An Armload of Fur and Leaves

In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.

Notable among the piles are the multiplicity by T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, and two appear in this armload. Clockwork Boys, Clocktaur War Book One (Argyll Productions, 2017) is the promising start to a fantasy trilogy featuring a lovely understated romance between a female forger and a paladin, while Summer in Orcus (Sofawolf Press, cover and interior art by Lauren Henderson) is aimed at younger readers and will undoubtedly become one of those magical books many kids will return to again and again, until Vernon is worshipped by generations and prepared to conquer the world. Honestly, I will read anything Kingfisher/Vernon writes, and highly recommend following her on Twitter, where she is @UrsulaV.

Huntress by Renee Carter Hall (Furplanet), which originally appeared in 2015, and whose title novella was nominated in the 2014 Ursa Major Awards and Cóyotl Awards, is a collection of novella plus several shorter stories. I’d love more in this fascinating and thought-provoking world, particularly following the novella’s heroine, the young lioness Leya, and the sisterhood of the huntresses, the karanja.

Always Gray in Winter by Mark J. Engels (Thurston Howell Publications, October, 2017) demonstrates one of the difficulties with furry fiction, which is the reader’s uncertainty where to site the fact of furry characters, primarily whether to take them as a given or have some underlying science to it, such as bio-modified creatures. Here Pawly is a were-cat, but the unfamiliar reader is forced to spend so much time figuring out whether this is something people take for normal or not that the story sometimes gets confusing, and with multiple POV shifts, the reader keeps having to re-orient themself. It’s tight, sparse military SF that readers familiar with the conventions of the genre will find compelling, entertaining, and quickly paced; newer readers may find themselves floundering a bit.

The Furry Future, edited by Fred Patten (Furplanet, 2015) is a solid and entertaining anthology that showcases how widely ranging the stories that use the rationale behind the existence of anthropomorphic beings as part of the narrative can be. Authors in the collection include Michael H. Payne, Watts Martin, J. F. R. Coates, Nathanael Gass, Samuel C. Conway, Bryan Feir, Yannarra Cheena, MikasiWolf, Tony Greyfox, Alice “Huskyteer” Dryden, NightEyes DaySpring, Ocean Tigrox, Mary E. Lowd, Dwale, M. C. A. Hogarth, T. S. McNally, Ronald W. Klemp, Fred Patten, and David Hopkins with illustrations by Roz Gibson and cover art by Teagan Gavet. This book is one that scholars writing about furry fiction will want to be including on their reading lists for reasons including its focus, its authors, the snapshot of the current furry fiction scene that it provides, and the variety of approaches to anthropomorphic body modification.

Along with the furry fiction, I wanted to point to an indie humorous horror collection that is one of the most specifically themed I have yet encountered, Ill Met by Moonlight by Gretchen Rix (Rix Cafe Texican, 2016), which features evil macadamia nut trees, including “Macadamias on the Move,” “Ill Met by Moonlight,” and “The Santa Tree” in a lovely sample of how idiosyncratic a sub-sub-niche can get. The production values of this slim little book show what a nice job an indie can do with a book and include a black and white illustration for each story.

You can read this review at

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Stonewall Kitchen Dark Chocolate Chili Cinnamon and Nibs Bar

I’ve never reviewed a chocolate bar before and I will, furthermore, confess a shameful love for plain Hershey’s bars that dates back to the time my grandmother was first left with me unattended and violated my mother’s up-to-that-point successful “no candy” policy.

However, the Stonewall Kitchens Dark Chocolate Chili Cinnamon and Nibs bar is a very far thing from that Hershey’s bar. It is dark as a stormy night, but carries a surprising amount of heat (of the various chili-augmented chocolate bars I’ve tried, it is the most fiery.) The darkness is a mellow one, developing a deliciously unctuous mouth feel. This is a nibbling bar, to be savored, bit by bit, each time edging up to almost too spicy and then backing away at the last moment.

My only nitpick with the chocolate bar overall would be that the cocoa nibs add texture, but I’m not sure I found them necessary. They seemed more like dry little distractions from the chocolate experience.

