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sfwa-indies-bphSFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has just changed their membership rules. There will be some speedbumps, as this is a major structural change.

Effective March 1, both indie and small press authors will be eligible for SFWA’s Active and Associate memberships.

For Active (full) membership:

  • One novel-length work for which the author’s earned at least $3,000; or
  • At least 10,000 words of shorter work for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

For Associate membership:

  • At least 1,000 words of shorter fiction for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

And then there are those of us bound to break the system because we’re already associates, but before the 6 cents a word went into effect.

Not Just for Gearheads

SF/F is a bigger tent than you might think. If you write a number of romance genres (e.g., paranormal romance), you’re also arguably writing SF/F.

I look forward to our Amish science fiction writer members.

More details here.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.

Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.


Last week, I had an “aha!” moment, finally understanding what Mike Resnick was going on about. I wrote about the cover controversy earlier this year, complete with sample covers from the genre he was complaining about.

Here’s what Resnick said (click for pic of text, quoted below)

And a lot of it abounded in bare, raw, pulsating flesh, totally naked from the neck to the navel. No question about it. It’s there for anyone to see—and of course, since such displays seem to offend some of our members, to picket.
You know where I found it?
In the romance section. I’d say that just about every other cover shows a man’s bare torso, lean and muscular, usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. Clearly these are erotic covers, designed to get a certain readership’s pulse pounding.

I’ve admitted that I haven’t spent a lot of time paying attention to Ellora’s Cave (link is to my posts on same), an erotic romance publisher, until recently.

When I was writing this post about their annual convention, something clicked.

Let’s look at their little video for BEA 2013:

Quite a different feel from the gardening book publishers, no?

Anyhow, it struck me:

Mike Resnick was trying to use a false equivalency between a professional industry publication and an erotic romance publisher’s book covers.

What’s particularly egregious about that, of course, is that Mike’s daughter, Laura Resnick, is a romance writer. You’d think he’d have seen her own book covers and know his statements were FoS.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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For the last three months, there’s been a loophole on SFWA’s site about who qualifies for membership. Specifically, it’s Rule 3:

One paid sale of a work of fiction of under 40,000 words for which the candidate’s income equals or exceeds $2,000.00, such income to include a simple payment or an advance and/or subsequent royalties after the advance has earned out. Detailed documentation of payment will be required.

Rule 3 does not specify that said work must be sold to a “qualifying professional market”, but Rule 1 and 2, which list other ways to qualify, do.

When I questioned that, I was told that it didn’t overrule the bylaws, which still prohibited qualifying based on non-qualifying markets.

By that time, however, I’d had a lot of time to think.

This morning, SFWA sent a seven-question survey about whether or not indie and small press publishing credits should count for SFWA membership. Consider this a broader answer to those question.

Case 1: Lori Witt

In March, Lori wrote this post about writing income, which I’ve previously written about.

…whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011.

That description narrows the book in question down to two possible novellas, but I believe it’s this one. [Edited to add: I was wrong; see note at bottom.]

Riptide’s a small press, specializing in LGBT books, with around 50 authors. As is Samhain, which is a much larger digital first romance publisher that publishes both straight and gay romance.

Case 2: Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker lives off-grid and writes Amish science fiction. He makes a significant part of his income doing so.

The Point

As I’m writing this, I’m eligible for Associate (junior) membership in SFWA based on my sale of a short to Baen in 2003 (published in 2004).

Lori and Michael are eligible for absolutely no SFWA status based on their writing.

Back when SFWA was formed, essentially you sold to qualifying markets or you weren’t making significant money writing science fiction. The world has shifted in recent years, and that’s no longer true.

Any writers’ organization that privileges my one-time sale to a Baen anthology in 2003 where I’ve earned less than $400 over the last 11 years over far more significant current income from working writers—that’s an unjust system.

My opinion.

It’s frankly been idiotic for me to continue to pay for SFWA membership; I’ve essentially paid out all I took in from that one sale (so far) several times over.

Therefore, I’ll start paying for SFWA membership again when the whole qualifying market thing changes.

Note

Well, I guessed wrong on which novella. It was this one, which isn’t sf/f.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Text here.

