FEED MY EGO!

I’m sorry to post a link to the Federalist of all things and to an article by Timothy’s erstwhile client and infamous litigant Jon Del Arroz but this is just way to funny not have here: http://thefederalist.com/2019/03/04/indie-sci-fi-authors-upending-traditional-publishing-turned-war/

“The establishment became angry. Several of the elite commentator class posted blogs, such as one by Hugo Award-nominated Camestros Felapton—a left wing troll known for antagonizing right-wing authors—who criticized 20Books for alleged rigging of the awards. His evidence was a post by one of the members in the Facebook group listing dozens of works by the group that were eligible for the current year. He calls it a “slate”—a term the establishment used to rile up their ranks against the Sad Puppies with the Hugo Awards controversy, where right-leaning authors tried to break the lockstep nominations of extreme political works.

The Sad Puppies produced slates of recommended nominations to make it more likely for readers to coalesce around certain books, which would then have better odds of succeeding. Martelle takes exception to the claim applying here, however, saying, “There was no slate or violation of the rules.”

The targeted blogs and social media posts are a coordinated effort by traditional publishing’s elites to diminish 20BooksTo50K’s credibility among establishment publishing and brand them as a political organization to fight. In 2019, being apolitical has become akin to declaring your politics to the extreme left. Much of the left has taken an “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude to try to harm people who don’t want to take sides in the culture war. It’s a dangerous view to take, as writers have been blacklisted and banned, and now even worse.”

Archived version https://web.archive.org/web/20190304152905/http://thefederalist.com/2019/03/04/indie-sci-fi-authors-upending-traditional-publishing-turned-war/

As you can imagine, this is causing some tension in the house as Timothy has always wanted a column in the Federalist and now I’m there before him.


75 thoughts on “FEED MY EGO!

  1. “…and now even worse.”

    Oh my God, Camestros. What vile things have you *done* to these harmless little writers?

    MAGAPHOBIA! MAGAPHOBIA!

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  2. What clunky writing:
    “Only their readers tend to notice them, and with applause as they enjoy new releases at rapid rates because of how hard these authors work to crank out their work.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea you were of the elite commentator class. I’m honored to comment here, sir.
    Depressingly, this is actually one of the more logical posts I’ve seen at the Federalist.

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  4. Wow, look at you, one of “traditional publishing’s elites”! Or perhaps just a pawn in their “coordinated effort … to diminish 20BooksTo50K’s credibility.” 😉

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    1. It was highly coordinated. Basically every week I go to the huge secret publishing base were the head honchos of Macmillan, Random Penguin and Harper-Collins give me my directions as to who to target. Obviously its a bit awkward as its actually Rupert Murdoch secret volcano base and he’s in the next conference room telling Fox News who to target but everybody gets to trade jokes over coffee and muffins in the break-out areas.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Oh crap, and I thought that the secret meetings actually took place in the demonic shrine that’s buried underneath the Flatiron Building. No wonder I’ve been missing the meetings.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. 1) Do they serve the Sunday beer at the secret volcano base? If so please post the co-ordinates.

        2) Are you concerned that you are paying office rent to Murdoch? It can’t be cheap given the location/OHS&W issues associated with lava and sulphurous gas.

        3) Secret Volcano Base is an amazing name for a heavy metal band

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      3. (Marty Feldman as Ygor pokes his head out of the huge doors once more.)

        “Blucifer!”

        (Horses somewhere whinny in fear. He smiles and goes back in.)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Actually, I think that the citizens of Denver came up with that one and I’m sure they won’t mind you using it. I’d never even heard of Blucifer, the blue monster horse, until a few days ago.

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      5. @Cora

        I think it was mentioned in Dan Simmons’ Flashback, and I don’t blame you if you haven’t read it.

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      6. I swear Dan Simmons mentioned the horse in Flashback. I don’t blame anyone who hasn’t read that. It’s not very good at all.

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  5. Okay, this post goes toe to toe with Brad’s for tenuous connection to reality.

    Finally – and this is not JDA’s error, since he’s only repeated it – about Michael Anderle’s claim that he founded the 20Booksto50K Facebook group after he was run out of several indie writer forums because of his business-minded approach, I am a member of one of the forums Anderle was supposedly run out of and that’s not how it happened. Instead, Michael Anderle showed up to post a shorter version of his manifesto. Some people asked critical questions and he flounced, never to be seen again.

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  6. And lets remember that you have to reach level 50 in your base class before you can choose an elite class. This is impressive.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Honestly, I would have thought that Timothy would be jealous of the public announcement of your membership in the coveted class of ‘elite commentators’. You do get special seating and quadruple miles with that, right? And high-end booze on the long flights?

