The Problem With The Hugo Awards….

….is the same problem that every other awards program faces.  Namely, that there’s no good way to run an awards system.

Is there some sort of criteria for entry, a barrier to pass before you can vote on the award?  Well, your awards will become inbred and cliquish, representing a skewed version of fandom.

Is there no criteria for entry, and anyone can vote?  Well, then you’ll have awards that invariably reward the most popular books anyway, never providing surprising choices because the best-known books will get the most votes.

Is there some sort of criteria for entry?  Well, the people on the inside will generally come to know each other, being a small group, and logrolling galore will happen, where people get votes by promising theirs.  Small movements can create disproportionate reactions, generating ballots with weird choices that no sane person would have chosen.

Is there no criteria for entry?  Well, then ballot-stuffing will occur, and accusations of fakery will emerge, and the awards will be tainted as people feel the system can be gamed.

Is there some sort of criteria for entry?  Well, the jurors of the award may be skewed, narrow-minded old men, and you can have lily-white male ballots consisting entirely of unconscious prejudice.

Is there no criteria for entry?  Well, given years of White Dude being the default perceived mode of author, the massive numbers of voters won’t be aware of other, less-popular writers, and you can have lily-white male ballots consisting entirely of institutionalized prejudice.

Look, folks: the problem with setting up any award system, no matter what, is that the system can be gamed.  Because it is a system.  And there’s plenty of incentive for people to find edge cases in the rules and exploit them.  You can complain about the Hugos, or the Nebulas, but do yourself a favor and Google the Oscars, or the Emmys, or the Tonys, or the Grammys, or anything else and you’ll find thousands of people griping about how the awards are botched and unfair and here’s how to fix them….

…and they’ll never get fixed.

Even if by some wonderment we somehow managed to create a perfect balloting system (hint: we won’t), even then “What we like today” is a far shot from “What classic literature is.” It takes time for us to see what sticks, to separate today’s pleasure from tomorrow’s magnificence.  Look over the classic lists in any category from thirty years ago and you’ll find #1 smash hits that nobody remembers, and widely-acknowledged masterpieces that went overlooked.

An awards showcase does not actually represent the best books/movies/songs/shows of any given year.  What it represents is a cultivated taste: When I watch an Oscar-winning “Best Picture” movie, I know I’m not going to be seeing a whacky comedy or an edgy horror movie.  The Oscars represent a certain style of moviemaking, one that says, “If you make a movie sorta like this, and it’s good, we’ll nominate it.”  It’s not “ZOMG THIS IS THE BEST EVER,” but rather “ZOMG THIS IS WHAT WE REALLY LIKE,” and that’s a subtle but serious distinction.

The Oscars, and the Hugos, and the Nebulas, all pretend to be The Arbiter Of Absolute Quality because hey, that’s what gets people interested.  But like every awards showcase, they’re actually The Arbiter Of What These Folks Like.

And that’s fine.  In many case, those folks have fine taste.  They’re almost always good books of a sort.

And let us be honest: part of the reason awards are so hooky is because they’re unpredictable.  If you didn’t have the inevitable breakouts of GOD HOW DID THIS CRAP GET NOMINATED and JESUS THIS FINE THING GOT ROBBED and WHOAH WHO EXPECTED THAT TO WIN, then I suspect awards would be of far less interest to people.  It’s a horse race, where anyone can break a leg just before the finish line, and that provides that gambling-like happiness to our monkey brain center.  We keep tuning in because it’s unpredictably predictable.

To sum up: The Hugos are broken.  They have always been broken.  They will always be broken.  Just like every other award.

On The Myth Of “Being Inoffensive”

Yesterday, I wrote about how it takes some training to learn to shrug off insults, and said this:

“Speak carefully. Try to be kind. And don’t be a dick unless it’s your last choice.”

To which one commenter replied:

“Rather than attempt to tailor speech to be inoffensive (which is a neverending race to the bottom), we should be equipping people with the tools to handle a world where people disagree with them.”

I’m sorry – when did I say inoffensive? Christ, I offend people all the time.

I wrote “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Some Fucking Awesome Sex,” which was read by millions. It offended tons of conservatives, took parents off-guard, shocked hundreds of religious groups.

Did I set out to not offend them? No.

I wrote All Women And Never Men: A Rant On A Polyamory I Dislike, about the one-penis policy and how it’s usually (though not invariably, I hesitate to add) sexism and selfishness wrapped into a package that a lot of women ultimately come to regret. I still get angry letters on that one.

