It’s #SpaceOperaWeek and I’m excited to have one of my favorite authors working in the field right now, Sarah Hoyt, on tomorrow to talk about her Darkship series, her inspirations, what space opera means to her and some of the helpful tricks she used to come up with such a rich and imaginative world like Eden. It’ll air live May 19th at 12:00 PM PST:
When I first heard about #SpaceOperaWeek, I was excited. It provided a chance to talk about the sub-genre of Science Fiction that I love more than any other, and cross-platform across the internet through the use of the hashtag to where I’d be able to reach and connect with a lot of people.
Unfortunately, the promise that Tordotcom made in #SpaceOperaWeek turned out to be nothing but thin air. The launch page really didn’t talk about space opera at all, just having some big logo announcing their initiative. The next post wasn’t about space opera or the joys of its fiction — but presenting a false narrative that women are somehow oppressed and erased in the genre (rebutted by the Hugo-nominated Castalia House who’s been active talking about the great women of space opera for years), a post about ponies in space,a post about the “underrated importance of ordinary, everyday life” in storytelling, and then shilling for a couple of Tor authors. Nothing else. No real space opera discussion at all.
I took matters into my own hands. I started using the hashtag, talking about Space Opera in earnest. I am somewhat of an authority on the genre at this point, having written 3 books in it (one published which you may have heard of, the others I’m revising), and read the genre the entirety of my existence. I’ve spoken on Space Opera on podcasts and at conventions, done interviews on it, written essays on it. If there’s one thing I know what I’m talking about — it’s Space Opera. A lot of cool people from the #PulpRevolution joined in the discussion, as many of those folk write space opera and all of us are heavily read in the genre. If you go look at the hashtag on twitter now — there’s no one who’s reading Tordotcom or any authors from Tordotcom talking about #SpaceOperaWeek, it’s only us. Author Yakov Merkin even released a new Space Opera book in the midst of the event.
Naturally the result was a number of fans and friends commenting to Tor that they’d like to see some essays or an interview with me. I produced one of the most relevant Space Operas of the last year, hailed by authors cross the spectrum from Mary Robinette Kowal to Vox Day, which was a Top-10 Amazon bestseller in the genre, so it would be fun to get some perspective, especially given the Tor writers self-admittedly don’t even like the genre (which is why there’s so little discussion). I came to find out that after the first five requests — Tor deleted the next 10+ of people requesting I write without so much as reaching out to anyone on the matter.
That’s fine, that’s a lot of comments! I understand that though with the overwhelming readership demanding something you’d think they’d take action. I was so flabbergasted by the article about not liking space opera and about how ordinary, everyday life was what was important to write about — the opposite of everything Space Opera is about — that I took to writing a rebuttal article on the Hugo-nominated Castalia House blog. Not only do we now have a highly relevant space opera writer talking on the subject — but writing an article for a site that has garnered such prestige and honor in the genre that it is a finalist for science fiction’s top award. You’d think that #SpaceOperaWeek would certainly care about that. Nothing more could be on topic.
I posted a link to the article, mentioned it’s a rebuttal and how I’d love to further discuss space opera. Very respectful, as always, and earnestly interested in opening up more dialogue on my favorite genre.
Tordotcom deleted it rather than actually talk about the important literary elements of the genre. They censored the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction. They shun the site, contributors and readership of a Hugo-nominated blog.
So if the point isn’t to talk about Space Opera and celebrate together with leaders in the genre what is #SpaceOperaWeek for? Why do they have people who don’t even like the genre writing about it?
A lot of people reading are rolling their eyes and saying “it’s tordotcom what do you expect?” That’s not acceptable as an answer to me. I’m watching our industry and our form of entertainment that’s been a staple of western culture for the past one hundred years go from millions of readers to thousands of readers. The fun’s been sucked out of Science Fiction, and the whole point of Space Opera is that it brings the fun back to it. The term was originally something derogatory used by “real” science fiction writers and readers to talk about this “fantasy in space” that didn’t push heavy scientific or sociological concepts. The term itself is an attack on people who just like to tell fun stories in space. Sounds a lot like how Tordotcom treats me and the #PulpRevolution crew, doesn’t it? The irony is thick.
