How Do We Fix SFWA’s Brand Part II: The Four Ps

Last week I spent some time and identified the public perception problems that the Science Fiction Writers of America has with a large portion of the independent writer and reader demographic  which now comprises more than 50% of the product consumed by Amazon’s metrics, which detracts people from joining their club. I’ve been holding off on writing more on the topic as I’ve attempted to get some data from their president, Cat Rambo. Unfortunately, Ms. Rambo was not forthcoming in earnestly speaking about the club’s current objectives, accusing me of trolling rather than providing information. I asked for demographic information on the club in order to help further dial in what their current membership makeup looks like, potential targets for future members, as well as to see if the perception of exclusionary tactics by the club seems to have basis in reality.  Ms. Rambo has stated that the club does not keep such records—which first and foremost I would highly recommend implementing, so we can do these types of analyses better in the future.

I’m going to make the assumption that asking a direct question about whether the club is attempting to be a minority-only niche and getting a name-calling response rather than an honest one means that the club does have that goal, but they don’t want that to be in the public forefront. However since it is not a stated goal, I can’t focus on that for the time being. My recommendation is either, depending on their goal: 1. make it a stated public goal that this is a minority-centric club with the sole intention of advancing minority interests or 2. making outreach efforts to the white males, conservatives, and Christians in the writing community in order to change the current perception. That will not be the focus of the future of this case study since there is no hard data on them atter, but if there is interest there, you’re welcome to contact me and I’ll have suggestions on how to make that marketing.

Instead we’ll focus on issue #6 in my original post:  The list of benefits aren’t directly tangible or easy to quantify.

A club asking for regular dues must provide some sort of tangible value for that membership. The four points on their website need to be refreshed and updated for the modern market in order to bring in the next generation of members and create a club that has the cache of SFWA past. In order to further delve into how to do this, we’ll have to look at the four principles of marketing, something that is impressed upon students hard in Business 101 classes in colleges. The four Ps:

  1. Product
  2. Placement
  3. Promotion
  4. Price

Product: The issue we’ve identified is a product problem at its core, though tangentially price ends up being a problem because of the product problem.  $100 a year is a lot to ask writers in an industry where even with a couple professional sales on the short story circuit, they may only be making $500-$1000 per year. Most books only sell about 200-300 copies, and if they put out several of those per year, they may be in a range where they’re making a few thousand bucks, but a hundred dollar expenditure at that point would be much better spent on a book cover, editing for the next book, or paid advertisements. The entire low-end of the club falls out at that point, which creates grumbling within the community about it not being worth it. The high end of the club doesn’t need the community benefits quite as much as the low end, and so we’re left with a product that has a very low util to cost ratio.

Price: All things being equal, I’ll presume that SFWA wishes the membership cost to remain at its current rate or even potentially increase to account for inflation. Unless I hear otherwise from Ms. Rambo this post is read.

Placement and Promotion: Placement seems easy as it’s an internet-based organization with a conference per year that rotates cities, I don’t think they have issues there. Promotion, looking at their use of social media could use some further assistance. SFWA should maximize the leverage of their bigger name authors to give, like book blurbs, brief social media worthy quotes about their experiences in the club to make it sound much more appealing to newer, younger authors. Utilize your best capital which is the brand of some of your writers. Right now, the social media account’s first few posts are begging for Amazon smile donations, which doesn’t produce the image of a successful, thriving organization at all. A big benefit of SFWA is the perceived success of the organization, and that needs to be capitalized upon.  I have many other ways in which to utilize this and will happily assist upon request.

We’ll focus this case study on the product, as that requires the most work within the business development. Without an excellent product, the other 3 Ps fall by the wayside, because it doesn’t matter what you do, it will still have a negative perception, especially with a three digit annual price point. When asked about the club’s benefits, referring to a page that has four points of which two are unquantifiable beyond a “you get what you give” and the other two are extremely rare circumstantial situations of which applies to only a very few, it’s easy to see where the perception of low product takes place. The “we give some promotion and a sense of community” can easily be attained on free internet boards, or facebook groups, or mailing lists.  Since all of those can be gained for free and in some cases with equal or greater memberships, SFWA’s four points of why to join have lost nearly all of its value. Those elements need to be dialed into more tangible benefits, and more benefits need to be created in order to help the club in the future.

We’ll focus the next blog on product development and bringing SFWA from a club still in a 20th century mentality in terms of product in a 21st century world.  Please, in the comments, people who are in SFWA and not, what would be something that you would find beneficial in an author’s club that would be worth a premium like that? This is an open brainstorming session and needs your help!

