Am I Wasting My Time Trying to Become a Published Science Fiction/Fantasy Author?

news source bias
I read a wide variety of information sources, including conservative and liberal news, social media, and blogging outlets, in an effort to stay informed. I find that no one bias tends to render the world as it truly exists (in my opinion), so I try to find a balance between them all.

Finding that balance isn’t easy, since the creators of these information sources don’t seem to want to understand any viewpoint that differs even slightly from their own.

Okay, that probably isn’t fair, but that’s how it seems as I do my reading.

I put an image at the top of this blog post to illustrate the relative biases of the significant news agencies (I don’t necessarily agree with the exact positioning of some of these “elements,” but overall, it’s a pretty good indicator).

One of the blogs I regularly visit is called SuperversiveSF. According to their About page:

Superversive: As a subversive work strives to bring about change by undermining from below, a superversive work strives to bring about change by inspiring from above.

The Superversive Literary Movement is devoted to fiction that shines a light into the darkness. It was started in 2014, inspired in part by Mr. Superversive himself, essayist extraordinaire, Tom Simon. The first Superversive Blog launched in September of 2014 with an opening essay by Mr. Simon himself. Others soon joined in, and that fall, publisher Jason Rennie started Superversive SF, the first blog entirely devoted to the budding movement.

That seems pretty benign. After all, who doesn’t like stories about the hero or heroine winning the day, vanquishing foes, and saving humanity, right? I know the trend in science fiction and fantasy since the 1970s has been more toward dystopian futures, probably because before that, there was more of an emphasis on a Utopian future where everything would be perfect (depending on your definition of “perfect”) or nearly so. But as I suggested above, there needs to be a balance in storytelling, because the world doesn’t exist based on one social/political bias or another (although certain communities or countries may be dominated by a specific bias).

However, not everyone seems to think being “superversive” is such a good idea, but let me back up a step or two.

Quite a number of posts on the SuperversiveSF blog aren’t exactly neutral, and in fact, they can be pretty critical of the general community of Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, as well as the associated conventions (Cons). I point you to Brian Neimeier’s post Culture War Field Manual and Declan Finn’s The John Ringo and ConCarolinas issue. Those are only examples of a larger body of content, and if you click those links and then read, you’ll see that there seems to be a war going on, and accusations that SF/Fantasy writers, as well as the larger entertainment industry (including film and even comic books) is indeed waging a war against politically and socially conservative writers, editors, and their publications.

But is this true? My guess (having not experienced it personally since I’m not published as a SF/F author) is “yes,” at least to a degree, but what baffles is why?

I mean, we write SF/F as a reflection of the world we live in. Those genres would be worthless if they didn’t let us comment on the world of the present. Star Trek (the original series as Roddenberry created it) is a perfect example, since merely populating the bridge of the Enterprise with women, an African-American communications officer, and an Asian-American helmsman in the mid-1960s when the show was produced, was a radical and enlightening move.

Limiting today’s SF/F publications and the writers of such to a single political and social bias seems to be a terrible injustice, because you create the illusion that the world only works one way or operates merely from a single viewpoint. Further, it creates the illusion that such a bias is the only, valid, viable lifestyle and perspective available and that, by definition, all other perspectives are invalid, undesirable, or (dare I say it? Yes, I will) evil.

I’m not suggesting that hardboiled Nazis and Holocaust deniers are the best folks to be providing our entertainment, but believe it or not, people who are politically and socially conservative as well as religious aren’t evil. They may be different from who you are, but that doesn’t mean they are automatically bigots, “haters,” or whoever you happen to feel threatened by.

I actually did try to reach out to one liberal (I have to assume this based on the content of his blog) SF/F writer named Jim C. Hines, largely because I found a few of the things he has written to be helpful, such as this commentary on Inkitt.

However, he doesn’t have very nice things to say about a SuperversiveSF author named Jon Del Arroz.

Now I’ve read a number of Mr. Del Arroz’s commentaries on the SuperverseSF blog, and while they seem to stop short of trolling (in my opinion), they can be pretty inflammatory. Granted, from his perspective, he’s being discriminated against by the SF/F community, presumably because of his political beliefs, but his response seems to be to push back and push back hard.

When you think someone doesn’t like you and your response is to not like them back, you are guaranteeing a war with no positive resolution.

I mentioned that I follow a wide variety of information sources, and thus, I tried to follow Mr. Hines’s as well, but I couldn’t find an option to do so on his blog. I emailed him through his Contact page a few months back asking how I could do so, but he never replied. I also signed up for his newsletter, but I never received an automated confirmation of this via email, nor have I received a newsletter.

