Dammit, We Thought of It First

President Trump, in his infinite fatuity, has decided to call for a United States Space Force.

This peeves me no end. We came up with the idea of a Space Force years ago, in our novel The Price of the Stars, and now people reading our books are going to think we’re echoing That Man in the White House.

Of course, the difference between our Space Force and Trump’s is that ours is science fiction — if not outright fantasy — and Trump wants his to become fact. Or, at least purports to want it to become fact. But I could be wrong. Maybe he just wants a Hugo award.

(Good luck with that. Science fiction fans have already demonstrated that they have more sense than to buy that sort of nonsense.)

A Request for the Indignant

Milo Yiannopoulos is in the news again, what with his lawsuit against Simon&Schuster for choosing not to publish his book, which resulted in the publisher entering the manuscript-as-submitted into evidence, complete with the editor’s notes, highlights of which are now all over the internet.  (And great fun they are, too – they would go well with a glass of nice wine and a slice of schadenfreude pie.)

My request is a simple one:  If you are, as many will be, indignant that Simon&Schuster bought Mr. Yiannopoulos’s book in the first place, please don’t also wax indignant that they are allowing him to keep the on-signing portion of the advance.  This is customary, when bad things (deserved or not) happen to a book between on-signing and publication – but the word to note there is “customary.”  For the sake of all the rest of us writers out there, don’t give Simon&Schuster an excuse to say, at some later date, “Well, it may have been customary in the olden days, but it isn’t going to be customary from now on.”

Banned Books Week Has Rolled Around Again

Because the people who want to control what the rest of us read just don’t ever stop.

(Confession time here.  I’m a First Amendment purist, of the stripe which, if we were talking the Second Amendment instead of the First, would undoubtedly get me labeled a “free speech nut” and have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms searching my house.  And I regard with a cold and fishy eye the sort of statement that begins, “Of course I’m in favor of free speech, but….”)

Judging by the American Library Association’s Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016 list, children’s and young adult books tend to get hit the hardest — unsurprising, since everybody agrees that Protecting the Children is important, as is Molding Young Minds.

This year’s top ten list is mostly full of books that were challenged by people who wanted to protect the children from LBGTQ characters and issues.  Presumably, they’re afraid that reading about such things will cause their offspring to “turn gay”, which is unlikely (as Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York observed about a censorship issue of an earlier day, “I have never yet heard of a girl being ruined by a book”) — or maybe they’re just afraid that said offspring will find validation in those books for something about themselves that they already know.

Support your local library, people.  They’re fighting the good fight to keep books on the shelves for the readers who need them.

Photographic Evidence

Or, Robert Frost gets it right again.

Falling Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall….

Tree roots and the freeze-thaw cycle, to be specific.

The freeze-thaw cycle is also responsible for frost heaves, which can give the roads up here a corrugated appearance in late winter and early spring, and likewise for the epic potholes that show up a little later.

First Impressions and Timing Issues

It matters a lot, sometimes, what age you are when you first read a particular book.  Most of the time, though, the bit that matters isn’t whether or not you’re old enough for it.  Those of us who are members of the siblinghood of compulsive readers spend a lot of our early years reading books that are, according to the gatekeepers, “too old” for us, and most of us benefit from the mental stretching exercises involved.

I do think, though, that it’s possible to come to some books too late.  Once you’ve acquired the taste for deconstruction, for examining the underpinnings of a work – teasing out its buried contradictions and unexamined assumptions, and speculating on the untold stories and the differing viewpoints of secondary and minor characters – it’s hard to look at a book with the open and receptive eye of a new reader.  Texts instead become things to be approached with suspicion, lest they pull the wool over our eyes or trip us up when we’re not looking, and a suspicious approach is no way to make friends.

