Novelist given psych exam, locked away by police for work of fiction he published at 20

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[UPDATE: According to the L.A.Times, McLaw was not removed from his job and taken for treatment because of the novels. Apparently, he wrote a four-page letter that alarmed authorities, and they've known about the novels for a couple of years.

It's frustrating, because I heard about this story a week ago when it first broke, and I was waiting to see what would shake out before writing a post. If I'd waited until this afternoon instead of this morning, I wouldn't have relied on the ridiculous early news report, which was disseminated widely and which explicitly linked his books to administrative action.

I'll leave the original post below, for the obvious reasons.]


You may have heard about Patrick McLaw, a twenty-three year old teacher in Maryland who has been kicked out of his job, is being investigated by the county sheriff, has had his home searched, had the school where he taught searched, has been forbidden to go onto county property at all, is being given a psychological exam in a location that the police will not name, and is not free to leave, according to the cops. Has he been arrested? Authorities will not say. Try not to be surprised when I say he’s black.

His crime? Three years ago he self-published a science fiction novel, set 900 years in the future, about the race to stop a school shooter.

You can read about his story at The Atlantic. I encourage everyone to read it; it’s short and it matters. If you’re curious about the book, not only is it still on Amazon, but the publicity has bumped it quite high in the sales rankings.

I guess it’s possible that there’s something else going on here beyond administrative freak out, but I would be surprised. This sort of over reaction from a school administration is all about the fear and power of petty bureaucrats who are terrified of being seen to have done too little. Any possibility, however slim, that they might be dissected in the media, post-catastrophy, about what they knew and why they didn’t act, drives them like fanatics.

It doesn’t help that so many school officials seem ready to accommodate the most paranoid parents in their district. It all feeds the little voice inside them that says thinking up the plot of a book is the same thing as fantasizing about it.

Based on the news reports we’ve had so far, Patrick McLaw has broken no law. It’s possible he’s being told that he has to do everything he’s told to keep his job, but I can’t understand how a sensible member of the judiciary thought publishing a novel three years earlier was probably cause for a search of the guy’s house.

It’s disgusting.

How not to respond to a mildly negative review, part 3,000,807

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Guy writes interactive novel about mystery-solving teddy bears in Venice, which is apparently not for children(?)

Reviewer gives it a mildly negative review.

Author loses his mind in comments.

This is from last May, and I’m not sure how I missed it. It’s the perfect example of the ABM, Author’s Big Mistake, in which an author takes great pains to try to school the reviewer in all their numerous errors but ends up looking like a complete tool. As it so often is, Dunning-Kruger Effect is in full swing here. The writer thinks his book about teddy bears is on the level of Keats or Fitzgerald, and nothing can convince him otherwise.

This train wreck comes to you courtesy of @Hello_Tailor, @Stacia_jones_, and @jamesdnicoll.

Randomness for 8/11

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1) Gambit’s costume is completely ridiculous, so this guy made one. h/t James Nicoll.

2) If David Lynch directed Dirty Dancing. Video.

3) Black leather dragon backpack. I’d get this, but it would make the toddlers in the Starbucks cry.

4) What your favorite 80s band says about you. This is better than it has a right to be.

5) More dice shaming!

6) Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie: the same movie.

7) Was HP Lovecraft a good writer? Nick Mamatas makes the argument that he was.

Amazon launches assault on Hachette’s interns

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Okay. I’m going to deal with this quickly and I’ll be out of here.

Background: Last night Amazon sent an email to everyone who had published books through their Kindle Direct Program (KDP) and since I’m one of those authors (Buy My Books) it came to me, too. You can read the whole thing here.

It’s kind of weird. I mean, I do business with Amazon. I don’t do business with Hachette. However, Hachette isn’t releasing oddball press releases via email, nor are they sending out rallying cries to garner support. Some of their authors? Yeah. And it’s weird. The company themselves? Nope.

So, let’s linkfarm this shit:

Amazon says that George Orwell was against cheap books. Accurate or selective quoting? The answer will won’t surprise you. Unsurprisingly, this is what people are talking about, not whether Amazon is totally on your side, readers.

Should KDP authors be on Amazon’s side? Actually, higher ebook prices from big publishers helps indie authors. Why would I want to help Amazon bring their prices down to my level?

Like Chuck Wendig, I’m not terribly moved by the Authors United push.

Also like Chuck Wendig, I think Amazon’s latest press release is fucking ridiculous.

Why? Because they published the Hachette CEO’s email address and gave people a bunch of talking points to send him in an effort to make him cave on their negotiations.

Seriously. Let me state for the record that I am not going to spam anyone’s inbox for the sake of a big corporation. I wouldn’t spam someone’s inbox for a real life friend, so I’m definitely not doing it for Amazon.

Let me also state that anyone who thinks Hachette’s CEO is going to be skimming through those emails thinking “Hmm. SilverDragonLady211883 At Yahoo dot com makes a good point about her mother’s reading habits” is kidding themselves. The only people who’ll see these emails are the bored interns tasked with deleting them all.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this PR fail (after “human shields”) but I am. It’s incredibly unprofessional.

Amazon, get new PR people. Stop trying to be loved. You can’t be beloved by consumers and be Walmart at the same time. Choose between those options and live with the consequences.

UPDATE: I forgot to include this!

UPDATE 2: I’d seen the Authors United NYTimes profile, but not the big ad they purchased. Apparently, that ad includes Jeff Bezos’s email with a request that readers spam him. Uncool, AU.

