Why Memes Are Great

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I had so much fun with the SOTU speech last night, mainly because I waited for interesting rhetorical and visual moments and made some wonderful memes.

Memes are about the most effective persuasion tool out there. Humans by nature are visual creature, so when we see a simple message paired with an image that’s either humorous or poignant, it resonates with us, and sticks with us (which is why you see so many copycat memes. I’m going to officially declare the guy looking at the girl walking by while his girlfriend is pissed officially dead btw — stop making memes with that! It’s 2018’s Gene Wilder “So you’re saying…” meme at this point.). It’s that simple. Effectively wielding them can really turn you into a powerful persuader, even if you’re stealing memes like I did with the one above in this post.

But as Vox Day adeptly said this morning, the whole line itself was a stolen meme, and a brilliant move. It’s the only thing that will be remembered in the coming weeks. This is the power of memes. If you haven’t figured them out yet, it’s something to work on.

The reason memes work is the simplicity of it. I’ve seen a lot of people make common mistakes which are easy to avoid: 1. try to crowd too much text into memes — you can’t do this. simple is everything.  2. use a picture that’s no appropriate for the meme (or of yourself to try to make you into a meme) this is a no no.  3. Advertise or try to put a social media handle into a meme — again, defeats the point. let the message breathe. Anyone seeing advertising in a meme will be turned off by your meme.

Simple stuff to make your messaging in memes more effective. And we’ll have more great meme wars to come. 2016 was just the beginning.

If you like my memes, you’ll probably like my characters. Make sure you read my book, For Steam And Country, which is full of fun moments.

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This Is Just The Beginning Of The New Counter Culture

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Yesterday I spent some good time talking to a great professional and industry colleague, Timothy Lim. We’ve  of course communicated a bit online over the last several months, but this was the first conversation we had. In the age of digital communication it’s almost easy to forget about voice and other humans who are on the other end of the screen, and it’s actually nice to have a reminder that someone else is there.

But it’s also great because it solidified just how closely we are aligned and how we’re on the same page.

This is the beginning of a movement in culture. For the first time in more than a generation, people are coming out and speaking and are proud to state their beliefs, pushing back against a monolithic SJW control of music, games, books and film. The SJW elites in these industries have grandstanded for decades, rubbing it in the face of the populace, talking down to everyone as if they know better than the regular folk because they’re “the artists.”

They haven’t cared that the audience doesn’t love their message. They defiantly declared “well, you’re the problem, audience.” They haven’t cared that despite their message being diversity and inclusion, they have ostracized and condemned anyone who thinks differently than them. They openly conspire to physically attack or blacklist people on the right from their conventions, and then began to ban people under the pretext worrying about their own safety. But why are they acting like complete lunatics?

Because we’re finally in an age where we can produce and release our own content. The internet has changed the game, and they don’t know how to use it. They don’t know how to employ their messages in this medium, they’re not interested in learning it, and the barrier to entry and gatekeeping have evaporated, allowing messages they don’t like to get through–ones they would have never allowed published in the decades before.

And it’s happening. Lim’s book Thump had  to go to seven different printings as it went viral. People are starved for funny content that isn’t down in the dumps, dark, or negative. It’s why people love my books so much as well. There’s a lot of what seems overwhelming screaming going on simply because we release content, and we speak out, and we tell them “no, we won’t be afraid, and no we don’t care if we’re respectable to you.”  Guess what? Readers love it. Both the attitude and our works.

And it drives them crazy. We’re supposed to lay down, be quiet, be contrite that they hate us. Realize the error of our ways and be made an example of like they intended.

But we’re not going to do that. Why? Because We’re winning.

The mere act of defiance by continuing to speak out, continuing to make content, continuing to gain readers is important, subversive to the lockstep control of entertainment, and winning by itself. We’re only one year into this and the growth rate is incredible– and not slowing down at all. This is the new counter culture. We are the new punk rock. And people are starved for our content.

If you ever were afraid of speaking out, thinking that you can maintain the respect of the SJW cabal and keep to yourself, it’s not going to work. Join us. It’s more fun over here. We can say what we believe and not worry. Our people actually are open and tolerant. We know how to use the internet to its full potential and have fun with marketing. It’s a brand new world out there.

It’s just going to get better. 2018 and 2019 are going to be huge growth for the movement as more people discover us, people who have tuned out of culture because they thought no one was making it for them. There’s millions of readers out there, and they’re waiting for you and me to show them de wae.

Come rally to the cause and see what the fuss is about. The reason they work overdrive to blacklist me is my books are so good they’re not being ignored. You’ll probably enjoy them too. Join us and check out For Steam And Country. 

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Comic Review: Right Ho, Jeeves #1

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Today marked the release of Akrhaven Comics’ 2nd outing, the first issue of the adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s classic, Right Ho, Jeeves. I’m a reader who’s coming in not having read the book in which it’s been adapted from, so I can’t comment on how faithful it is to the original, and I come at this purely from a standpoint of “is this a good comic book?”

What’s interesting is by the nature of this story is there’s a lot of potential for talking heads. When I mention this in comics, it usually means a lot of “telling” or having people talk back and forth which doesn’t communicate a story well in a visual manner. Dialogue drives this book. It’s a humorous book based on wit and character alone, and it’s actually very daring as an adaptation as a second outing because of that.

