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America in
Chains

NEW MAPS OF BULGARIA October 26, 2007

First, the bad news.

Several years ago, I wrote an essay, “On a Clear Day You Can See
Bulgaria — But Who Wants to Look?” (See _Lever Action_), about the
sad state that science fiction, as a literary form, then found itself
in.

The principal symptom was rapidly shrinking rack space in the
grocery stores and drug stores that had been SF’s “natural habitat”,
monopolization of the genre by franchises like _Star Wars_ and _Star
Trek_ (or by techno-military and dragon fantasy), even the wholesale
elimination of entire SF paperback sections in establishments like
Wal-Mart.

My essay was aimed at explaining how all this had happened.

Things have only gotten worse today.

America, as most of us know it, grew up parallel with SF, starting
with Jules Verne during the War Between the States, through H.G. Wells
and the Progressive Era, to the “Golden Era” of Hugo Gernsback, John
W. Campbell, George O. Smith, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke.
European writers, for the most part, wrote with an American audience
in mind. While SF helped give American culture its unique, optimistic,
future-oriented character (it’s significant that Tomorrowland and
Fantasyland were distinct entities in Walt Disney’s mind) the unique,
optimistic, future-oriented character of American culture influenced
SF.

Since its inception around the mid-19th century, SF had always
been the literature of promise. It told stories of a universe that was
knowable and lawful, in which rational human beings were capable of
applying what they learned from it to make life better for everyone.
For the most part, the central element was the advance of technology.
But the driving ideology was almost always some form or another of
socialism.

As we all know, socialism failed. At the height of its popularity
it caused widespread starvation and deprivation, wrecking whole
economies wherever it was applied. It inspired childish, petulant
dictators — idealogues who were eager to do anything _except_ give up
an idea that didn’t work — to put millions against the wall and send
millions more to places like Siberia because the people couldn’t (the
dictators said “wouldn’t”) gladly transmogrify themselves into New
Collectivist Mankind, or whatever the slogan was at the time. In the
end, it finally destroyed the most enormous empire history had ever
known.

With every failure of socialism, the promises made by socialist-
inspired SF rang more hollow until, sometime in the late 1950s, the
genre tried to turn itself inside-out, becoming skeptical of science
and technology — instead of junking its broken ideology — becoming
increasingly inner-directed and “psychological” as the real world grew
more unbearable for disappointed leftists to look upon. Sliding into
something resembling nihilism, SF writers lost interest in a future
that — however else it might turn out — would not be socialist. And
as SF writers lost interest in the future, readers lost interest in
SF.

The sweeping nature of this change may have been difficult for the
average consumer to notice at first. As literary SF was dying a slow,
agonized death on the racks, SF in the movies and on TV appeared to
flourish. But it was a narrowly-defined kind of SF, wedged between the
anachronistic feudalism of _Star Wars_ and the paramilitary fascism of
_Star Trek_ without any room remaining for individuality, let alone
individualism.

Exactly like the dictators who were willing to sacrifice millions,
rather than give up their precious but unworkable ideology, America’s
northeastern publishing establishment was willing to let SF die out,
rather than give up the socialism of its youth and embrace a new
philosophical and political viewpoint that offered real hope for the
future.

At the same time, expectations of the last two generations had
changed. Instead of almost breathlessly anticipating a better world,
after decades of insane, idiotic, downright criminal mismanagement of
the country by Republicans and Democrats alike, Americans, become
_afraid_ of the future and all that it threatened to inflict on them.
Today they have no interest in new plans by “progressive” politicians
and bureaucrats, by ivory-tower socialists of every political stripe
to control — and consume — their lives and narrow their hopes even
further.

As for SF, even the great franchises are gone now, mostly — their
place having been taken by various vampire fantasies (and what does
that say of Americans’ expectations for the future?) — leaving a
bleak, barren field behind, devoid of hope or even interest in the
future.

Which brings us to the good news.

To begin with, there are still at least a few million stubborn,
rugged individuals and individualists in this country and overseas who
desire a future that’s worth living for and fighting for. They’re
interested in space travel, in extending their lives, in having more
freedom rather than less, and in having less government rather than
more.

Even better, there are fresh legions of children who, thanks
variously to the Internet, homeschooling, and to J.K. Rowling, are
more literate, and understand the differences between good and evil
better than their parents, steeped as they are in a lifetime of moral
relativism.