The ingredient list is substantially shorter and freer of long chemical names than that Hershey bar: dark chocolate, cocoa nibs, chipotle chili pepper powder, cinnamon powder, and cinnamon bark oil adding up to 440 calories for the three-ounce bar. Definitely a bar that I’d buy again if the opportunity presented itself, and it makes me curious to try their other products.

You can read this review at

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Guest Post: To France and Beyond

I was one of the very few kids who were able to graduate early from high school. Very few high schools in Minnesota had been doing this during my last year of school. My school, a fairly large school in a podunk town, was one of the very last schools to offer this service, and I was one of the lucky ones to get out.

Some of my friends and I from St. Andrews.

The year before my senior year I had been accepted to a creative program in Scotland. It was by far, the best experience I have ever had. Not only was I staying at St. Andrews, I was surrounded by like minded people. Plus, I got to take really amazing classes with some of the brightest people I’ve ever known. That was where I met some of my best friends, who throughout the past year or so I have still kept in contact with.

Magali giving me a Marvel movie education.

One of my very good friends that I met at St. Andrews, Magali, lives in a small town a little outside Paris. A week or two after the program ended, Magali and I messaged and video chatted as much as we could due to time zone changes. At this point, I had gotten my first job and she was getting ready to go back to school.

One night, we were messaging and suddenly, I had reached an epiphany. I had been working almost everyday at my job and had enough money for a plane ticket to Paris. My fingers anxiously typed and waited for a response. Magali couldn’t have been more ecstatic with the idea! That night we planned a time to chat to talk in more details about the trip.

Pax and I at the beach at St. Andrews.

I had known at the time that I had enough credits to graduate early, so from that point on, I set my goal in mind and focused on my trip. Magali and I had told all of our friends about me visiting. We had started to get the gang back together. Our friend Jane traveled from the Czech Republic to stay with us for a week and then our friend Pax from London had taken the train to stay with us for a weekend.

So, in March when I graduated, I continued to save up for a month before I made the nine hour plane ride there. Every day was exhausting, mentally and physically. I had been working eight hours a day, five days away. My feet burned after every shift and after each day it felt like the days kept getting longer. I had been working in customer service for about almost a year and my high school job had almost got the best of me. It had gotten to the point where I was taking more orders than I could handle.

But in the end it was all worth it.

Jane, Magali and I at the Eiffel Tower.

I took a trip that some people don’t do until they retire. The best part was that I did all by myself. I planned, budgeted and saved up for it all by myself. It was one of the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had. I was seventeen and had a month long sleepover with my best friends. I couldn’t of wished for a better trip.

I spent the days walking around Paris, going to Kpop shops, going to art museums and most importantly, eating a lot of food. I remember we went to the Lourve where Magali demanded we take a picture of her flipping off the Mona Lisa. I had also spent a week going to school with Magali and meeting all of her friends, who were all wonderful and kind people to be around. They tried teaching me French, but my pronunciation was always way off.

Magali and Jane flipping off the Mona Lisa.

I encourage any young women to take a trip like the one I had. It was one of the most eye opening and jaw dropping experiences I have ever had. In the end, you only get very few chances to do something like this and you should take advantage of that.

Molly Baumgardner is a young writer and cat enthusiast. You can read some of her work at

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Where I’ll Be: OryCon 40

Here’s my schedule! If you want to meet up, please talk to me about it BEFORE the con; by the time the convention rolls around, I am always booked pretty solidly.

Sat Nov 10 10:00:am
Have a morning coffee with your fans!
Alma Alexander Cat Rambo Diana Pharaoh Francis Dr. Jessica Hebert Manny Frishberg

Sat Nov 10 11:00:am
Cat Rambo Reading
152 Readings
Cat Rambo reads from her works.

