The Nice Guy Defense

Announcement 1: I’ve posted the first two chapters of Red Hood’s Revenge.  Enjoy!

Announcement 2: Congratulations to Theresa Ryder, who wins a copy of STRIP MAULED on the Facebook Fan Page.

ETA — Announcement 3: Doc has offered an explanation in the comments on my previous post.

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Doctor Pus at Library of the Living Dead Press put out a statement regarding the cancellation of their LGBT-themed zombie anthology.  I appreciate that he takes responsibility for the decision, and that he offers a kill fee to the authors, but nothing in his statement changes my initial anger and disappointment.

Most people in the LLD comments jumped to Doc’s defense.  (As did some on my own blog.)  The editor of the cancelled anthology started his own thread to defend Doc.  They talk about how LLD has published gay writers and gay-themed stories before, and that he’s a good person who’s always been supportive of LGBT people and issues.

To those commenters, I want to say this: I believe you.  When I read Doc’s statement, I don’t get the sense that he’s an evil, hateful man.  I believe he’s published LGBT works before — after all, he initially accepted a gay-themed zombie anthology.  A raging homophobe never would have allowed the project to get to that point.

My anger is not because I believe Doc to be an evil, homophobic, hateful man.  My anger is due to his actions in this situation.  Based on his words and the editor’s first statement, this anthology was pulled for fear of people’s reaction.[1. The editor now says there were concerns the anthology would be seen as a gimmick, and that it wouldn’t have good stories.]  For fear of what the bigots might say.  Whatever his personal views on homosexuality, I find that disappointing in the extreme.

I don’t want to just pick on Doc here, so let’s make me the target.  I consider myself to be supportive of LGBT issues.  Heck, I’m the one who made both Sleeping Beauty and Smudge the fire-spider gay!  That doesn’t give me a free pass.  I still screw up sometimes, and when it happens, I deserve to be called on it.  If I say or do something hurtful, the fact that I’m a nice guy doesn’t change the fact that I’m hurting people.  Nor does it excuse that fact.

I’ve seen this defense many times.  “But he’s a good guy, and you have no right to be angry!” or “He marched for civil rights — how dare you accuse him of racism!” or “He was the first to publish [female author].  It’s ridiculous to call him sexist!”

The nice guy defense misses the point.  Say I edit and publish another anthology and end up with a ToC of white male authors.  That’s likely to cause some (justified) anger. So my friends jump to my defense, pointing out that I’m a wonderful guy.  So what?  The conversation was about my actions in choosing an all white, all male contributor list, not over whether or not I’m a nice guy.  By focusing on the latter, you ignore and derail other people’s legitimate concerns and complaints.

Discussion is welcome as always, but I’m not really interested in another round of criticizing Doc or LDP.  I think that point was made pretty well yesterday.

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Homophobia in Publishing

Note: I’ve not seen an official statement from The Library Of The Living Dead Press. They locked the discussion forum on this issue. If they do have an explanation, I’d very much like to see it.

Update: LLD Press has posted a statement here.  “…with all the things that are going on in my life right now I didn’t think it all the way through. I became afraid I would upset people by publishing the book. That’s the reason in a nutshell … If any of you don’t know, I’m a huge supporter of the GLBT community. They are my brothers and sisters.”  He’s offered to pay those who wrote stories.

I’m afraid there’s nothing here that makes me change my initial reaction.  How do you claim to be a “huge supporter” of the GLBT community while simultaneously cancelling your GLBT-themed project because it might upset people?

Thanks, kirizal, for the update.

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So last month, Library of the Living Dead Press put out a call for an LGBT zombie anthology (which sounds like a very cool project, actually).  Yesterday, the publisher pulled the plug on the anthology.  From the editor:

“It is with deep regret that I must inform you that the publisher has pulled the plug on this anthology. It seems that homophobia had reared its ugly head..NOT from the publisher, but with some authors that are contributers to the publisher.”

In other words, it sounds like some of the authors who publish with LLD found out that their publisher was doing an anthology that had teh gay in it, and complained.

I hope there’s more to the story.  I hope there’s another reason this project fell through, some explanation other than the fact that the person or persons running this publisher are a bunch of miserable, cowardly, unprofessional twits.

