Reading John Scalzi Because You All Want To

It doesn’t matter what critical distance you adopt from the media you consume, it has an impact on you. So it is not without some trepidation that I bought, downloaded and began reading The Collapsing Empire – John Scalzi’s bestselling and Hugo finalist space opera. For context for new readers, a significant amount of my time since 2015 has been spent reading the various arguments, discourses and ramblings of the far-right in science fiction for whom John Scalzi, in particular, has been a subject of intense hatred.

In that time, I’ve also read a lot of what John Scalzi has written but not a lot (if any) of his fiction. That’s a bit weird. I’ve exchanged a couple of Tweets, had one of my more absurd projects mentioned on his blog and written a fair amount about the “alt-Right” Vox Day’s ongoing feud against him. I’ve also, inevitably, read an awful, awful lot of Sad and Rabid Puppy complaints about his writing – mainly that it ‘used to be’ good and that somehow it has become bad or derivative or single-handedly making Tor/Macmillan bankrupt.

The nature of the Puppy hatred for all things Scalzinomic is multifold but straightforward:

  • He was president of the SFWA during a period when the left-right conflict in SF was using the SFWA as an arena.
  • His blog had an active comment section that prior to the Sad Puppies becoming a thing included people like Brad Torgersen who ended up having some of his comments moderated (a trauma from which he appears still to recover from).
  • Vox Day hates him – partly this is Vox Day transferring his even deeper hatred for Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden onto the more public figure of John Scalzi.
  • John Scalzi’s early big success (Old Man’s War) was exactly the kind of Science Fiction that many Sad Puppies want to be the norm but he then sided with the ‘wrong’ side in the cultural-ideological conflict.
  • He is very adept at polite putdowns.

Scalzi’s ‘Collapsing Empire’ in particular received a lot of attention from the SF far-right. Axiomatically it had to be bad from their perspective – Scalzi had long been established as the figurehead villain in their narrative of SF’s culture wars with Tor as the Galactic Empire to Scalzi’s Darth Vader*. That their perspective on the book made little sense in a competitive commercial market was neither here nor there: they just knew it was bad and that it was going to fail and that Scalzi had run out of ideas years ago etc.

Bizarrely, one of the main points thrown at it was that the book was derivative – that Scalzi was simply borrowing ideas from Azimov and Heinlein. I say ‘bizarrely’ because this was exactly the kind of return to the past that many Puppies were calling for. Again, the Puppy attacks on Scalzi’s role in SF was that he was somehow worse than all the other writers writing things that the Puppies DEFINITELY hated precisely because he was writing things so close to what they claimed they wanted.

Ah but was he? There’s the thing. I’ve been wading through perspectives that I knew were skewed biased and poorly thought through for years now when it comes to John Scalzi’s fiction. I know from other Puppy arguments that even their misconceptions can be misconceived on the issue that they are misconceived about.

The extent to which I’ve engaged (all be it critically) with the Scalzi-hate from the right without actually engaging with his more recent fiction, includes reading and reviewing Vox Day’s attempted spoiler book called variously ‘Corrosion: The Corroding Empire Part by Johan Kalsi and/or Harry Seldon Edited by Vox Day’. That was over a year ago and I suspect I’m one of the very few people to have read it and one of the very few people who have a copy for reasons other than thinking that owning a copy is some kind of propaganda by deed in a bid to restore medieval style monarchies or whatever it is the alt-right actually want to do.

The issue is whether my perspective is now so thoroughly skewed in reaction to alt-right hatred that I can’t really read The Collapsing Empire? Will finding flaws feel like I’m conceding ground to Krypto-fascists, will I doubt myself if I find it praiseworthy – that I’m overcompensating for saturating my brain with anti-Scalzi propaganda? Oh dear! I’m just reading a book – I’m not some John Le Carre like character who has spent to long on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall**!

There is, only one solution. Dive in and read The Collapsing Empire but first write a rambing post to debrief myself from the baggage. It is time to go with the Flow.

*[Yes, this metaphor might be politically backward]

**[Likewise]

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120 comments

  1. greghullender

    I liked “The Collapsing Empire” enough that I pre-ordered the sequel. Scalzi’s a good writer, and it’s a fun read. My biggest complaint with everything of his that I’ve read is that I don’t really engage deeply with the characters, so I never develop strong feelings about them and don’t end up feeling moved if something good or bad happens to them. Not sure why that is though. But in terms of plot and setting, he’s great, and his stories usually explore cool ideas too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • angharad

      I have pretty much the exact opposite experience with Scalzi’s books – I like the characters and dialogue very much. The plot I can take or leave. I was disappointed by “Lock In”, and wouldn’t have read “The Collapsing Empire”, except I bought it for Mr angharad and he left it lying around (I may have a slight reading problem). I liked it a lot better, though it seemed like the first couple of chapters could have used a heavier hand from the editor.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pixlaw

    I look forward to your thoughts about it, mostly because I literally just re-read it two days ago, in an effort to keep myself entertained while waiting for something both good and new to come out. I’ll engage with your thoughts after you’ve put them down here.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kat Goodwin

    Scalzi messed up with the SFWA Bulletin when he was prez, but he then set stuff in motion to make things better as he was departing from the office. But part of the reason I think the Sad Puppies initially thought they were going to get somewhere, until Correia went for full outrage mode with Beale, was that a lot of older, major SFF authors were upset about younger SFWA members criticizing Mike Resnick (who still to this day may not really understand why what he and his co-columnist wrote was problematic and career-harming for many other author members.) So they thought that they would indeed start up a revolution with some big backers, but they did not get that support. (And because the World Science Fiction Society/WorldCon and SFWA are two different things and they were accusing the Hugo Awards of being corrupt, which generally does not play well with older SF authors who’ve won Hugos.)

    So Scalzi became for them a logical target as the engine of destruction, even though it would have been more logical to be mad at the next SFWA president who came after him and implemented lots of changes (but was not as big a name,) or, even more logically, to go after the members of the Mark Protection Committee of the World Science Fiction Society who appoint the Hugo Awards Committee each year. If they actually cared about the Hugos at all, which they did not. It was simply that the Hugos were hackable and the Nebulas largely were not.

    To top it off, Scalzi used his increasingly heavy weight as a bestseller with a well-known blog to pressure SFFH conventions to set up and implement code of conduct/anti-harassment policies, to which many other authors signed on, the combined effort which probably did do a great deal to accelerate the use of those policies in conventions in recent years. And that’s for a lot of Puppies the beginning of the end or evidence of the cabal, etc. But it is a rather odd obsession of theirs, as Scalzi is a centrist with liberal leanings politically and while friendly with many of the authors who are doing activist work to break down discrimination in publishing and book marketing, not really involved in any of those efforts beyond just laying down his own requirements for convention appearances and the occasional supportive tweet. It may simply be that he’s a handy white male bestselling SF author to use.

    Which may have been Beale’s influence. Beale’s obsession with Scalzi is more straightforward. I have been given to understand that there was a vigorous discussion at PNH’s discussion forums long back in which Beale got trounced, to the point where the Haydens told folks to stand down. And Scalzi made a joke at Beale’s expense before doing so. Since then Beale has waged a mostly one-sided campaign that is mainly weird, but we saw echoes of it in RP’s sputterings about Cam and the Meadows and similar types of dust-ups. There is a deep need to have Darth Vader nemeses on the conservative/libby side, and once they have one that seems to work, they periodically come back to them. But the alt right contingent was never seriously interested in written fiction and is much more busy with comics, games and tech campaigns, so it’s sort of odd that Beale keeps bothering. But I guess when Scalzi gets nominated for a Hugo, like this year, that crowd feels obligated.

