Re: Blurb Requests For the Remainder of 2016

This is going up for editors/publicists/etc who are contacting me for blurbs for upcoming books, where the blurbs need to be turned in before the end of 2016:

Sorry, I’m already full up on books to consider for the remainder of the year. If I have not already agreed to consider the book in question (which is different from you having sent it to me), you should assume the answer to your request to consider the book is “no.”

Otherwise, please consult my blurbing policy, available here. A reminder to authors that I automatically turn down blurb requests that come directly from authors — please route them through your editors/pr folks instead.


RIP, Sheri Tepper

This is genuinely upsetting news for me: Locus is reporting the death of Sheri S. Tepper, who wrote the Hugo-nominated novel Grass among many others, and who was given a lifetime achievement award by the World Fantasy Convention just last year. Tepper was in her late 80s, and had an accomplished life outside of her considerable writing career, including being an executive director of the Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood in Colorado, so one can’t precisely say this is an unexpected development. But she was one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy writers, and an influence on my thinking about SF/F writing, so to have her gone on is still a deeply depressing thing.

Also a bit depressing: That Tepper, while well-regarded, is as far as I can tell generally not considered in the top rank of SF/F writers, which is a fact I find completely flummoxing. Her novel Grass has the sort of epic worldbuilding and moral drive that ranks it, in my opinion, with works like Dune and Perdido Street Station and the Earthsea series; the (very) loose sequel to Grass, Raising the Stones, is in many ways even better, and the fact that Stones is currently out of print is a thing I find all sorts of appalling.

If you haven’t read Grass, I really suggest you find it and put it near the top of your SF/F reading queue. You won’t be disappointed (and if you are, then, well, I don’t know what to tell you). It’s a stone classic. Not everything that Tepper wrote worked for me, which makes her like literally every single writer I admire; but the things of hers that did (these two novels, The Fresco, Beauty, The Visitor and others) have stayed with me year in and year out.

Aside from her considerable talents as an author, Tepper stands as a reminder that it’s never too late to write. Tepper didn’t publish her first novel until 1983, when she was in her 54th year of life; she wrote something like 40 total, the most recent published in 2014. It’s never too late to write; it’s never too late to write a classic novel; it’s never too late to be a great writer, whether or not the genre has entirely caught up with you yet.

Farewell, Ms. Tepper. Your voice will be missed. I’ll keep reading what you have left us.

The Election and Productivity

I was a couple of months late in turning in The Collapsing Empire; I originally planned to have it to Tor before Worldcon this year (which was mid-August) and ended up sending it to my editor literally the day I left for New York Comic Con, which was the first week of October. Some of that had to do with fine-tuning and changing bits of the story to make them more effective, plus travel and life in general.

But a whole lot more had to do with the 2016 presidential election. There were entire weeks where I got up each day, fully intending to go straight into writing on the book, and instead ended up checking Politico, the Washington Post, Five Thirty Eight and a whole other host of political sites, and got myself wound up enough that it was a miracle if I got any writing done at all, much less hit my daily quota. Now, I’ve written books during presidential elections before, and I’m easily very diverted by them. But my level of distraction has never been this bad before.

At New York Comic Con, I confided to another author about my book being late because of the election, and her reaction was basically to say YES SO VERY MUCH THIS and then we were joined by an editor, who was all OH MY GOD BASICALLY ALL MY AUTHORS ARE SAYING THIS, and then suddenly I didn’t know whether to feel better or worse. On one hand, it was a bit of a relief to know I wasn’t the only author whose schedule was bunged up by the election; on the other, what a mess this election has been if whole swaths of writers have been knocked off course by it. I could go into why this is, but I think you all already know my opinion about this election so we can take it as read for now.

My question to you is: Is it just us? Or have you found that you (or others you know about) have been knocked out of your usual level of work productivity because of this election as well? Has obsessively refreshing poll trackers and political feeds and Twitter kept you from the timely performance of your duties, or, if you still manage to get stuff done on time, is it still a challenge to keep your mind on task? More than usual?