I’m pleased to say that Dixon and Kwapisz managed to change the sceneries, the characters, and have them DO things to keep the story driving and flowing. It’s a cut above most comic books I see when it comes to heavy dialogue,and it’s a testament to the skill of the artist and writer how well they pulled this off.

Dixon introduces all of the characters in the story on the first page, giving a pertinent description along with a visual. The visual is where this really takes off as the characters are so well defined and cartoon-ish looking, just like they should be for a comedy like this. They nailed the classic cartoonist feel to a tee, and it instantly prepared the reader fo what was ahead.

As the scenes ensue, there’s a couple of plots going on — one in which Bertram (the main character and narrator) is forced to get a job, and another in which Augustus Fink-Nottle, a silly looking man, dresses as the devil to try to impress a woman at a party, and of course it goes disastrously wrong.

What’s amazing to me is how adept Dixon is at giving the characters different voices in the dialogue, while simultaneously ensuring that the reader has to read this in their minds with a British accent. Coming off reading a vastly different book by Dixon in Robyn Hood #1, in which he captures a modern girl playing superhero in her young 20s in America, the pure depth of voice and breadth Dixon can reach is really astounding.

Likewise the art by Kwapisz is amazing. There’s some extremely detailed panels, keeping with the cartoonish styles, but he even shifts the tone of his art for flashbacks depending on the vantage point. There’s one scene in particular in which Fink-Nottle sees himself a a hero and the art switches to his vision of the world and it’s very nice to look at. Bonus points to Kwapisz as he drew horses in the same cartoony manner and pulled those off — as any comic artist will tell you, horses are extremely hard to draw, let alone give distinct character like in this book.

This isnt’ an action-adventure comic. And it would be foolish to read it as such. This is a literary work turned into a literary comic with humor and cartoonishness playing a large part of the theme and aesthetic. And by Jove, Dixon/Kwapisz nailed it. If Arkhaven keeps up this kind of quality, they’ll be competing with the big companies in no time.

9/10

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My 2017 Planetary Awards Nominations

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It’s that time of year again. Last year for 2016 I nominated two very cool sci-fi stories, which I wanted to raise awareness for. For something like this, I like to try to put something out there not just that is great, but that other folk might not nominate because it didn’t cross their radars.

Most of my reading is in Sci-Fi proper or Mil SF, so it’s actually kind of odd this year that my two favorite stories I’ll be nominating for the awards are fantasy.

Without further ado, 2017 Planetary Awards Nominations:

For Short Story:

I’ve mentioned this several times before but my favorite short story of 2017 was “Trouble In An Hourglass” by Jody Lynn Nye which appeared in Straight Outta Tombstone. This is a weird western time travel adventure that I thought was supremely fun. It’s actually up there as one of my favorite short stories of all time. I’m a big fan of weird west in general, but Jody really nailed it with the characters in this book being people who are relatable. As a testament to how much Jody made me care about them as a reader, I actually started dreaming up scenarios where they have other adventures in my head (which is dangerous because I don’t have time to write more stuff this year!). The science is light on this, which is fine by me. It’s just pure fun. Jody is a big Dr. Who fan from way back, and her love for that style of adventure really shows in this story. It fired perfectly on every cylinder for me from world to pacing to character to concept. Great stuff.

For Novel:

It’ll be no surprise given other awards nominations I’ve been touting that I’m picking Robyn Bennis’ The Guns Above. It’s Steampunk, but it nails the aspects of Steampunk I love: detailed airship combat, a cool fantasy world, exciting war where the stakes are really high for the characters. Tone wise, it’s a little darker than my usual fare, but Robyn propels a beautiful adventure with these characters. Josette is supremely capable as a character, and though she’s also very jaded, it’s fun to watch her progress into her own command. Bernat’s arc, though he’s extremely annoying, is really what makes the book, because it ends up being somewhat about redemption and it adds a little light heartedness to the very heavy story.

Lots of war. Lots of death. Lots of drama. And airship action. Hopefully Robyn will be getting book 2 out here quickly!

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Evil Girlfriend Media Shutting Its Doors

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It saddens me today to receive notice that EGM is shutting its doors and closing down. I wish there had been a little more notice but the kindle version is already gone. Jennifer Brozek, my former editor, was the chief editor there. All of their books will be gone from their stores soon, including, sadly, my debut novel.

This book was nominated for 2 awards, including the most prestigious award in science fiction, the Dragon Award. I think it was a fantastic debut.

As of right now, the paperback version still exists. I have emailed the people at Star Realms (White Wizard Games) to see if there’s anything I can do to get this back in print because I know people love to check out my books, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

For now, you might want to pick this up while you still can:

https://www.amazon.com/Star-Realms-Rescue-Run-Novels/dp/1940154146/

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Friend Friday: RPGs vs. Fiction by Clara Storm

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It’s the return of friends Friday, a new feature for 2018  on the blog where the platform here is used to give some other great voices in fiction some attention they deserve. Today, we have Clara Storm, who you can follow on Twitter @TanukiHanabi and she’s also on Steemit here. Clara dives into the differences between RPG storytelling and fiction, a topic I’m supremely interested in as someone who contributes to both. 

