On looking stupid, clueless, and unprofessional. . .

SFWA is becoming an on-line spectator sport. I’m not going to go into too much depth here, as the bandwidth expended on this is already reaching critical mass. I’ll only comment by posing the following rhetorical question:

If the chair of your e-piracy committee screws up so bad that it makes your whole organization look like of bunch of myopic Luddite fossils and causes you to throw said committee under the bus, and then you impanel a bunch of respected writer-type folks to draft recommendations on how to fix the problems, is it a wise move to then, to all appearance, just take said recommendations, file them, and re-constitute the same e-piracy committee with the same leadership with the same obsessions?

I make no comments on the merits, but I’ll just make the observation that in some situations, making yourself look as if you’re stupid, clueless, arrogant and unprofessional is tantamount to actually being stupid, clueless, arrogant and unprofessional. Appearances count, and this looks really bad.

How *not* to sell your book

You may have read my earlier post on how not to query agents. Here’s a follow up, using another spam message I got recently.

I am genuinely mystified at the thought processes that produce things like this. Spam in general is only effective because it only requires .01% of the recipients to respond and order their genuine Nigerian Viagra stock enlargement cream. That’s a model that doesn’t translate to universes as small as the publishing industry. And even if it did, do you actually want responses from people gullible enough to respond to it?

Anyway, as case in point, I present the suitably annotated spam e-mail. (Remember: if you send me personal e-mail I treat it as confidential, if you send me spam, it’s fair game.)

My snark is in green.

Subject: Like Science fiction? The newest and most genuine saga is now availible!
[SWANN: A genuine saga? Is it in the original old Norse? And while I’m a sloppy-ass typist in my personal e-mails, if you’re advertising your WRITING you might actually try to keep typos out of your subject line. Just a thought.]

From: <xxxx@xxx.com>
Cc:<webmaster@xxx.com>, <soles@xxx.net>,
<webmaster@xxx.net>, <bud_sparhawk@xxx.com>,
<walter.spence@xxx.net>, <normanspinrad@xxx.com>,
<demonlord07@xxx.com>, <edstack@xxx.com>,
<justinvs@xxx.net>, <jimmy@xxx.com>, <bexstarr@xxx.com>,
<dave@xxx.com>, <jim0052@xxx.com>, <evenmere@xxx.com>,
<deb@xxx.com>, <dave@xxx.com>, <psicom@xxx.org>,
<swann_website@xxx.net>, <info@xxx.org>,
<webmaster@xxx.org>, <mattea@xxx.com>, <picpal@xxx.com>,
<enquiries@xxx.co.uk>, <email@xxx.com>,
<rsheckley@xxx.com>, <quaglia@xxx.com>,
<mop15870@xxx.pt>, <1@xxx.asu.ed>,
<sarahsingleton@xxx.co.uk>, <smartin@xxx.com>,
[SWANN: Never heard of BCC, huh? And unless it has to do with the latest SFWA implosion or Marty Greenberg anthology, I have trouble imagining a legit reason for sending me, Robert Silverberg, Norman Spinrad and Robert Schekley the exact same e-mail.]

If you want real science fiction we recommend this story to you.
[SWANN: You realize you just pummeled 32 professional, published SF authors with the blatant implication that they AREN’T writing real science fiction?]

It can’t get anymore real than this!
[SWANN: Unless you write non-fiction. Oh, and yes, it says “anymore real,” which might make a cool postmodern character name, but doesn’t do so well as part of an English sentence.]

We are excited to offer you this great narrative detailing real material for the next era in human history.
[SWANN: “Real material?” Does that even mean anything? And don’t you just love the royal “we?” It adds just the right amount of pretension to the cluelessness. Finally, given the nature of most of my other spam, please keep your excitement to yourself.]

From new, fantastic yet satisfyingly available technology to accurate alien biologies, provided in our new cosmic work is what your hungry sci-fi mind has been yearning for.
[SWANN: “New, fantastic yet satisfyingly available technology” is a phrase that belongs in badly-translated Russian Viagra spam. We’ve also gone from “great narrative” to “our new cosmic work.” This is not an improvement. Also, the writer is so in love with modifiers that they forgot to have the sentence make grammatical sense. “From … technology to … biologies, provided in our … work is what your … mind has been yearning for.” Arrgh, this e-mail has hurt me in my brain.]