    The idea that Tor/Macmillan, which is owned by the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group out of Germany, with extensive holdings in educational and business publishing, trade retail publishing, tech investment, marketing data, science research, electronic platforms and business services, is going to go out of business is silly, not even counting Tor’s position in the SFF English language category market. Scalzi’s deal with Tor is barely a blip in that company’s ledger, the company that published Fire and Fury no less, and which has had considerable growth over the last two years.

    I only read the works by Scalzi that interest me and the Collapsing Empire largely does not, but I’ll be curious about your take on it. I am looking forward to the sequel to Lock In, which I liked quite a bit.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Chris M

      Between Scalzi making fun of Beale at the Nielsen-Hayden blog and Beale’s Crusade against Scalzi is a period of Detente between the two, with Scalzi making and effort to be nice to Beale. The breaking point (in my view) was Scalzi coming out as pro choice with a satire aimed at Republican lawmakers (https://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/10/25/a-fan-letter-to-certain-conservative-politicians/). Between these two events Beale commented at Scalzi’s blog and was even featured in the latters “The Big Idea” format.
      After this piece came out Beale accused Scalzi of being a rapist and called him “McRapey”. And the rest of the story you all know.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Mark Hepworth

        I’d say he was trying to be a moderating influence *at the start*…and then VD dug a hole about female SF authors and declared it his hill, which resulted in Scalzi’s immortal “But… there’s still more candy inside him!”

        Liked by 2 people

      • Jenora Feuer

        I agree with the ‘moderating influence at the start’… Scalzi’s position from what I recall was mostly that whatever VD might have said elsewhere didn’t necessarily impact his ability to serve on the Nebula ‘jury’ selection, after someone else had come in asking why someone this blatantly misogynistic was allowed anywhere near the Nebulas. (My understanding is that most nominations come from the general membership and the jury only really has the ability to add other works they think got overlooked, so being on the jury isn’t anywhere near as controlling as it is in more strictly juried awards.) And then VD came in and was his smug self all over the thread, at which point any sympathy or thoughts of ‘surely he couldn’t really be THAT bad’ kind of evaporated.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Cora

        I always found it weird that VD and the puppies picked John Scalzi of all people as their sworn nemesis and bete noir, since Scalzi isn’t particularly leftwing. In German politics, I would put him on the moderate/progressive wing of Angela Merkel’s conservative party.

        Plus, most of his fiction is pretty nutty nuggetty, i.e. exactly the sort of thing the puppies should like. But maybe that’s exactly the reason why they hate him – because he is the sort of person they feel should be on their side. Plus, John Scalzi has won three Hugos and the puppies haven’t.

        Like

      • Kat Goodwin

        Shudder the thought, JJ. No thank you.

        The McRapey incident came after Beale already had waged a long campaign yelling at and about Scalzi. I remember because Beale, a man I had never heard of before, was being a pain and would come up on Whatever sometimes well before that piece. Beale attempted to paint the satire as a real confession, which fell flat, which probably did escalate things. If I remember right, that was when Scalzi stopped talking about him specifically anymore, because he felt it was a waste of energy, which probably also annoyed Beale, but was nice, since I didn’t have to hear about him anymore until the Puppy debacle.

        What I did forget, re the Sad Puppies more specifically, was that Scalzi did the piece on Lowest Difficulty Setting, regarding SWM bonus points, and that got widely circulated. So that may explain why the Sad Puppies keep debating about him. Certainly they have more reason to do so than Beale, whose focus isn’t books anymore. Beale should really pick someone else as a nemesis that alt righters care about if he wants to get further ahead over there. But hey, maybe it works with Europeans.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Cora

        I suspect most Europeans don’t even know who John Scalzi is. Yes, his books are available in several languages, but he’s far from a household name.

        Like

      • Cora

        Scalzi’s books aren’t even all that common in the UK. In Germany, the only place where I see Scalzi books in English (and where I bought my copy of The Collapsing Empire) is Bueltmann & Gerriets in Oldenburg, an indie bookstore with a very good SF selection.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        Yes, German editions are fairly easy to find. Though none of my friends and family who read SFF in German are into Scalzi, so I rarely notice the German editions.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Mark Hepworth

    Despite it coming up frequently as a comparison, I’m not convinced that tCE is actually that influenced by Asimov. You can see strong shades of Foundation in how the universe and incipient Plot Events are laid out, but I don’t think Asimov would have written the meat of the story like that at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cora

      I don’t really get the Asimov comparison either, especially since Asimov didn’t actually invent the “galactic empire in decline” premise of Foundation either. Instead, he was strongly influenced by “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” and even admitted as much.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Lurkertype

      Of course not. Scalzi’s got cussing, sex, and women characters with dialogue, agency, and power! None of that in Foundation.

      Like

    • Bonnie McDaniel

      Ugh. The more I hear about New York 2140, the less I’m looking forward to it. I had enough of brick-size books I hated with Death’s End.

      Liked by 2 people

      • stevejwright

        It’s actually livelier than I expected. But my only previous KSR experience was years ago, with the “Mars” trilogy, and all I remember of that is something vast and worthy and soporific, so my expectations weren’t very high.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Pixlaw

        I’ve really liked some of KSR’s books, particularly Antarctica and the DC/climate change books. I’ll admit that some of that may be driven by wish fulfillment, since they all seem to feature the possibility of a better, left-ish, world (well, not better climate-wise, but a fairer place to live). Which is why I liked 2140 as well. Not great lit, but right in my wheelhouse, politics-wise.

        Liked by 2 people

      • michaeleochaidh

        I have mixed feelings about KSR. I liked a lot of his earlier work (the Three Californias, another novel whose name I can’t remember and a bunch of shorter works). I was really looking forward to the first of the Mars books, but I just couldn’t get through it. I haven’t really followed him since.

        That was around the time I started doing most of my reading outside of the genre, so that might have been related.

        I did make an exception for The Years of Rice and Salt, which I enjoyed although I didn’t think it entirely worked for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Bonnie McDaniel

    Yeah, I’ve read that Electrolite thread a couple of times. It’s just amazing how Mr Beale just….absolutely…..had to have the last word, and Scalzi kept owning him.

    As far as Scalzi’s books go, I liked Lock In better than The Collapsing Empire. Of course, Old Man’s War is the book that made his name as a writer, but it’s got some annoying first-novel tics, including Scalzi’s then-habit of noting every single line of dialogue with “said,” which drove me nuts. (That habit has been pretty well conquered by now, fortunately.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Msb

    What Kat Goodwin said.
    Looks to me like pups and VD hate Scalzi because he looks like the kind of person who should be an ally, and he isn’t one. Worse, he laughs at them, a classic Law of Jante crime.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. steve davidson

    the whole puppy-Scalzi thing reminds me of an expression we used to use at AT&T, regarding clients and project reviews: “Yes, it is exactly what we asked for, but it isn’t what we want.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Laura Resnick

      Happens in publishing, too. I can think of multiple instances of writers I know who sold a book based on a synopsis, delivered the book, and got told by the editor, “This isn’t what I wanted” or “this isn’t what we thought you’d write.” When the writers showed me the synopses and the books, I’d read them and always concluded they had written and delivered exactly the book they had described, exactly the book the editor had bought… but now it wasn’t what the editor wanted. (?!)

