What TOR Boycott?

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

By James Bacon: I went to Comic Con for a couple of days and had a fabulous time. The volunteers and staff run a great con, there were 120,000 people there and it surely felt busy, and I really enjoyed it.

Books are very well represented here, to my surprise, Hachette, Penguin and Macmillan amongst other publishers are all present in strength, as are dealers selling prose fiction.

TOR books have a really smart stand in a great location, and both times I managed to go by, they had long queues of people, eager, keen and EXCITED!!! Here anyhow, no one has a notion about the boycott at all.

Many people who I spoke to, have heard about the Hugo situation and have distilled it neatly into succinct and straightforward understandings of what has happened. People I spoke to, couldn’t even name those specifically involved, or mention the Puppies at all. There are colourful variations as to what people perceive, but generally the sentiment amongst those who did know, was that a negative act has occurred this year. The Hugos themselves are held in high regard, they have permeated the memories of many, probably from book covers, and indeed, I met a previous graphic story nominee who was very proud to have been one.

I returned to File 770 to see what I had missed, and laughed at the earnestness with which the TOR boycott is spoken of, because I had come from a place where to the hundreds and thousands of science fiction fans who pick up promotional material or queue at the TOR stand, the boycott is not only irrelevant but it is unnoticed and unknown.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

78 thoughts on “What TOR Boycott?

  1. As a new Hugo voter I’ve gone back and forth about how to vote but in the end the excuse making about why certain insults were justified tipped me over the edge. One does not reward temper tantrums in three year olds nor trollish behavior in adults..

  2. Thanks, Liz, Bruce, Stoic, MaxL, & snowcrash! Good to hear it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger (see below!) and that characterization improves after the first. It sounds like I should try it – and give it the benefit of the doubt if I like the first one okay, on the strength of it getting even better after that.

    @Stoic: I wanted to throw my first Peter F. Hamilton book across the room when it ended in an absurd galactic-level literal cliffhanger. That kinda soured me on Hamilton, which is probably unfair; there were a couple of other things about the novel that didn’t thrill me, but overall he had some cool stuff going on (and a lot of stuff going on). BTW you’ve named other people I want to try; it’s almost criminal that I’ve never read Cherryh or Williams! (blush)

    Anyway, thanks, all – I’ll add the first Expanse novel to my list. I want to try the TV show out anyway. πŸ˜‰

  3. Kendall on July 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm said:
    @snowcrash & @Laura – Speaking of the Expanse novels . . . are they very good? I originally had no real interest in them, but I feel like I keep hearing good things, and then this B&N article…

    Literally just finished Nemesis Games. Yes, overall if you like space adventure they are good. Characterisation gets better…sometimes a bit like reading a novelization of a TV series but a good TV series πŸ™‚

  4. @Kendall

    Thinking about it even Cherryh and Williams can give good examples, for me, of uneveness in a series. My first Cherryh book was The Faded Sun: Kutath. Somehow I didn’t realize it was the 3rd in a series when I bought it. Man did it draw me in though. I’m not sure I would have reacted the same way if I’d started with Kesrith or Shon’jir (the first two books).

    And with Williams I started with City On Fire before reading Metropolitan (I blame ‘out of ordering’ both times on no nearby bookstore and a limited selection at our grocery store, though I at least knew City was a sequel πŸ™‚ I’m pretty sure Metropolitan wouldn’t have had the same grab.

    So I can believe the Expanse improves. Leviathan Wakes was perfectly competent in and of itself just not the superstar novel I went in expecting from some of the buzz I’d heard.

    If you do go for trying Cherryh or Williams at some point, there is so much to love I almost hesitate to make a recommendation. For Cherryh (my auto-correct REALLY hates her name) Downbelow Station is probably a good start (and a Hugo winner!). For Williams, on the space opera side, I’d go with either Aristoi or maybe, for more straight up adventure, Angel Station. Then again, for just straight up farce there’s The Crown Jewels, and then… πŸ™‚

  5. I prefer DRM-less ebooks, although a $1.99 sale can lead to exceptions

    If you use Calibre as your ebook library programme, the orkut plugin can strip drm from e.g. Kobo bought books, while the Kindle desktop programme downloads your bought books in the clear, DRM free anyway…

  6. @Martin I have considered looking into stripping DRM but I’ve been put off by it being illegal and decided instead not to reward companies that are effectively criminalising what I consider to be reasonable behaviour.

