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I want to talk about apologies. And yes, there are a few actual recent events that have prompted these thoughts, but the thoughts are not directed at anyone in particular, or meant to be direct commentary on those situations.

So, let’s say a person does a thing or things, we’ll call them Person A, and Person B is hurt or offended by it. Or frightened, or upset, right?

And let’s say B calls A on their behavior, whatever it was that hurt, offended, frightened, or upset B.

We all know at this point (or we should) that the first thing A should do is apologize. A real apology, not a Sorry-If-You-Were-Offended-Why-You-So-Oversensitive Notpology, but a real one. “I’m sorry I hurt you. I will try to do better.”

Now, it’s true sometimes B doesn’t even want to hear that apology. They’re that upset. And sometimes, Person B will hear the apology but still be hurt and angry and want nothing further to do with Person A.

Every now and then, when this happens, Person A will react…unproductively. They will insist that it’s super important for them to make an apology! That’s all they want! Of course Person B said “don’t talk to me any more, ever again” but this is an apology!

Or Person B will hear the apology and then respond with some version of “Nice story, bro. We’re still done.”

And Person A–or possibly their friends, or onlookers who have not been party to the less public aspects of the situation–will cry indignantly “But Person A apologized! What more do you want?”

So, these reactions are coming from a set of assumptions that I think folks would do well to ponder. Here’s the question: Who is the apology for? Why does one apologize? Now, you probably instantly replied that the apology was for the person who was wronged, but why is it so often the case that when someone doesn’t react to an apology with public forgiveness, people ask that question, “What more do you want?” as though the automatic, proper response to an apology is to pretend the thing being apologized for never happened? That expectation, that having received an apology Person B is obliged to accept it and forgive Person A, that tells you right there that the apology was actually made for the benefit of Person A all along.

This assumption is more blatant in some cases than in others. The scale goes from a good apology and then a “wait why didn’t you hit the reset button on our relationship” reaction, to a long abject apology that’s still somehow all about the offender and how bad they feel and how they want you to take some action to help them keep from offending again so they can stop feeling horrible and you can hit that reset button, to the person who you’ve asked to please stay the fuck away from you but they keep getting up in your face because I NEED TO APOLOGIZE IT’S JUST AN APOLOGY WHAT KIND OF BITCH ARE YOU IF YOU WON’T EVEN HEAR MY APOLOGY LOOK HOW MEAN SHE’S BEING COMPLAINING ABOUT HOW I JUST WANT TO APOLOGIZE.

I think a lot of folks have this basic assumption about how apologies work and what they’re for–that having apologized, they’re due forgiveness, and the person they’ve apologized to should now stop being angry. Perfectly decent folks, who mean well. Onlookers who don’t recognize that the long apology email that is somehow all about how the offender is hurt by the situation is straight out of a habitual emotional abuser’s playbook and only see how abject it seems. Perfectly decent people, who may not even realize they have this assumption (so many of our assumptions are invisible to us, and yes, contradict the things we say and think we believe).

So I want to say this straight out–the apology is not for the apologizer. The person offended against has no obligation whatever to accept any apology at all, or to forgive, or to stop being hurt or angry, or to pretend they’re not hurt or angry any more. I mean, if they want to, if they can, if they think it’s proper, sure. But the apology is for the person who was offended, and they have no obligation to respond in any particular way. Or respond at all, frankly.

Of course, some folks aren’t well meaning. Some folks use the assumption about apologies to malicious advantage. Make your apology sufficiently abject and manipulative, and suddenly your victim is the bad guy here for being so unrelentingly mean and refusing to be understanding of your ordinary human frailties, your oh-so-kind-hearted inner soul. Most of these I’ve had personal experience with are expert in turning out an apology that makes the victim into the real offender, thereby eliciting reassurance from the person they’ve hurt, and making them feel guilty for attempting to refuse to be victimized again. (It’s not my fault I’ve had traumas that make me prone to thoughtlessly offend! I can’t help it! Do you want to be just like those people who made me into this pitiful creature who can’t help but offend you? What sort of terrible person are you, to speak up and hurt me this way? Really when you look at it, I’m the victim here!) It’s not always that blatant, but I’m going to tell you right now, folks, when you get the sort of apology that makes you feel bad for being hurt or upset, or that’s mostly about them and their feelings, you want to run from that apologizer as fast as you can. That’s a red flag.

So, but the well meaning offender does really want to do better going forward, and they’ve apologized, but lots of folks are still critical. What to do?

Well, do better going forward, for one. And no, that still won’t guarantee that everyone stops with the side-eye when your name comes up, or whatever. That’s the breaks. You’ve still got to do better going forward because it’s the right thing to do, because you really do regret the offense and don’t want to repeat it.