Excerpt:

I want to apologize to Mary for doing that. Mary, if you are reading this, I really am very sorry for my inconsiderate and insensitive response to the question, and my later posts. Our estrangement (admittedly by my own choice) has been painful to me, and I should not have done this to you, nor should I do such a thing to anyone. I don’t expect us to become friends again, but I hope for the sake of our earlier friendship, and what you did know of me, that you will believe the sincerity of my apology. In any event, I fully intend to leave you in peace, Mary, and I wish you continued success.

Update: Mary accepts. (My bad on the initial wording of this; I was chatting online at the time about the wording of Sean’s apology and made an unfortunate gaffe. I have not actually seen Mary’s post, but others have linked to it and hope it comes back online soon.)

Note: as of this update, the site with the linked-to posts is down. Screencaps on Pretty Terrible post here.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Here are my core values:

  1. I believe that true communication can be healing for all parties. Catch is, true communication can be difficult at the best of times. In some cases, I will grant, it is impossible.
  2. I believe that name calling, whether it be twelve rabid weasels or unperson, or anything else, cannot be true communication and therefore is not healing. I don’t care who does it, and I’ve seen it from both sides, and can we please all just be better people?
  3. I really, really don’t like being told who I can or can’t talk to. (Yes, there are professional limitations with confidentiality or conflict of interest, duh, but I mean apart from that.) That this has happened in the past and people have ragequit being my friend because I wasn’t #$(*#$& enough just reinforces this.
  4. Anyone looking to find fault with another never needs to look far. We are human. Because of that, I try to focus not on the fault but on the positive.

I also want to say that there’s a very real “tone argument” problem with the way one of the sff.net posts was treated (linked above). Yes, the content is problematic, but there is an underlying point.

Let me translate it without the tone problem:

  1. A member spent significant time working on a document of use to the membership.
  2. Another member asked that it be given to her to post on the new SFWA site.
  3. He (member in #1) said he wouldn’t post it as long as he didn’t have access. (There’s an additional clause too.)
  4. She said he’d had a chance to influence the site, but hadn’t logged in.
  5. He had repeatedly requested an account, but never received a response. Others had the same problem. (Note: I was one of them, which I’ll talk about in a minute.)
  6. As a side effect of being blocked from joining the new site, he quit SFWA.

Now, given the current blow-up, you might think that’s a good thing. I don’t know about that, I’ve known him for quite a few years and have always thought, as Scalzi says, that he is generally a decent and good person. People hit their breaking points in strange ways. He apparently hit his.

Partial aside: I think Susan’s post about communities is important, and I agree. And yeah, I can relate to the hurt/comfort narrative she alludes to (and, full disclosure, also guilty of posting comfort in the thread she mentions). It’s one of the reasons I don’t read LJ or FB much.

There’s a very real difference in how “usenet” people and “web forum” people interact and how they like to receive their information. The usenet approach has always been less controlled and more decentralized. Posts can be canceled, but not edited. There are managers, but they’re very hands off. The forum approach is far more about active management, including editing of posts. Or deleting them wholesale.

Like this one, riffing off this post on my site and its followup:

This was exactly my point. Stop creating more legal and moral debt. Even a non-exclusive right diverts the authors’ sales into what are essentially Vera’s pockets at present.

Oh, and, in a related note: stop trying to show that they are loyal to you, and instead show that you are loyal to them (and their bottom lines) — by reverting all rights. That’s the only statement that’s unambiguous and clear.

Now, I could have rephrased and posted something milder after the above two paragraphs were censored, but I’m going to point something out right now: that someone is still a member of SFWA. So, if you read that thread on sfwa.org forums (sans my bit o’ content), you might not realize that you’d actually get more real information if you’d just saved your SFWA membership $ and read the Absolute Write thread instead.

So back to the thing I said I’d talk about. Many of us who were active on sff.net found that we couldn’t get sfwa.org logins that stuck. It’d work for a day or two, then not work. Then we’d ask for a reset, none would come, then we’d whine again. Everyone complained in the sff.net SFWA Lounge.

Honestly, it never occurred to me that we were being deliberately kept out, but that seems to be the narrative now. Also, I volunteered more than once, do web development for a living and not once was I even contacted to help.

I very nearly quit SFWA over it.

So I can understand why Member the First would have been upset. I understand why he quit. And I can understand why he might still be angry about it, even having experienced only what I have. The rest? I don’t understand that.

There were and are very real problems, and there’s a lot of pent-up anger from people who’d been SFWA members for a long time who have felt shut out for years.

This takes us back to core value #1, doesn’t it?