Let me know. I’m actually really interested.


Redshirts Wins the Geffen Award

Happy to say that the Hebrew edition of Redshirts (translated by Zafrir Grossman) won this year’s Geffen Award — Israel’s most notable SF/F award — in the category of Best Translated Science Fiction Novel. A fine honor! This is my second Geffen (the first was for the Old Man’s War back in 2007), and it’s as much a thrill the second time around.

My thanks to Mr. Grossman for his fine work — it’s as much his award as mine. Also thanks to my Israeli publisher, Opus Press. I hope they’re as happy as I am. And of course thanks to the fans who voted for the book!

White Dudes, Trump, and America

Original by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to go to the original.

Dear other white dudes:

Last night on the Las Vegas debate stage Donald Trump, for whom statistically speaking most us white dudes are planning to vote for, refused to say whether he would concede the election if it went against him, as it almost certainly will. He says he’s doing that because he believes the election is rigged — it’s really not — but in point of fact the reason he said it is because he’s a petulant man-child who can’t believe his manifest destiny to be president is being thwarted by a woman who he doesn’t even find sexually attractive, which means that to him she’s hardly a woman at all. “Inconceivable!” he cries, like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, while Clinton, in the guise of the Dread Pirate Roberts, comes to take what he’s rightfully stolen (who is Princess Buttercup in this scenario? Why, the US, of course).

Now, as a matter of procedure, it doesn’t matter if Trump decides to concede or not. Unless the vote in any individual state is so close as to trigger a recount (usually within half a percentage point), the individual states will tally up and certify the votes, and then in December the electors for each state — i.e., the people who actually vote for president in our wacky political system — will meet and cast their votes, and that will be that. There’s nothing in the constitution about our election system hinging on the candidates conceding.

Legally speaking, if Trump loses, he can stomp his feet and hold his breath until he turns blue, and Hillary Clinton will still be President of the United States. So this is literally a question about whether Donald Trump wants to be a yutz when he loses. And he might! The track record for Trump being a yutz when he loses anything — primaries, Emmy votes, probably a game of Yahtzee — is pretty significant. And each of those times, his being a yutz didn’t change anything. He still lost. He was still a loser.

That said, the presidential election isn’t the Emmy for Best Variety Show (or whichever category Trump’s show lost in), it’s the actual Presidency of the United States, and the people who are voting for Trump — that’s largely us, white dudes! — are invested in his winning. And if he doesn’t win, and again it’s really unlikely that he will, and he doesn’t concede the election, the question then becomes: What will the white dudes do? Will we break with Trump, decide to honor the two centuries of constitutional transfer of power from one administration to the other, or do we stick with Trump and also stomp our feet and hold our breath until we turn blue because we just didn’t get our way? Because in point of fact, if we decide to do the latter, and certainly Trump appears to be down with that, we could do real damage to concept of peaceful transfer of power here in the United States.

So, as a white dude, let me speak to all y’all other white dudes, particularly the ones of you planning to vote for Trump, and especially the ones of you who might be giddy at the idea of Trump not conceding the election if Hillary Clinton wins.

1. No one candidate is more important than the peaceful transfer of power. If you want to claim to be a real American — and I know you do, it’s kind of a cornerstone of the white dude self-image here in the US — respect for the constitutional process of transferring power from one presidential administration to another is more important than any particular candidate. Dudes, do you think I was happy when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush on a 5-4 Supreme Court vote that in my mind was fucking specious in terms of its reasoning? No! And yet when the decision came down, that was that — the constitutional process had ground out a decision that handed the election to Bush, and it was time for Gore to go home, which to his eternal credit, he did, publicly conceding the election to Bush. And I was fine with that. Not happy, mind you. But fine.

(Before anyone compares what Trump is saying with what happened with Bush/Gore, unless the actual electoral college vote in 2016 comes down to a single state that has an automatic recount procedure, there’s no actual comparison, and in any event, that’s not what Trump was asked.)

