The Nebula meltdown, and the science fiction snoozefest

I have, with no small measure of amusement, been following the meltdown over the Nebula/20Booksto50K affair.

(If you’re unfamiliar with that controversy, there are various reports about it on the Internet.)

In these things, very seldom is one side completely in the right and the other completely in the wrong. And so it is here: From a procedural standpoint, I get that online “slates” can affect the integrity of awards. In this regard, the science fiction “establishment” had a point…even if they were shrill and sanctimonious about making it.

I’ll be honest with the reader: I don’t give two hoots in a rain barrel about the Nebula Awards or who wins them. There is a more interesting and pertinent observation to be made here, beyond the scope of one paltry award:

The indie science fiction publishing scene continues to eat the lunch of the establishment.  I’ve been following the career of Richard Fox, for example (an indie published author). He’s been cleaning up in the marketplace, without the help of the New York publishing houses.

Traditional publishing isn’t a bad idea, in and of itself. There is something to be said for professional curators and editors. The problem, though, is that the traditional science fiction establishment has been taken over by leftwing ideologues. Almost everything they (especially Tor Books) publish nowadays has a socio-political “angle”. A few years ago, their obsession was race. Now they seem to be obsessed with transgenderism.

There is a place for that in literary fiction, perhaps. In science fiction…not so much. Science fiction is supposed to be fun. This is what Richard Fox understands, that the sequestered grandees at Tor Books do not.

While we’re on the subject of science fiction awards: The Hugo Awards have become a spectacle in recent years. A single author has  won the best novel award three years in a row….And for three years in a row, she’s made the same speech about her racial identity.

Meanwhile, the 2018 Worldcon event was thrown into disarray over the accidental “misgendering” of a transgender participant. Said participant played this kerfuffle for all it was worth, using the occasion for much online grandstanding and bellyaching about how “unsafe” he/she/em felt because someone had mistakenly used the wrong pronoun in a program. Are some people really that precious? Apparently so.

None of this is the end of the world, of course. Nobody dies if a group of people on the Internet chooses to work itself into a tizzy about a pronoun.  Nobody dies if a group of people wants to pretend that a hackneyed speech about racial identity is something  new and fresh and original in 2018.

But such histrionics are about as interesting as watching water boil or grass grow. The whole thing is pretty darn boooooring, in fact.

And that’s the real problem with the the traditional science fiction establishment: It has become a snoozefest. In the marketplace,  few readers have the patience for longwinded navel-gazing speeches about identity politics.

Science fiction is supposed to be fun. Establishment science fiction simply  isn’t fun anymore. Until that changes, indie authors are going to continue to eat their lunch.

Competing by volume: the cancer of indie publishing

Kristine Kathryn Rusch almost never fails to hit the mark when she analyzes the publishing industry. (Her political pronouncements on Twitter are a different matter; but that’s another topic for another day.) In a recent blog post about a scandal involving ghostwriters in the romance genre, Rusch wrote: Continue reading “Competing by volume: the cancer of indie publishing”

Amazon drops Tommy Robinson’s book, ‘Mohammed’s Koran’

Egads, another free speech controversy involving a tech giant. This time, it’s Amazon:

It’s the British government and the BBC, rather than CAIR, that are likely behind this, but Amazon has just dropped the book Mohammed’s Koran by the renowned British activist Tommy Robinson and Peter McLoughlin — and apparently only because its censors dislike Robinson.

Amazon should sell any tome that doesn’t incite violence (which might, incidentally, require them to ban sales of the actual Quran….oops!).

Yes, I understand that Amazon is not the government. Amazon is a private corporation, blah, blah, blah.

But there is a bit more to it than that, in 2019: Amazon’s increasing monopoly power in the book retailing sector now gives it near governmental powers. Fifteen years ago, there were three Borders bookstores within a short drive of my house. Now there are none.

For a growing number of consumers, Amazon is the only (practical) option for purchasing books.

This means that Amazon has a responsibility to act beyond narrow partisan considerations. We can certainly make the case that neither Facebook nor Twitter are essential to the intellectual life of the nation. Book retailing is different.

I understand that among folks of a certain political persuasion, pointing out the links between Islam and violence is regarded as a not-very-nice thing to do. We are all supposed to join hands and sing Kumbaya, then tap our heels together and repeat in unison, “Diversity is our strength.”