Speaking of: there’s a reason that while my name is on this timeline, I’m one of the very few who never got a letter from a lawyer, raided, sued, or stuff like that. When sides are disagreeing loudly, you’ll generally find me in the buffer zone.

Edit to respond to a couple of points raised in private conversations:
1. This was about persistent trouble getting onto the SFWA.org site, not the sff.net one.
2. I was asked if I knew of other incidents involving Member the First. I had never heard of any until this recent incident.

I’ll say this, just so it’s clear: if there were people who “should be” blacklisted for any reason other than people who had previously behaved badly on panels at at a convention I’m working on (which, frankly, was only a very few people and as many women as men), I’ve never been privy to any list of people guilty of bad behavior. I have been on the programming staff of a Worldcon and programming head for a Westercon and several regional conventions.

The kind of bad behavior I’ve heard of (these are real things that happened): monopolizing conversation on a panel so hard that con ops had to be called to shut the panel down before it erupted into violence; blowing off a panel with the other panelists and taking the Guest of Honor offsite so they missed an important event, then gaslighting the programming staff. Then there’s the episode with Harlan Ellison, the Klingons, and the speakers playing loud dance music…. (Harlan won.)

Footnote to add link to later apology.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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“Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” — Donald Knuth

Case in point.

  1. An ex-SFWAn and some colleagues put up a petition about feared changes in editorial policy of the SFWA Bulletin. Link.
  2. The Internet reacts. Including me.
  3. Some of the people sympathetic to the petition signers, but not to those in step 2, counter-respond. Link.
  4. One person in particular says a bunch of stuff that, frankly, can’t be unsaid. This person happens to work at the publisher where the person (who happens to be a woman) he’s saying something about is being published.

People have lost their jobs over about as much. Case in point.

And—to what purpose? Really?

I get that, as science fiction and fantasy writers, “if this goes on” is one of our primary memes. It’s the launching point for many book ideas. We’ve all got more than a little Philip K. Dick in us. Institutional paranoia isn’t a bad thing to have, up to a point.

I understand the very real sexism of aiming that fear at the highest woman on the SFWA board at one point—and not at her male peers. Mary’s post is worth reading. As is Scalzi’s. I get the sexism, especially after as long as I’ve spent in the computer industry.

No one is obligated to like anyone, but Mary is a colleague of ours, and I expect Mary to be treated with the same professional courtesy that (most of) you would treat your favorite of the genre’s masters if they were suddenly to walk into your living room.

Premature Optimization

I can’t help but think, though, that if premature optimization weren’t such a human tendency, none of this would have happened.

Knuth’s point about premature optimization is about wasted effort. Many engineering projects fail because a lot of effort is spent optimizing in area A when area B is a substantially more significant problem in the actual use case. It’s just that area A’s problems were seen earlier.

In the current SFWA thing, the premature petition put a drag on all of our time and energy due to the very real problems that surfaced as a result of the initial premature optimization. I’m being kind here: the petition itself was ill-conceived, and quite a few people spent time working on it that they undoubtedly could have better spent doing other things.

Look, I know it’s a Myers-Briggs J vs. P approach to problems thing. Truly I do. Even as someone who is very, very P, I sometimes have to tell myself “Wait.” Still.

When it comes to events here in reality, respond to reality.

But…Lobbying

You can spend a lot of effort heading off potential problems that would never become actual problems.

There is a long tradition of lobbying against laws being passed, and that’s arguably not premature optimization when we have the text of the proposed bill. But there’s also the fact that every single progressive mailing list I’m on has asked me to rail against certain proposed bills that had no chance of passing. Unfortunately, some bills we thought had no chance of passing occasionally do anyway.

It’s a different thing when a law passes than when a relatively small organization makes a structural change, though. I’m not going to say that SFWA is agile, but it’s at least arguably more agile than a government.

And Yet

Worth reading: Mark Tiedemann, “On The Extraction of Feet From Mouths”. I’m glad something good came out of all this. (Note: post is from last June, so is about the issue that the current controversy is responding to, not the current controversy per se).

Popehat writer Ken White gives an awesome legal analysis of the defamation lawsuit threat.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Everyone in science fiction knows romance novel covers are awful, right?

And Fifty Shades of Grey is a lurid book that can’t possibly have an understated, tasteful cover, right? Because that’s not the kind of book it is.

