Baen Books


Anyone who has read my blog or who knows me, knows of my deep and abiding affection for Baen’s Bar, which led me to Baen Books. This week, a ham-handed and libelous attack was made on the forum. I’m including Toni Weisskopf’s response below. 

To Whom It May Concern:

What is it we do at Baen Books? We publish books at the heart of science fiction and fantasy.

Science fiction has traditionally been a unique kind of intellectual pleasure, a process of glorious intercommunication and inspiration, with ideas flowing from scientist and engineer to writer and artist, to reader and viewer, back and forth, in a delightful mélange of shared thoughts, wild speculation, cautionary tales, reality checks, and the sheer fun of playing with boundaries and ideas. It is not for everyone. But those who enjoy it, take great pleasure in the dialogue.

When the modern form of SF began, with Hugo Gernsback and the other pulp magazines of the early 20th century, the publishers fostered that interaction through letter columns in the magazines and by encouraging science fiction readers to organize in clubs and meet in conventions. Baen Books continued that tradition with Baen’s Bar, a kind of virtual convention and on-line conversation that has been around in some form for over 20 years.

The moderators are volunteers. The readers, editors, and writers post and interact on the Bar at their own desire. Some conversations have been gone over so many times, they’ve been retired as simply too boring to contemplate again. Sometimes the rhetoric can get heated. We do not endorse the publication of unlawful speech. We have received no complaints about the content of the Bar from its users.

That said, it has come to our attention that allegations about the Bar have been made elsewhere. We take these allegations seriously, and consequently have put the Bar on hiatus while we investigate. But we will not commit censorship of lawful speech.

It is not Baen Books’ policy to police the opinions of its readers, its authors, its artists, its editors, or indeed anyone else. This applies to posts at the Bar, or on social media, on their own websites, or indeed anywhere else. On the Bar, the publisher does not select what is allowed to be posted, and does not hijack an individual’s messages for their own purposes. Similarly, the posts do not represent the publisher’s opinion, except in a deep belief that free speech is worthy in and of itself.

Most sincerely,
Toni Weisskopf

Here’s the thing. I met my then-friend, and much later, the man who would become my husband, on the Bar back around 2002. I’d joined the Bar forums in 2000. The Baen Barflies were a support and became a family for me, through some of the darkest parts of my life. They were, and are, a band of bibliophiles, geeks, and nutty people who don’t exactly follow a party line. Any party line, be that political, or… well, there have been debates break out on the Bar over cooking techniques that would rival some scientific conversations. But I digress. Which also happens on the Bar. Thread drift is a thing, and a glorious one. 

It used to be the happening place. You could talk to authors, and I did. Which is part of how I became an author. The writing group I joined up with, which included Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt, first organized on the Baen’s Bar forums. I coordinated a meeting with Larry Correia when he passed through my little state almost a decade ago, and was able to sit and have lunch with him – he’s a gracious and generous human, who showed me baby pictures of his youngest, and talked publishing business to me just as I was preparing to publish my first novel. It was a huge encouragement. 

The Barflies, as we called ourselves, coordinated packages of books for the troops. Some of my early work got included on Kindle readers that were bought with donations and sent off to military hospitals for soldiers who were recovering from injuries, so they’d have reading material. Baen had a fantastic policy where they’d send a box or two of books – sometimes ones that weren’t even released yet – to deployed troops. A large portion of the Baen Barflies were active or former military, or like me, military brats. There was a real heart for the men and women who have laid their lives on the line to protect freedom here at home. That never went away. 

The forums waned, with the advent of social medias. It was simply easier, especially after some software issues handicapped the original Bar, to communicate on, say, Facebook. I still logged in from time to time, though. That was how I reached out to one of my all-time favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, and got her permission and a recipe to use for Eat This While You Read That. So while I hadn’t been there in a while… I know the people. And I know that the recent brouhaha is based on falsehoods. It is an openly transparent scheme to win an award, and to make money off scurrilous lies. But because it was a coordinated attack, it laid the Baen’s Bar low. 

