Well, I got a chance to see the first two episodes of the new Star Trek and here are my thoughts:

  1. If you obsess about canon, this series will trigger you hard. There is no way you can sensibly integrate this into the same universe as TOS without serious mental violence so my suggestion is just let it go.
  2. This series is dark.  Not just thematically, but in terms of palette.  If you prefer the historical Trek aesthetic, you may be better off watching The Oriville.
  3. I don’t think I can judge the series itself because it has yet to establish a status quo. The first two episodes are really a prologue setting up the main character’s backstory.
  4. If we judge by the first two episodes, this will be a Trek where blowing ships up is going to be a regular thing.
  5. I don’t like the design of the new Klingons, and that seems to be a common sentiment.
  6. Still it’s watchable, and I liked the main characters…
  7. …but not enough to pay for yet another streaming service just for the one show.

Self-Destructive Writerly Sins

Don’t be this Book

I’ve written before about the self-destructive urges writers get. Plagiarism needs to be near the top of the list.  Penning sexist rants about your greatness to an agent is another. And, of course, there’s always the venerable Internet meltdown.

Now we have another example of something authors really shouldn’t do to boost their career: Try to game the NY Times Bestseller list.

Last week, Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem, knocked Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give off the No. 1 spot of the Times‘ YA bestseller list.  Now this may happen occasionally with a debut novel, but usually that means the fans have heard some advance buzz about the book.  This one, nada.  Another red flag? Brand new publisher.  Final red flag?  To quote Phil Stamper on Twitter:

This is what I’m referencing. A book that’s out of stock on Amazon and is not currently in any physical B&N in the tri-state area.

Suspicious to say the least.  Then you have the weird fact that the author is listed as playing the lead in an “in development” movie of the book. WTF?  It gets better:

It turns out the author worked as a band manager before she decided to write YA books. One of the bands she managed? Blues Traveler. Yep.

The band tweeted about the author on its official Twitter account: “yes, this is weird but not surprising…We fired her for these kind of stunts. Her sense of denial is staggering!”

So apparently this scam involved a lot of strategic bulk buys of a book that barely existed in order to promote a movie. And, unsurprisingly, when real people finally got their hands on a copy, the writing was really, really bad.

Also, unsurprisingly, the NYT pulled it from its list.

Probably Lani Sarem though having a “NYT Bestseller” attached to her film project would generate some financing. Maybe it would have. But she went about it in such a stupid, sleazy way she probably killed her own project with this spectacular and well-deserved failure.

And We’re Back Up!

After about a week of website problems, I finally got the site back up and running. Pro-tip for all you sysadmins out there, if you “fix” something, document precisely what you did, just in case you didn’t fix the problem or, in fact, made things worse. That way the next sysadmin will be able to respond when a frustrated user starts asking you to undo what the last person did.  Fortunately, I figured it out myself. Not a really big fix, but I had to restore some things I did when I first set up WordPress on this domain years and years ago. . . needless to say, not being a WordPress guru, I only had fuzzy memories of what that was. (i.e. time to RTFM.)

How to make me feel old.

So far my Facebook group, Swann’s Lounge, seems to be a success. But it comes at a price. On one of the more popular threads people are listing “obscure” SF/F titles. There’s a lot of good stuff in there.  But apparently it’s been long enough for Jack L. Chalker’s Well of Souls, and Julian May’s  Saga of Pliocene Exile to become obscure to some folks. Given that I bought both these series as they came out. . .  Let’s just say it made me feel my age.

Lounging About

I just want to let people know about my continued effort to integrate myself into the social media landscape (or other buzzwords to that effect) I have launched myself a Facebook group called Swann’s Lounge. So, for those of you on Facebook, you can join a bunch of like-minded folks to discuss reading & writing genre fiction, particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy. Come on and join the discussion, or start one of your own.

An Author’s Nightmare

Imagine you’re a writer, and you’ve finally achieved your dream, your first novel published. Imagine you’ve had the good fortune of landing a number of positive reviews ahead of publication. Everything’s going great, then someone writes a horrible review of your novel, not just calling it bad, but dangerous. Your book is racist in the worst way imaginable. You thought you wrote a book against prejudice and intolerance, and now you’re facing a Twitter crusade against you and your book, people calling on your publisher to pull it, and an avalanche of one-star reviews by readers who have not even read the book but are now certain it is problematic.

