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Books I’ve Read Recently

Well, this post is way overdue, sorry! I’ve been reading things, some of which pleased me greatly, and I want to share those titles with you!

First off, just to make you all jealous, I’ve read Martha Wells’ Network Effect–you know, the Murderbot novel that’s not out till next May? Yeah, that one.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

Yeah, it’s just as awesome as you’re hoping it is.

I have also read:

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, by Zen Cho

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse and it all goes downhill from there…

In this rollicking update on the classic Chinese bandit fantasy, Zen Cho tells the story of Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon who joins up with an eclectic group of bandits, whether they like it or not.

Great fun! If you’ve read anything by Zen Cho, you know you’re in for a treat with this one. Out next June.

The Year of the Fruit Cake by Gillian Polack

Humankind is in danger. The Year of the Fruitcake tells of the Earth-based life of a mostly-mindwiped alien anthropologist inhabiting a human perimenopausal body instead of her own more rational body with its capacity to change gender. This alien has definitely shaken a great intergalactic empire by sitting in cafés with her new best friends. Chocolate may or may not have played a part. Will humanity survive? Polack describes her novel as, “Bleak. It’s political. It’s angry. It’s also sarcastic, cynical and funny.”

It is indeed sarcastic, cynical, and funny. Give it a go.

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Thousands of years ago, Earth’s terraforming program took to the stars. On the world they called Nod, scientists discovered alien life – but it was their mission to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Then humanity’s great empire fell, and the program’s decisions were lost to time.
Aeons later, humanity and its new spider allies detected fragmentary radio signals between the stars. They dispatched an exploration vessel, hoping to find cousins from old Earth.
But those ancient terraformers woke something on Nod better left undisturbed.
And it’s been waiting for them.
Y’all have read Children of Time, right? No? Put it on your tbr! This is a sequel to that, and I enjoyed it immensely.

More next week! Yes, I have a backlog.

Purity: or Will No One Think of the Children

So, this has been going on a while in various places, but it’s recently raised its head on Twitter. Sadly, more than once in the last few days, but for Reasons I’m even more pissed off than usual this time.

So, antis. I am not here for antis. Not because I’m blase about the sexual abuse of children, but precisely the contrary.

And in particular I am not here for antis harassing folks, or trying to round up people to help them harass. Which is what folks have been doing for several years now.

So, not infrequently antis will claim that they’re just against the kind of fic that is meant to normalize pedophilia, and/or groom victims. Or the sort that’s just meant to provide gratification for pedophiles or make them feel better about themselves. And I mean, sure, that sounds reasonable until you actually think about it for five minutes.

Tell me, friends, how do you know the difference between horrible pedophile-encouraging work, and the work of survivors working through their trauma? How do you know the bad kind of fic from stories meant to help other survivors deal with their histories?

Yeah, I know, you know it when you see it. It’s just obvious, right?

Hah. No. Let me tell you, you don’t. I mean, just on the most basic level, we all tend to read or view things from within our own context. Your context may very well not be the same as the context of any given writer, and your assumptions about why they did a thing or what they were thinking? Probably wrong. I mean, seriously–I’ve seen some amazingly assured assertions about what I meant or intended with various things in the Ancillary books, for instance, and 99% of them are so off base it’s difficult for me not to laugh when I see them. Most people just aren’t as good at divining the intent of a writer through their fiction as they think they are.

Now, this is not to say that there are no artists (or people influencing the production of art) who are pedophiles, or that no art at all bears the traces of such influence. I’m just saying–how do you know which is which? You’re digging through AO3, or you’ve picked up some other work, you know nothing about the artist except that they’ve included a ship you think is immoral, or if you squint hard enough someone in a scene is maybe underage (according to whose laws? But that’s a whole other can of worms isn’t it). Tell me, how can you be so sure that harassing the author–or going around telling everyone you know the author is a pedophile–is warranted?

Well, you just know. It’s obvious. So you harass the author–you splat triggering, out of context shit up on Twitter, or you go into DMs with horrible, triggering stuff on purpose, to get some outrage going, and you’re so proud of yourself, you’re working against those horrible child rapists! But it’s funny, isn’t it, how great it feels to be that avenging arm of righteousness, swinging that sword, hurting the bad guys. What’s less great is the fact that you’re hurting the very people you claim to be fighting for–survivors of sexual abuse.