Well, okay, it has a tie on the cover, and it’s a, well, I don’t know what the hell to call it, frankly. Jenny Trout has a whole bunch of points about why it shouldn’t be called a romance novel, nor BDSM, nor whatever, so I’ll just link to her site and back away slowly.

In terms of marketing categories, though, erotica or erotic romance. (Yes, they are different, and they are also different from the marketing categories of both porn and sexy romance.)

Why, 50 Shades started out as fanfic of Twilight. But the cover on that can’t actually be too horribly awful (right?), given that Bella and Edward both retain their v-card throughout the duration of not one, not two, but three volumes of this saga.

So it has an apple and vampires don’t eat apples. Mmmkay.

But it is about temptation, though most of the temptation is on Edward’s side, and that’s only ever chronicled in a partially-completed manuscript, Midnight Sun told from his POV, rather than Twilight, which is told from Bella’s.

So now that I’ve basically admitted to reading all the Twilight books and none of E L James’s, how about some other covers? I remember someone recommending Outlander once upon a time. I randomly opened it, happened to be on a sex scene, and I backed away slowly.

It’s one of those where I really kinda wish I cared about it. I’ve tried to break into it a couple of times and it’s never quite caught for me. There sure are a lot of people who love it, though. Like Pam.

An oft-recommended book was Tiffany Reisz’s The Siren, which is a complex series to explain. There are a ton of interrelationships (possibly the only thing more complex than Torchwood as far as who has/had slept with whom), and a ton of plot threads. I read the four-book series over Christmas week.

I bring this one up because it is the most overtly sexual cover on her four books. Yet, it’s still quite understated, especially given the content of the book. As far as content: Nora’s a dominatrix on the side and an erotica writer by day. She’s got a difficult relationship with an editor who starts out hating everything she stands for. She’s got a live-in assistant who’s a 19-year-old virgin. (As Rick put it, “that’s just stunt casting.”) And then there’s the ex, but that would be a spoiler.

Are all romance covers like those above?

No. They are not.

Let’s go back to last year, about a claim Mike Resnick made that I’m disappointed that no one called him on.

Here’s what Resnick said (click for pic of text, quoted below)

And a lot of it abounded in bare, raw, pulsating flesh, totally naked from the neck to the navel. No question about it. It’s there for anyone to see—and of course, since such displays seem to offend some of our members, to picket.
You know where I found it?
In the romance section. I’d say that just about every other cover shows a man’s bare torso, lean and muscular, usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. Clearly these are erotic covers, designed to get a certain readership’s pulse pounding.

Personally, I’d love to see pulsating flesh on a book cover—at least the first few times. Never have. That would be science fictional.

Last year, I posted a screencap of 25 (I said 30 yesterday and was wondering why the math didn’t add up) covers that was sort of a side commentary to the SFWA Bulletin issue. I don’t mind admitting I read erotic romance, nor do I mind admitting that I write the stuff. Part of the reason I’ve read so much was to get a sense of the market.

I’ve gone and made a current screencap, too.

In both cases, there’s no censorship about what I’ve read. These are, in order (most recent in upper left, oldest in lower right), the last 25 titles I’d read in the erotic romance genre in both pics. The only thing I’ve done is filter out the non-romance titles I’d read.

Itemizing Resnick’s points:

  1. Covers with men.
  2. Who are totally naked from the neck to the navel.
  3. Man’s bare torso […] usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide.
  4. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. (How many covers without heads?)
  5. How many covers with men who are naked, frontal, and without heads?

Difference is? This new batch of covers is infected with teh gay as several are M/M books or have M/M subplots. More men, therefore more likely to meet Resnick’s criteria, right?

So, here’s 25 books from last year.

image

Here’s 25 books from this year, ~8 months later. Four of the 25 are solely M/M, and two (Tiffany Reisz’s) have M/M subplots with concomitant sex scenes.

2014-02-10 17.39.33

Note: the cover for Where Nerves End got lost somewhere in the ether, but here it is for reference.

  1. Covers with men. 2013: 13 (52%), 2014: 20 (80%)
  2. Who are totally naked from neck to navel. 2013: 4 (16%), 2014: 9 (32%), though 3 of those are M/M.
  3. Frontal enough naked neck-to-navel such that one can see excess abs. 2013: 1, 2014: 1. (Tempting Adam has a frontal cover, but his abs are within the realm of normal.)
  4. Headless men (I counted them as headless if you couldn’t see most of the face). 2013: 2, 2014: 8
  5. Frontal headless men. 2013: 0, 2014: 0.