What this all means is that SF, as a literary genre and a cultural
institution, is up for grabs. Any publisher, already in business or
just starting out, that can navigate its way through the new territory
created by computers and the Internet, any publisher that can attract
that small handful of forward-thinking libertarian authors who have
largely been rejected by establishment publishing, any publisher that
is willing to cater to bright, cynical, individualistic, forward-
thinking readers, can have SF — America’s last remaining literature
of ideas, America’s last remaining literature of hope — virtually to
itself.

The tenor must be upbeat, optimistic. The themes must revolve
around individual liberty, the scientific search for immortality, and
humanity’s reach for the stars. Beyond that, Kevin Costner’s baseball
movie _Field of Dreams_ said it best: “If you build it, they will
come.”

Comments

1. enemyofthestate - October 26, 2007

This is a test

2. al perez - October 26, 2007

These publishers you speak of will need writers. having just gotten my first rejection slip (Not conplaining, I have a lot of growing to do as a writer) i give the following advice.
Write several stories you know can’t sell, trying to make each one more salable than the last. Save the stories so you can rewrite later or mine for themes, characters, set piece scenes, etc. when you bust into the market.
Sooner or later jump in. If you get rejected move on to next project and improve whatever flaws you and /or critical friends perceive in your writing. If the gods love you you will get a blue pencilled manuscript back. this is a double blessing, as you get taught how to write better and you get the sale once you’ve “fixed” the story (maybe on my next try.). Again, save rejected stories to rewrite later when you’ve figured out how to make salable.
Give yourself time to write. I confess that taking care of my “day job” has distracted me from working on short stories and the next Hugo and Prometheus winning novel. Write story all the way to end and put aside to rewrite if necessary before starting next project. Otherwise you won’t finish any of yourr projects. Later you may develop the ability to switch between projects. Work at completing one task before you try to move o to multitasking. to refer to the comment made about Jerry Ford, learn how to walk before trying to chew gum at the same time, then move on to simultaneously juggling.
Anyhow this is the plan I’m following I’ll let y’all know how it works.
I’d like to publicly thank our Worthy Administrator and Ken Holder (Editor of TLE) for letting me use this blog and TLE to do much of my growing as a writer. When I get an adequate computer (right after solving a temporay case of economically imposed social indecent exposure, currently I am solely reliant on cutlery and cussedness for self defense. Thank Ghu I live in a freakishly safe city.) and can afford to run a decent blog/web page I will try to pay them back and of course pay forward by providing a nest for fellow wanna be libertarian authors to pactice their skills. (sometime next April, God willing and the crick don’t flood).
Unless one of y’all beat me to it (or Neil asks me not to) I’ll comment on the disappearing PB racks in another letter.

3. Donald Qualls - October 27, 2007

There’s always the question, when a literary genre founders, whether it was the publishers who abandoned it or the readers who quit reading. I won’t contradict your statements in that regard, Neil, because I don’t have any contacts inside publishing who can tell me which side it is (much as I espouse most of your ideas, I can also detect a certain amount of spin in some of what you write on this blog, for which I lack the fact base to judge how much “unspin” needs to be applied to get something like the unvarnished truth).

I will tell you, though, that I started reading more fantasy and less SF a number of years ago because it was harder and harder to walk into a bookstore (where I’ve bought my books for decades — never could depend on the grocery to carry the authors I wanted to read), pick up an SF paperback, and have any idea if I’d like it or get the urge to tear it like a strong man with a phone book by about page 50. And *that* came, in part, from buying a number of books that looked, from the cover art, publisher, and back-cover blurbs as if they’d fit the range I usually enjoy, only to find they were trash.

So, the question arises: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in this case, which came first, abandonment by publishers, abandonment by readers — or abandonment by good writers? I predict that you, Neil, will claim the publishers quit buying good manuscripts on ideological grounds, and you might well be right, but it seems (from my standpoint as a consumer) that it might just as well be that there were fewer and fewer writers who were capable of writing a good, readable, science-founded story with well-rounded characters and a believable plot, and the publishers were making do with the manuscripts they could get. Or it might just be that the disillusioned public you refer to simply quit wanting to hear about how bright and glorious the future was after the *second* shuttle loss with all hands, after several thousand people died for no offense greater than showing up for work on time, after the quick, clean-seeming war was halted on political grounds and replaced more than a decade later with one that bids fair to turn into another Vietnam.

