Wednesday 10 November 2021

Why I hate charity.

 OK, so the title is click-bait, but it's also relevant since without the explanation provided by this blog post (and perhaps even with it) hating charity is likely what I would often be accused of.

When you have a cause that is dear to your heart it is human nature to seek ways to promote it - give it the attention it deserves - encourage the public to help solve the problem. I get that. I have, in the past, looked at the 10 million followers of a pop star and thought: It would be great if I could get them to help push this drive I'm making to collect money for the hospice for disabled children that I support. I mean ... it would just be a button push for them to retweet me, and I'm sure they don't HATE DISABLED CHILDREN or WANT THEM TO SUFFER. Surely there's no reason they wouldn't do it.

And yet, when you look at the social media feed of pop stars, film stars, etc ... they're rarely full of charity appeals. In fact, they're generally wholly absent. Are these fat cats so divorced from the hardships of real life that they don't care?

Let them eat cake!

Students of my social media will be aware that I have on many occasions (but not frequently) made efforts to raise money for Children's Hospices South West, and that over the years we've given them between us tens of thousands of dollars/pounds.

Why then would I be so selfish as to refuse to publicize the next worthy cause that someone reaches out to me about? I mean I don't have 10 million twitter followers, but I have 0.3% of that (30,000), and followings of the same order of magnitude on some other platforms.

Imagine, your friend / brother / mother / child has suffered some calamity and needs to raise money - or you've just realized that the atmosphere is on fire or the gorilla population is crashing. The urgent need would give you license to overcome any social embarrassment and to ask me to join the cause.

I'm not mocking or belittling any of these hypothetical or real emergencies - they are are variously every bit as important to the world &/or individual as mine are to me.

Here's the thing:


1. Why do I have a social media following?

- people follow me because I write fantasy books they like, and because I post mildly amusing banter about the stuff I banter about.

2. Why do people only try to conscript me to their charity causes every week instead of ten times a day?

- people very rarely see me posting charity stuff

- people never see me posting other people's charity stuff

3. What would happen if I retweeted your charity post &/or boosted it across my social media?

- people would suddenly think that their charity need/cause was just as valid as the one I'd just boosted for someone else

4. Having boosted one charity cause, how would I say no to the next person to ask? Would I tell them that their sick sister was less valuable than the other person's injured baby? Or that their drowning polar bears were less worthy than the other person's ailing koalas?

- really, how would I? what sort of reaction would I get?

5. What would happen if I said yes to them all?

- And here's the kicker. That thing that you would like (quite reasonably) to take advantage of for your great cause - the modest but genuine attention I could draw to it - that thing is entirely dependent on my posting the content I post. If my twitter feed started to fill up with charity appeals the sad fact is that people would just stop paying attention to it. They know the world is full of valid needs and good causes - they don't follow me for that. They would unfollow, mute, look away, and the social media presence that I've worked on for a decade and that I need to prolong my writing career ... that would be rapidly spent, gone, and not even of use to the charities I was tweeting about.

6. Surely, Mark, you're overstating all this. You could find a compromise - just support the best ones...?

- Arrrrgggghhhh. 

- No. The moment I get behind one thing, the very next person (and it won't take a week this time, it will take an hour, tops) will point directly at that thing and open with "I saw you tweeting to help this sick child / endangered species / great campaign, so I'm sure you'd love to help with my sick child / endangered species / great campaign. 

- And within days I'm the guy who is either hourly posting charity appeals or hourly saying to people (this is how they will hear it) "That last appeal was more important than your sick child / endangered species / great campaign, but please keep on buying my books."

Friday 5 November 2021

The Visitor - now free!


Free on Amazon


This is a very personal story since it's my attempt to give my severely disabled youngest child some representation in fantasy. Disability is uncompromising, it gets in your face, it can be loud, awkward, hard to deal with, and society has spent centuries hiding it away, incarcerating it in out-of-sight facilities, locking it somewhere it can be ignored. It doesn't fit the traditional tales of charming princes and problems that, like dragons, can be overcome with a well-placed lance thrust.

George RR Martin asked me to contribute a story to the first UK-based entry in the long-running Wild Cards series, an effort that has occupied four decades of writing time, and rather longer than that in the story universe. This was my story. It appears in Knaves Over Queens. Three years later, after an epic struggle with Kindle Direct Publishing, I've put it up on its own, for free!

No prior knowledge of the Wild Cards universe is required. The story stands alone. I hope it will also tempt you to explore the worth of the scores of other authors in this collective effort.

A follow-up story, The Visitor: Kill or Cure, is free on the website.