Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nom Pen

     Anyone who actually knows me is aware that I read a lot.  And I mean a whole lot.  In addition to web reading I read between two and four books per week.  My book reading is almost, but not entirely recreational.  The proportions are roughly sixty percent science fiction and thirty-five percent history with odd lots of this and that fitted into the interstices.  I am somewhat fond of alternative histories but genre-wise they tend to be lumped into the broader science fiction oeuvre from which they draw the bulk of their readers.  These efforts, by definition, slop over into the history category.  When done well, as in Erik Flint's expansive 1632 series,  they can provide valuable insights into events centuries gone not found in otherwise purely descriptive historical tomes.
     I have written a grand total of one science fiction novel (see link at bottom) with its sequel in slow motion production.  I am quite pleased with it and it was a joy to write because as someone who does not depend on setting down the written word as a potential income producer, with the myriad restrictions and difficulties thereof, I was able to write precisely what I wanted in the exact fashion I desired.  Not that I think the process resulted in something unreadable, far from it, but it was liberating to be able to ignore the demands of remunerative commerce and also to not have to keep a gimlet eye out lest the sensibilities of modern snowflakes be triggered.
     That does not mean I went out of my way to trigger those sensibilities.  Indeed if one does not cherry-pick it becomes obvious after reading the book that there is little in the way of an over-arching political viewpoint to be found.  To be sure it does not take much to generate the rage of social justice Jacobins but they will not find much ammunition for that rage in this volume.
      I did not use a pen name.  I did not use one because I am retired, have no reputation to protect, and am immune to the career killing efforts and social media frothings of the hyper-sensitive PC  mob.  I am shy though so there is no hint of political content or commentary on my Facebook page.  Also I used my real name because it is identifiably male.
     I do not, as a general rule, read science fiction written by women.  This automatically defines me as a Bad Person for some arguable percentage of the science fiction reading public.  So be it.  It's my money therefore my choice.  When I lapse, or am sandbagged by a male-ish or ambiguous pen name, I am almost always sorry.  When I read books where hard science is far overshadowed by touchy-feely, or excessive amounts of lame hand-wavium are employed I begin to suspect a female writer even if the author's "name" is Buck Griswold.   Initialized names can be another tell.  A weak grasp of science fiction conventions, and science in general, is another sign.  There are others but they combine to signal to me that the book in question is flying a false flag.
     This possibly baleful preference is not based on the politics of the writer, or at least not entirely.  For instance I greatly admire the non-fictional writings of Sarah Hoyt and her overall political sentiments align reasonably well with my own however I find her fiction tedious and not especially entertaining.   I have started several of her books but have yet to finish one.  I wish it were otherwise since I find her a quite admirable individual but I cannot force myself to enjoy her fiction.
     Doubtless my preferences, shared by a larger percentage of the male readership than most would admit I am certain, make for a horrible situation for an aspiring female science fiction writer and proof of the tyranny of the patriarchy blah blah blah plus the reduction of potential market must be frustrating.  There are no good solutions to this dilemma but I do have a suggestion.  Don't write message fiction, period, and don't display your politics on the printed page.  SJW activism is one thing but asking people to pay good money for it is quite another.
     If you don't, as I do not, care to take cognizance of what people want to spend their hard earned money on then write whatever the heck you want and worry further not.  Just don't be surprised at how limited the market for it may turn out to be.  As noted above keeping one's politics off the page is not a slam dunk but it is otherwise helpful unless you are the reincarnated ghost of Robert Heinlein. Of course these days merely holding a Heinlein book in their hand is probably enough to induce seizures in SJWs.
     There are a few politically inclined writers who don't let it get in the way of a good yarn.  John Ringo comes to mind most immediately.  And his conservative bent certainly has not kept him from selling a jillion books.  On the other side of the ledger there is John Scalzi who has also sold millions but both Johns are tale tellers first and political preachers second, or third even.
     Mere popularity engages me not.  There are plenty of successful "Big Name" women science fiction writers but I difficulty finishing a book by most of them, so I have largely quit trying.  My loss no doubt, but it causes very little in the way of lost sleep.  I should point out, being the picky S.O.B. I am, that I am disappointed with something like 20-30 percent of identifiably male written SF as well but that is a considerable improvement on my roughly 90 percent dissatisfaction with female written SF.
 
To Sail The Purest Sea