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Regular Commenter

    Scalzi is a self-made millionaire, has lots of friends, a good sense of humour and seems to be genuinely happy. I don’t think their antipathy is anything more complicated than plain ol’ Grinch-green envy.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Schnookums Von Fancypants

    To build on what people have been saying: What Scalzi does it put the lie to the Puppy Manifesto. When you say “We want to take the politics out of it and just read good books which have X and Y!” and Scalzi writes books that contain X and Y…well, either they can admit that they care very much about the politics, thankyouverymuch, or they can double down on some form of nonsense or another. I think we know full well how that played out. (And to head off some tedious objections: yes, you can dislike Scalzi’s work because you just think it’s bad or it doesn’t click with you. Lets not pretend that’s what’s happening here, shall we?)

    Liked by 5 people

    • Ingvar

      I think it’s a case of “we don’t want to see politics” combined with “if we agree with the politics expressed, it’s invisible, and thus the work is apolitical.”

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Laura Resnick

    Although there are no doubt multiple factors involved in the timing of Puppydom, one very obvious element in their first big push, in 2014, to get their clique onto the Hugo ballot en masse and getting VD involved (and it still baffles me that they didn’t realize how dumb it is to grab a rabid animal by the tail) was that Scalzi had won the best novel Hugo in 2013 with REDSHIRTS. In 2014 and especially once Brad Torgersen took over the Puppy campaign in 2015, they spilled a lot of words over the course of those 2 years about their outrage that REDSHIRTS had won a Hugo.

    This was a striking example of their Scalzi Derangement Syndrome (SDS™). Because whether or not one liked REDSHIRTS or thought it was Hugo quality, it was clearly the “type” of fiction the Puppies kept insisting (a) should get Hugo recognition but (b) was not getting it: fun, traditional, commercial, bestselling, popular, etc. And yet, while describing books precisely like REDSHIRTS as what they wanted to see honored, the Puppies kept simultaneously insisting that REDSHIRTS being honored was an example of what was “wrong” with the Hugos. IOW, SDS™.

    If Scalzi had not won the best novel Hugo in 2013, would Larry Corriea’s 2013 solo quest to get himself on the Hugo ballot have turned into a group campaign to get him and his pals on the ballot in 2014? If Correia and Torgersen had not gotten VD involved–if they had sensibly steered clear of his foamy mouth–woud he ever have formed the Rabid Puppies or gotten involved in Puppydom? These are the questions that do not keep me up at night. (I am kept awake by questions like, “Is all that crashing and thudding downstairs just my pets being destructive again? Or have marauding pirates and thieves broken into my home?”)

    Liked by 5 people

    • Mark Hepworth

      I don’t think the involvement of VD and the onset of SDS™ is a coincidence. VD was the vector.
      The extent of VDs influence was always hotly contested – strongly denied – by SP members, but I think that his fingerprints can be inferred by things like the irrational Scalzi bashing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        I don’t know, it seemed like the Tor boycott was a last gasp afterthought by the Rabids — hey let’s make a new controversy about how they are out to get us (by criticizing our behavior,) before the Gamergaters mostly decamped. Did most of the Sad Puppies even bother to do it? It was certainly empty theater.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Hepworth

        I always looked at it as a couple of the minor SP like Grant taking their chance to move up to the big time (promotion opportunities being otherwise very limited as poor Declan found out.)

        Liked by 3 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        It was so funny because it’s like let’s boycott them! You can’t boycott a publishing company that sells licensed products done in joint with individual contractors (authors) to retail outlets and wholesalers. It’s not like a media company that relies on retail advertisers for revenues for shows or publications so you can threaten the advertisers with boycotts to get the advertisers to withdraw their money from the media company’s shows and publications. And it’s not like a retail store or a restaurant that you can threaten to not buy products or services from, reducing their income. If you wanted to boycott a sub-company of a book publishing company that is also the sub-company of a global publishing company of diversified businesses, like Tor, you would have to go to the book publishers’ customers — retail booksellers and book wholesalers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble — and tell them that you won’t buy ANYTHING from them till they stop stocking Tor books or Tor/Macmillan books as inventory.

        Whereupon the people at Amazon would just laugh at you, and the people at Barnes & Noble would look puzzled and say, “We thought all you lot only bought from Amazon anyway.” It is a source of astonishment how little the Puppies understand about how fiction publishing, book publishing, book-selling, SFF conventions, etc. actually work, especially since a handful of them actually have had publishing careers — and have/had books with Tor. (But apparently their agents have not been able to educate them much.) After screaming that people at Tor are crooks for months, they got upset because one person there angrily complained about them, which is not allowed or is considered destroying their careers. And then a handful of them, what, didn’t buy books by authors they were never going to buy in the first place?

        So yes, I’ll buy the evaluation that a handful of latter Pups were trying to get some exposure after the shop had already been pretty much shut down. But it still doesn’t really explain the Scalzi obsession, though. I mean, the conservative mediasphere, Breibart and such, I don’t think even know who Scalzi is. It doesn’t get you anywhere there to rail about him or declare that he’s trying to destroy your career. They got backed into a corner by Beale and it seemed like they were trying to work their way out of it, but in the recent years, from the sound of it, they just keep muttering conspiracies and getting dragged into pointless dramas by some of the new screamers, who do not seem to understand that the conservative mediasphere has no real interest in SFFH, and when they do have a mild interest, it’s usually movies and t.v., not some paperbacks.

        Liked by 3 people

      • camestrosfelapton

        That and the Sad Pups had also got a Tor book onto the ballot for best novel – meaning they were simultaneously campaigning for and against the same book. Not to mention that the Tor author they were most likely to buy (and hence the one most impacted by their boycott) was…John C Wright.

        Liked by 2 people

      • camestrosfelapton

        Also if you want to see irony being murdered – here is Hoyt today:

        “So what do we do? We do the same we’ve always done. We’re faster, smarter, more capable. We need to stay one step ahead. We need to ensure the establishment fears us, at least as much if not more than they fear the left. Sure, we’re the nice people who don’t boycott, who don’t make a political line in our consumption…”

        https://accordingtohoyt.com/2018/04/11/the-other-side-gets-a-vote/

        I have no words

        Liked by 2 people

      • PhilRM

        “We’re faster, smarter, more capable.” That was as far as I got before succumbing to an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Rail

      If they hadn’t involved VD, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the publicity. He got their crusade onto Breitbart and brought in Gamergate.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        Which threatened the lives and careers of both the authors they accused baselessly of corrupt fraud and the authors they jammed onto their voting slate and political war without their consent who wanted off and out of it. Which then alienated them from much of the SFF community. If their goal was to succeed in the conservative political mediasphere, and a few of them seem to have that goal, then it might have helped, though Beale pretty much stole all the spotlight to show he was a kingmaker to that sphere. If you’re just trying to sell SFF, it was not the brightest move ever attempted, sending an online troll army after authors and disrupting conventions.