Sat Nov 10 2:00:pm
Let’s Talk SFWA
What is the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and what can it do for you, the genre writer?
Cat Rambo Curtis C. Chen Jim Fiscus Mark Niemann-Ross

Sat Nov 10 4:00:pm
Autograph Session 6
Dealers: Autographs
Cat Rambo Ethan Siegel Kat/K.R. Richardson

Sun Nov 11 11:00:am
SFWA Regional Business Meeting
Cat Rambo will give a briefing on the latest in SFWA and the business, as well as answer questions.
Cat Rambo Curtis C. Chen G. David Nordley

Sun Nov 11 1:00:pm
Tropes, Memes, and Literary Devices
166 B
Why do we use them? Lazy writing, or a good start to something better? Let’s discuss how tropes, memes and literary devices hurt us, or help us!
Cat Rambo EM Prazeman Frog Jones Seanan McGuire

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Guest Post: Brian McNett Serves Up Colorful Purple Wheat Noodles

A bit of a preamble. I often say things which are completely true, only to be confronted by people who flat out claim that I’m only making it up. That I *must* be making it up. There’s no way the very true thing I just said is true.

I’ve learned to cite my sources. So, before we begin, a word about the color purple. Not the movie, although it was good. Very good. Alice Walker’s novel won the Pulitzer in 1983, and went on to become both a hit musical, and the film starring Whoopi Goldberg in her debut as an actress. It might have been something far less in the hands of a director other than Steven Spielberg. But no, not here to discuss film. Here to discuss food, so:

Anthocyanins! Water-soluble, vacuolar, pH-sensitive pigments! Part of a parent class of molecules known as ‘flavonoids’. Mostly 3-glucosides of the anthocyanidins… The important bit is that under the right conditions, they make plants PURPLE.
Continue reading

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On Writing: Chekhov’s Gun Store

One of playwright Anton Chekhov’s most quoted maxims is this: If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act. If you establish an expectation in the reader, particularly a strong expectation, you must fulfill it.

The truth is that every story has things in it that must be fired, a multiplicity of tiny guns whose discharges help create the ending, guns that have been primed and loaded over the course of the story.

These are sometimes subplots: the heroine’s best friend is also looking for a love interest and at the end their expectation is either fulfilled or thwarted but it is never neglected, because the reader will exit the story wondering about that, and all the impact of the story will be thwarted.

But not always. They may be an object that is reprised throughout the work: the lily that signals Death’s approach, the clerk who sold a traveler their tickets.

Let’s look at some of this at work in a story that will be familiar to many, James Tiptree’s The Women Men Don’t See. If you are not familiar with the story, I advise reading it beforehand.

This is the ending. My comments appear in parentheses.

By noon we’re back in Cozumel. Captain Estéban accepts his fees and departs laconically for his insurance wars. (Tiptree accounts for this major character and moves him offstage.) I leave the parson’s bags with the Caribe agent who couldn’t care less.(Another character, who appeared toward the beginning, is checked off the list.) The cable foes to a Mrs. Priscilla Hayes Smith, also of Bethesda. I take myself to a medico (the narrator has been injured in the course of the story, an injury severe enough that it shapes the action and therefore must appear in the final moments) and by three P.M. I’m sitting on the Cabanas terrace with a fat leg and a double margarita, trying to believe the whole thing. (Notice that this creates space in which the reader, like the narrator, can think back over the story and draw conclusions.)

The cable said, Althea and I taking extraordinary opportunity for travel. Gone several years. Please take charge our affairs. Love, Ruth.

She’d written it that afternoon, you understand. (The reader has seen this moment, but not what she wrote. Now it’s delivered.)

I another another double, wishing to hell I’d gotten a good look at that gizmo. Did it have a label, Made by Betelgeusians? No matter how weird it was, how could a person be crazy enough to imagine–?

Not only that but to hope, to plan? If I could only go away… That’s what she was doing, all day. Waiting, hoping, figuring how to get Althea. To go sight unseen to an alien world…

With the third margarita I try a joke about alienated women, but my heart’s not in it. And I’m certain there won’t be any bother, any trouble at all. Two human women, one of them possibly pregnant (here a storyline with Captain Estéban is being resolved), have departed for, I guess, the stars; and the fabric of society will never show a ripple. I brood: do all Mrs. Parsons’s friends hold themselves in readiness for any eventuality, including leaving Earth? And will Mrs. Parsons somehow one day contrive to send for Mrs. Priscilla Hays Smith, that grand person?

