Excerpts from MLK’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…

-From Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963

Blood Donors: Want to Join Team Hellspark?

For those of you who donate blood and use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, I’ve created a team called Hellsparks.

It’s named after the Janet Kagan book. At 4′ 11″, Janet didn’t meet the weight requirements to donate, so she posted a request on her website, asking others to do so and offering a special gift to those who did.

I figured if I was going to create a blood donation team of my fellow SF/F folks, it was fitting to name it in her honor. (My thanks to Ricky Kagan, who gave his blessing to use the name.)

Consider this your official invitation to join the Hellsparks and save some lives.

Cover of HellsparkTo encourage folks to spread the word, I’ll be giving away two Kindle copies of Hellspark. (One of my favorite books of all time.)

  1. Leave a comment on this post, and voila! You’re entered.
  2. If you join Team Hellspark, mention that in the comment for a second chance to win!

I know not everyone is able to donate blood, and not everyone who does donates through the Red Cross. (Which is why I decided to give away two copies instead of just one. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel excluded!)

Thank you.

Hugo Eligibility Post

Hugo nominations are officially open, which means it’s time for the annual eligibility post.

This year, the Helsinki Worldcon is doing a trial of a new category for Best Series, which is defined as:

…a multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one volume of which was published in 2016.

Revisionary - Cover Art by Gene MollicaAs it happens, the fourth and final volume of the Magic ex Libris series came out in 2016. If you feel it deserves a Best Series nod, nomination info is:

  • Name of Series: Magic ex Libris
  • Author: Jim C. Hines
  • Qualifying Volume: Revisionary
  • Publisher: DAW

If you’re looking for other ideas about what to nominate, SFWA president Cat Rambo has a roundup of eligibility posts on her blog.

I’m planning to nominate a few of my favorite Steven Universe episodes, along with Kubo and the Two Strings. I didn’t read that many 2016 works, so I’m going to have to do a bit of research there.

What are your standouts from 2016 that you’d like to see on the award ballots this year?

SF Crowsnest: For All Your Whiny, Cloud-Pissing Needs

Disclaimer: Uncanny has published several of my essays, including The Politics of Comfort, which seems relevant here…


Earlier today, the Twitterverse linked me to a “review” by Eamonn Murphy of Uncanny Magazine #14. Sarah Gailey screencapped some of the highlights on Twitter. The full review is here.

(ETA: It looks like SF Crowsnest has pulled the review.)

Murphy begins his column with the following note:

Content Warning: This review contains sarcasm.

Oh, hell. He’s going to try to be clever, isn’t he. Please tell me Murphy isn’t one of those delicate man-flowers who think Content Warnings are coddling nonsense, while at the same time getting mortally offended that nobody warned him there might be non-male, non-straight, or non-white people in what he’s about to read.

He summarizes the first story thusly:

The first fiction is ‘Bodies Stacked Like Firewood’ by Sam J. Miller. When Cyd, a transgender person commits suicide, tragically unhappy due to our rotten society, some of his friends blame themselves. The narrator is a promiscuous gay ‘bottom’ who goes online looking for ‘fuck buddies’. That’s okay because he’s not a heterosexual man objectifying women’s bodies by only wanting them for sex.

My initial response:

This is why I put “review” in quotes, back at the start of this post. Because Murphy isn’t reviewing the stories. Of the 155 words he spends on “Bodies Stacked Like Firewood,” maybe a third of it attempts to share information from the story? I wouldn’t call it a summary, because Murphy doesn’t even try to summarize the story of Cyd’s visions, or of how his suicide brings two people together, or the themes of isolation and connection.

Instead, in this case, he seems to think he’s calling out some kind of hypocrisy, that it’s okay for a gay man to be promiscuous, but poor victimized straight men like him are vilified for treating women as sexual objects instead of as people. This despite the facts that:

  1. The story doesn’t really present a judgement on Kelvin’s promiscuity.
  2. Surprise! There’s a difference between “I have a lot of sex” and “I think women are things for me to use.”

Maybe Murphy doesn’t understand that distinction? But I get the sense that “Things Murphy Doesn’t Understand — and Doesn’t Want to Understand” would be an infinite Jeopardy category.