How are we to tell who’s at fault for the shelves being turned over from SF to fantasy, romance, true crime, or whatever?

4. Derek Benner - October 27, 2007

I know that I’ve gotten so fed up with the process of finding adequate numbers of *readable* SF titles that I read far more mysteries, light romances, paranormal mysteries and thrillers than I’ve ever considered. In fact, whereas four years ago 90% of my reading tastes ran to SF with about 7% dedicated to Fantasy and the rest covering the entire spectrum, these days about 43%-47% of my reading consists of paranormal, ‘romantic’ mysteries. Another 30%+ falls into thriller or suspense.

Not that I’ll ever pass up a novel by Neil, Schulman, Koman or Suprynowicz(sp?).

Derek

5. al perez - October 27, 2007

Writing good sf is hard. You actualy have to know both science and how to write. Combine this with a decent understanding of how to project what kind of society people will create in the future and writing good sf is hard. That’s why Heinlein was great.
Toss in any attempts to be topical and you have to actually like people, even people who don’t exactly share your viewpoint.
For example, it is possible to write a villainous Teddy Roosevelt, flat out easy by maintaining libertarian values in your storyline. Now try to write a likeable good guy TR while still maintainling a libertarian viewpoint in your novel or short story.
Now do that while coming up with FTL spaceships while still showing respect for currenly known laws of physics.
Just comfort yourself with the knowledge that it’s easier to do this than to find an honest Congressman.

6. Administrator - October 27, 2007

Donald asked:

> How are we to tell who’s at fault for the shelves being turned over
> from SF to fantasy, romance, true crime, or whatever?

…Why, you must believe every word I say, of course!

…Seriously, while not every writer is a good judge of his own work, and even one’s own opinions will vary from book to book (two of my own favorites — _Their Majesties’ Bucketeers_ and _The WarDove_ — are my two worst-selling books), some things are unmistakable.

…I believe there’s an ideological bias in the business for two reasons. First, publishers would rather lose money than appear to be politically incorrect to their peers. They wouldn’t publish _Unintended Consequences_ and that book’s sold 60,000 copies in hardcover, for cripe’s sake. That’s a million and a half gross. If I were running a house where an editor had made that decision, he’d be out on the street with the contents of his desk on his head.

…At the same time, they’ll give low, slimy organisms like Teddy Kennedy million dollar advances for books that aren’t going to sell at all, just to prove that they’re respectable “progressives”. I saw that happen the first week I was in the business and even my editor at the time hated it.

…Second, they see _themselves_ as gatekeepers. Judy-Lynn del Rey once told my agent, Russell Galen (supposedly as they were going to the theatah together) that I could be a great writer if only I’d give up “that libertarian nonsense”. To me, that was both the offer of a bribe and a threat, both of them insulting, and I told Galen to tell Judy-Lynn that she could be a great editor if she’d give up being Jewish. Of course my chicken-hearted agent never told her that.

…He quit me when I discovered that his boss, Scott Meredith was stealing from me (and every other writer he represented, as it turned out) and I had the temerity to complain about it.

…I have many other stories I could tell you, but believe me, Donald, I know what I’m talking about or I don’t write it, and I don’t put a fucking spin on _anything_. I’ve lived through this crap. I’m still living through it.

….Read the intro to the online edition of _Tom Paine Maru_ — if you can’t find it, I’ll post it here sometime. That book was deliberately butchered, and they didn’t cut anything but philosophical and political content. Now here we are, living in a nation hurting badly for even a word of libertarianism in the right place, and they helped make it happen by censoring and eventually blacklisting me and who knows how many other libertarian writers?