Visit www.xxxx.com in your Internet explorer browser and see for yourself!
[SWANN: Damn! I use Firefox. And the exclamation point? Nice touch. PS: Bill Gates’ legal team is sending you a letter for failing to capitalize “Explorer ™”]

Feel free to contact us with the information at the bottom of the page and we can discuss how to get you your book.
[SWANN: As I said with the query spam: Good idea to make it a non-intuitive multi-step process to have people get back to you.]

We hope to hear from you soon!
[SWANN: No, I really don’t think you do.]


Let me get serious here for a moment, because what this spammer is doing is actually a little less offensive than what the query spammer was doing. This person is obviously trying to get some buzz for their (probably self-published) book by getting other authors to read it. This person apparently tried to focus who they were spamming to. And there isn’t any reason why you can’t send a bunch of writers promo material for your book— but this is not the way to do it.

First off, they’re your peers (and I’m giving the author the benefit of one hell of a doubt here), and you need to treat them as such. I am assuming that this person is offering comp copies (if they’re actually expecting Norman Spinrad to go to their website and BUY a copy based on this, they are insane) but they’re offering them with a high-pressure ill-worded sales pitch that smacks of a deadly combination of arrogance, ignorance and desperation.

You want to ask authors to read your book, fine, but ASK them. Nicely. Something like, “Dear [author name here] I respect your work and would really appreciate it if you would read a comp copy of my latest book. Please let me know if you’re interested.”

And in the name of all that is holy, send individual personal e-mails! Sending the same e-mail to 32 authors shows a lack of respect that will be reciprocated, if the recipients bother to pay attention to you at all. If you follow these guidelines, you will probably still get near zero responses, but at least you will not actively piss people off and have snarky writers deconstructing your efforts in a public blogging.

Why Mixing Religion and Government is Bad

Sudan doesn’t like your teddy bears.

Britain’s foreign secretary said he was “very concerned” about the case of a UK teacher who was in court Thursday, facing charges of offending religion by allowing a teddy bear to be named “Mohammed.”

Not only is is an appalling case of “let’s persecute the westerner” but by their own laws the children in the class should be getting arrested because they’re the ones who named the effing bear.

And frankly the “she should have known” apologists should realize that, just because you know a State is going to be intolerant, abusive, arbitrary and totalitarian doesn’t excuse the State’s behavior.

Stupid for Sale, 3 cents a word

(Scalzi @ Whatever alerted me to this.)

Note to aspiring writers:

Don’t submit stuff to Dragon Magazine, just don’t. They are paying a whopping 3-6 cents a word for all rights.



This means you can’t re-sell it, you can’t put it on your website, podcast or whatever. You can’t translate it and publish it in Germany. You can’t write a screenplay based on it. And they can probably sue your ass if you write anything in the same universe and sell it to someone else.

IMO anyone who submits there is too stupid to write publishable fiction.

Bonus Kitty

This homeless waif accosted us while we were unloading groceries a couple of weeks ago, rubbing our legs and mewing incessantly. Since there’re coyotes in the neighborhood (I had seen two crossing the street earlier that evening) we took the creature in and placed her on the sun porch, segregated from “our” cats. We posted flyers all about advertising “FOUND CAT” knowing in our hearts that a creature this sweet and friendly had to be missed by her owners. (Anyone who read my eulogy to Lil Dog knows where this is headed.)

No response after the fliers and Craig’s List postings and we spent another week in denial (“but we don’t want another cat”) even as we paid a vet $125 for Feline Leukemia/AIDS tests, as well as getting vaccinations and testing for parasites. After all, the poor thing couldn’t stay on the sun porch forever, and we had to give her a clean bill of health before she interacted with our other cats. Of course, we told ourselves that if we adopted her out, (by now we’d given up on her old owner showing up to claim her) her new owner would reimburse us for the vet bill.