 

Geekchats: All Things Steampunk with Beth Cato!

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 11th at 12 PM PST, I have a very special guest on for Geekchats, author Beth Cato, famous for her Clockwork Dagger and Blood of Earth series, some of the best steampunk and alt-history around. We’re going to chat all things steampunk from tropes to alt-history to final fantasy and back again. Full disclaimer: I have never received any cookies or other baked goods from Ms. Cato.

Watch below:

 

Beth Cato: http://www.bethcato.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Cato/e/B006S84MNO

And note that her novel, Breath of Earth is my recommendation for the Dragon Award for Best Alternate History. Vote Beth here! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

Jon Del Arroz: http://www.delarroz.com
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jon-Del-Arroz/e/B01NBOZVCP

And my Star Realms: Rescue Run is making great traction toward best military science fiction or fantasy for the dragons as well. Only a couple weeks left to nominate! http://application.dragoncon.org/dc_fan_awards_nominations.php

How Do We Fix SFWA’s Brand – Part I: Identifying the Issues

From my poll the other day about whether I should join SFWA. It was a good sample size for my audience, which I estimate to be at about 4,000 people overall based on blog clicks/book sales. It’s no bestseller status (yet) but no chump change either in the science fiction and fantasy community, which has decreased over the years to alarming levels, which is partially due to the branding of the genre as a whole, but there is a perception out there for SFWA proper, and it’s a negative one. A full 80% of those who voted told me I should not join. That can’t be good for a business to have that large of a segment even of a niche of the audience so hostile toward it.

As I’m accutely interested in marketing & business development, I’m going to run this as a case study for my own and hopefully for SFWA’s edification.

Most writers aren’t business folk, but I come from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, one of the top business schools in the country, and have studied economics under nobel-laureates through that program. On top of that, I’ve had a fair amount of business success myself in other fields which we don’t need to mix with this writing game. That’s my background, aside from the way I’ve quickly risen in the SF/F field through my debut novel and second release, to where all of the top players know my name at the very least.

Those are my credentials to be going over this.

A lot of people are probably asking, what is SFWA? Great question. It’s the Science Fiction Writers of America. It’s a guild/association/club and it used to represent a large portion of the top talent of the field. In the modern independent era, where indies are now outselling traditional publishing, that doesn’t hold to be true. Several of the best authors out there suare not members of this club and have no desire to be. Why? That certainly changed since the club’s prominence in the late 1970s-1980s.

Our first step will be to identify the problem. As this is a brainstorming session, please leave your own reasons as to why you feel strongly about this club in the comments. It will be helpful for identifying the core issues, and how to resolve them. From what I understand so far:

  1. The club has a perception as being anti-Christian
  2. The club has a perception as being  anti-Conservative
  3. The club has a perception as being anti-Male
  4. The club has a perception as being anti-White
  5. The club has a perception as being anti-Independent Author
  6. The list of benefits aren’t directly tangible or easy to quantify — the ask is big for a possibly low return from a business/financial perspective

Did I miss anything in this? What are your perceptions? This will help us for the next part of this case study. If you are interested in the process of how business-minded people work to identify and pinpoint/solve problems, this is a great example for you!

The Should I Join SFWA Poll

So far, my audience is pretty adamant, but there’s still 12 hours left for SFWA to get a chance. President Cat Rambo, who last month called my writing on this very blog “egregiously stupid”, says of SFWA’s membership benefits that I’d get what I give…. now I give a lot to the SF community, and the folk in that club have been rather not nice to me thus far as a whole, so I’m curious if that would change if I’m part of the club. What do you think? I obviouly care about my audience and readers and what you think far more than I do a group of writers.

LibertyCon Round Up!

Just getting back from LibertyCon, and I have to say I was pretty blown away by how awesome it was. Almost as awesome as being a gangsta with author A.M. Freeman here:

As much as I understand they had some issues with capacity for the hotel, the actual convention at a train station and inside/around train cars was actually very charming and a great setting. I don’t think I’ve ever met a better group of more supportive, wonderful people in my life. These are people who love to read and write and it shows!

It was great to see how many people already had read both of my books and were actually fans of my work. Thank you everyone for being there!  On top of it I mentioned on social media that I sold out of books I brought rather quickly. For Steam And Country was sold out after my first hour selling session, and Star Realms quickly followed that with its few remaining copies within about 15 minutes of my second one. Big thanks to everyone who picked one up!