I wrote Can I Buy You A Coffee? and its follow-up essay, which talked about how colossally rude it is to hit on women and then pretend you were just trying to do them a favor. Pissed off a lot of guys on that one. Men’s Rights Advocates aren’t too fond of me, either.

And look through my archives! I’ve said lots of things that have deeply offended my liberal buddies, my conservative buddies, my religious buddies, my atheist pals. You’ll find thousands of comments from people who not just disagreed, but were actively enraged at what I had to say.

And you know what?

I chose to offend them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written tons of essays where I fucked up and said something inadvertently offensive, mainly because I didn’t understand transgender issues, or kink-related issues, or some subtle form of politics. And I’ve written lots more essays where I meant to say, “Hey, I’m in favor of this” and wrote it so badly that I appeared to be me criticizing that, and that’s my piss-poor words rising up to rightfully bite me.

But with each of my better essays, I thought carefully: Who will this offend? And I quickly devised a list of the sorts of people who I thought this would piss off…

…and I was okay with it.

If some conservative father who never wants his daughter to have sex gets pissed off, then I’ve accepted that as a cost of doing business. If some douchey pick-up artist takes offense when I tell him how he’s manipulating women, sorry, but it’s what I believe.

If some couple who’ve been perfectly happy in their one-penis policy is mad because they’re different from all of those other OPP people, well, I feel a little bad, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get ‘em out of the line of fire.

If I use the phrase “Girl Drink Drunk” to discuss my love of flavored vodka, I’ll undoubtedly annoy a couple of my feminist friends who don’t like the genderification of drinks – and, more importantly, don’t love classic Kids in the Hall sketches the way I do. But I pondered that, weighed their annoyance as comparatively light versus my amusement at the term, and chose to offend a little.

But note in each of those cases: I’m usually aware of what I’m doing, and making a conscious choice. (And if enough of my friends really get bent out of shape about the Girl Drink Drunk bit, then maybe I recalculate the equation. Maybe I don’t. Times change.)

So no. I’m not trying to erase all offense from the universe. I’m trying to say that I make decisions, weighing my free speech versus how upset someone’s going to get versus how legitimate I feel their offense is, and making a judgment call. In others, I say things more nicely to cushion the blow.  In some cases, I don’t say things because I think it’d hurt people’s feelings for no good reason.

(NOTE: You may not be able to avoid hurting people’s feelings when you’re speaking the truth as you see it.  But when you start hoping to hurt people’s feelings as part of an essay? That’s when you’ve become a dick.)

And there are times I just go off on those I’ve decided I don’t give a rat’s ass about.  Point is, I offend all the fucking time. It’s impossible to do comedy without offending. It’s impossible to make legitimate changes without offending.

I just try to offend as part of a greater plan, is all.

The Myth Of “Nobody Can Make You Feel Bad Without Your Permission”

There’s a common sentiment that goes, “Nobody can make you feel bad without your permission” – generally trotted out when someone’s been hurt by a mean thing that someone said.

The idea, I believe, is that we are all rational, robot-like beings who can control our emotions – and thus if we get upset by someone’s assholic statements, we have chosen to be upset. We could have shrugged it off instead.

Problem is, people don’t work that way.

Now, first off, “shrugging off other people’s insults and accusations” is a learned skill. If you’ve ever raised a kid, you know most of them don’t come pre-baked with the “Eh, whatever” switch – if you yell at them, they cry. If other kids make fun of them, they get upset. Actually placing the “Okay, they’re mocking you, but do you respect their opinion?” switch in place is a process that takes years, requires a healthy ego on the kid’s part, and isn’t 100% successful.

So expecting everyone to have that skill is kinda jerky. Admittedly, it’s a vital skill that everyone should actively cultivate – without it, abusers can emotionally manipulate you into the most awful of situations by pressing your “guilt” button whenever you complain about valid stuff.

But not everyone had nice parents. Not everyone’s discovered how to interrupt their emotions with logic. And as such, sneering, “Well, you chose to feel bad”isn’t actually true. They have yet to develop a barrier between the onrush of primal feelings and the rationality to say, “Wait, no, that’s actually something I shouldn’t feel.”

You might want to start that long discussion of how to get to the point where they can shove off that tidal wave of sadness with a cold freeze of logic… but that’s not how this is used. Instead, the “Nobody can make you feel bad…” argument is generally wielded as a club to make it the victim’s fault when someone decided to be an asshole at them.