My in-progress novel started as flavor text for a Savage World setting book, which was (is) ready for play testing.  A paragraph spawned an idea that morphed into 42,000 and counting words. What if instead of the standard bestiary with a brief description and a stat block, it was presented as the magnum opus of the most famous onmyoji of all time, Abe no Seimei?
 
Who was Abe no Seimei?  How did he end up traveling around Japan recording all the yokai he discovered? Should he have his own NPC stat block? That thought derailed the setting book and a novel was born. While the novel follows the magic rule mechanics of the RPG, and Seimei is an onmyoji (an Edge from the setting), RPGs and fiction are two different styles of storytelling. Here are some of the differences I’ve learned so far:
 
1) A reader won’t understand the setting right away. In fiction, info dumps are jarring.  In RPG’s they are called a “player’s handbook”. This novel is meant to be a stand-alone story, not a tie in to the RPG setting. The reader journeys along with Seimei’s daily life in The Capital. Readers learn magic at Imperial University and dust rooms of the library with him. 
 
The setting was inspired by Heian Era Japan, right before the rise of samurai.  Many people are not familiar with this era in Japanese history.  Rather than a 20 page setting explanation, Seimei goes about his daily life. What he thinks about other characters and how he interacts with them develop his character and paints The Capital in reader’s minds. 
 
2) Powerful characters are fun to play, weak characters are fun to read about. The novel version of Seimei is too weak to be a playable character.  Not only does his increasing power over the novel allow the audience to learn about the magic rules in an organic way, it also provides character development. Learning magic is not his only character arc, however; he’s got more growing to do.
 
3) Some conventions work in both fiction and RPG’s.  In the novel, the Head of the Ministry of Onmyodo gives Seimei a quest that he must prepare for.  Seimei gathers a party of two and they go off on an adventure.
 
4) There are different types of stories to tell.  Is it action driven, character driven, or a combination of the two? Which are you telling?  For RPGs, it depends on who sits at the table, and who runs the game.  What types of games does the GM prefer?  What is their comfort level with the game going off the rails?  How important is character interaction to the players around the table?  
 
The same questions happen in fiction, but the writer makes all of these decisions.  There is more space to have character driven action stories, develop side characters, and explore the world the characters inhabit. This brings me to number 5.
 
5) Race creation has different emphases in an RPG vs. fiction.  In an RPG, a new race must be described enough to build a character while leaving space for gamers to put their own spin on it.  This is generally a brief overview of game mechanics, characteristics, history, names, and stat block.  
 
When I was developing player races for the Heian-kyo Dreams setting, I use several sources: a book of translated Heian era folk stories, the books by Matthew Meyer, and a bit of pop culture.  Developing Kitsune was fairly straightforward because there were several Heian era folk stories for inspiration.  My version of Kitsune is pretty true to those folktales: illusionist tricksters.
 
In fiction, the writer must know much more half a page of racial information, even if it’s not all explicitly explained in the book. Where did they come from? How do they interact with other races? For example,  Kitsune create illusions.  Why haven’t Kitsune taken over the capital?  Why haven’t humans killed them all?  Why are Kitsune a small minority? I know these answers. Writing with this knowledge helped develop The Capital into a living city, not just a map with various locations marked. 
 
Tanuki had no Heian era folk stories, since their lore comes from a later time.  However, my setting has Tanuki, just for the cute factor alone!  Since they didn’t appear in the old folktales, I decided Tanuki live in the mountains. Only now do they travel to The Capital.
 
Tanuki had to be a family-friendly race. Instead of creating things with their scrotums, they use paper.  In the setting rules each Tanuki character has five pieces of magic paper at the start of the game to build whatever they need.  I can’t wait to see what ingenious uses players come up with!
 
The novel takes place in The Capital where Tanuki are rare, just like the RPG.  Tanuki are so rare in fact, that  they introduce themselves as their name for themselves: Papermasters.  Their entire lifestyle is based around paper.  Their houses and almost everything in them is made with their magic paper. Young Papermasters help make paper before they learn to walk. They will eventually get the moniker Tanuki, but only when it makes sense in the story.   
 
Developing Tanuki like this was one of the serendipitous acts of writing.  
 
6)I approach fiction and RPG design differently. When I write fiction, I’m a pantser.  I only have the vaguest notion of where the story is headed and delighted when it changes more often than not.  After I read the first draft, I figure out what sort of story I’m telling.  Subsequent editing moves parts, cuts parts out the didn’t go anywhere, and adds parts where needed.  All this produces a coherent story.
 
An RPG is pure world building.  There is no plot to derail, no characters to flesh out.  It is a beautiful backdrop for others to tell their own stories.  If I’ve done my job, players and GM’s eagerly await their own adventures in Heian-kyo Dreams.
If you enjoy the blog content, make sure to check out the Jon Del Arroz fashion line. We have awesome shirts, hats and posters that tie into a lot of the books and things we talk about on the blog. 
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How Terrible Gossip Destroys Friendships – My Story With Jennifer Brozek

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I usually avoid heavy discussions on my blacklistings, because I think it’s proper to respond with quick mocking, showing that I’m able to shrug it off. Which I do often. But this is a personal matter and the light needs to shine upon it. This is the story of how a working relationship and friendship can be destroyed when industry elites collude to destroy someone, and there’s no one strong enough to speak out against it. It’s important, and people need to know.

