Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Steampunk Universe: Continue Supporting Diversity In Steampunk And Get Some Awesome Fiction

We keep getting told that steampunk is not diverse.

We keep proving them wrong.

Two and a half years ago, we brought you the award-winning anthology Steampunk World.

Since then, a number of prominent anthologies and other works of diverse steampunk fiction have sprung up.

But it is not enough.

We want to see characters like ALL our friends, like ALL the members of our families.

We want to see fully developed characters in steampunk who are disabled or aneurotypical. We want to see more than token characters and cliched plots.

We were told it would be too hard, especially in steampunk.

We are going to prove them wrong again - and we want you to join us.

Join editor Sarah Hans, our cover artist James Ng, and contributors Ken Liu, Jody Lynn Nye, Maurice Broaddus, Malon Edwards, Emily Cataneo, Pip Ballantine and nine others today.

Steampunk Universe: A fully diverse steampunk anthology -- Kicktraq Mini

On Litmus Tests and Invisible Illnesses; more on Steampunk Universe
This is a mirror of the latest backer update for Steampunk Universe.  If you haven't backed the project yet, you can at

For context, see this post:

Because of a comment on the last update, please let me clarify: All of the stories feature disabled or aneurotypical characters. Not all of the authors have shared with us whether or not they're disabled or aneurotypical.

The figure I quoted previously - that slightly less than 50% of the authors were themselves disabled or aneurotypical - was based on the information that they themselves shared with us in cover letters or bios.

We find the idea of litmus tests disturbing in general in determining who gets on a table of contents. I have long advocated for determining one's efforts by evaluating who is submitting. When I brought this up in July, I recognized that my efforts in getting submissions needed improvement. I got several good suggestions on broadening my calls for submissions, and D. Morgenstern pointed out several others in their critique of my response yesterday.  I can do more in that arena, and will. Sadly, these are of limited use now, since the two years we were accepting submissions ended back in July.

But I want to again point out that we did not specifically quiz authors on this subject. 

Aside from the above, we are personally and strongly aware of the way society can shame and stigmatize those who have disabilities or who are not neurotypical.

For example, while I have previously mentioned publicly which of my family members is aneurotypical, I have not named them here because they're an adult and deserve to tell their own story in the way they choose to.

Or Ms. Coe, who wrote the essay I posted yesterday. She wrote me last night (different time zones and all) to share this:

"The sentence basically came from the fact that I have depression - to severe levels at times - but I am not legally disabled; I am not neurotypical but I don't experience a lot of the disadvantages, especially as I am able-bodied. It was meant to highlight the invisible illnesses that don't always get included when a lot of people think of disability, but can often be crippling."

I want to personally thank Ms. Coe for sharing this part of her personal story with us all.

While depression and other mental issues can qualify as "legally disabled", it can be extremely difficult and painful to share that publicly. They are also massively and shamefully stigmatized, leading many to not share their stories publicly.

I appreciate the critique from others.

I am going to ensure that future calls for submission include the new sources that have been brought to my attention.

I appreciate Ms. Coe sharing her story.

I am not going to force any of my authors to answer questions about their personal lives to pass a litmus test or judge whether they're disabled "enough" or aneurotypical "enough".

I am - with your help and support - going to bring you a kick-ass anthology featuring characters who are aneurotypical and disabled.

Thank you for your support.

Your comments are welcome; please comment here instead of on the project itself.

If you haven't backed the project yet, you can at

Two Issues Around Steampunk Universe, Addressed
[Edit: Follow-up post at]

I'm glad - and that's not sarcasm, folks - to see people calling me out within hours of me asking people to.

In this case, it's based around our current Kickstarter for Steampunk Universe. (I'm posting an abbreviated version of this post as a backer update as well; as I said in the post earlier today, I want to promote the idea that questioning and calling out behavior is appropriate.)

I've seen two sets of comments pop up recently - some in e-mail, some in twitter. Some directed at me, some not.

The first concern can be summed up in this tweet.

The answer is "just under half". This was - and is - a serious concern of ours that we asked fans and readers opinions of back in July.

While it would have been really cool to have 100% disabled or aneurotypical (or neurodivergent or neuroatypical) authors, after two years of soliciting stories, that simply isn't what we ended up with. We had a choice between doing a good job of increasing representation of characters ... or throwing in the towel and doing nothing.

Some of the comments we got from potential readers were very powerful. The one that moved me the most was this: "As for me, as a reader, I can tell you that I suffer from an extreme case of obsessive compulsive disorder, BPD and depression, and I am always, always reading novels, short stories and poetry that speaks to me, that tells my story. I crave that solidarity with the character. But never have I been concerned whether or not the writer is disabled or suffers from a mental illness themselves. So long as their story is engaging, and their characters real and represent the true side of what I live through, I am more than happy to read their words."

So we forged ahead. As with Steampunk World, we hope that Steampunk Universe will help create more diversity in both steampunk and other areas of fiction, even if (as far as we knew) not all the authors were personally disabled or aneurotypical.

This is important, because the first "behind the story" I shared today had this line in it: "Disability is such a hard thing to quantify; I’m not disabled, yet I have things that stand in the way of my everyday life, and I really wanted to get that across."

This public comment sums up the second issue, so I'll quote it as representative:

I hear you.

First, the responsibility of this falls on me. I (Steven) solicited these "behind the story" essays, and I'm also the one who solely edited and approved them. (And I did do some rewording with this one.)

Now that I've been (figuratively) smacked upside the head - and thank you for that! - I realize how that language came across to a number of people. I realize that it came across as minimizing both disabled people and minimizing the disability itself.

I apologize. To minimize you - any of you - is exactly the opposite of the intent of anyone involved in this project.