Now in my imagination, I could conjure up a lot of reasons why I never heard back from him or started getting the newsletter. Occasionally emails are lost, and automated newsletter notifications can get fouled up. Also, if he’s busy (and he probably is), he may have either missed my email in his inbox, or chosen not to reply due to lack of bandwidth.

On the other hand, I did include the URL to this blog with my email. He could have followed the link, taken a look at my content and/or About page, decided he didn’t like the cut of my jib and blew me off. It’s also possible he only responds to a certain, select group of people known to him, so being an anonymous unknown, I could have fallen below his threshold of “worthy to be contacted” human beings (after all, actor Wil Wheaton has reviewed one of his books, so I guess that’s pretty significant – yes, that last bit was a tad snarky).

But in reality, I have no idea. In the absence of information, I can’t just assume Mr. Hines’s motives based on my perception of his social and political beliefs as I garner them from his blog. That means I can’t assume he did not respond to my email because he is prejudiced against how he may perceive my social, political, and religious beliefs (although there does seem to be significant evidence that there is plenty of liberal bias, if not outright hatred, of religious people based on the twitterati’s response to actor Chris Pratt saying he was praying for Kevin Smith after Smith’s recent heart attack).

Why am I writing this and why should you the reader care?

After many years of religious blogging, I’ve discovered two things. The first is that the religious blogosphere is a minefield, and that it is very easy to be attacked by both other religious people, and by those who oppose, actively dislike, or really, really hate religious people (particularly Christians and Jews).

The second is that it doesn’t have to be that way.

In real life and online, I have a variety of friends and associates, not just religious conservatives, but atheists and political and/or social liberals, as well as many folks along the continuum in-between (yes, there exists such a place). We get along in spite of our differences or maybe because of them. After all, when I need to have my reality checked, going to someone who thinks and believes like I do probably isn’t the best way to do that. Connecting with a few others who see things from a different angle helps me to determine whether or not I’m deluding myself.

I think the same can be said for a community or an industry, which brings me back to the big, bad world of Science Fiction/Fantasy writing and publishing.

By pushing the “Publish” button to this blog post, I may very well be ending my nascent career as a SF/F writer (I’m already published as the author of a number of textbooks and self-study books in the field of computing/IT for whatever that’s worth). After all, what I’ve written today could be perceived as being critical of both the Superversive movement (or at least some of their contributors) and those involved in more mainstream SF/F writing.

I hope that isn’t the case, because if it is, then it tells me that those involved on both sides of the aisle or wholly intolerant of anyone who is different from them. It would also tell me that intolerance isn’t born of just one social/political bias, but rather because it’s a human characteristic. We can all feel threatened by “the other,” and out of a sense of threat, anger and rejection are typically born.

I’ve sent out three short stories in response to open submission calls (no responses yet) and I’ve got another one I’m about to email. Am I wasting my time? Am I unworthy of being published because I’m over sixty years of age, white, male, cisgender, religious, and lean toward the more conservative end of the scale (my beliefs/perspectives are actually a lot more nuanced, so I may not fit into anyone’s pigeon hole very easily)?

I don’t know. Again, I hope not, because it would say something pretty uncomplimentary about both conservatives and liberals (and everyone else in-between) in the SF/F publishing industry.

I only want two things. The first is to enter into a dialog with a variety of authors/editors/publishers in SF/F, not just a sub-group based on politics and religion. I think that getting different folks to talk with each other and interact is a good thing, but sometimes I feel kind of alone in that wish.

The second thing I want is to be able to write good stories and (hopefully) have some of them published, so they can be read by a general audience, and not just those people who either follow or happen upon my blog. I’m not interested in writing for just a tiny group of adherents to a single perspective. Author Steven Barnes seems to believe that you can write good characters and good stories across barriers of race, gender, nationality, and religion, and I agree with him.

I don’t know if anyone will respond to this missive or if so, if those responses will be civil. Maybe those people I want to interact with will simply flip the “ignore” switch on my writing (such as it is) and my life, and deem me an undesirable. Admittedly, that’s pretty pessimistic, but sometimes that’s also life.

But like I said, at the end of the day, I just want to get to a place where I can write good stories and have others enjoy them. Not everything I create has a social, political, or religious message, but I do think those types of tales have a place, and occasionally, I dip a toe in those waters.

