The Trouble With Lying

Please note: I have thought long and hard before publishing this article. The old saying that you draw more flies with honey than with vinegar comes readily to mind. And also the one about how people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But because I am in a glass house I am in a particularly apt position to observe and write on this subject. This article, if coming from a successful writer, would sound as self-serving and insincere as some of the recent e-book sensations who say that everyone else can do it too. I am not yet a successful writer; in fact I occupy the same exact position as many of the people whose enthusiasm my words pour cold water upon. So if I am harsh to the self-published writer, it is only as harsh as I am to myself. And I make no apologies.

Last night I was reading about publishing, self-publishing, and indie publishing as part of a continual effort to crack the code of how to get my books in front of more reader eyes.

Inevitably, I came across a blog written by one of the breakout e-book success heroes, talking about how easy it is to make tons of money from self-publishing, how anyone can do it, and how everyone should. Or at least that is what was implied. It’s the same story everywhere, whether the writer or commentator involved has actually been successful or not. They almost always say that they have been successful, and that you can be too. Oh yeah, they’ve made a ton of money. All of them have! They work and work, churning the foam on the ocean of foolhardery that is the self-publishing gold rush.

The ones at the very top, like the blogger I was reading, who was one of Amazon Kindle’s early independent success stories and has been highly promoted by Amazon and the traditional publishing industry ever since, are positioned to benefit from the churn. Much like a pyramid scheme, everyone else involved want to benefit in the same way but have no genuine prospect of doing so.

We live in hope? Continue reading

What I’m Doing When I Write

I recently attended the James Tiptree Jr. Symposium at the University of Oregon, which was an energetic and inspiring event. During one panel, Ursula K. Le Guin said that, “New artists often have to teach us how to read them.” My wife, Erica, immediately nudged me and said, “That’s you.”

I’ve been meaning to write about my writing for a long time. It seems like my work is unique, and often misunderstood. This is a common problem for artists whose work does not attempt to imitate other work that has previously been successful. When readers try to interpret such artists’ work through the lens of what they are already familiar with, instead of accepting it on its own terms, it is easy for them to feel that what is different is different because it is bad. Continue reading

What Became of America in My Lifetime

I was born in 1980, which was 35 years ago. The dominant geo-political drama in the world 35 years ago was the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. In and around the year 1990, quite unexpectedly, the Soviet Union collapsed, and nearly every nation that had been a part of it converted rapidly from communism to some form of democracy. That was a historical shock! Nobody in 1985 was saying that the Soviet Union would be gone soon. It was exciting when the Soviet Union fell, it made you feel good as a human being to see it dissolve, to see democratic demonstrations succeed, to see the Berlin Wall smashed to bits by giddy, euphoric Berliners. It made you feel like there was hope for the world, for humanity — that good was destined to triumph over evil. It was, for us in the United States, a triumphant and beautiful time. We had been right, our values had prevailed, freedom rang louder and brighter across the globe, democracy marched forward inevitably. Our shining city on a hill would lead the way forward for them. Albeit, we weren’t perfect. Albeit, we had problems of our own. But our faults were relatively small, even our former enemies admitted that; we had no skeletons in our closet to compare to the likes of Stalin. Continue reading