Monday, May 23, 2016

Why did I publish through Castalia House?

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 allNot 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.



Glen Filthie said...

We're all adults and you can do as you wish, Pete.

That tiff over the awards seems nothing more than a marketing ploy now and that's an intellectually dishonest campaign too. My personal take away from it is this: guys like Kloos calling Vox a chit bag is merely a case of the pot calling the kettle black. From my lowly perspective as a reader: none of you guys are writing anything great anymore regardless of your politics. Sure, your writing is better than the SJW stuff... But that ain't saying much. For me- I won't put a dime into Day's pocket.

But I know others will and I hope your book does well.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Peter! I don't haven't read many westerns (not enough dragons), but am definitely passing your book on to my husband. From the description, he's going to love it.

As for people, I've noticed a curious human quirk in that most people don't take the trouble to investigate claims because they're too busy readying their pitchforks and torches. 99% of the internet brawls could be avoided if people actually took the time to check out the claims and look at the context. I've been reading Vox's blog for a couple of years and have tremendous respect for him due to how he's handled the online abuse. In all that time, I've never seen him hit first. He also tends to allow the aggressor to set the terms of engagement: i.e. people can expect that he will treat them the way they treat him--though a lot of the time he's been a lot kinder. Plus his blog is an education in and of itself.

And while he's still human, he's one of the few that I know of who is actually trying to clean up the SFF community. (The Safe Space as a Rape Room piece on the Castalia blog is an excellent but difficult read.) Something that's long overdue.

Seneca said...

I'm going to be getting the book and am glad you ended up with Castalia House on these efforts. I've enjoyed all the books I got through them and if you found a good editor to help make the books even better, that's great news. Good editors are not easy to find as evidenced by the bloat that afflicted a lot of the later Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter books.

Holmwood said...

Peter, thanks for posting this description of your view of CH/Vox as an editor. I was actually eager to read it, based on your earlier teaser.

(I picked up Brings the Lightning as soon as I got the Castalia newsletter this morning. Haven't read a Western since I was a child, when I devoured my Grandfather's Zane Grey collection. Look forward to yours.)

I have read Vox now for at least a decade (mostly at first as a columnist). He certainly was a polemicist of the first order and remains a provocateur. But, like you, I have found him uniformly pleasant as long as he is either approached neutrally or even with a negative critical position that is at least rational even if (to many) personally wounding. Clearly his brain works quite differently from those of most.

I am regularly startled by some of his statements, and often find myself in strong opposition. And yet, on a number of occasions, he has successfully persuaded me to at least seriously consider altering long-held beliefs.

The man thinks deeply, and works hard. The combination is rare.


Quartermaster said...

When you didn't mention the name of the publisher I immediately suspected Castalia.

I've read all of L'Amour's stuff, and a substantial part of Zane Grey's (my Grandfather knew the man personally and feel diminished by not have been able to meet the man. I am hoping your work rises to their level, or even exceeds it. My wishes for a successful run!

Anonymous said...

Just bought "Brings the Lightning" on Kindle, based solely on the excerpt you published. What with the plotline and period dialogue, I got very much a Forrest Carter sort of vibe from it - in his "Gone to Texas," Carter created the character of Josey Wales that Clint Eastwood later made famous - and that to me is a goodness thing.

The fact that your publisher makes hippies cry at the very mention of his infernal name is just sweet, sweet spice.


-- Wes S.

kamas716 said...

Congrats on the book deal. The cover very much reminds me of the classic L'Amour and Grey covers from my youth.

My first introduction to Vox and John C. Wright was SP2 when people were coming out of the woodwork claiming how sexist and homophobic they were. The few people that would actually respond to my challenges would point to things they saw as such, but in reality were not. The interactions I've had with them online have all been civil and cordial, despite not always agreeing with one another.

I think Castalia House has already put up a nice little set of books. It's nice to see another enticing selection from them. Congrats and good luck.

James Dixon said...

Congratulations on the new book, Peter. It sounds good, and I'll try to find time to read it.

Brian Niemeier said...

Exciting news, Peter! Here's hoping that Brings the Lightning ushers in the revival of a richly deserving genre. I have faith that it will.

Re: Vox, my own experience corroborates yours. I will continue to support Castalia House, which happily now includes your work.

Odysseus said...

I've now got the book on my Kindle, as to the whole publisher drama lama it's good to hear that you've had good experiences, time as they say will tell because keeping up a fundamental lie about your character for long periods of time is all but impossible. That you've good opinions so far is encouraging. And in the snake pit of punishing anyone who will deal squarely and on the level with an author papers over much in the way of personal quirks.

Old NFO said...

It's a good book, if I do say so myself... :-) And the fact that you've gotten a good deal, and a contract says more than the hype and BS out there!

White Knight Leo #0368 said...

I bought it, but I was wondering if it was going to be released in print anytime soon? I'd ike to get my father to read it - he's a big Western fan - but he prefers print books, and it hard enough to get him to read anything I suggest to him as it is.

C.J. Carella said...

