Can the Rhetoric Get Any MORE Hyperbolic?

So now Amazon is ISIS. What a bunch of rubbish. Here we are with more of that ‘new civility’ we were encouraged to remember for five minutes. But only the people in opposition to the Leftist Operatives With Bylines must comply with. http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/10/31/who-is-the-real-monster-in-publishing-a-halloween-tale/ No, I’m not linking to the Telegraph original. They do not deserve the hits.

Amazon is a business. They do what they think will make them long-term profit. Period. Now, I will conceal nothing from you: I do not know how a business bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter can sustain its existing operating model. I know enough about both economics and math to understand that is not sustainable losses for anyone who is incapable of legally printing tender. That said, if Hachette wasn’t hemorrhaging as well, Agents, A-list authors (the only ones who would lose if Hachette passed away) and their media allies wouldn’t be rushing to their aid. I do *not* think Amazon can go on indefinitely paying 70% to the e-book author. I also do not believe for a second publishers give a flying carp about raising THEIR royalty rates. They’ve been making themselves fat off saying they’re necessary while doing less for so long they don’t know how to live on less than 90% of the take. And given they want to place e-book prices at artificially high rates, so that you’ll keep buying dead trees, you can bet that if it isn’t Amazon, it will be someone else undercutting their share. Because the jinn is out of the bottle, and there is no chance of going back to the 20th century scalping model publishers loves and the rest of us endured.

Book Review: The Widow’s House, Daniel Abraham

The latest entry in The Dagger and Coin series by author: Daniel Abraham finds the strong point of the series where it has been: Exceptional Characters. No one makes living, breathing, flawed, believable, and yet sympathetic figures like Daniel Abraham.

Geder is by turns bloodthirsty and compassionate, and believable in each role. When he makes his confession at the end of the book, my heart felt for him, despite everything. Cithrin goes through despair to find a weapon to use against the enemy. But one entirely different from that Marcus Westin and Kit sought. Even the Dragon, Inys, proves to be both more and less than expected.

Despite this, I found it slightly slower going at first for this book than the previous installments. It felt like a lull until the first battle. And then the plot begins to move, but never at a pace that even matches the 2nd and 3rd books of the series. This isn’t a bad thing, as this leaves room for the internal machinations on each side. It also allows a fascinating and intelligent discussion of markets and currency that most fantasy writing, even literary fantasy, would not be learned enough to indulge in. And it’s done entirely in character, and with legitimate character conflict, so it never feels like a ‘lecture.’

What knocks this book from 5 stars for me has nothing to do with the author as such. But the editing. It is, frankly: Slipshod. Duplicated words, misspellings that *spellcheck* would have caught, but the editors were too lazy to fix. After all the time Orbit (through their Overlords at Hachette) has spent telling us how important authors find their editors, and professional editing is, to turn out a work as POORLY edited by this in a major release is frankly pathetic.

I can always tell when a series has changed from ‘Investment’ to ‘cash cow’ in the eyes of the publishers. Because they stop caring about editing, since they know it’ll sell no matter what. Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones both contracted this illness, and both bloated, with WoT in particular becoming error-filled in the middle volumes. The errors Orbit let through are as bad as anything I found there. And it was only the skill of the author, over their incompetence, that makes this a Four Star book instead of one I angrily tossed across the room.

I Generally Try to Refrain From Politics on This Blog

Not because you can’t guess my politics if you haven’t been stalking me about the internet already. Or even because I’m ashamed of them, because I’m not. But because generally, I believe in writing fiction as an escape from the morass of the real world which our political class has created.

That said, when one article so finely encapsulates everything wrong with the publishing industry, it cannot be ignored: http://hotair.com/archives/2014/08/13/report-simon-schuster-imprint-rejected-book-about-bergdahl-because-it-would-make-obama-look-bad/

Look folks, even if you love Obama, he will NOT be in office forever. At some point, posterity deserves to know the general facts of his regime, as opposed to the manufactured Palace Guard narrative we live under now. It’s not the soldiers’ fault that Dear Leader traded five certifiable Jihadists for one deserter-cum-wannabe Jihadist. They were the ones stuck holding the sack of carp that resulted in trying to get traitorous deserter BACK. Some of them may have even got dead thanks to him. I haven’t heard an apology from Bergdahl or his family to those soldiers. Have you?