You claim you only want to erase the bad stuff, only go after the bad people, but in the end you go after anyone who even mentions the bad stuff, and guess what, a lot of survivors write about the bad stuff, and antis have definitely gone after survivors talking about their trauma. So now survivors can’t even talk about their experiences.

It’s almost like that’s exactly what you want. It’s almost like you’d prefer the abused stop talking about their experiences. Surely it’s entirely, sadly coincidental that when the abused can’t talk about their abuse, abusers can keep on abusing with impunity.

I’ve lived through too many purity crusades to have any patience with this one: crusades against “bad” language, mentions of sex, mentions of same-sex desire– every single one of them did more harm than good, and every single one of them wasn’t actually about the thing they were supposedly about. They were all, in the end, the short edge of a wedge going after way more social control–control of women, control of children, control of families the crusaders didn’t like. This one is no different, for all it wraps itself up in the flag of Saving The Children.

You want to criticize a text? Go ahead. You disapprove of an author’s work? Sure, say so. Is there a problem with the sexualization of children in our culture? Sure is. Is swarming someone on Twitter or Tumblr going to help? Not one fucking bit. In fact, it’s entirely possible you’re hurting actual victims of pedophilia. But, you know, go off, I guess.

Just don’t expect any sympathy from me. Cause you’re having way too much fun trying to hurt people, and maybe you should step back and think about that.

New Website!

Well, so, it’s been quiet over here, except a couple of weeks ago folks may have noticed some phantom “new post” tweets and Tumblr posts, which linked back either to a page that couldn’t be found, or some placeholder Lorem Ipsum sort of text. That was because the inestimable Jeremiah Tolbert, of the fabulous Clockpunk Studios, was redoing my website, and I forgot to warn him about my crossposter plugin, which, it turns out, is different from whatever any of his other clients use. So, sorry about that! But now the new site is live and beautiful!

I’ve been doing Stuff, most of it wonderful. I had lovely visits to Left Bank Books, and to the University City Public Library. Just the other evening I was out at the Washington, MO Public Library, thanks to local bookstore Neighborhood Reads. I had a great time, and met lots of lovely people!

Oh, and I taught a week of Clarion West! It was a great week, and I had a lovely time. I’m looking forward to you all being able to read the work of the wonderful writers I worked with there.

I’ve also been learning (kind of) how to draw and paint. For folks who are inexplicably interested in seeing my messy daily sketches, I’ve started a sideblog over on Tumblr where I post photos of my practice. HEADS UP: I’m taking a figure-drawing class (and also practicing at home using Youtube videos of people posing for figure-drawing practice, did you know there were videos for that?) so there are a fair number of pictures of naked people.

If you missed it, the anthology The Mythic Dream (edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe) came out recently, with stories by lots of wonderful people, and even a story by me!

And speaking of short stories. This coming summer The Book of Dragons comes out from Harper Voyager. It’s edited by Jonathan Strahan, and contains lots of stories and some poetry–about dragons! One of those stories is by me and Rachel Swirsky. I can’t wait for you all to be able to read it.

I’ve also been reading some books–I’ll give details in another blog post, hopefully soon, because I’m behind in recommending things I really liked. I will say, though, that it’s entirely possible that I’ve read the Murderbot novel already, even though it doesn’t come out till next year, and more than possible that it’s just as fun as you hope it is.

Things I’ve Read (cont’d)

I haven’t been blogging much lately–being busy will do that! I’ve turned in a book to my editors, and am waiting for the inevitable moment when I’ll have revisions to do, and in the meantime I’m working on another project, and I’ve been doing Stuff. Like, look at this shiny thing I made!

I took some lessons from Elise Matheson, who is a fabulous teacher.

Anyway! I’ve also managed to read some things!

The Waterdancer’s World by L. Timmel Duchamp

I’m not sure I can do better than the description at Aqueduct Press: “Humans have been struggling to live on Frogmore for almost five centuries, adapting themselves to punishing gravity and the deadly mistflowers that dominate its ecology. Financier Inez Gauthier, patron of the arts and daughter of the general commanding the planet’s occupation forces, dreams of eliminating the mistflowers that make exploitation of the planet’s natural wealth so difficult and impede her father’s efforts to crush the native insurgency. Fascinated by the new art-form of waterdancing created by Solstice Balalzalar celebrating the planet’s indigenous lifeforms, Inez assumes that her patronage will be enough to sustain Solstice’s art even as she ruthlessly pursues windfall profits at the expense of all that has made waterdancing possible.”