    Is your membership now under threat due to this unfortunate leak? After all, the first rule of elite commentator class is that you DON’T DISCUSS the elite commentator class. Damn that JDA! He’s fighting dirty now.

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  8. Wow, there’s a lot to unpack in that article once you cut through the dishonesty and historical revisionism, and most of it demonstrated that JDA is a delusional and disorganized thinker.

    I think one thing that is important for understanding the Pups is that they think of literally everything in terms of marketing, and by extension, propaganda. JDA’s article can best be understood as an attempt at getting a “pro-Pup” spin on recent events. He (like most Pups, and most 20booksto50K members) regards literally everything as an attempt at marketing, and thus he sees the Pups’ inability to garner awards for themselves as the result of a nefarious marketing campaign by the “establishment”. Both JDA and BT seem to think that the negative articles about the Pup campaigns were the result of the “establishment” flexing its muscle to plant stories about the Pups, and if they could just get in front of the curve on that front with “pro-Pup” stories, then everyone will accept their fabricated version of events. The notion that news organizations could look at the Pups, read what they had written about their motivations and methods and come to the conclusions they did is alien to the Pup way of thinking.

    (On a side note, I think that is why he goes out of his way to call Cam a “left wing troll”. JDA seems to think that his well-deserved reputation as a harassing troll is the result of an organized campaign to call him a troll, rather than a reaction to his actual actions online. He probably figures – erroneously – that if he just calls Cam a troll that this will cause people to regard him as one).

    Since JDA isn’t actually concerned about recounting the truth, but rather interested in creating a propaganda piece, he stumbles and creates an nonsensical piece with assertions like this:

    . . . what most readers want out of science fiction is escapism and fun. The big authors of the past understood this, and that’s why we still hail so many of the greats like Frank Herbert, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert Heinlein.

    And the only thing one can ask is has JDA ever actually read anything by those authors? Does he really think that Herbert and Heinlein are remembered because they were producing “escapism and fun”? I mean, the Pup battle cry has frequently been “politics free science fiction”, and JDA tries to hit that hard in this article, but he picked authors as examples whose writing was filled to the brim with politics – even Burroughs’ writing is chock full of it.

    He also has gems like this:

    He [Cam] calls it a “slate”—a term the establishment used to rile up their ranks against the Sad Puppies with the Hugo Awards controversy

    Followed almost immediately by this:

    The Sad Puppies produced slates of recommended nominations to make it more likely for readers to coalesce around certain books, which would then have better odds of succeeding.

    So, was it a slate or was it just called a slate to rile up the “establishment” ranks? JDA’s muddled thinking seems to have led him to make these inherently contradictory claims within the space of two paragraphs. But that’s okay, because JDA isn’t trying to report anything accurately, he’s trying to create a propaganda piece.

    The rest of JDA’s article is similarly confused and nonsensical, and I think I’ve made that point, but I want to say one last thing: He claims that Martelle and Anderle became millionaires by “by catering to readers and checking identity politics at the door”. But that seems flawed. First, given what is known about their business model, it seems much more likely that they became millionaires by selling seminars to aspiring writers, and second, the notion that they “checked identity politics at the door” seems unlikely, especially given the handful of stories from their stable of authors that have worked their way into the wider world.

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    1. Also, JDA gets called a troll because of announcing that he was literally going to troll people. ‘Troll’ as a label is usually a matter of opinion but JDA managed to get that status recorded in court documents.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I guess I’ll chime in as a person who is actually a member of the 20books facebook group. The first thing I would say is that pretty much anyone can join the group after answering a few questions, so if you’re curious what the group is about, go take a look.

      As I commented on a previous post, I’ve been a member of the group since 2016 or so, and I wouldn’t say the average member is obsessed with marketing so much as trying to figure out how to simply publish and then sell books. Marketing is obviously part of that but most members aren’t up to nefarious purposes in terms of marketing. Many would like to be full-time writers, and writing is a pretty low-barrier of entry income opportunity for them.

      Agreeing with what JJ commented previously, I think there are different levels of member being lumped together in this whole mess. Personally, an article on the Federalist mentioning the group feels pretty gross to me, and it sucks that a group of 30k people is getting used like this. My experience with the group has been that most people are simply sharing what they’ve learned from trying to navigate new markets like Amazon, Kobo, etc, and all the new advertising platforms and author services that have popped up to sometimes help or potentially exploit new writers.

      As to selling seminars, Martelle has posted his budgets for the conferences in the group. You can search for them. He states he doesn’t make any money, and has issued refunds in the past when they collected more money than was needed.