Part of that cool experience was the way they ran the author’s tables. You didn’t just have to spend your whole con sitting there in the vendor room in a corner hoping you’ll sell books. They set you up right by the main panel rooms where people walk, and actually changed out authors for slots every hour or so – which kept it fresh for people waking by to see new and different stuff every time. A very cool way of running things I think all conventions should implement.

Overall, it was a convention run right. Everyone on staff was so friendly they almost felt like family by the end of the weekend –very cool and inviting for someone who’s never been been to this area of the country before. Props to the folk who brewed beer and set it up out back the trains and had everyone hang out there like we were on the back of someone’s front porch. It created an amazing atmosphere..

What was great was the real focus on Science Fiction and Fantasy and real scientific topics. Everything promoted books or topics for book lovers. There was not a single program on the schedule that was about politics – very refreshing! No wonder the con sells out every year.

 

Plus the fact that there were just so many great authors. I couldn’t even adequately get around to spending quality time with everyone there were so many, a great problem to have. I think I did get to talk to most everyone at least for a brief moment. I’m sorry if I leave you off the list (there’s just too many but know I love you too!) but it was really wonderful meeting Declan Finn, David Boop, Dan Humphreys, John Van Stry, Sarah Hoyt and Peter Grant. Great people.

My own panels went really well. Star Realms had 12 for the competitive tournament. The fellow who won already had a copy of Rescue Run, so I gave him a copy of For Steam And Country as prize. Between my wife and I, we taught at least 6 people how to play over the course of the weekend, and I made sure to give people my in game name for the app so they can play later.

The Steampunk Panel with Gail Martin moderating was the highlight for me. She is a class act who did such a great job keeping things going and on topic, expert level stuff. I ran into her later in the con and saw her sitting alone and WRITING! I wasn’t able to write or read anything over the course of the con so props to her for doing what writers do best.

Was very sad not to be able to see Louis Anotnelli, one of the finest short story writers of our time, for the Retro-Futurist panel, but it was taken over by Griffin Barber, who is a co-author on the 1632 books with Eric Flint. His knowledge base is incredible, and though it made me feel inadequate on the topic at times, it was by far a wonderful and educational experience as well.

Gave out so many bookmarks and ribbons over the course of the weekend, it was so great. Some of the book highlights I picked up to read:

Straight Outta Tombstone – Weird West Anthology edited by David Boop

Scaling The Rim – Dorothy Grant. 

Down the Dragon Hole – Morgon Newquist. 

Got a lot of others as well but these may bump to the top of my reading list after commitments  I have for friends and folk wanting blurbs.

Always great to see Todd McCaffrey again. He brings immense fun with him wherever he goes. Someone needs to tell the organizers about his famous Delphic Oracle panel though, as that is usually the best part of any con where he’s at. If you haven’t been to it and you see him running one at a con (Dragon*Con is soon!) then I highly suggest attending. You’ll laugh the whole time.

Excellently run convention and I really hope I get to go again. Thank you everyone who staffed the con, all my new and old friends alike who made it such a wonderful experience. I really hope I get to go again sometime!

 

 

LibertyCon Schedule – June 30th, Chattanooga TN!

I’ll be going to libertycon this weekend, and I’ll be in Nashville a couple of days before that to go see the Charlie Daniels Band and watch the Nashville Sounds play baseball. I actually have a pretty packed schedule but I’ll do my best to make time for everyone.

At libertycon:

 

Day Time Name of Event
Fri 03:00PM Author’s Alley (Arroz, Bragg/Daniel Butler, Gibbons, Grant, Mays)
Fri 05:00PM Opening Ceremonies
Fri 07:00PM Star Realms Tournament
Sat 10:00AM Autograph Session (Arroz. Mandragora, Ringo)
Sat 12:00PM What’s New in the World of Steampunk
Sat 04:00PM Retro-Futurist Alternate History Reprise
Sat 08:00PM Reading: Jonathan Del Arroz & Mark Fults
Sat 09:00PM AESC & Thorn Publishing Party / “For a Fistful of Credits” Book Launch Party and Mass Autograph Session
Sat 10:00PM Author’s Alley (K. Bogen, Del Arroz, Gilliam, McKeown, Wacks)
Sun 10:00AM Kaffeeklatsch  

 

As I mentioned, a pretty packed schedule. What a great way to cap off #SteampunkMonth with a “What’s New In the World of Steampunk” and “Retro-Futurist” panel! Should be a lot of fun and I’m very excited to talk with great authors like Gail Martin and Lou Antonelli on the topic.