        The sad thing about the Sad Puppies is that most of the players were in the past, from all accounts, pretty average in the behavior department. But forced by Beale’s maneuvering to make more and more elaborate and contradictory claims to justify what they were doing, (as we saw with the recent attack on Cam and the Meadows,) they are now essentially, from all the quotes of their online writings, muttering conspiracy theorists. Which, again, is great if you’re trying to climb the conservative media ladder and sell non-fiction books, merchandise and speaking gigs on culture wars and politics. Or maybe games on the indie circuit. For fiction, not so much. If you could go back to the 1980’s and the Tom Clancy and Cold War audience, maybe, but that audience has aged out. Or if you go into parts of the Christian publishing market, which includes SFF, you can give it a whirl — I’m surprised more of them aren’t doing that.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Cora

        I still remember when Brad Torgersen was a conservative leaning but otherwise respected rising author, who used to comment on Scalzi’s and Jay Lake’s blogs and won his Campbell and his first Hugo nomination honestly. John C. Wright used to be published by Tor, won a Nebula nomination under his own steam and he used to get good reviews from mainstream reviewers like John Clute. Sarah Hoyt was a solid midlist author. Toni Weisskopf might well have won a Hugo undr her own steam eventually. Correia was always a bit of an outsider, because while his audience clearly loves him, it doesn’t have much overlap with greater SFF fandom. But SFF fandom didn’t ignore or hate Correia, because he was conservative; they ignored him because they didn’t know he existed. At any rate, I had never heard of him (and I read a lot of urban fantasy) when he was nominated for the Campbell. All of these people have pretty much shot their careers to bits, since outrage marketing only works for so long. Correia has enough fans to survive and Baen and Analog will continue to publish Torgersen and Hoyt, as long as they sell in sufficient numbers. JCW is stuck with Castalia House, since he doesn’t really fit in with Baen. And if all else fails, they can always self-publish. But they’re stuck in the puppy ghetto now, because fandom has long memories and in fandom, they’ll always be known as “those jerks”. Hey, in thirty years or so, the puppy wars will probably be a cautionary tale for young fans.

        As for getting into the Christian publishing market, Superversive and the Pulp Revolution crowd seem to be leaning that way. However, most of them are Catholic and the Christian publishing market in the US is Protestant dominated. Of course, Correia and Torgersen could always aim for the Mormon publishing market, which apparently is a thing.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Rail

        I think that the goal was to get publicity in the conservative world, pulling in conservative fans to help them in the voting. I certainly heard from a few conservative fans that they had no idea Hugo voting was open to anyone who bought a membership. And VD, with his family connections, could get them write-ups at Breitbart and World Net Daily. As for Gamergate, the few conservatives I’m still on speaking terms with still don’t believe it’s a troll army; they absolutely didn’t believe it in 2014. Correia and Torgerson probably just saw More Voters when it was suggested.

        I think conspiracy theories are required of conservatives these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lurkertype

        @Cora: Not only everything you said, but I happened to pick up a 2001 issue of F&SF which gave a rave review to Hoyt’s novel, and slammed Harry Potter and the like.

        There’s definitely a whole parallel Mormon entertainment business, but it pays modestly and isn’t distributed widely. Note that OSC started there and skeddaddled ASAP for the big publishers. I don’t know as anyone’s going for particularly Catholic SF — other than devotionally related works, Catholics mostly read what everyone else does (except not Dan Brown). The only chains of bookstores run by Christians are heavily evangelical, leaning towards stuff like the “Left Behind” series. None of the Puppies fit into that; although they do seem to be fond of the world’s going to hell in a handbasket trope, I don’t know how many of them are believers in the peculiarily American version of Revelation, Tribulation, etc. And the people who are into that aren’t much into SFF, because it’s all Satanist.

        That leaves them with Baen, Castalia, and self-pub.

        They burned all their bridges to mainstream SFF by becoming Teddy’s cannon fodder. He can go on collecting Daddy’s money and wingnut welfare, an option not available to the rest of them. For a few heady moments of being quoted, they lost their formerly respectable position in the field.

        That, and instead of writing thousands of words of fiction, they wrote thousands of words on the internet bitching about how people didn’t like them, and let their writing skills ossify.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lurkertype

        Upon double-checking said review by Charles DeLint, Hoyt’s was the *first* thing reviewed in his column that month. Second was something titled “American Gods”, which Charles reckoned would do well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Pixlaw

        This is not snark. It is, in fact, an honest question. Do any of the commenters herein really enjoy either JC Wright’s work or Sarah Hoyt’s work?

        I understand that tastes differ, various people like various things, etc., but I have never been able to get into Hoyt’s or Wright’s work, even before the whole SP/RP thing blew up. And once that happened, I was never gonna read most of that crowd. No point in giving my $ to people who so far as I can tell behave like shits.

        So, what am I missing? Anything?

        Liked by 1 person

      • camestrosfelapton

        All of the Puppy nominated stuff by JCW was bad but I shouldn’t complain too much about it as I got a free cat out of it.
        I thought Wright’s pre-Puppy “Golden Age” was OK https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/review-the-golden-age-by-john-c-wright/ it had some good moments.

        I haven’t read enough of Hoyt’s fiction to really say. I find her non-fiction writing to be very muddled (unlike Vox D or Wright who write bad arguments but in readable prose) but her rambling tangents into personal events to illustrate a point may work a lot better with fiction.

        I’d also say each of them write better fiction than I do 🙂

        Like

      • Cora

        Wright is not to my taste and never was. Larry Correia’s stuff is also very much not to my taste (and it’s in a subgenre I read quite a bit of), but then I already was vaguely aware of his personality flaws (he first came to my attention, when he bitched on his blog about losing the Campbell to Lev Grossman) by that time. Though I suspect his ammosexual prose wouldn’t have appealed, even if I had never come across any blogpost by him.

        As for Brad Torgersen, I quite liked the story by him (Ray of Light) that was nominated for the Hugo under its own steam, though it was pretty similar to another story that was nominated for several SFF awards around the same time. When Correia first gamed him on the ballot in 2014, I gave Torgersen’s stories a fair shot and was stunned by how bad they were. He has only gotten worse since.

        As for Sarah Hoyt, I once had her Darkship Thieves on my list of books to check out, because it sounded kind of interesting. But then I came across her blog (that must have been around the 2012 US election), saw her muddled rants and thought, “Nope. Life is too short.”

        I actually met Dorothy Grant (wife of Peter of the Tor boycott fame) and some other lesser puppies online on a self-publishers’ forum before they threw in their lot with the puppies. We got along pretty well before that, not so well afterwards.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lurkertype

        Hoyt’s work is… workmanlike. It’s very girly and leans “Mary Sue saves the world while also being a mom”. Never heard of Wright before all this, and the one time I tried reading Correia, my eyes rolled so hard at the Manly Man prose, gun porn, and severe right-wingnut-ness. Ammosexual covers it.

        Having spent all their time since 2012-2014 being culture warriors, this didn’t help their writing talent either.

        Liked by 2 people

      • KasaObake

        As an advert for Smith & Wesson the first chapter worked fine. As a readable novel, meh. I moved onto something enjoyable and didn’t bother to slog through the rest of Monster Hunter.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Contrarius

        Personally, I had fun with the first couple of Monster Hunter books. They blew stuff up real good, and there’s a definite place for that. But I soon got tired of them — and that was before the pups were born, so it had nothing to do with political kerfuffles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • JJ

        I read the first three Monster Hunter novels, and they were pretty enjoyable for me just taking them as what they are: weapons porn, male wish-fulfillment, and conservative / gun rights political advocacy.

