The Year That Was: 2012 in Review

Well, 2013 is now upon us, and the runup to the new year involved a lot of people taking stock of what 2012 meant for the publishing industry in general, what the year meant in terms of their careers, and how the rest of the field fared. Recommendations are particularly profuse, and I love the range of diversity I’ve been seeing in terms of what people are highlighting as their preferred work across various media.

Now, I like a good overview as much as the next writer/editor/book reviewer, but I didn’t particularly want to wade into that territory until the year had played itself out, and then the world caught up with me and here we are: nearly a week into the new year and I’m just finally settling down to talk in depth about the last one.

So, now that the last year has finally kicked the bucket, and the requisite party to usher out same and carouse in advance of the next has been attended, I find myself thinking about the year that was.

2012 was an utterly bizarre year for me, in many respects. This due partly to personal reasons, and partly to my writing/editing/reviewing career. And while I will do a breakdown of my own year later on, I think it would be appropriate to first address what everybody else in the publishing industry was doing last year. And so, without further ado, I give to you:

The State of the Field

2012 was in many ways a highly combative and adversarial year in the publishing industry, as was evident in the ongoing battle between self-publishing models and traditional publishing models. Both sides have their proponents and their detractors. Both are necessary for the continuation of the publishing industry. Neither are mutually exclusive distribution methods, and so the dichotomy of screen or paper is a false one, perpetuated by people with vested interests in one medium or the other. If the publishing industry is going to survive (and if the 2012 sales numbers are any indication, the industry is going to survive) we’re going to have to, at some point, stop waging war over how people choose to read.

The other issue that showed up repeatedly last year came in the form of several ugly reminders that an extraordinary number of people are utterly stupid and occasionally also extremely bigoted, and that “Fandom” is not immune to this phenomenon (Con Harassment, “Fake Geek Girls” [this is the original, deeply flawed, article that sparked the controversy – I’m also partial to Genevieve Dempre’s “In Defense of Lady Geeks” for a short, but good, counterargument of the original CNN article, also published at CNN], the abuse heaped on Anita Sarkeesian , and so on). Frankly, the entire notion that Fans are somehow more special/awesome/simply better than anyone else by virtue of being a Fan is bullshit (and, yes, we’re discussing a very specific form of Fan who feels an appalling sense of entitlement – we are not discussing all of fandom [kindly note: big F bad, little f good]). Fans are people, the same as everyone else. Fans have never been “Slans”, and I will be so very fucking happy when the phrase “Fans are Slans” finally slides into the oblivion it so richly deserves. The entire notion of being better than someone else because you care about something that others do not is patently absurd, as well as deeply offensive: a “Slan” is, by definition, better than everyone else, and claiming that you are better than everyone else because you like/love/lurv/ship (yes, I’m using it in a wider context, move along … ) /idolize that which others do not is violently exclusionary.

The same people arguing that Fandom is/should be a refuge are the same people who have a hard time realizing that much of what is deemed “geek” (and frankly I have ongoing problems with that term, but it’s the one that gets bandied about most frequently in this discussion) culture have gone mainstream. Speculative fiction? Mainstream (hell, all the lit kids are doing it). Comics? Mainstream (sales are up [saw several estimates over the course of last year claiming as much as a 40% increase in sales numbers across the board between May 2011 and May 2012], partly because they’re making blockbuster movies out of the properties now … blockbusters … and some of them are actually good … ). Fan Fiction? Mainstream (have you seen the fucking piles of money E.L. James is rolling in?). Other aspects of “geek” culture are still less widely adopted. Cosplay is still the realm of the dedicated individual given how much work it takes to pull off good cosplay. Specifically, the investments of time, money, and skill are truly daunting; enough so that it invalidates all the more these bizarre claims that many cosplayers are a form of “Fake Geek Girl” (see the links above). Various forms of gaming (roleplaying [be it tabletop or LARPing], card, and board) are still somewhat sacrosanct, though the more well-known board games have always been mainstream because they were marketed so successfully early on, and videogames have become decidedly mainstream, earning significant windfalls for their corner of the industry.

And why do we talk about “Fandom” when we talk about publishing? The two are deeply intertwined. Both Fandom and fandom has always been the primary support mechanism of speculative fiction. And spec fic gives back to its audience, most notably in recent memory in the form of books like Among Others (though I have some deep-seated objections to that particular book, both in terms of the “Fans are Slans” standard-bearing its narrative quite unintentionally reinforces – the novel engaging in some fairly pervasive fan-wank throughout alongside its otherwise excellent message of empowerment – and the structural problems that underpin the book, not the least of which is the painful devolution of the narrative into heavy Mary Sue territory in the final act).

But I digress. The point is that spec fic gives back to its audience. It is, at its best, an inclusive environment that fosters communication and discourse. Argument, also, is alive and well in the spec fic community. And rightly so. Many books and films that fall under the spec fic genre umbrella occupy both best of and worst of lists depending on who is doing the review. I think Prometheus is probably 2012’s standard-bearer in that particular regard, but the film was certainly not the only media in 2012 to evince a strong ability to polarize audiences.

Moving away from specifics, and back to general terms momentarily, there were fairly serious upheavals all across the publishing industry, occurring in different forms across the year. There’s simply too much to cover at the moment (2012 was a ridiculously busy year for changes to the publishing industry), but a quick overview of the changes which most deeply affected the publishing industry (your mileage may vary with this article, but I happen to agree with all the points) can be found in Laura and Helen Marshall’s Movable Type blog post “4 Events that Rocked the Book World in 2012” (discussing the fall of Dorchester Publishing, the US Justice Department lawsuit over eBook pricing, the continuing impact of Fifty Shades of Grey, and the proposed merger between Penguin and Random House).

