First Cup of Coffee – July 8, 2022

I’m getting my new fountain installed today! Photo shows where it will be. Otherwise I’m discussing tail-sniffing, being made to feel inferior and other forms of intimidation, along with curation of what is “real” in a genre.




Transcript
00:01.83
jeffekennedy
Good morning, everyone. This is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance here with my first cup of coffee. Ah, so good today is say it with me Friday woo woo woo July eighth exciting day here. In the Kennedy household because I am getting my new fountain installed d d um, it is ah they are coming at 9am I don’t know why say it this way I I do know why I I am um it feels fraught. To me and in a ridiculous way considering that this is something that I have wanted for 10 years and saved up my money for and is um, an expensive addition. But also value add to the landscape. So when I when I start feeling like this is a ah ah silly thing to spend money on David reassures me, he says that I always have ah, it’s very sweet to me. He says that I have really good taste and that I’m always very good about adding stuff that improves the value plus it will make us happy it um feels a little fraught in that I don’t know Dave I was talking to. My friend Kelly about this. She’s in town for one more day and I talked to David about it. Um, you know there’s just like all of this stuff about Can we get the equipment into the spot and you know like I put down the deposit on this. Six weeks ago and it’s been kind of a pain to get them to come and actually install the thing and um I don’t know they’re just kind of cantankerous about can they get to the spot you know and I did the call before you dig stuff. We did the measuring. You know it it all should be fine, but um I think I’m doing the thing where and I I hate that this bothers me but I don’t want to deal with the it’s kind of like the construction guys thing.

02:41.77
jeffekennedy
You know that I don’t want to deal with the look here little lady attitude and I’ve like been pre-stressing about it. Why do I care if they try to pull this shit on me I don’t know and Kelly pointed out that’s really not good customer service. And I’m feeling this way and she’s absolutely right? and David says he’ll handle it for me because he does speak construction guy. Um, so hopefully cross your fingers for me that it’s um I want this I wish it could be just fun and not. Stressful it maybe it will be it. It could be that I’m totally overthinking this which it would not be the first time right. So um to to do? Yeah I’ll be happy wouldn’t it say I just want it there for it to be done. Um, maybe if I were more of more naturally inclined to be a diva. It would be better. You know where I could just be like fucking put it where I want it be the princess. They imagined me to be um again I’m overthinking. So. Um, it’s interesting because I’ve been thinking more about you know how much tail sniffing there is in the industry and that’s what I call it and it was kind of amusing. I I used that phrase recently with somebody and they thought that I was like they’re like that’s such a great way to put it. That’s I’ve been calling it that since the very very beginning and my friend and I came up with it when we were. Um, newbie newbie writers and we would go to these writing events in our small town of Laramie Wyoming and and everybody there I mean a lot of people already knew each other but the people who didn’t know each other would all of the conversations would be like what do you write. And ah, where have you been published and and and you have to do that you have to like draw your mouth down and talk like yeah um and we started calling it tail sniffing because it was like when the writers would first meet each other. They all did.

05:20.52
jeffekennedy
Go round sniffing each other’s butts to figure out who’s the most alpha. And and it persists to this day and and I see it happen. It’s changed right since then because that was the early 90s and self publishing. Was not a thing I think when we first started I remember when I was in a crit group that came after this and I remember 1 of the gals telling us about the fabulous new website called Amazon where you could buy any book you want it? ah. So not only was self- publishing not really a thing unless somebody like I don’t know went to Kinko’s and ran off a hundred copies of their book and tried to get people to buy it? Um, but. You know it was um for there wasn’t even really much in the way of digital reading yet. It was um, you know bookstores was where it was at and it was all print and newsstance and now. A lot of the tale sniffing involves. You know like are you traditionally published. Are you self-published and and there are people in I think romance doesn’t do this as much. There are people in the science fiction and fantasy community that are heavily invested in being the curators of what is real science fiction and fantasy. What is good science fiction and fantasy. What is not good. What is vetted who’s important who is not you know I maybe this is a people are going to people thing. Ah and there’s a whole lot of the like the awards community is really invested in deciding who gets the awards. Who should be lauded and in some ways. It’s a response to the fact that some books are very popular with readers and others are not but there’s um, there’s this dichotomy between.