Regardless of your politics, this was botched. And the story of the people caught in the very real crossfire deserves to be told. It would also be a story, if well-written, that would make money. Now if the publisher thought it was poorly told and didn’t want it for that reason, that would be understandable.

But no. The editor clearly squelched it for Political reasons. Because Obama forbid anyone paint their idol in a bad light. This can’t be published because the “right” would use this against him. Mind you, it’s not like the story wasn’t going to be told anyway. But you know, then they’d be accused of abetting the political opposition. Can’t have that.

So profit? Nah. We don’t want that. Political Correctness? Oh yes. We’ll have that. By the boatload. Narrative choice over story? Yeah, that’s good too.

And this is why Traditional Publishing is circling the drain, and can’t even figure out why.

Like a Second Helping of Dresdencrack This Year

That’s what Magic Breaks was like. I did not *read* Magic Breaks as much as *Devoured* it. It was every bit as addictive as Dresdencrack, and I have no hope of an ‘objective’ review of this.

Simply put, this is the 7th book of the Kate Daniels series. And everything that’s happened, everything that was promised, pays off in large here. If you’ve followed to this point, you are rewarded in spades. And yet, it’s not the end. Three more books are promised, and one can easily see the series continuing to grow Kate’s character.

Things I loved: Well, as I said. It’s a fantastic payoff. Without spoilering the whole thing, the promise of Roland becomes reality in this book. The way Ghastek gets served a massive dose of crow, and yet doesn’t get depowered in the process. And the way the choices Kate and Curran have made pay off here.

Things I liked less: There’s one bit before the Great Escape, where Kate doesn’t act terribly Kate-like. She’s been forced to wait for rescue before. But she was nearly dead that time. This seemed too easy a surrender to being caged. Also, Hugh’s choice is even lampshaded as out of character for his strategic mind. Unfortunately, he was rather out-foxed by Curran in the last book, and so it makes him look something like the Worf Effect (TV Tropes will ruin your life: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php…).

Neither of these niggles are capable of dampening my enjoyment for this one whit. But fairness demands they be noted. Still, this is absurdly good. Easily the best in the series, IMHO.

And in Today’s Addition to the Amazon/Hachette Debate

We learn that

1) Hachette is VERY bad at math.

2) Amazon is being asked to take LESS than the 30% share they were being forced to take when Hachette was involved in an illegal price-fixing scam. Oh wait, they’ve been dropping lie/hints saying Amazon wanted 50%…when they didn’t.

3) Hachette is, of course, underpaying its authors on E-books. But we knew this already.

4) Hachette wants e-books priced higher than print, even though they already did the work for the print version. Oh wait, that means fewer e-books will sell, which means less total money for *everyone,* because fewer total sales by a larger percentage than the price drop.

5) Hachette must have some *very* bad accountants to be fighting this deal. And all the abused authors siding with them need to take some basic math classes. Because Amazon is flat out the one making sense. You like your editor, fine. Tell your editor to talk to the accountants.

Oh, and the money Hachette has spent on this little spitting match is money they could’ve spent doing silly things like making a profit. But being French, they probably think the Government will subsidize their failure.

Link provided for fact checking, where Business Insider agrees Amazon destroys Hachette: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-hachette-ebook-pricing-2014-7

Another Interesting List

So Paul Goat Allen over at Barnes and Noble’s book blog (we won’t ask about their future here), made a list of the 20 best Paranormal Fantasy series. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/the-20-best-paranormal-fantasy-novels-of-the-last-decade/

It’s not an altogether bad list. I’ve read most of the series, and there’s a couple I *want* to that I haven’t had the time yet.

