Okay, I got to the end of the podcast and the next book pick!
If you’re wondering why all these books are recommended by the authors of the other books, it’s because a quirk of science fiction/fantasy writers’ scene in north america, not particularly because of the quality of the work (though I think both Gideon the Ninth and All Systems Red are worth a read).
There are two annual workshops for aspiring writers called Clarion and Clarion West. They have good reputations, not because you’ll become a noticeably better writer compared to someone who doesn’t go, but because they are well recognised as a fast-track into a very specific and quite powerful in-group of writers and editors.
The setup isn’t exactly a scam, but the incentives are all messed up (from someone looking in from the outside).
You pay $5,000 for a six week workshop, and “in order to foster the group bonding that is part of the Clarion experience, it is mandatory that students reside in Clarion housing.”
As in, you pay the money and have six weeks to spare (which of course makes it quite inaccessible to anyone not already pretty wealthy), and you’re part of the MANDATORY group bonding, with both other workshop participants and the workshop leaders.
The next step is that workshop leaders are then incentivised to give recommendations to books written by previous students who have paid them money, because of course they are!
And once an author gains any success, it’s likely they will be invited back to Clarion as a workshop instructor, where they are paid $$$$.
Not quite a ponzi scheme, but echoes of such, and certainly a self-perpetuating clique of writers who vote for each other in the awards and go on writing retreats together.
And you can join this group for just 6 weeks and $5,000! It’s actually a very good deal!
A lot of recent Geeknights Bookclub picks are from Clarion authors (Binti, Broken Earth, This Is How You Lose the Time War, All Systems Red, The City We Became).
Knowing this setup explains a lot about the current state of science fiction by (mostly) north american writers, both positive and negative.