Lest you think my taste is different than the reality of the market as a whole, here’s a curated list that’s a combination of Amazon sales and Goodreads reviews. Scan down the first 100 covers on the first page and tell me the results are significantly different.

Let’s be clear here: several of the books I read (two from Maya Banks, two from Natasha Moore, one from Cathryn Cade) focus around sex clubs, and a sex club forms part of the plot unifying Tiffany Reisz’s series.

Even those covers are less lurid than the SFWA Bulletin cover for Issue 200.

Just sayin’.

As if all that weren’t enough, this Mary Sue post nails it.

I call bullshit on Resnick’s alleged experiment.

Link: Silvia Moreno-Garcia nails it.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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New word? There are no Google hits for it.

So last year, SFWA Bulletin put out a set of dialogues by Michael Resnick and Barry Malzberg that contained some wanksplaining about the history of women in professional science fiction circles, to wit:

She was competent, unpretentious, and beauty pageant gorgeous … as photographs make quite clear…[S]he was a knockout as a young woman. …

According to Margaret, during its first few years of existence CFG was populated exclusively by men. Then Bea joined. Then the members’ wives got a look at Bea in her swimsuit at the 1950 Midwestcon. Then the club’s makeup changed to the 50% men and 50% women that has existed ever since.

(I really don’t understand the causality link between the last two sentences. Were the women in question all bi?)

Anyhow, Scalzi posted about that, and, rather than having the task of any Bulletin issues fall on the President, it was decided that a review board would be a good idea. You know, like most professional associations have.

Scalzi didn’t re-rerun, and Steven Gould became SFWA president (which was already in place when the Bulletin issue occurred). Steven’s probably best known as the author of Jumper (later turned into a movie), but he’s currently collaborating with James Cameron on forthcoming Avatar universe things.

You know, he’s a working writer. Working.

The whole thread of the current uproar, if you can call it that, over the review board is linked here.

What wasn’t linked from that page, but was forwarded to me, was the body of an email from Silverberg that included this gem:

A bunch of us, including Messrs Ellison, Spinrad, Gene Wolfe, Resnick, Malzberg, Benford, RS, etc., plus Nancy Kress, CJ Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, and others, thought that a writers’ organization should not be repealing the First Amendment and have put together a petition objecting to this review board.

Ellison.

First name.

That would be Harlan “I did not grab Connie Willis’s breast” Ellison. Video here. Note that he’s being disingenuous about verbs. (I was in the audience.)

Look, I was head of programming for a convention and we had Harlan for a Special Guest. He groped one of my staff during that con. I heard he groped other people, too, though I didn’t speak to them about it. I heard nothing about it until after the con, though.

If Harlan’s the first person you put on a list saying you don’t want a review board because y’all are fuckwits?

Y’all are fuckwits squared.

I don’t care what gets you all off. I don’t care about your male gaze. Sure, I like attractive (for my definitions of same) people on covers of things, on posters, in movies, in books, all that kind of thing. But what I consider attractive isn’t just about looks. It’s about actions, and y’all are being fugly.

So stop your wanksplaning and try being a tiny bit professional for a change. Steven Gould sure has been. If I’d gotten the first email from Truesdale that he’d gotten, I’d probably have just written a reply that said, “Smeg off” and put him in my filters so his name would never darken my internet doorway again. After all, Truesdale isn’t a SFWA member.

All SFWA wants is an editorial board, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to have. As C. C. Finlay rightly points out, editing is not censorship.

On the cover specifically….

Last year, I posted a picture with 25 (note: fixed this; it did originally say 30) erotic romance covers. This was in response to Resnick’s claim about beefcake on romance covers. Out of those 26, there are men (in any representation) on only 13 of those 25. (There are women on the cover of 19, and 2 have no people on the cover.)

Of the 13, 5 feature only fully-clothed men. One man has bare shoulders, but you can’t see further than that. Absolutely zero of them feature bare male thighs (though five have some depiction of bare female thighs). So let’s not pretend that the sexualization of men and women is the same because it’s not, not even when books are marketed to women and explicitly about sex. Cover I think is the hottest? This one, because men in suits leaning on things are hot.

But — none of the twenty-five covers — none — out of this selection of erotic romances I’d recently read have a woman in as sexualized a pose (or as scantily clad) as the cover of SFWA Bulletin 200.