Muphy begins “reviewing” the next story by misspelling the author’s name:

Marc Rustad is ‘a queer non-binary writer’ (look it up, Stone Age Man!) and wrote ‘Monster Girls Don’t Cry’.

Side note: Merc Rustad also wrote “Exponentially Hoping” for Invisible 2.

After pointing out that Rustad is not a straight and traditional Manly Man like Eamonn-Manly-Pecs-Murphy-whose-nipples-squirt-uncut-testosterone, our reviewer goes on to say:

This was well-written and the message of tolerance for those who look different has hardly ever been touched on by ‘Star Trek’ and similar so-called fantasy productions in the oppressive mainstream media.

I get it! Murphy’s using sarcasm to say that Rustad’s story is unoriginal because Star Trek and other fantasy productions have had stories about tolerance! Pretty clever, bro.

I guess we can all stop seeing those Marvel movies, since there have been plenty of other productions about white dudes named Chris saving the world. I’d meant to go see Rogue One, but we’ve had other stories about plucky rebels fighting fascists, so why bother? Saying “this story is bad because other stories have addressed similar ideas” is about as weak a critique as you can get.

But who knows. Maybe it really is just a Trek ripoff? Here’s the opening paragraph from Rustad’s story:

Your sister has too–large hands and too many teeth. Not in a sense that her gums are crowded or her fingers are long and she might have a career as a concert pianist. No, her hands are massive, thick–boned, tipped in wickedly sharp claws that shine like pearls. And her mouth—well. Her mouth is normal–sized, but it has so many, many teeth. When she smiles, you feel queasy. All the teeth, sharp and white, fit inside her mouth around her pink tongue, but how they fit rubs wrong against your understanding of reason and reality. You don’t look at Phoebe’s mouth, even when she smiles bright and laughs. Of course you love her. You’re both monster girls.

My bad. Murphy’s right. Rustad’s story is absolutely identical to Star Trek. (Did I do the sarcasm right?)

Some of the stories haven’t yet appeared on the public side of the Uncanny website, so I haven’t been able to read them yet. But Murphy continues his insightful commentary with notes like:

Tansy Rayner Roberts gives us a tasteless romp about dating and heterosexual love. Not a word about the cheap objectification of oppressed womankind that everyone knows is the true nature of such things. I was frankly disgusted by this appalling mainstream trash that perpetuates the white male phallocentric world viewpoint.


This well-crafted meditation on gods, man and fraud was entertaining, I suppose, but didn’t address any of the crucial issues of white supremacy, homophobia, neo-Nazism and misogyny which are helpfully listed in this issues editorial.

Those comments were about “Some Cupids Kill With Arrows” by Tansy Rayner Roberts and “The Unknown God” by Ann Leckie.

Short version? Eamonn Murphy has come to kick bubblegum and chew ass, and he’s all out of– Wait, that’s not right. Let me try again.

Eamonn Murphy has come to whine about people writing and talking about things that don’t center him as a straight male, and offer insightful critique and commentary. And, apparently, he’s all out of insightful critique and commentary.

Bird Rights Activist

Not only does Mr. Murphy start frothing at the mouth when a story includes a queer or trans character or talks about tolerance, he keeps frothing even when he thinks the story isn’t about those things. We’re talking about a man set to permanent froth, a cross between malfunctioning espresso machine and a dog who ate too much toothpaste and shat all over your carpet.

This carries over to his comments on the nonfiction as well.

I thought ‘Inferior Beasts’ by Mark Oshiro was a story because the header had a severe Content Note for descriptions of child abuse and homophobia … It turned out to be a review of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’, just the sort of garbage where you‘d expect to find child abuse. Turns out a kid gets beaten by his mother. My mother hit me sometimes and I was so upset by this that I couldn’t read further to find the homophobia but I’m sure it was there.

Murphy doesn’t expand about being hit by his mother, but whatever happened to him, apparently this means (if I’m translating the sarcasm correctly) that it’s no big deal for kids in movies to get beaten by their mothers. (Or groomed and used by an evil wizard. Or, you know, murdered.)

Because what better way to class up this review than by belittling and mocking the abuse of kids, amirite?

