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Sam Miller know about writing? Or Hugo-nominated fan and writer Mark Oshiro know about critiquing stories? Or World Fantasy Award-winner and Nebula, Crawford, Locus, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Award-nominated Theodora Goss? Or more-awards-than-I-can-list-here Tansy Rayner Roberts?
But of course, those awards don’t count, right? Because they don’t go exclusively to the kind of people and SF/F Murphy likes.
I was going to dismiss Murphy’s column as “Old Man Yells at Cloud.”
But it’s not just some guy yelling because parts of the genre have moved on from his childhood, and authors are writing stories about people who aren’t like him. Murphy isn’t just complaining. He’s gone full asshole. He’s the old man pissing defiantly up at the clouds, with predictable and inevitable results.
Murphy has every right to his opinion. All stories have messages and political context. If Murphy doesn’t like the politics or messages of these stories? If he finds them threatening or uncomfortable or simply alien? His loss. And SF Crowsnest has every right to publish Murphy’s opinion, no matter how odious I might find it.
Just like I have the right to call Murphy a whiny cloud-pissing man-baby who’s somehow so out of touch with the genre that he was Shocked and Appalled to find that Uncanny Magazine publishes good stories from a diverse range of authors. Seriously, how did he not know what he was getting into? It’s like he stomped into a Red Lobster and then posted a vicious, poorly-written Yelp rant because they had seafood there!
I don’t know why SF Crowsnest chose to publish that poorly-written Yelp rant. But hey, it’s their website. Maybe they’re building a Safe Place for cloud-pissers?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.