This isn’t always easy. It might mean stepping voluntarily out of situations in which you know you’ll be prone to offend. Say, places or positions where you’re going to run into a person who wants no further contact with you. Or positions of authority–official or otherwise–over people who you’ve had a habit of treating badly. And every day, trying to do better. All the time. You won’t get public rewards for it, and some people will never take you off their list of bad actors, but that’s not the point, is it? The apology wasn’t for rehabilitating your reputation or making you feel better about having treated someone badly. It was only the first step in your effort to be better to the people around you.

The apology isn’t for the apologizer, and it’s not going to magically wipe away your offense or repair your reputation. It’s only the simplest, most basic beginning. One you’ll need to make good on with your actions in the future.

Hey, do you all remember last year when David Steffen successfully kickstarted the Long List Anthology? He’s doing it again this year, and like last year it’s going to be full of fabulous fiction–including, this year, my novelette “Another Word for World” if the KS makes its novelette stretch goal.

Check it out:

The purpose of the Long List Anthology is to celebrate more of the fiction that was loved by the Hugo Award voting audience. Every year, besides the well-known final ballot, there is a lesser-known longer list of nominated works. The purpose of this anthology is to put a bunch these stories in a package to make them easy for readers to find, so you can put them on your bookshelf or load them up on your e-reader. The goal here is to widen that celebration of great fan-loved fiction.This will be the second volume of the Long List Anthology. Last year’s volume was a huge success, reaching the base goal in a couple days, and the stretch goals for novelettes and novellas not long after, and up into audiobook stretch goals after that. It has sold close to 10,000 copies, appeared in Amazon’s top 100 paid books for a time, and still continues to sell copies steadily almost a year later.

The base funding goal will include the Short Story category only. Stretch goals will expand the anthology to include novelettes , and then novellas.

Ebook copies will be available in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF.

It’s already a fabulous ToC without the stretch goals–we’re talking Ursula Vernon, Amal El-Mohtar, Alyssa Wong, and I could keep going and piling on the awesome. And two of the pieces are letters from the award winning and just generally well received Letters to Tiptree.

With the novelette stretch goal, there’s Rose Lemberg, Elizabeth Bear, Cat Valente, Naomi Kritzer, and Tamsyn Muir. And if the novella stretch goal is met, we’re talking Usman T. Malik and Kai Ashante Wilson.

As I post this, the base goal is very close to being met. But how much more awesome would it be to have the novelettes and the two novellas in there? Pretty awesome, is what I’m thinking.

If this sounds cool to you, and it’s something within your means at the moment, please consider supporting. Personally I think the entire Long List project is an excellent one, and I’m hoping it continues.

So, if you haven’t heard about the recent (for certain values of recent) issues with the Hungarian SF magazine Galaktika, here are some links to fill you in:

SFWA’s Statement on Galaktika

A. G. Carpenter’s blog post about Galaktika

Bence Pintér’s article (in Hungarian)

In summary, Galaktika is a Hungarian SF magazine, and is, moreover, a revival of a highly respected older publication. And it turns out, they’ve been publishing translations of a lot of English-language science fiction stories. Stories they yoinked off the web, translated into Hungarian, and published without asking the authors for permission, let alone paying them.

I gather some authors who have discovered this have been hesitant to make noise about it, because if Galaktika folded, Hungary wouldn’t have any other prominent venue for short sf. I’m going to be straight with you, though–for various reasons, some of which would be impolitic to detail here in public, I have come to the conclusion that while this sort of thing seems reasonable on the surface (if a big magazine went down, that would be bad for writers!), when you look closely you start to see how skeevy it is (therefore writers should be willing to make Sacrifices to keep this magazine (or book publisher, I’m biting my tongue) going! If you really value the field and writers you won’t demand to be paid or treated with any kind of respect or courtesy YOUR WRITING CAREER IS ON THE LINE so do what we tell you and don’t complain or else).

And the sheer volume of stories Galaktika has stolen–yes, stolen–has become more and more apparent. And it so happens that SFWA’s Griefcom got involved, and they were unable to make much headway, it seems,* and felt compelled to make that public statement linked above.

It just so happens that one of the stories Galaktika stole was mine. No, they did not ask, and no, they did not pay.

Now, the story of mine they took was a tiny flash piece. Not huge, to me, in the scheme of things. But you know what ticks me off more?

Their really inadequate excuses for these thefts. Editor in chief István Burger is quoted in the SFWA statement as saying:

When I decided to revive Galaktika more than 10 years ago, I went to the leader of one of the most respected literary agencies, to ask for his advice how to get permissions for the stories we plan to publish in the magazine in the future. I had no experience at all in this respect.