The big deal is actually going to be the Saturday night party for the For A Fistful Of Credits book launch. I have a 10,000 word story in this anthology — and it’s some of the best work I’ve written. Highly recommend heading to this as it’s going to be most of the authors in this anthology getting together for the first and perhaps only time. I’ll have amazon details on the book when it’s available.

LibertyCon is sold out, so if you were on the fence… I’m sorry! There may be a handful of people who can’t go so contact the organizers. Hope to see you all there!

Speaking Out Against The Disavow and Disassociate Game

I’ve dealt with this game for a long time on a personal level, and see it going on elsewhere on a regular basis. Back in 2015, I wasn’t all that well known in the science fiction community. I had my group of friends locally, and was on the periphary of Anne McCaffrey’s sorta crew (who are the most wonderful people in the whole world I might add), but not to where I had much of a name for myself, despite having a couple of decent entertainment industry successes with my Flying Sparks comic, working for the Doomtown: Reloaded card game, and of course my big claim to fame, having sold a song I wrote/recorded to MTV’s Real World: New Orleans.

None of that mattered. I was still on the fan side of fandom at the time. And from a different perspective. I was warned over and over that I wouldn’t want to associate with Brad Torgersen, that he is single-handedly ruining fandom, that he was an awful person, that he makes people cry. It was was scary at the time. I was an aspiring novelist, trying to get published, i certainly didn’t want to be seen as someone who’s torching the science fiction community, did I?

I’ve never liked the gossip game. I didn’t then, and I don’t now. When someone talks that bad about someone, I try to see what the other side of the story is, I don’t take that as word. The only difference to me is when someone very personally hurts a friend of mine, loyalty exists there. But from what I saw, Mr. Torgersen never personally hurt anyone. So I went and talked to him.

And this is what I recommend doing: when you see this sorta thing going on, look at what the person who’s getting the “disavow and disassociate” treatment’s saying, be open, talk to the person. There is a human there, and it’s easy to see what they’re about. In multiple conversations with Mr. Torgersen, reading his writing, etc. I found that he is a stand up guy, cares passionately about what he believes in, and isn’t out to hurt a fly. It was the direct opposite of the narrative. He’s a wonderful individual and I’m quite happy to have picked up his books to support him. Since then, he’s become probably one of my top 3 if not favortie short fiction writer. Great writing skills and ideas on top of being a great person. He’s got my support for life.

That’s the kind of thing you’ll find if you take a step back from the rumor and pay attention to reality. The rumor mill, the passive aggressive attacks, the whispers behind peoples backs are not good for anyone. And it’s quite easy to put a stop to that.

What I’m getting at is the whole disavow game is ugly. There’s no point to it. It’s gossip. it’s Mean Giirls extrapolated into adulthood — where it shouldn’t exist at all. When I see it, I’m not going to play it, and you shouldn’t either. It keeps going, and now on this side of the fence where I’ve got a readership and a fanbase, I get even more people “concerned”about who I choose to associate with, as if it matters who my friends are.

It doesn’t. I’m sorry to say to the concerned people out there that “associating” hasn’t hurt me a single iota. My friends are my friends because I support them, and they support me. I am loyal to them, and someone spreading gossip and rumor to me is not going to change that. I’m not going to engage in that, and I’m never going to attack my friends.

I call on everyone to step up to this sort of thing. Especially those of us on the periphary of publishing, in independent entertainment. It’s hard enough with the entire establishment barking at us to tear us down without us eating our own. There’s no reason to do that, there’s no leadership or power strucutres that need to be maintained here. It’s the wild west of entertainment, and we either have each other’s backs or we don’t. I’d much prefer a gorup that has my back, even if it’s a smaller one, and you should too. That’s what will make us all stronger in the end.

Behavioral Observations In Science Fiction

Now, I’ve been active in this scene for a long time. Been hanging around big name authors since about 2010, been reading since the 90s, so I think I have a good sample size of the general landscape, and how people react. Here’s the truth:

There’s two groups, the old guard burnout mentality, and the new indie pulp revolution. There’s a bit of a line up along political lines, but not as much as you’d expect, and in fact, that’s used as an excuse a lot of the time to poo poo the new. This is the state of science fiction today. I’ve talked about it briefly before, but here’s a broader look at the experiences I’ve had after engaging with both.