First of all, I’ll quibble with the title. Paranormal Fantasy is Department of Redundancy Department. Fantasy is, by definition, outside (hence Para) the normal. Paranormal Romance works as a genre, because Romance (while having its own mash of fantasies) can be this OR otherworldly. Fantasy, even when it’s a world “like” ours, isn’t. Now I get what he means, he’s mashing “Paranormal Romance” and “Urban Fantasy” together because the two are often difficult to distinguish. Fair Enough. But they are not so fungible as to mash their titles together.

Second, I’ll quibble with the #1 spot. Dead Beat is *probably* the best Dresden Files, and he was trying to only take 1 per series. That’s fine. However, there’s no way DB is not the high point of Urban Fantasy. Period. Full Stop. It practically LIVES on the TV Tropes Crowning Moments of Awesome page. Right down to this iconic image: http://media.tumblr.com/e9433d5a9a17ef41b7617f34163f4e32/tumblr_inline_mlpna1ldsh1qz4rgp.jpg Yes. This is Dresden Files. Sorry, Kim Harrison’s Hollows is a very good series. But it has no moment even approximating this…oh as amazing as the picture is, it forgot the one man polka band keeping time.

Third, how in the world is Kate Daniels NOT on this list? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNsrK6P9QvI

No really. Impressive character growth, fantastic relationships. Great plots, intense action. The series is amazing, and has everything Urban Fantasy fans should expect. And if you want a Distaff counterpart to Harry, it’s Kate. No question.

I could also make a case for MLN Hannover’s Black Sun’s Daughter and Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus. But to me, the glaring omission is Kate Daniels, as IMHO, it’s the second best Urban Fantasy you can buy today, behind Harry Dresden.

Still, not a *bad* list, perse.

And MORE on the Amazon/Hachette Row

Before you believe the media, check the facts.

Authors are getting screwed. I do NOT like that. But some authors seem to have Stockholm syndrome with their Publisher. They can’t bring themselves to admit Hachette was gouging them all along…despite Hachette being successfully prosecuted by the DOJ. Hmm…

JA Konrath gives a thorough fisking of the ‘conventional’ argument here. Fact: The more I read, the more I find AMAZON in the right. Folks, this is business. And Hachette ain’t a white knight.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/05/fisking-lilith-saintcrow-and.html

I Had Promised A Lengthy Post On Pubbing

But I had a seriously hosed night last night, and I don’t have the motivation to do the full-fledged link research that requires. I say that, but this post has six open links. I also have a new pair of bifocals, and adapting to them is making me tired a little quicker than usual. Though I’m reading well enough.

I’ve been busy with Camp NaNoWriMo this last month, and things have been going well, 39800 words so far, and 14 chapters of Book 3 of the Hellenistic Fantasy. It’s been fun, with two huge battles so far. Fun Fun.

There is a lot of Hugo-related nomination sadness and madness this week. The most balanced post, ironically enough, is John Scalzi here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/04/19/the-2014-hugo-nominees/

In it he acknowledges what his friends on the left like here: http://www.donotlink.com/framed?26218 cannot. That is: 1) Yep, he’s been reminding his readers he’s eligible for awards all the time. And 2) He’s encouraged his readers to check out works nominated by his friends and those he respects. So all Larry Correia did was box up a whole slate of said nominees and encourage his readers to find and nominate them.

Furthermore, unlike the assertions of some, I’d read enough of the “Sad Puppies” slate formation to know that these were works they actually read. The name was meant as a sly bit of goading. But please, don’t tell us the Left of SFWA doesn’t goad its opponents. Really. Not buying it. And the responses in the above no-link show full well they do. The one thing I’m not crazy about is The Wheel of Time being boxed as a single work. But try to tell me Memories of Light wouldn’t have merited nomination by itself. No really. I’m not even a WoT fan, and I can recognize that was easily the work of the year. So on the list of things to be upset over, that just doesn’t merit consideration. And I do get why they did this with WoT. A lot of voters, like they did with LoTR in the Oscars, WANT to wait until the full work is out to vote for it as a complete unit. So in the end, whatever. Either way, MoL merits consideration. And probably winning by a landslide.