07:59.23
jeffekennedy
The books that are popularly read and the books that are considered award worthy and and there is a Venn diagram overlap of books that are award worthy and that are read by many people. But. It’s um. The and will let me sorry I’m I’m thinking as I speak which is never a good thing. Um there’s also you know like the that there’s still the idea that if you’re traditionally published that your books are inherently better. And it’s very difficult to get people to read and nominate self-published books for awards unless those ah awards are specifically for indie books and so like with Nebula awards we have discussed creating an award care category for self-published books. But there’s also a a feeling of like of ghettoizing self-p publishishing that way right? that separated you separated out. Um, and I’ve considered pushing for it and then I can’t decide if I really care. That much because in some ways I could get in trouble for saying that? Yeah I’m not going to say it well I’ll say this that um, that. Do awards contribute to sales is the eternal question and I have been interviewed on this topic before because when the pages of the mind won the Rita award people asked me if I thought that made a difference to the book sales and the thing is is I think it made a difference. Yes. Um, there was a lot of promo that that book got because of that and a lot of people are aware of that book I see it brought up frequently. Maybe not more than other books. But. Definitely a lot of people read it for that reason. Um, it’s not my highest earning book and there are many people who will say that that is the that is the only marker that matters right.

10:34.38
jeffekennedy
That’s the only part that matters is whether or not you spend spend the money whether or not the book earns the money and if you’re making a living as a writer. Um that is the bottom line I mean you do care most in a way about which ones are going to you know. Keep the lights on and pay the mortgage and one of the things that happens a whole lot in the indie circles and with the self- publishing writers is that they will become to some extent extremely focused on money. Ah, some of them being so intent on marketing and earning money that they say that they don’t care about anything else some of them even don’t care about like craft and that sort of thing you know with the whole idea of the minimum viable product and that’s a. Ah, subset for sure you know So It’s like um, but sometimes I think we comfort ourselves with that because I was ah in a conversation with someone who. I Think regards me as an upstart as not a real fantasy writer and I’ve talked about this before that. Um,, there’s ah, a section of the science fiction and fantasy writing community who believes that I do not write fantasy because there’s romance in it which. In which the romances the antimatter that cancels out all of the fantasy and even some of my friends sometimes who are more on the literary fantasy side of things um will suggest that I Write. You know, oh well, you could write a book more like this. It’s like yes, but I don’t want to. And I think that and I and I feel it in myself like when I am with this person who kind of considers me an upside upstart and not a real fantasy writer I think to myself. Well yes, but I’m making more money than he is um. Which I happen to know that I make more money for my writing than he does despite his storied career and it is a comfort to me because it’s like yes, but I have a I don’t know a marketable product right? So we tell ourselves these things.

13:10.18
jeffekennedy
You know to? Ah I I don’t know balance out the various aspects of success I have a friend who talked about you know like that we have different goal posts so short fiction writers tend to get very caught up in. Being published in particular publications because it confers a certain honor. Um, but it’s also very very difficult to make a living as a writer of short fiction because you just can’t you can’t make the money at it right. not enough not consistently um so then people those people will comfort themselves with well I may not be making as much money as x but I get these awards and I have this reputation my contribution to the canon. And if you’re very good. You can get your short fiction put together into a collection and sell the collection. So I’m not sure how I got on this or exactly where I’m going with it. It’s I think this is tied in with the in my head with the dealing with the construction guys and dealing with the um self-appointed curators. Of the genre in that they they both want and maybe it’s not fair to say that they want this but they both operate by keeping me off balance um or attempting to keep me off balance right? to. So that I will think that their opinion what they want is more important than what I want ah you know and I come back to that line from by Eleanor Roosevelt which I think is really important where she says no one can make you feel inferior without your permission. And and I do think that that is critical and it can be very difficult in the moment because people who throw their weight around in this way and and I should qualify that like the construction guy who’s coming. I think is the owner of the business I don’t really know because it was a woman who sold me the fountain and she just refers to John and it’s just kind of funny how they run the business and she says well John says and well John will and it’s like so who who is John.

15:54.55
jeffekennedy
John has gained this sort of semi mythical status in my head right? and she’s very concerned from the very beginning. She’s been very concerned about John being upset and so maybe that’s like transferred to me. It’s like oh well, we don’t want to upset John um. The other thing I know I’m circling between these two topics. It’s part of the brand here at first cup of coffee I did ask them to come out and look at the site I said when and you I work from home I’m here all the time you know, somebody’s out in our neighborhood stop by and look and see what you think and she said oh no, no, that won’t be necessary. John doesn’t need to do that. Well we’ll see what John thinks when John gets here. Um, which is better for me to have that strike attitude. Um, so yeah, there’s this Ah i. Can’t be made to feel like my books are less important than someone else’s books unless I agree to that? Um, but you know it can be difficult sometimes where you know it’s um. The self-appointed curators rely very heavily on getting us to believe that their opinion is correct and valid and important and do we think then I don’t know this particular person. I’ve read some of their work and it’s not the kind of fantasy I like and I could um I could go into why I don’t like it but I feel like that’s unfair. It’s not my not my cup of tea. But and I could even go so far as to say that I think it’s not good. But that’s me right? That’s my opinion. It’s um, oops hang on got something in my other. It’s um, it’s all the various kinds of gatekeeping and 1 way that people reassure themselves that what they’re writing. Is good and valid and worthy of respect is to find other stuff that they say is not as good and I think it’s hard when you’ve been a writer for a long time too and you see the industry changing you see other stuff becoming important. Ah, to people for whatever reason and you’re throwing out there well but this is why the old school thing is better. This is why this is the gold standard and these whippersnapppers today. Don’t know.