Now, maybe Trump is just being coy about having respect for the constitutional process of selecting a president, but then, he’s a thin-skinned whiner with the manners of an angry toddler, so that’s not surprising. But what about you? Will you also act as unto a screaming pre-schooler told he has to share his toys? Or will you sack up and be more gracious than the man you are statistically likely to vote for? Will you actually be the grown-up adult male that your age heavily implies you are?

For the record, if at this point the absolutely improbable happens and Trump wins the election for President, you know what I will fully expect Hillary Clinton to do? Concede the election! And here’s the thing: She will! Because that’s how it’s done. And because she, at least, is a grown-up.

2. The election isn’t rigged. Now, I know what some of you will say there — but Hillary’s a cheater! The election is rigged! The fix is in! Look at this video I found on the Internet! The media is complicit!

Guys, no. The election isn’t rigged — see the link above, which explains why it’s almost impossible to actually rig a presidential election. Your willingness to argue that the election is riggable is a good indicator of how susceptible you are to privileging your own sense of entitlement over actual and verifiable fact, something Trump, that glorious tangerine-hued ignoramus, knows all about. Be better than Trump in this regard. He doesn’t want you to be, because he doesn’t want to admit he’s losing fair and square. But you don’t have to indulge him.

As for the media, if you come at me with the latter-day rationalization that what “rigged” really means is that the media is in the tank for Hillary, I’m going to laugh at you for two reasons. One, during the primaries, Trump got so much press and used it to his advantage so well that he spent eight times less on ads than Jeb Bush, and five times less than Marco Rubio, and won the candidacy. Trump still dominates the press, because he’s a walking garbage fire of a candidate, and — here’s a news flash! — political garbage fires are good for media company bottom lines. Mind you, the press didn’t make Trump a garbage fire; he was a garbage fire all on his own. The press is merely pointing to Trump and saying: Hey, look at that garbage fire! If Trump wants better press (I mean, aside from the sycophantic bunghole tonguing he receives from Breitbart), maybe he should consider not being a garbage fire.

Two, if you want to argue that Clinton got a free ride from the press, I’ll be happy to match you up with a liberal who will be delighted to argue with you for years about how the press went after the alleged email scandal far longer than the story warranted, not to mention all the various Wikileaks and so on. You two will have fun yelling at each other!

What is true, I’d argue, and especially in recent days, is that every time something potentially damaging to Clinton comes out, Trump has to go out and do or say something stupid, like, oh, I don’t know, say he won’t fucking concede the election if he loses it. Why does that get more play than something in Clinton’s email? Because Clinton’s email is small beer, and fucking not conceding the election is actually a pretty big deal. If you think the two are equivalent, pull your head out of your asshole, please, wipe yourself off, and get a grip.

3. Donald Trump isn’t worth fucking up the US of A for. No one is, to be clear, but especially Donald Trump, who is an honest-to-God piece of shit human being who no one should ever have supported. He’s a bad businessman whose business model actively includes cheating little people out of what he owes them, which makes his support from small business people just plain mind-boggling, since they are the very people he screws out of their money for his gold-encrusted sink faucets; he’s ignorant as shit; he’d grope your wife, sister or daughter if he thought he could, and you left the room; he’d lie to your face and call you an asshole when you pointed out he was lying; he’s easily provoked into doing stupid things; and if he were a character in Red Dawn (the classic version, not the inessential remake), he’d be the one sucking up to the Russkies. He’s every boss who makes you work overtime and doesn’t want to pay you for it; every landlord who won’t snake the toilet or fix the radiator but raises your rent like clockwork; every schmuck who cuts in line in front of you and dares you to make something of it.