This isn’t hypothetical. It happened to debut author Laurie Forest and her novel The Black Witch. From the article @ Vulture:

The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, was still seven weeks from its May 1 publication date, but positive buzz was already building, with early reviews calling it “an intoxicating tale of rebellion and star-crossed romance,” “a massive page-turner that leaves readers longing for more,” and “an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice.”

The hype train was derailed in mid-March, however, by Shauna Sinyard, a bookstore employee and blogger who writes primarily about YA and had a different take: “The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” she wrote in a nearly 9,000-word review that blasted the novel as an end-to-end mess of unadulterated bigotry. “It was ultimately written for white people. It was written for the type of white person who considers themselves to be not-racist and thinks that they deserve recognition and praise for treating POC like they are actually human.”

The Black Witch centers on a girl named Elloren who has been raised in a stratified society where other races (including selkies, fae, wolfmen, etc.) are considered inferior at best and enemies at worst. But when she goes off to college, she begins to question her beliefs, an ideological transformation she’s still working on when she joins with the rebellion in the last of the novel’s 600 pages. (It’s the first of a series; one hopes that Elloren will be more woke in book two.)

It was this premise that led Sinyard to slam The Black Witch as “racist, ableist, homophobic, and … written with no marginalized people in mind,” in a review that consisted largely of pull quotes featuring the book’s racist characters saying or doing racist things.

If that was all, this wouldn’t be as concerning. Every book is bound to push some reviewer’s buttons. However, it didn’t end there.

In a tweet that would be retweeted nearly 500 times, Sinyard asked people to spread the word about The Black Witch by sharing her review — a clarion call for YA Twitter, which regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations). Led by a group of influential authors who pull no punches when it comes to calling out their colleagues’ work, and amplified by tens of thousands of teen and young-adult followers for whom online activism is second nature, the campaigns to keep offensive books off shelves are a regular feature in a community that’s as passionate about social justice as it is about reading.

The campaigning to “keep books off shelves” is shudder-inducing for anyone who cares about freedom of expression.

At the height of the pushback against The Black Witch, Forest was being derided as a Nazi sympathizer and accused of palling around with white supremacists, while those who questioned the tone of the discourse were rebuked for coded bigotry.

The irony, of course, was that the book was intended to be anti-bigotry. However, it seems human nature that when someone’s beliefs reach a particular furor, their greatest wrath is expended on nominal allies who just aren’t pure enough.

Continuing on my trek into the 21st Century

Updated my blog as I mentioned in the last post. Now I’m looking at my career while I wait for a couple of editors to respond to my latest projects. Short term I’m looking at possibly another Choice of Games title. Long term I’m investigating joining the ranks of indie authors. So far what’s held me back is the shear volume of work involved. Marketing has never been my thing, and I’m scattershot at best when it comes to social media (witness my sporadic blogging). But it does seem to be the future of things, so I’m looking seriously at what it would take. Of course I would need a new novel or three, so best case we’re 12-18 months away from even considering pre-launch stuff, without taking other paying gigs into account. Then again, a lot of the groundwork I need for this (e-mail lists, press kit, &c.) can be worked on well in advance and would presumably help out my traditionally published stuff. So, we’ll see…

And the Website Changes Again

I finally updated the WordPress theme here to join the current century and play nice with mobile devices. There may be more changes yet in store, but my priority was mobile support. So, aside from my little scripts I pulled from the last version (the bibliography and excerpt pages. Along with the pages for individual books, which, with my backlist, was kind of a big deal.), the theme is pretty much off the rack for right now.

“Welcome to Moreytown” is out

IMG_1758The game is out and you can get it here. For a limited time you can get it at a discount, only $2.99.

Claw your way to the top of Moreytown, a furry slum for human-animal hybrids. Will you take down the gangs who rule the town, or take them over instead?