Oh, before someone says it, yes I’m aware that in the bad old days, the publishing industry, as well as other entertainment venues, was dominated by old, white men, but simply shifting the bias from one part of the spectrum to another goes not mean you are on the side of good, right, or diversity. If you want to be diverse, then keep some of the old, white men around and let everybody else have a voice, too. Otherwise, you’ll never achieve true equality.

I turn the floor over to anyone who wants to comment. If you choose to do so, you don’t have to agree with me, but I do ask that if you disagree, be polite about it. Thanks.

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22 thoughts on “Am I Wasting My Time Trying to Become a Published Science Fiction/Fantasy Author?

  1. And you wonder why, after having written a 38 volume sci fic series, at least a half dozen romance to date, and over 6K of poetry, I haven’t pursued publication on a grand scale… grrr….

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    • 38 volumes? Wow. I’m impressed. Being slightly ADD (no hyperactivity), it’s hard for me to write even a single novel one chapter at a time.

      Does this mean that you feel shut out of being published because of social/political/religious bias?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I don’t think so. It’s more of a financial thing. The cost of agents, all the rigamarole with book signings, all the legal hassle of paperwork, etc. I just have no desire to go through that. I don’t want the distraction or the pressures involved. I fear I’d lose the excitement, and have when I was younger and wrote for a small press. I hated the deadlines, stressed out too much, and lost the enjoyment of the artform. I just am happy to sit back and write… the series was for my nephews/godsons. I’ve told my hubby and family that if they want to publish my writing, wait til I’m dead.

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      • Unfortunately, that’s the reality of going through “big box” publishers. Of course, a lot of people are self-publishing/indie, so you could just be your own boss. No deadlines except what you set, but you still have to go through the whole hassle to format your works, get them to a place where people can access them, and market them, so people know they exist. Yes, it’s a hassle.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I had some of my poems published back in the 80s, but it was what they deemed ‘Vanity Publishing’ though I hadn’t realised that at the time.
    I like to write, but feel my stories are only short ideas that couldn’t be expanded into novels. I write as I feel, and sometimes it’s all a bit higgledy piggledy as my imagination comes in fits and starts.
    I have no idea how to go about getting in print so-to-speak, though my last boss told me to get an editor, but I didn’t know how to go about that either. I wish you luck in your endeavours James. Your posts are always varied in content and length, so they are bound to suit a wide audience.

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  3. Hey James. Fine article. Obviously you’re aware I’m a part of this movement. A few points.

    1) We do “scraping” at Superversive SF. You might be interested to know we just had a big email chain where we just discussed if there way a way to exclude Brian’s political posts. A lot of us don’t agree with them and they don’t have much to do with the Superversive philosophy in any case whether we do or not – maybe in a culture war sense but not in the sense of publishing and sci fi and fantasy. Brian’s work is superversive, though, and he supports our movement and is a good guy, so we scrape his blog.

    2) I know Jon. You can trust me on this one: Jon tried being nice. It failed. And he is still being nice, as compared to the way they treat him.

    You say this won’t have a positive outcome. Why? What’s your definition of positive? How about getting a platform. Selling books. Showing people that the other side is not the innocent party here. Jon is doing that, and I commend him for it.

    Let me make this clear: There is no giving in to these people. If you apologize, it doesn’t work. I know. I’ve seen it. You can try to reconcile, of course. Jon did. It didn’t work.

    3) The “bad old days” were not like you are describing. Look into a lot of the pulp rev stuff. What they were putting up and the people who put them up were much, much different than what everyone assumes. No, there were not a lot of minority writers working at the time, but in terms of the quality and sorts of works being made they were much more diverse than thought.

    And frankly, there wasn’t any widespread discrimination against women. Women simply didn’t write a lot of sci fi and fantasy, but those who did were supported. Read up on Leigh Brackett’s commentary on the matter.

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    • This is what I’m looking for and yes, I know you are part of the Superversive movement (spellcheck doesn’t like that word for some reason). As far as my concerns about not having a positive outcome, posting this message potentially risks my being ostracized by everyone, since I’m not gravitating hard toward one pole or the other. I believe in dialog, not fisticuffs (not that I haven’t expressed an opinion or two in my time).