Our conversation had a very friendly atmosphere, the leader of the agency was happy that such an aknowledged magazine was revived. Finally we had a verbal agreement, that – as we plan to have a serious book publishing activity as well – we can consider short stories in Galaktika sort of an advertisement in which authors are introduced to Hungarian readers, so that we could publish their novels afterwards. The money we would pay for the rights for the novels contains the price of short stories. So agencies don’t have to deal with rights of short stories for $10 which is as much work as to get the rights of a $1000 novel. During this conversation it became obvious that agencies don’t want to deal with $10-20 so I didn’t want to bother the others with similar requests. Of course in case of longer stories and novels we made contracts.

I hope that it is obvious now that there were no intentional stealing at all, as we made an agreement in time for the use of stories. Now I regret that it was only a verbal agreement, but at that time we both acknowledged it.

Yeah, the fact that the verbal “agreement” wasn’t on paper means nothing. There can have been no agreement that mattered if the rights-holders of the stories concerned weren’t involved. Having a tape-recording of the conversation notarized by God Herself would change nothing. (I’m willing to believe the conversation actually happened, by the way, and that if so Mr Burger’s description of it is spun hard enough that the anonymous literary agent might only barely recognize it.)

Let me be absolutely clear about this: this excuse is utter bullshit. If Mr Burger actually believes this, he has no business trying to run a magazine.

Look, the thing about Galaktika publishing books too is completely irrelevant. My books are published in Hungary, translated into Hungarian–by Gabo, not the publisher that owns Galaktika. No story of mine in Galaktika was ever going to be an advertisement for a translation of my books. If I’d wanted an advertisement I would have bought an ad.

And I’ve been asked several times–sometimes personally, sometimes through my agent–for permission to translate short stories. Sometimes specifically in order to promote the translated editions of my novels! My agent is not too busy to deal with such things, and neither am I. And besides, let’s say I and/or my agent didn’t want to deal with such a small transaction? Well, tough cookies. That doesn’t mean you just get to take what you want anyway.

As for the claim that Galaktika was somehow an advertisement for the authors being stolen from–well, that’s suspiciously like the claim that “exposure” is a valuable commodity that writers should be more than happy to get in lieu of actual money. Sadly, one cannot eat exposure, or pay rent with it. And while any author is of course within their rights to allow a magazine to publish their work without payment, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with any given writer choosing to do that with any given story, the key words there are writer and choosing. Editors can’t just print anything they want without paying or asking permission because the author will get exposure and besides the magazine can’t really afford to pay.

(Here’s an extra-credit question: If the magazine can’t afford to pay writers even a token amount for a story, how in the world do you know it has any readers to speak of, to provide that oh-so-invaluable exposure?)

So, the TLDR of this is this bit from the SFWA statement: “SFWA formally recommends that authors, editors, translators, and other publishing professionals avoid working with Galaktika until the magazine has demonstrated that existing issues have been addressed and that there will be no recurrence.” The folks running it have demonstrated what is either bad faith or astounding ignorance. And writers are not obliged to put up with theft and mistreatment in exchange for dubious exposure, or because somehow the magazine or publisher involved is crucial to the field. How crucial is it if they’re not paying you? Seriously. That’s some abusive shit right there.

Aspiring writers, remember–people die of exposure. Exposure is not payment. If your work is good enough to be published, it’s good enough to be paid for. And nobody needs publishers who demand the rights to your work without pay while justifying it as somehow good for you. Nobody.
____
*In comments at the annleckie.com blog, John Johnston III, chairman of SFWA’s Griefcom, objects to my characterizing the situation as SFWA being able to make no headway. “Actually Griefcom has made and almost certainly will continue to make a great deal of “headway” on the Galaktika situation, and that blog post was a part of the process.” Well, he should know, because he is, as I’ve said, chairman of the excellent Griefcom. I knew that going public with a situation is something Griefcom generally avoids, and only resorts to when it absolutely must, and I oversimplified that as “making no headway.” I apologize to the good folks on Griefcom for my mischaracterization. They do a lot of excellent work for writers.

Or, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

I’m looking at what is likely the homestretch on the WiP, or at least the first complete draft of it. So of course I’m thinking about blog posts right now instead of writing.

It is notoriously difficult to define “science fiction” but a common attempt to do so–to wall off stuff that isn’t “really” science fiction from the proper stuff–is to assert that a real science fiction story wouldn’t survive the removal of the science fictiony bits, where, I don’t know, I guess “fake” science fiction is just Westerns with spaceships instead of horses or somesuch.

I never thought much about this except to think that well, sure, that would probably be a succinct way to define the most science fictiony of science fiction.

But the more I’ve thought about it, recently, the less satisfied I’ve been with this. I’m not sure there are any stories that fit this requirement.