18:44.10
jeffekennedy
What they’re doing so I know this is something I circle a lot. Maybe it’s something that um I don’t know is it me? Maybe it’s just me. Ah. Or maybe it’s a maybe it’s a human thing you know where you’re always kind of looking at I don’t know maybe we’re always tail sniffing right? Who’s who’s got the um who’s got the sexiest anal glands this week but ah. To ah extend the analogy rather uncomfortably. So I’m almost out of time so I won’t go into I should make a note though because I do want to talk about um about some recent cages cases of plagiarism by. Very highfalutin authors and I think that this is related because I think that um sometimes authors who have a certain reputation to maintain end up like borrowing generously from other work in order to sustain that. I don’t know prestige… prestige is a thing right? You can’t put dollars on it but having prestige does help sell books. Um, it’s an interesting thing right? So all right? Well I’m going to go. And work on writing and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and I will talk to you all on Monday you all take care bye bye.

Setting the Record Straight

A blustery, blizzardy day here in Santa Fe! My iron fairy sculpture has wind-blown rain and snow frozen to it. Springtime in the Rockies!

We had a lovely time in Tucson over the weekend, though they weren’t a whole lot farther along springwise than we are. A cold winter, with lots of precipitation. We’re hoping that bodes well for a lush and lavish summer.

I know, I know. I am an idealist at heart. 

Last week I had a conversation that really stuck with me. Well, to be honest, I was hurt, which wasn’t at all the intention of the person speaking. See, what happened is, I was talking with an aspiring author of science fiction. She’d been struggling with some structural issues and genre expectations, and she mentioned she’d re-read one of my books to study how I’d done certain things. Which is lovely and flattering! I then offered to read her book for her and see if I had any suggestions to offer. She asked if I was sure and I said, yes, I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t want to. And she said, oh, well, a mutual acquaintance of ours had warned her that I was territorial about science fiction and fantasy so not to expect help from me there.

I was frankly stunned.

You know that feeling, like you’ve been punched? That.

And my friend felt terrible. She even tried to convince me that being territorial about a genre isn’t a bad thing, that lots of people feel that way. I suppose that’s true, that territoriality and jealousy are part and parcel of our profession. But to me those are terribly negative emotions and go against everything I believe in and work toward. 

I don’t hold her to blame for telling me, but I am unhappy with the person who said this thing about me. No, I don’t know who it is. My friend wouldn’t say. It maybe doesn’t matter, except that it reflects on the mindset of that person. I don’t know where they got this idea about me, and since they haven’t said it to my face, I’ll have to speak up for myself here. 

I have to tell you all, I immediately went to Grace Draven and she said “Whaaa?” and then “Who said that and why would they say it? You’re one of the most generous people out there with your help and experience. It’s unfair, unjust, and just totally out in left field.” 

Which made me feel much better. Maybe I should just hold Grace’s purse while she beats them up for me. She’s a good friend. She’d probably help me dispose of the body, too.

As satisfying as that would be, I’d rather set the record straight. No, I’m not territorial about SFF. I’m not sure someone CAN be territorial about an entire genre. Even if I wanted to somehow keep all the SFF-writing to myself, I don’t know how I’d go about it. Decline to read and critique other’s work? Refuse to blurb books written by debut authors? Talk smack about my fellow authors in the genre instead of cheering their releases and sharing good news about them? Walk away from collaborative projects? Go all ninja on their asses and slip poison into their morning coffee?

Demonstrably, I don’t do any of those things. (Except maybe the ninja poison thing, in which case no one will ever know I was there BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!)

I devote a lot of time to supporting my fellow authors and their books, at all levels of the game. In fact, people close to me gently suggest I spend LESS time on stuff that isn’t my own work. I am a Director at Large on the Board of Directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) because I want to support the genre and profession. People close to me gently suggest I spend less time on volunteering too. I ignore those gentle suggestions because I believe in giving generously of myself. That’s important to me. Probably one of my most closely held values.

So, you can see why it bothered me that someone out there talked smack about me this way. You could accuse me of many flaws. I’d most likely agree with chagrin on what they are and renew my intentions to do better. But this is not one of them. I am not a person who worries about there being only so much pie to go around. Pies are easy to make. I’m totally in favor of more pie.

I’m really enjoying my friend’s book, too. When she gets it published, I’ll be the first to cheer about it. 

Being Proud of Being Different

I’m just back from #WorldCon76, which was a whirlwind of great stuff. I caught a moment of downtime at the lovely Fairmont pool, including a much-needed nap.