Old Guard

You walk into social media, or a group, or a convention of what I called the “old guard”, they’e hesitant. They’re the type to complain that they’re introverts, having to recharge after social interactions (which is fine to be, but knowing that… why complain so often?). A new person is immediately greeted with a stand-offish attitude, like they have to vet you to make sure you’re “really one of them” or that you have to pay your dues to prove yourself somehow. They’re hyper-political. If you look at their social media posts, 70-90% of them are endless shrieking about politics they don’t like. They keep talking about how they’re too busy for anyone or anything — including the next generation of fans and writers. And this is all before they know that you’re on the “wrongthink” side of politics.

It took me a couple years to get settled in with those types, and in that mentality, you’re expected to go into slush with your stories (a nice metaphor for what you’re going through as they vet you personally) — have them vetted by gatekeepers that are flooded with thousands per week, hoping that they’ll see you as special for whatever reason. You’re expected to be at some bottom rung, and wait to be acknowledged by the “greats” giving you the nod.  At that point, you’re supposed to slog it out for years, getting a story in Analog or whatnot here or there, making convention speeches to rooms of 5-10 people, and posting negative politics all the time yourself. Even when familiar, they’re still standoffish. They’ll smile at you a little more, but very few will lift a finger to help. They’re too bogged down in their own negativity.

It’s a burnout mentality. The old guard has watched generations go through this process, and even if they are younger, they grew up in a grievance mindset subculture that’s become science fiction. The stories are boring. They’ve been struggling with the same grind for decades to be considered by academics to be “real literature” and have adjusted their writing styles accordingly — copying the boring, mundane aspects of literature style, while removing anything that makes science fiction special. As a consequence, there’s been a drop off from people buying millions of books, to thousands. We’ve seen this story before. It gets blamed on external factors like ebooks — but those are tools to help you grow your audience, not something to shrink. Of course, they don’t use these tools right, including on pricing, which further shrinks the audience.

When I was in slush reading, as one of the gatekeepers at a smaller outfit trying to work my way up, I found myself getting into this mentality as well. I’d reject anything, I’d be LOOKING FOR reasons to reject. It wouldn’t be reading stories for excitement, it was quiet the opposite. And that then translates into a mentality in which you read other fiction, even for fun. You go to panels and join groups, everyone’s talking about how hard it is to write, how they have a block, how the muse just isn’t inspiring them, how they’re scatterbrained and can’t focus. Or it’s about this group or that isn’t getting represented well enough and gosh darnit it’s because of those bigots (who… are the very same people making the complaints).  It’s oppressive. It’s torture.

You can only buy fiction at 6 cents a word. You can only sell fiction at 6 cents a word. You must wait for an agent to give you the nod and take 15-25% of whatever they can sell it for–if it can sell at all. Scoff at anything else. Scoff at everything else. If the gatekeepers don’t buy it, revise revise revise and resubmit! Keep going in the slog, keep not making money, keep getting outraged. Repeat.

Most people do burn out. I see folk going through this all the time. Even the small victories seem just that after awhile — because getting a few shorts in a few magazines really doesn’t move the needle. They don’t see their fanbases growing in proportion to the work they put in. And so they get angry themselves. And they often quit. They don’t want to market themselves because they’re told on repeat if they self-promote, if they drum up support for awards — it’s not real.  You’re faking it then. If you’re really, they’ll certainly find you naturally. And with very rare exceptions, which has nothing to do with quality of work, no one ever finds them naturally.

Release a book, none of these folk will help. There’s zero loyalty involved here. Everyone here won’t self promote, so why would they promote others? Promoting friends is just as icky as self-promoting. They don’t want to sully themselves. A publicist for your publishing house is supposed to do that for you. Right? Invariably, they don’t sell like they should. I even saw a prominent writer today who’s very highly regarded by this group complain about the income made after having contracts for almost 10 books in traditional publishing. Yikes!

Bring politics into the mix, if you’re in the “wrong”… you’re going to get shrieked at, shouted down, shunned, personally attacked, personally destroyed, mocked, and hated at every turn. It’s so disgusting that they’ll go full on racist, everything they claim to be against, just to put you down. It happened to me last week even. If they don’t do that, they’ll completely ignore you in hopes that you’ll just go away. They don’t want to share their science fiction space with anyone, and don’t even want to talk about it because they’re so burnt out with the above.

This model is failing. Sales are declining. Attendance is going down. It’s an unmitigated disaster, but they keep repeating the same mistakes.

Enter the New Indie Pulp Revolution.