Yet hey! What about me? I’ve been on the Internets for years. I’ve received death threats. I’ve had hundreds of blog-entries devoted to what a jerk I am, entire forum-threads of vitriol. Some people loathe me personally, and they’ve never met me – and yet I’m still posting my opinions daily.

So as one of the most thick-skinned people I know, I clearly understand how nobody can make me feel bad without my permission, right? Otherwise I’d just be shivering in a closet.

Wrong.

What I know is that I can shut down those bad feelings that come when someone chucks a nastygram in my direction - but it takes me effort to do so.

I think of it as walking to the store. Under normal circumstances, I’ll get to where I’m going. But with the right insult, some asshole can drop a fifty-pound weight in my backpack. I’ll still get to the store, but thanks to their jerktasticness, it’s a fuck of a lot more effort.

And if I was low on energy that day? Or in a rush to get somewhere?

Lord, those insults can fuck up my day, whether I wanted them to or not.

And that’s not me saying that human interaction should be scrubbed of all potentially harmful content. Some people do get butthurt incredibly easily, and I think there’s a point at which you have to make the decision that this person’s rigid boundaries are going to hem in your speech to unacceptable levels, and blow them off.

(Some people don’t read me because they’re offended by my swearing. I support their right to unfriend me in order to protect their sanity, but stopping? Fuck that noise.)

But when you say, “Well, nobody can make you feel bad without your permission!”, that sets up a world where you have no responsibility for your speech. Were you digging for weak spots, mocking to make a point? Oh, hey, well, you were trying your damndest to make them feel bad, but if it worked it’s their fault for not having sufficient defenses. It’s not 100% correlation, but when I see “Nobody can make you feel bad!” I usually find a taunting dillweed nearby, taking potshots from the brush and then claiming no responsibility.

No. You may not be able to make someone feel bad, but you sure as fuck can make them burn strength they were planning to use for other projects that day. So speak carefully. Try to be kind. And don’t be a dick unless it’s your last choice.

It won’t hurt to be a little nicer, man. I promise.

The Novel Cupcakes

These are Novel Cupcakes.

Untitled

Because I sold my first novel, Gini bought me a dozen cupcakes from my favorite cupcake store and we get to eat them one by one to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

Only Gini gets to eat them with me.  Because I could not have done it without her.

And that’s what success tastes like.

You will hear of this no more; no cupcake reviews, no discussing what flavors each of those twelve delicious cupcakes turned out to be.

Because some things we do? They’re not meant to be shared with the Internet.

I Don’t Feel Guilty About My Privilege. Here’s What I Do Feel.

Yesterday, I wrote about all the hidden privileges that allowed me to sell my first novel.  I still had to put in years of effort, don’t get me wrong, but I had a lot of advantages – being healthy, being financially stable, having the right support group – that let me close the deal when others might not have.

And several conservative friends of mine said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I have those advantages, but I don’t feel guilty about them.”

Which is strange.  I don’t feel guilty, either.  I’m not sure why they’d think I would feel guilty.

I feel a deep duty.

See, when confronted with the idea of privilege, my conservative friends invariably bristle and go, “Well, hard work counts for something.  Real people suck it up and triumph whatever the odds.” To which I inevitably think, “Yes, but is that an excuse to keep handing people shitty odds if we can do something to level the playing field?”

Yes, the human spirit is lovely and noble and inspiring.  But if we can do something to, say, ensure that black kids have an equal chance to white kids, so that both children putting in the same effort will have the same odds of success, why not do that?  Chronically ill people have it hard enough in life without further raining hell down upon them with bills and paperwork – why not try to fix that?

Why are we saying that people should triumph over the odds when we have the power to adjust the odds?

Note that I don’t feel responsible.  Some poor people are poor because they’re lazy, and to heck with them.  I’ve known some chronically ill people who used their illness as an excuse to shirk every responsibility.  I am not, despite how my words may be twisted, feeling any sense of need to save everybody.

But I feel that if people work hard and clever, that work should be rewarded as consistently as possible.  And the simplistic conservative equation of “You work hard, you win” is not borne out anywhere in nature.  There are plenty of people who work their asses off and, thanks to luck or circumstance, fail and fail hard.  Working hard is your best shot at success, but to reduce that to “Work hard and win” is like telling someone if they play the odds they’ll always beat the casinos.