Then a friend of my wife sees the flyer and gives us a call. She knew where the little vagabond lived. So we could finally take her to her rightful owner, right. Ah, sort of.

It seems that the old woman with a horse stable two houses down from us had kept this little creature as a barn cat. Two months ago, this old woman passed away, the trainers came and took the horses, and this poor thing was left to its own devices. So, now we have a new cat.

10 Things I learned this Thanksgiving

  1. When you put 2 leaves in our dining-room table it doesn’t fit in a 10×11 dining room.
  2. The standard 8 pc. place setting that most of us get for a weeding gift will be inadequate once you start hosting the extended family for holidays, it is good to have a spare one.
  3. Despite what it says on the tablecloth, a 144-inch table can only comfortably seat 10 people. If you have more than that, break out the card table.
  4. One thing conservatives and liberals can agree on: Pumpkin Cheesecake. Mmmmm.
  5. Even if you plan on people being late, they will show up later.
  6. If at all possible, get your Chocolate Lab a 12-year old girl.
  7. A 23lb turkey is at the outer theoretical limit of our roasting pan.
  8. A 23lb turkey is a effing huge bird.
  9. Carving on a card table is not recommended procedure.
  10. When she can get enough time off of work on a holiday, my wife can cook one kick-ass turkey.

LOL is Win!

Wo hoo! I won Scalzi’s LOLCreation contest with the following entry:

If you’ve read my earlier post on Science <> Religion you probably know why, though I’m respectful of people’s belief systems, I find the concept behind the Creation Museum eminently mockable. Here’s the point:

Faith = The belief in a spiritual or moral truth without need of empirical proof.
Science = a systemic method of using empirical data to explain observable phenomena.

Please note the problem with mixing one with the other. By necessity, the scientific method is open to continual challenge by new data. Creation “Science” by definition is not open to any challenge, because it disregards data that contradicts the proponent’s particular interpretation of scripture. Rhetorical tricks invoking “starting points” and “differing theories” a just that, tricks just to make scripture sound scientific— “because the bible said so” might be the basis of a philosophical axiom, or a moral code, but isn’t a good basis to explain empirical data because, in the end, if you observe empirical data that contradicts your axiom you are forced to disregard the data. (This is the same reason mixing political “truths” with science is an equally bad idea.)

As corrupting this might seem to science, I think it has an even worse effect on religion. The Creation Museum is a temple to people’s lack of faith. Think about this: The creator is omnipotent, and is easily capable of creating a universe that’s 5 billion+ years old in seven days or so. In fact, those seven days could take an arbitrary length of time if God was in a reference frame traveling significantly close to the speed of light. There is no need to shitcan everything we know about biology, geology, plate-tectonics, physics, stellar evolution, down to the half-life of carbon-14, for someone to have faith in God and believe in the redemption of Jesus Christ. But the Creationists are so insecure in their own faith that they can only believe in a God that presents them with significant, definitive worldly proof of His existence. It’s a faith that’s so timid that it is threatened by any sort of inquiry, and crumbles at the slightest challenge.

I guess I knew this

A blog post elsewhere led me to an online political philosophy quiz where I scored thusly:

Progressive/Conservative score: 8 – Moderate Progressive (“You think the progressive movement is usually well intentioned, but is sometimes too extreme in its ways”)

Capitalist Purist/Social Capitalist Score: 6 – Economic Moderate (“You support an economy that is by and large a free market, but has public programs to help people who can’t help themselves or need a little help.”)

Libertarian/Authoritarian Score: 0 – Anarchist (“You think that the government is making way too many unnecessary laws that are taking away our innate rights. You believe that the government’s job is primarily to protect people from harming other people.”)

Pacifist/Militarist Score: 8 – Moderate-Militarist (“You think that in very rare occasions, the United States should invade a country in order to make the world better by spreading democracy or ending a tyrants rule. You also think that defense is very important, and we shouldn’t lower the defense budget.”)

I am Libertarian, along with 14.5% of the folks who took this test. I probably would be a Hardcore Libertarian, but the Yes/No/Maybe format doesn’t allow terribly nuanced answers.

Turns out I’m closest to Joe Biden, of all people.