      I think LMBPN makes their millions by rapidly publishing a lot of books using co-writers and ghost writers. The evidence of that is easy to see on Amazon, and is what Anderle means when he uses James Patterson as an example.

      Anyway, props to Camestros for actually commenting on the Federalist article. I hope you washed your hands afterward.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good points. It’s technically a closed group but that’s more of a formality. It’s not a secretive group, or a tight knit group.

        Indeed one of the things that points strongly to the list being an unintended misstep, is that IF LMBPN had wanted to skew the votes they could have done so more quietly, more effectively and with less evidence without the list.

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      2. As to selling seminars, Martelle has posted his budgets for the conferences in the group. You can search for them.

        I have seen this posted a couple of times, and I have looked for them. They appear to have eluded my searches. I’m not saying they aren’t there, but I haven’t been able to locate them.

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      3. From your description it sounds as if the majority of the posts in the main 20Booksto50K group are newbie questions, why does my book not sell posts and what worked for me posts, i.e. similar to what can be found at KBoards and other indie writing fora. The difference is that 20Booksto50K was set up by a sort of guru (not that KBoards didn’t have its share of gurus and wannabe gurus, though none of them dominated) with a specific philiosophy. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an invitation only subgroup for the core members and Anderle’s co-writers.

        As for how LMBPN makes their money, I actually believe that a large chunk of it does come from books, since their books are all over the Kindle science fiction charts, though the also advertise heavily. Conferences, classes, etc… are another income stream, though it’s difficult to judge how big it is. They may well have other income streams as well. For example, Chris Fox (no relation to Richard) said on his YouTube channel that he earns a lot of money from consulting fees and since Anderle and Martelle have set themselves up as gurus, it may be the same for them.

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      4. If the conference fee was the same last year as it is this year, then he’s done his fees collected math wrong. He should have listed about $17,000 more in fees collected than he did.

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  9. So the indie writer with a blog who got his Hugo nomination for indie published writing is against indie writers and is an elite commentator? Oooh.

    This is pretty funny, since half the discussion we’ve had about 20booksto50K has been about how they aren’t political, just marketing oriented. And another chunk of the discussion has been concerns that they are being used by a publisher, albeit a publisher run by formerly indie authors.

    There’s only one author, I think, that this blog commentariat has interacted with from the 20/50 group who is clearly far right and that’s Fox. There may be more, but they are clearly a pretty diverse group. At 30,000 members, they would have to be. From what Cora’s saying and what Martelle said, I would guess that Anderle and Martelle are conservative-leaning libertarians who don’t like being questioned by anyone. I fail to see what Anderle having fights with other indie writers has to do with indie versus license publishers.

    But anyway, yay Cam! You’re officially in the conservosphere big leagues! Expect more trolls and Russian bots. Please, please, please tell us you will post Timothy’s response to this development.

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    1. Oh I didn’t realize that JDA wrote the piece for the Federalist. That’s a nice continued ladder step up for JDA. And he got them to care about written fiction for a sec. It sounds like he’s trying to do marketing for Anderle’s publisher.

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      1. I think he’s hoping for some of the crumbs that fall from the table of Michael Anderle, Craig Martelle and the better selling members of 20Booksto50K.

        Anderle’s main series/universe, the Kutherian Gambit, has a female protagonist, a foul-mouthed vampire named Bethany Anne, while the various spin-offs are all over the place. A lot of Jonathan Brazee’s military SF has female protagonists, too. Craig Martelle’s work is mostly co-authored these days (ditto for Anderle’s), but back when he still wrote solo, he seemed to write fairly bog-standard military-leaning space opera. The latest sub-series co-written by Anderle and Martelle also has a female protagonist – a female Judge Dredd type.

        Now military SF/ military leaning space opera is far from apolitical, since no genre which is about either two human powers or one human and one alien power clashing in all out war can be apolitical. And you can’t have Judge Dredd type stories without taking a stand on law, order, capital punishment, etc.. (never mind that Judge Dredd started out as satire, though many people, particularly Americans, never got that). But with the 20Booksto50K folks, I’m never quite sure whether they just copy tropes because they believe that’s what the reader wants or whether using these tropes reveals something about their politics.

        But in general, Chris Kennedy’s publishing outfit, which operated similarly to Anderle’s, fits the description of conservative/right-wing leaning small press much better contentwise than Anderle’s. Though Kennedy’s press also claims that they just want to publish apolitical fun books, while the first book listed on their site is a dystopian series set in a Chinese occupied Seattle.