Here’s the thing. Almost any story, you could remove some or other bit of it, replace it with some more present-world (or past world) analogue, and it would still be recognizably the same story on some level.

Let’s take Star Trek. Okay, some of you may consider ST to be “fake” science fiction. I’ll lay my cards on the table and tell you I laugh when I see someone call ST “hard science fiction. I consider it to be space opera. But let’s consider it a moment, shall we? At first glance all the aliens and the transporter and that utopian Federation of Planets stuff, and you’d think you couldn’t remove it, but let’s set it back a couple centuries, build the Enterprise out of wood, make Kirk into Horatio Hornblower and change the Klingons to French, the Romulans to Spanish. (I know, I know, the Klingons are actually stand-ins for the Russians, and the Vulcans/Romulans for the Chinese but that’s not helping the cause of “can’t remove the skiffy elements” is it.) You could take Star Trek and remove it’s snfal elements and still end up with basically the same stories.

That was an easy one, right? A gimme? Sure, maybe. But consider–there’s always–always–a level of abstraction available at which a story with whatever elements removed qualifies as “the same.” And the reverse is true–there’s always a level of specificity at which the removal of very small things means a large change. I mean, you could go very close-up on Star Trek and say that without dilithium crystals and tribbles, very specifically, it wouldn’t be the same. And it wouldn’t!

So it’s just about how much change it can take before too much violence is done to the original, right? Well, no. Any change is going to do violence to the original. Traduttore tradittore, after all. And the question of how much violence to the original is too much isn’t hard and fast.

I’m sure someone is going to comment insisting that Star Trek is one thing, but story Foo would actually really be irreparably changed by the removal of element Bar, and thus am I refuted. But seriously, there are almost no sfnal elements that couldn’t be framed some other way, no blackhole that can’t become an inescapable whirlpool, no alien that can’t become the denizen of some far away island, and while we’re at it whole planets get treated basically like smallish islands of one sort or another in quite a lot of sf anyway so that’s an easy enough transition to make. The question of whether that non-sfnal framing constitutes an obviously different story, or one recognizably the same if superficially different, is not one that can be answered easily, not in any really objective way.

And I can’t help noticing how often this particular criterion is used to delegitimize stories as “real” science fiction that by any other measure would more than qualify. It’s not just that the critic doesn’t really like this work, no, sadly the story is just not “really” science fiction, because if you take away the robots and the spaceships and the cloning and the black holes and the aliens and the interstellar civilizations and the fact that it’s set way in the future, well, it’s still a story about people wanting something and struggling to get it. Not really science fiction, see?

And well, sure, you take all that away and no, it’s not science fiction. But you had to take it away to begin with, didn’t you.

I don’t actually have much time for reading non-work related fiction these days. But I got into the whole writing thing because I loved to read, and so I do try to make time to read at least every now and then!

In the past several months, I’ve read:

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

When I first started reading An Accident of Stars I was a bit frustrated–I hadn’t realized just how tired I’d gotten of your garden variety portal fantasy. Or maybe it was that I’d read quite a lot of portal fantasies at a particular time in my life, when I was perhaps a less demanding reader. I suppose they’ve been out of fashion for a while, and I never really noticed that, but on beginning this book I found myself sighing a bit. “Really? Not-terribly-popular white teenager visits other world, turns out to be The Chosen One who will Heal the Land or whatever (extra points if it’s allegorical for problems they face in the “real” world), saves universe, returns home having Learned a Valuable Lesson and maybe even Grown Up a Little.” But I kept reading, because I figured Foz was planning to go somewhere interesting with it.

As it happens, there are two protagonists in this book. (Or maybe there are four. I’d entertain that argument.) One is the aforementioned teenager, but the other is a middle-aged woman who’s lived her life between two worlds. To a certain extent she serves as a guide and teacher for the younger protagonist, but she’s a major character in her own right and shares the narrative with Saffron. There are also plenty of other women in the story–young and old, mothers (or not) and daughters, so that there’s no question of either Smurfettes or Singular Girls, and no suggestion that becoming older, or a mother, or disabled for that matter, removes you from eligibility for having adventures of sufficient import or interest. Saffron is not The Chosen One, either, and the cultures and languages she encounters aren’t just cardboard versions of Medieval Europe with their serial numbers halfheartedly scuffed up. Quite the contrary.

So this was basically all the things I’d enjoyed about portal fantasies as a younger reader, with the dubious gifts the suck fairy might have bestowed either questioned or removed. I ended up enjoying An Accident of Stars quite a lot.

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

This is actually the third book in a…series? Sequence? Sequence I guess. I gather the numbers in the titles tell you which comes first, second, etc in “in story” order, but not in actual publication order. I would complain about this, but I’m the author of a trilogy all titled Ancillary [X] and readers often get confused about which book comes where in the trilogy, so, glass houses. Anyway, I actually recommend you start out with Three Parts Dead, the first in the sequence.