When I went to a writer’s conference last fall, the most valuable single line I heard was this one: “A one-star review means that the wrong reader has found your book.”

It’s actually quite a profound statement if you think about it.

What a book cover (or magazine cover) is supposed to do is to give you an expectation of what’s inside. It’s to set the mood for what’s within. So how does that cover of SFWA Bulletin 200 work for you now?

See also: You only hate boobs because you hate freedom.
Dear Twelve Rabid Weasels of SFWA, please shut the fuck up. and My very complicated reaction to issue 202 of the Bulletin which has some great commentary in particular. Bennett North on Objectifying Women Is Not a Constitutional Right.

I also love this comment: “The irony about complaining about editing by committee before publication in order to complain about editing by committee before publication seems lost on him.” (source)

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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…about Vera Nazarian and Norilana books, because it’s bigger than I thought.

Let’s talk about $170,000 in 2008 and 2009 — and not enough money to pay royalties at the beginning of 2010.

I remembered she’d had a bankruptcy, and when I went to look, I didn’t see the second bankruptcy because of how I searched.

Bankruptcy happens, and I’m not going to judge anyone, including Vera, for taking advantage of it, but two Chapter 7 discharges is unusual. National average for repeat filings is around 8%.

Before you object to divulging of some of the numbers below, remember that this is a public record. You could get the same information I did. There is a point, I’m just drawing circles around it for you to make your own conclusions.

2002: Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, California. Case 1:02-bk-12569-AG
2008: Borrowed $50k for business operation loan from Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2008: Fundraiser ($30k) to save house from foreclosure (which I helped run)
2009: Borrowed another $50k for business operation loan from Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2009: Business income of $41.8k (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)

So: $50k loan + $30k fundraiser + 50k loan + 41.8k income = more than $170,000. That number excludes business income in 2008 and all other sources of income in 2008 and 2009.

2010: Public statement about Norilana being late in paying royalties
2010: Postponing several anthologies
2010: Business income of $37.4k (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2011: Foreclosure finally happens, then move to Vermont
2011: Business income of $13k (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2012: Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Vermont. Case 12-10003, debts discharged $158,064.27. Of those, $109,364 is due O’Donnell. Link to PDF of her schedules, which has some information Norilana’s cash flows. Link to her filing, which has more data.

This is interesting:
Debtor
Vera Nazarian
[...]
dba Norilana Books

…yet there is nothing showing any royalties due any authors. They are not on the creditor matrix. They should have been.

2012: Kickstarter to fund one of Vera’s books. Funded about six months after her discharge.
2012: Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr. dies of metastatic lung cancer. SFWA renames their service award after him.
2013: Eugie Foster announces she has cancer, then, tells people she hasn’t received royalties from Norilana for three years.
2013: Current Indiegogo fundraiser to fund Vera’s next book.

Edited to add: this Indiegogo fundraiser from Aug-Sep 2013 that I had not previously known about.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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I know a lot of you have heard about Eugie Foster’s plea for help in the light of her cancer diagnosis.

I also have noticed a lot of people are minimizing or excusing Vera Nazarian’s (and Norilana, her small press) part in all this.

Look: Vera hasn’t paid royalties in three years (by Eugie’s comment and Vera’s own admission). If it were anyone other than an author telling a sad story, we’d be all over them. Vera says she’s ashamed. I doubt that. Plus, telling a sad story is a core competency for a Nebula-award-nominated author, isn’t it? In Vera’s case, the narrative has arguably become her life’s work.

Example (quoted from above link):

I am doing all I can to remedy my situation, working NON-STOP.

No. You are not doing all you can. Not in the least. Other people have had to wrest their rights from you. If you can’t afford to pay the suppliers for the things you sell — and haven’t been able to for three years, you should not be selling those things and keeping the money. Which you are, by your own admission, doing.

Vera’s been able to pay her SFWA dues, apparently, as she’s an Active (but not Lifetime Active) member. So she puts more value in paying the organization than the organization’s members she’s published.

Last year, Vera held a Kickstarter to raise money for a book. Not to pay money she owed her authors, but for herself. And now she’s doing another fundraiser (which I will not link to, and I will delete any comment that does) for writing her next book. But not for paying her authors.

Look, this isn’t a short-term problem, and it’s not going to resolve. She knows that.