Congratulations on hitting the 1,000s-rank on Amazon's Best Seller List (#1,119 as I write this). Having enjoyed the Maxwell Saga, I'll be adding the book to my collection. Not a Western reader, but I like my historical gun porn as much as the next guy, so it sounds like I'll enjoy this one too.

As to the evils of associating with Vox... Well, I personally find many of his opinions objectionable, loathsome even, but if I shunned everyone like that I'd be pretty lonely (pretty much the entire liberal spectrum, frex, given that they are two or three degrees of separation away from the Holodomor and the killing fields). Having been accused of being both a bleeding heart PC agent and a right-wing NRA-loving crypto-fascist, depending on which book character reviewers decide spouse my own political views, my general feeling towards the guilt-by-association crew is to kindly ask them to go frell themselves.

Wish you enormous success. I greatly enjoy your and your better half's postings at Mad Genius Club, btw.

Gordon Scott said...

For those with family who don't like ebooks, try this. Get a basic model. Load it with a few books that relative will like. Next time you visit, put it in their hands and show them how to turn pages. After an hour, suggest they just borrow it for a while, and show them how to use the charger. Walk them through how to bring up a different book. Tell them if they forget, they can call you.

You will not get the Kindle back.

Anonymous said...

Peter every book is stronger than the last. Great to see someone overcoming adversity and succeeding with their life. Vox is a very intelligent guy and knows talent when he see's it. The SJW/truefans are not your demographic anyway and to paraphrase Pat Condell "if they don't like it then it's got my vote" and more importantly my wallet too! Best wishes for the future and continued success.

Anonymous said...

You know what's amazing? Magnets! Especially for dumb idiots like you.

LastRedoubt said...

For what it's worth, while Pournelle hasn't been shoved out of the SFWA unceremoniously, he has nevertheless been referred to (nudge nudge, wink wink, I didn't name him, but you guys are guessing the right names in the comments) as one of "the twelve rabid weasels in SF" by some of the current in crowd, and they wished that said weasels would hurry up and die already.

If I had not already quit listening to Writing Excuses due to a loss of focus and depth (adding a fourth party in the limited time format did not help without bringing something far more different than puppetry to the table) I would have due to that comment by one of its hosts.

LastRedoubt said...

It is worth noting that the severity of my reaction is in part because Pournelle - even more than Heinlein - put me on the path to fall in love with history (and far more than my teachers). He also was a significant guiding light in the changes and improvements I made to my life

Anonymous said...

Marko Cloos' actions surrounding the Puppies, and also some of the opinions he posted regarding immigration, led me to decide to not bother reading his books at all, and to no longer even follow his blog or feeds.
A shame, because he seemed like a nice guy otherwise.

NobobyExpects said...

Congratulations! Will buy.

Anonymous said...

I'm a long-time follower of Vox's work, and I bought your book immediately on his say-so alone, with no prior reading of any of your other works. I fully expect to enjoy it as I have everything he's recommended during my reading.

I also took the free "War to the Knife" download, so you can probably expect further sales as a consequence of his recommendation.

Looks like a win/win/win to me.

Anonymous said...

I bought the e-book yesterday and am 59% into it as of this morning. Had to turn out the light to get some sleep last night.

Like another post above I get a Forrest Carter feel from this book and that isn't a bad thing. I thoroughly enjoyed his Josie Wales books.

I am enjoying Brings the Lighting and at this point encourage you to continue.

I like others buy from Castalia House and now days I eschew the big publishing houses anyway. I find I get more enjoyment from reading the self publishers anyway.

Cheers and keep up the good work


Bibliotheca Servare said...

Yeah Mary Robinette Kowal (or as we know her "Mary Three Names") is an execrable, deceitful, manipulative shit of a terrible human being. She came up with the ever so brilliant (sarcasm) "rabid weasels" insult. Disgusting, loathsome woman.

Dorsai said...

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” All I know of the man are a few of his blog posts and the rabid puppies campaign, which seemed to me to shitting into the well just because he could. I considered him reprehensible.

Larry, and now you, have shown me a side of him that I would not have guessed at. He seems to be a more complex person than I thought.

Eccentric Cowboy said...

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who has thought that many modern westerns are romances in disguise. I was starting to wonder if I was just the weird one, but apparently not!
I'm ecstatic to see that not only is the genre alive and well but seems to be making a real come back. Keep up the good writing sir! :)

CCGlazier said...

Thank you for this post. It is very helpful right now. I was distantly aware of the Hugo dust-up and the SJW v. Puppies cage fight, but shied away from all that ugliness. Wasn't going to stick my hand in the middle of that.

I started self-publishing my spec-fiction back in 2010 and in considering a more traditional route for my latest novel, applied for and was accepted to the Viable Paradise Workshop, only to run into smack into the middle of the drama. The week there discouraged the hell out of me. So much so, I damn near gave up. I'm back at it though and have begun to look for someone/somewhere that doesn't advocate a liberal agenda over good, honest storytelling.

Thank you again. Best of luck with your novels.