Remember, I was hobnobbing with the group above from 2010- November 2016, flailing from November – February in a vacuum of pretty much just myself, before I finally got fed up with the political shunning and decided to tell the story of how I’ve been treated by the old guard. As soon as I did that, some of my “friends” finally took the plunge in disavowing me like they’d really wanted to all along, but something special happened as well. I met this whole group that i didn’t know existed.

They’re all over the internet. Independent authors. They’re hungry, they want to sell, they want to consume, they want to see the next hot trend. They haven’t been reading thousands of slush pages trying to reject anything and everything, haven’t been speaking at droning conventions about the woes of the industry, haven’t been on writers groups complaining about everything. They just write. They release. They hope readers love it. They engage with readers and other authors. They repeat, and because they love it.

Just watching the mentality of blog reviews from this crowd vs. reviews from the old guard system — you can tell they’re here to have fun with science fiction and fantasy. And that’s what these genres are about: FUN. In all caps. Without fun and imagination, you might as well read a literature type novel, about real life, about the mundane. You might as well read the news and get depressed. The whole point is the sense of wonder. Why lose that? Why not be excited with your fellow author and fellow readers about everything? Learn and grow from each other. We’re all on the same team. Even members of the old guard reading this — and I know you do read — we’re on the same team as well. There’s no reason to be frightened. We’re all friendly.

I showed up in February, it’s June now. Just saying hi and talking with everyone on a regular basis has been a joy. I’ve been invited to writers groups. People invite me to their magazines and anthologies. People invite me to publish with them. We spread reviews and interviews and love around regularly, all hoping to find the next, great thing, so that it edifies our fellow authors and helps ourselves grow at the same time. We’re constantly seeking, constantly smiling, and constantly enjoying.

I’m friends now in this indie group with authors who outsell a lot of people who wouldn’t give me the time of day because they’re “so busy” in the old guard camp. They make time for me, because they’re in the thick of it and understand what it’s like. They haven’t forgotten. They bucked the grind I listed above, and carved their own niche with their own hard marketing work. And they’re happier and freer for it. They understand all their work is on them and them alone, don’t expect anything, but give everything in return. And the old adage is very much true: you get what you give.

Think about it. Six years of working hard still can’t get a person accepted and embraced without a miracle, four months of chatting with some folk online create unbreakable friendships. I’m the same person in both situations, so are you. There’s nothing different there other than the people and the mindset. And that’s why more fans keep coming to me and to other authors involved in this very real revolution in science fiction.

It’s obvious where the business is headed, and where things are going. Old Guard ,or people trying to break into it — embrace these new trends, these fresh faces. They’ll do a lot more for you than the hierarchy that you’re seeking approval from. The gatekeepers are just a social construct from ages past. There’s a new one for the future age. And what are we about in Sci-Fi if we’re not about the future?

It Gets Even Crazier: Baycon and File 770’s Recent Tantrums

Last weekend, while I was having the time of my life, having a politics-free time with some cool folk who enjoy books and genres that I do, fake science fiction news site File 770 had one of their contributors write a weird fan fiction poem about me. Apparently, this person took quite the exception to the fact that I market and promote myself in the wake of some people I don’t know on the internet doing everything in their power to tear me down and delegitimize me. Naturally, not knowing me and never having interacted with me, the person got many of the specifics about events wrong, but his overall message was one that was true enough: these folk can’t get me out of their heads to stop talking about me.

A poem from a random stranger on the internet is a bit creepy, and naturally as it’s meant to target me negatively, I had a bit of a harsh reaction to it at first, but upon reflection I applaud this person’s creativity. If they want to spend their time writing poems about me and hopefully reading my book to come to a good conclusion that I’m not a “real” author or whatnot, that’s great. More power to them.

But what struck me more was the comments that brought me back full circle on this intense journey of blogging and gaining readers regularly since Baycon’s leadership took last year’s election quite personally, opting to disinvite me from their science fiction convention in order to try to send some message that to them, politics is more important than science fiction book releases or even personal friendships.

For those new readers: Baycon took to File 770 to launch a smear campaign of me after that, lying and gaslighting about the topic, which I’ve already shown their true motives on this blog in the past. My public blog was a call to them was to drop the politics, posted after having it made very clear by someone in the know that they would refuse to even open my emails on the topic. My points on the matter were impersonal, and topical, yet was met with some of the most angry, vitriolic personal attacks I’ve ever received. That’s the level of hatred that was involved, and the level I went to try to make sure they cleared up this event so everyone could have a good time in science fiction like in the past.