No.  For some very hard-working people, the odds are tilted against them, handed many difficulties that I do not experience and may not even be aware of… and I feel strongly that if those people wish to work their ass off just the way that I did, they should be rewarded proportionately.  Some of those things I can’t fix; not everyone can stay at home programming, like I do.  Some people gotta load cargo.  But there are other factors, such as the way society reacts to me being white, or the lessons I learned about working smart that I got only because I was born into an upper-middle-class family, that I can attempt to patch up.

I don’t feel a goddamned scrap of guilt over my privilege, because what I got I also worked hard for.  Rather, I feel a duty to erase the challenges that I didn’t face, so that everyone has an equal shot at success.

And yes, that’s a battle that I can never win; there will always be inequalities popping up somewhere.  But that’s the nature of any good fight; you’ll never extinguish evil in all its forms, but that’s no reason to never try.  We keep fighting because it’s worth it, and tossing generations of people into the meatgrinder with a shrug of “Hard work will triumph!” is callous.

If you really respect hard work, you want everyone to benefit from it.  And to do that, try to ensure that effort pays off as frequently as it possibly can.

At least that’s how it is to me.

If It’s Not Privilege, Then What Is It?: On Writer Privilege

So yesterday, after twenty-four years of struggle, I sold a novel.  (Read about it here, pre-order it here, if you like.)

Let’s be honest: That took perseverance.  I wrote for hours a day, writing on vacation, writing on my birthday, writing when I was recovering from heart surgery.  I went to critique groups to get better feedback.  I networked online so I could find better people to give me feedback.  Out of any given day, you can point to at least an hour and say, “Ferrett put in his 10,000 hours.”

Except.

* I was lucky enough to be healthy, so I didn’t have to deal with days torpedoed by chronic pain issues or going to doctors or filling prescriptions.

* I was lucky enough to have a sedentary, work-at-home job.  Yes, some of that’s career choice, but I went to college for seven years on scholarships and my parents’ dime, and they were rich enough to buy a PC back when they were super-expensive so I got familiarized with computers about ten years before the curve.  I happened to be born male, so people just sort of assumed I could be good at computers.  Now, I work hard at being a programmer – but there’s also a lot in my background that enabled this career choice.  If I had to work an hour away lugging crates at a warehouse, my writing time would be cut into by exhaustion and commutes, rendering me less productive.

* I was lucky enough to be wealthy enough to go to the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop after I got accepted, which costs thousands of dollars.   (As witness this less-fortunate soul raising the bare-bones $3,600 it’ll take him to attend this year.)  It cost me probably $4,500 after all was said and done, and that’s a lot of change to just plunk down.  (Viable Paradise is less expensive, as it’s shorter, but that’s still $1,100 plus travel.)

* I was lucky enough to have a good enough job that they gave me the leave to go away for six weeks, though I was so hot to trot that I would have quit if I’d had to.  Thankfully, they were gracious as they usually are.  Thankfully, I had the financial cushion to be able to walk away if I needed to, and a family supportive enough to deal with my absence for six weeks.

* I was lucky enough to have friends who told me about things like Clarion, and conventions, and what to expect from publishers.  I didn’t go hunting for writer-friends; I happened to have a few who I ran across in town.  If it wasn’t for a friend telling me about Clarion that year, I wouldn’t have heard of it, and you wouldn’t have heard of me.

* I was lucky enough to have wise parents who modeled secure, sane marriages for me, so when I found my wife – who has been wise, supportive, and a stanchion of my writing career – I was smart enough to not destroy the relationship.

Now, none of those gifts take away from my tremendous drive.  And they don’t mention things like, say, my chronic depression, which does in fact take away from my production time.  But those are all advantages that were, in some fundamental way, given to me.  Yeah, I had to work efficiently to keep my job, and yeah I had to be lovable enough to keep my friends, and yeah, I had to be talented enough to get to spend all that money on Clarion – but in all those issues, I had a huge boost from forces beyond my choosing.

It was hard enough getting this damn novel sold.

It would have been even harder if just a few circumstances had changed in my life.  Maybe impossible.  If I’d had young children and a wife with a job at 7-11, going to Clarion probably wouldn’t have happened.  If I’d been incapacitated by chronic back pain for three hours a day, my writing time would have been affected.  If I’d run with a different set of friends, that whole “Clarion” thing – the event that restarted my career – would have zipped on by.

I call those privileges.

And Brad Torgersen (he of the other first novel happydance) said that in the military, privileges are things you earn.  Which may be true.  But I don’t know a better word for those quiet advantages.  “Gifts” don’t seem right, because frankly, me walking around healthy isn’t really a gift, it’s just something I feel most people oughtta have in a sane world.