Tordotcom hates Space Opera is the only conclusion. They have no real interest in discussing it, but fortunately there’s some places where they are. Do follow me on Twitter at @jondelarroz and look for articles by me and others for #SpaceOperaWeek that actually address the genre at:
We’ll have some real talk, and we won’t delete your contributions to the subject either.
Here’s a topic I haven’t really touched before, but it’s relevant to the way that culture has been systematically destroyed by a certain group over the last few decades. I’ve seen it discussed elsewhere as “the cult of the new” — where it’s driven by this near thoughtless consumerism of I NEED THE NEW THING NOW!, ignoring everything and anything that’s dated by even a few months, discarding as if it were irrelevant.
This topic struck me in a very personal way today, when I was personally attacked on Twitter by a group (which isn’t abnormal) for the crime of advocating for my forthcoming book, For Steam And Country. What was shocking about it and what got to me wasn’t the attacks, but a certain attack on one of the most revered authors in science fiction history, and one of the most prominent feminists ever to grace the field, one Anne McCaffrey.
It started because I was talking to a Tordotcom reviewer. A Hugo Nominated Fanzine writer chimed in to tell me how irrelevant I am by referencing my last novel, how she looked up “Rescue Run” and found that there was “nothing in sci-fi that returned on a google search”.
I corrected, of course, stating not only is there my extremely highly regarded, award nominated and well-reviewed book, but that I chose the title intentionally as an homage to the late great Anne McCaffrey, who wrote a book by the same name. This work was demeaned by her first as “it’s only a short story” (It’s a novella, actually) and this person who is nominated for the Hugo Award for fanzine work, retorted to that by calling Anne Mccaffrey “old and irrelevant.”
Let me stop right there.
As of my tracking, and I do track this, Anne McCaffrey has 63 published short stories in major SF magazines and a whopping 93 novels. I know this because i have all of them in their first print edition on a beautiful shelf in my living room on display. McCaffrey wrote on psionics, wrote on genetic manipulation of animals in terraforming, in transplanting human brains into ship computer systems, on strange alien species such as sentient blades of grass. She not only did that but transcended genre with a lot of fantasy and romance books as well. She was not only “a woman science fiction author” as Tor likes to complain as late as today that there’s not enough love for, but THE woman science fiction author for decades. She is looked up to and revered by millions for her work in the genre. I can scarce think of someone more inspiring or relevant for that matter.
And of Hugos? This fanzine writer who writes self-described “feminist” commentary on science fiction is attacking the first woman ever to win the award! For shame! It boggles my mind to see this kind of lack of reverence for her.
Then there’s the fanzine element of this person’s nominations. Fanzines were originally created as content for Star Trek — but Pern in the 70s-80s was one of the biggest concepts out there for fanzines. Fanzines arguably wouldn’t exist without Pern fandom, in homage to Anne McCaffrey. Everything that this hugo nominated commentator does is built on the backs of what she’s dismissing out of hand.
As I’m writing this she followed up by saying “I love Anne McCaffrey as much as the next person who grew up not knowing any better.” Knowing any better? It’s so sad to see this lack of regard for her– no OUR betters and elders that I’m truly heartbroken.
And it comes down to the Cult of the New. Because Anne is no longer with us (may God have mercy on her eternal soul!), there’s nothing “new” about Anne’s work. It’s from an age past, something to be forgotten by the current cultural elite that want to erase history. Older works are things to read “before we knew better” to them. To them, our elders are people to be put into old folks home and forgotten about so they don’t disturb us, rather than revered as they should be. As a consequence, there’s no respect for true greatness because the great works are discarded.
Tor wrote an article on space opera today for their space opera week wondering why no one talks about Leigh Brackett, CL Moore and Andre Norton. Is it because they’re anti-woman? the author posited. No, it’s because of this, the lack of care for anything that didn’t drop to stands this week.
It’s horrible. And this is why the Hugo Awards are in such a tarnished state in a nutshell. Who in Science Fiction would want to be associated with that? This is another reason why our fandom is dying. We need serious reform not just in the big publishing houses and markets — but in our souls.
…when I sit down and write, I just feel like:
know what I’m sayin’ ?