But the headlines of the last 30 years (beginning with the Salman Rushdie affair in 1989 provide evidence for another interpretation. If we must live with Islam, so be it, but we should also be able to frankly discuss and critique Islam…just like we can frankly discuss and critique Christianity, atheism, or any other worldview.

It’s called: the free marketplace of ideas…and it’s a wonderful thing, when either corporate or government censors don’t get in the way.

If Mr. Robinson, et al’s book is pure bunk, then I’m sure that will come out in the reader reviews. If his book makes worthwhile arguments, well…that will come out, too.

But we’ll never know, because Amazon’s corporate censors have arbitrarily banned it.

Amazon, do your duty as the world’s largest bookseller, and allow Mr. Robinson to sell his book at your store.

Call me doubtful about the newest antidepressant

Something like 1 in 6 Americans are now taking antidepressants. So apparently we need yet another one.  The FDA has just approved a “ketamine-like nasal spray” that will supposedly treat depression.

And I’ve got a bridge for sale…Good price, great location!

Ketamine is a strong sedative that has been used as a veterinary tranquilizer. Ketamine has also been abused and sold on the black market in recent years.

And now they’re prescribing something very similar for depression. What could possibly go wrong? Have we forgotten already how the pharmaceutical industry created the opioid crisis by pushing oxycodone?

I get that many of us are depressed. Having suffered personal losses in recent years (including the death of a loved one), I’ve struggled with depression myself. Life is hard–for most of us eventually, and in a variety of different ways.  Let’s acknowledge that.

But we also know that most psychotropic drugs cause more problems than they cure. The pharmaceutical industry, with the collusion of educators and doctors, has hooked much of the younger generation on completely unnecessary “ADHD” drugs like Ritalin and Adderall . (I know twenty somethings who are trying to break their dependence on these drugs. I also know teenagers who resent being put on them.)

Drugs–whether they’re sold by pushers on the streets, or pushers at pharmaceutical companies–promise easy solutions to complex problems. But you’ll seldom meet anyone who has been helped by the various forms of mood drugs. Avoid them if you can….and never let a doctor hook one of your kids on them.


Tigers, Devils, and Fools: a Guide to Japanese proverbs

For those of you studying Japanese: Last week I released an updated and expanded version of Tigers, Devils, and Fools: a Guide to Japanese Proverbs. The book is available in both ebook and paperback.

Below is a sample entry:

 

SUZUME NO NAMIDA

雀の涙
すずめのなみだ
“Sparrow’s tears”

I am not sure if a sparrow can actually cry. If one could, though, it would shed only minuscule tears. Suzume no namida describes an extremely small, almost negligible amount.

Usage example:

Kondo no shiharai wa, suzume no namida deshita.
今度の支払いは、雀の涙でした。
“The payment this time was an extremely small amount.”

 

The right’s “creepy obsession” with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has complained about  “creepy conservatives” who are “obsessed” with her. This is a line that her cheerleaders in the mainstream media have enthusiastically repeated.

This is not the first time that AOC has played the sexual harassment card in order to deflect criticism and dodge debate. When conservative commentator Ben Shapiro challenged her to a debate, her non-response was that Shapiro was “catcalling” her.

Let’s get real here for a moment. The leftwing media is touting AOC as the “future of the Democratic Party”, if not the future of America itself. Hardly a day passes without a gushing story on CNN about this first-term Congressional representative.

Conservatives (and also some moderates within the Democratic Party) are therefore talking a lot about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in response. This is unsurprising, given the media’s fawning on her, and the radical nature of her ideas. (Cortez is a card-carrying member of an explicitly Marxist organization, the Democratic Socialists of America.)

So in a sense, yes, there is a “preoccupation” on the right, and in moderate quarters, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She is woefully unqualified and unprepared, and her ideas are loopy. So of course there is a “what the hell?” reaction from many of us.

What is completely disingenuous, though, is the assertion that there is something sexual about this. This is a myth which, again, both AOC and her cheerleaders have embraced. It is made more credible by the fact that Cortez is a youngish woman who is conventionally attractive.

But who gives a damn about her looks? If you’ll pardon my lapse into vulgarity: This isn’t about trying to get into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s pants. This is about her ideas, and what they might do to America if put into place.

