That's a question I knew I'd be asked on the publication of my Western novel. It's actually a little disingenuous, because what the questioner(s) really mean is, "Why did you publish with Vox Day?"
Vox, a.k.a. Theodore Beale, the Managing Editor of Castalia House, is one of the most hated and vilified members of the science fiction and fantasy community, and roundly rejected by most of those with 'politically correct' opinions. Personally, I think he's more sinned against than sinning. He's been the target of vitriolic personal abuse over his non-politically-correct viewpoints, and the object of bitter personal attacks. He was expelled from the Science Fiction Writers of America, SFWA (arguably illegally, because its own standards and procedures were not followed in the process). Vox, not being a shrinking violet, has responded in kind and taken the struggle to new levels, particularly with his so-called 'Rabid Puppies' campaign to destabilize the Hugo Awards.
I've been surprised (and disappointed) by the number of people who react negatively to Vox Day solely on the basis of other peoples' opinion of him. Without ever having met the man, or spoken with him, or corresponded with him, they condemn him out of hand. A good example came from an author I otherwise respect, and whom I'd met from time to time. In 2015 Marko Kloos withdrew his novel from nomination for a Hugo Award because Vox Day's Rabid Puppies had supported its inclusion. On Facebook, he added:
I think Vox Day is a ****bag of the first order, and I don’t want any association with him, especially not a Hugo nomination made possible by his followers being the deciding factor. That stench don’t wash off.
I was profoundly disappointed that Marko would have made such a statement. It wasn't like the man I thought I'd come to know. He later apologized, but I think the damage was done - more to Marko than to Vox, I fear. That's only one example of the extreme reactions against Vox Day that have circulated on the Internet from those who have, as far as I know, never had any direct contact with him at all. They're taking their cue from others. That's intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice. There's no other way to put it.
I first came into contact with Vox Day over the boycott of Tor Books for which I called last year. (You can read all my articles on the subject, including quotes from Vox, in reverse chronological order at this link.) I'd never spoken to him before - in fact, at that point I'd barely heard of him, since I'd never been (and still am not) a member of either the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies campaign - but he picked up on my challenge to senior Tor staff members concerning their bias towards and lies about people like me. He became an ally in the campaign, and a very welcome one too. I spoke with him on more than one occasion by telephone, and corresponded with him via e-mail. I found him nothing but gentlemanly, polite and supportive.
Since that time I've continued to exchange e-mails with him from time to time. When I recently put up on this blog a 'teaser' chapter from my proposed Western novel, he clearly liked what he saw, because he approached me within 24 hours and offered me a three-book contract. I hadn't expected that at all, but I was honored that he was willing to take a risk on a first-time effort like mine in a moribund genre that had been declared all but dead by every major publisher out there. I kicked my preparations into high gear. This morning's publication of 'Brings The Lightning' is the result.
Vox was my editor in getting the book ready for publication. He stated up front that he wanted to 'make a good book better', not try to remake it in his image, or make it into something it wasn't. I found him a very effective editor indeed. He went through my manuscript and made many proposed changes, averaging two or three per page, but did so on the basis that these were his suggestions rather than his demands. I was free to accept or reject each of his proposed changes. In about two-thirds of cases, I went along with his proposals. They did, indeed, make the book better. In the remaining third of cases, I went with what I'd originally written, or re-wrote a few lines, because I felt it fitted in better with my vision for the book and what I hope will be the series into which it will grow. Vox accepted that with aplomb. The man's a gentleman.
There will doubtless be those who'll be disappointed that I've chosen to publish with a man, and a publishing house, that they regard with the same revulsion as the Devil regards holy water. To them I can only say, go read what my friend Larry Correia had to say about Vox last year. I endorse his sentiments. I don't share all - or possibly even most - of Vox's opinions, but then he's never asked me to share or support them in any way, shape or form. He's merely tried to be the best editor he can be, and help me be the best writer I can be. I'll be damned if I condemn him because of past history or exchanges to which I wasn't a party, and in which I had no involvement at all. Not my circus, not my monkeys. I certainly won't demand that he embrace political correctness. As you've probably noted from my blog header, that's not exactly a position I embrace myself!
Vox shares my perspective that the 'classic' Western genre is ripe for revival. I've grown very tired of romance or erotica masquerading as Westerns - to my mind, they belong in a different category. I'm also fed up with the historical inaccuracies and fantastically high body counts of many so-called Westerns that are nothing more or less than violence porn (and sometimes actual porn as well, given the number of sex scenes they contain - something that would be anathema to every one of the great Western authors). I tried to write in the classic style, and Vox actively tried to help me do that. I appreciated his input.
Castalia House is a small publisher at this stage, but it's grown in stature and in the diversity of its offerings. I'm honored - deeply honored - to join authors such as Jerry Pournelle and Martin van Creveld in its stable. I've read both men for years, and their books are numbered among those in my permanent library. (I note with amusement that Dr. Pournelle is a past President of SFWA. That says a great deal about how that organization has changed since his tenure, epitomized by its treatment of Vox Day, and by Dr. Pournelle's willingness to be publicly associated with him, notwithstanding that.) More recently, I discovered the work of John C. Wright through Castalia House, and have been enjoying it. I look forward to continuing this Western series with Castalia and Vox Day, and I may in due course write some science fiction and/or space opera for them as well. We'll see what readers think of this initial offering through them, and take it from there.
Thanks, Vox, for making my book much better than it would have been without your help. You are (literally) a gentleman and a scholar, Sir, and I've enjoyed working with you. I look forward to doing so again.