He’s a fucking asshole, in other words, and you’d maybe want to go to the constitutional mat for him? Why? Because he’s rich? Dudes, he’s not that rich, and the way he got rich was by fucking over other people, and if that’s all right with you, it’s time for an examination of your own sense of morality. Because he “tells it like it is?” He doesn’t tell it like it is, he tells it like he wants you to believe it is, and bullies any one who says otherwise. Because he’s not “politically correct”? Well, that’s because he’s a goddamn bigot, my friend, and it’s a bad look on him and on you. Because he’s an outsider? Aw, bullshit. He’s been a grasping social climber for years. There’s nowhere he’d rather be than inside.

Because he’s fighting for you? Oh, son. Just, no. Donald Trump never “fought” for anyone other than himself — look at his decades-long track record for confirmation of that. And when it comes down to you or him, he’ll go him every time. Just ask the GOP, who is currently living in regret. You might be signing up to be the willing tool of a dude who would kick you to the curb the moment you weren’t useful to him, and who would call you a loser when he did. It’s not if he’ll do it. It’s when.

Why the fuck would you toss everything you possibly claim to believe in as an American for this absolute cocknugget of a human being?

Well, there’s an answer, but you’re not going to like it.

4. If you’re okay with Trump not conceding, you’re signaling you’re possibly a racist, sexist piece of shit who would rather tear everything down than not to let a white dude have his way. Now, you can rationalize this any way you like, but at the end of the day, this is what it looks like, because to a very large extent, this is what it is. There will be no legitimate reason to contest this election if Clinton wins it; the way we’ve set up our elections assures she will win it fair and square. There is no legitimate reason for Trump not to concede should he lose — it really is the absolute minimum he can do, and if he doesn’t then he proves without a single shadow of doubt that he didn’t deserve the office he contested for, because he fundamentally did not understand what it was about.

If Trump doesn’t concede, there is no legitimate reason for you or anyone else to fight for Trump’s shitty little tantrum except because you’re having a shitty little tantrum right next to him. Because you don’t want to share, basically. Because a woman, who was voted into office by basically everyone who wasn’t a white male, beat out a white dude and as a white dude, you just can’t take it.

And I get that! We’ve been here before, you know — like, oh, the last eight fucking years, when the GOP dined out on the latent and no-so-latent racism of white dudes like us to illegitimize the current president of the United States as much as it possibly could. Every flower of GOP obstinacy, from birth certificates to the Senate declining to do its actual job and take a vote on a Supreme Court justice because it has a theory that a president’s term is actually only kind of around three years long has a long, hard root in the pool of racism that white dudes in particular swim around in. There are other roots — it’s not like the GOP didn’t go after Bill Clinton, after all, so it’s not all racism and sexism — but let’s not kid ourselves. That’s a lot of what it was.

And now here we are in 2016 and when it comes to conceding this election, there’s no real principle at stake here other than fuck all those people, we should have won.

Who’s we? Well, who is voting for Trump? It’s not a lot of minorities here in the US, that’s for sure. It’s not women, in general or even the white women — even Republican women don’t support Trump in the numbers they generally support GOP candidates with. The core of Trump’s support is white dudes. And as they say, #NotAllWhiteDudes, since in fact many support Clinton or other candidates (hello!). But that’s his core of support. It’s us, white dudes.

We’re the people Trump wants to “watch” the polls — the way he suggests that’s done, incidentally, sounds like a lot like voter intimidation — and the ones he expects to raise a ruckus about rigged elections if he doesn’t get what he wants. He’s relying on white dudes to be racist and sexist on his behalf before and after the election, and let’s make no mistake that if he should win the election, the white dudes who are actively and unapologetically racist and sexist intend to capitalize on that win.

If you go along with his plan, you’re down with all of this. Again, rationalize it all you want. You won’t fool anyone.

Here’s the thing: It’s not going to work. It has the possibility of making a mess in the short term, but Clinton doesn’t need Trump’s concession, and all the people who voted for Hillary Clinton (or at least, against Trump) are not going away. They’ll be back election after election, and demographics are on their side. They’re not going to forget if Trump loses and refuses to concede and calls on his supporters to make a mess. They’re not going to forget who it was who rallied to Trump’s side to say everyone else’s vote didn’t count, or didn’t count as much as the votes of white dudes and their preferred candidate. They’ll remember what that actually means.