For a clue, take a look at what’s going on in Venezuela recently. AOC, who obviously has little grasp of history and economics, wants to implement the failed record of Marxism here in the United States.

And that is definitely worth talking about….even to the point of “obsession”, if you want to call it that.

Kamala Harris and the world’s oldest profession

Kamala Harris is really pulling out all the stops in her quest for the White House. Now she is rebranding herself as the champion of the sex worker:

One presidential candidate has been on the receiving end of criticism from sex workers who say she’s taken actions that hinder their ability to work safely. Now, in an recent interview with The Root, Sen. Kamala Harris said she supports decriminalizing sex work, as long as “consenting adults” aren’t being harmed. Some sex workers’ rights advocates tell Bustle that they’re hesitant to embrace what appears to be an about-face from the senator, though.

Those advocates tell Bustle that although it sounds like Harris is embracing a more progressive view on the subject, they’re only cautiously optimistic about the prospect that she’d push to decriminalize sex work as president. They point not only to federal anti-sex trafficking legislation Harris voted for last year, which they say hampered sex workers’ ability to find work safely, but also to her record as California’s attorney general. In that position, she pressed charges against executives of the now-defunct classifieds website, Backpage.com, which many sex workers had used to screen clients.

For the record: I believe that consenting adults should be able to have sex with other consenting adults as they see fit, compensated or otherwise.

But this isn’t about what I want. This is about what Kamala Harris claims to want…this week.

Democrats are divided on the issue of decriminalizing the world’s oldest profession. (And to be fair, so are Republicans.)

But I look for Harris to flip-flop on this before the 2020 election season begins in earnest. No mainstream political candidate wants to be seen as the face of the “legal prostitution” movement. (That’s what Libertarians are for.) And no Democratic politician ever saw an economic activity that he/she didn’t want to ban or regulate.

Don’t be surprised if by the end of this year, Harris has decided that a better policy would be to offer all call girls, strippers, and erotic masseuses unlimited access to low-rent housing and government cheese.

Their male clients, meanwhile, will be sent away to concentration camps, to be deprogrammed of their toxic masculinity.

Books, ads, guns, and trigger warnings (no pun intended!)

There’s been a fair amount of kvetching on author forums of late, regarding  ads for books being rejected by Amazon because of something “provocative” on the cover.

I’m not talking here about the obvious stuff: frontal nudity and chopped up bodies. I’m talking about a cover like this one: for W.E.B. Griffin’s Death at Nuremberg.

Yes, that’s right: An indie author would not be able to run an AMS ad with this book cover.

Why? Because it has an image of a gun pointing at the viewer!

(I know this firsthand, btw, because an earlier version of my crime novel Blood Flats had a similar cover, and it was rejected.)

Facebook is just as draconian. I’ve learned the hard way that when creating an ad for a thriller novel, I am pretty much wasting my time if I submit artwork with any depiction of a firearm.

In defense of Amazon and Facebook: I’m sure these companies would like to accept many of the ads they are rejecting. They’re concerned about liability, of course. We live in an age in which being traumatized is actually quite fashionable. If someone can find a pretext to complain and raise a stink, they will. That’s all it takes… a pretext.

Don’t blame Amazon or Facebook for this nonsense. Blame the first university professor who used the term “trigger warning” unironically.

Omar Ilhan: antisemitic bigot

One of Omar Ilhan’s Democratic colleagues, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, has called on her to apologize for antisemitic statements.

This is not the first time Omar has made such remarks. Omar has also attempted to soft-pedal Islamic radicalism in the Somali-American community on more than one occasion.

This is quite the season for Islamic radicalism in Congress. Ilhan Omar is joined by newly minted Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Tlaib is of radical Palestinian extraction, and has no shortage of nasty things to say about Jews and Israel.

Electing Muslim radicals to Congress was, of course, the Democrats’ diversity project. But all actions have tradeoffs. The downside of lying down with Islamic radicals is that you tend to wake up with antisemites.

Not to mention folks who despise America and everything it stands for. Make of that what you will.

Paperbacks, paperbacks

There are now paperbacks available on Amazon for all of my horror and most of my thriller titles.

I’ve been surprised to find that, despite the Kindle being over ten years old now, many readers still prefer to read on old-fashioned paper.

Which is fine with me. I’m rather attached to reading on paper myself.

Check out the paperback edition of 12 Hours of Halloween on Amazon!