7. al perez - October 28, 2007

This is a rewrite of a lost post. It says the same thing only differently. In my career as a science fiction bookaholic the price of a new paperback has gone from thirty five cents to at least $6.99. All other genres have experienced a similar rise.
For some reason casual sales have dropped and convenience store and many other venues have reduced the size of their paperback racks to a couple of cheeesy romances that don’t tie up too much space even if they aren’t moving.
At first I thought it was an El Paso (Officially the most illiterate city in the US) problem, but your comments indicate it is nationwide.
Given this unpleasant reality it is not surprising that many publishing houses refuse to take risks on who they buy from, either on “sale potential” or ideology.
Of course, this doesn’t explain why Warner Bro.s sabotoged the original _Forge of the Elders_ or how 1200 copies got misplaced in a warehouse. Or why they define controversal to mean ideas that were considered rebellious a generation ago but are now widely accepted when they publish a book and call it bold and Controversial.
Neil, I’m afraid you’re too busy being a rebel to be “controversal. “

8. don wilson - October 28, 2007

As a reader I would venture that a publishing house run by Mr. L. Neil Smith would be a great success. All libertairians should consider the success of such a publisher as a victory in the idealogical war waged against libertarians and all who would avoid the statist ideal.

Please Mr Smith start a publishing house if you sell shares for a reasonable rate I will buy as many as I can afford. Your buisness model could include contracting out printing, as well as all other aspects: you could even ask for volunteers to read submisions.
You could even sell copies by accepting advance payment to pay for printing.

9. Warren - October 28, 2007

Hey Neil, this is off-topic:

Are you aware that both http://www.lneilsmith.org and ncc-1776.org point to a palceholder page instead of their normal pages?

Warren

10. Pete Nofel - October 29, 2007

When teaching went from a vocation to a “science,” the quality of educators declined. A teachers’ college was looked down upon by “real” colleges and universities, but those institutions turned out educators who used proven methods, such as phonics and arithmetic drills, to turn out children who were more educated and more capable than today’s high school grads.

But, there was an envy among those teachers’ colleges to become institutions respected by other academics. Soon, those colleges entered more liberal arts education, the “liberal” was in both the subjects and political philosophy. As part of this move toward competing with other academic institutions, the staff of these evolving colleges realized that maintaining traditional teaching methods would not allow them to publish papers – and gain recognition – if they covered the traditional ground of education. Thus, new theories of education – whole-word reading and New Math – were promoted and incorporated. With these innovations came a decline in both educators and education.

When the sciences – math, physics, chemistry – were being promoted back in the late 1950s and early 1960s after the shock of Sputnik, the shelves were full of science fiction and SF authors. One need only look at the number of SF periodicals on the shelves.

It turned out to be a two-edged sword. Those teachers who had a grasp of the sciences soon found they could make more money working for Pratt & Whitney or Boeing. The smart teachers departed and the field was left to the academics and those who bought into those theories. Learning the sciences – the real sciences, not sociology or urban studies – was hard. For those who found it easy, there were better, or at least higher-paying, careers available.

As we proved that the Soviet Union was no real technological threat, emphasis on science education declined and with it both an interest in science fiction reading and authoring.

Hard-science fiction, as defined as science fiction with a technological bent and an optimistic attitude, was soon displaced by soft-science fiction. Major authors like Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke continued to write and sell, but their shelf space was quickly disappearing to authors like Aldis, Le Guin, and Ellison. These soft-science fiction authors wrote well, but opened the door to second-tier authors and then third-tier writers.

The reading public, becoming more and more scientifically ignorant didn’t want to bother their pretty little, emphasis on little, heads with hard stuff like “The Cold Equations.” It was easier to read about elves and magic since it took no logical explanation, it just was. SF shelf space began to share space with fantasy.

In the mid-1970s, Harlequin Books, of all publishers, tried to buck the trend with its line of Laser Books, but the run only lasted 58 imprints.

Today, as you noted, most of the SF shelf space is gone.

This where I have to disagree with your idea that publishers are promoting the drive away from SF. It’s a synergistic situation: readers are turning away from SF and publishers are noting the trend and catering to it. Look at the team of Niven and Pournelle. They gave us leading examples of modern hard-science SF novels. “The Mote in God’s Eye” was an archetype for first-encounter novels and “Footfall” was a prime example of alien invasion. But what have they recently turned out? Books where magic holds sway. I’m not sure if it’s a conscious decision on their part or not.

To make matters worse, we have become an inward-looking society. We no longer want to explore the great unknown. We want to sit in front of computers and lead more exciting existences in Second Life rather than study to be astronauts.

A few authors like yourself, and this might include writers like John Varley, keep hard-SF alive, but until society changes back into a community that hasn’t renounced the future, I fear yours will be a shrinking niche market.

As publishers turn away from SF, they are reserving their lists for authors that will guarantee them the best ROI. That means big-name authors or writers who are willing to bend.

