Why are there so many Mormon writers?

Over on the Monster Hunter fan page someone asked about why there were so many Mormons in science fiction and fantasy writing. Jokes aside, that’s a good question, and it’s a topic I’ve thought about a lot (because I am one) so I started responding and it got long so I decided to turn it into a blog post. Note, I rarely talk about my religious beliefs on the internet, because A. the internet is a cesspool filled with idiots and I don’t want to hear their dumb hot takes about my religion in the comments, and B. I don’t claim to be a good example of my people either. So this isn’t a religion post, this is a writer demographics post.

First off, Mormons are disproportionately successful in the writing business. Somebody asked if that was confirmation bias. Nope. That’s pure numbers. For it’s tiny population Utah produces more writers and especially successful bestsellers than states with vastly larger populations. Even the ones that are supposedly “artistic”. However there are two separate things at play here though. There’s more Mormons, but there is also more Utah. (Utah is only about half Mormon). These Venn diagrams overlap a lot, but they aren’t one circle. Utah also produces a lot of non-Mormon writers, and there are lots of Mormon writers from outside of Utah. But basically, they’re connected in that lots of Mormons love writing so they created a writer scene in the place with the most Mormons per capita and it’s kind of grown from there.

One note, the real name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but I’m not going to keep typing that so the colloquial term of Mormon or LDS will do. The BYU grads who get butt hurt by this can go fly a kite.

Okay, big philosophical reasons first:

Compared to most groups, Mormons like to read a lot. That’s the biggest one. Across the board groups with more readers create more writers. As a culture, we read and promote reading. Where I came from reading was for pussies and a great way to get your ass kicked. I grew up rural poor, immigrant Catholic farmer community in the California sticks, and it is totally different than how my kids have grown up Mormon in Utah. Reading isn’t shunned here as uncool. Even a lot of the jocks are nerds.

Sure, there’s some shunning still. The most annoying stage kids go through is that one where they think it’s cute to be stupid. Luckily the kids in Utah seem to grow out of that faster than the other places I’ve been.  Being an idiot isn’t considered an achievement here. 

When you read a lot, inevitably your horizons expand across non-fiction and fiction, and then across multiple genres. Exposure to more types of books helps readers find things they click with. Click with it enough, and inevitably people are going to try writing that thing themselves.

Next, there are a bunch of surveys that show that Utah is the “geekiest” state. I believe it. All that reading leads to genre fiction and an appreciation for nerdy stuff. Whether it is super heroes, or Lord of the Rings, or anime, or video games, or Magic the Gathering, there’s a big bunch of people who love that thing in Utah.  

Utah’s got a great gaming scene. Not that it correlates as much with writing as reading, but it certainly helps. When I was first starting out as a writer, I was at an event and about a dozen writers were sitting around talking. The subject turned to RPGs (role playing games, not the other kind of RPG that I used to work with!) and I was surprised how everybody seemed to be on the same page. So I asked who there had not been a gamer. One writer raised their hand. The only writer there who hadn’t played something like D&D was L.E. Modesitt. 

When Utah started its own ComicCon it quickly blew up to where it was threatening the supremacy of San Diego, so San Diego sued them. Now it’s called FanX, and it’s still one of the biggest ComicCons in the world regardless what they legally have to call it now. 

Besides being nerdy and well read, Mormons tend to be better educated and more financially successful than average (contrary to the stereotypes of our enlightened coastal elites) and I’ve talked about before how one of the things that lead to groups producing writers is them having enough leisure time and resources to be able to spend time learning to write without being in danger of getting evicted/starving. 

One thing that got pointed out in the comments that I didn’t mention was work ethic. (ironically, this wasn’t pointed out by my co-religionists, but by outside observers… probably because all the Mormons think we’re still too lazy and should be working harder 😀 ) But yes, culturally most Mormons still believe in hard work and putting in effort. I know that’s an old fashioned idea now in our glorious age of just expecting the government to do everything for us (a practice which will obviously have no downsides or long term negative repercussions for society!)