        But they didn’t really bring much that was newer or deeper to the table, and I got tired of the heavy political messages. And then, of course, Correia decided to abuse and debase the Hugos with his self-serving Sad Puppies campaigns, so I didn’t feel any need to continue. There are plenty of books not written by assholes that I really want to read for me to spend any more of my precious reading time on formulaic political message fiction written by assholes.

        Whoa — I just realized that’s the tagline for the entire Puppy movement.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Pixlaw

        And just to wrap up this thread, I HAVE to point out that Baen’s just published an ARC of a new Monster Hunter book co-authored by Larry C. and John Ringo. Now if the next one also includes Gannon or Kratman we could declare a trifecta and get first print editions framed in genuine gilded brass reliquaries for display on our respective mantels, or used for our home altars.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laura Resnick

        Speaking of which, I heard crashing and thudding downstairs last night. Ignored it, as I by now always do.

        Came downstairs this morning to find they had gotten up onto the highest surface in the house which I can only reach with a four-tier step-ladder, where I keep the only two surviving houseplants, shoved safely against the corner up there… and they knocked one off. It fell about 7 feet to the bamboo floor and shattered into a million little pieces, scattering pot shards, pebbles, plant matter, and wet dirt (I watered the plant only yesterday) allllllll over the good living room rug.

        I am ignoring it. I cam downstairs to drink coffee, and THAT IS WHAT I AM DOING NOW. I am gathering strength to deal with it… and DRINK MY COFFEE.

        Also, if anyone is interested: Available! Black cats! Free to good home! …. No, actually, I will PAY you to take them.

        Liked by 6 people

    • Andrew M

      There was a discussion at Torgersen’s site in which someone solemnly asserted that Redshirts was ‘the worst thing ever nominated for a Hugo’ – by preference to VD’s story, on the one hand, and The Drink Tank’s acceptance speech, on the other. Which is such a weird claim – at that point, to be sure, the bar had not been lowered by ‘Safe Space as Rape Room’ and ‘If You Were an Award, My Love’ and what have you, but still it would be easy to think of worse things. The Scalzi obsession was certainly a powerful thing.

      I don’t actually begrudge Redshirts winning, though it was certainly rather lightweight, because that was a thin year; the only finalist that could be called deep was by Kim Stanley Robinson, whose work, as we have seen, is very polarising. I had much rather Scalzi had won the Hugo with Lock In, but that was shut out by the Puppy campaigns.

      As for VD, Correia’s excuse for nominating him was ‘Satan wasn’t available this year’ – i.e. it was shock-causing tactic. I think he was using VD in much the same way VD himself was later to use Chuck Tingle – in both cases it backfired, though not in the same way.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Cora

        I can sort of understand why the puppies hate “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love…” so much, but the intense hatred for Redshirts always eluded me, since it is exactly the sort of thing – unpolitical and fun space opera based on a popular media property – the puppies claimed they wanted to see more of. But as usual, puppies are far from consistent.

        I think I ranked Redshirts at 3 that year, underneath Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance and Throne of the Crescent Moon, but well ahead of the Kim Stanley Robinson, whose work is really not to my taste. I’ve forgotten what the fifth finalist was – probably one of Seanan McGuire’s zombie books.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        And yes, Lock In would have been a worthier Scalzi book to win a Hugo, though it would have been up against strong competition, if it had made the shortlist.

        Like

  11. Dana Lynne

    I enjoyed The Collapsing Empire and I think you will too — but my favorite of his is Lock In. The setting and premise for that book suit his particular writing style the best, IMHO.

    The Old Man’s War series is quite readable and fun. Not a slog at all. You could just as easily start with that as the new one. I actually think it’s better.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Laura Resnick

    I’ve read three Scalzi novels. The one I really liked was AGENT TO THE STARS, precisely because I’m not particularly a science fiction reader, and that book is a Hollywood satire, not an sf novel (IMO, anyow)–and I love satire and enjoy Hollywood spoofs.

    I enjoyed REDSHIRTS, in large part because it was a fresh approach to familiar, well-loved territory, i.e. Star Trek.

    Did not care for OLD MAN’S WAR. Largely because of these three books, it’s the one that is straightforward military science fiction, and that’s not at all my thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cora

      I don’t much care for Old Man’s War either, because it’s too much straight military SF, manly men doing manly things in space, for me. Redshirts was fun, if not particularly deep. Lock In was good, probably the best by him.The Collapsing Empire was fun enough, though it suffered because I read it directly after the Indranan War trilogy, which was so much better.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lurkertype

      I love “Agent to the Stars”, because at the time it was written, I had a bunch of acquaintances who were smack in the middle of Hollywood and spent some time there. So I really got it.

      “Lock In” is really good, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

      Liked by 1 person

      • sweetgumandpines

        I haven’t read Lock In yet, but I’ll put in a plug for The God Engines. It isn’t a pleasant story, but for once the characters aren’t amusingly snarky smartasses, and it felt as though Scalzi really was stretching towards something different than his usual style.

        Like

      • JJ

        I thought that The God Engines was really, really good. It was my first experience of Scalzi’s writing (it was in the Hugo packet). Then I went and found Agent to the Stars and The President’s Brain, which were available for free online, and I was hooked.

        Like

  13. Jon Del Arroz

    I really enjoyed The Old Man’s War and Red Shirts as I’ve stated quite a few times. I won’t read him now that he just outright attacks me randomly every couple of months since the Dragon Awards last year (very odd), and I can’t really justify spending money on folk who outright hate me and want to destroy my career. I can’t speak directly to The Collapsing Empire as a consequence, but it’s an interesting and ironic title coming from Tor who’s had an empire-like monopoly on the business until the indie boom the last few years.

    Like

    • Chris M

      ?
      I’m having what you’re smoking.
      I also demand evidence about your claims regarding Scalzi (who doesn’t give shit about you, no one gives serious shit about you) and the oppressive Tor monopoly (which doesn’t exist, besides, there are other countries than the US)

      Liked by 2 people

    • camestrosfelapton

      Jon, I really don’t want the comments here to descend into yet another discussion of your grievances that will go nowhere.

      I don’t mind heated discussion or controversy but I don’t want to be bored by a discussion on my own blog.

      Liked by 3 people

    • JJ

      Jon Del Arroz: Tor who’s had an empire-like monopoly on the business

      You should consider trying to read more widely. Orbit puts out a prodigious amount of science fiction, most of it of a quality ranging from Outstanding to Very Good, and that shows: in the last 8 years, out of 42 Best Novel Hugo finalists, Orbit has had 16 finalists to Tor’s 10 finalists.

      The claim that Tor has been monopolizing the industry is a conspiracy theory advanced by people who have no acquaintance with logic or rationality.

      Liked by 2 people

    • KasaObake

      And lest we forget, Tor is only a big deal in the US. A big market for sure, but not the only one.

      Also, Jon, all of Scalzi’s commentary about you that I’ve seen stems from when you’re biting at his heels trying to get his attention.

      Liked by 2 people

      • KasaObake

        … And then whining when they get an iota of much-deserved Meh from Senpai.