Neil, I like to count myself as one of your truest fans. As my personal economic fortunes grew I bought both your books in both hard-bound and soft so I could reward you for your efforts, so please take this as constructive criticism: perhaps if you incorporated your political message less obviously, you might become more palatable to agents and publishers.

One of my favorite novels of yours – behind “The Probability Broach” – was “Tom Paine Maru.” You write that it was “butchered,” yet I still came away with an appreciation of libertarianism.

In a recent post, you outlined a book you were considering. I found the outline enthralling, and I think one reason was that you hadn’t stopped the narrative flow to add libertarian opinion.

I know you can’t stop being a libertarian anymore than I can stop being brown-eyed, but I’d rather have your books back on the shelves with a more temperate message than not have them at all.

In a final note, self publishing – not vanity publishing – is becoming more available. Go to lulu.com and see what they offer. I think once you can figure out a way to market to your audience, it may be a way to gather income from your writing and show publishers that you have commercial possibilities to an audience that isn’t interested in elves and spells.

11. al perez - October 29, 2007

D’ya really think the current crop of idiots infesting Wishington (no I didn’t mispell it) D.C. could have been elected by people well enough educated to appreciated good SF?
I attended and used to live close to UT El Paso, and noticed that its engineering department’s graduate students tended to include a disproportionately large number of Hindi, Pakistani, Palestinian, and other Southern and Southwestern Asians, they were making up for the shortage of American studentsthat had learned enough math and science in high school to become engineering majors.
We need stronger science ed in the US, and a popular culture that considers people scientifically ignorant, not scientists, to be socially inept nerds.
Hell, the main attraction of Neil’s work to me and the rest of his core fan base is his promotion of libertarian ideals.
Askng him to tone them down would be like asking C.S. Lewis to tone down the Christian content of his books or Spider Robinson to not be such a hippie.
I also don’t care for decaf coffee, lite beer, or watered whiskey.

12. Eli - October 29, 2007

Neil and Co. are having some domain issues. I have a link to TLE on my site, iboru.org.

As far as SF lit goes, I’ve certainly noticed a decline in quality and quantity. And the admixing of SF and fantasy of bookstore shelves makes me want to open my own store. But there are some genuinely good SF authors being published even now. Some of them, like Varley and Ken McLeod (sp?) even write about libertarianism (though Ken is a critic more than a proponent). Neil I would encourage you to check out lulu.com or lightning speed (which actually prints the books for lulu). Some authors are having great success with self publishing, e publishing and podcasting as a market tool. Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’ve read Neil’s shit and that man is no dog. Hell, I volunteer to produce a reading of any one of your books Neil.

Man didn’t I steer way of track. Anyway. The offer stands.

-e

13. Donald Qualls - October 29, 2007

Interesting that you choose “Their Majesties’ Bucketeers” and “Wardove” as your favorites — Sodde Lydfe and its people are one of my favorite inventions in all of SF, but I found The Wardove so depressing I had trouble finishing it (which is a great feat of writing, since as I recall it *was* a depressing story, about characters in a very depressing situation — I haven’t read it a second time, so I could be misremembering — but not great for selling sequelae).

There was a rash of very, very depressing SF in the early 1970s; I recall one novel I read (the title and author escape me; it’s been almost thirty-five years) where the *high point* of the book was the protagonist blowing himself up with a nuclear weapon and taking an entire city with him — and not because it was the heroically noble thing to do, but because it *finally* put him out of the reader’s misery. There were lots of those, though I didn’t intentionally read many of them. It’s my opinion that it was books like those that started the decline of SF, and writers like Varley, you, Zelazny (much of whose work is genuine hard SF under the skin), and even that hippie Spider Robinson couldn’t drag the genre back into optimism in time to keep it selling well. Possibly (probably) this was influenced by the political climate of the day; those were times when it didn’t seem the Berlin Wall would ever fall, and it seemed all too likely we’d all wind up breathing enough radioactive dust to kill us — but none the less, SF was far less optimistic for a good while there than most of us who read this blog would like it to be.

None of which changes the fact that you had agencies stealing from their writers, editors wanting you to give up your values and write the fluff that would sell, etc. — but I think that was a symptom, not the cause. Just my opinion, of course…

14. Mike Blessing - October 30, 2007

Neil — Had an exchange along these lines on Victor’s message board that you might find interesting.