I can explain how I understood that sentence.

When I read that sentence, I thought of when I was stationed in Korea. When a cab refused to pick me up, because I was a white American. When I was denied entrance to a club, again, because the sign said "NO GIs".

These are trivial complaints, and they're things that I can simply walk away from.

They're also one of the few times in my life (thanks to being straight, white, middle class, and American) I've experienced something like the actual racism and bigotry so many others have to deal with on a regular basis.

Let me emphasize: My experiences do not compare. Not even a little.

But they do give me a little window where I can start to empathize. And that empathy is the beginning of being able to write characters outside of my own experience.

I check, of course. I've asked people that belong to specific demographic groups to read my work, to ensure that my empathy hasn't become projection, that my empathy is giving me just enough insight to be able to provide the emotional context for my characters.

And that is how I understood that sentence's intent. I understood the intent as an able-bodied writer seeking to try to empathize through the closest experiences she could find, in order to create a character and story that was as authentic as possible, to make "their characters real and represent the true side of what [others] live through."

Regardless, that does not change how it came across. And again, I take responsibility and apologize.

I've been thinking for most of the day how to better communicate this idea: That we, as authors, seek something with a close emotional resonance or feeling in order to empathize and communicate the worlds of others that we might not be a part of...but to do so in a way that doesn't unintentionally convey a disregard or minimizing of others.

While I don't have any answers yet, I am not giving up. (If you have any suggestions, they're very welcome.)

I hope that explaining the intent in that backer update - as well as taking this critique seriously - communicates all of our seriousness and passion for this project and everything it stands for.

If you have not yet backed the project, you can find it at

Call me on it when my privilege blinds me to my actions

I'm not a stranger to (and definitely don't shy away from) calling people on bigoted behavior.

There are two things I want to say around that issue, though.

I will almost certainly screw up at some point.

I'm a straight white cisgendered male. That has an impact on how I view the world. I do my damnedest to broaden my perspective, but ... well, I screw up.

This was recently brought home to me while listening to a podcast about increasing diversity and heard the guest Kevin Patterson talk about behaviors that folks think are inclusive, but really serve to reinforce the "othering" of minorities.

"Folks" in this case includes me. I know I've done at least some of the things he mentioned, and probably more that I'm not aware of.

And I had no idea until I happened to hear this podcast.

Which brings me to the second point:

I know that I've screwed up in the past.

I know that I've done things in the past that I wouldn't even consider now. But that doesn't erase the things I've done in the past. I've made amends there where I could.

If you looked, you could probably find someone I flirted with past the point of comfortableness. You could find someone I was too off-color with. I've said something homophobic. I've said something racist.

I'm not asking for absolution.

I'm asking that you knock me upside my head (figuratively) when I screw up, when I'm not living up to my own ideals.

Taking responsibility and speaking up

Too often, statements like the one I just made are used as a shield. "You didn't tell me, so I didn't know." They're designed to shift responsibility to someone else.

And that's crap. I take responsibility to police my own actions.

I'm saying this publicly for one very specific reason.

As Natalie Luhrs put it
The more entrenched and powerful you are (or appear to be), the more difficult it’s going to be for those who were harmed to speak up.

I'm inviting you to speak up.

As an author, as a publisher, as a human being, I'm asking you to speak up.

I want to hear about my mistakes, so that I can be better.

And I want to do what I can to create an atmosphere where not only missing stairs, but any bad behavior gets called out.

If you can, if you feel comfortable doing so, call me - and others - on our mistakes. That way you can know their intentions and, hopefully, help our world be a slightly better place.

Thank you.

And I believe you.

The Complicated Mess When The Missing Stair Gets Noticed

[Edit: I think the next post is an important companion and, hopefully, a step towards changing the systemic problems.]

Thanks to being on call for my day job all weekend, I didn't see that a missing stair - Sunil Patel - got named.  He wasn't the only one - Greg Andree also got named - but for a very specific reason, the accusations1 against Mr. Patel impact me directly. (There's a roundup of news and Mr. Patel's response on File 770.)

Because there's a story from Mr. Patel in the upcoming anthology No Shit, There I Was.

I do have a respect policy.  And there are some people I won't publish - because of their actions.

I want to make a big distinction here about that, because the accusations toward Mr. Patel include him claiming to have the power to make or break them, to blacklist them, in order to have the authors in question behave a certain way towards him. That's just...wrong, as Ann Leckie points out.

Me? When I choose not to publish someone because of their behavior, I'm saying that because I don't want to be associated with sexist, racist, bigoted, assaulting jerks. It's because I want the areas where I am, that I'm sponsoring, and that I'm representing to be safe and inclusive.

I believe the women who have come forward. I'm all too aware, as Natalie Luhrs put it, "[that] this is a problem that is endemic to our community, social and professional. There are people being abused right now who truly believe that no one will care if they speak up."

And I do care.

Which is where the complications come in.

I admire the example set by The Book Smugglers, but I can't exactly follow their example.

The contracts have already been signed, and the money already paid. Review copies have already been sent out. I can't undo those things. And undoing them would impact not just Mr. Patel, but all the other fine authors who are in No Shit, There I Was.

What I can - and will - do is offer that all backer rewards that involved Mr. Patel may be fulfilled by me personally, or if we can work it out, another author.

I will also investigate how to update future contracts so that should this situation happen again with a different author, I will have more options.

I welcome your feedback about the actions I'm taking. I am not interested in discussing whether or not you believe the accusations.

Signed by Steven Saus, publisher of No Shit, There I Was
Cosigned by Rachael Acks, editor of No Shit, There I Was

1 Note: I'm using "accusations" here in a pedantic legal sense.