Graggonspeak April/May 2021

You’re minding your own half-alien half-machine coughing-up-a-storm business when it happens. You’re walking the rows, droideka are chill’n, everything’s good – all “roger roger” and lightsabers under your cloak before this Graggonspeak article force jumps from the damn ceiling and tosses you a casual, “Hello there” before things get “so uncivilized.”

It Came From the Feeds… News & Stuff

(ICYMI) – Obi-Wan Series News

Speaking of the pesky Star Wars prequels, those films wrought with both love and hate from Star Wars fans, the new Disney+ Series titled “Obi-Wan Kenobi” continues to provide trickles of news. Shooting started not long after the cast was announced officially on the Star Wars website. Disney’s synopsis reads:

“The story begins 10 years after the dramatic events of ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’ where Kenobi faced his greatest defeat: the downfall and corruption of his best friend and Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, turned evil Sith Lord Darth Vader.”

Recently, Ewan McGregor remarked that the prequel dialog certainly “isn’t Shakespeare” an acknowledgement of one of the most criticized elements of the prequels. Additionally, another starkly criticized prequel element was the sword technique, especially in Episode III. However, fans may see some great swordplay and certainly better dialog in the new Obi-Wan series. McGregor told The Hollywood Reporter:“For months, we’ve been doing these monster, two-and-a-half-hour sessions of sword fights and hand-to-hand stuff.” McGregor had also commented on the scripts being great.

Personally, this is the first Disney+ Star Wars endeavor I’m at all interested in. Baby Yoda was great popcorn fun and a fine stroking of the fandom—but let’s not kid ourselves, it was nothing more than that. The Mandalorian was good, but not storytelling I expect to hold its own in the long term as quality or memorable canon. Obi-Wan however, is a character set into a world and personal situation saturated with conflict, both external and internal. If these scripts dare to push the envelope and lean into character exploration—rather than be a fan servicing fest of easter eggs and weak storytelling—I think the Obi-Wan series stands a chance to be remembered for a long time to come.

Speaking of the Rat—Or, Uh… The Mouse — #DisneyMustPay Update

Retweeted throughout the field of SFF/H (I saw it first via Neil Gaiman) Cory Doctorow posted a great thread summarizing the current state of the #DisneyMustPay movement. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America had to go public in order to make Disney cough up the royalties owed to legendary writer Alan Dean Foster. Disney was clearly fine with not paying artists whose contracts they’d acquired. The argument that Disney acquired properties without their liabilities simply doesn’t hold water—but it should disturb content creators and horrify fans.

As consumers, it’s important we keep an eye on behavior like this and support artists when they’re wronged. Disney now owns many entertainment companies, and this problem is clearly rampant.

This Publishers Weekly article outlines the next steps SFWA, teaming up with the RWA and HWA, are taking to tackle the giant’s egregious acts and provide artists channels to seek reconciliation–or at least a chance to get paid. The most recent update from SFWA/HWA and other coordinating organizations said that BOOM! studios (recently acquired by Disney) had reached out and offered full cooperation to ensure the task force’s aims are met.

It’s insane to say, like it’s some kind of advert put on by a cheesy injury lawyer, but: If you are an artist who has done work with Disney, or know someone who has, check those royalty statements. More information can be found here: https://www.writersmustbepaid.org/

Speaking of Writers Fighting Unfair Treatment…

Kaleidotrope, a popular semi-pro zine, recently tweeted a poll asking the community for their thoughts on “no-simultaneous submissions” policies. These are policies which ask a writer only to have a story or piece on submission with that publisher and no others, until a response is received.

Poll Question from Kaleidotrope: No-simultaneous-submissions policies—what are your general thoughts?

With 452 votes, the final results were as follows:

1) Perfectly Reasonable 31.4%

2) I ignore them. 15.9%

3) It Depends 47.8%

4) What are those? 4.9%

It’s interesting 63.7% of responders fell somewhere other than “perfectly reasonable” not including the 4.9% of “What are those?” which, who knows, could have a few folks joking about not heeding the policies.

I’ve always felt these policies are, as writer John Wiswell put it on Twitter, “profoundly anti-author.” No-simul. subs essentially asks creatives to wait. Understandably, it cuts down on the slush piles everywhere. On the surface, it seems like a fine request. After all, why would anyone want to mess up an editor’s process of selecting stories? However, the majority of pro-rate markets hold this policy. Which would be fine if response rates weren’t atrocious throughout the field.

Most pro-rate markets tie up stories for many months before sending an acceptance or rejection. A quick look Duotrope or The Submission Grinder will reveal most pro-rate short fiction and poetry markets make most writers wait nearly a third of a year for a response.

We all know publishing is slow, but clearly these policies hurt writer’s abilities to target markets and sell fiction. Short fiction isn’t dead, but policies like this are killing it. Artists often target markets and time submissions in addition to keeping track of every magazine’s submission cycles. Restricting how many markets may consider a submission is asking writers to bet they’ll roll a critical hit two times in a row – once to be a good fit and once to come at the right time. Anyone behind the scenes of a magazine can tell you good stories get rejected all the time.

Imagine how vibrant the short fiction landscape could be if publishers simply adapted a “tell us/withdrawal (by the day of contract signing) if your piece sells elsewhere” policy. Mags can then decide to punish individuals who cause a problem (blacklist/setup future auto rejections), rather than damage the community. Today’s excellent short fiction writers wouldn’t need to spend years finding not only a good fit, but the right timing, in order to bring stories to readers.

Short Fiction Spotlight

The spotlight this time around falls on an old story, which still hits the spot and feels timely. “The End of the Whole Mess” by Stephen King originally appeared in Omni Magazine in 1986, was then reprinted in King’s Nightmare’s & Dreamscapes (where I first encountered it) and was also reprinted by John Joseph Adams in 2008’s Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse.

The story is told by Howard Fornoy, who recounts his younger brother’s genius and attempt to eradicate violence from humanity. In the age of a global pandemic and political and moral tensions in America higher than ever (although it feels we’re finally in a lull from peak madness) this story resonates. Bobby, Howard’s genius brother, uses wasps and bees to draw certain conclusions about humanity’s perpetual inclination towards violence. He says God made us more like wasps than bees and the metaphor is chilling.

The story doesn’t have a happy ending. The implication that humanity is practically programmed to do harm is… well, troubling to say the least. But while Bobby’s character makes fatal mistakes in attempting to wipe out violence, his mission is pure and the story, well worth reading.

An Update From Graggon Keep

      To say things have been crazy in my neck of the woods would be an understatement quantifying sixty-six billion solar masses, at least. Not only are we adjusting to new parent life, but we’re selling our home and searching for our “historic dream home.” Why would we do this to ourselves, while, let’s not forget, there is still very much a pandemic going on? Some questions rival the cosmogony and are therefore best left alone. There have been a lot of strong emotions and ripples in the weave to bring us to this decision. It wasn’t an easy call, but we’re happy and confident we’re making the right one. My grandparents owned our home first. My late father grew up in the house. We saved it from liquidation to strangers. This home will forever be the one we made a full nursery in years before we even decidedto try for a family. But we know it’s time to take the memories with us to the next chapter. One which better positions us and our little one for success.

      Tumult aside, we’re excited. These large changes are why the budding Graggonspeak monthly has seen–and will continue to see–disruptions. What was monthly will, for a while at least, become bi-monthly. I’m working on a short fiction round up for June/July of writers who’ve previously appeared in Space & Time and where you can find their new and exciting works elsewhere.

      Until then, get vaccinated, stay positive, stay awesome.

–Austin Gragg
Independence, MO
May 31, 2021