The review at Strange Horizons suggests a theoretical subgenre called “realistic space opera” within which tWDW might fit, and that rings true to me. It’s about fateful events in the history of Frogmore, but it tells its story almost entirely in terms of the interactions and choices of individual characters. I found it compelling reading.

Which didn’t surprise me–some years ago I bought a copy of Alanya to Alanya in the dealers room at Wiscon, figuring it was a nice hefty book that might take me some time to read, and if I enjoyed it I’d buy the second volume the next year. Once I picked it up, though, I couldn’t put it down, and it only took me a few days to finish reading it. And then I really really wished I had the next book on hand, so next Wiscon I just bought the rest of them in a big stack, and read them in a couple of weeks.

The Waterdancer’s World isn’t so (literally) voluminous (or quite so viscerally upsetting, as the Marq’ssan books are in places, to me), and is maybe a more manageable introduction to Duchamp’s writing.

The Beautiful Ones by Siliva Moreno-Garcia

Y’all should be reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia, if you aren’t already. This particular book is a romance, set in a Not Quite France where some people are born with telekinetic ability–ladies never indulge it in public, of course. If you enjoy the Regency-ish Romances With Magic kind of thing, you’ll want to check this out. I enjoyed it a lot.

And then maybe check out Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other work, because, seriously.

Review(ish): Some Adagio Teas

So, I’ll start this out with a disclaimer: Adagio contacted me and offered to give me some tea for free if I would review it on Twitter. I am not one to turn down free tea, and I already buy tea from Adagio more or less regularly. And they’re the home of the Imperial Radch Tea Blends, so.

I had a gift certificate to work with, so I actually got three things–one that’s already a favorite, one that wasn’t the sort of thing I usually get but what the heck, and one that I threw in on impulse before I checked out.

I’m not much of a white tea fan. I mean, I don’t dislike it, but it’s usually been not my fave–usually it just tastes like faintly leafy hot water to me. But I got a sample of a white tea with my Manual Tea Maker No 1, and either that tea was particularly good and/or the gaiwan style brewing really brought some nice flavor out. So I’d been meaning to try another white tea in the Manual and see what I thought.

This is Adagio’s White Symphony. The flavor is very delicate–I found I got best results using a touch more than I would have for another kind of tea. I tried it just in an infuser for 3 minutes, and then I tried it in the Manual. It definitely stands up to multiple steeps, but it wasn’t noticeably more interesting in the Manual. This is also the first tea that I’ve found doesn’t do well with my tap water. I was unhappy with the first cup, which was the old “faintly leafy hot water” thing. Then I tried using filtered water and the results were much better. It tasted like a very delicate tea, instead of hot water pretending to be tea. Seems like my problem with white tea might be more about my tap water, and I’m looking forward to drinking more of this one.

This is the sort of thing you’d sip and think about how it tastes. It is not, IMO, a great choice for a hearty cuppa, or for waking up in the morning.

This is Adagio’s Fujian Baroque. It’s a reliable favorite of mine. It has a sort-of-maybe sweet, faintly almost-chocolatey flavor, with no astringency. If you find ordinary grocery store orange pekoe or black tea too bitter or astringent, you might want to give this a shot. This is one of a couple of black teas I try to keep around. (The other is PG tips, because sometimes you just want a strong milky hit of tea.) I personally wouldn’t put milk or sugar in this, but I do find that it’s a good first-thing-in-the-morning tea.

And the third tea!

This is Chestnut flavored tea. I was clicking around and saw some reviews for this. The idea struck me as somewhat improbable, and by and large I’m not that much into flavored teas, but the reviews were good, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong throwing a sample package into my order. It’s really nice! It has a sort of toasty, nutty flavor that complements the black tea really well. I will certainly add this into my regular rotation, because I like it a lot.

(Adagio has one or two improbably flavored teas–I ordered some Artichoke back when it was available and…it was odd. But I read the reviews–it had its fans. Also Cucumber White, which I used in one of my blends. That was interesting, and actually maybe I need to revisit it now that I’ve discovered that white tea is better with filtered water.)

