The question of why I write is one I have always struggled to answer. Usually, when writers are asked that question, they go into long-winded explanations of having to express their art and satisfy their inner gecko and other artsy-fartsy stuff like that. And that is just SO not me. As a consequence, I’ve always avoided answering that question.
(there are a few swears in this post)
Why I write? Because I want to.
But today, in the season where sales are shit and it is natural that you start to ponder the question “Why the hell am I doing this anyway?” I had a major revelation.
You see, a couple of years ago, an anonymous reviewer from Harper Collins told me publicly on Authonomy that my book Ambassador, known as Seeing Red was “well-written and well-plotted, but no one will publish this”. Seriously. That’s what he said. OK, I don’t know it was a he, but I’ve always assumed so. Certainly, this person had never read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles series, and maybe this person had the idea that science fiction needs to be literary and about ideas (I’d argue Ambassador is about ideas, but they’re not in your face, and they’re not the kind of ideas he would have liked anyway).
Anyway, this morning, I logged on to find that someone had reviewed Ambassador and has been tweeting it all over the internet.
OK, so we come to another old chestnut of the “why I write” canon: because I want to be read.
Yeah, what absolute brilliant fucking genius. Everyone wants to be read. But being read is a result of writing. If you don’t write, you’ll never be read (I’ll probably receive a Nobel Prize for this statement). Why write in the first place?
Why write hard science fiction and space opera when you go to the bestseller lists in both genres to see that 95% of authors in the genre are male? Why persist?
Why persist in using Australian idiom and spelling, when you know ignoramuses will come around and say “this book is so full or errors”. Why do it?
Why persisting to write hard SF when an industry person tells me not to bother submitting because I’m a woman?
Why self-publish and do all that hard work without the marketing nous of a publisher?
Why do all of this?
Because all those questions, thrown-together as they seem, are connected.
Because I am not going to let anyone, any company, any literary reviewer, any public opinion, any tyranny of majority, tell me what to do. And I don’t believe any of you should, either.
I hate mindless actions. I hate the tyranny of fashion (in the clothes variety or in wider meaning). I fucking hate hype. I hate the tendency of people to be lemmings and follow each other off a cliff.
“Because xyz says so,” is never, EVER, a good reason to do something without further research.
When self-publishing wasn’t a thing, I often used to complain about hideous response times and writers being dicked about by publishers and agents. Often, fellow writers were trying to shush me up, saying stuff like “That’s how it is in the industry”, and “You’ll get used to it”. Well, yes to both accounts, and I did submit, and did get used to it,but I NEVER considered it acceptable, and never let an opportunity pass to tell the industry at large that as far as business relationships with their providers was concerned, they were a big fucking FAIL.
Just because something happens and people get used to it is not a reason to consider it acceptable.
Sure, you can go all huffy and not submit at all, or you can take part in the process and remind the industry at times that “Hey, maybe it’s time you pulled up your socks on this issue.” I’m someone of the latter variety. And much pulling up of socks has already happened (not that I think I had much influence, but it’s the big picture that counts).
And that, people, is why I write.
Because I believe that people should wake up, cut through the hype and bullshit, and use their fucking brains to make their own fucking decisions. If people spoke out about shit (being asked to sign crap contracts, workplace bullying, racism, being underpaid and overworked, the list goes on), a lot of it would happen less often.
I believe that this needs to be done within the frameworks of the environment you are trying to change (as opposed to from the outside, which is a much more antagonistic position).
Because “someone says so” is never a good reason to do or not to do something
This is a theme that, in some form, can be found in virtually all my fiction. It is why in Ambassador, Cory stands up to both President Danziger and Ezhya Palayi. It is why he antagonises one and befriends the other. It is why in Trader’s Honour, Mikandra stands up to her abusive father. It is why the book is called Trader’s Honour and not Trader’s Honor, because I fucking hate being told to spell American. It is why I’ll have the latest computers but don’t care about the latest phones. Because I’ve thought about it, and it’s MY decision.
It is why I exist, and why I write.