I just read a brilliant post by author Tim W. Long (Who is by no means associated with me, probably doesn’t even know me or who I am, and totally disavows me and in no way endorses me even looking at his words, haters!) on writing success, and he’s 100% right. It’s cruder than I would have put it, with some swearing involved, so if that bothers you, don’t read further:
I just read a gloriously ranty post from Michael Anderle and it got me a little fired up. Maybe I’m just a little high on life right now because I have finally moved into the 5-figure a month sales goal as an author. Yeah. 5-figures a month. I’ve heard people say “Wow – you’re so lucky that you get to write full-time.” It’s not luck! It’s busting my ass every day. It’s weeks where I’m doing 14+ hour days at what I love. It’s actually writing instead of talking about writing.
You know the biggest key to success? NOT GIVING A FUCK. That’s it right there and you can quote me on that.
The minute I walked away from self-admiring writer circle-jerks and writing groups who seem to thrive on bullshit drama over actually writing, I was a much happier person. The minute I quit caring about having my ego stroked. The minute I stopped caring about getting books in bookstores, speaking at cons, being invited to panels, or even being recognized as a best selling author, I was a better writer for it.
Authors – ask yourself a question about the groups you associate with as a writer:
Do they ACTUALLY sell?
Do they have any credentials outside of TALKING about writing?
Do they honestly help YOU with your career?
No? Just walk away.
I’ve gone out of my way to help any author who asks for help. Got a new book out? I’m happy to promote it. Need a suggestion for how to advertise something? I can probably share some decent info. Wondering how to build your mailing list? I bet I can offer a few tips. You know what I have asked in return? Nothing at all.
My books have been in best seller lists for 3 years now. I’ve been a #1 horror author on Amazon. I’ve had that fancy best-seller tag on my books.
Big frigging deal!
At the end of the day all I care about is entertaining people, and making a living from the craft. That’s it. The petty people who do drive-by one-star reviews can kiss my ass because I’m laughing all the way to the bank. I’m sitting in my robe, sipping coffee, not regretting for one minute that I’m not fighting an hour plus commute to work every day.
How you doin – petty asshole hiding behind an anonymous name? Having a good day? Yeah?
Great – now go fuck yourself.
Have a terrific day, friends. 🙂
I don’t write message fiction. In fact, a lot of the actual criticism of my book (when there is any, most folk just love it!) hits when people read it as if they’re braced for some sort of lecture on morality from me… and they don’t find one other than bad guys with lots of power are bad, and scrappy underdogs are good.
Which even that’s not meant to be a takeaway in most instances. I do like to root for the underdog. It seems an intrinsically American way to think, and you see it in our culture all the time. Spider-Man is the nerd weakling who shouldn’t be able to beat up the big bad monsters. We always root against the New York Yankees or New England Patriots because they bought their perennial powerhouse teams and we want the little guy to win. There’s nothing moral or immoral about rooting either way in those instances — but seeing the underdog work their tails off to victory is fulfilling and a lot of fun.
And that’s the key. That’s why I wrote that story — because it’s fun.
When you get into message fiction, you’re intrinsically taking away some fun from your reader as you’re trying to tell the reader how to behave, what good and evil is pertaining to a certain situation, and usually through very thin allegories that are metaphors that are painful. Star Trek: Into Darkness I’m looking at you with your nine-eleven oh noeeeeeeees commentary that made the film unwatchable.
And it varies in degree. The problem is that message fiction, for the most part, talks down to the reader. You are trying to layer in “obvious” things to a reader in a way that almost necessitates insulting their intelligence. Otherwise they would understand the message and be cheering for it themselves, right? And if they did, you’ve got a boring story to that group of readers as well, because they already understand the message.
I’m currently reading The Black Witch by Laurie Forest, which is certainly marketed as message fiction after some hate reviewer went nuts on it and said it’s not messagy enough. So far though, it’s been very layered in the background and I’m watching more of an underdog adventure story unfold. And I’m glad for it. If it looked preachy I wouldn’t be all that into it.
As a writer, it’s impossible not to layer some form of message in there. You have your thoughts, and they’re gonna come across. It’s how writing works. Almost weekly I get told by a reader how they’re surprised that I’m so anti-corporatist. My main villains in my book are a mega-corporation that lost sight of what it means to be human in their narrow-visioned lives that are consumed by their near-meaningless work.