Basically, what I recommended to Victor was that he make the listings in his Bibliography section links to the Amazon pages for each of his books. That way, he gets a commission from Amazon as well as a check from the publisher.

Also, the market in e-books seems to growing (rather fitfully, but that’s better than nothing at all) — a link to the e-book listing for each of your novels could also generate sales.

Ghods, if I could convert all of my books, comics, and magazines to electronic documents, I could carry them around in a steamer trunk.

15. al perez - October 31, 2007

One way or another we must boo st (notice subtle Samhain
pun) sales of SF, especially of a libertarian nature. I’ll even settle for an increase in intelligent fantasy and good non sf. This includes increasd sales throgh on line publishing, orders through TLE to Amazon.com, and brick Mom and Pop and even national franchise bookstores. This will accomplish several things:
a. General increase in literacy and reading
b. Spread of intelligent ideas leading people to eventually adopt libertianism.
c. Helping Neiland other great authors get the exposure (southern for better satellite reception), sale and income they deserve.
d. Create a demand for the works of newcomers like me so I can get more money and gun up again ( don’t feel socially naked. More like out in public in thon and everyone else is in boxers .).
More importantly by all the Saints (Catholic Pun) November is national literacy month (Yup ,americans are illiterate the rest of the year ) and promoting the reappearance of bookstores and book racks in convenience stores is a desirable goal.

16. John Lowther - October 31, 2007

I would look at the state of American industry for a clue to the decline of Science Fiction.

Increasingly from the late 1970s on the leadership of many manufacturing corporations was taken over by financial types who knew and were focused on but one thing: Making money.

To the (ahem) financial wizards, producing a product was just an annoyance along the way to more money. They brought us such wonderful concepts as planned obsolescence and outsourcing.

With the exception of a few sectors, development on real product improvement came to a screeching halt. The question before engineers became “How can we make this cheaper,” rather than the traditional “How can we make this better.” Thus American industry declined, and took the the better and brighter future with it.

Al – Your writing practice plan is a good one, but one from the era of dead-tree-only publishing.

Lately I’ve been following an on-line fantasy where the author posts her evening’s worth of writing as a blog, and then reads the comments.

Certainly not as effective as getting feedback from professional editors, but certainly more effective than the “mail the manuscript and get back a rejection letter” method which might be based on just reading the first line. (If that!)

While I skipped the comments while getting up to date with her story (she’d been at it for quite a while before I came on it) I’ve found she is getting a remarkable amount of good discussion, discussion exceeding the volume of her writing by a factor of well over three to one. Not necessarily editorial advice, but I’m sure some of it helps propel the story.

I don’t know if other people do this, but when reading on line, I find myself almost reflexively rephrasing awkward constructions and grammatical barbarities. I’ve come to call it my “auto editor.” These days I find it kicking in not only on unedited internet posts, but increasingly on dead-tree publications as well. . .

17. al perez - October 31, 2007

I agree that it makes better sense to go to electronic publishing and not submit paper manuscripts. the Publisher’s of Analog want paper manuscripts. My ambition is to , well you get the idea.
This actually creates a filter. Do you think what you wrote is worth spending the money for ink, paper, envelopes, and postage to try to sell? Remember, I am interested in publishing for money ( and my creditors suport this decision). So are our Gracious Administrator and the other successful and aspiring professional authors.
However unless I am really sure of success, I will probably submit my next (hopefully) salable (not just publishable ) effort to someone who buys online submissions instead of insisting on paper manuscripts.
Meanwhile, we still have to hook in new readers. The big problem with web publications is getting the new readers.
It was the illustrations on the covers of The Lost Continent and Land of Terror that first attracted me to the old ERB Ace reprints. this is omething I would not have seen if online, unless i was specifically looking for Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I wouldn’t have been since I didn’t see the covers yet to attract my attention.
The next generation of readers has to be roped in by the hard copy branch of the publishing industry so we can get them going on line (E.G., eric Flint’s Ring of Fire hard copy books and Grantville Gazette webzine.)

