Audience Building With @Scalzi

The Internet has mixed feelings about John Scalzi. Personally, I’m a fan. Guy writes good sci-fi and remains down-to-earth despite his level of success. Not only that, he’s always up to talk to regular people and has a fair amount of integrity:

After trading tweets with him for a while, I decided to ask him a question that very few other people would be in a position to answer. As I’m getting started as an author, I’m running into a number of challenges I did not expect. How do I navigate this unknown territory?

Even established authors find audience engagement to be somewhat daunting, but Scalzi seems to have found his own personal comfort zone between writing and talking to people so that more people buy his stories. How does it work? I decided to ask the man himself and see what he said. I was pleasantly surprised by the 140-character insights that followed. Continue reading

New Short Story in Production – ‘White Station’

A vivid dream woke me this morning around 4:30. Now I’m researching Old West ghost towns and re-reading Westerns from Elmore Leonard. I can’t get these images out of my head and I want to capture them while I still can.

So now, even though I want to work on ‘Mesh,’ I have another story to get down on paper and it’s called ‘White Station.’  You can track its progress along with my other short stories over at the Short Stories page.

 

Leave George R. R. Martin Alone!

Oh God, really??

Leave George R. R. Martin Alone!

I guess the Harvey Dent was right: You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Some people are maniacs online. I read how angry fans are trashing George RR Martin’s release schedule, and it left me spitting with anger. Then I sat on this blog post for over a month. Life is too short to get into petty squabbles, I said. Now I’m reading this … ‘Game of Thrones has lost its way.’

You people (I’m speaking to the fans that can’t enjoy a show or a book without turning into armchair pundits) need your head examined. I’ve met GRRM and he’s a sweet guy. He doesn’t deserve this.

Leave George R. R. Martin Alone!

Here’s the thing: We’re all trying to make it as authors here. Is this is all we have to look forward to if we’re lucky enough to achieve his level of success? We’re conditioned to spend our lives trying to tap into the id of our readers, understand them and write stories they love. George R.R. Martin did that. Now you’re turning on him? Are you crazy??

Continue reading

Snark Has Always Existed

I was just reading this interesting story about a high-schooler in 1963 who sent a survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. The story is worth a read unto itself, but my takeaway comes from Ayn Rand’s response to the boy, enshrined in the picture on the right.

“This is not a definition, it is not true,” Ms. Rand says, “and, therefore, your questions do not make sense.” Using a classic ‘forest for the trees’ argument, she derails the discussion and dismisses the topic. We’ll never know how she feels about symbolism in fiction, but we do know that she was as ethically egoist in real life as she was in Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand’s response reminds me of the million-or-so arguments discussions I’ve had on the Internet. If you don’t want to hammer the facts, hammer the law, as they say. It sucks, because someone who isn’t invested in the outcome can torpedo your search for truth at almost any time. Yet, that’s the truth that faces any one of us who attempt the Bard’s life. It was true back in 1963, and it’s true now.

Today a Shark Tweeted Me

As a goof, I decided to ask @HelentheShark a question and to my surprise, she answered! Please see below for examples of hilarity ensuing:

You might be wondering what this has to do with being a sci-fi author and the answer is, ‘it doesn’t.’ Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

Think You’re Cut Out For Scifi? Take This Quiz

Hi there. Just a reminder that you’re better than this. I’m sorry if you came here to experience a click-baity ‘You definitely love Scifi’ payoff screen and a ‘Share Your Score’ banner page. Quizzes aren’t my business. I’m here for the people who want more than clickbait, and if that is you then please keep reading.

No quiz will tell you if you’re cut out for sci-fi. You love science fiction? Good, you’re in. Being curious about science, and how we might use it to enrich our lives is the only barrier to entry in our beloved genre.

Don’t believe the hype. Ignore the gatekeepers. You don’t need to pass a quiz to be a part of science fiction. You just have to like it.

Dig in, tune in, turn on, and enjoy.

Should Authors Do a Patreon?

I’m posting this because I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I should consider doing a Patreon to fund my writing. You may not understand what a Patreon is, so let me bring you up to speed. According to Wikipedia, Patreon is ‘an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”‘

In other words, if you like a particular artist and you want to help encourage them to make more art, you’ll sign up to fund their work, either once or on a recurring basis. Sounds good on paper, and yet … that’s not how art works. I’ve never been completely on board with Patreon, anyway. Something never sat right with me about the process. After all, if Steve Jobs is right, and real artists ship, then we need to finish the product and ship it. I followed my gut and backed away from doing a Patreon, and now it turns out I made the right choice.

If you read through this Reddit post, you’ll understand why Patreon is a bad idea for authors. It’s not that Patreon is bad, the math of the Internet is against us. You can’t produce quality writing if you’re writing on a model that only works for viral video-makers and other like-minded individuals. Viral video-makers are people like PewDiePie … is that who you saw yourself being when you started writing?

So in summary, skip the Patreon. Your money comes from selling, and shipping, your work. Real artists ship.

 

Yes We Can – Madeline L’Engle – ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Just read this post regarding Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and thought ‘this is me. This is us.’ I can’t think of a better case for perseverance on the part of brave new authors than Wrinkle in Time, since it took so many attempts and so much time in order to bring the story to life.

It’s no secret that science fiction is the community of the underloved, and underknown. Frequently, it’s also a community filled with hostility and suspicion, and I think the reason why is simple. When you take a bunch of people who have been marginalized their whole lives, who have through science fiction experienced this a-ha moment of ‘this is where I belong, this is my spot in the universe,’ you also get people who are afraid that by opening doors for others they will be shutting doors for themselves.

These are the people that Madeline L’Engle had to make peace with, and be accepted by, when she wrote ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ That’s our job, as authors, too. We must overcome, with love, the same small-minded arguments against the universes we create. We must persevere through what the movie ‘Angus’ called ‘The Bathune Theory.’

We must be different, we must deal with the outside pressure to conform, but we must remain true to ourselves. In that perseverance, we have faith that like Madeline L’Engle, our dreams will eventually be accepted by the community. It’s a scary exercise, looking down the dark tunnel and imagining there will eventually be a light, but that’s our journey. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ made it out of the tunnel successfully, and we can, too.