I can only send for another cold one, musing on Althea. What suns will Estéban’s sloe-eyed offspring, if any, look upon? “Get in, Althea, we’re taking off for Orion.” “A-okay, Mother.” Is that some system of upbringing? We survive by ones and twos in the chinks of your world-machine…I’m used to aliens. (Here a conversation is being reprised, and its payload, set up earlier, is now being delivered.) She’d meant every word. Insane. How could a woman choose to live among unknown monsters, to say good-bye to her home, her world?

As the margaritas take hold, the whole mad scenario melts down to the image of those two small shapes sitting side by side in the receding alien glare.

Two of our opossums are missing.

The conversation has been loaded here, midway through the story:

“That’s fantasy.” Her voice is still quiet. “Women don’t work that way. We’re a –a toothless world.” She looks around as if she wanted to stop talking. “What women do is survive. We live by ones and twos in the chinks of your world-machine.”

“Sounds like a guerrilla operation.” I’m not really joking, here in the ‘gator den. In fact, I’m wondering if I spent too much thought on mahogany logs.

“Guerrillas have something to hope for.” Suddenly she switches on a jolly smile. “Think of us as oppssums, Don. Did you know there are opossums living all over. Even in New York City.”

How do we emulate that sort of thing as writers? I suspect this is something that most of us will be adding in the rewriting and revision stage, going back through the story to see what pistols our unconscious mind has scattered about throughout the narrative. Recently, for example, in the course of writing a space opera novel, a particular element emerged that shapes things — while I took account of it in writing everything after that moment of realization, I’ll need to go back and tweak the earlier parts to make sure I’ve loaded that object as fully as I can before it delivers its payload in the final scene.

Check what you’ve loaded the story with and make sure it’s all primed and ready to go off.

Enjoy this and want more writing tips and musings on a weekly basis? Follow me on Patreon. Or sign up for a live or on-demand class from The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers!

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Guest Post: Diane Morrison Discusses Crowdpublishing

Everyone says that indie publishing is the wave of the future. Avoiding gatekeepers, who are often prejudiced against particular ideas or demographics, and putting your work out there to see if it will sink or swim on its own, puts the power (and the money) back in the hands of the writers. I had an unusual idea and format that I realized would have difficulty finding a home because of its experimental nature, so I though I would give it a try.

Here’s the problem: It’s not free.

Amazon and others try to make you believe it’s free, but only if you want to give away a significant royalty chunk, and only if you don’t hire an editor (bad,) don’t hire a cover designer (worse,) don’t hire a formatter (fine if you have lots of time on your hands and are handy with computer programs; awful if not,) and don’t do any marketing or ever buy a copy to sell to your friends or at cons. If you do decide to go for it without any resources, people will dismiss your cover as tacky, your prose as terrible, and no one is ever going to see it in the sea of newly available titles anyway.

Not to mention there’s still the whiff of vanity publishing about it, so no matter how good you are, or how well you do, some people will never take you seriously.

If you want to succeed at indie publishing, you have to be seen in the vast herd of new titles appearing every day. It takes money. That’s fine if you can afford it, but I found it daunting. So I asked myself, “How can I publish a book without defeating the purpose? How can I find capital that doesn’t eliminate my bottom line?”

I launched a Kickstarter to bring my Wyrd West stories to print. I budgeted for cover design, formatting, editing, marketing and stock purchase. And I asked my readers to contribute.

The response was better than I could have hoped. The Kickstarter was successful. The end result was a beautiful, professional book I had every right to be proud of, many of which were going directly to the readers that funded them.

But can this said to be truly self-published? I don’t think it can. This is a new way of doing things, in which readers choose to fund what they want to read. It puts the power directly in their hands. As it should be.

Even the backing of the Big 5 doesn’t guarantee a book’s success. It has to find an audience. It has to have resonance with the people who read it. Readers aren’t going to fund bad ideas, and if you’re a bad writer, they’re not going to support you more than once. So rather than being vetted by small groups of people on the top of a big pyramid of status and business acumen, Crowdpublished projects are vetted directly by the public.