As for the authors who allegedly complained?  You’re writing for a horror micropress.  It’s okay to write about gore and blood and violence and horror, but homosexuality is right out?  What the hell is wrong with you?

If anyone reading this is associated with LLD press, please pass this link along to the powers that be.  I really, really want to hear how they justify backing out of this project, and whether they have an excuse that doesn’t involve wedging their heads quite so far up their own asses.  I hope so, and I’ll happily post a follow-up with their side of this story, if they’d care to share it.

I know not everyone feels the same as me about LGBT issues.  Some people don’t support gay marriage; some don’t want to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell; and so on.  I disagree, but I recognize those opinions are out there.  But it’s one thing to disagree.  It’s another to announce a project, then turn around and cancel it for no other reason than the homophobia of authors who (presumably) weren’t even submitting to the anthology.

I debated whether a horror micropress was worth the attention of a blog post.  But I’m a SF/F author, and this publisher is a part of my circle, even if they’re a tiny part, and I didn’t feel right letting this pass without condemnation.

I hope there’s a better explanation.  But if not, I hope all those involved with this decision will please feel free to go to hell.

(Thanks to Christian Young for the link.)

Muppets, Princesses, and Surgery

I discovered yesterday that at least one person is planning to nominate my muppet werewolf story “The Creature in Your Neighborhood” for the Hugo.  Cool!  If anyone else will be nominating for the Hugos and wants to read this one (or anything else I published last year), just let me know.

And if I actually win (yeah, right), I’ll write a sequel and post it here for all to read.

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Yesterday, after a week of copious scribbles and notes, I started in on draft two of The Snow Queen’s Shadow.  There’s a lot of work to do, but after reading the first draft, I think I like it.  Good story, resolves most of what needed to be resolved, and while I’ll be sad to see the series end, I think this ending is going to work.

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I’m taking my wife in for outpatient surgery today, so I’ll probably be scarce for a little while.  Nothing too serious.  Of the seven surgeries she’s had since we got married back in ’03, this is near the bottom in terms of severity.

Naturally, I’d be happier if we weren’t averaging a surgery every year.  But hey, it gives me time to work on the page proofs of Red Hood’s Revenge, right?

Real Men

Catherynne Valente recently posted two essays about gender issues, both of which are worth reading.[1. Actually, everything Cat writes is worth reading.  Why aren’t you following her blog already?]

“If you watch these ads, and mainstream sitcoms, you see this place. This place where men and women can barely stand each other long enough to have mutually unfulfilling sex and procreate. Where women are the sole source of everything irritating and wrong in a man’s life, plus she’s never hot enough, plus you have to, like, interact with her sometimes.”

It’s gotten me thinking about masculinity and what it means to “Be a man” in this culture.  The way we’re taught to act with other men and with women, the roles and responsibilities we’re supposed to take on, the things we are and aren’t supposed to worry about….

What a bunch of insane, contradictory crap.  Here are just a few of the “rules” I’ve come up with.

  1. Avoid traditionally feminine activity.  Dishes, laundry, diapers, vacuuming — these activities generate massive quantities of femions that cling to your skin and cause penis cancer.
  2. Hanging out with women is a chore.  Women only want to shop and go to chick flicks.  Men should hang out with other men, being manly together.  (But in a totally heterosexual way.)
  3. Holding a woman’s purse makes you temporarily gay.
  4. Much like the light of a red sun robs Superman of his power, pastels drain a man’s masculinity.  Beware the power of baby blue kryptonite.
  5. Sex is a competition.  (Seriously, WTF people???)
  6. Homosexuality is a fate worse than death.  Lesbians are hot.  This is not a contradiction.
  7. Your daughter, being a girl, will be completely incapable of taking care of herself.  Meet any potential boyfriends at the door while carrying a shotgun.
  8. Your place in Heaven is determined by the size of your penis and the amount of hair on your scalp.

I was planning to transition into my own thoughts about being a man.  What I think a real man should be.  A healthier, better list.  But it didn’t work.  Say you go with “A real man takes care of his family.” Why does this have anything to do with gender?  “A real man protects those who need his help.” And a real woman doesn’t?  “A real man respects women.”  No, a decent human being respects women.  And men.