As so often in fantasies, gods are real in the world of these books. I feel like sometimes writers don’t stop to really think about what that means, if gods are real, let alone if gods of many different cultures and religious traditions are real. Max has thought about it, and has built a world where actually a lot of the gods have died, but their power is still a real force in the world, though it’s wielded by banks and lawyers and basically is the world’s economy–money as magic. These books are smart and fun, and they wear their reliance on the real world as source material on their sleeve, which sometimes annoys me but here I enjoy, I suspect because it’s done very deliberately and not out of thoughtlessness. As a bonus, these books offer a lot of engaging women characters, particularly Full Fathom Five, which once I closed it I realized was basically all the major characters and quite a few non-major but important ones.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed reading these so far, and at some point (hopefully in the not too distant future) I have every intention of picking up Four Roads Cross.

Y’all may remember, the other day I mentioned playing a customized Cards Against Humanity in Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park. The person who brought it was kind enough to let me take the deck home, and now if you find yourself wanting to play CASS, either online or in person, well, click this link and you’ll find several ways to do that. Scroll down for links to various ways to play online, or download a pdf of the cards you can print on regular paper and cut out, or even (if you’re feeling extravagant) pay someone to make them into nice cards and mail them to you.

When I expressed my ignorance as to how the “play online” part worked, I got this back from badgerterritory:

it’s very easy to play it online!! i don’t know if this is the only way, but the way we do it is to go to http://pretendyoure.xyz/zy/ and then you pick a server. you set up a username, and then it’ll take you to a place where you can set up the game. once you have the game set up, it’s very easy to invite people, and the cardcast site has a command you can use to add the deck! once you put in the command, the deck is loaded and you can start the game.

It looks like there’s also an app you can add to Chrome or to your phone, too. I haven’t tried any of it and don’t know how the various methods work, but it looks like fun, and not just for this particular customized deck.

Meantime, have some screenshots of a game from a couple weeks ago:

CASS1

CASS2

CASS3

CASS4

CASS5

CASS6

Incidentally, some of the response cards are in-jokes. #not for AL is the tag Tumblr users put on posts about the books they would prefer I not read (I’ve got that tag blacklisted), and “Cousiiiin” is a reference to this lovely bit of fan art. No doubt there are others I don’t recognize because I’m not in on the joke myself. At any rate, it was great fun to play.

Also incidentally, at first there were just a couple of us playing so we pulled one card off the “response” pile every turn and threw it in with the couple of others. We decided that was Station’s card. We kept it up even after the number of folks playing grew, because of course Station was playing, but also because actually, Station was winning.

There is also a special rule for this deck, if you wish to play it this way: If you draw more than two “Anaander Mianaai” cards (there are quite a few in the deck, as is only appropriate) you may discard and redraw all but one card. You are now stuck with that card the entire game. This situation never came up, so I don’t know how that plays, but there you go, in case you want it.

As I said yesterday, MAC2 had a thing where you could sponsor a “mini park” and a park bench. The dealers room and the exhibit hall and whatnot were all in a huge open space in the convention center, and there had to be some way to close off the dealers room at night, so they put up the Swanwick River and…a volcano? Yes, a volcano, to cordon that area off. There were benches and little “parks” alongside the river.

I figured it might be fun to sponsor a park. And it turned out, I was absolutely right, it was tremendous fun! Here are some pictures!

AwnElmingPark

Memorial

Bench

2016-08-17 17.33.50

Nice and simple, right?

That’s how it started out, anyway. I’d had a vague idea that pens and post-its might come in handy in case people wanted to make or leave notes–to me, to other visitors, to themselves, whatever. And the post-its kind of took on a life of their own:

postIt

AnaanderPostIt

AnanderPostIt2

PostIt3

Even the No Fishing sign got into the act!

NoFishingPost

I put out some buttons, including these:


(picture by Foz Meadows)

I also played some Cards Against Significant Species:


(picture by darling-child-tisarwat, I think, or at least on their phone)

I’m told that at some point I’ll have a link to the file that will let folks print out their own hardcopy of the CASS deck, by the way, and when I do I’ll definitely blog it.

Oh, and the awesome cosplaying darling-child-tisarwat as Breq!

So the park was basically a smashing success! I got to take the bench home, and it’s in pieces in my car trunk right now, though I also have the plaque which I might well hang on my office wall (next to the File 770 “Ancillary Bench” plaque, which was kindly given to me on Sunday!).

Thank you to everyone who stopped by–it would not have been even a small fraction of the fun that it was without you all.