I’m very sad to report that the in-crowd’s destructive campaign has taken another toll. Jennifer Brozek, the editor of the first novel I published, and also the editor of the first anthology I was a part of as  a professional sale, has joined the chorus of authors attacking me over my political affiliations on a recent blog post of hers. I believe Jennifer is a good person and a professional, but she’s been fed so much fake news about me and overwhelming negative harping on repeat that she’s unfortunately lost objectivity. Here’s the story of our work together and how the social pressures and politics took a toll on her:

Working On An Anthology Together:

I’ve worked with Jennifer Brozek since about 2014. I was a fledgling author then, not really knowing much about writing. She cultivated me and is more directly responsible for my career than almost anyone in the field. I trusted her, because she was giving me solid advice as a working professional along the way.

I originally pitched a Christmas anthology to Evil Girlfriend Media, based on a bizarro horror/romance story I wrote involving Krampus, which I thought was hilarious (though it was a little lewd, apologizes to my current readership if you pick it up!). Jennifer was brought in as the lead editor on this project. She brought in many of the publishing darling big names I used to admire into the anthology, Cat Rambo, Rachel Caine, Maurice Broadus and others. We worked together formulating the list of authors. I brought in some other folk who were great like Kevin J Anderson and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, and we had a pretty good product at the end of the day. It took a lot of work to bring it together, and I learned a ton from Jennifer over the course of its creation.

She was then put on a hugo ballot for best short form editor by the Sad Puppies, because of her work on a Baen anthology. I know this both frightened her to be associated but thrilled to get the nomination. She really didn’t like that she was on the puppy slate, and stated such in interviews, but she thought she deserved the award, and she probably did (I voted for her). She didn’t win, because everyone was No Awarded by the sour group at worldcon that year. She said she was happy with the no awards result, which kept her in the good graces of the in-crowd who was opposed to almost anyone on the slate by association.

Rescue Run

Jennifer then worked with me on my debut novel — which went on to be nominated for multiple awards as readers loved the book. There was a total of one chapter that she suggested I rewrite from scratch — and for good reason, and another scene which she suggested I change for amplification of a bigger point. Those scenes rewritten made the book much better as a whole. Jennifer will attest that I am a hard worker, eager to improve my craft, and I’m receptive to editorial comments. We worked together great and the product shows that. The book is better because of her work on it.

The book released. All was well. Our working relationship was great. I think if there weren’t the political pressure now she’d tell you I was fantastic to work with, and despite the fact that I’d definitely be prone to say otherwise with the deep personal betrayal from her as of late, I’ll tell you she was great to work with, it should have been fine and led to fruitful relations in the future.

President Trump was elected just a few days after my release.

How The Election Caused The Left To Turn On Their Friends On The Right

The timing was a bummer, it actually hurt my initial sales because no one was paying attention to entertainment during that week (pro-tip: don’t release a book during a presidential election!). The internet lost its collective mind, and the science fiction writers community displayed the ugliest, worst face of it. All of my friends on the left in sci-fi started rambling incoherently about how we’re literally becoming Nazi Germany, how death camps are going to happen, how the world’s going to end.

Jennifer was one of those posts as well which is here:

I don’t think I’ve been more ashamed of my country in my life. Half the people have voted for an openly misogynistic, racist, hatemongering, sexual predator for president. One who gleefully threatens the rights of women, LBGT people, and minorities.

I guess I now know what Britian felt like with the Brexit.

Well, I just hope we survive “Mr. Brexit.”

Honestly, I don’t have a lot of hope with Trump/Pence in the Oval Office and the Republicans controlling Congress. I think there are going to be a lot of hard, terrible times for the United States.”

About one of the worst statements I’d seen on the election. Purely hateful and showing animus against moderates and conservatives. As a SFWA board member, she made it clear where she stood against those who voted for the president. She believes we voted for a monster, and therefore are associated with a monster. It’s well over the line.  My response was rather tame, but I was sick of seeing such vitriol on my feed, and wanted to stand up to the echo chamber that was going on on facebook within the elitist SF author community. I was very respectful as I always am in these situations. I said:

I’ve never been more proud. It’s over we can stop the fear mongering and hate and work together now! No need for being ashamed of your friends, that’s not helpful! No one’s being threatened (except me, someone did literally threaten to kill me last evening so I haven’t slept — they were not a trump supporter).

The person who threatened to kill me over my Trump vote was a long time member of BayCon who runs the Klingon bar. No one cared about that, no one did anything about his threat on the BayCon con committee. Yet I was removed from my speaking at Baycon the next year just a couple of months later. It all started that night. It doesn’t matter how far these folk go, they hate anyone on the right, and feel justified taking it to any degree. They are unrepentant and don’t even care when actual terrible things (like death threats) happen to their friends.

I immediately received an email from Jennifer’s long time assistant, Sarah Craft. The first warning I would be blacklisted for having the wrong politics (the spelling is hers):

“As your publicist for the Rescue Run book, I’m going to advise you not to go on other people’s walls and argue about the election. You have your right to your opinion and other people have the right to their own. You are very welcome to post on your own wall about those opinions, but in the interests of the success of your new book, please do not argue on other people’s walls. And please refrain from any political comentary during promotion including on guest posts. We really don’t need a reason for people to not be excited about the novel. And political discussions are a kiljoy.