Several of us ran a large fundraiser for her years ago. Those of us administering the fundraiser heard about vast sums of money (more than the thirty grand we raised) borrowed from other people, and she couldn’t pay that then. However, we didn’t hear it from the people themselves (so I don’t know how much truth there was to the numbers I heard), and we’d already committed to the fundraiser. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, I ask: if you know you can’t pay your authors their royalties, and you keep selling their books and, therefore, accruing the royalties due them, and you still need more cash from a Kickstarter: what’s the word for that kind of behavior? (Please do not post it, as I don’t want anyone to be accused of libel or slander. But you know what I mean, right?)

What I can say is this: Good behavior is a choice. It’s never too late to start. It may be too late to avoid some of the consequences, true.

See, when I buy a book, I am trusting that the author will get paid in a reasonable time. It’s not just a contract between the author and the publisher (and all the booksellers and wholesalers). It’s also a social contract between the purchaser and the publisher. Vera has betrayed our trust. I should be able to buy any of Eugie’s books in any format and trust that Eugie will get paid.

So, here’s what I suggest:
1) Vera should revert all rights to all Norilana titles that aren’t public domain or authored solely by herself. Yank all such titles out of all stores. Even if the authors are your friends, because you are not being one of theirs. The authors should not have to ask.
2) No signing any new authors or collections until Vera’s able to pay royalties again and has paid all past royalties.
3) Calculate all the amounts owed and pay them (or work out a realistic plan for the monies owed). I’d be happier if this was done with the help of a neutral third party.
4) Provide camera-ready copy to all authors and editors for existing works, including any artwork Vera has the rights to. This will make it easier for authors to re-publish their work themselves.

Oh, and start with Eugie Foster. [apparently Eugie's print rights reversion is already in process]

Vera’s behavior is not that of someone who’s had a run of bad luck over the short term. There’s a more fundamental and deeper problem here. Every time someone brings it up, she turns the whine machine on full tilt. It becomes all about Vera, Vera, Vera.

It’s misdirection.

The whole problem with making an author ask for their rights back when Vera’s got the Poor Me Machine running full tilt? It means that only certain kinds of people will ask, or will ask only when others rage on their behalf. Thus, Vera can continue to take advantage of everyone else.

If we stop falling for this bullshit, maybe it’ll stop happening.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

I was hoping to make some salient points on the whole SFWA matter, especially given that (as with many of us) Resnick’s been one of my editors.

However, I’ve spent the last few days in the Second World, and I’m rather overwhelmed by some of the following:

1. Crossing the battlefields of Balaclava, Ukraine (of The Thin Red Line and Charge of the Light Brigade fame).
2. Visiting Novorossiysk, a city with a population of 24,000, bombed so severely that the only surviving residents were a mother, her two children, and their grandmother.
3. Seeing the famed Potemkin steps in Odessa.
4. Spending time in Romania, where Rick last was during the time of Ceausescu (he visited many of the same sites in 1978), and hearing about then vs. now.
5. What may have hit me the hardest: going to a long-secret Soviet submarine base in Balaclava and walking behind several layers of super-thick blast doors where 1000 people regularly lived — all developed because they were afraid of us. (The USA)

Additionally, we just landed in Istanbul (where there’s been a lot of rioting), a person I know has been raped and another person I respect has died, and I just can’t work up the energy on an issue that doesn’t involve issues as severe as any of the above.

However, I can insert my generic short form internet blow-up thoughts here:

1. There’s a reason my license plate is XKCD 386.
2. People are complex, and too often on this issue, I see parties from both/several sides reducing the other to one dimension that is unjust. This doesn’t mean there aren’t real issues, mind, just that I’m tired of rhetorical bullshit.
3. People feel obligated to be on the “right” side when the cards land, sometimes pressuring other people to shun someone. This is evil. I’ve been in a cult with shunning and I don’t do that. Sure, I may choose not to speak to someone, but it may just be I’m tired of completely different shit. Maybe they talk too much about Ohio. Or Cancun.
4. I’m not the kind of person who holds a grudge. I do think people need to be called on their bullshit, and if you call me on mine respectfully, I will appreciate you more for doing so. Some people will refuse to learn, and some will try to learn but fail. What matters more to me than one blow-up is how people deal with issues in the longer term.
5. I love the Internet and all the weird places it has, even the ones that make me shudder. Maybe even especially those. See #1.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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