At first I was just going to put this on Tumblr, where I post the most frivolous of my ramblings, but then I thought, no, why not blog. But, fair warning, this is pretty frivolous.

So, I am at the stage of con recovery where I’m hoping the scritchy feeling in my throat is the dry air in the house plus a weekend talking nonstop, and not oncoming Con Crud: Martian Death Flu Edition. And the stage where I’m unpacking things and doing laundry. Which reminds me.

So, the dress I wore to the Hugos (and also the Nebulas) was from Holy Clothing. Y’all know about Holy Clothing, right? Super comfortable clothes. Anyway. Every time I get something from them it’s fit well and been easy to wear, so I didn’t bother trying on the dress I bought for the Nebs, I just put it on that afternoon. And discovered that its lovely big square neckline meant that it was going to slide off my shoulders, or sink six or seven inches forward. I had not come prepared for this, and did some partially helpful stuff with my nominee pin, but it was still a problem.

A few days after I got home I was walking through the drugstore and saw a thing called “Fashion Tape.” This is a thing that exists! It’s for exactly the kind of thing I needed it for, and also for blouses that gap between the buttons and whatnot. (Gods forbid clothing designers actually make clothes that just stay on your body, that might lead us to have realistic expectations for ourselves and we can’t have that, right? Nope, better to have a whole industry and associated fashion hacks that address this kind of thing and let those who aren’t in on the secrets feel inadequate.)

Anyway. I’m here to tell you that the fashion tape did exactly what it was supposed to do–it’s clear, two-sided tape, as you would expect, and it held my dress in place all evening. It was also pretty comfortable, so much so that when I went back to the room to change for the Losers Party, I could not get my dress off easily and panicked for a moment before I remembered that my dress was ACTUALLY TAPED TO MY BODY.

So. If you find yourself needing it, Fashion Tape is a thing that exists.

The 19 year old wanted to know if it was the same thing as another fashion thing I’d run into years ago–I was going to wear a dress to a fancy thing, but the dress was…not made for wearing a bra with. And I pretty much always need a bra. I had asked a co-worker for advice and she said to me, “Oh, that’s easy, just go to the department store and get some titty tape. No, really, that’s what it is.”

So I went to the department store and looked but could not find it. A salesperson saw my confused wandering and asked me if I needed anything, and I was forced to explain that I was looking for something that my co-worker called “titty tape” but I was pretty certain it wasn’t called that.

Turns out, it’s just called, blandly, “stick-ons.” And they don’t quite do the job a bra would do, but it’s better than nothing. So, if you find yourself in need of such a thing, that’s what it’s called.

Anyway, I explained to the 19 year old that, no, “fashion tape” was not “titty tape” but they do kind of exist in similar spaces.

And if you find yourself in need of them and didn’t know they existed, well, now you do.

As the title says, I’m safe home again from my epic voyage to Kansas City, and my plans for today involve a lot of tea and mindless Netflix. But I thought I’d check in and say a few words about how my WorldCon went.

Well, first off, HOW ABOUT THOSE HUGOS! I’ll be straight with y’all, I have been rooting for The Fifth Season to win because it is a fabulous book. Several times I considered posting here to say so. In the end I decided it wasn’t a good idea, but in individual conversations I did say it. I mean, look, I’m really proud of Ancillary Mercy. And by the way, I am honored and seriously touched by the folks who’ve told me they put it first on their ballots and who hoped for it to win the Hugo. I have the best readers. I really do. And I would have been genuinely happy for any of the finalists had they walked away with the rocket rather than me, or Nora.

But The Fifth Season. Y’all, since I started voting for the Hugos I’ve found that very often there’s a particular book in the novel category. I mean, you read them, you read one and it’s like “yeah, this is good, I see why it’s there.” And you read the next. “Yeah, this is really really good.” Sometimes not to my taste, right? But good. Another one. “This is good too! It’s going to be difficult to rank these.” And then you hit that one. “Oh. Right. This is the winner.” This year, in my personal opinion, The Fifth Season was that book. I actually shouted “Yes!” when the result was announced. Because. I mean.

And it was a lovely night pretty much all around. I got to meet an astronaut! There were actually TWO REAL ASTRONAUTS there and I can’t even. Some lovely acceptance speeches, particularly Nora’s. And someone suggested to me afterward that Neil Gaiman maybe could have been more direct, instead of soft-pedaling his opinion. (Just kidding, I found his brief speech entirely delightful.) I got to meet Zoe Quinn, who is fabulous! I went to GRRM’s afterparty!

I’m telling my WorldCon backwards! Well, only kind of. My last con thing was a panel on Sunday afternoon with Geoffrey Landis. There were supposed to be more panelists, but in the end it was just the two of us, dealing with the question “Can hard science fiction be too hard?” which is honestly a nonsense question that misses the point, but it was a great start to just riff on, and we had a great time talking and there were wonderful contributions from the audience, and it went swimmingly.

Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park was a success! I arrived on Wednesday afternoon with the 19 year old, and we decorated it up and arranged things and whatnot, and set out buttons and pins and ribbons for folks to take, and I tried to spend some time there every day so folks knew where they could find me. This was particularly important since I didn’t have a scheduled signing. That’s not a criticism of the con, I’m pretty sure scheduling all that sort of thing is pretty hair-raising and I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars, and there were lots of folks who wanted and deserved signing slots and very likely fewer spaces in the schedule than would accommodate all of us. But it did make things awkward for folks who wanted books signed but who didn’t want to accost me in the hallway. Anyway, the park was a place I could be available and talk to folks and sign things.

It was also a place where folks could play a hand or two of Cards Against Significant Species. Seriously, one of my awesome readers brought an actual customized deck and it sat there in the park and people played it (including me) and enjoyed the heck out of it. There was also a cosplayer! They were Lieutenant Tisarwat on Thursday (complete with purple contact lenses!), Anaander Mianaai on Friday, and Breq (with mourning stripe!) on Saturday. JUST SUPER AWESOME. I had also put out some pens and post-its with the vague, barely formed idea that maybe people might want to leave a note (for me, for someone else, for themselves, whatever) and that turned into post-its appearing on the park sign and the park’s NO FISHING sign, with truly delightful (and occasionally warring) messages. The string of different Anaander Mianaais who declared the park annexed, for instance, made me laugh. I have pictures of all of it, but have not uploaded them from my phone. Some of them have already been posted to Tumblr.

I would really like to thank MidAmericon for the whole park thing. It was a great idea, and it worked out particularly well for me. Partly because I was driving and could pack my car full of silly stuff to put out, but also it was just nice to have that place to sit down and chat.

I did the writers workshop on Friday, by the way, and I so enjoyed that. Rachel Swirsky and I did the same session and the…students, I guess? The students were great and I really enjoyed meeting them and talking to them about fiction–theirs, and in general. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from them in the future.

I also did my first ever kaffeklatch! Well, first as the person people were there to see, not as a fan. That was a lot of fun, and I so enjoyed meeting everyone and having a chance to just chat and answer questions.

So, basically, my con was awesome. Everything went really well, everything turned out either as I had hoped or well beyond what I could have reasonably wished for, and everything I was involved in was well-run and the folks I worked with or who I had cause to ask for information or assistance were super helpful. The couple of negative occurrences I heard about appear to have been dealt with quickly and appropriately. I had a great time. If I didn’t get to see you, I am sorry I missed you! If I did–I’m so glad we got a chance to hang out!

I could probably continue to enthuse, but the fact is, I’m exhausted. I’ve been basically “on” since Wednesday evening, and while I love love love meeting people and hanging out with new and old friends, it does take energy. (Yes, like many writers, I am a serious introvert.) And I did three panels yesterday on about four hours of sleep and then promptly jumped in my car and drove all the way across the state. So, after the four or five days of fun and partying, it is time for me to spend a day or so drinking tea and watching Midsomer Murders, because that’s about as much concentration as I’m going to manage for a bit.

I stand by this series of tweets. But I may need to clarify something. Someone objected that it might be irresponsible to advise young writers to pretend the rules don’t apply to them, that some projects are just foolish to undertake and it’s better to say so.

Now. I can see where this person is coming from and I sorta kinda agree but not really.

Here’s the thing: yes, there are some projects that are fundamentally unsalable. If you are determined, for artistic reasons, to write a 500K word novel all in Sumerian, well, you know, the audience for that book is going to be very, very small and I’d bet most editors would pass it up no matter how brilliant it was. That’s kind of common sense, right?

A slightly less extreme example–most SF or Fantasy novels come in at around 100K words. Give or take ten or twenty. You’re probably going to have an easier time selling a manuscript that’s 100,000 words long as opposed to one that’s 300K.

But here’s the thing–that’s not really an ironclad rule. I know personally of at least one person who sold their first fantasy novel a couple years ago–it was in the neighborhood of 300K, and the subsequent volumes have also been that length, so far as I can tell. (Hi, Django! And y’all who aren’t Django, the books are great fun.)

See, that sort of thing is covered by my admission in the tweets that, yes, commercial considerations are a thing and you might want to keep them in mind. Or not, you know, because A)you, the writer, get to make the final call just what considerations you want to take into account and B)every one of them is a case-by-case thing. I can’t tell you “never ever write a first SFF novel that’s 200K-plus words, you’ll never sell it.” Because that isn’t necessarily true.