But working hard is a huge part of making it as a writer. Lots of people want to write a book, but they don’t want to do that pesky sit in a chair typing for six months to create the book part.  Anybody who thinks this job is easy is a sucker. It’s physically easy (says the guy who grew up milking cows) but it is mentally taxing and requires good time management skills. 

I guess this question could have been “why are Mormons so disproportionately represented at NASA?” and you’d get similar answers. 

Also contrary to dumbass stereotypes, Mormons are pretty open minded. Yeah, spare me the bullshit comments from people who hate all religion or just mine in particular. You can’t send all your young adults to live for two years all over the Earth, embedded in nearly every culture, and have them all come home  and be a bunch of hicks like the media portrays us.

On that note, don’t get me started. There’s as many of us as there are Jews in the world, yet the media portrays us as a bunch of friggin’ morons chewing on our straw hats while our women wear their floral butter churning dresses, as if we magically froze in the mid 1800s and haven’t changed since.  But that’s because Hollywood is a bunch of lazy elitist assholes. 

Utah is the most bilingual by non-immigrants state with the widest variety of spoken languages in America. I can walk into a random ward in rural Utah and ask if somebody there speaks Tagalog and have a really good chance of success. When your immediate family has lived in Brazil, France, India, South Africa, and (best of all) Alabama, it’s amusing to be told by people who’ve never left a 15 block radius of Manhattan about how we’re so amusingly provincial, with our weird accent on quaint concepts like “family” or “work effort”.

Again, this isn’t just Mormons. There’s atheists, agnostics, other religions, and even disgruntled ex-Mormons working in these same Utah writer circles. People with wildly different personal beliefs can still build on the underlying framework of a bunch of geeks who like to read books. 

Now, past the philosophical, let’s get to the practical nuts and bolts logistical reasons.

Somebody brought up BYU. Yes, and no. BYU itself sucks when it comes to treating genre fiction with any respect just like most other universities. Their English department has a bunch of snoots to rival any other snooty university. However, long ago they hired a guy named Dave Wolverton (pen named Dave Farland, who wrote stuff like Runelords and Star Wars for example) who ran one of the most successful creative writing classes in American history.

Dave had several hundred students become published authors over the decades he taught this class. He’s also had a ton of those become bestsellers. It is because Dave was a working writer who kept the class about realistic business practices instead of the usual artsy navel gazing most English departments love. (but what do the blue curtains mean?!?) 

Then there is LTUE, which began at BYU (no matter how much that annoyed BYU) created by sci-fi fantasy lover, David Brian Doering. LTUE was a pure writing conference, by writers, for writers, and it was CHEAP. So that regular people who work for a living could attend it. Bang for the buck, LTUE smokes every other writing event out there.

LTUE started at BYU, went to UVU (briefly), and then has been on its own ever since. Why did it leave BYU? Because BYU sucks. (well, at least that’s my take, but it was more complicated than that). But leaving the university environment was the best thing ever in my opinion. College is a bubble. You want to be successful in the real world, you need to get out into the real world. 

That event has been a fundamental way for locals to network and pick the brains of those of us who do this for a living. (I’ve been doing panels there for I think 11 years now)  A giant percentage of those authors who’ve come out of Utah, Mormon and not, attended LTUE first.

It’s also why when the Woke tried to muscle in on LTUE a couple of years ago, locals got righteously pissed. The last thing the Utah writing community needs is to have those vampires destroy it. The Woke are a bunch of communist puritan locusts who won’t be satisfied until they suck all the fun out of life. 

When you take this conflux of lots of aspiring authors in an environment that promotes that sort of thing, with lots of working professionals who are happy to help them learn and get better, success breeds success. 

On the dark side Utah also has some really shitty little publishing houses who like to prey upon this talent pool. Some of Utah’s little publishers are so bad that they are internationally famous for their predatory contracts. I was eating dinner after the London Book Fair (at a restaurant so nice that Mick Jagger was sitting a couple of tables over!) with some British publishers and at one point they said “You are from Utah? Are the publishing house contracts there as stupid and evil as everyone says? Surely that is exaggerated!”