So: Trump, or the United States. White dudes, if Trump loses the election and doesn’t concede, you’re going to have to decide which is more important to you. All us white dudes are going to have to decide. Everyone else will be watching.

Choose wisely.

Why Clinton is Winning (One Reason, Anyway)

Original photo by Adam Schultz, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to be taken to the original.
Original photo by Adam Schultz, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to be taken to the original.

The third presidential debate is in the books, and while the noisiest news coming out of it is about a petulant white nationalist blustering on stage about whether or not he’ll concede the election if he loses, as if that matters for the legal transfer of power (it doesn’t; it’s just that if he doesn’t, he makes himself look even more like a child than he already does), the most interesting thing about the debate — and all the debates, if you ask me — is how very fine a job Hillary Clinton did in each of them. Not just for herself, although she did just fine for herself in each of them, answering in detail when she chose to, and generally effectively deflecting when she didn’t.

No, her real skill was in getting Donald Trump to self-own, debate after debate. There’s the saying that one should not interrupt an enemy when he’s making a mistake; well, Clinton didn’t interrupt Trump, but she did prompt him, winding him up and then letting him spew, not only on the debate stage, but on Twitter and in rallies afterward. She wound him up and let him flail ineffectually at her, as if his onstage taunts and bluster were anything compared to what she’s put up with for over 30 years, but well aware how Trump grumbling that she was nasty or how he was going to put her in jail would play to the large majority of America that isn’t circling around in Trump’s ouroboros of denial. She positioned him to lie and lie again, not just about political subjects in general, but about what’s actually come out of his very own mouth. She made him make himself look like a fool, and she did it without breaking a sweat.

Ezra Klein of Vox has a longer piece on what Clinton was up to and how she did it, which I largely agree with, so I won’t go further into it here. Suffice to say, however, that Clinton played him, once, twice, three times (a lady!), and he never seemed to figure it out. But then, why would he? Trump is apparently mentally unable to conceive of being dunked on by a woman, which left Clinton free to dunk on him at will. Trump has no one to blame but himself — not that he would ever do that — but Clinton gets all the credit for happily exploiting his weaknesses.

This is one reason, incidentally, why the current GOP shibboleth that Clinton would have been defeatable if only she had been up against a different candidate is mostly wishful thinking. Clinton isn’t winning just because she’s up against Trump, and she didn’t cream Trump in the debates just because Trump is so very fabulously incompetent. She’s winning because she’s prepared — she knows her opponent, she knows his weaknesses, and she made him reveal them himself. And she would have done it to anyone the GOP would have thrown her way.

Honestly, now: Does anyone really think that Clinton wouldn’t have shredded Ted Cruz, that pulsating globule of smugness, in any debate they might have had? Yes, Cruz was a nationally-ranked debater in college. That’s very nice for him. Clinton would have walked him into his own wankery, the off-putting self-regard that makes everyone want to find a way to stop talking to him five seconds after he opens his mouth, and let that awfulness happen while he spewed his dominionist nonsense. And let’s not even imagine what she would have done to poor, unprepared Marco Rubio, although the words “chew toy” do come to mind.

Indeed, the only person in the GOP field who I think would have given Clinton a run for her money might have been John Kasich, whose largely-pragmatic and well-seasoned demeanor is not terribly dissimilar to Clinton’s. But the GOP’s not about pragmatic and well-seasoned anymore, and even then I think Clinton would have his number sooner than later — he’s got a temper on him, and she’d poke him until he popped. A Kasich-Clinton debate score would be closer, with no knockouts on either side, but I think in the end she’d win on points.