18. don wilson - October 31, 2007

Mr.Smith while I dont believe it perhaps sci.fi. is dead or dying but nature abhors a vacuum and you could easily replace sci.fi. with Libertarian-sci.fi. or lib.sci.fi.
You could replace one genre with another a parallel would be rock and roll which started with a downturn in country western song sales (country was originally country western)
You really could start a publishing house you only need a name and an incorporation outsource everything else
place a single book on a purchase in advance of print basis with a minimum number of sales before printing occurs (this could be at the profit point or at the break even point)

19. Eli - November 1, 2007

Al Said “Helping Neiland…”

…and I instantly flashed to a liberty inspired them park where mom and dad can buy guns while youngins go plinking and have animatronic tours of the founding fathers and the villainous statists that followed.

20. Retired MSgt - November 1, 2007

Here’s my unorganized and rambling rant on the state of “Sci-Fi”.

I don’t want to read about the science, I want to read about people. The science is secondary, I want a story with a hero and how that person overcomes adversity and I want that story set in a plausible reality–be it a “reality” based on hard science or fantasy. I am not a fan of any story where the world is saved by FM (effing Magic). Star Trek TNG is notorious for such solutions.

I want to read about how Dick Seaton finally wins against Marc DuQuesne. I want the story where Arran Islay wins the day. Give me the tales where Win Bear, Honor Harrington, or Colin Macintyre overcome impossible odds to save the world–don’t give me stories about how wonderful and beautiful the world will be when Utopia is achieved or how “science” will save us all.

“Science Fiction” started failing when it became more about the science or the “Great Society” and less about the people–or at least that’s when I stopped buying as much of it. The “techno-military”, “dragon fantasy” or “sword and sorcery fantasy” books remained character driven–that’s why they survived and continue to flourish.

The Harry Potter books aren’t about the magic even though they are in a magical setting.

Were Gordon R. Dickson’s “Dorsai” books about the science or about the characters? Are his “Dragon Knight” books about the magic or are they character driven?

Every book that I consider a “good read” was about individuals.

I’ll read about Paksenarrion, Belgarion, or Simon Snowlock as long as the story is well written, entertaining, and it isn’t the magic that saves the day.

I’ll read the stories of Kim Kinnison, Emerson Ngu, and John Christian Falkenberg too, for the same reasons.

I don’t read stories about the “Federation” or about the “Empire”–though I would read stories about how someone or some people put their boot up the Federation/Empire’s ass as long as the stories were well written and character driven.

Anywho, that’s what popped into mind when I read the blog.

Although I disagree with one statement; “The themes must revolve
around…the scientific search for immortality…”

I don’t think the theme should be about the search for immortality per se, but about how people/society reacts/adapts to any such search or success. It should never be about the science, it should be about people.

Oh well, just one person’s opinion anyway.

21. al perez - November 1, 2007

Trying again. Web ate first try at sending this note.
We need to creal a Neil Land theme park as Eli suggests.
Make sure we bring in our own personal agents from FBi ATF, and so on. That way they can:
A: Be snooping on us, see ware not doing anything wrong, and reduce odds of getting Mt. Carmeled.
B. Be out of other people’s hair.
c. Be exhihibits of bad guys.
d. Provide guaranteed customers for lunch counter.
While at it set up small scale printing operation. Visitors could buy/ print personalized copies of Neil and othr participants in venture’s works.

22. Al Newberry - November 1, 2007

Hey Neil.

What happened to The Libertarian Enterprise. I haven’t been able to access it in weeks.

23. al perez - November 2, 2007

So far it seems we your fans and friends are trying to commit you to starting yor own publishing house and theme park, or at least lend us your name while we do the dirty work ( hopefully that includes coughing up cash.)
surely the publishing houses can see they need to buy and promote your work before you jump in and start successfully competing with them.
meanwhile I’m doing good that no one is trying to committ me to a home.
To access TLE go to webleyweb.com. it will tell you how to get to TLE.

24. Victor Milán - November 3, 2007

… And Mike’s right. Not to dissuade you from visiting my forum, since I already have an Amazon Associate account, it’s a darn good suggestion, and I recommend it to El Neil and all writers with dead-tree volumes to flog.

I also feel e-books are a coming thing. I personally prefer to read on my Palm TX (which with the proper software, such as the free Mobipocket Reader, allows one to use the whole screen for reading.) My friend Joe was commenting today on how he wished the magazines he subscribed to made e-editions available, for the reasons Mike cites.

By the way, I’d like to petition for Tom Paine Maru to be made available in html format; among other things, Adobe’s pdf reader does not allow for full-screen reading on my Palm. Although in fact now I can’t find it at all…