What I can tell you is that most first novels are going to be in that 100K range, and so maybe when you’re working you want to keep that in mind. But you have to balance that against your project. What are you trying to do? What will best serve the goal you have in mind for that particular work? It might well be that the answer is “ruthlessly cut down to 100K” or “ditch it and write something else in a different but related subgenre.” I don’t know, I can’t tell you that. Only you can tell you that. But “most first genre novels are 100K” is not a rule obligating you to stick to that length if you want to be published. It’s a piece of information about what’s mostly being published right now. There are, and will be, exceptions.

No, you can’t guarantee that your work will be one of those exceptions. But, some real talk: there is nothing you can do to guarantee that your ms that has all the characteristics of what’s being published right now–the right length, popular subgenre, whatever–none of that is any guarantee that ms will sell.

If you have a quirky project, and you, personally, feel compelled to see that project through in some way, shape, or form, then do that. Consider advice, certainly. If you can take the advice without harming your project, and it seems good to you, by all means do. I am absolutely not encouraging any writer to refuse to listen to any critique or advice at all in the name of their pure, unadulterated artistic vision.

Nor, by the way, do I consider writers who weigh commercial factors very heavily in their calculations to be sellouts. On the contrary, that is a valid choice to make. I can’t tell anyone reading this blog how or whether to weigh such concerns, because that’s a question of what a given project calls for, and what the writer feels is going to work for that project.

But if you’re going to tell writers never to write anything much longer than 100K, or that they should give up all hope of writing something in a mined-out (or currently popular, soon to be mined-out) genre, well. No. Be aware, if you’re setting out on your 500K vampire-elf novel, that you’re going to have to really impress an editor with it. You might want to consider another project for now. Maybe. Do you? I can’t tell you that, only you can. Think about it. I’d probably say it was maybe foolhardy. But you know, it’s your call, and I can’t tell you that your 80K Angel/Mermaid Romance is going to do any better. Will you get as much fun out of the Angel/Mermaid book? You might want to start there and work on the Vampire Elf next. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes your most ambitious project needs a skill level you don’t quite have yet. Sometimes you need to work up your confidence before you attempt it. It’s your call. Whatever choice you make will be good, it will be okay. There’s no rush, writing takes time, submitting takes time, just write. It’ll be all right. I’m just saying, don’t permanently scrap your cool project because someone said “but you can’t sell that kind of thing.”

And if folks in your writers group or message board or whatever are telling you things like “you have to have a POV character that’s like the reader so they can sympathize with them” or “don’t write in first person” or “editors won’t buy stories with queer main characters” well, frankly, no. “No infodumps.” Really? Take a look at the critically acclaimed books of the past couple years. I can think of at least two, just off the top of my head, that from all I can tell sell pretty well and have been nominated for or won major awards that are pretty infodump heavy. There are likely more, because actually some readers really enjoy the heck out of a good infodump, especially when it’s embedded in a story that hits their buttons in other ways as well.

My advice–don’t get your advice about what editors will or won’t buy from writers group members, many of whom may or may not have sold much themselves but are passing on second-hand, received wisdom that came from Mithras knows where. Take it from actual editors, and from observing what’s actually on the shelves at the bookstore. Always remembering that what’s on the shelves is just what’s being published right now, not a complete set of what will or won’t ever be published in the future. In fact, today’s hot subgenre is already on its way out, for writer purposes. There’s no predicting what tomorrow’s will be.

Weigh writing advice carefully. Anything presented as a rule is not a rule. At best it’s general advice presented as a rule. At best. Half the time it’s bad advice to begin with. But always consider advice. Consider it seriously, and if you find it won’t work for the project at hand, put it aside.

This is difficult to do, by the way. You need to have a weird sort of ambiguous attitude, at least in my experience. You have to be really pig-headed but also willing to bend when it’s called for. And only you can decide when it’s called for.

Weigh advice, think, and if, after thinking about it, you really feel passionate about the Vampire Elf, then go to it. Commit entirely to it. Don’t bar any holds, don’t just go overboard, dive enthusiastically over that rail. Worry about selling it later. Who knows, you might hit the right editor at the right time and spark a whole Vampire revival. (Actually I hope not, I’m pretty much over vampires (and zombies for that matter) but you don’t need to take my taste into account.)

Or not. Maybe the Mermaid is a better call. I know it’s frustrating, part of the reason these “rules” get passed around is because we would so much love to have at least some certainty, at least some indication that there’s a way to get where we’re trying to go, some black and white steps we need to take. But there’s no way anyone can give you that. The only sure thing I can tell you is, if you don’t write you won’t ever sell your writing. If you don’t finish what you work on, and submit it, you will never sell your writing. Everything else is a matter of “it depends what you’re trying to do.” So whatever project you decide to work on, it might as well be something you really do want to write.