      I knew a psychologist who once said that anger is a secondary emotion. No one feels angry unless they feel hurt or threatened first, so if more liberal elements in the SF/F publishing industry have an ax to grind against conservatives, it’s likely that (somehow) they feel threatened by them/us. I’m not sure why and I’ve talked with a good friend of mine at length about it. As near as I can figure, those people to are liberal/progressive (I really don’t want to stereotype but I’m sure it sounds like I am) believe the stereotype about conservatives, that we are automatically racist, sexist, and suffer from multiple “phobias,” not realizing there isn’t any such single entity as “a conservative” any more than there is just one type of liberal. People and their belief systems exist across a continuum. You could stand me in a room with 99 other people who say they’re conservative, and I promise, I most likely wouldn’t agree with them on more than a few issues (I tend to see myself as a moderate with certain libertarian leanings, but even that is enough to get me lynched in certain groups).

      Yes, I could self-publish and I may end up doing that if it comes down to it, but then I’d feel like the only person I was writing for was myself.

      As far as the “bad old days” are concerned, regardless of the reality of history, the perception by the 21st century entertainment industry is that “old white men” have had their thumb on everyone else since the dawn of time, and the current response is to, not fight for equality, but ejection of one group and (ideally) replace them with everybody else, at least that’s the impression I’m getting.

      I would love some more “mainstream” writers/editors to comment here just to get that side of the story. I can’t help but believe there are a lot of silent voices on both sides of the aisle that sound like mine and would actually like true diversity among authors. Of course, if the bias of SF/F against conservatives is real, then they might be afraid to speak publicly.

      True story: I watched a video of Ben Shapiro‘s (you probably know who he is, but I’m putting the link there for those who may not) recent talk at UC Berkeley. An African-American student asked him about how to deal with negative comments from his own liberal friends. You see, the person in question actually liked talking to a wide variety of people, including white conservatives, to understand their perspectives, but his friends and family basically called him a “traitor” for doing so (the video is on YouTube so this can be verified). He wanted to know how Shapiro put up with being insulted all the time. Shapiro has fantastically thick skin and a remarkable intellect, so he doesn’t let a lot bother him, but most of us are vulnerable in many ways.

      Actually, one of my favorite authors from my youth is Andre Norton. She was really Alice Norton, but back in the day, women weren’t thought to be credible SF writers, so a number of them used either fake names or just their first and middle initials like D.C. (Dorothy) Fontana did.

      If people would get past their prejudaces against conservatives, liberals, or whatever and actually sat down and talked with each other, probably nine times out of ten, they’d find “the other” to be far more human, interesting, and talented, than they imagined.

      Oh, I took your advice since one of my recent submissions was to the Planetary anthology series, not that I have any guarantee of being selected, but I figured I had to try.

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      • The “women used initials tto hide they were women” thing isn’t true, at least as a rule. It’s simple to prove. The two biggest female sci-fi writers of the pulp era were Leigh Brackett and C.L. Moore. Male-ish names and initials, right?

        But it falls apart when you read the letters at the end of each issue. The readers knew they were female! And Brackett herself said she experienced no discrimination.

        And I think you underestimate the problem. Let’s go back to Jon. Jon tried talking with these people. He really did. I’ve seen it. I’ve spoken to him about it. *It didn’t work.* Now John Ringo, one of the nicest guys in sci-fi so I’ve heard from a few folks now, was just banned from a con.

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      • Barring having the time to do the research on the history of women in SF/F, I’ll take your word for it. Obviously, I don’t know Jon or John and you do, so again, I’m not making judgments on anyone’s character. I do have some difficulty believing that in almost any conflict, including this one, that only one side is to blame for the hostility in all cases. I also have difficulty believing that every single liberal writer in SF/F is universally “gunning” for all conservative SF/F writers.

        As I said in the body of my blog post, in real life and online, I have a variety of friendships and associations with people up and down the social/political spectrum. Granted, there have been others I’ve had to “cut loose”, both liberals and conservatives as well as some religious people, because they tended to be severely myopic and inflexible, and frankly, they were making my life miserable. Others have chosen to discontinue a relationship with me because I wouldn’t got tired of bending on issues they felt were important.

        I guess in all this, my worse fear is that there is indeed an absolute polarity between conservatives and liberals, not just in publishing and entertainment, but in all walks of life, such that America has reached a place where we are only “us” and them,” with no hope of sitting down at the same table and finding out what we actually have in common.

        I used to go to a little Baptist church near where I live, and the head Pastor, who’s a really nice guy and as far as church history goes, is extremely well-versed, would preach from the pulpit against inter-denominational unity, especially with Catholics. I went to graduate school with a Catholic Priest and he was a terrific guy (only a few of us in the program knew he was a Priest – he didn’t want people acting “weird” about it in classes), and I used to work with a guy who’s Catholic, and he’s the nicest and most Christian person in the world.

