Thursday, February 26, 2015

Good Thing My Career is Over or I Might Rage Quit

Wow, people, just wow.

So my friend and fellow Wyrdsmith, Eleanor Arnason, decided to re-post Tempest's challenge on her Facebook as a test, just to see what kind of response she'd get.

Third or fourth comment? So offensive I'm not even sure I can re-print it here.  Since I don't know how to do an "under the cut" in blogspot, let's just say he suggested that as a "reward" for reading books on this list he should get to "haz" sexual acts performed on him by women.  (The haz particularly felt... offensive, because clearly he felt this made his comment cutesy, ala a LOL cat.) Then the discussion honestly turned into a recommended list of straight, white, male, cis writers.

Similarly, yesterday I came across someone in my feed who I won't name because I don't believe in the "call out" culture, but who got very four-letter word-y about this challenge because he claimed "this sort of thing takes food off my plate."


*takes deep breaths*

Seriously, folks, take a chill pill. Do you actually know a single person who has committed to doing this (besides, presumably, Tempest herself)? Secondly, even if twenty or a hundred people agreed to do it for a whole year, do you really think this is going to so negatively impact your sales that YOU WILL STARVE?

Seriously? Starve? HYPERBOLE MUCH?

Don't [bleeping] lie. Most published science fiction writers I know have a day job--because it's already so impossible to make a living writing. Everybody knows that. If you're one of the lucky ones who can actually afford to stay home and be a full-time writer, I am SO NOT CRYING ANY TEARS FOR YOU. Because if you're doing that well? 10 less people reading your book in the year is not going to impact your career that much.

Thus, I honestly don't understand being threatened by this. Most of us have a limited book budget. Many of us have any number of reasons why we choose to buy the books we do (leading one in our house? Nothing to do with the gender of the author. The biggest factor is: Is it on deep discount from Even though I've given myself a reading "task" this year, so far I've only BOUGHT one of the books on the list (because it randomly came up on one of those 99 cent deals on All of the rest have come out of the library.

You [bleep]ers weren't getting my [bleeping] money, anyway.

I say this as someone whose career ended because of poor sales, okay? I'm not saying this out of spite. I know exactly how hard it is to make a living as a science fiction writer BECAUSE I'VE ALREADY FAILED SPECTACULARLY AT IT.

Yeah, the financial aspects of being a writer are enough to make anyone want to swear like a sailor. But this is a problem that affects ALL writers, regardless of age, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other factor. I *do* tend to think that women, PoC, queer and other writers have a much harder time getting reviews and marketing budgets, but I have never seen actual figures proving this... so let's just leave that off the table for the moment. Let's just even leave off the table the fact that when a person screams about this, it's not Tempest that's making me not want to buy their books, it's they themselves. Let's also leave off the table that the most infuriating part of this is that I have to put up with sexualized abuse just because someone suggested that people consider reading outside of their comfort zone for a year.

There's a reason I don't normally get involved in these kinds of internet "discussions;" it's to protect my sanity.

And my faith in humanity.

I'm eternally grateful to *my* Facebook friends (and my friends here and elsewhere that I discussed this) that we managed, for the most part, to have reasoned discourse. We got passionate and fiery and strident, but it was all done with (apparently) a surprising amount of respect. Thank you. You all remind me that it's possible to be passionate, but remain civil.

I found out a few days ago that these call outs and fails have driven at least one promising writer from our ranks. I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks a few more. Many of those driven away by this hostility might be the women, queers, and PoC that we so desperately need in our ranks, too. But my friend was "just" a straight, white guy who got tired of being placed in the crossfire even as he was trying desperately to be an ally.

We've got to stop this.

There's something broken on the Internet. Something disgusting and horrible that we saw exploding into the light during things like #gamergate. It's something that's making people, like the one paraphrased above, go from zero to sexualized abuse in sixty seconds. It's something that's threatening women's lives (so that it's no wonder there's a similarly ugly backlash towards less-marginalized people.)

But still.

C'mon. We're better than all this.

We're supposed to be imaginers of the future. Can't we imagine a place where there is room for everyone and that one person's success does not diminish another's?

Edited to add: Eleanor has deleted the comment, if you go looking for it, it's no longer there. "Can Haz" guy? Be thankful. Eleanor just spared you some backlash, I imagine, from those who would have hunted you down (who, while I felt free to respond to it here, publicly, do not condone. It's not cool to go after people, people. Full stop. This is not a one-way message.) Also, I posted this image:

to Tumblr and a woman felt the need to private e-mail me and share her disapproval. Did I really like that? She thought I was better than that. To which I was like... ..... .... NOPE. Not today, my friend, not today.


Can we just not?


Paul Weimer said...

The reactions have distressed me. Several white male authors who are NOT part of the Puppies crowd have taken this as a "threat to their livelihood."

It's crazy

tate hallaway said...

It *is* crazy for so many reasons. But, the publishing industry is what's broken and I wish we could all band TOGETHER and fight that, you know? I mean, sexism is (as demonstrated above) is alive and well and should be dealt with, but asking people to read a few more books a year by people you might not of heard of ACTUALLY HELPS EVERYONE.