        Also: I do like that we seem to have moved from Scrappy Doos to Scrappies to just Scraps. If anything it’s more apt.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kat Goodwin

        Okay, so they think that getting Scalzi’s negative specific attention will help them with something? I’m still trying to understand why he became “senpai” over other choices.

        Like

    • Cora

      As Laura said above, Tor is the biggest US publisher of SFF, including short fiction and pretty much the only significant market for novellas, which is why works published by them show up so often on genre awards shortlists. But as JJ said, in recent years Orbit has been dominating the best novel category in the Hugos, which is probably why Tor snapped up Lee Harris and Devi Pillai.

      And while indies are doing well and filling a niche in the market, Tor as well as other SFF trade publishers are in no danger of disappearing. Some imprints (e.g. Roc) might vanish due to consolidation measures, but the so-called Big 5 publishers are owned by huge conglomerates with oodles of money. I don’t think you have any idea how big Holtzbrinck (Tor’s parent company), Hachette (parent company of Orbit) and Bertelsmann (parent company of Random House Penguin and therefore Ace, Roc, DAW, Del Rey, Bantam and Ballantine) really are. Coincidentally, Holtzbrinck recently introduced the Tor brand to its native Germany with great success.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lurkertype

        So Hachette gets more SF novel awards and Random Penguin puts out the majority of SF work in the US.

        And all the SF these international mega-conglomerates put out, combined, is like a rounding error compared to their overall bottom lines.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Cora

        I’m not sure about Hachette, but for Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck their SFF business is merely nice coffee money. They make the bulk of their profit with TV stations, newspapers and magazines. Both the Holtzbrinck siblings and the Mohns of Bertelsmann are also really bad poster children for the “arrogant publishing elite” (TM), because the Holtzbrincks live middle class lives with billionaire wealth (which is actually not uncommon among Germany’s super rich), while Liz Mohn gives huge amounts to charity and the globl headquarters of Bertelsmann looks like my old high school, a 1970s concrete building. Not every rich person in the world behaves like Donald Trump.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jenora Feuer

        I don’t think you have any idea how big […] Bertelsmann […] really are.

        That would be Bertelsmenn, as in the Bertelsmann Music Group, previously Sony/BMG before they sold most of that to Sony? Listed as #6 in the world on http://www.businessinsider.com/the-30-biggest-media-owners-in-the-world-2016-5 at over ten billion in revenue, though more recent listings put them as low as 10th or 16th?

        Yeah, their SF book sales are basically pocket change as far as they’re concerned.

        Liked by 2 people

  14. Cora

    Coincidentally, Michael Naumann, the former head of Holtzbrinck US and therefore boss of everybody at Tor, was also Germany’s secretary of culture for a few years. I quite like Naumann, but in interviews he never gave any indication that he knew what Tor even did, since he seemed for more interested in the output of Henry Holt and won standoffs with Barnes & Noble.

    His successors as secretary of culture seem more interested in sitting next to the big stars at the opening of the Berlin film festival (which always makes me apologise to any Hollywood star unfortunate enough to find themselves seated next to one of them) than in anything else, though the most recent incumbent Monika Grütters has made some noise about finally tackling Germany’s colonialist history, while the powerful Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage refuses to return any obviously stolen African objects and instead wants to display them in their ridiculous faux historical Berlin castle.

    Coincidentally, at the age of sixteen, I once told Bernd Neumann, Ms. Grütters’ predecessor as secretary of culture and back then still a local politico, to please turn down the volume in a restaurant, because if I cared about the details of the debates in the Bremen state parliament, I would watch a bloody news. And yes, I’m still proud of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lurkertype

      Maybe they’re pissed off b/c Germany’s denounced their Nazi past and the MAGA types think that Adolf had some swell ideas. And here are German conglomerates acting like respectable citizens.*

      Like how Scalzi became the enemy b/c he’s a SWM milSF writer who isn’t a fascist and/or ammosexual and/or “Christian”** and/or Randite.

      *I don’t actually think this; Pups and Scraps have amply displayed their lack of knowledge about publishing. Just a gedankenexperiment.

      ** It’s clear the MAGA types don’t actually believe in all that stuff Rabbi Yeshua ben-Joseph said.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Kat Goodwin

    There are not any monopolies or near monopolies in book publishing. Book-selling, yes, it is possible because the book-sellers are all selling the same products and so compete with each other on pricing and availability of items. But book publishers are not selling the same products doing the same thing, like software programs or smartphones. The price they sell a Stephen King book for does not compete with the price another publisher sells a Dean Koontz novel for — and are usually roughly the same anyway, since publishers set prices based on the type of format of the product and the distribution channel. They sell symbiotically, not in direct competition (Koontz and King help each other sell even if at different publishers,) and also sell distinct individual products per book. If a publisher’s authors sell well, that does not give them the ability to block other publishers from distributing their books and also selling well, unlike some other product industries. They can’t even block each other getting good co-op advertising deals with booksellers, since the booksellers strike the deals individually. They can’t edge anybody out of the market and the economic incentives for fiction are that if the whole market grows, the publishers then also get to grow, so they don’t want to edge anybody out of the market.

    Tor is the biggest SFF specialty publisher in the U.S. but that doesn’t actually mean that they put out the most SFF in the U.S. The amount of SFFH put out in the general fiction market by numerous imprints of the biggest publishers is as large and possibly larger than that put out by the specialty imprints for the category market. If you add in the YA publishers (of which Tor has a slice,) it’s even bigger. Tor is also a major category SFF player in Britain and Australia, but that doesn’t allow them to dominate book-selling in the market. At most, it means they have money to try and lure bestsellers, but so do the other big imprints in those countries.

    And if Tor doesn’t manage to snag a bestselling author or a new author they think will do well in say a book auction, they might be able to sub-license the paperback rights to the property from the publisher who did get the author’s license rights and is going to do hardcover first, or get some sort of project going with that author later, since authors often do different works with different publishers at the same time, and sometimes move their backlist titles from one publisher to another or the new publisher can again sub-license their backlist from the old publisher. Fiction publishers are not at all hostile to each other, including towards small presses and successful self-publishing authors, because if there are hits, it grows the whole market and provides reprint opportunities as well. Why should they be hostile when they so often do business together and help each other sell stuff? Awards are nice and can bring name awareness for an author that might translate into word of mouth, but awards are pretty low on the list of publishers’ priorities except for the handful of big, global, literary awards, and even there, it’s a long shot of luck.

    Tor cannot crush any author at another house. They can ignore their own authors, but they have absolutely no leverage to get booksellers to not stock an author published by another house or, for that matter, who is self-published. Nor would they ever want or need to do so — they again sell symbiotically. It helps them if lots of fiction authors are selling well because it brings more readers into the market, some of whom will browse outward to some of their books.

    The romance publishers have been doing novellas for a decade, including the paranormal romance market — they’re good publicity, cheap and fast to do and can be used for series or as additions to longer series. Tor went from having the most backwards technologically website to a big revamp that launched Tor.com, and they bounced the novellas off of that. The novellas are good short novel introductions to new authors to get readers to then buy longer books from them, or the backlists of big authors where Tor makes most of its money. It’s akin to when the publishers started doing a lot more small runs of hardcover and trade paperback editions of books in the 1990’s because it got them in libraries, got reviews and made bookstores happy. That’s worked for them and the other big publishers may have not had as many big hits with it but they’ve been doing novellas too over the last five years or so, and will likely do more. Orbit, for instance, will do a three book deal with a bestselling author and have that author do a few novellas digitally as well, which gives them a solid block of product for that author out in the market to snag attention. Tor again cannot dominate the novella market in sales, nor again would they want to do that since the novella market’s growth is dependent on having lots and lots of available and wide-ranging novellas. A book publisher trying to dominate it would stagnate the market for their own wares.