But I did come up with one guideline.  Because a real man can speak out against sexism and homophobia, and be heard in a way that women speaking those same words might not be.  Because women complaining about sexism are dismissed as ball-busting feminazis with no sense of humor.

I’ve watched it happen again and again.  A woman writes or speaks about a topic and gets ignored.  I or another man speak out about the same thing, and there’s an outpouring of support and agreement.  I still get blown off, but not as often or in the same way as I see happening to women.

Being a man means I’m given certain advantages, including the power to speak out and be listened to.  Being a good man means using that voice to fight this hateful sexist crap.

When to Walk Away

Since a number of people said I should go ahead and do it, I’ve created a Jim C. Hines Fan Page over on Facebook.  I blame you all.

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I found myself in several Internet squabbles last week.  One started on Twitter after one of my #Amazonfail posts.  In that case, the other person and I swapped e-mails, and that was the end of it.  I don’t think we changed each other’s minds, but it gave me another perspective to think about, and I appreciate that.

Another didn’t go so well.  This was someone I know not to bother talking to in normal circumstances, but he was talking crap about a friend of mine, so I called him on it.  The conversation went downhill from there.  I eventually walked away, but I should have ended it much sooner.

It’s hard to walk away.  I know where xkcd is coming from with this strip.  It’s one thing to have an intelligent debate.  Unfortunately, most of these arguments end up being the opposite of intelligent … yet the more the stupidity grows, the harder it is to walk away.  It’s like the mosquito that keeps buzzing around the room, and you can’t go to bed until you’ve squashed the damn thing.

But you can’t squash online stupid.  So I’m trying to learn when to let it go.  As a part of that lesson, I put together some questions to ask myself, to help me recognize when it’s time to stop.

  1. What point(s) did I set out to make?  Have I made them?
  2. Am I just pouring my own stupid onto the fire now?
  3. Is there anything the other person could say to make me agree with their point of view?  (If not, it’s a good bet nothing I say will make them change their mind, either.)
  4. Who else is involved, either actively or otherwise?  For example, arguing with a Publish America author might not change that author’s mind, but might educate and help others reading the exchange.
  5. Have I had this same argument with this person before?  (If so, see Einstein’s quote about repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result.)
  6. Is this spilling into my real life?  (Am I going back to the argument when I should be writing?  Am I letting this person make me cranky in my interactions with my family?)
  7. What is my goal?  Am I trying to win?  (Never going to happen.  What would “winning” even look like?)
  8. Would I say these words to the other person’s face?
  9. Can anything come of the argument that will make my life or anyone else’s better?

From time to time, my karate sensei talks about bullies and insults.  If someone tells you you’re ugly, you smile and say “Thank you very much,” then walk away.  Because why should that person’s opinion have any power over you?  They’re not the most important person in your life.  The people who do matter, they’re the ones whose opinions I should care about.  Not some online twit.

Easier said than done.  It feels almost unjust to allow someone to keep being wrong on the Internet.  “That person is Wrong!  We can’t let him get away with it!”

I hate fighting.  I’m not someone who takes pleasure is taunting or trashing another person online.  But I believe some battles do need to be fought.  I also think there’s a time when I’ve made my point and need to walk away.  I just need to get better about recognizing that time.

A Gathering of Doorways, by Michael Jasper

A little while back I received a review copy of A Gathering of Doorways [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] by Michael Jasper.  Mike is someone I’ve known online almost since I started writing.  He’s a good guy, and a very good writer.  (See my reviews of The Wannoshay Cycle and his excellent collection Gunning for the Buddha.)

In Doorways, Gil and Melissa and their son Noah are trying to make a living on their new farm, despite the strange, toxic water slowly encroaching onto their land.  One of Jasper’s strengths is his characterization, making Melissa and Gil not shining fantasy heroes, but real people with real flaws.  Their marriage is already strained following the stillbirth of their second child, and then Noah wanders into the forest and disappears while Gil was supposed to be watching him.

Much as I wanted to see Gil and Melissa working together, that would be the easy route.  The anger and fear between husband and wife as they each try to find their son was painfully real.  As usual, Jasper’s cast of secondary characters were equally engaging, with their own flaws and hidden motives and conflicts.