The fact is, Clinton is and continues to be underappreciated for her own hard-won political skills. It’s easy to say she’s not a natural politician like her husband or Barack Obama (the latter comment being ironic, considering how many comparisons to Spock he endured early on), but here’s a point to consider about “natural” talents — they can be lazy, because, after all, if you can get the “A” with almost no effort, why go for the “A+”? Trust me, I know a little bit about the laziness of “natural talent” and how difficult it is to put in the extra work to go from merely good to something better.

Clinton is not a natural politician. She works and works and works and makes a better effort than everyone around her and just keeps on coming. And if people underestimate how formidable that makes her, as Trump so obviously has, and as smarter politicians than Trump also have and continue to do despite all available evidence? Well, I suspect that’s just fine with her. She’ll do to them what she did to Trump in the debates. And then she’ll keep going.

Voting and Churros

Today I got my voting done, and to celebrate: Churros!

It’s been a good day, folks.

A reminder to you to get your voting done too — if you want to do it early as I did, great; if not, make sure you make time on November 8. It’s only possibly the most consequential election in decades. No pressure.

Don’t worry, I’ll pester you about it between now and then, too.

Reporting in From Trump Country

I live in Darke county, Ohio. In 2004, Darke county voted for Bush, who got 69.5% of the vote. In 2008, it voted for McCain, who got 66.9% of the vote. In 2012, it voted for Romney, who got 71%.

So you may not be surprised when I tell you the area in which I live is heavily tilted toward Trump in this election, and when November 8 rolls around, I expect him to win my county handily, likely gathering something like 70% of the vote.

Do I live among idiots? No. I live among wonderful people who will clear your driveway when it snows and watch your pets when you go away, who love and care for their friends and families, who are decent people in their day-to-day lives and are folks I am proud to call neighbors. Most of them will vote differently than I do in this election. They do not live differently than I do. Our lives in Darke county are rather more in common than they are different.

But they are voting for Trump! And he’s awful! Yes, he is; as I’ve noted before, he’s manifestly the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory. He’s also up against the second-least popular presidential candidate ever (after Trump himself), whom the GOP and their allies have spent decades denigrating, who even her supporters must realistically acknowledge is not overbrimming with public-facing charm, who has a raft of policy and social ideas that don’t play expansively well in a county that hasn’t sent a Democrat to Washington as its representative since the Great Depression.

This isn’t to excuse Trump or the GOP. I wish my neighbors had both a better presidential candidate to support and a better party to field that candidate, one that (in my opinion) better represented the area’s generally conservative but essentially pragmatic nature. I think Darke county is the sort of place that the GOP has been gulling for years, relying on its appeal to the area’s social conservatism to push through policies that don’t help the locals at all. There aren’t a whole lot of one percenters around here to benefit from the fiscal and economic policies the GOP (and Trump) want to promote, and particularly in the case of Trump, the people here, reliant on farming and manufacturing, have a lot to lose.

It is to recognize that the Democratic party in general hasn’t gone out of its way to make places like Darke county a priority. The local Democratic party’s outreach, as far as I can see, is a single tent once a year at the county fair; the biannual Democratic candidate for OH-8 (when there is one; there hasn’t always been) gets little if any support from the national or state parties as far as I can see. Pragmatically it makes sense to cede the district; there’s only so much money to go around. But on the other hand it might be a little hypocritical for me or anyone else to criticize the locals for voting for the GOP — even when it has a historically awful candidate, who no one should vote for — when the GOP is the only political party that’s showing up in a real and significant way.

Darke county isn’t going away — its population and demographics (97.5% white) have been remarkably stable for decades. It will likely always be a conservative area; so long as the GOP exists and at least nominally represents conservatism, it will like vote for the GOP and its presidential candidates. What will be interesting to see is how it, and the places like it, will handle the inexorable shift of the nation from white and conservative to multicultural and, if not entirely liberal, at least liberalish. It is of course already happening. This is very likely to be the third presidential election in a row where Darke county’s preferred candidate didn’t make it to the White House. Given the direction of the national demographics, it might be a while before one does.