  7. Lis Carey: Re: Addy: Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

    (Now, that’s the kind of Puppy I’ll support….)

  8. I kind of liked Leviatan Wakes, but was incredibly frustrated by what I saw as Holden’s smug sense of self-righteousness. That character drove me bonkers, and to see so many cooler characters deferring to his leadership made me want to rip my hair out. I am assured that he eventually gets better, but the rest of The Expanse books are in the “to read when less aggravated by real life” stack.

  9. LunarG: It’s partly that Holden gets better, but mostly that the story makes his behavior be a big part of the problem in an ongoing way, and the other characters do react to that.

  10. As with LunarG Holden annoyed me a bit and I thought 10 to 15% of the novel could have been edited out to its benefit. I enjoyed it but did not think it was mind blowing.I still haven’t read the follow ups despite the glowing reviews although I am tentatively planning to do so before December.

  11. Is it very bad that I have stopped looking at Hugo nominees and am now working my way through the World Fantasy Award nominees?

  12. The idea of “brand loyalty” to a specific publisher would have bewildered me a lot more before I developed some familiarity with the dynamics of the lesbian publishing industry. One gets a very strong vibe there that both readers and authors are encouraged to identify strongly with specific publishers and view the field as a competitive, zero-sum game. (Which is more than a little sad, considering how small a field it is in the first place.) In SFF I have a hard time remembering who’s published by whom — and, of course, it’s a highly variable relationship. In LesFic I’ve explicitly been told, “Well, you aren’t going to pick up many new readers at [event] because they’re all [publisher] fans.”

  13. Lis: Heck no. The point of reading nominees is ultimately to read good stories. The Puppies got in the way of that with the Hugos, so it makes sense to go browse elsewhere.

  14. @Heather Rose Jones: that’s too bad about the Lesbian publishers. Back in the day when Naiad was the only publisher, for the majority of my reading, I still looked around for books from any publisher. Now that there’s more than one specifically-lesbian publisher, I still don’t pay close attention to publishers, only to authors. As far as I’m concerned, just as in SF/F, more publishers means more books for me to spend my money on read.

  15. Heather Rose Jones:

    I think that was more true a decade or more ago when there were only a couple of very small presses specializing in publishing books for lesbians. Naiad, Cleis, and Seal are the ones that come to mind. There were few enough books that people could literally buy everything by a particular publisher, and there wasn’t much cross-pollination. Plus small press books were expensive compared to mass market stuff and you couldn’t count on finding them used, so you kinda had to buy them when you saw them, so it is less likely that people would take a chance on something unfamiliar.

    That’s my experience from my past bookstore and occasional GLBT book reviewer, anyway. No idea how it’s changed since the early 2000s, but I’m sure the changes in the market have expanded the opportunities for queer fiction a lot, particularly with e-books and indie/self-publishing.

  16. Bruce Baugh, that is very good to know. I have several fans who adore the series, and my foot-dragging on catching up makes fannish conversation tricksy.

  17. @Stoic Cynic: Thanks for the specific recs for Cherryh & Williams, tough as it may be to give a specific rec. πŸ˜‰

  18. @Martin Wisse: Thanks; I’d rather not bother with DRM-stripping. I don’t feel as strongly as @tonieee, but just stick to DRM-free when it’s there, and print when not (usually). Heh, with how many unread books I own, I should just stop buying books all together πŸ˜‰ – but it’s almost an addiction. πŸ˜‰

    @Anyone interested: Take this with a grain of salt (I don’t speak for these companies), but in my recent ebook buying I’ve found the following for DRM-free-ness.

    1. Tor, Saga, & Wildfire are DRM-free and they claim this applies to all platforms.

    2. Baen makes a big deal about being DRM-free, but I’ve never been sure if on all platforms. The Baen Ebooks FAQ talks about their own store, but I checked a book on Kobo and it’s DRM-free. So I suspect they’re DRM-free on most or all other platforms as well.

    3. The Smashwords and Weightless platforms only sell DRM-free books, so if you prefer DRM and find a book here, buy away. Companies aren’t always consistent (see my next item), though, so elsewhere….