You got some very unwelcome attention, and possibly lost some support of the writing community. Certianly, you have earned a questionable mark in the minds of some editors. Not because of your opinion, but because you were disrepectful on someone elses page.
There is a time and place for these discussions but not now. Not when your position is from a place of security. (And yes it very much is) Not when people are hurting and afraid. And not when we are less than a week away from a book launch. Maybe in a few months it’s possible to speak more about it. But NOT NOW.
I also hope you appologized to Jennifer. Hate to say it but you were mansplaining. You were on the edge of telling her that her opinion of the situation was invalid. Dude, that’s speaking from a position of priveledge. That’s speaking as someone who can ignore the veiled threats that’s been going on for the past months and years at marginalized people because it’s not directed at you.
Please, for the sake of a sucessful book launch, be careful what you say.”
This is the first time I’ve seen the results of what happens when you speak out on the “wrong” political team. It’s totally fine for everyone to wail calling half the country nazis and to advocate punching them, but if you respectfully try to stop the hating going on, you get warned to silence yourself, called all sorts of things, accused of mansplaining, etc. The current science fiction community shows exactly everything great sci-fi authors like Phillip K Dick or Ray Bradbury warned about. Thought crimes. Pre-crimes. You’re guilty by identity or association. I’d lost the support of the “writing community” because of one post simply saying don’t hate. It was a clear threat then that I was going to be blacklisted if I spoke out as a conservative.

My response, which I’d say today as well:

“If people hate me because they’re going to hate, that’s their problem, not mine. That’s bigotry definition, period. I don’t tolerate/consider bigotry ever for any reason. Her post was hateful and resentful, I took exception to that as a friend because it does imply she’s hateful and resentful of me. I voiced it respectfully, I didn’t call names, i was positive, I mentioned how psychologically burdensome it is to be attacked relentlessly, and it is, I was not afforded the same courtesy. People are disgusting this cycle and I hope they can adult, but it looks a lot like they can’t. It’s sad.”

At this point, I was well on my way to blacklisting. And frankly, it’s only gotten worse as the cognitive dissonance within this crowd who posted such ugly things about how they’d never been more disappointed with the country saw the world getting better and everyone’s lives improving. None of the doom they predicted coming to pass. This is why they’ve gone overdrive the last year to try to blacklist, defame and destroy.

I Showed Jennifer Only Loyalty

My publisher, Katie Cord, months later told me that Jennifer in no way condoned what Sarah said, and that she didn’t have anything to do with that. I took this at face value, and decided to reach out in friendship again. I used my blog and social media multiple times over the last year to promote Jennifer’s projects, whether through her Apocalypse Ink productions or through a kickstarter she was a part of.

Jennifer gained a good number of followers because of one of my promotions of her, as most of my friends do when I promote their work. My readers are eager to follow folk who produce fun science fiction, and my fans take my word for what I say in that regard. They’re very loyal people, and the best fans in science fiction. Jennifer was quick to disavow, even though there was no cause for it, and it’s because of the social pressures that were slowly mounting at the time as I’d become famous for my contributions to center-right commentary webzine, The Federalist.

This was her first signal to the crowd calling for my head over my political affiliations. Why would she willingly turn away readers over politics? I feel bad as she must have been under some pressure to have to post this when all I was doing was promoting her. I never wished that for her, but only wanted to support her works, as I would for any of my friends.

I did not get the same respect back. When I sent For Steam And Country out for publicity, Jennifer did not reply to the email, despite the work I did to promote her. I know now that it was due to the tough bind she was in with the hatred in the small community of writers she’s a part of. Anyone who stands up gets torched and destroyed, even for something as simple as posting a book link. She couldn’t even do that despite the work I’d put into her. Fortunately, the book was known for its quality and reached thousands of readers anyway.

But as she said on the tweet, we remained friends through that month. Until her friend Cat Rambo decided I was getting too big, and it was time to destroy my career. This is where the pressure on Jennifer mounted and where our relationship unfortunately took a turn, not because of any problems between us, but because of the way others decided I must be destroyed.

Cat Rambo’s Hate Campaign

Cat has a lot of influence among the small crowd of left wing writers. She has been–credit where credit’s due–the master of the short story circuit. She’s had hundreds of shorts published in the pro-paying magazines, and because she cranks them out and has that great work ethic, she gained a reputation and eventually became the President of SFWA. She is also a toxic partisan who puts identity politics over everything. Her initial responses to me were purely because of hatred over my political associations, and it got worse because she sees everything I do colored with that lens.

The first interaction I ever had with Cat (outside reading a few of her stories) was when she went on a hate website File 770, where Mike Glyer linked my blog with some snark. She called my writing “egregiously stupid”, which, in her capacity as SFWA president, going and calling a debut author’s blog that is a conflict of interest at the very least. It was hurtful as well! Here I was just trying to sell books, and SFWA’s president is condemning me on a gossip site? Her entire job is to promote and foster the science fiction market, in theory. I took exception to this and we had a couple fights on twitter. This was Cat’s first time attacking me, and it was out of the blue, just like I’ve recently faced from authors like Scott Lynch and James S.A. Corey. Though I’m no threat to their careers, they can’t leave me or my readers alone.