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      2. If you write about one person in an empty room or maybe an empty spaceship, you can possibly have an apolitical story. Everything else has politics in it because the stories have settings with interactions, and those settings are of societies and those societies have some sort of governing order and sets of beliefs about how their society should operate and be governed and who has rights in it and usually more than one sub-community of people in them. The politics of the society or of the characters about the society may not be the author’s specific politics, may even be opposite to their own politics, but they’ll be explored. And there will be numerous reflections of our real life politics and social systems in stories.

        They know that of course. But they keep thinking the apolitical thing will work if they just keep repeating it.

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      3. The Federalist has always cared about written fiction. Don’t you know the popularity of the Twilight novels and Fifty Shades of Gray proves that all women really want is for a big strong masterful man to make all their decisions for them?

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      4. Funnily enough, that’s not what happens in either of those two series, particularly in Twilight, but I can see how they would dream it did. Women have to be restrained and told they don’t need equality, after all, because otherwise their identities crumble apparently.

        I doubt The Federalist has much interest in written fiction except for those made into movies or t.v. series, which then makes them worthy of attention. They may occasionally trot out a classic work, but mostly they’ll just be worried about what’s happening in the important, big money areas: games, movies, t.v. and occasionally music.

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      5. When Martelle and 20/50k say apolitical, they mean the group, not their own writing. I guarantee if you polled the political beliefs and affiliation of all the people who publish with LMBPN, you’d have all spectrums. If anything, there would be far more left leaning than right.

        Of course fiction, especially in SFF (and keep in mind LMBPN publishes more than just SFF. Anderle himself has urban fantasy on his own and there is quite a bit of epic fantasy in there too), but politics don’t belong in a FB group about marketing.

        JDA is trying to position himself as in the know and an ally of a group that frankly the vast majority of people in it would not associate with him or anyone like him.

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      6. Kai Adair: keep in mind LMBPN publishes more than just SFF. Anderle himself has urban fantasy on his own and there is quite a bit of epic fantasy in there too

        Urban fantasy and epic fantasy are part of SFF, which stands for “Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

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  10. and so it begins.
    Somehow, I think this will turn out differently though, 20booksto50K Group seems to be made up of a wide range of people, and I’m not sure all of them would like to be connected with right wing media.
    I think also that it’s useful to remember that for some people, indie publishing is a political statement, since the self publisher is seen as a plucky rebel against the authoritarian left-wing publishing establishment.
    this and the us versus them mentality that occasionally springs up in self published corners of the Internet is why I’ve pulled away from the community.

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    1. The backbone of the self-publishing fiction field are romance writers, a field that’s been doing online e-books since the 1990s, with publishers and without, and who sell the best, but tend to get ignored since a lot of them are women and a good chunk of them are doing LGBTQ stories. (Remember, the Puppies thought promoting Chuck Tingle would be shocking, as an outrage joke, and that backfired on them.) And a lot of them are hybrids or become hybrids.

      So the plucky rebel mentality was inevitable at the beginning of the expansion Amazon kicked off because companies like Amazon and Smashwords used it as a marketing tool towards self-publishers to get their money, but it has eased off over time and will continue to ease off. And you are going to have a lot more self-publishers team up on resources and some of them build, as Anderle and Martelle did, new publishing houses that do license contract publishing, not self-publishing. That’s how we got the genre imprints in the first place back in the day — authors, editors and author-editors got together and launched small presses and fanzines that turned into small presses, teamed up with larger presses usually for distribution, etc. It’s a natural process in publishing that self-publishers didn’t understand because they were too busy trying to reinvent the wheel and panning for gold (fast bucks) in a gold rush.

      The big problem in self-publishing remains that too many eggs are in the Amazon basket still as almost the sole e-book vendor, a decade out, and so the bulk of the electronic self-publishing market has to spend most of its time trying to figure out how to deal with whatever weird business practices Amazon decides to come up with next. Which is why a lot of self-published fiction authors are branching out into POD and trying to deal with the print market, where there are more vendors though it’s a harder market to operate in due to stocking issues and the returns system. And it’s why a lot of self-published fiction authors turned to short fiction/magazines/anthologies — it lets them spread their name wider and by hooking up with other authors, that’s more of a draw for readers. (That’s also why conventions work, because again the fiction market is symbiotic.)

      But despite the bottleneck on distribution/book-selling that self-publishing currently faces as global issues catch up, the English language market (and other language markets too,) is way too large to be contained by a particular political ideology, especially a specifically American political ideology. Nor will it be contained by one gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Right wingers may think they’ve got the business/marketing locked down, but they’re really just one (noisy) drop in a sea of millions of writers. Nor are they in danger for the exact same reason. And the reality is that many self-publishing writers have very different goals, with a lot of online creation that is experimental, not meant to sell like mass market paperbacks, such as the stuff that Cam does.