But whatever you call them, I acknowledge them.  Yes, I worked hard to break through.  Super-hard.  But despite all that effort I put in, it could have been harder.  And writing is such a challenge to get write, requiring such focus to hone, that I don’t think it’s a surprise that a lot of writers are white males who come from middle- to upper-class homes. They’ve got a whole societal structure geared around supporting them.

And again!  Like me, that doesn’t denigrate their effort.  There’s a zillion middle-class white guys, and the majority of them suck at writing because they either don’t care or didn’t put their time into the craft.  Anyone who hauls their ass across this finish line has done something significant.  But there are others who had additional hurdles in front of them on that track, and I think it’s intellectually dishonest to wave that aside.

I guess that’s why privilege is such a difficult concept to express: it feels contradictory, on some level.  It’s You did do something really difficult, but it could have been harder.  And nobody wants to hear that they had it easier than others… particularly when they fail.  Particularly when “privilege” is not a singular power-up that magically erases all difficulty, but a bunch of small factors that can often cascade into greater things.  Particularly when some people only have certain privileges (a decent income, good physical health) but lack others (like my depressive fugue-states chipping away at my mental health).

But that doesn’t erase the concept.  And when I look at my achievement?  I’m happy.  I wanted to publish a damn novel, and now I will have, and I put in my 10,000 hours to get here hard-core.

Yet when I look at society and all the things I’d like to fix, there’s a bunch of people who never got what I did.  I’d like to give it to them, if I can, or just plain make coping with those issues easier.  And I refuse to erase that reality by claiming I’m a self-made man or somesuch.

I had a lot of help.  I had a lot of advantages.  I did a lot of fucking work.

Those concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Attention, World: I SOLD A NOVEL.

When I was fifteen, my parents dragged me to a book release party.  Not that I knew it was a book release party; I was, like every fifteen-year-old kid, self-centered to the point that I wore my colon as a hat.  It was at the Goldsteins’ house, so I assumed it was another party celebrating the fact that brave Mrs. Goldstein had survived yet another round of brain surgery.

But no.  Mrs. Goldstein – a clear-eyed woman who walked with the help of a cane – pressed a hardcover book into my hand.

“I wrote this,” she told me.  “About my experiences, relearning how to walk and talk and write.  It’s a memoir.”  And though I’d read so many stories that I had ink permanently dotted on my nose from sticking it in books, it had never occurred to me that actual people wrote them.  Authors were Gods who lived in little editorial heavens, flinging down books from clouds up high.

But Mrs. Goldstein had written a book.  And taken it to the publishers in New York.  And gotten it published.  She told me all about how she wrote it, how you had to send it in a manila envelope to people, the letters of rejection you’d get, and slowly I came to understand that books – books! – were written by people like you and me.


When I was fifteen, I vowed to publish a novel.


When I was nineteen, I wrote my first novel: “Schemer and the Magician.”  It was about a nerdy college kid (basically me) and a wiseass college kid (also basically me) who got kidnapped by aliens and sucked into a galactic war OF INCONCIEVABLE CONSEQUENCES.

…It wasn’t very good.

I sent it to two agents, who wisely never responded.


When I was twenty-three, I wrote my second novel: “A Cup of Sirusian Coffee.”  It was a Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy-style riff on the afterlife, where for all eternity you were forced to do whatever you did in life.  Were you a plumber?  Look forward to spending the next five Pleistocene epochs fixing pipes.

I wrote the first three chapters, handed them around to my college buddies, who thought it was hysterical.  So every day I cranked out another chapter, handing out printed manuscripts to a small group of fans who demanded to know what happened next, until eventually I snowballed a slim plot into a musical Ragnarok that shut the universe down.

This one I sent out to three agents, two of whom dutifully informed me that I was not quite as clever as I thought.


When I was thirty, I wrote my third novel: “The Autonomist Agenda, Part I.”  Screw my own muse, I thought: this one would be commercial.  So I wrote the first book in a huge and complex fantasy series, complete with smoldering relationships guaranteed to appeal to the ‘shipper crowd, and prophecies that propelled a young boy on the inevitable journey to become a Big Damn Hero, and even a gay warrior because I was Just That Ahead Of The Curve.

(Not that it was revealed he was gay until Part II.  I had Plans, you see.  I’d sell all three books at once!)