    As far as I can tell, the Puppies seem to be under the impression that the people who run the big houses that do trade fiction are deliberately not publishing conservative white male fiction writers (snort) to liberalize and destroy the culture, do I have that right? Don Weisberg and John Sargent, Markus Dohle and Madeline McIntosh, Michael Pietsch, etc., all SJW with sinister agendas. And the conservative self-publishing authors have escaped their blockade and sinister plan by self publishing through mostly Amazon (run/owned by Bezos who also owns the Washington Post, etc., but hey, petty details.) And readers will flock to the conservative self-published authors (but not the liberal self-published authors,) and abandon liberal bestsellers like Stephen King, etc., who will be magically wiped out, causing the big publishers to collapse or something. I don’t know, it just all sounds like the underwear gnomes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Cora

      Yes, publishers, whether big or small, or no more in competition with each other than writers are. This is why I have never understood the “Trade publishing is doomed” howling from certain self-published writers. First of all, it’s wrong and secondly, why would that be a good thing? As a self-published writer, Tor is not my competition nor are Orbit, Baen, Harper Voyager, Del Rey, Ace, Roc, Gollancz, etc… However, if Tor raises the profile for standalone e-book novellas, this might actually persuade people to give one of mine a try.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Cora

      Besides, for a lot of self-published writers the main argument why you should try their books seems to be “But mine are much cheaper than those by trade published author X”. Yeah, but if I want to read e.g. Ann Leckie’s or John Scalzi’s latest, a random indie SF novel with a spaceship in space cover is no replacement. Though I may pick it up, while I’m buying the book I was after.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        Well that’s the thing — stories are individual products that don’t compete with each other, since they offer subjective experiences that are different for each customer. In fiction, one written story does not perform the same function as another written story. And books don’t have a consistent price — they are products that can be obtained more cheaply in different formats and that become cheaper in most formats later in their life cycle, unless it’s a reissue of some kind, and can also be obtained temporarily for free from libraries, friends’ loans, giveaways, etc. So having a story be cheap may induce some to try it, but they don’t chose it over another author’s book. They will tend to chose it in addition to another author’s book, which is always the goal of fiction publishing. And they are likely to find your story while shopping for other authors’ stories (browsing,) which means that those other authors symbiotically helped you sell by bringing in the readers who then had contact with your stuff and might buy it.

        The more successful Tor is, the more that helps Baen sell their books because it grows the SFF section, meaning book-sellers want more SFF titles because they can sell them and they are more willing, not less, to get those titles from smaller presses and successful self-pubs than they are if sales are small. And the better the SFF section does, the more that helps all the other fiction markets in the same way and vice versa.

        What a lot of self-publishing authors don’t seem to understand is that they have three different businesses — author (creator of the property,) publisher (producer of the finished property product) and bookseller (direct selling to the consumer.) When they distribute with Amazon, say, that’s not the arrangement Amazon has with small and large publishers where Amazon buys the books, owns the books and then sells them. Instead, Amazon is just loaning the self-pub author a market stall and the author is selling direct to the customers and Amazon takes their marketing fees from the author’s profits. So self-pub authors aren’t actually “competing” with publishers — they’re vying with book-sellers for getting customers to buy from them directly, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers who buy and sell book stock from publishers but also offer a self-pub market platform. It’s actually Amazon’s partial monopoly over U.S. bookselling that is more of an issue for them than how many books Tor may or may not be doing, because that limits how they can sell books directly to customers as a bookseller to going through only Amazon. Luckily, the Internet so far still does provide lots of opportunities for direct selling if Amazon decided to junk their book business, but people gravitate to big booksellers for print and e-books because it’s easier. So the big issue for self-pub authors is how much in fees are big book-sellers taking from profits for e-books versus how much access to customers the self-pubs are getting for those fees, and what sort of terms can self-pub authors get for their individual titles in print from the big booksellers they are sub-selling from. Instead they keep ranting about publishers who have no impact on their businesses at all.

        Liked by 3 people

      • PhilRM

        Amazon tried something like that in their war on Macmillan, where they would offer up other random non-Macmillan SF books instead of the book someone was looking for. As far as I can tell, all this did was tick off their customers. Books aren’t interchangeable widgets, no matter how much Jeff Bezos would like them to be. (Their ‘sponsored products related to’ offerings are working off the same philosophy.)

        Liked by 2 people

      • Cora

        Amazon also tried that during their war with Hachette. During that time, I wanted to order one of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch books from Amazon and on the top of the page was a banner that suggested “similar products available at a lower price”. All of those “similar products” were military SF novels by Baen, including one of Charles Gannon’s Caine novels. Because if I’m looking for Ann Leckie, I will totally buy a random Charles Gannon novel instead.

        Though for some reason, Amazon keeps recommending Baen novels, including Larry Correia’s, to me, even though the only Baen books I ever buy there are those by Lois McMaster Bujold, P.C. Hudgell and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

        Liked by 1 person

      • JJ

        I also am convinced that Baen has been paying Amazon to recommend their books.

        Periodically, I will click on “Improve Your Recommendations
        and go through what’s on the list ticking “Don’t use for recommendations” on things which I don’t want any more of.

        Note the menu on the left, which allows you to do this for:
        Items you’ve purchased
        Videos you’ve watched
        Items you’ve marked “I own it”
        Items you’ve rated
        Items you’ve marked “Not interested”
        Items you’ve marked as gifts

        As I frequently rate/review books on Amazon which I got from my library, and I end up loathing some of them, pruning the “Items you’ve rated” list is very helpful for me.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        I guess Baen is paying them some serious co-op advertising money to get their books in the recommends for military SF. Amazon doesn’t do it for the pub books unless the publishers pay or give them some sort of price deal.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Lurkertype

        What Amazon needs is more direct thumbs-up or thumbs-down, like TiVo has. One thumb up meant, “Yeah, I like stuff like this some”, 3 was “I totes love this kind of thing, suggest all of it to me”. And the opposite for 1-3 thumbs down. So pretty darn quick, it learned we don’t watch sitcoms, soaps, Lifetime/Hallmark movies, or things in Spanish, and began suggesting we might be interested in sci-fi and action-adventure, in English.

        You could also do some basic “keyword AND x NOT y”. So I could say I wanted no Baen except LMB and Lee/Miller. Or all the Tor NOT Kai Ashante Wilson. Or NOT Heuvelt anywhere. Or Author Z NOT Their One Dumb Series. But that’d cut into the advertising money.

        I found that turning off/deleting my search history or at least cutting stuff out helps there. And I ignore Sponsored Products.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cora

        Yes, I’m pretty sure Baen is paying co-op money to Amazon, since I keep getting mails advertising Baen books, often Larry Correia, but never mails for books by other publishers, even though I buy a lot more Tor and Orbit books than Baen.

        The “sponsored listings” you sometime see at Amazon are mostly self-published authors buying “pay per click” ads from Amazon via their AMS program. I ignore those as well, especially since they are usually not very relevant to whatever I just searched for.