But I tried to forgive and forget with Cat. I’d spoken to a prominent author at LibertyCon who told me Cat was a reasonable person and bridge builder. I took this offer at their word and tried to reach out to Cat over the month of August, and we had some friendly disagreements over politics, but generally cordial conversation. It was going well. She’d even agreed to try out reading my book which was edited by Jennifer and nominated for the Dragon Award. I sent her a complimentary copy.

Our budding friendship soured when I posted a deep analysis of the short fiction markets, and found through intense research, that men are actively discriminated against in the pro-paying markets. Cat couldn’t believe the truth because of cognitive dissonance, as she’d been fighting for women who were supposed to have been oppressed since she came on the scene. She bitterly proclaimed my analysis as “alt-numbers” to try to shame my very real metrics. She took to twitter, blasting my article. She, in an act in violation the rules of SFWA which before has been deemed a bannable offense, retweeted her own tweet from the main account to escalate the feud and to try to tarnish my credibility. Again, the president of an organization supposedly out there to advocate for science fiction writers, was doing everything she could to try to tear a newer author down. It was horrific from the vantage of a person just coming out with a second book.  Enough was enough, so I fired back at this point, blasting back on Twitter and Facebook. Cat used the routine where she didn’t acknowledge she attacked me first, and acted like I attacked her out of nowhere, and that’s when the defamation campaign began.

In a last ditch attempt to salvage our relationship, I tried to ask her to appear on youtube. We’d talk about RPGs (which we both love), and both our audiences would tune in and be amazed and we’d promote each others work, it’d be great. Could you imagine the optic if this came to pass? How it might have actually built a bridge in sci-fi? I saw a really sea change and a utopian vision of true tolerance and diversity. I’m ever the optimist, which may be my main failing.

Cat responded with pure vitriol: “Your e-mails are unwanted and unsolicited. This and any further e-mails will be forwarded to my attorney.”

I was shocked. This was the President of the Science Fiction Writers of America acting like this to a science fiction writer who was planning a show on science fiction. Threatening legal action? Was this real? It seemed like a bizarro nightmare as i couldn’t have imagined someone treating another professional that way.

At this point, Cat’s attacks on me went too far. It was damaging my career. I made a meme poorly photoshopping her face onto the mean girls movie poster. She went ballistic at my response to her extreme negative overreaction to my offer to promote her, resulting in a whisper campaign telling science fiction writers to defriend me and disassociate with me. She defamed me on her facebook, warned people not to be friends with me. At this point she tangibly hurt my career by getting my cover artist Shawn King to block me, which has slowed the output of my books. About 10 other professionals who I won’t name as long as they’re not talking about me did the same. Jennifer was one of those who bowed to the pressure of this hateful campaign.

The people reacting to Cat’s message got nasty. Someone made an anonymous account on twitter and posted info about my children on my blog to try to “warn” me, doxxing them and spreading information on medical conditions. Someone else (or maybe the same person, both anon) sent a spring loaded package to my house. I emailed Cat saying enough is enough, to tell her followers to stop with this, it’s too far. Cat gave her tacit approval of these actions by not speaking up on my behalf despite my request. All of this came within a couple of weeks of each other, and all because of Cat Rambo’s hate campaign. It was frightening. I lay awake night after night, worried as someone had my address that they might break into my house and try to kill me or my children, all because I’d mentioned men weren’t getting a fair shake in short fiction markets.

I messaged Jennifer letting her know of my disappointment for her defriending me. She claimed she was taking a break from my negativity, though she’s friends with folk who post far more negative stuff on the opposite political side of the spectrum, of course those people are within the tight clique who try to destroy me personally and professionally. But I was told by other authors about the whisper campaign and messages demanding people disassociate with me. Since Jennifer is friends with Cat, I know what happened. It’s really sad that she didn’t try to get Cat to talk to me like a reasonable adult after what Cat did to me, as I’m a very forgiving guy and open to dialogue always, but Jennifer being in her position where most of her influence is among that SFWA circle of writers, without much base beyond that, could’t risk that. Instead, she gave into the demands to disassociate.

The Tragic End Of A Friendship

I remained positive. In December, I applied for SFWA. I qualified and was so excited to join an organization which had the likes of Poul Anderson and Jerry Pournelle in the past. Upon my request, Jennifer helped me find the information on the Naughty or Nice sale to prove I duly qualified for SFWA, and sent it to someone within the group, being very helpful on that first day. I didn’t know at the time that she would be approving of my blacklisting. But did she have much choice? We’ve seen what happens to anyone who dares speak out or whistleblow. It takes an incredibly brave person to risk career, friends, and actual harassment and danger in their homes. I totally understand why Jennifer would remain silent in such a situation.