On Monsters

So, there’s a thing I’d been kind of thinking about for the past couple weeks, and it seems to me that it’s kind of become relevant in a really horrible way.

At one point, a few weeks ago, someone in my hearing made the observation that the Nazis had so utterly failed to have human empathy that they might be considered more human-shaped machines than real human beings. I took polite issue with the statement at the time. I will take more public, emphatic issue with it now.

Here’s the thing–the Nazis? Those concentration camp guards, the people who dug and filled in mass graves, led prisoners to gas chambers, all of that? They were not inhuman monsters. They were human beings, and they weren’t most of them that different from anyone you might meet on your morning walk, or in the grocery store.

I know it’s really super uncomfortable to look around you and realize that–that your neighbors, or even you, yourself, might, given circumstances, commit such atrocities. Your mind flinches from it, you don’t want to even think about it. It can’t be. You know that you’re a good person! Your neighbors and co-workers are so nice and polite and decent. You can’t even imagine it, so there must have been something special, something particularly different about the people who enthusiastically embraced Hitler.

I’m here to tell you there wasn’t.

I’m quite certain those people who committed terrible atrocities were very nice to each other! Super polite and nice to other good Aryan citizens of the Reich, and certainly to their families. Of course they were! They were perfectly nice human beings.

It wasn’t that they were incapable of empathy, of any human feeling. It was more a matter of where they drew the boundaries of that empathy.

Remember that the next time you find yourself saying “I’m not racist, it’s just…” or “I’m not racist, but…” because that just and that but are where the borders of your own empathy lie. And maybe you’re okay with those being the boundaries–but, look, when someone calls you on that, don’t try to pretend it’s not there.

We’ve most of us learned the first part of the lesson really well–the Nazis were horrible! Racism is bad!–without having learned the next part of the lesson: no one thinks they’re a villain, not even Nazis. After all, those Jews were a real threat to the Aryan race! They had to do what they did.

No one thinks they’re racist, because racists are bad, and I’m not bad! I’m a good, decent person. It’s just that….

Yeah. Right.

Think about that. I’m not just talking to folks who were willing to vote for a flagrantly racist, willfully ignorant, obviously unqualified and unstable narcissist for president for what they keep insisting were totally not racist reasons. I’m also talking to folks who are dismayed to see said incompetent unstable narcissist set to take office but who say everyone should calm down, it won’t be that bad. Because this is the USA, not freaking Germany.

There was nothing special about the German people, nothing supernaturally evil about Hitler. They were all human beings, and it can happen here, and it’s far more likely to happen here if we pretend otherwise, because it’s the thing you won’t look at about yourself that will lead you right over the cliff you keep insisting isn’t really there, all the while you’re tumbling to the rocks below.

Stop telling yourself it can’t happen here. (A registry for Muslims? With maybe some kind of ID so we know who all the Muslims are? Totally reasonable, totally un-racist, and after all we’re Americans, so it’ll all be fine.)

(Read that thread)

Stop acting as though calling some action “racist” is beyond the pale, unthinkably horrible to do to someone. Stop assuming that the people you know and talk to everyday can’t be racist because after all they’re so polite to you. Stop assuming that “racist” means “inhuman monster.” The end result of doing this is to make it impossible to call anyone or anything racist that isn’t cross-burning, actual lynching, Nazi-levels of racism. And sometimes not even then, as we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Which makes it impossible to do anything about racism–prevent it, address it, anything. Even in ourselves. Especially in ourselves. Which allows it to grow unchecked.

It can happen here. Flagrant racists are often very polite and decent people (so long as you’re white). The worst monsters of history were not inhuman monsters. They were all too human.

On Guilty Pleasures

Every now and then, someone will ask me about what my guilty pleasures are. But I don’t actually have any.

Not because my taste is pure sophisticated perfection, no. I like pop tarts and velveeta and happy bubblegum pop songs (some of them, anyway) and popcorn read-em-once adventures just fine. And I have no difficulty telling the difference between a pop tart and a gourmet pastry, velveeta and some of the certifiably best cheese in the US.