        But I actually feel as if Amazon’s algorithms are getting worse at suggesting books to me. Because approx. 8 to 10 years ago, I used to get a lot of recommendations for books I was actually likely to read. Now I’m lucky if it’s even vaguely the same genre.

        And don’t even get me started, if you buy something you don’t normally buy. Buying a hotel guide for bikers as a present for my Dad resulted in getting flooded with recommendations for biker books, until I deleted the book from my history. And ordering some vacuum cleaner bags as a favour to an elderly neighbour who had problems finding the right bags for her uncommon vacuum cleaner locally resulted in a flood of ads for household products of all kinds. Amazon has also trained me to only use them for price comparisons, if I’m logged out of my account, because otherwise they’ll spam me to death with ads for whatever I just looked for (which I usually wind up buying elsewhere). It’s even more fun, if you get spammed with ads for products you never looked at such as the time I got spammed with ads for mini-fridges by Amazon. Turned out that my Dad had used my laptop to look for mini-fridges (his is old and slow, mine isn’t) and didn’t log out of my Amazon account before he did so.

        Liked by 1 person

      • kiptw

        When we went back to China so Sarah could see where she came from, we joined in with a tour someone else had planned, which included a number of commercial ventures (shopping opportunities!) like a pearl place, a silk place, a jade place, and so on. At each, we followed the same procedure: a demo of the history and majesty of the product, after which we were allowed to roam the showroom, each of which was staffed by helpful and attractive young women. At the jade factory, we got to pass through a corridor with views into the studios where artists were working the stone, and then we were in a vast wonderland of jade in all sizes, from tiny to larger than I ever expected to see (and shaped like a group of horses).

        At one point, I saw a placard for some medium-small jade goat, which was spelled wrong. I pointed this out to one of the young women. For the rest of the time that we were there, I was periodically aware of one or the other of them, who would politely show up where I was looking around. “Here are goats,” they would tell me, pointing to other goat statuettes. “There are goats over there.” “Here is a nice goat.”

        I learned my lesson: I did not point out any other incorrect signage for the rest of the time we were there. Although, come to think of it, it would have been a good way to meet very pleasant young women. Perhaps, if I’d been single, I might have… but never mind that now.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Cora

        I use Amazon.com to look up books for the Speculative Fiction Showcase and Indie Crime Scene or to gawk at what the puppies are doing. However, the account via which I actually buy books is at Amazon.de, so it’s clean of books I featured at one of my sites and puppy poo. Alas, occasionally someone uses a universal book link, which will automatically redirect you to your local Amazon store. I find this incredibly annoying, because it clogs up my account. Besides, it’s pretty easy to switch to your local Amazon store, when you find something you actually want to buy.

        Also never look up that weird book title on the bestseller list without logging out of your Amazon account first. I came across a book called “Darm mit Charme” (Charming Colon, which is even sillier in German because it rhymes) on the German non-fiction bestseller list and wanted to see what was behind that silly title. So I looked it up (it’s a healthy eating and colon cleansing guide BTW) at Amazon.de, forgot to log out of my account first and got inundated with ads for diet and self-help books.

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      • PhilRM

        Cora: Back in its early days, Amazon had actual people who provided book recommendations, and they were often really interesting as well as not predictable (i.e., not just ‘Here’s every other book by whoever wrote your most recent purchase’). Not all of them stuck, but some of them introduced me to writers whose work I’ve been a fan of ever since. Then Bezos fired all those people and replaced them with algorithms, and the quality of recommendations plummeted. But at least they made a fair amount of sense, e.g., other work by people whose books you’d bought, or other books that had been purchased by people who’d bought the same book you had. But these days they seem practically random.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lurkertype

        @Cora: I don’t get the advertising emails from Amazon b/c they’re completely useless. Pretty sure you’re the only person I know who does. But I guess Baen is spending moola there. It must be cheap b/c I don’t imagine there’s a lot of response to those on any topic. The only emails I want from Amazon are “Your stuff is on the way.”

        I don’t get the “my book is cheaper!” thing either. When I want Mexican cane-sugar Coke, the fact that Store Brand X Cola is much cheaper doesn’t make it equivalent. Same with generic fast-food vs. home-made by a good cook. Sure, they’re both burgers, but which one am I going to look forward to and remember later?

        Liked by 1 person

      • JJ

        Lurkertype I don’t get the “my book is cheaper!” thing either.

        Neither do I. But there is clearly a contingent of readers who are mainly interested in ebooks which are free or 99c (remember Tuomas Vanio? He complained that he could get 10 self-published ebooks for $10, but only 1 trad-pub ebook for that price, so why would he bother with the expensive book? — and that the Hugos weren’t giving any recognition to the thousands of SFF books which are self-published each year. And my response to that was, well, if you don’t mind spending a lot of time and money on books of which very few will be of good quality, that’s your thing, and that’s fine. But it’s certainly not mine.

        Liked by 2 people

    • PhilRM

      For people as utterly lacking in self-awareness and as delusional as the Puppies, it has to be *something*: it just can’t be that the reason people aren’t buying their books and nominating them for awards is because their books aren’t very good. And they all think that publishing is a zero-sum game**, so that if they could just *somehow* trash the careers of Leckie, Scalzi, Jemisin, etc., then SF fans would have to flock to their books instead.

      **You know, the way J.K. Rowling destroyed the market for YA fiction for everyone else.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Kat Goodwin

        Yes, but some of them have been in the business for awhile and worked for publishers and they know it isn’t a zero sum game for fiction. So why push the myth that it is? If they are selling author services to self-pubs, it might make some sense as a marketing strategy for that, but other than Beale, I don’t think most of the Puppies are doing that. Essentially, they’ve become the Flat Earthers of the market.

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      • Lurkertype

        @Kat: Facts not in evidence, m’lud.

        Even if they did work for publishers, did they ever learn/understand it isn’t a zero-sum game? Their world view doesn’t suggest that — it’s all (har) dog eat dog. I truly don’t think they ever grokked it, and now they’re afraid of falling over the edge, if I may torture your metaphor.

        We know a rising tide lifts all boats; they think the tide can’t be explained (hey! a reference!)

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      • Ingvar

        Amusingly, a fair few of the Sads were on my “I will buy and read these authors” list (they’re not, now, because sometimes I have a problem separating the art and the artist, and, well…0. It’s just that other authors produced books that were… more to my liking.

        I suppose self-limiting yourself to a small group of (hopefully) devoted followers/buyers is a strategy, but I and not usre if the balance in the end is for, or against, such an action.

        Liked by 3 people

    • Lurkertype

      I read the rules on Amazon (website) “Sponsored” ads, and they’re pay per click, as Cora said. You tell them how much money you’re willing to pay every time someone clicks on your ad. The more you say you’ll pay, the more likely it is your ad will pop up. So I guess there’s no money needed up front, just if anyone bothers to click, and of course it’s a lottery between you and the others.

      Note that this is only a click-through payment, not on a sale; if someone clicks the ad but doesn’t buy, it costs the author anyway. How you as a customer use this info is up to you. I’m disavowing all of youse.

      The rules about advertising booze and gambling are arcane and differ between countries.

      @JJ: I’d forgotten Tuomas till now, darn you. IIRC he had terrible taste so the $10 for 10 thing worked for him, just like eating gray mystery meat in a no-name joint works for people with no palate.

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