I loathe the Cancel Culture and all it stands for. I know what it is, and why it is, and I will oppose it in any way that I can. The freedom of speech – the freedoms we have been guaranteed by our Constitution here in the United States – shall not be abridged. There is a very narrow zone of exclusion, the so-called ‘fire in a crowded theater’ incitement to a clear and present threat of violence. That is being used now, in an attempt to introduce a wedge of intolerance to all forms of free speech. I will not have it. 

I went yesterday and bought books directly from Baen. Some were books I was planning to buy anyway – Larry Correia and John Brown’s Gun Runner, for instance. Others were not. The Monthly Bundles are a good deal, usually six books for $18. I think one of those would give you a good sampler of Baen’s output. Regardless of what you choose, do support them. They need it, in their time of troubles. Can’t afford a book? Check out the Baen Free Library. This is what brought me to the Bar, and it’s a generous and shrewd marketing move on their part. Read all things Baen? Go leave a review for books you loved. And report reviews that are obvious political hack jobs. 

It’s a small battle in the Culture War. But it’s very personal for me. 


Header image: Toni Weisskopf, holding the sword my husband and I would leap over moments later as part of our marriage ceremony. And me. 

10 thoughts on “Baen Books

  1. I’ve been there, and read a few of the free for the reading distros. But it’s been a long time. Say about a decade. This post serves as a much-needed kick in the pants to go back.

  2. Very, very well said (‘very” is a weak adjective but I’m lazy right now). I will continue to buy Baen books and seek to encourage others to do so as well. Thanks, and keep’em flyin’.

  3. I think that my background as a counselor distorts my perception of the situation.
    You see, counselors have an ethical conflict that arises when a client states that they are going to harm someone. The conflict is between the duty to protect the confidentiality of the client, and the duty to warn a non-client of a threat.
    So, I’m thinking about the perceived-not-nice statements on the Bar.
    If Barfly Thermos_Greenwood posts “On this next Thursday, I will assassinate Senator Jubilation T. Cornpone by shooting him with my (insert name and caliber of firearm here) as he greets dock workers at the Denver Marina during their 12:00 lunch break,” then I think there might be a problem. If Thermos_Greenwood asks for money for gas to get there, that might be a problem. If I happen to know that Thermos_Greenwood has a history of violent acts, then: yeah, there is a problem.
    If Thermos merely says “politicians stink, and I hope they all croak,” there is NO problem.
    The difference is in the degree of specificity. There are other factors to be considered, of course, such as the apparent ability to actually carry out the act. If Thermos is confined to an iron lung, yada yada yada.

    So, to my distorted perception: if somebody is (seriously) attempting a violent overthrow of the government in Baen’s Bar, why, boot them, because they are stoopid. If they are just grumbling, etc, then there is no reason for people to get their panties in a wad.

    1. Two things.

      Hitting a target like a senator or a judge successfully through the usual security requires a bit of forethought. Anyone who can gather the information and make the plan can easily see that talking about it is a no-no. I would expect that everyone and their dog understands the current security apparatus well enough to intuit a) shut up b) don’t tell anyone you don’t need to, or don’t have grounds to trust c) don’t use an insecure means of communication. The Bar was inherently insecure, and visible to people who should not be trusted to that degree.

      Second, my information about the Bar’s culture is way out of date, but it was aware that certain types of statements are legally actionable, were stupid to make, and would not be well regarded by the management. There were plenty of people who were fairly stupid (outside of a narrow slice of competence), but the crowd in general could reason their way through a wet paper bag. So, I would expect a general awareness that would a) recognize the glowies chumming for people to frame b) not encourage statements of dubious tactical utility c) not encourage statements that would open the management to legal accountability.

      To be more specific, I think actionable statements of the sort you describe would have the moderators intervene, and I sincerely doubt that whiny ever saw any worth acting on. (I think whiny did a frame job based in fraudulent misrepresentation, as part of a broader impulse to punish Biden critics.)

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