And not because I think there’s no such thing as standards–just because I like something doesn’t mean it’s particularly good. I don’t think it’s some terrible injustice that Velveeta hasn’t got a pile of gold medals from the World Cheese Awards. It’s just, sometimes I love me some velveeta-covered mac and cheese, or a nice frosted blueberry pop tart.

I would say I don’t understand what there is to be guilty of, in these supposedly guilty pleasures, but sadly I know all too well what that’s about.

Velveeta? Is mass produced. That mass production makes it relatively inexpensive, and easy to get your hands on. It’s easy to cook with–you basically just melt it into whatever you’re making. It’s salty, it’s filling, it’s cheesy-tasting enough, as these things go. Little kids like velveeta. It’s not exactly a sophisticated taste to have.

That cheese I referred to above? If you don’t live in the vicinity of Bloomsdale, Mo, you’ll likely have a tough time getting your hands on some. Me, I can get a few ounces of it just by heading for the nearest farmer’s market, but it’ll cost me as much as two or three big blocks of velveeta. It’s totally worth it–they didn’t get that gold medal because the goats are cute. (Although the goats are super cute.)

I can like both of these, in different ways, for different reasons, but I’m supposed to feel ashamed of admitting the one. Why is that? Why are my personal preferences, some of them in such viscerally basic areas of my life–the taste of food!–subject to what is essentially a moral judgement? Why am I only supposed to admit liking what’s publicly valorized, and ashamed of liking what’s not?

And isn’t it funny how the stuff that I’m supposed to be ashamed of liking is inexpensive, mass produced, and easy to obtain? Isn’t that interesting?

Isn’t it funny how so much of the music and reading material that’s most heartily sneered at is loved by teenage girls? The bands or solo singers those girls fixate on in crushes of one sort or another, depending on a girl’s preferences and inclination, as fantasy romantic or sexual figures, and/or figures of hero worship, oh those are all horrible and stupid, aren’t they. The music is empty formulaic crap, the performers bland and pretty and plastic, and what are these girls even thinking, looking up to Taylor Swift! Never mind that adolescent girls have as much need as anyone for working out who they are and what they like, and the young, unthreatening folks who tend to make up those pop acts are entirely appropriate for the purpose. Sure, a lot of the music is disposable (and these teens react to it as though it’s earth shattering and profound and not cliche at all! How childish!) but some of it is better than it’s given credit for. And even if it weren’t, it’s no worse than ninety percent of everything else that hits the airwaves. Why the sneers? Why the hatred?

Or Romance. Romance isn’t one of my things, right, but let’s be honest, a crappy detective novel or a crappy SF or Extruded Fantasy Product is just as bad as a crappy Romance. When it’s SF we’ll protest that no, that’s just a bad one, the whole genre’s not like that, but Romance? Romance is just stupid, man.

Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things that poor people like–or tend to buy or use because it’s cheap. Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things that teenage girls like, or women. Isn’t it funny how guilty pleasures are things we liked when we were kids.

I’m not saying that nothing can be criticized–there are surely bad Romance novels. Taylor Swift is a pretty good songwriter who has done some very admirable things, but she’s also had her less than admirable public moments. Velveeta doesn’t come out well in a comparison with really good cheese (unless its a competition for what will make the easiest mac & cheese, given only three minutes and a microwave to work with), and it’s probably not very good for you. I’m perfectly willing to criticize things I like, or consider criticism of those things, and still like them.

No, I’m talking about that weird, moral dimension to likes and dislikes. You like pumpkin spice anything? You should be ashamed. You should feel guilty, because you’re not supposed to like that, smart people don’t like that, people who like that have something wrong with them.

So much of what we like or dislike–what we’re publicly supposed to like or dislike–is functioning as in-group identifiers. You go to Starbucks because there are a zillion of them and you’re the kind of person who drinks lattes. You sneer at Starbucks because you’re not one of those sheep and their coffee is terrible, you go to the indie place where they serve you your latte in a mason jar, or in a puddle on a wooden plank. (I kid because I love–not long ago I was served dinner in half a dozen heaps on a wooden plank, and it was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. But there is something a little silly and super trendy about that kind of presentation.)

