Sep 15, 2015

The Pressures of Fandom

Following my last blog post, about where I'm at in my career, and the delays to Blackened Wings, I'm pleased to say I'm actually feeling a lot better. I've got Octocon next month, a school visit lined up for November, and I'm working on plans for a new novel.

I've also been thinking a lot about pressure. Not the kind of pressure we put on ourselves, but rather the pressure that comes from others, particularly in SFF fandom. You see, SFF fans are nothing if not passionate. That passion can be a wonderful thing, when channeled positively. However, it can also lead to things like Gamergate and the Sad/Rabid Puppies.

But you also get something that falls in between. Circumstances where there's no ulterior motive at work, just a bunch of fans who think they're right and, en masse, insist that something has to be done a certain way.

What do I mean? Well, there are two main issues. The demands fans put on other fans, and the demands fans put on writers.

I got to thinking about this a few months ago, after reading this article on the pressure to read sci-fi novels by particular (usually male) authors. And it's all true. I've lost count of the times I've had someone tell me I "have to" read such and such an author's work. It's all well-meant, not judgemental or anything, but wow, it really is a stark look at how certain authors become etched in the community mindset as THE authors. Martin, Rothfuss, Heinlein, etc. Their fans can't understand why someone hasn't read their work, or may not even want to. I don't believe you need to have read a particular author to know whether you might not enjoy their books. I have particular issues with sexual violence and the reduction of women to mere spoils, so I know I should probably avoid A Song of Fire and Ice, for example.

Then there's the pressure fans put on authors. Not just on the authors they love (Neil Gaiman's famous "George RR Martin is not your bitch" remark springs to mind), but on the settings and properties they love, too.

Chuck Wendig's Star Wars novel, Aftermath, hit the shelves earlier this month, and the reaction has been quite mixed. Despite it entering the New York Times bestseller list at #4, it's garnered an astonishing number of 1 and 2 star reviews. The primary criticisms are being levied at Chuck's writing style, which is Third-Person Present Tense, the lack of the big heroes from the Star Wars series, and the inclusion of a gay main character.

What this amounts to, in my opinion, is people saying "This is not what I think Star Wars should be like." And insisting that their opinion must be the only correct one. I've seen people accuse Chuck's writing of being unreadable. Or that he's pushing an SJW agenda. Or people who "have no problem with gay people" but who don't want to see "real issues" like homosexuality in their fiction.

Excuse me while I clear up all this bovine excrement which seems to have collected after that last one.

Ahem, anyway, getting back to the topic. I understand that people are passionate about their stories. I am, too. And sometimes a story goes a way I don't like. And as much as it sucks, I have to deal with it. Supernatural still manages to screw up female representation. Arrow's third season was extremely weak compared to seasons 1 and 2. These are my opinions. Granted, I can back these opinions up with examples and argument, but they're still just my opinions. I can share my opinions, and I can decide to give up on these stories if I choose.

And that's okay.

What's not okay is coming down on someone because they choose to watch/not watch, or read/not read, something we dislike/enjoy. We're all different and all enjoy different things. That's one of the things that makes SFF so great. There's usually something for everyone. And if there isn't, there's literally nothing stopping it from being created, because anything at all is possible in this amazing collection of genres and sub-genres.

SFF can, and should be, the most diverse, freeing, and empowering collection of stories in the world. And that's a good thing.

Sep 3, 2015

Fresh Start

I've been debating whether or not to post this for a long time. I was worried about seeming like I'm moaning, or that it would be unprofessional of me. But when I get down to it, I've been dealing with some rough stuff for a while now and I want to make a clean break, start things fresh. So I need to get this off my chest. This isn't a plea for help, and I don't hold anyone to blame, it just is what it is.

The fact of the matter is my career isn't where I'd hoped it would be, three years on from my first book release.

When Locked Within came out, I was on top of the world. I watched sales drip in, figuring that they'd pick up as the rest of the series came out. They didn't.

I tried my hand at self-publishing with Lady Raven, attracted to the chance to have full control over things like release schedule and cover design. It was exciting and new. I thought branching into a new genre would open me up to more readers and help get my career break out. It didn't.

I released Red Skies, the second in the series, hoping that would prove I wasn't going to leave the series idle, and at least get me some more sales and attention. But it didn't.

Sales of Red Skies are the lowest for any book I've ever written. Practically non-existent.

I've messed up somewhere along the way. And now I have to figure out how to get back on track.

The upshot of this is I've sunk money into a series that hasn't paid out even close to enough for me to break even. And I can't justify that kind of spending anymore. So I don't know when I'm going to be in a position to begin work on the next book in the Lady Raven series. I had planned on having the third book out in time for Christmas, but that won't happen. I can't even commit to saying it'll be out next year, because I just don't know when I'll be able to afford it.

I've considered Kickstarter, of course, but I worked out that if the number of people I'd need to back a project were to simply buy Lady Raven and Red Skies, I wouldn't need a Kickstarter to fund the next book.

I may look into crowdfunding for a separate self-publishing project at some point, but I don't see the benefit in trying to convince a thousand people to fund the third book in a series none of them will have read.

I need a new plan, whether it takes me to querying agents and publishers or I keep self-publishing. I've got some book ideas, and I'm going to start work on one of them soon.

I've considered this from multiple angles, trying to work out the best course to take with my next book, but most solutions seem to involve galvanizing an existing readership, which in my case is quite small. I am very open to any advice or resources on this, as I'm still trying to figure out where I need to go from here to get my career to where I want it.

I want to go forward from this with my head clear and without any baggage. I've felt like a failure and I've felt like a fake, and neither of those is healthy. Neither of those will get my career going.

It's time to get back to work and move on.