I slipped a copy to my friend Catherynne Valente, who’d had some success at this writing gig.  She read part of it, then took me out to a sad lunch at Bob Evans to break the news.

“I guess you could get this published somewhere,” she told me.  “But is this really what you want your name on?”

I guess I didn’t.

But damn, I wanted my name on something.


When I was thirty-two, I wrote my fourth novel: “On The Losing Side Of The Dragon.”  Sure, the winning knight eventually kills the dragon, but what about all those poor wannabe schmucks who get devoured along the way?

I gave it to my wife.  She informed me she liked how it ended, really liked it, but the beginning was tedious.  She would never have gotten to the good stuff if she hadn’t been, you know, obligated to read my crap on account of our wedding vows consisting of the words “to love, honor, and beta-read.”

I locked myself in my room and cried all evening.  Thirteen years of effort, and I had not managed to write one single novel that anyone wanted to read.  I had not sold one story.

All I’d ever wanted to do was write novels, and I pretty much sucked at it.


When I was thirty-five, I wrote my fifth novel: “A Cup Of Sirusian Coffee.”  Wrote the whole goddamned thing from scratch.  It was a funny idea, and my college buddies still asked about it, so clearly I just needed to go back to the drawing board.

This was novel #5 – and that was the toughest one.  See, Stephen King, my favorite Unca Stephen, had written five novels before he sold his first one.  He’d famously wadded up Carrie and thrown it in the trash, and his wife had rescued it, put his ass back in the seat, told him to keep going.  He did.  Fame and fortune resulted.

That meant this was my lucky novel.  This was the one I was guaranteed to publish.  After all, how many novels did you have to write before you got good?

After sending the new manuscript far and wide, I heard back from a publisher two years later.  They told me the opening paragraphs were “interesting” but then it “fell apart quickly… if the author could capture the style of those first paragraphs again, it might be worth it.”

But by then, I’d pretty much given up trying.


When I was thirty-eight, Catherynne Valente yelled at me.  “Just send in the damn application,” she said.

“I’m not a good writer,” I told her.  “The Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop is for serious writers.  I’ve sold three stories in twenty years, for $15 total.  I’m never going to get in.”

She smiled.  “So send it in.  Just to shut me up.”

I did.

I got accepted.

I got scourged.

I got to learn that over the last twenty years, I’d accreted all kinds of bad habits – stiff plotting, flabby prose, a reliance on recreating stereotypes instead of actually writing about people I knew.  Clarion taught me that I wasn’t a bad writer, I’d just been too overconfident in my raw abilities… and now that I had finally been forced to acknowledge all my weak spots, I could fix those and reinvent myself for the better.

Over the next three years, I sold fourteen stories, five of them at professional rates.  For which I still thank Catherynne.

But I wasn’t quite ready to write a novel.  Not yet.


When I was forty-one, I finally got the courage back to work on my sixth novel: a sweeping science-fiction epic called “The Upterlife.”  I spent a year revising it, and – I shit you not – not two hours after I finished the final draft of that damn novel, Mary Robinette Kowal called me up to tell me that my novelette Sauerkraut Station had been nominated for the Nebula Award.

If that wasn’t a signal from God that I was ready to sell a damn novel, what was?  I sent that manuscript to all the best agents, with a killer query, telling them by way, I’m up for a Nebula this year and I just happen to have this novel for you.

They all rejected it.

Every.

Last.

One.


When I was forty-three, I wrote my seventh novel.  It was Breaking Bad with magic, a desperate bureaucromancer turned to manufacturing enchanted drugs to save his burned daughter… and it was by far the best thing I’d ever written.  I polished that sucker until it shined.  It shined.

But I was two novels beyond Stephen King.  I’d been struggling to get a novel published for twenty-four years now, clawing at the walls of the Word Mines, and I had no hope of anything but oh God I couldn’t stop and I realized that I wasn’t going to stop, that the breath in my body would run out before I stopped writing tales and who the hell cared if I got published or not I was locked in.  I had to create.  I had to.


And I sold it.


Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz.  The story of Paul Tsabo, bureaucromancer, his daughter Aliyah, and the kinky videogamemancer Valentine DiGriz, who I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love.  Published by Angry Robot books – the very publisher of whom I said to my wife, “If I could have any publisher take my first book, it’d be Angry Robot.”

Coming to bookstores on September 30th.  (EDIT: And you can pre-order it now through Amazon. Lordy, that was fast.)


I don’t care what novel you’re on.

Do not give up.

(Cross-posted from Angry Robot’s blog.)