Of course I’m anti-corporatist. Big corporations are total train wrecks both in that they stifle creativity and range from inefficient in the way they’re run to downright oppressive. Don’t think that the phone you’re reading this on isn’t built on the backs of some Chinese factory worker who’s barely surviving because of garbage trade agreements that allow companies to operate that way. A lot of my readership wants me to blame the government and not the corporation — but I posit to you that when you get into monopolistic entities of a certain size or oligopolies — you’re getting the exact same thing as a bloated government clutching to power. Remember that the Trade Federation in my book both is corporation and government combined. They wield both powers and that is dangerous.
Now I didn’t set out to wag my finger and give that moral in the book to anyone. That never even crossed my mind once while writing it. Those are just my private thoughts that upon thinking about it, I’m sharing with you, my dear blog reader, who understands this is a personal space where you can get a little sense as to how I think. The vast majority of folk read Rescue Run and don’t notice that or don’t care about that — because I didn’t beat people over the head with it and feature THE MESSAGE. It was just unintentional that it came out in the work because of who I am.
In conclusion, I’m definitely not telling writers to not write about what they care about — you should, and that passion will come through in the work. But you should be very careful in considering your readership and the priority should be a fun story, especially in Fantasy/Science-Fiction. Most readers in this genre are here for escape from the relentless negativity in the news, the drudgery of real life work, the lack of purpose they’re finding in modern society. It’s our duty as authors to provide them fun, and that should be our priority. If it stops being a priority, well, look at the sales decline across the industry. ’nuff said.
Clean Up Call for The Captain Is Dead game:
Project Scarecrow for Uprising Review:
Lula Morgan for the Doomtown Reloaded card game:
Ran a poll yesterday on which blog my readers would like to see next, and the winner by no uncertain terms was my recommendation for Dragon Award nominations. If you haven’t seen the Dragon Awards before, they are the premier award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, given at Dragon*Con, arguably the best convention that exists. Please, readers, do take the time to vote as this is really your award choice and your voice matters.
Best Science Fiction Escaping Infinity by Richard Paolinelli
Richard really has created a great science fiction, and I mean that in the classic sense. It’s on the short side, but it’s packed with a lot of ideas and it’s definitely the best sci-fi of the year.
Best Fantasy A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Vox Day is the most underrated fantasy author in fiction. His Arts of Dark and Light series is frankly better fantasy than Brandon Sanderson (of whom I’m a big fan), Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks or George R.R. Martin. The characters are fantastic, the world is a very cool Roman-esque fantasy world, it’s tense all the way through, and it’s got very cool magic and magical beings.
Best Young Adult Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland by L. Jagi Lamplighter.
The Rachel series is really a wonderful take on wizardry school. I find it a shame that this series hasn’t won an award yet and that should be remedied in 2017. Mrs. Lamplighter-Wright gets mad at me when I say that this series is better than Harry Potter… so I won’t say it. But I may have said it somewhere else in the past 🙂
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Star Realms: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz.
It’s like Rogue One, only better and with actual characters who aren’t flat and have real romance. Do I need to explain this one to you? 😉 If you click on the nomination page and put one book in, put this one in.
Best Alternate History Breath of Earth by Beth Cato.
This both took place in my home city and dealt with a period of time you don’t read a ton about. Everyone knows about the 1906 earthquake’s existence, but adding details and magic to it makes for a really compelling tale.
Best Apocalyptic A Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys.
Dan’s got a fresh take on Zombies that is very fun, a lot of action, and a wild ride. It’s pretty long for a zombie book but it only gives the plot that much more depth.
Best Horror Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn
Declan continues to redefine Vampire fiction with his third installment in the series. Book 1 got a dragon award nomination last year, and the series only gets more interesting from there. While book 2 is also eligible, this is where Declan should make his stand for the awards, as it fits the horror genre like fangs fit the Carotid artery.
Best Comic Book Motor Girl #1 by Terry Moore.
His Rachel Rising was one of my favorite books of all time, and I was sad to see it end. This has classic cartoon elements, a gorilla (RIP Harambe), aliens, and a much deeper plot that’s unfolding. Issue 1 is great for the hook, and well worth the read.