Seriously. I'm this close to going Feminist Hulk on their collective butts.


Paul Weimer said...

Instead we get this "Hunger Games" mentality, a zero sum approach. Oh noes, if I read Kristi Charish and her ilk for a year, Larry Correia is going to lose his career.

Kelly Barnhill said...

The funniest part is that a much bigger "threat to one's livelihood" is, oh I don't know, Being a Jerk on the Internet. Nothing is going to make me put my checkbook back in my purse more quickly than seeing some whining on twitter or facebook or whatever.

Readers reading is good for writers. Period. As writers we should be *encouraging* readers to expand their base. Because reading begets reading, you know?

tate hallaway said...

Yes, for sure. Seriously, when people say stupid things on the internet, THAT is the moment they go on the "do not buy" list.

(Hmmm, * considers everything ever said on the internet... shrugs. *)

Anyway, yes, absolutely. This doesn't have to be either/or. We should all read broadly. Being well read used to be something to strive for. Let's make it that again. Why limit yourself, EVER?


tate hallaway said...

Oops, I guess I stopped mid-sentence. I was going to say that my own challenge to myself this year is to read everyone up for a speculative award. This means I'm reading many people I've never heard of. I can't see how this will negatively impact all those I have.

Eleanor said...

Shakespeare showed up on my thread because I wanted to defuse the conversation. I think the guy who got seriously rude shocked me. I'm going to hide all his messages in the future and probably unfriend him shortly.

Kelly Barnhill is right that making people angry is not a good marketing technique. I need to remember this when people tick me off and get away from them, rather than getting in an argument. Owls are better than arguments.

tate hallaway said...

Owls are always awesome, Eleanor!

But we can't not fight these fights, either. I just think we can get passionate about the things that are important without being gross and rude. We need to remember we're all in this together.

Michele Jackson said...

Posts like this are why you are still my hero and why you should not say your career as a writer is over.

tate hallaway said...

Aw, thanks! I will strive to resurrect my career from the ashes!!

RPM said...

I've been amazed at comments on other sites, especially newspapers. On one hand, it's more emotional reaction than thoughtful reflection, response. I suspect most people think negative, vile thoughts, but they seldom express them when they might be punched in the nose. The network removes the social barriers of face-to-face interaction that stops those thoughts from spilling out. Having spent the better part of my life online, meeting people F2F after getting to know them virtually (and having my mental image completely blown apart), and being the victim of trolling years ago (I shut down a popular history of photography list because I just didn't want to be bothered with a few bad actors), I've learned some lessons.

Most people can manage civil discourse, keeping those bad thoughts to themselves. (And often, those people realize that they're being unfair or mean, and they are glad they never expressed them.) But there are some bad actors out there.

[According to a new study, "Trolls just want to have fun," which appeared in the academic journal Personal and Individual Differences, the Canadian researchers conclude that "online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists... For those with sadistic personalities, [their] ideal self may be a villain of chaos and mayhem—the online Trickster we fear, envy, and love to hate: the cyber-troll."] See Nate Anderson, "Science confirms: Online trolls are horrible people (also, sadists!)," Ars Technica (20 Feb 2014),

Ysabetwordsmith said...

I think that reading challenges and thematic rec lists are great, if people want to do them. I doubt it would make a measurable blip in anyone's sales.

However, I'd like to point out something: in today's job market, it's no longer a matter of "don't quit your dayjob." It's "what do you do when the dayjob quits YOU?" Increasingly what people do is turn to creative work to scrabble up whatever they can get, because that doesn't require anyone else's permission. Getting a dayjob means begging for it and topping out a list of 40-60 people most of them equally qualified. Huge numbers of people get shut out of the economy as a result. Some of those folks are out there surviving on what they can make from writing, filking, knitting, or any other skill they've got, because their skill is all they have left. Nobody will hire them, not because they aren't any good, but because they simply aren't wanted. It's a tremendous problem.

Please don't assume that writers without a dayjob are rich. Most of them are eating off food stamps and using their writing income to buy toilet paper.

(That doesn't excuse getting online and acting like an asshole, though.)

Eleanor said...

Good point about the current job market.

tate hallaway said...

Well, to be fair, I didn't say, but I'm also a writer who stays home, but not because I make enough money. I'd never assume that. Not really, but I'm still not crying any tears for someone complaining about this. 10 books don't make much of a difference in either direction... trust me. Getting ten *more* people to buy mine, certainly didn't.

Will Shetterly said...

Do most readers only read white male writers? This notion continues to croggle me. As for Tempest's challenge, the problem is that she issued it as a call to limit one's reading, not to expand it. So try to have a little sympathy for those straight white male writers who know their straight white maleness does not ensure they have careers. When I look at the writers who keep going, what strikes me are the economic advantages they have. The convention circuit is too expensive for the average working class kid, no mater what that kid's social identity might be.