Hermione - What an idiot (gif)

Murphy concludes by saying:

If you’re the kind of reader who thinks fantasy should feature admirable people struggling against great odds to save other people in some sort of metaphor for the real world, too bad. If you think Science Fiction should be about engineers or scientists solving the problems of environmental catastrophe, expanding population, terraforming Mars or other real social and political issues, too bad. If you think that Science Fiction magazines should have essays and articles about real life advances in science that can benefit all mankind, well…I pity you. I pity you.

Short version? You’re doing fantasy and science fiction Wrong, Uncanny Magazine!

Slightly longer version? You’re doing fantasy and science fiction Wrong, Hugo Award-winning and Parsec Award-winning and World Fantasy Award-nominated Uncanny Magazine!

I mean, come on! What would Nebula, World Fantasy, and Theodore Sturgeon Award-nominated and Shirley Jackson Award-winning author Sam Miller know about writing? Or Hugo-nominated fan and writer Mark Oshiro know about critiquing stories? Or World Fantasy Award-winner and Nebula, Crawford, Locus, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Award-nominated Theodora Goss? Or more-awards-than-I-can-list-here Tansy Rayner Roberts?

But of course, those awards don’t count, right? Because they don’t go exclusively to the kind of people and SF/F Murphy likes.

I was going to dismiss Murphy’s column as “Old Man Yells at Cloud.”

Old Man Yells at Cloud

But it’s not just some guy yelling because parts of the genre have moved on from his childhood, and authors are writing stories about people who aren’t like him. Murphy isn’t just complaining. He’s gone full asshole. He’s the old man pissing defiantly up at the clouds, with predictable and inevitable results.

Murphy has every right to his opinion. All stories have messages and political context. If Murphy doesn’t like the politics or messages of these stories? If he finds them threatening or uncomfortable or simply alien? His loss. And SF Crowsnest has every right to publish Murphy’s opinion, no matter how odious I might find it.

Just like I have the right to call Murphy a whiny cloud-pissing man-baby who’s somehow so out of touch with the genre that he was Shocked and Appalled to find that Uncanny Magazine publishes good stories from a diverse range of authors. Seriously, how did he not know what he was getting into? It’s like he stomped into a Red Lobster and then posted a vicious, poorly-written Yelp rant because they had seafood there!

I don’t know why SF Crowsnest chose to publish that poorly-written Yelp rant. But hey, it’s their website. Maybe they’re building a Safe Place for cloud-pissers?

For everyone else, Uncanny Magazine has a bunch of fiction and nonfiction to read, with more coming next month.

2016 Writing Income Survey

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

If you’ve published at least one novel in any genre — it doesn’t matter whether you published through a large press, a smaller press, or published it yourself — please take a few minutes to answer the 21-question survey about your writing income for 2016.

I intend to keep the survey open at least through the end of the month. Possibly longer, depending on how many responses we’ve gotten by then.

Please feel free to spread the word to other authors and writer groups. The more data we get, the better the results!

Thank you.

One Year of Beard

A year ago, just for fun, I started doing daily selfies to see how much the beard would grow over the course of a year. Which I’ve now turned into a 27-second video. Because why not?

The lighting changes a bit from one shot to the next, which might be an issue if you’re sensitive to that kind of flickering.

So I guess this means my big accomplisment for 2016 was growing more Face Fur!

Transgender Michigan Fundraiser Results

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464.

We know transgender youth are at a higher risk of depression and suicide, and these coming months and years could be very difficult. So I’m proud and grateful to announce that with the help of some SF/F friends and the generosity of everyone who bid and donated, we raised a total of $1,655.55 to help Transgender Michigan continue their important work.

I wanted to pass along this thank you from Susan Crocker of Transgender Michigan:

Transgender Michigan would like to thank everyone involved with the fundraiser auctions run by Jim C. Hines. All of you are helping us provide services to the transgender communities of Michigan and beyond. This will help our help line, chapters, referral system, community building, and advocacy.

I also want to thank DAW Books for donating so many books for the raffle, and all of the authors who generously offered autographed books, critiques, Tuckerizations, and other rewards:

And a special thanks to Mike Glyer at File 770 for covering the individual auctions, as well as everyone who linked and signal-boosted.

I know 2016 has been a rough year for many of us. It means a lot to see people coming together like this to support a good cause. Thank you all for helping to make the world a little better.

Jim C. Hines