That said, having read Warbound, and enjoying it thoroughly, anyone saying it didn’t merit consideration for best novel of the year is letting their feelings regarding Larry get in the way of the work. Is it action fantasy? Sure. But Faye and Jake Sullivan are fascinating characters, and there was a strong supporting cast, with the motivations of the presumed Book 1 villain being explained and to a large degree, made sympathetic. Not excused. But sympathetic.

Most of the hatred I saw dumped on Warbound came from it’s negative portrayal of FDR. Well, why didn’t Scott Westerfeld get dumped on for turning Churchill into a 1 note behind-the-scenes villain? And yes, FDR did have some rather unsavory elements to his Presidency that historians have whitewashed. Including the incarceration of the Nissei, which Correia highlights with the fate of Actives quite well. As a story, Warbound is coherent, well-paced, and has solid character and narrative arcs. It doesn’t do the nearly impossible, of pulling together a hundred threads and making a coherent story out of them as Sanderson did with MoL. But that’s why Sanderson is, with Steven Erikson, Jim Butcher, and Daniel Abraham, on the shortlist for premiere prolific fantasy authors of our generation.

So yeah, I think those works, and most of the Sad Puppy slate in general, merited inclusion. Just because Larry Correia campaigned for his friends doesn’t exclude their right to consideration. Anymore than it did with Scalzi and others before. This is how the interwebz works. Like minded people can get their ideas together. On both sides. We may think it would be better if these things were done without fandoms and ideology. But that’s expecting robots programmed by a single ‘impartial’ observer to do the voting. Because the only thing more visceral than ideological confrontation is fandom wars.

More Impromptu Lit Crit

In this episode, I take to task the rising wave of “Message Fic” in the Speculative Fiction genre. Here is my opening salvo: To every author of Speculative Fiction, burn this quote from the most enduring author in the genre into your brain before you EVER take up a pen:

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”–J.R.R Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring

Now, have we established through that why message fic is revolting to me? Whether that be the Global Warming ‘warnings’ that suck the life out of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer, or the Socialist love-affair in China Mievielle’s Persidio Street Station (though I will concede his skill, and the glee he sets about his task, almost salvages the book to me, or yes, even the Christian message fic of that much-idolized fellow inkling C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. (I much prefer his Screwtape Letters, which is outright satire.) I don’t care how much I like or dislike the message. Beating me about the head and shoulders with it is not an excuse for storytelling. And it is not entertainment. If I wish to buy a book for education value, I will buy non-fiction. If you as an author are insistent on passing off ‘pearls of wisdom’ in barely disguised author-tracts, let me offer you a hint: Unless your name is Neal Stephenson, don’t even try it. Because there isn’t anyone as clever, funny, and adroit doing it as he is. The exception to the rule has been made. It’s him. And even with him, they do get old.

If you wish to write fiction, write a STORY, with compelling characters, and a plot where things happen. If…in the course of that story, they have a reason to talk about something you care about, that’s fine. If you don’t get TOO wrapped up in it. Also, please do remember that not ‘everyone’ in the cast of characters would agree with your particular anvil-dropping. Let alone the audience.

If your aim is to ‘educate,’ write NON-fiction. If your aim is to ‘convert,’ than write political blogs, or find an appropriate path in the MINISTRY. There is nothing worse than wasting people’s money with stories that do not entertain. Except for the knowledge that such a story was written that completely lacked that intention from the beginning. Yes, I feel such stories have effectively stolen my money. Take that as my message, before embarking on a path doomed to cheat your readers.

Most of us read Speculative Fiction as an ESCAPE from reality. We already know the Real World Sucks. Having reminders of that fact in our hobby is truly revolting. And this is why people from across the Political Spectrum in the genre are sick of SFWA.