    4. Angry Robot sells DRM-free direct, but when I asked, they said they leave platform defaults as is, so they wouldn’t make a firm statement about whether their books had DRM elsewhere. They kinda sounded like they didn’t know, which of course is disingenuous. Their Kobo ebooks use DRM, and I’m pretty sure the major DRM platforms default to DRM unless the publisher changes it. So IMHO they should just told me, “We sell direct without DRM, but with DRM on other platforms.” Anyway, I suspect Angry Robot ebooks are only DRM-free if bought direct. Which is fine for me (though sometimes a bit more expensive, partially thanks to exchange rates…they sell in pounds sterling).

    5. Prime, Phoenix Pick, and Carina Press appear DRM-free on Kobo, so I presume the same elsewhere, but don’t know for sure. Kobo’s about the only platform that makes it clear for all books whether there’s DRM or not, so I tend to believe (unless proven otherwise) that if it’s DRM-free on Kobo, it’s probably DRM-free elsewhere. But caveat emptor.

    6. It seems like a lot of small publishers (some named above), especially ebook-only or ebook-primarily, sell direct (DRM-free). Again, caveat emptor.

    Apologies for any errors – again, this is from my experience, but take it all with a grain of salt. The other big publishers like Random House, Ace, Orbit, etc. appear to use DRM. But Orbit’s regular $1.99 specials on a select book they’re pushing…tough to resist! πŸ˜‰

    Sorry for the long comment/tangent, @Mike Glyer.

  19. @Lis: A work friend* also highly recommended The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August to me a while back – based on the audiobook, like you. It’s on my (too-long) short list to buy and read.

    * The same friend recommended The Girl With All the Gifts, which was great! But he also recommended Wilson’s Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, which I didn’t finish (disliked it a lot). . . .

  20. Thanks, Mike. I wish I had a more complete list, honestly.

    /OCD-but-not-OCD-enough-to-do-it πŸ˜‰

  21. Lis Carey: For those interested, my review of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which I might have missed entirely without this happy crew.

    Thanks for sharing your review, Lis!

    I wasn’t quite able to parse this paragraph; am I missing something?

    Then he is born again, into exactly the same life, with full memory of his prior life returning by the time he’s four. This leads to the belief that he’s made, leading in turn to suicide by jumping off the roof of a mental hospital before he’s ten years old.

    I totally agree with you — this book was very deserving of a place on the Hugo ballot, and I hope that anyone here who hasn’t yet read it will consider doing so.

  22. @Kendall thanks for the list of DRM free publishers. I’m new to ebooks so it’s very useful. I was aware of Tor, Baen and Smashwords but not the others. I do like how Kobo make it clear which books are DRM free and most of the books I’ve bought have been through their site.

  23. @Heather Rose Jones,

    That’s pretty surprising. I think mostly because, after, uh, a hundred or so each of BSB and Bella novels I can’t identify a house style for either, nevermind a consistent quality benchmark each hit. Ylva comes closer, maybe, but that’s a pretty limited sample size so far. Mind, It’s entirely possible there is an identifiable style for each and I’m just oblivious!

    Just based on author comments in forewards/afterwards I definitely get the sense that BSB, at least, has a relatively tight knit group of writers.

    Also, I’d like to add that I very much enjoy your books.

  24. @MaxL When I was researching publishers, I identified some fairly vague differences in “house style” that shaped my choice of publisher, but I agree with you that the “brand loyalty” seems to be driven by something other than content. I’ve been working on an essay that looks at some interesting social factors behind the compare-and-contrast of “sff published by lesbian presses” and “lesbian characters published by mainstream sff presses” and an underlying two-directional theme of “loyalty” seems to be significant. But I want to work the thoughts out in more detail before discussing them.

  25. Thanks, @tonieee! I usually buy from iTunes (iTMS) or the publisher (for publishers that only sell DRM-free directly), but I’ve bought a few things from Kobo and Weightless. I’d rather buy everything in one place, when feasible, though.

    I won’t buy from is Amazon (various reasons, but I do buy print there) and don’t need to buy from Barnes & Noble (no need to use yet another ebookstore).

    /ramble πŸ˜‰

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