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      1. I actually suspect that the non-rightwingers and non-Americans probably make up the majority of self-published writers and that there are a whole lot of marginalized folks who self-publish. But the rightwingers and the “write to market” crowd are noisy and they tend to drive the quieter voices away.

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      2. Not a suspicion — marginalized folks were self-pubbing and self-pubbing online long before Amazon launched the Kindle and they are some of the most vibrant communities of self-pub today.

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    2. I sympathise. This whole “us vs. them” mentality in the self-publishing world is annoying. Never mind that the stigma against self-publishing is long gone, so the “us vs. them” indies only kick at strawmen.

      The rightward and sometimes far right slant of many, though far from all, indie writers also annoys me. I was uncomfortable with the politics of a lot of indies from the start, but initially I assumed that politics would rarely come up, when talking about books, writing and publishing. Unfortunately, it does come up a lot – view the great hue and cry when the EU or another country actually expected VAT to be paid on products sold online or the whole “leftwing traditional establishment vs. plucky rightwing freedom-loving indies” narrative. This came up a lot at The Passive Voice and because Passive Guy always seemed to lean rightwards politically, so I eventually stopped going there. The final straw happened during the puppy wars, when PG linked to a massively biassed pro-puppy version and I posted, “Uhm, that’s not the whole story. You might want to link to a more neutral source, too” and was shouted down.

      Or take e.g. the author of prepper fiction who got into an argument with a reviewer about which scope goes with a certain type of rifle and wanted to sue the reviewer for defamation (yes, reallly). A lot of folks weighed in and told the author, “Uhm, you might want to rethink that”, while absolutely no one seemed to have a problem with the fact that the book in question was basically a how-to manual for killing your neighbours and stealing their stuff in the event of an apocalypse.

      Of course, a lot of indies, probably the majority, are far from rightwing. After all, self-publishing is often the only option for marginalized folks to get their stories out there. But these marginalized authors or indeed anybody who writes something a little offbeat, i.e. the very kind of stories indie publishing was made for, are often quickly driven out of self-publishing fora, websites, etc… by the sneering “If you don’t sell X, you don’t matter and you don’t get to have a voice” attitude displayed by the “write to market” crowd. I suspect the two self-publishing fora I still belong to woud be happy to see the back of me, but I’m too stubborn and stick around.

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  11. I’m surprised that no-one’s yet pointed out JDA’s latest attempt at attention-grabbing: a blog post entitled “Women Lie About Rape.” I’m not gonna post a link. His need for constant attention is worse than my kid’s when he was 2.

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    1. I admit that I watch JDA’s antics with a sort of fascination tied to speculation about the widening gaps between audience bubbles. Can he keep this up forever? Is he really building a viable audience?

      I mean, he’s no Nick Cole, who I have to acknowledge can write (At least, I read Old Man and the Wasteland and enjoyed it before I knew who he was.).

      If Jon is going to stake the marketing of his work on trolling and right wing vitriol, where will that leave him in ten years? I honestly wonder if pandering to a specific political demographic is a viable marketing strategy? Richard Fox’s apparent blindness to the imagery in his own work makes me wonder if these people are aware of what they do?

      If JDA was using a pen name, I would actually give him more credit as a marketing mastermind, exploiting a current niche in the Amazon hinterlands….

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      1. I’ve read one Nick Cole (Ctrl Alt Revolt) and one JDA (Starrealms: Rescue Run) and I think the JDA was much better. Mind you JDA had a good editor for his and Coke didn’t have an editor at all.

        I think JDA has a big issue in that he’s not a natural in MilSF and his work would suit a broader audience. Pandering to the alt-right is not a winning marketing move.

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      2. “I’ve read one Nick Cole (Ctrl Alt Revolt) and one JDA (Starrealms: Rescue Run) and I think the JDA was much better. Mind you JDA had a good editor for his and Coke didn’t have an editor at all.”

        I’ve read 10 chapters of JDA’s sf book — whose title I can’t remember right now — and that was incredibly bad. Leaden prose, laughable characterization, embarrassing scientific errors (for just one example, he actually had an experienced space traveller worrying about his skull being CRUSHED by vacuum if his helmet cracked). I’m on my phone right now, but you can find my review of it under my user name at Goodreads.

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  12. @Laura: “JDA did talk about creating a secret female pen name because of his belief that certain markets greatly favored women.” If we start seeing works by a female writer who refers to herself as the “Ms.Leading Hispanic Science Fiction Author,” I might get suspicious, though.

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