Another change perhaps more significant for writers and editors in the short form category is Duotrope‘s shift away from a free access system, moving instead to a paid model. It’s been a long time coming (it was inevitable, really), and it’s by no means a negative impact on the field, it simply changes the lay of the land. It also means, for those like myself who either have ideological issues with supporting an enforced paywall system or who simply can’t afford a yearly subscription fee for same, having to go elsewhere for market listings. I hope Duotope manages to reach their required goal for funding since they do excellent work and have dedicated staff. But, personally, I won’t be picking up a subscription (I’ve encountered enough flaws in their system in the past, and have been dealing with submissions long enough now that I can ferret out the information they provided on my own), though I completely understand the position of those who did pay for one, and those who will do so.

It’s also worth noting that though non-subscribers are locked out of the market listings, you can still access all the listing pages linked to from Duotrope’s Twitter account (@duotrope). I do not know if this will remain the case, but it works for now.

And for those who are not going to be using Duotrope’s system, or even those who are, here are some additional resources:

www.ralan.com – Comprehensive, frequently updated, and well run.

Joanne Merriam’s market list (personal preferences) – This one leans heavily toward lit fic markets, and it’s a touch dated (a few things here may be defunct), but still quite comprehensive.

NewPages.com Literary Magazine Listing – Again, a touch dated, but also a good start and reasonably comprehensive.

Sarah Hans’ Monthly Upcoming Deadlines Listings – What it says. Almost uniformly paying markets (in some cases royalties only).

Dark Markets – Horror listings only, but updated frequently. Fair warning: I almost never use this site anymore so I can’t vouch for its accuracy.

Martha Wells’ Publishing Information Link Page – Information about Submitting/Querying/Craft. Especially useful for newer writers feeling a little lost.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Rusch Publishing Articles” – I cannot think of a single better resource for clarity in the publishing industry than Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Writer Beware – Because not everyone plays by the rules, and you should know who is choosing not to.

Some Blogs About Writing You Should Keep Up With (Industry and/or Craft): Theodora Goss, Chuck Wendig [Terrible Minds], John Scalzi [Whatever], and others I feel I should remember right now, but can’t.

Lest we forget, writers, editors and reviewers (well, some of us, anyway) also take time at the end of the year to do roundups, retrospectives, and just generally infectiously well-written and engaging posts. And here I am going to cheat and provide a list of some of the better roundups of notable books/stories from 2012, as well as some end of year posts which were worth reading (so that I don’t have to do this :p ):

Gemma Files – Notable Books 2012

Tempest Bradford – Best Short Fiction of 2012

Victoria Strauss – Writer Beware 2012 Year in Review

Cheryl Morgan – Women to Watch Out For in 2013

Strange Horizons, All Reviewers – 2012 in Review [As Discussed Individually by All of SH’s Reviewers]

i09, Annalee Newitz – Best SF & F Books of 2012

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer – Fourteen Notable Women Writers of the Weird

Chuck Wendig – 25 Writer Resolutions for 2013 (And Beyond)

Again, there are other things I will recall later (that I may add to this list, or simply post elsewhere) but these are the ones that came immediately to mind.

And now, on to an overview of my own work in 2012:

The State of the Writer (You Know, This One)

Odd, odd year in a lot of respects, though it was largely good in terms of my own creative work. So, the easiest way to talk about this is to do a rundown of what happened in 2012, and then maybe discuss it a little:

  • 10 fiction sales (1 poem, 9 stories)
    • Story Sales: 1 pro rate (first time ever), 8 semi-pro rate (though one was at .03/word which qualifies it as pro under the Campbell Award guidelines).
    • Poem Sale: Not actually sure what rate category this sale was, as the rate structure for poetry seems to be different.
  • 4 stories published, three of which were sold last year, one this year
  • My story “Rubedo, An Alchemy of Madness”, published in Future Lovecraft in 2011, was given an Honourable Mention in Imaginarium 2012
  • The Future Lovecraft anthology was reprinted by Prime Books in August in a mass market edition, giving it wider distribution
  • 12 reviews published
  • 2 issues of Sol Rising published
  • Was nominated for an Aurora Award for Sol Rising in the Best Fan Publication category
  • Wrote a couple of guest blogs
  • Finished the first year of the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest, and later started the second (second contest still running until mid-February)
  • Started the Can Spec Fic List for 2011 listings, then later added 2012 listings (ongoing reference project)
  • Attended 4 conventions/symposia
  • Went to a whole whack of fiction/poetry readings via different venues and reading/poetry series, including the Chiaroscuro Reading Series

All in all, a busy year. And, of course, other things happened, but those are the ones worth mentioning in this context, or at least the projects with some form of completion to speak of. I’ll talk about other projects currently in the works once they’re completed.

A couple of nice accolades in the form of the Honourable Mention in Imaginarium 2012 and the nomination for the Aurora Award for Sol Rising. Recognition is very gratifying, and in both cases it was entirely unexpected, so it was all the nicer.

I’m also quite pleased about the state of my fiction sales for 2012. Not just that it was so many (for me, I know other writers sell far more than that in a year), but that all of those sales were semi-pro rate or better. I far prefer to work for payment, not dropping below the base rate of .01/word except in rare circumstances. And I seem to be good enough to meet that goal now, so I hope to be able to carry it on going forward.

It’s true there were some minor setbacks this year in terms of publication dates: 5 stories that were intended to be published in 2012 were moved back to 2013. But that’s the nature of the beast.

A good many projects still ongoing, and many things still to do. All in all, not a bad year though. Problematic in respects we won’t go into here, but the writing and reviewing is working, and that, if nothing else, is cause for celebration.

Happy new year :)

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