As a writer, here’s a look at the differences I’ve found between being traditionally, independently, or Crowdpublished:

Traditional Publishing

Indie Publishing


Getting the Book Published in the First Place

You may not be able to get a publisher interested. Chances are you will have a long wait. If you try something that’s too far outside of the mainstream in subject or presentation, don’t count on it. The publisher covers all publishing expenses and pays you a royalty.

You can get the book published whenever you want. You are entirely responsible for expenses & getting people to read it. On the other hand, you get to keep a larger share of the royalty.

If your audience will sustain your idea, you can publish the book whenever you want, and you know they, at least, will read it. Chances are they’ll get their friends to read it too, because they wouldn’t have invested if they didn’t think it was a good idea. If you’ve budgeted correctly, the expenses of printing some of your books, at any rate, will be covered. You receive indie royalties.


A professional editor who works for the publishing house will be provided to edit for you. Sometimes this leads to personality conflicts, but ultimately, it is the editor’s job to make your book into a marketable product, and that’s what they’re going to try to do.

There are good editors and bad editors out there in the indie world, and you have to pay one. Some charge very good rates, others higher ones. Unless you’re dealing with a professional service with multiple editors, rate doesn’t necessarily indicate quality. However, most writers have no idea what makes a good editor, and it’s not just whether they can copyedit your spelling mistakes. A good editor will also be trying to make your book into a marketable product. That means they have to know what that looks like, and in my experience, the vast majority of indie editors haven’t a clue.

You have all the innate disadvantages of indie editing, except that you can budget for that in your crowdfunder, so you can spring for the professional firm or someone you trust right away.

Cover Design

Your publisher decides on the cover, but will pay artists & designers to make it for you.

You have the final say over the cover, but either you have to figure out Cover Design 101 or pay someone to do it well.

You have the final say over the cover, but your readers cover the expense of creating it.

Creative Control

Your publisher has the final word on what will & will not go in the book.

You have complete creative control.

You have creative control – provided your readers will support your idea.

Marketing & Promotion

Your publisher expects you to do more of this than they used to, but they will still do a lot of it for you. They’ll market to bookstores and contact radio shows and podcasts. You will still be expected to use your own platform (especially online) to market, and you’ll probably still have to pay for your own book tour. They will decide much of how you and your book should be presented to the public.

You are entirely responsible for the way you market yourself and your book. You’re also entirely responsible for the expenses. You probably don’t know as much about doing it as a professional publicist does, so there will be a lot of trial and error. Often, some of the places you’d like to promote to won’t talk to you because you don’t have a publisher’s clout.

You still have many of the inherent problems of indie marketing. The exceptions are a) you are NOT entirely responsible for expenses (you can budget for that,) and b) a crowdfunding outlet is already a marketing platform. If you succeed at your goal, some shows who wouldn’t have talked to you as an indie will, because it’s a heartwarming success story and it’s apparent you do have an audience.

I realize that Crowdpublishing is a bit like being PBS instead of MSNBC. You know that you have an audience. Although it might not be as easy for you to reach them as it is for corporations, that audience is dedicated enough to supporting your work that they are willing to ante up, sight-unseen. It’s “Funded in part by readers like you.”

It’s a godsend for SFF story markets. Many respected pro- and semi-pro markets use the Crowdpublishing model, including Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, the entire EscapePod family, Third Flatiron, and more. And most SFF writers I know use the Crowdpublishing model, at least as far as setting up a Patreon, whether they’re just starting out or just shy of the New York Times bestseller list. I think this should be a point of pride.

I don’t believe that indie-publishing deserves its “lesser” reputation, because garbage gets published in all fields, and a big imprint is by no means a guarantee of quality. But I think when we’re asked if our project was self-published, we should smile and say, “No, it was Crowdpublished.” I think it’s a selling point.

I believe that any path a writer takes to success is a good one. Some people are really successful in the traditional or indie-publishing models, and regardless of which path they’ve taken, it’s hard. These are accomplishments worth taking pride in. But I think we should start thinking of Crowdpublishing as a third path within the literary market. There’s traditional publishing, and indie-publishing, and Crowdpublishing.