It turned out that two of the SFWA board members conspired on a group called Codex Writers, when an author Merc Rustad led the Codex group into trying to take action about my SFWA app.  The board members were planning to get me banned on 12/21/17, which was within 24-hours of my app being submitted. The members in the thread were Erin M Hartshorn and Sarah Pinkster. Merc also communicated with Cat Rambo via email, who took part in this. I have hard evidence of the transcript from the forum. They conspired to make sure I was banned first — and then SFWA came up with a reason 30 days later, as they scrambled to figure out how to do it under their bylaws. The intent was discrimination because I’m an outspoken political figure. This is something SFWA members need to see and remember. This could happen to you or any of your friends by fiat, because they have rules that don’t care about your professional status. It’s a very bad precedent they just set, regardless of how you feel about me personally.

SFWA went through with their planned discrimination, and coordinated a defamation campaign with several big name authors to occur right after. They thought they were going to be able to remove me from the industry by all coming out, calling me all sorts of defamatory names, and speaking together. They thought the pressure would be so overwhelming it’d make me go away. They were wrong, as I’m redoubling my efforts to fight against the bigotry in the field.

However the main casualty of this campaign was Jennifer Brozek. They finally got to her to the point where she decided to post a blog about me last evening, 1/24/18, and praise SFWA for discriminating against me and taking their immoral and potentially illegal actions for their non-profit.

I found this to be a tragedy. Jennifer, though she’d bowed to pressure at points before, at least remained quiet. Why? Because we’d worked together. She understood. But the critical mass of the defamation took its toll. I posted a response, very respectful just as my original post was when she was making comments about half the country in 2016. It’s important if I’m being discussed to be able to advocate for the truth. I posted this last evening:

Jennifer, unfortunately, went further. She acted as if I attacked her despite my professional approach to her tragic public approval of my blacklisting.

It’s a shame. Months terrified about what I’d do if she’d take a stand? What was there to take a stand against, Jennifer? Like usual, there’s accusations and never anything tangible I ever did wrong. Because if that was said, it’s easy to point out how I was simply acting in self defense.

I’ve been treated horrifically. And it began with the way Jennifer’s assistant treated me over my political views. This has all stemmed from that. And unfortunately, because of the very real blacklisting, the very real whisper campaigns, the very real attempts to destroy lives in this industry, Jennifer and anyone who knew me in that camp was  complicit in allowing it to happen and escalating it. They couldn’t speak up. They know what happens if they do. And eventually, because no one does, they start to believe the libel and defamation repeated about me over and over by my detractors. It’s terrible. And it’s now on record.

My post on twitter that Jennifer referenced was because someone mentioned her, and I’ll post the full text here because it was a positive reply about Jennifer, something she never afforded to me despite my loyalty to her. It’s the only time I mentioned her outside of promoting her work this year. It’s because a fan asked a question and I was only completely supportive of Jennifer publicly as always, as you can see:

There is no “shield” or “hostage” situation like Jennifer hyperbolized to speak to the crowd who’s got their pitchforks ready for anyone who defends me — or even remains silent about me. This is taking a very non-situation and making it look like I’m some boogeyman because she is being pressured. It’s very sad to watch how the blacklisting works in real time, and how they get to folk.

But this is why they’re losing readers. This is why they’re losing power and market share. People see this, and they see the truth. this is the first time I’ve spoken in seriousness rather than jabbing back at the attacks and laughing it off while I continue to work hard every day writing and selling books. I don’t like spending this much time on this, when a quick tweet pointing it out and mocking the terrible behavior by the industry elites will do. Because I’m so positive and energetic all the time, that’s the real reason they hate me. They just can’t see how, with all the hate they throw at me, I can persevere and remain working and optimistic. Here’s a tip for you guys — it’s my faith in my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. It’s amazing how much God loves not only me, but you as well, and when you have your hope in things eternal, no slings and arrows of words can get you down for long. If you want to know more, I’m very friendly — please go ahead and message me. I’m always available to discuss Jesus.

Jennifer is a special case for me where I have to speak out in earnest, because she was a friend, someone I respect both personally and professionally. And over the course of one year, this is the damage that’s done when hate and bigotry prevail to the extent that it has. This is what happens when no one speaks truth to power and the elites are allowed to run rampant. The whistleblowers are the one who get all the weight of the corruption on their backs when there’s no protection for us. It’s all on the table now. I wish Jennifer the best, even though she certainly doesn’t hold that for me. It’s a shame.

If you appreciate my writings and my work, do check out my novels. My books are fun, everyone loves them right or left. And I love all of my readers regardless of who you are. That’s the way fiction’s meant to be. You can pick up For Steam And Country on Amazon. 

 

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How Poul Anderson’s Science Fiction Genre Warnings From 1975 Apply Now More Than Ever

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Yesterday, Dave Truesdale, editor of Tangent Online, sent me a classic interview he did with science fiction great, Poul Anderson. He warned me it was a short interview, but that didn’t make what Anderson said any less substantive. It was eye opening to see how Anderson saw the genre in 1975 — already in decay from the great pulp era of the 1940s-1960s. I’ll highlight some interesting points and show how Anderson warned us decades ago how culture was on a downward path which led us to this point today where the genre is nearly dead in sales, and the group of self-purported artist professionals who run the big publishing elements actively try to blacklist people over political affiliations.

This all started to come to light a few years ago when the Hugos were shown to be an insular group of people shilling political content over good stories. But this road started a long time ago:

 Inevitably, all such rewards are controversial, of course. The Nebula and Hugo awards together are rather interesting in that respect, too. Although they cover the same field, they are awarded on quite different bases. So, I think it gives a chance for a little more variety of recognition. 

