Publishing “diversity” (with an aside on The Wyrd #3).

/Publishing “diversity” (with an aside on The Wyrd #3).

Crane Hana on the state of diversity in publishing.

I haven’t really spoken about it much, because I’ve essentially been putting off making an “official announcement” for the last six months, but this is effectively what happened to BAD MEME, the third Wyrdverse book. It exists and is written, but didn’t push the Lain/Sigmund m/m hard enough for the publisher. BAD MEME is more of a supernatural thriller (I guess?) set in Melbourne, and while Lain is the lens through which the story is told, it’s mostly about a group of three friends–Roxx, Bich (a.k.a. Brianna), and Taylor–who make a creeypasta YouTube series called vicwalks. The antagonist of vicwalks is a monster called the Tooth Girl who, because this is the Wyrdverse, is summoned into reality by the show (hence Lain’s involvement).

Sketch of Bich from BAD MEME.

The problem with the BAD MEME is that the entire conflict revolves around the different things Roxx, Bich, and Taylor want to get out of vicwalks. Roxx, an abuse survivor, uses the story as a way to deal with her past pain. Bich wants to be “internet famous” and get movie deals in Hollywood. Taylor is a young tans boy at an all-girls school, who’s looking for a hobby away from the suffocating femininity of his home life. Meanwhile, Lain spends most of the book as “Elle” after Bich reads his gender as female when they first meet.

So on the scale of “queer urban fantasy”, BAD MEME still fits into that box. The box it doesn’t fit into is “m/m romance”: Sigmund only appears as a cameo character in a few scenes, and the few hints of romance that do exist mostly come from Bich crushing on “Elle”.

Unfortunately for yours truly, the publishing contract for the Wyrd series was more on the “m/m paranormal” side of the scale than the “urban fantasy with queer protagonists” side. The publisher didn’t want BAD MEME as-is, and requested I rewrite large sections of the book to include Lain/Sig. I ultimately decided I didn’t want to do this; BAD MEME deals with some heavy themes (i.e. abuse survival, gender dysphoria) that I felt it would be inappropriate to sideline in favour of writing relationship melodrama between two dudes. My other option was to write another book entirely; essentially selling the fourth Wyrd book in place of the third. I outlined something (codename: TRUTHTELLER) that ended up being like 95% love triangle. The problem was it didn’t really have a villain. Because, yeah. The other thing BAD MEME did was establish the long-term antagonist for the Wyrd series.

So TRUTHTELLER got trunked alongside BAD MEME, and that was the end of that: for the foreseeable future, the Books of the Wyrd will number two.

… That turned out into much more of an update than I intended. Oh well.

Finally, for anyone who’s interested: have an excerpt from BAD MEME, in which Bich and Elle encounter the Tooth Girl. Enjoy!

2018-05-01T11:39:45+00:00 12th September, 2016|Tags: my art, publishing, wyrdverse|9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. yellingintothevoid 12th September, 2016 at 4:15 am

    Sadface, but I admire you for sticking to your guns. I really enjoy your writing, so hopefully this isn’t the end of your career as an author completely.

    • Alis 14th December, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Calling it a “career” is a bit of a stretch; I think I described it once as a “hobby someone else had control over”.

      This is actually one of my big reasons for walking away from BAD MEME. Essentially, the money I earnt for the series ended up being in the low three-digits for something like four years’ work. The time invested ends up being the equivalent of another full time job on top of my regular full time job, which is an actual career in the sense that it pays me a living wage.

      Working “for the love” is basically how the industry works (the entire thing is structured around the assumption that writers will write whether you pay them or not), so, okay. I can’t say I didn’t know. But I think it gets to a point where you have to decide what you’re personally willing to compromise on, and I got to mine and… yeah. This is how it happened.

      The consequence is it’s now going to be much harder for me to get anything else published; I’ve gone from being an unknown quantity to being a “known bad quantity” (poor sales and walking away from a contract, which is seriously frowned upon), which significantly decreases the likelihood that, even if I do write something else, that it’ll be picked up and published.

      Again, I knew this was the risk I was taking, and I’ve (more-or-less) come to terms with it. It still kind of sucks but, eh. That’s what happens when you take a crapshoot on a super, super niche genre for your debut (amongst other things).

      At the end of the day, publishing’s a business, and I can’t sell what people aren’t buying.

  2. randomredux 12th September, 2016 at 4:22 am

    That is really unfortunate to hear, but good on ya for sticking to the story you wanted to tell. It’s too bad they won’t take it without the focus on romance. 🙁

    • Alis 14th December, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Thanks, man.

      It’s a bit of a disappointment since I tried to be really, really clear up-front that I didn’t intend to write paranormal romance. But, I guess, from the publisher’s point of view, PR is something they can sell; most of the marketing that was done around Liesmith and Stormbringer pitched them to romance audiences, for example, where they tended to get… understandably mixed reactions.

      (Although, to be fair, the reactions tended to be mixed from non-romance audiences, too. Essentially, romance audiences tended to struggle with the non-romance elements–particularly the POV shifting, for some reason–while “traditional” SFF audiences tended to baulk at the queer content. Generally the people who loved the book were those looking for non-romance-focused, plot-driven SFF that happened to feature queer characters, and I’m really grateful for all, like, five of them. Heh.)

      The reality is that sales figures backed the publisher’s vision for the series rather than mine; the more romance-focused Liesmith sold better than the action-adventure-esque Stormbringer by an order of magnitude, but neither sold particularly well. Which I guess is just one of those things; at the end of the day, I can write whatever I want, but if people don’t buy it, then… thems the breaks.

      At least I can say I gave it a go.

      • gileonnen 14th December, 2016 at 2:21 pm

        That’s a real shame! I found Stormbringer by far the more engaging of the two. Your portrayal of the Norse mythos was delightfully alien; I’ve been familiar with those stories for decades, but you made them sing with new possibilities. Your secondary characters were also incredible. Good for you for standing firm.

        • Alis 13th June, 2017 at 4:06 pm

          Thank you!

          I really liked Stormbringer too, for all that it… essentially tanked commercially, heh.

          (The fact that it got publicly trashed by a Big Name Fantasy Author didn’t help much, either. Ouch.)

      • randomredux 14th December, 2016 at 2:23 pm

        That’s definitely a shame. Personally though I still think it’s a remarkable achievement that you got the two out and published, and for what it’s worth I’m super super proud of you as a friend for doing it. It made me pick my stuff back up again, and I know there were folks who must have been really happy to read what you put out there. It’s too bad the publisher and you didn’t see eye to eye on it in the end, but yeah, at least you can say you rolled the dice. 🙂 Do you have any plans on what… (more)

  3. karenwellsbury 12th September, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    I think this is a great shame, have you considered self publishing ?

    • Alis 12th September, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Never seriously, no; it’s just not really a viable option, for a large number of reasons.

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