Five-year-old Noah, on the other hand, never quite clicked for me.  It felt like Jasper was trying too hard to make him childlike, uses words like “kest” for quest, and following logid that didn’t quite ring true.  It felt like an adult trying to write a child instead of a real child, if that makes sense.

I liked the surreal Undercity, the nightmarish fairy tale world beneath the forest.  It’s disturbing as heck, treading that dark fantasy line between the fantastic and the horrific.  But I didn’t feel like I was seeing or learning enough about the Undercity to understand it.  For much of the book, it’s a vague danger.  I don’t understand how things work or what’s really at risk.

Eventually, we discover what’s going on in the Undercity — the power struggle, the reason the poisons are leaking out into the world above, and so on.  But I wanted to get more of that sooner.  Not the whole picture, perhaps, but I needed more to ground me in this world and make it real for me.

You can find more about the book at Jasper’s web site, or read a longer excerpt at BSCReview.

I’m not a big dark fantasy reader, and I suspect fans of that genre would enjoy the book.  If you’re less into the dark side of the genre, I’d probably steer you toward The Wannoshay Cycle first.  Jasper’s a good writer; I just don’t know if I was the right audience for Doorways.

Friday Roundup

I posted yesterday that I didn’t know when I’d be able to share the cover art for Red Hood’s Revenge [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon].  The answer, apparently, was “very, very soon.”  I spotted the cover at B&N, then received a cleaner copy from DAW.  Click the thumbnail for a larger version.

As noted before, we had to switch artists in mid-series.  This was done by Mel Grant (who also did my goblin covers).  The cover for Mermaid remains my favorite, but I think he did a great job making sure it was recognizable and consistent with the earlier books.

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I also asked yesterday whether an anime-style Snoopy fighting cat ninjas would be awesome or terrifying.  socchan took up the challenge, and the answer is: Awesome!!!

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Page proofs for Red Hood have also arrived.  I know how I’ll be spending my evenings for the next few weeks.  (But this means I should be able to post a sample chapter from the book soon!)

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Thank you to everyone who suggested titles for book four.  After talking to my editor, the final title will be:

The Snow Queen’s Shadow

The Snow Queen’s Snare was a close runner-up, but didn’t quite fit the plot as well.  Shadow was suggested almost simultaneously by two users on LJ and my jimchines.com blog, so I’ve decided to name them both winners.  Congrats to miladygrey and Sewicked.  I’ll be e-mailing you about your prizes!

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Finally, because I haven’t done one in a little while, a LEGO piano by catarino.  I used to play piano, and I love the detail on this thing.  Check this closeup of the keys, or just click the image below for more shots of the piano and catarino’s other work.

I Don’t Know

I don’t know how much e-books should cost.  I’ve read arguments for sliding-scale prices.  I know lots of people don’t want to pay over a certain price.  I don’t have an answer.

I don’t know whether Macmillan’s agency agreement would be better for authors and readers than some other approach.

I don’t know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop.

I don’t know whether people are going to love Snow Queen.

I don’t know where I get my ideas.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to post the cover art to Red Hood’s Revenge [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon].

I don’t know how long I have before my son stops running up to hug me when I come home from work.

I don’t know if my home has adequate weaponry to protect my family against the zombie uprising.

I don’t know whether I should set Snow Queen revisions aside for a week so I can write up and pitch a new series to DAW.

I don’t know why “Single Ladies” won a Grammy.  (But I think it had something to do with the Chipmunks movie.)

I don’t know why I’m so incredibly bad with names and faces.

I don’t know how Randall Munroe does it.

I don’t know how single parents balance work, kids, and sanity.

I don’t know why the catfish in our aquarium keep dying.

I don’t know why religion is ever worth killing for.

I don’t know if I should create a fan page on Facebook.

I don’t know whether an anime-style Snoopy fighting cat-ninjas would be awesome or terrifying.  ETA: socchan brings the awesome here.

I don’t know where this post came from.  I guess I just thought the Internet would be a slightly better place if people were willing to admit they didn’t know things from time to time.

Books!!!

It’s a new month, which means new books to read!  In a purely self-interested move, let’s start with the one that has my story in it.

