The Ones That Stick With Us

There is no reliable connection between a writer’s skill and popularity. I mean, I wish there were; it would make things easier. But just when you’re ready to point to writers like [REDACTED] and say, “See? If you’re popular, you suck,” you run into a Gaiman or a Martin and go, “Uh, well, okay, sometimes they’re popular on account of being really good.” The reverse case requires no special proof: especially with the increase in self-publishing, there is no shortage of writers who richly deserve their obscurity.

But then there are the frustrating cases, the ones where we want to grab the entire reading public by the lapels, shake them, and say, “Why haven’t you read this, you lunatic?” These writers can make us think we’re in a secret cabal, we are the ones who know. When we throw out the names of books or authors to someone we’ve just met at a convention, and the person says, War For the Oaks, our eyes get big, and we squee and say something that comes down to, “Oh, you too are initiated into the Secret?”

I use Emma Bull’s work as an example because her books are a classic case: known to so few it frustrates us. But those few love them with an intensity that seems to make up for the lack of popularity, like there’s some sort of law of Conservation of Squee. No, there is no such law (cf Martin & Gaiman), but it sometimes it seems like it—the fewer who know, the more intense the love and the deeper and more lasting and more powerful the effect.

If there were such a law, it would explain Pamela Dean. Even fewer people have heard of her than of Emma, a fact which constantly makes us grind our teeth (Emma’s teeth included, and yes, Emma, I am revealing things about your teeth), but those few! They meet in secret, and, when no one’s around, they say, “Tam Lin.” “I know! Just…” “Yeah. Wow.” And then they talk about Juniper and Gentian and Rosemary, or The Dubious Hills, or The Secret Country Trilogy, in hushed voices, as if for fear of scaring away the magic.

I am mentioning this now because, thanks to self-publishing, her work is becoming more available. Older, out of print works, and previously unpublished works are or will soon be for sale via print on demand or as e-books.

I am mentioning this because I would like all of you to be a part of the secret cabal whose lives have been changed.

The website is here. Do yourself a favor, and become part of the secret. Maybe it won’t be so secret any more, and we’d all like that very much.

Quoted Without Comment

There is a passage in John Reed’s Ten Days That Shook The World–his account of the Bolshevik revolution–that has always had a special place in my heart.  I reproduce it here, because I feel like it:



We sallied out into the town. Just at the door of the station stood two soldiers with rifles and bayonets fixed. They were surrounded by about a hundred business men, Government officials and students, who attacked them with passionate argument and epithet. The soldiers were uncomfortable and hurt, like children unjustly scolded.

A tall young man with a supercilious expression, dressed in the uniform of a student, was leading the attack.

“You realise, I presume,” he said insolently, “that by taking up arms against your brothers you are making yourselves the tools of murderers and traitors?”

“Now brother,” answered the soldier earnestly, “you don’t understand. There are two classes, don’t you see, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. We—”

“Oh, I know that silly talk!” broke in the student rudely. “A bunch of ignorant peasants like you hear somebody bawling a few catch-words. You don’t understand what they mean. You just echo them like a lot of parrots.” The crowd laughed. “I’m a Marxian student. And I tell you that this isn’t Socialism you are fighting for. It’s just plain pro-German anarchy!”

“Oh, yes, I know,” answered the soldier, with sweat dripping from his brow. “You are an educated man, that is easy to see, and I am only a simple man. But it seems to me—”

“I suppose,” interrupted the other contemptuously, “that you believe Lenin is a real friend of the proletariat?”

“Yes, I do,” answered the soldier, suffering.

“Well, my friend, do you know that Lenin was sent through Germany in a closed car? Do you know that Lenin took money from the Germans?”

“Well, I don’t know much about that,” answered the soldier stubbornly, “but it seems to me that what he says is what I want to hear, and all the simple men like me. Now there are two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat—”

“You are a fool! Why, my friend, I spent two years in Schlüsselburg for revolutionary activity, when you were still shooting down revolutionists and singing ‘God Save the Tsar!’ My name is Vasili Georgevitch Panyin. Didn’t you ever hear of me?”

“I’m sorry to say I never did,” answered the soldier with humility.  “But then, I am not an educated man. You are probably a great hero.”

“I am,” said the student with conviction. “And I am opposed to the Bolsheviki, who are destroying our Russia, our free Revolution. Now how do you account for that?”

The soldier scratched his head. “I can’t account for it at all,” he said, grimacing with the pain of his intellectual processes. “To me it seems perfectly simple—but then, I’m not well educated. It seems like there are only two classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie—”

“There you go again with your silly formula!” cried the student.

“—only two classes,” went on the soldier, doggedly. “And whoever isn’t on one side is on the other…”

We wandered on up the street….

Not Required Reading

In my last blog post, I referred to this thing that is going on. In the comments, there is discussion of creating a list of authors whose books were unfairly trashed.

L. Raymond, frequent commenter on this blog, has put together a list–probably not exhaustive, but substantial. I would like to suggest that, if you’re looking for something to read–and even better, to review–you consider the books on this list. Because the books were unfairly trashed by a toxic troll does not mean they’re good; but it doesn’t mean they’re bad, either.  I think fair, even-handed reviews are just what is called for.

Note: These are all Amazon links; obviously, if you feel about Amazon the way I do, feel free to pick them up elsewhere, otherwise don’t worry about it.

Here is the list L. Raymond put together.  You are welcome to add to it in comments.

Brown, Rachel Manija
Andreadis, Athena
Bacigalupi, Paolo
Bakker, R. Scott
Bishop, Anne
Gaither, Chelsea
Goldberg, Melissa
Harris, Charlaine
Jemisin, NK
Kowal, Mary Robinette
Kress, Adrienne
Loenen-Ruiz, Rochita
Lord, Karen
McCalmont, Jonathan
Paget, Colum
Pon, Cindy
Rothfuss, Patrick
Sperring, Kari
Sullivan, Tricia
Williams, Liz

Signing in Houston Tomorrow, 9/26

In this part of the country, it is pronounced with a long u, like hYOUstun. I won’t get into the religious issues between how Texans and New Yorkers say the name.

However you pronounce it, Skyler White and I will be in that city tomorrow, reading from and signing copies of The Incrementalists, at a place called Murder By The Book.

Details can be found here.

It would be lovely to meet those of you I’ve annoyed but never yet met; and to annoy those of you I’ve met but never yet annoyed. Please swing by and say hello.

Also, watch this space for me jumping cartwheels and turning up and down raving about the awesomeness that is the audiobook. I’ll have some copies of it to give away. There will be a contest.