When I read that I am “One of the Four “Great Speculative Writers of the Past” I feel that I’m reading my own obituary. Sometimes when I am asked about things of my history I feel like I’m writing it.
Which, I suppose, is one good reason to let my Wikipedia answer such questions instead of myself. When I’m interviewed I’m much more interested in talking about what I’ve written about than talking about myself.
And another reason is that I don’t have time for much of such pondering of my past. I am indeed still crazy after all these years. Since my last new published novel THE PEOPLE’S POLICE in 2017 I’ve written dozens of my On Books column in Asimov’s. Songs. Journalism. This and that in the arts world. Political screeds. Published short stories and novellas, some of which are waiting to become a novel. Even a full first draft of a novel which needs a proper publisher with a good editor.
So why have I not published a new novel since THE PEOPLE’S POLICE in 2017?
That’s a story you won’t find in my Wikipedia. That’s a story that is still going on.
There is a lot of talk today that because of the Woke vs. Maga literary political war, white male writers are finding it unfairly difficult getting their work published. Well, I confess that I am a white man, but I don’t think that is what had happened to me.
What Tor books did to THE PEOPLE’S POLICE is why I haven’t been able to publish a novel ever since. My editor on it there was the great David Hartwell. I was so confident of what he would do for the publication that Dona and I went to New Orleans on our own money to shoot promotional video for the book, knowing of course that Tor itself would not pay for any such thing.
But when we came back to New York, the shit hit the fan. David Harwell died in an accident, which among other things, turned THE PEOPLE’S POLICE into what is called a orphan book, meaning no one in Tor championed its publication. A horrible cover of a black cop and a white cop back to back on the hardcover against what the novel was actually hopefully about.
No one showed me the cover until it was too late to change,, telling me that David had approved it while he was still alive without showing it me, which he never would have done, and Tor refused to do anything at all with the videos that we had fronted with several thousand dollars of our money or even spend any at all on promoting the book.
What with the cover and the refusal of Tor to spend anything at all, what could have been a big seller at least in the South, the hard cover tanked. As you might imagine, I was not amused, but I thought a good cover, a just conver, could be put on the trade paperback, and Tor would have the freebee video for nothing.
Instead I was told that there would be no trade paperback. Well I was already crazy and did what most writers were not crazy enough to do. I went to war with Tor. And I won it. I got back my novel away from them so that I could at least create my own trade paperback on Amazon where it still is the only place you can find it.
But I paid a high price for my victory. I lost my agent because no agent can fight on the side of his writer against a publisher, and indeed shouldn’t for the sake of his other writers. And by then, it was becoming just about impossible get a proper publisher to even look at a novel except through an agent. And thusfar there has been no agent willing to take a chance on “One of the Four Great Speculative Writers of the Past.”
Would I have done what I did if I knew what it would cost? I like to believe that I would.
Hemingway declared: “When I write it, I’m an artiste, when I finish, I become a son of a bitch.”
I have long said “The price of liberty is taking care of business.”
But sometimes the price of business is taking care of liberty.