Need a GISHWES story?

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I’d never heard of GISHWES before this year, and only then because writers were complaining about an unexpected flood of emails asking for free stories.

So far, I’ve only received one request, which I fulfilled (the person who asked was very polite about it). Still, as I understand it, the stories don’t have to be unique, do they? They just have to be a story by a published author, right?

Here’s a short story for any GISHWESers having trouble finding authors to write something. It’s 139 words long.


Trumpets blared a fanfare, retainers lifted their pennants, and every eye turned toward the throne.

Misha Collins, wearing a brand-new trench coat, knelt on the gleaming marble and bowed his head.

The Queen tapped the flat of her sword on his shoulders. “Rise, Sir Misha.” Misha looked up, eyes shining with joyful tears.

The cheers of the crowd were cut off by the sound of a door slamming open. A second Misha, this one naked but for a strategically-placed bearskin hat, burst from a closet. “That’s an imposter!”

The kneeling Misha grinned and began to inflate like a balloon, tearing through his clothes. Tentacles and tusks sprouted from its body…. It was the Elopus, assuming its true form.

The creature pranced before the throne. “I’m Sir Misha! I’m Sir Misha!”

The Queen rolled her eyes and raised her sword high.


Hey, if you’re new here, why not take a look at my books. Twenty Palaces is the first book in my urban fantasy series and Bad Little Girls… is my newly-released short fiction collection (which means it’s cheap).

The series listed at the top of that page, The Great Way, has not been released yet.

Good luck with your scavenger hunt.

A little non-spoilery talk about darkness, grimdark, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Actually, I plan to spoil a few of the scenes right at the start. If you’re the sort of person who prefers to know as little as possible about a movie before you see it, maybe skip this post. If you’ve been hearing stuff like this:

and are curious why GotG is considered the super-fun movie that might finally turn the culture away from over indulgent grittiness, well, I Have Thoughts.

If you aren’t sure whether you should see the movie: it’s fun and funny. It’s not deep, but it’s darker than people on Twitter have made it seem. The villain and his plot are not particularly arresting, but the movie has enough going on that it doesn’t really matter.

I Have Thoughts: Continue reading

Nicole Perlman, co-writer of GotG, on bringing the movie to life

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Via Emily Blake (aka @Bambookiller) on Twitter, Nicole Perlman details her contributions as the first credited female writer of a Disney Marvel Movie (the only other one is Jane Goldman, who is credited on the recent X-Men movies). Basically, the film happened because of her. She had the chance to adapt any comics she wanted and she picked Guardians of the Galaxy because she’s a space nerd who has always wanted to work on big adventure thrillers.

Read that article. It’s interesting.

[Added later: I had no idea that people are trying to erase Perlman's contribution to the film, claiming that nothing she wrote is in the final film. Assholes.]

The funny thing is, all that outer space bullshit is perfect camouflage for a movie about superpowers. You have all the high tech gadgets you want and alien physiology creates a fantastic excuse for outre abilities–no radioactive spiders needed.

That’s part of the reason Blade was such a successful franchise for Marvel after so many failures: the superpowers weren’t. They were just vampire abilites.

This is why I think Dr. Strange is a natural for the screen, provided they don’t make the plot a bullshit “Stop the ritual!” chase, which never works. He’s a grownup Harry Potter; it’s easy.

Anyway, Marvel has tried many times to make outer space happen in a big way and it never really lasts. For whatever reason, space stuff doesn’t play well in comics. Sure, you can have the odd adventure off-planet and more than a few alien characters, but comic book series set in outer space just don’t last.

However, they’re a natural for movies.

I only wish I’d gotten to see Glenn Close, as Nova Prime, wearing that helmet. Hey, Robert Redford said “Hail Hydra,” didn’t he?

Randomness for 7/30

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1) A People’s History of Tattooine.

2) Batman’s mask would be good protection for Bruce Wayne’s secret identity, according to SCIENCE!

3) Scully likes Science (remix). Video.

4) Enjoy some pix of the world’s largest aquatic insect.

5) Hugo-winning author Lawrence Watt-Evans has been posting the openings to his many works in progress. Instructive.

6) “The Denny,” an advanced bicycle prototype designed for dark, hilly Seattle.

7) CG Deadpool test footage. I’d happily watch this.

Scrubbing a certain word from my blog

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I’ve always hated the words “pron” and “pr0n.” It always seemed like prudery. Nihil veritas erubescit, I say.

Well, no more. I still don’t blush at the word, but I won’t be spelling “pron” correctly on this blog any more, not even when I use it jokingly to refer to writer pron or whatever.

See, WordPress’s Jet Pack plugin allows me to see the search terms that Googlers use to find my blog, and many of them are searching for child pron. What fucking moron types “little girl pron” (spelled correctly, mind you) into a Google search box?

Unfortunately, I can’t do anything to report these people (I hope Google can) but I can at least change my site so that search engines will (eventually) stop sending them here, where I occasionally talk about my son. So I’ve spent the last hour searching my blog and deliberately misspelling That Word, even when it appears in fiction samples. The only place I haven’t changed it is in URLs inside links, but I may scrub those, too, eventually.

[Update: per advice from Twitter, the URL links are gone, too. I had to drop two old posts into the trash until (if) I can work out a way to reinstate them with permanent short link/redirects.)