* A Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] is … well, pretty much what it sounds like. Urban fantasy women, weapons, and monsters.  Including my story “Heart of Ash,” also known as the werejaguar/dryad story.  Anton Strout and Tanya Huff also have stories in this one.

* Next up we have the mass market release of The Horsemen’s Gambit [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] by David B. Coe.  This is the sequel to Coe’s book The Sorcerers’ Plague.  As a Tor book, this one isn’t available from Amazon.  Fortunately, Barnes & Noble, Mysterious Galaxy, and your local bookstores are all there to take up the slack!  Read chapter one here.

* Cherie Priest has a trade paperback release out this week, with Fathom [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon].  Another Tor book, and thus another contender for Sir Not Appearing at Amazon.com.  Publishers Weekly describes it as,  “A decidedly dark departure from Priest’s Eden Moore saga (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, etc.), this stand-alone novel is equal parts horror, contemporary fantasy and apocalyptic thriller.”

* Mark Henry‘s Happy Hour of the Damned [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] is out in mass market as well.  From Mark’s site, “There’s a campaign sweeping the internets to save my zombie diva from obscurity … What it boils down to is, Amanda Feral’s getting one more shot before the series gets nixed. My publisher is reissuing Happy Hour of the Damned, the first book in the series, in mass-market paperback for the paltry sum of $6.99.”  How can you refuse such a friendly-looking zombie?

* I missed posting the release of Jennifer Estep‘s book Spider’s Bite [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] last month because I suck.  This is the first in Estep’s new urban fantasy series about an assassin named Gin.  It’s an intense book, pulling no punches on the sex, violence, or darkness of Gin’s world.  I liked that we had more openly fantasy elements in the urban setting.  No vampires secretly living as mortals here; everything’s out in the open.  My biggest nitpick was an aspect of Gin’s magic — I lost suspension of disbelief when she was able to use ice lockpicks.  Estep is guest blogging and giving away a copy of the book at SciFiChick.com.

* Finally, we have Michelle West‘s latest novel, City of Night [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon]. This is the second book in her House War series, the sequel to The Hidden City.  You can read the first chapter on West’s web site.

I’m sure I’ve missed some, but this is already getting long and link-heavy.  What else is out, and what have you been reading and enjoying lately?


E-book Privilege

I’ve been thinking about e-books a lot lately, for some reason.  (Amazon still hasn’t restored Macmillan titles, last I checked.)  In particular, there’s a debate in the SFWA Lounge about the shift from printed books to electronic.

I think we’re in a very dynamic time.  E-books are changing, and we’re waiting to see who’s going to be the dinosaurs and who’s going to follow the superior evolutionary path of the  platypus.  Will multipurpose devices (iPad, smartphones) do away with single-purpose readers (Kindle)?  Will Cory Doctorow single-handedly throw DRM into the abyss forever?  Will e-books approach 100% market share, doing away with all but a handful of print-on-demand artifacts?

It occurred to me that there’s an element of privileged assumption going on with some of these predictions.  I’ve had this conversation online with people who obviously have stable Internet access and a fairly high degree of tech-savviness.  I also see it at conventions, where people whip out their Kindles and iPhones to compare features.

The thing is, these are luxuries.  If you’re in a financial position to afford the latest toys, great.  But to project near-100% dominance of electronic books assumes that either the reading devices will drop to a price where all readers can afford them, or that if you’re poor, you simply won’t/don’t read.

Tobias Buckell jokingly called for a boycott of Kindles until they bring the price down below $99.  (He’s trying to break Amazon’s “monopoly” on the Kindle.)  But even $99 is a lot of money, and not everyone is in a position to invest that much extra money every few years (because the technology keeps advancing) in their reading.

I do think e-books are going to be a larger part of the market.  We’ve seen cellphone novels take off in other countries.  E-books make tremendous sense for certain markets — universities, for example.  And the technology keeps advancing.  But I don’t think you can assume everyone is going to switch to electronic books any more than you can assume everyone is going to get flat screen plasma TVs.

Printed books are relatively cheap.  $7-8 for a new mass market paperback.  A buck or less for a used one.  I don’t see that going away any time soon. What do you think?

Jim C. Hines