Or maybe I belong to (or aspire to belong to) a group that marks identity by reaction to the more widely valorized tastes–I’m sophisticated enough to prefer a cheap, canned beer (not just any cheap canned beer mind you!) or tea instead of coffee (again, not just any tea). Or maybe I’m sure someone is sneering at me, so I pre-emptively sneer at them, those snobs and their fancy moldy cheese and wine that’s no better than two buck chuck if you cover up the label and tell them it cost a lot and won some prizes.

All of it’s an advertisement for who you claim to be, in public. Being seen liking (or disliking) the wrong things can get you marked as an outsider, or as a member of a class you desperately don’t want to be part of. Sweet Mother of God don’t let anyone think I’m too much like a woman or a poor person or a gay guy or a lesbian or an elitist college educated liberal or…

Anxiety. Fear of being mistakenly–mistakenly, I swear!–placed in a deprecated category. Or just contempt for people in those categories. It’s not really about the art, the food, the coffee. If it were, you could talk about it without the sneering, without implying that anyone who would like this crap is deserving of mockery. Without talking about liking such things as though it were something you should feel guilty about.

It’s entirely possible to criticize things you like. It’s entirely possible to like bad things and dislike good things. It’s entirely possible to be a smart, educated, decent human being who likes pumpkin spice flavored stuff, and velveeta.

And while I know it’s difficult, it’s absolutely possible to criticize things without sneering at the people who like them. It’s harder than sneering, it takes some thought. And no, you don’t have to do it just because I’m saying you can. You can do anything you want. You do you. Just maybe think about it next time you’re about to say that something is a guilty pleasure.

Galaktika

So, if you haven’t heard about the recent (for certain values of recent) issues with the Hungarian SF magazine Galaktika, here are some links to fill you in:

SFWA’s Statement on Galaktika

A. G. Carpenter’s blog post about Galaktika

Bence Pintér’s article (in Hungarian)

In summary, Galaktika is a Hungarian SF magazine, and is, moreover, a revival of a highly respected older publication. And it turns out, they’ve been publishing translations of a lot of English-language science fiction stories. Stories they yoinked off the web, translated into Hungarian, and published without asking the authors for permission, let alone paying them.

I gather some authors who have discovered this have been hesitant to make noise about it, because if Galaktika folded, Hungary wouldn’t have any other prominent venue for short sf. I’m going to be straight with you, though–for various reasons, some of which would be impolitic to detail here in public, I have come to the conclusion that while this sort of thing seems reasonable on the surface (if a big magazine went down, that would be bad for writers!), when you look closely you start to see how skeevy it is (therefore writers should be willing to make Sacrifices to keep this magazine (or book publisher, I’m biting my tongue) going! If you really value the field and writers you won’t demand to be paid or treated with any kind of respect or courtesy YOUR WRITING CAREER IS ON THE LINE so do what we tell you and don’t complain or else).

And the sheer volume of stories Galaktika has stolen–yes, stolen–has become more and more apparent. And it so happens that SFWA’s Griefcom got involved, and they were unable to make much headway, it seems,* and felt compelled to make that public statement linked above.

It just so happens that one of the stories Galaktika stole was mine. No, they did not ask, and no, they did not pay.

Now, the story of mine they took was a tiny flash piece. Not huge, to me, in the scheme of things. But you know what ticks me off more?

Their really inadequate excuses for these thefts. Editor in chief István Burger is quoted in the SFWA statement as saying:

When I decided to revive Galaktika more than 10 years ago, I went to the leader of one of the most respected literary agencies, to ask for his advice how to get permissions for the stories we plan to publish in the magazine in the future. I had no experience at all in this respect.

Our conversation had a very friendly atmosphere, the leader of the agency was happy that such an aknowledged magazine was revived. Finally we had a verbal agreement, that – as we plan to have a serious book publishing activity as well – we can consider short stories in Galaktika sort of an advertisement in which authors are introduced to Hungarian readers, so that we could publish their novels afterwards. The money we would pay for the rights for the novels contains the price of short stories. So agencies don’t have to deal with rights of short stories for $10 which is as much work as to get the rights of a $1000 novel. During this conversation it became obvious that agencies don’t want to deal with $10-20 so I didn’t want to bother the others with similar requests. Of course in case of longer stories and novels we made contracts.

I hope that it is obvious now that there were no intentional stealing at all, as we made an agreement in time for the use of stories. Now I regret that it was only a verbal agreement, but at that time we both acknowledged it.