Baycon, as we found out, not only ignored my warning, but doubled-down with a program slate riddled with angry, one-sided politics. There were other long-time guests who messaged me privately to let me know that they declined their standing invites because the politics had become too thick with this group, and praised me for speaking out on the matter– and yes, despite what they said on the topic, almost every author who puts out even the most unread, semi-relevant work in the last few years has standing invites and gets invited year-after-year. You’re now up to date on the topic if you’re a new reader.

Then it got crazier. One of the File 770 fanfic poem commenters wrote a 400-word rant about Baycon and their interactions with me, specifically on how great of a time that they were all having without me. This person immediately opened with some mild racism directed at your humble Hispanic author and journalist, stating that I don’t “pronounce my name in a Spanish way”. A white woman on the internet demanded that I’m supposed to roll the r’s in Del Arroz harder to make myself some Speedy Gonzalez caricature for her benefit. Someone followed up on mocking my name and heritage on the site, making for a really bizarre display of racism against Hispanics on File 770 that illuminates a lot about the SJW mentality. I incidentally get a lot of racism directed at me from SJWs who can’t handle that I fly in the face of their narrative, and never have once received such treatment from the boogeymen they claim are “problematic.” I reached out to Mike Glyer, the purveyor of the site, for comment, who stated, “Name humor is fundamentally not funny. Ethnic name humor is offensive.”  I agree wholeheartedly, and much thanks to Mr. Glyer for that.

The person continued to make all these presumptions about me that are false before going into the meat of her narrative: no one at Baycon knows who I am or even cares about me. This is where it gets pretty ironic, as then it launches into proof of that concept by mentioning how they were all spending their party evening (most conventions have parties after hours) talking smack about me.  I’m glad that while I was enjoying myself elsewhere with a group of people who legitimately didn’t know me, that these folk of which I am well familiar with a large number, including some who attended/guested who are still very much my friends, had a good time getting angry at me and mocking me where they safely couldn’t get called out on it.

They went further. A long-time attendee made ribbons – actually spent good hard earned money – to take a line from my original blog on the topic and mock me. For those not familiar with conventions, a custom in recent years has been for folk to attach ribbons to their badges, usually something silly or fun, or in promotion of something. They’re not that cheap to make, so it takes some dedication to want to do it (for those at cons in the near future that I’m attending, come find me to get your Grand Rislandian Army ribbons!). I’d heard about this before, and assumed it was a joke that they wouldn’t remember come convention time. Con-chairman Christopher Castro even chimed in on a Facebook thread to express his pleasure at his attendees mocking me in this manner back when the original word of my blackball from speaking hit. I reached out to him for comment, but he blocked me rather than reply. Word is that they gave out around 200 of these at the convention, $50-75 worth of printing costs and several hours of time dedicated to thinking about me.

Yet… no one knew who I was, according to this poster, including the poster herself who had quite a few details they apparently knew about me. The poster has since followed up to state that someone who called me a “cupcake” was responsible for this information — of whom I understand from use of that term to be Baycon programming director, Susie Rodriguez, the person directly responsible for my removal from speaking and the smear campaign. Nice source. The post then goes on to explain how their guest of honor, one of the writing duo known as James SA Corey, of The Expanse fame, had a look of disgust on his face when I was mentioned (I’ve never met or interacted with them, have no beef with them either. I’ve also reached out to them for comments on this topic as I hope to clear any ill-will up as a misunderstanding. From what I hear, they’re good guys and hard workers.) You see the cognitive dissonance that they have to form in order to make these arguments, which is what happens every time in these instances where SJWs get caught with their absurd behavior, and occurred from day one when the Baycon folk went into scramble mode to try to minimize the damage of being called out on their organization’s political problems.

Those comments went on, and they vary in nastiness as they always do when my name is evoked over there. It’s the same 5-10 people saying over and over how horrible I am or how much I don’t matter. The poem’s right in one regard– they sure spend a lot of time talking about me for how much I don’t matter. Something I said resonates to their core, and the reason, despite the cognitive dissonance, is the fact that these folk have spent decades preaching phony tolerance and diversity to a point where it became a witch hunt to find anyone who’s “not tolerant and diverse.” Those words lost their meaning, and became code for “we don’t like vocal Christians” a long time ago, and has in the last year or so added “we don’t like nationalists” to that. Now they’ve got someone willing to speak against their falsehoods, who not only proves there’s no tolerance or diversity desired with this crowd, but does so from a minority perspective who’s supposed to be leading a charge with them. It’s more than me, it’s what I represent as an anti-narrative to them. The narrative is their religion, and without it, they’re lost, as they’ve used that to fill that God-sized hole in their lives.