Best Graphic Novel Chew vol 12. – Sour Grapes by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Chew was honestly the best comic book of the last several years. The concept’s cool. It’s hilarious on every front. It’s actually pretty in depth, and the expansion of the powers of food get so ridiculous. People hated on the ending, but I thought it was fricking hilarious. Chew is most worthy of the Dragon.
Best Sci-Fi Or Fantasy TV Series No award.
I don’t like any SF/F TV shows right now. They all suck. Bah humbug.
Best Sci-Fi Or Fantasy Movie Passengers
This is a beautiful film. Great plot, great sci-fi, great romance, great characters. It can be a little slow at points but the timing feels realistic.There’s a lot of good sci-fi plot points and tropes in here and frankly Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence could do the hokey pokey on screen for two hours and I’d watch it and probably love it.
Best PC or Console Game Final Fantasy XV.
An excellent installment to the Final Fantasy series. The battle system was wonderful, story great, characters compelling, the backstory and world were done right and the visuals are stunning as always.
Best Mobile Game Epic Card Game Digital
This game took everything fun about Magic: The Gathering and got rid of the heavy baggage of that game. It’s somewhat simpler to play though when I went into competitive matches I got STOMPED, so there is a lot more depth than people realize as well. There’s some cool mechanics unique to the game too and it’s super exciting that it’s now on a digital platform in app version.
Best Board Game Hero Realms
Star Realms in Fantasy, yet they tweaked a couple of things to make it unique. You can play with “class decks” which you customize your playstyle before you even start, a nice innovation for deck building. On top of that, the power curve is very different. It’s worth a play, or a hundred.
Best Miniatures/CCG/RPG Star Wars: Destiny
I mentioned this was my favorite game of 2016 launching at the tail end of the year. It’s a competitive card game but with dice, and has a very unique duel feel to it. I love how the dice work, the game mechanics are very clean and it’s always tense to play. Fantasy Flight usually nails it with their star wars games and this is no exception.
And there you have it. Go out and vote!
Over on Gab.ai (the best social media network on the internet as they allow free speech, don’t shadowban or ban anyone), I met a couple of editors and writers who had an ambitious project they wanted to launch. That project is the Uprising Review. The concept of this site is to provide true free speech for flash/short fiction. They accomplish this that by blind story submissions, no author names attached. The editors will read it and simply judge it based on the merits of whether your story is entertaining and well written. The submission bucket sends it along with no identifying markers in the document to judge the story by.
And It’s fantastic. This is a true commitment to real diversity, unlike the exclusionary garbage that’s put out by a lot of traditional publishers that knowingly discriminate intentionally by excluding conservatives, christians, men, white authors, etc in their magazines, anthologies or publication queues. It’s the opposite of virtue signalling. The story is everything, as it should be. As they say:
“Your gender, race, and sexuality do not determine your strengths as a writer.”
How refreshing. Not only that, but it allows authors who have been tainted by the Big Publishing groupthink’s blackballing in the industry to be able to publish their short work. Its very existence is a bold statement on the problems in the industry, and also on freedom of speech and expression for artists. Huzzah!
The editors reached out to me and asked if I would contribute an essay for the opening of their site, on the topic of the importance of freedom for artists, and the evils of blackballing based on my personal experiences, which I gladly provided. You can read it here: http://www.uprisingreview.com/the-uprising-review-op-ed-by-jon-del-arroz/
And finally, I had the honor of contributing what they chose as their first fiction for the website, the flash fiction of mine titled “Project Scarecrow”. It’s an extremely short flash fiction which I actually originally wrote for another publication that limited to 300 words. That went belly up before they got around to publishing my piece, so I submitted to Uprising Review. Normally, their fiction they’ll be posting will be 500-3000 words, but fortunately they enjoyed this one enough to post and make it their first. It’s a fun sci-fi piece like most of my writing. Enjoy: http://www.uprisingreview.com/project-scarecrow/
I look forward to seeing what Uprising Review does in the future and applaud this concept and their hard work in getting this going. Support them with your clicks!