Yeah, the fact that the verbal “agreement” wasn’t on paper means nothing. There can have been no agreement that mattered if the rights-holders of the stories concerned weren’t involved. Having a tape-recording of the conversation notarized by God Herself would change nothing. (I’m willing to believe the conversation actually happened, by the way, and that if so Mr Burger’s description of it is spun hard enough that the anonymous literary agent might only barely recognize it.)

Let me be absolutely clear about this: this excuse is utter bullshit. If Mr Burger actually believes this, he has no business trying to run a magazine.

Look, the thing about Galaktika publishing books too is completely irrelevant. My books are published in Hungary, translated into Hungarian–by Gabo, not the publisher that owns Galaktika. No story of mine in Galaktika was ever going to be an advertisement for a translation of my books. If I’d wanted an advertisement I would have bought an ad.

And I’ve been asked several times–sometimes personally, sometimes through my agent–for permission to translate short stories. Sometimes specifically in order to promote the translated editions of my novels! My agent is not too busy to deal with such things, and neither am I. And besides, let’s say I and/or my agent didn’t want to deal with such a small transaction? Well, tough cookies. That doesn’t mean you just get to take what you want anyway.

As for the claim that Galaktika was somehow an advertisement for the authors being stolen from–well, that’s suspiciously like the claim that “exposure” is a valuable commodity that writers should be more than happy to get in lieu of actual money. Sadly, one cannot eat exposure, or pay rent with it. And while any author is of course within their rights to allow a magazine to publish their work without payment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with any given writer choosing to do that with any given story, the key words there are writer and choosing. Editors can’t just print anything they want without paying or asking permission because the author will get exposure and besides the magazine can’t really afford to pay.

(Here’s an extra-credit question: If the magazine can’t afford to pay writers even a token amount for a story, how in the world do you know it has any readers to speak of, to provide that oh-so-invaluable exposure?)

So, the TLDR of this is this bit from the SFWA statement: “SFWA formally recommends that authors, editors, translators, and other publishing professionals avoid working with Galaktika until the magazine has demonstrated that existing issues have been addressed and that there will be no recurrence.” The folks running it have demonstrated what is either bad faith or astounding ignorance. And writers are not obliged to put up with theft and mistreatment in exchange for dubious exposure, or because somehow the magazine or publisher involved is crucial to the field. How crucial is it if they’re not paying you? Seriously. That’s some abusive shit right there.

Aspiring writers, remember–people die of exposure. Exposure is not payment. If your work is good enough to be published, it’s good enough to be paid for. And nobody needs publishers who demand the rights to your work without pay while justifying it as somehow good for you. Nobody.
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*In comments at the annleckie.com blog, John Johnston III, chairman of SFWA’s Griefcom, objects to my characterizing the situation as SFWA being able to make no headway. “Actually Griefcom has made and almost certainly will continue to make a great deal of “headway” on the Galaktika situation, and that blog post was a part of the process.” Well, he should know, because he is, as I’ve said, chairman of the excellent Griefcom. I knew that going public with a situation is something Griefcom generally avoids, and only resorts to when it absolutely must, and I oversimplified that as “making no headway.” I apologize to the good folks on Griefcom for my mischaracterization. They do a lot of excellent work for writers.

Back From Worldcon

As the title says, I’m safe home again from my epic voyage to Kansas City, and my plans for today involve a lot of tea and mindless Netflix. But I thought I’d check in and say a few words about how my WorldCon went.

Well, first off, HOW ABOUT THOSE HUGOS! I’ll be straight with y’all, I have been rooting for The Fifth Season to win because it is a fabulous book. Several times I considered posting here to say so. In the end I decided it wasn’t a good idea, but in individual conversations I did say it. I mean, look, I’m really proud of Ancillary Mercy. And by the way, I am honored and seriously touched by the folks who’ve told me they put it first on their ballots and who hoped for it to win the Hugo. I have the best readers. I really do. And I would have been genuinely happy for any of the finalists had they walked away with the rocket rather than me, or Nora.

