IWSG: Fear of Author Harassment

Hello, friends!  Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop created by Alex J. Cavanaugh and cohosted this month by Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery.  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing, click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

Earlier this year, the Bookangel Club conducted a survey on author harassment.  The Insecure Writer’s Support Group posted an article reviewing the results of that survey (click here).  Those results were unsettling.  Depressing.  Given the kind of harassment authors report facing, both online and in real life, you may be left wondering if this whole writing thing is worth the trouble.

Now as a science blogger, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention something: the survey results are almost certainly skewed by selection bias.  This was an opt-in survey.  Authors who experienced harassment were probably more likely to opt-in to taking the survey then authors who’ve never dealt with harassment.  Therefore, we’re not looking at a truly random sampling of authors.

Still, what the Bookangel Club’s survey does show is that you don’t have to be particularly famous as an author before you risk attracting the wrong kind of attention.  As authors, we put our hearts and souls into our creative work, in the hope that others will read and enjoy what we’ve written.  Some people will take that for what it is; others will take it as an open invitation to say or do whatever they like to us.

In my own case, I write a blog about science.  So naturally, I attract the attention of Flat Earthers, Anti-Vaxxers, Moon Landing deniers, the One World Government conspiracy theorists, and so on.  I also get comments from religious zealots fighting against my “atheist lies” (I’m not an atheist, by the way).  These people can be… persistent, and when I don’t bow down to whatever “truth” they’re trying to spread, they can get mad.

These situations, thus far, have stayed on Twitter or in the comment sections of my blog posts.  They have not (yet) affected me beyond those online spaces.  I’m a pretty small-time author/blogger, and so the harassment I’ve faced has been proportionately mild.  But it’s not nothing, and that’s my point.  Even a small-time author/blogger like me has to deal with a surprising amount of unwanted attention.  And if my author platform starts to grow (as I hope it will), I fully expect the nonsense I have to deal with to grow as well.

Despite the selection bias issue I mentioned, I think every writer should read up about that Bookangel Club survey.  I think every writer should be aware of the risks we take when we put our creative work out there.  But I also want to tell you that, despite the risks, writing is still worth it.  Publishing is still worth it.  I have this blog, I’ve written a few articles for other websites, and I have a novella-length story published on Amazon.  Far more good has come from all this than bad.  In my experience, there are far more nice people on the Internet than there are Internet trolls.

Basically what I’m saying is this: you should know what you’re getting yourself into as a writer.  You should know what might happen.  But don’t let fear stop you from writing, publishing your work, and pursuing your dream.

Looking for Some Feedback…

Hello, friends!

Years back, I got a compliment that was the absolute best compliment I’ve ever received.  A close friend said to me: “You make me want to go learn stuff.”

Obviously I love science and space exploration best, but on a more fundamental level I love learning.  I love opening up my mind to find that the universe is a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more complicated than I could have possibly imagined it to be.

On this blog, I want to share some of the cool space and science stuff that I’ve learned.  I also want to make it easy for you to go learn more on your own, if you want to.  As a corollary to that, I also want to make it easy for you to fact check the things I say on this blog, because there’s way too much misinformation about science out there on the Internet, and I really, really, really don’t want to add to that problem if I can help it.

So it’s a little distressing to me when I get comments asking where I got my information from.  I’ve gotten a few such comments in the last month or so, which makes me think that I need to change up the way I cite my sources.  Currently, when I have a source I want to cite, I usually say something like “According to this paper” and make the words “this paper” a hyperlink to the paper in question.

That feels like a straightforward way to do it to me, but obviously that’s not working for everybody.  Would it be better if I did a sources cited section at the end of my posts?  Or is there something else I could do to make this clearer for readers (both regular readers and new people)?

Like I said before, I do not want to be responsible for spreading misinformation on the Internet.  But also, if you read something here on Planet Pailly and want to learn more, I want to make that as easy for you as possible.  Citing my sources clearly and easily addresses both of those concerns.  So how can I do that better?  Any and all feedback is welcome!

The Peril of Being Self Educated

Hello, friends!

As many of you already know, I blog about science, but I am first and foremost a science fiction writer (fingers crossed, soon to be a published science fiction writer!).

Back in 2010, I started this blog as a way to force myself to do the kind of research that I, as an aspiring Sci-Fi author, thought that I ought to be doing.  In the beginning, I really didn’t know much about science, except for some stuff I remembered learning in school.  And most of that stuff I remembered from school turned out to be wrong or, at best, only half true.

That’s one of the reasons I love being self educated.  Writing this blog has given me an opportunity to discover and correct many of the misconceptions I once had about science.  And my Sci-Fi writing has improved as a result.  I was recently looking over one of my old manuscripts.  So many silly misconceptions are on full display in that text.  Thank God that story never got published!

Another reason I love being self educated: doing deep dives on topics that I find interesting or that I think could be useful in my stories—topics like lithium mining, Troodon intelligence, or Venus’s unknown absorber.  The kinds of topics that never seem to get covered in school or that rarely get attention from the popular press.

I have, on occasion, surprised professional scientists with just how much I know about some weirdly specific topics.  And then I’ve surprised those same scientists with how much I don’t know about more ordinary, more generalized things.  That’s the peril of being self educated.  Your knowledge is splotchy, inconsistent.  You end up with these weird gaps in your knowledge, gaps that someone with a more traditional science education would not have.

And that’s why I keep blogging: because there’s still a whole lot I don’t know, and I’m sure I still have a lot of misconceptions in my head about science, and about other things too.  One thing I didn’t anticipate when I started this blog was how valuable a resource you, dear reader, would be.  You’ve asked me questions.  You’ve challenged me.  Some of you have pointed out my mistakes and suggested new avenues of research.

For that, I just want to say thank you, and please keep it up!

Next time on Planet Pailly, what if I told you Earth is not the perfect planet for life?