I still have a few readers out there who have zero concerns over entertainment industry blackballing issues. They’re firmly planted in the “it can’t happen to me” mentality, where “it’s okay” because “Trump supporters are mean!” or some nonsense. This is where most people would talk about fascism, but that word is losing all of its meaning these daysl, and that’s not actually fascist behavior in that instance. It IS communist totalitarian behavior, however. Which is in a lot of ways worse, as that form of government killed a lot more people, but for some reason we don’t talk about that in internet rants.
Before I get too far off topic dissecting different forms of evils that you don’t care about, I’ll get back to one you do: I learned that there is an author who had a manuscript rejected because multiple agents said this person “culturally appropriated” and that the author “doesn’t have the authority” to talk about this project.
That’s right. The piece was good, it would have been fine, but the problem is it would have had to come from a non-white author.
The agents actively discriminated against an author because they are white. A white writer was told to censor what that person writes and that it’s not welcome in the industry because of solely whiteness.
Before you think this is an isolated incident in the entertainment industry, let me refer you to a couple of matters of blackballing that I’ve already uncovered in my personal experience and my investigative journalism. It’s constant. Conservatives cannot get jobs in the entertainment industry. Men now have problems getting jobs in publishing (to the point where I know several who have taken female pen names to get ahead, and it’s worked) and now apparently whites are unwelcome.
And this has been talked about a lot recently. Look up “cultural appropriation” with sci-fi authors and you’ll see the usual suspects of big name writers virtue signaling about it while doing whatever they want in their own writing. They want to shut you out and hold onto their status by lecturing you, even though half of them are hacks who only got there because of politics. It’s like the big Hollywood actors who go nuts about global warming, then guzzle fuel on their yachts and private planes. This hypocrisy happens in writing too.
But the end result of this “cultural appropriation” craze is that there’s no place for a white writer. I’ve been told by several editors to change names so that it has a “more diverse representation”. In essence, I’m told that I can’t put in a western civilization caucasian culture through names (of course, as a Hispanic writer, I may be culturally appropriating that now that I think about it…). If you can’t write that, and you can’t write other cultures, the logical conclusion is you’re NOT ALLOWED TO WRITE.
This is crazy in the land of the free, censoring what can be said and told only by certain segments of the population. It’s gotten so far out of hand that I’m to the point where I’ve advocated against gatekeepers before: but I think it’s high time writers write-off all traditional publishing. If this is the end result, you cannot create what you want, you cannot think the way you think, you cannot have been unfortunate to be born with a certain skin color, you cannot worship God and be outspoken about it, you cannot vote the wrong way and have it be known. That’s a lot of cannots! And that mentality is squashing the pool of artistic talent out there, as well as killing sales. Readers don’t want to be told what’s appropriate for them to read either.
I talked to an agent the other day about these issues and how for the simple crime of speaking out, there’s only one publisher who is ever even remotely likely to pick my work up at this juncture, and the agent didn’t disagree. What troubles me is that the agent didn’t seem to think that was a problem. For a debut novel, I actually had sales pretty respectable by traditional publishing forms. Last week I had an article that hundreds of thousands of people read and enjoyed. I should be on everyone’s radar. Reviews are all positive, and there’s a lot of them. Readers like my fiction and even more readers like my thoughts and journalism.
So why would a middleman go against their best business interests like that?
It all comes down to blackballing again. And here’s where I call to you writers: burn the ships and don’t look back.
By which I mean get rid of these middlemen and gatekeepers who have this mentality. You don’t need them. You don’t need the contract they offer you to be legitimate in the world today. Amazon, evil corporate monopoly that it is, has leveled the playing field and gotten rid of all barriers to entry. A “real” publisher won’t market you anyway — they don’t spend resources on new writers, only established brands. You’ll be left in the wind there as much as you are on your own, but without control of your own product, and receiving a lower percentage on every sale for your work. There is literally no benefit to these middlemen’s existence. They are only there to tell you what you’re allowed to write and what readers are allowed to read. Their opinions might not even match up with readers at all.
You are a real writer. If you’re getting good feedback on your work, don’t hesitate. Put it out there. That’s the only way to get ahead: especially if you’re white, male, Christian, conservative, any or all of those things. They gatekeepers hate you for who you are, and it doesn’t matter how good your work is. Stop giving those Christaphobic racist, sexist bigots validation by seeking yours through them.