But The Fifth Season. Y’all, since I started voting for the Hugos I’ve found that very often there’s a particular book in the novel category. I mean, you read them, you read one and it’s like “yeah, this is good, I see why it’s there.” And you read the next. “Yeah, this is really really good.” Sometimes not to my taste, right? But good. Another one. “This is good too! It’s going to be difficult to rank these.” And then you hit that one. “Oh. Right. This is the winner.” This year, in my personal opinion, The Fifth Season was that book. I actually shouted “Yes!” when the result was announced. Because. I mean.

And it was a lovely night pretty much all around. I got to meet an astronaut! There were actually TWO REAL ASTRONAUTS there and I can’t even. Some lovely acceptance speeches, particularly Nora’s. And someone suggested to me afterward that Neil Gaiman maybe could have been more direct, instead of soft-pedaling his opinion. (Just kidding, I found his brief speech entirely delightful.) I got to meet Zoe Quinn, who is fabulous! I went to GRRM’s afterparty!

I’m telling my WorldCon backwards! Well, only kind of. My last con thing was a panel on Sunday afternoon with Geoffrey Landis. There were supposed to be more panelists, but in the end it was just the two of us, dealing with the question “Can hard science fiction be too hard?” which is honestly a nonsense question that misses the point, but it was a great start to just riff on, and we had a great time talking and there were wonderful contributions from the audience, and it went swimmingly.

Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park was a success! I arrived on Wednesday afternoon with the 19 year old, and we decorated it up and arranged things and whatnot, and set out buttons and pins and ribbons for folks to take, and I tried to spend some time there every day so folks knew where they could find me. This was particularly important since I didn’t have a scheduled signing. That’s not a criticism of the con, I’m pretty sure scheduling all that sort of thing is pretty hair-raising and I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars, and there were lots of folks who wanted and deserved signing slots and very likely fewer spaces in the schedule than would accommodate all of us. But it did make things awkward for folks who wanted books signed but who didn’t want to accost me in the hallway. Anyway, the park was a place I could be available and talk to folks and sign things.

It was also a place where folks could play a hand or two of Cards Against Significant Species. Seriously, one of my awesome readers brought an actual customized deck and it sat there in the park and people played it (including me) and enjoyed the heck out of it. There was also a cosplayer! They were Lieutenant Tisarwat on Thursday (complete with purple contact lenses!), Anaander Mianaai on Friday, and Breq (with mourning stripe!) on Saturday. JUST SUPER AWESOME. I had also put out some pens and post-its with the vague, barely formed idea that maybe people might want to leave a note (for me, for someone else, for themselves, whatever) and that turned into post-its appearing on the park sign and the park’s NO FISHING sign, with truly delightful (and occasionally warring) messages. The string of different Anaander Mianaais who declared the park annexed, for instance, made me laugh. I have pictures of all of it, but have not uploaded them from my phone. Some of them have already been posted to Tumblr.

I would really like to thank MidAmericon for the whole park thing. It was a great idea, and it worked out particularly well for me. Partly because I was driving and could pack my car full of silly stuff to put out, but also it was just nice to have that place to sit down and chat.

I did the writers workshop on Friday, by the way, and I so enjoyed that. Rachel Swirsky and I did the same session and the…students, I guess? The students were great and I really enjoyed meeting them and talking to them about fiction–theirs, and in general. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from them in the future.

I also did my first ever kaffeklatch! Well, first as the person people were there to see, not as a fan. That was a lot of fun, and I so enjoyed meeting everyone and having a chance to just chat and answer questions.

So, basically, my con was awesome. Everything went really well, everything turned out either as I had hoped or well beyond what I could have reasonably wished for, and everything I was involved in was well-run and the folks I worked with or who I had cause to ask for information or assistance were super helpful. The couple of negative occurrences I heard about appear to have been dealt with quickly and appropriately. I had a great time. If I didn’t get to see you, I am sorry I missed you! If I did–I’m so glad we got a chance to hang out!

I could probably continue to enthuse, but the fact is, I’m exhausted. I’ve been basically “on” since Wednesday evening, and while I love love love meeting people and hanging out with new and old friends, it does take energy. (Yes, like many writers, I am a serious introvert.) And I did three panels yesterday on about four hours of sleep and then promptly jumped in my car and drove all the way across the state. So, after the four or five days of fun and partying, it is time for me to spend a day or so drinking tea and watching Midsomer Murders, because that’s about as much concentration as I’m going to manage for a bit.