If you’re a writer who produces your own books, or a magazine editor, and you have a Kickstarter, GoFundMe or Patreon for the purpose, your work isn’t indie-published; it’s Crowdpublished. It’s not self-funded, or funded by shareholders; it’s funded by the public. And I think we should start talking about it that way.

Diane Morrison in an emerging neo-pro writer who just successfully ran a Kickstarter to publish her book, Once Upon a Time in the Wyrd West, available this month. She’s also appearing in Third Flatiron’s Terra! Tara! Terror!. This fall she will be offering a class through the Rambo Academy on finding time to write when you have none. Under her pen name Sable Aradia, she is a traditionally-published non-fiction author and blogger. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada and she manages the SFWA YouTube channel. Right now, she’s doing a giveaway to support her Patreon membership drive. You can catch her on Twitter as @SableAradia, which means she’s not writing when she should be.

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Guest Post: Writing and Organization

I remember being in middle school and how easy it was to for me to keep my writing organized. I had this blue and white composition notebook which I wrote in every night. Middle school me filled that whole notebook with a story that eventually would evolve into a book I started writing in the beginning of high school.

The more ideas I had made organizing my writing more difficult than it already was. Of course I had journals, but I’d end up only writing a couple pages and forget about the journal and let it collect dust in my drawer. I’d write during passing time in school on sheets of paper which would either end up staying up in my school notebooks or in my pencil case. I could be turning to a new page in my calculus notebook and  then suddenly stumble upon a future chapter of my story. Or, I could be digging around in my backpack for a pencil and instead of my led pencil, I find three folded up pieces of paper of chapter ideas.

I can’t quite say if this disorganization is because I’m forgetful or if this is just one of the perks of being a young writing. If I really wanted to put my disorganization to blame, I could pin the blame on juggling school and writing. The most organized with my writing I have ever been was when I put my ideas in piles of which story they belonged to. My disorganization hasn’t always been an annoyance. The first book that I wrote and self-published was written completely in random notes I’ve written in between classes. But, when you’re working on a chapter for a novel and can’t remember where you placed your notes, that becomes a problem.

The thing is, every writer has their own process. Mine involves writing chapter ideas on loose leaf paper and then losing the paper in my backpack only finding them randomly. Some may use notebooks or journals, binders, folders or even keep ideas written on their phones. I can’t say that there is an ideal way to organize for writers. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I can’t stand in the snack aisle at the store and preach about how Nacho Cheese Doritos are the superior Doritos. It’s the same thing with writing. I can’t march into someone’s office and demand that they write a certain way because it’s the superior way to write.

In school, we were taught what the teachers would call the right way to write. We had to do the writing process in their way and not our own. You feel connected to your writing when you create your own writing process. I certainly do. In the end, it doesn’t so much matter how you organize your writing or what process you have.

I could send email blasts and direct messages in all caps to all my favorite authors saying: “HOW DO YOU DO IT?!” If I did do that however, my writing process wouldn’t necessarily be my process. It would be whoever’s process I used. Not everyone else writes the same either. So, yes, I’m disorganized. But, I somehow, out of some random act of God, create something I am proud of. Maybe disorganization does help after all. But, who am I to say. I don’t stand in aisle at the store preaching about what Doritos to buy.

Molly Baumgardner is a young writer and cat enthusiast. You can read her work at

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Guest Post: Competing with Fanfiction

It’s difficult being someone my age who says she writes. Especially when I explain to people what kind of stories I like to write. Then, when I try to advertise my work that I post online, I always get the “do you write fanfiction?” question. This is possibly by far the worst question you can ask a teenage writer.

The problem with being a young writer who wants to get out there is that there only so few places we can post. I know some will create Tumblr blogs. If you tell a person to post your work on your Tumblr blog, I can only imagine the look of disgust followed by the treacherous inquiry.