Controversy has plagued these awards since the 70s. However — there was a big enough a fan base to have a variety there vs. now, it’s the same 500-1000 people voting in both, giving very little variety. As it’s become more controversial and more political, the general public has tuned out, and this problem goes back to the 70s.

What about the short fiction market?

Well, the pulp magazines are dead, and the magazine field generally is in a bad way. But I’d say that the old-fashioned pulp novel at least is flourishing as well as ever. It seems they’ve moved over into the paperback books.

TANGENT: What about the short story anthology as a replacement?

ANDERSON: To some extent they’re stepping in to fill that need, but the fact is though, that for whatever reason, by and large, short story collections don’t sell as well as novels. Evidently fewer readers wish to buy a short story collection.

The magazines are deader than ever. Their readerships are lower than ever.  And anthologies were starting to be a replacement then, but anthologies are deader than doornails now as well. The bottom line is there’s no path for a writer to be able to sustain themselves with short fiction anymore, and it’s because of the political drivel being peddled as stories for so long. Audiences have tuned out.  Anderson, interestingly, has advice on that front as well:

 I think the first duty of all art, including fiction of any kind, is to entertain, that is to say, to hold the interest. No matter how worthy the message of something, if it’s dull you’re just not communicating.

And this is the crux of where the industry went afoul. They created dull fiction. They pushed it to somewhere where nearly everything released is a shoddy message with very little to hold the attention. Science Fiction is about excitement, about wonder, and when you remove that from your writing to try to be more “literary” the stories end up communicating less of that as well. Which is why the elites are struggling so much with their fiction, even to write it. It’s a slog to write and a slog to read, and this is why us in the indie markets are focused on making science fiction fun again.

The same things have been going on since the 1970s, but now they’ve reached a critical mass where big publishing has become so insular, it’s turned off readers. The readers are still around, but they’re not going to buy their books. On the indies front, we keep gaining more market share because we keep producing more fun. It wasn’t an option in Poul’s day, which created the stagnant market because impressing a small oligopoly of editors in a niche field was the only way to get published. Now, anyone can put out a good product if they work hard. The gates are torn down. And it’s making them more desperate.

It’s interesting to look back and see this interview as a warning of what was to come, however. Industry vets like Anderson knew there were problems coming, but didn’t see how far it would regress the industry and the culture. While the fight now may seem hard and overwhelming, it’s going to take a generation to right the course, and it’s our duty to do so. I recommend reading the full interview because it presents a pretty interesting historical picture of the market. Interesting food for thought.

If you like my blog content, and love fun fiction like Poul Anderson used to write, you’ll probably enjoy the content of my Patreon. I try to entertain first, and I write to my readers who support me, because I want you to have fun. Join us and get in on some excellent content and keep this culture train rolling! 

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God Is In Control

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I spoke with a friend  a couple of weeks ago, details changed to protect the innocent, who’s been trying very hard to get a job in a certain arena he’s very good at. I mean extremely good. The type of person where if I needed advice in the field, I’d turn to him for it. He’s been struggling with a couple oft he major players in the field who, despite his qualifications, are passing him over.

I voiced to him how it wasn’t right in my opinion, and he should be a shoo-in. When he responded, he was very calm and shook his head. “No, God is revealing my path to be another way.”

Those words struck me as something to aspire to. We all have problems in our lives, all face adversity, but it is part of God’s plan for us to strengthen our bond with Him, and to ensure we are serving His purpose.

His purpose might be revealed to us now, tomorrow, next  week, next year, or in the next life, but it is there, and we are an active part in it. And it gives us cause to rejoice despite our present troubles. Sometimes our suffering and death can actually be a part of the purpose, and it sounds counterintuitive, but that’s something to rejoice in as well.

It says very clearly in Pslam 116:15: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.” It doesn’t mean God’s taking some joy in seeing us in pain, but what it does mean is that God respects what we’re going through because he understands suffering and death better than anyone. He can rejoice because we are brought closer to Him. The Pslamist continues on how we are to respond to this in verse 117: “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Our sacrifice is our duty. To be mistreated is to be expected. In John 15:18-20, Christ himself warned: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

We’re blessed because of any suffering we undertake in His name, and in His purpose. We should not fear such persecution, we should not be brought down by it, but instead we should act like the Pslamist and understand  our duty. We are here to follow His path, not our own desires. But the end of verse 20 also gives us some hope, because it helps us to identify those who are brothers and sisters by seeing whether others keep His word. If we hold close to keeping His word and keeping that of our brothers and sisters in Him as well, we create a bond of loyalty that is greater than anything else in the world. It’s precious as His purpose.

His purpose is perfect, His purpose is worthy, it is all that matters in the scheme of eternity. Our temporary pains and ills will be something to laugh about in the final days. Trust in Him. God loves us, and will stand by us, and it’s reason to stand strong and proud.

And the best part is? His purpose cannot be thwarted. It cannot be undone. We cannot lose because we already have won.

On reflecting on my friend’s attitude, I want to strive to be more like him, content in knowing God will guide the way, no matter whether I understand it in this moment or in this lifetime. A peace in understanding that our purpose is right because it is His.

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