But there’s good news with this as well. Their tyranny over Baycon is over. New leadership was announced for the convention for 2018, leadership that I very much approve of. They’re of the same political persuasions, this is the San Francisco Bay Area after all, but they’re not the self-destruct-nuke-at-all-costs SJW types that handled the 2017 events. I expect to see some big changes next year, and hopefully the politics can be dropped from this sci-fi convention and it can get back to fun, as it’s the only thing I’ve asked since day one. I’ll of course be on top of watching this and making sure that pertinent sci-fi fandom news is brought to your attention.

Quick shout out my MANY friends from the guest list Baycon who stuck through me through the lambasting, through the attempts to smear my character through the last year. It was certainly rough with the mass of lies and vitriol flung at me, but I appreciate you being there, even if we don’t talk all that much. I won’t name your names for your own safety, but you know who you are. I love you very much and appreciate your support.

#Steampunk Clockwork Alchemy 2017 Round-Up

Clockwork Alchemy in San Jose, CA marked the first time I’d attended a convention wholly dedicated to steampunk – and it was a lot of fun! The crowd had about the highest percentage of people in cosplay I’ve seen, all in elegantly designed Victorian or Steampunk attire, and many I talked to are regular participants in the local ren faire or Dickens Fair – a really cool event around Christmas time that takes the theme of A Christmas Carol and extrapolates a whole convention center with prop-storefronts and everything. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this convention, but I was quite pleased to find on a search of their programming before the event that all of their content was themed, and most importantly there was NO POLITICS.  How refreshing! My wife and I decided to get a babysitter for the kids for a Saturday – Sunday morning jaunt to the con. I only wish we had more time!

The first thing we did was hit the dealer room, which was small but packed with cool themed craftsmen. I needed a new hat since losing my tophat for my steampunk attire a couple of years back, and I found a wonderful hat that the guy who designed it put a ton of work into. It’s gorgeous. Found some cool things for my wife as well like a teacup holster. And we met a craftsman who made a metal pendant version of my Grand Rislandian Army insignia – which readers of this blog will have a chance to win closer to release.

After that we looked into the programming. I’m no crafting person myself, but they had a ton of how-to-make-it-yourself content, of which would be of interest to a lot of people (cool costuming can get expensive!). They also had a “war room” where it was a big open room with live self-defense and weaponry demonstrations. I didn’t participate but I did watch and it was in depth and really cool. Next time that’s something I want to try when I’m not wearing a big heavy leather themed costume.

They also had a tent, outside which they had morning to evening dance and music performances. Really cool! I live streamed a little sample of that on Periscope on Saturday.

Beside that was the highlight of the entire convention, which I wouldn’t have thought at first, but my wife was pretty excited about – the tea room. They have a real brewer who made her own loose leaf blends, and set things up properly with china and the like, while people in themed costume serve you. It may sound a little silly or mundane but the atmosphere there was very themed and so wonderful that I was impressed – not to mention the tea blends they had were incredibly flavorful. It was free as well. Needless to say, the room was packed the whole time with a long wait, but it was well worth it.

We also visited the evening concert on Saturday night and played a cool board game Dicenstein in the gaming room with some nice folk. That ended up with a fun chat in the hotel bar with some folk we met through the online literary world.

Sunday, I travelled through author’s alley and talked to a lot of cool people including Harry Turtledove, the master of alt-history writing himself. I also met a great guy named Steve DeWinter who has a “Steampunk Oz” series that looks really cool, and M. Holly-Rosing, who wrote the comic for the Boston Metaphysical Society, which I’d seen online before. Was really cool to meet these folk! All in all it was an incredibly pleasant experience and I wish I could have spent another day there, as I know I missed the cool steampunk fashion show and ball on Sunday evening that looked like they would have been perhaps the most fun events of the convention.

And then the best part were the cool like-minded people. It was fun to chat steampunk with so many and share my bookmarks for my forthcoming release, which was very well received by all. My wife and I look forward to participating next year and hopefully we can contribute a little more with the release of For Steam And Country and perhaps a sequel if I can manage it in time for their event.

One more thing: I told a lot of people at the convention, but starting June 1, I’m going to be running #SteampunkMonth on the blog here, in which I’ll try to post some steampunk content every day through the month of June. I want everyone to join me in this and bring about a Steampunk revival on social media. Don’t be shy, join in the fun!

Tally ho!