        Being human, I have my biases and biases aren’t necessarily bad things, but if at all possible, I like to try to get along with folks, not just the ones who are like me, and not just the ones I will tend to agree with, but lots of others as well. I tend to learn more from the differences than from the sames.

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      • Well, what do you mean by blameless? Jon certainly started out blameless, but when he realized trying not to provoke the bear wouldn’t work he stopped caring about poking the bear.

        I would dearly love to stay out of it, but I can’t even say I voted for Trump publicly or I genuinely may not get a job. SJWs don’t want a middle ground.

        Not all liberals are SJWs, but Jon isn’t hated by every single liberal ever. Actually Jon is several degrees left of me in most things. But he has decided to be “outed” as a Trump supporter, and got attacked for it.

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      • I’m not trying to cast aspersions against Jon or anyone else, it’s just that from my years as a Child Abuse Investigator (another state, long story), I’ve learned the necessity of talking to everyone involved to get the full story.

        To be fair, I have encountered SJW and even gone toe to toe with a few. In the end, I had to cut them loose because, as you say, they were uncompromising, inflexible, and absolutely sure they were 100% right. The kicker is that they are also religious people, but within Judaism and Christianity, there are also more liberal and conservative elements, which I find highly interesting.

        I know when I tell people that I didn’t vote for Clinton, they automatically assume I’m a Trump supporter, which actually isn’t true. One of my sons is very liberal and fortunately, we can have reasonable and well-considered discussions about Trump and a lot of other topics. Fortunately, we can live out our lives and do what we feel is right regardless of who happens to be parked in the Oval Office at any given moment.

        I’m over sixty years old, which means I’ve seen Presidents come and Presidents go, and every single time, the POTUS has had his supporters and his critics. However, I’ve never seen a time when the President was not only so hated but feared. While I’m not a supporter, I’m not afraid of Trump either, but then I don’t feel threatened by him. I can only assume a lot of people do, which is where this power surge of emotion and visceral angst seems to be coming from. He’ll be gone in a few years, and then we’ll have someone new to complain about. That guy who impersonates him on SNL will be out of a job, though. 😉

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  4. I think internet has given us a huge step forward in the direction of a more “democratic” flow of information, but you’re probably right, the old editorial industry still has a role to play. It’s good to be able to check the credibility of the publisher, too. By the way, do you know 365tomorrows.com? It could be a good place to reach people with flashfiction publications. And no, you’re not wasting your time at all 😉

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  5. I know very little about the publishing industry, but I do read a lot of books…many of them Sci-Fi/F. And many of them I study for their story structure, and use of characters, and mostly I notice that each author, no matter their viewpoint, has a public persona that they write from. They are not dishonest…their writing reveals a great deal about who they are, and what they want life to be like, but they have a persona, and they stand up for that persona, even as they write from that persona, for no writer can write about all of their ideas and ideals when each have so many.

    I feel that no matter what you do with your writing if you do not choose why you write, and who you want to reach, and thus design the Author you will expose with those writings to fit the books you will write, you will be leaving yourself wide open to attack from everyone. Narrow your focus within the genre to the part of you that you want to express. Other authors have found success in playing the part of the author they think should be writing the books they are writing as they write them, and if they wish to change genres, or expand their audience reach, they also change dominant personality traits for the Author they are writing as.

    Perhaps you wish to be completely honest about yourself regardless of the effect on your ability to gain support for your writing. I don’t suggest you lie…I suggest that you withhold information that is really none of other people’s business, and reveal the various truths of your personal self in the characters you create. Being reticent about who you are, and what you believe may be a big change, but at this point, you are also unknown and can afford to become a bit mysterious about just what you truly believe, or want, or do if it is getting in the way of having your works read.

    If it is the works that are displaying too much disparity from the SciFi/F norm, you need to decide to what you can write in conformity to regularly, and then grow your writing as you gain an audience. One study you might review is the entire body of Heinlein’s works…beginning with simpler characters and stories, and adding a wide variety of variance as time passed, where he stretched boundaries no one else was willing to for the times he wrote in.

    There is one point…you can write to be a good writer that may or may not be well known because you march to your own particular drummer, or you can write well what is popular to the popular formula, and be known and published. Doing both with the same books is generally not possible in the beginning of a published career.

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  6. As an aside, I checked Facebook where I posted a link to this story and one of my liberal friends posted an LOL emoji. Guess he finds something funny.

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