I, like so many teenagers, choose to post their work on Wattpad. Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised by looks I get when I say, “Oh hey! You can read my work on Wattpad!” I’m asking to get punched in the face repeatedly. In my defense, I joined Wattpad before the One Direction fangirls took over. However, I didn’t start posting until they took over the website, which was not beneficial for me. For someone who dislikes fanfiction and what it is, being dominated in views by twelve year olds writing One Direction smut, is truly an embarrassment.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I wrote some quality writing (well, for a high schooler) and had followers. Over the years I have accumulated a total of five hundred and thirty-seven followers but my views were still small.

On Wattpad, viewers can “vote” on stories they like. They can “vote” on each chapter. Think of the “voting” like thumbing up a video on YouTube. Rumor had it that if you got famous on Wattpad, you’d get your book published. Ali Novak got her book My Life With The Walter Boys published. She was practically my inspiration. She had started writing when she was fifteen, and it just so happened that I was fifteen when I started posting my story.

I wanted to use Wattpad as a way to get critiques on my story. I did everything I could to promote it. I told friends, I followed people who followed me back, and left comments on other people’s stories. Still, my profile was like a ghost town. That was when it hit me; I needed a flashy cover! I asked someone online to make me a cover. Maybe the pretty cover would attract more people.

A couple weeks later, I got a cover for my story Happy Endings and it was magnificent. It was everything I had hoped for. The user made seven different covers for which were all astonishing. The user even wrote a review of the few chapters I posted of my book and wrote an amazing review! How could I not be ecstatic? I was suddenly boosted with the confidence I needed.

I continued to write my story. I posted chapter after chapter but still, it was getting no love from viewers. I had fallen into a rut. Why were all these other stories getting major views and votes and doing better than me? In my mind, I thought I was a bad writer and that I’d never get anywhere with my story. I lost motivation.

I was lost in the moment. I became obsessed by being popular on this stupid website. I wasn’t writing for me anymore. I was writing for the website. Writing Happy Endings didn’t make me happy anymore. It suddenly became a chore. With the help of some of my friends and family, I crawled out of the hole of desperation.

It’s hard being a writer when you’re a teenager. You want nothing more than to get your story out there and be famous. The easiest way to to that at our age is get internet famous. I had to realize that getting internet famous wasn’t the best route.

When you’re a young writer, you write for you. You want to create a story that resonates with people. I wrote to escape and I wanted to share it with people. Just because people online weren’t reading my story didn’t make it an awful story. You should focus on the content and not the views.

I’m not saying Wattpad is completely awful. I did get a few genuine responses towards my stories. I think what’s best for young writers, whether in high schooler or in college, focus on the story and make a goal for yourself. I may not be swimming in views and followers, but I don’t need to. As long as I am proud with the quality of writing I am producing, I am content. And who knows, maybe one day a group of twelve year olds will be writing fanfiction based on my work.

Molly Baumgardner is a young writer and cat enthusiast. You can read some of her work at

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Guest Post: Eric Schwitzgebel Gives One-Point-Five Cheers for a Hugo Award for a TV Show about Ethicists’ Moral Expertise

When The Good Place episode “The Trolley Problem” won one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo, in the category of best dramatic presentation, short form, I celebrated. I celebrated not because I loved the episode (in fact, I had so far only seen a couple of The Good Place’s earlier episodes) but because, as a philosophy professor aiming to build bridges between academic philosophy and popular science fiction, the awarding of a Hugo to a show starring a professor of philosophy discussing a famous philosophical problem seemed to confirm that science fiction fans see some of the same synergies I see between science fiction and philosophy.

I do think the synergies are there and that the fans see and value them – as also revealed by the enduring popularity of The Matrix, and by West World, and Her, and Black Mirror, among others – but “The Trolley Problem”, considered as a free-standing episode, fumbles the job. (Below, I will suggest a twist by which The Good Place could redeem itself in later episodes.)

Yeah, I’m going to be fussy when maybe I should just cheer and praise. And I’m going to take the episode more philosophically seriously than maybe I should, treating it as not just light humor. But taking good science fiction philosophically seriously is important to me – and that means engaging critically. So here we go.
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