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re asking “What are you most proud about with regards to your writing?” Come on over to read about mine

Why I Hate Han & Leia’s Backstory

A woman's torso, naked but for a wrap of crimson velvetToday is the release day of THE DEVIL’S DOORBELL! Very cool to see the excitement out there about it. Also, working with this group of amazing, high-caliber and professional authors has been one of the highlights of my career so far. You ladies rock!

So, I’ve been stewing on this post since I saw Star Wars: the Force Awakens. OBVIOUSLY this post will contain spoilers. You all have had six months to see the movie, so I figure any spoilerage is on you at this point *and* you’ve been warned. It does affect your experience of the movie. After all, my own mother spoiled it for me as I talked to her on the drive down to Albuquerque to see the movie with a friend – after I’d avoided spoilers for WEEKS! 

Alas.

(Also, I seem to have gotten quite worked up writing this post, so the F-bombs are flying. Be warned.)

Anyway, The Force Awakens (TFA) opens many years after The Return of the Jedi finishes. Luke has disappeared to parts unknown, Han and Leia consummated their love affair long enough to birth and raise (for an unspecified period of time) their son, Kylo Ren. He’s an emo dude who ran off at some point to take up Darth Vader’s megalomaniacal legacy. Because of some vague disagreement over their bad boy son, Han and Leia broke up and have lived apart for *years*. She’s been key in the ongoing rebellion leadership (which is super-cool; more of this, please; yes yes yes) and Han went off to … I dunno. Scavenge around the galaxy with Chewie? That part wasn’t terribly clear to me.)

I should caveat here that I am decidedly NOT a follower of the Star Wars overall canon. I’ve never read any of the books written around the franchise, or anything else. I’ve seen all the movies, but that’s it. I’m aware that people write about and discuss all kinds of story threads not in the movies, but I don’t know anything about them. 

ANYWAY… this seriously stuck in my craw. Yes, it’s a great moment when the movie’s central heroine and hero run into Han and Chewie, and it’s a lovely moment of reunion when Han and Leia see each other again, but is it worth this backstory of their long separation?

No.

No no no.

And you know why this annoys me so greatly?

Two reasons: because it’s facile storytelling and because it transmits SFF’s contempt for romance.

Allow me to unpack a little. 

Why have Han and Leia be long-separated at the beginning of the movie? To add conflict. I can’t think of another reason. (Enlighten me if you have one.) To me this reads as screenwriting shorthand: separate the lovers so that you can have the tension of their old differences and the simmer of sexual tension renewed. Because Hollywood thinks you can’t have an established love affair AND sexual tension. 

Also I think Hollywood believes that long-term relationships can’t last happily, which is part of their contempt for romance. In most movies with romance, the focus is entirely on the establishment of the early relationship – as with Han and Leia in Episodes IV-VI – and rarely on a long-term relationship. When a movie IS about later in the relationship, it’s nearly always about trouble. Conflict, doncha know. 

So, I suspect the screenwriters didn’t give much thought to the possibility of having Han and Leia having been together all those intervening years. They just tossed out that, oh no! They separated acrimoniously because their son was a shit head. Because this does in so many marriages, right? 

That annoyed me, too. Han and Leia are both strong-minded people who’ve endured great losses in their lives and emerged scarred but victorious. And we’re to believe they could not preserve their great passion for each other, that their love and loyalty that survived the worst pressures simply crumbled because they couldn’t agree on their grown son doing stupid, disappointing things?

Talk about undercutting two truly great characters. Which brings me around to the contempt for romance.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it occurred to anyone working on the movie how this change in trajectory affects our long-held feelings for Han and Leia. All these many years since Return of the Jedi, I’ve had them in my heart living Happily Ever After. Sure, fighting the Empire and various scourges of civilization, but TOGETHER. Side by side. Heroic partners in life. Enjoying at least that much joy, which is the WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF TRIUMPHING OVER AN EVIL EMPIRE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

*deep breath*

Did I mention this annoyed me?

Basically this movie told us that there is no happiness. Even Han and Leia don’t get to have it.

Worst of all, Han dies, so they’ll never be together again. Even though they reconcile (and it IS a lovely scene), there’s not even a kiss. He dies. Leia soldiers bravely on, alone. (She’s an older woman now, so she wouldn’t be interested in having sex again anyway.)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled to pieces that it looks like Carrie Fisher will be back to play Leia in perhaps an even greater role as a general in the rebellion in the next movies. (Which I wonder if the movie folks had planned on before they saw the *overwhelming* “Fuck-Yeah, General Leia” response.) However, I Am Not Pleased that she seems to be relegated to crone status. 

But, hey, it’s SFF action/adventure and who cares about mushy stuff beyond the occasional dirty-hands, smexy kiss?

Oh yeah. We do. 

And you know what? We can have both. Let’s get out there and write those damn stories.