The books that are destined to become our lifelong friends, I believe, are the ones we encounter when we’re old enough as readers to understand what’s going on in the text, but before we’ve had the chance to become cynical about it.  Consider, for example, The Count of Monte Cristo.  On second or third reading, even a young reader can see that Edmond Dantès is, frankly, kind of a dick†, that there’s something more than a little bit skeevy about his relationship with Haidee, and that his first love Mercédès gets handed a raw deal by fate, Edmond, and the writer, all three.‡  But if the reader’s had a chance to first take the story straight  – the escape from the Chateau d’If! the mysterious stranger! (and the other mysterious stranger, and the other mysterious stranger – really, the plot is absolutely infested with mysterious strangers!) the villains, so villainous, and so aptly punished by their own base natures and continuing villainy! – then subsequent, more critical, readings lose much of their power to tarnish the effect of the work.


He’d have to be, to spend so much time and money on getting even when he could have taken the treasure of Monte Cristo and spent the rest of his life having a good time anywhere he wanted. I’m just saying.

Really – what was she supposed to do when her betrothed got hauled off and thrown into prison as a Bonapartist conspirator on her wedding day?  Starve to death genteelly while pining for his return? Take up a career as a streetwalker?  Nobody told her that the fallback boyfriend she ended up settling for had actually masterminded the whole frame-up.

I Think It’s a Rule

If you’re driving into Boston from out of town, you have to get lost at least once on Massachusetts Avenue.

Normally, our GPS navigator saves us from this, but the rules caught up with us this trip, because the navigator went toes-up on us shortly before departure.  Fortunately, we were able to access Google Maps via my phone — not by using the phone’s web feature, because it doesn’t really have one, but by calling our younger son back in Colebrook and having him find the necessary directions and relay them to us.

After that mini-adventure, we made it safely to the Westin hotel, and our first programming item is a signing at 2 PM in the Galleria.  We’re signing alongside Ken MacLeod and Charlie Stross, so if you’ve got a book (or a short story in an anthology, or a bookplate, or whatever), feel free to bring it in and we’ll happily sign it for you.

And if you’re one of the people who mostly own our stuff in electronic format . . . if you can figure out how to get us to sign that, we’ll happily do that as well.

(Surely somebody, somewhere, has invented an app for getting author signatures on e-books.  Heaven knows, they’ve got apps for everything else.)

Bad Moon on the Rise

If everything in this article at blogcritics is true (and that does appear to be the case) then there is some very bad stuff going down at All Romance E-Books.

Hard to tell, from the available info, whether the root cause is malice or stupidity, but for the authors caught up in the ongoing mess, it doesn’t make a difference.

(This is also why, when I purchase an e-book, I prefer to take what measures are necessary to make certain I have it stored on my own hardware, and not on somebody else’s.)

Lo! A Review!

Speaking as an editor and instructor of writers, one should never obsess over reviews, because that way madness lies.

On the other hand, there’s nothing like a good review to brighten a writer’s day.  If you’re friends with a writer, and spot a good review of their work, it’s an act of kindness to let them know about it.  If you spot a bad review, don’t bother – even if it’s one of those completely off-the-wall, did-the-reader-even-read-the-story bad reviews – because for one thing, they’ve probably already heard about it from those other friends who make a habit of kindly supplying people with all the bad news they might ever need, and for another thing, it will only depress them.  See madness, above.

All that being said, there’s a nice review of the Altered States of the Union anthology over here at the Legendarium, in which the reviewer calls our story “Gertrude of Wyoming” a “shrewd and intelligent thriller.”  Considering that those were exactly the qualities we were aiming for, I for one am pleased.

One of the Pleasures of This Job

It’s always good when a student, or a client, does well.  Debra Jess was one of the workshoppers at Viable Paradise XVI, where I was one of the instructors, and after that, she was one of my editorial clients.  And I’m pleased as punch to say that her novel, Blood Surfer, has won the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award (NERFA) in the Paranormal and Futuristic category.  Blood Surfer was also a finalist in the Best First Novel category.

Needless to say, I am tickled pink on her behalf.