Nope. There’s some bad ones. Read those contracts, kids. You are signing away the rights for them to publish your book, not giving them the rights to own you and everything else that may originate from your brain forever. 

Utah also has a lot of parasitic hanger-ons in the writer community, people who are in love with the IDEA of being a writer, but not with all that icky work part that it takes to actually be one. But that’s normal everywhere with a writer scene. You can always spot those types because they’re the loudest and bossiest telling all the other artists how to create art, yet when you check their resume they’ve created jack and shit. Those you can safely ignore. 

However, I think that is one more thing in Utah’s favor. There are so many successful working authors around here that the usual loser mope nobodies who normally install themselves on pedestals in other writer communities just get bulldozed here (and us sharks don’t even really notice the minnows). 

To clarify what I mean by that, I’ve seen lots of writer events where the established king boss expert head honcho, is generously speaking a relatively meaningless entity when it comes to actual book sales. But people like that love feeling powerful while pontificating to a bunch of unwitting newbs (I think I just accidentally described most of the college creative writing classes in the country), but in the Utah/Mormon writer scene those types can pontificate all they want because right around the corner are ten other people who actually make a living at this stuff, and you can just ask their professional advice instead. 

Not everybody who falls into this group comes from this background. Like me for example. I’m not from here and didn’t grow up Mormon. I had self published my first novel and had my first publishing contract before I even knew the Utah writer scene existed. However, I gained a lot of knowledge about how to grow my career from that point. 

I went to my very first sci-fi con only because I had a contract and a book coming out from Baen, and I figured it would be a good chance to network and meet some other authors. I met this guy named Brandon Sanderson, who back then wasn’t nearly as famous (they had just announced he would finish Wheel of Time). However, when he heard I had a book deal from a real publisher, he took me out to dinner to tell me all the stuff he wished he had known when he was starting out.

Earlier I mentioned Dave Wolverton, but after he retired, Brandon (who was one of his former students) took over teaching that class. And Brandon sells so many books that he sleeps in a house made of solid gold bars, on a mattress made of DogeCoin, so I can only assume that his class was pragmatic too. 

That’s how the Utah writing community works. I’ve seen other places where it is more dog eat dog, and someone else being successful is seen as making you less successful. Like if you make a dollar, then that’s one less dollar they’ll have. It’s the old finite pie fallacy. Around here, the vast majority of writers understand that you can just make more pie. So they help other authors rather than step on them. 

Or alternately, I’ve seen other parts of the country where the writing scene is more artsy-fartsy and the accent is on literati snooty academic sort of writing. That’s great for the Oprah Book Club contingent, but as far as actually making a living, genre fiction is where it is at. 

Personally I like helping aspiring authors learn to write better, or help new authors navigate career stuff. I’m not alone either. I think most of us around here are wired that way. So Utah’s got a lot of writers who received help, who are happy to pay it back. And since we’ve got such a glut of writers, you aren’t getting advice from just once source (because how they did it might not be the best way for you to do it).

Put all this stuff together, baseline cultural and then nitty gritty practical day to day reality, and it explains why this one particular place/group has so many working writers.

EDIT: and an addendum for the bigots, I’ll save you some typing, because if you post anything talking shit about anybody’s religion in the comments I’m just going to delete it...

EDIT 2: Okay, making fun of Mitt Romney is fair. That dude is such an invertebrate he’s basically just hair gel in a ziplock bag. 😀

EDIT 3: to clarify, there’s a difference between Mormon Authors and Authors Who Happen To Be Mormon. This post is about authors who write regular books for everybody and the regular market. Not specialty press stuff by Mormons for Mormons. I’m the last person to ever comment on how to work in that market because I swear way too much to ever show up in a Deseret Books. 😀

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175 thoughts on “Why are there so many Mormon writers?”

  1. Thank you, Mr. Correia. I enjoy your writing—fiction and nonfiction—and appreciate your style.

  2. One thing I really noticed is that the Utah writer scene is more about mentorship and inclusivity than cliques and exclusivity. I was instantly welcomed both at FanX and LTUE with open arms. Even though I initially FELT like an outsider, I wasn’t (and now consider both my most regularly attended events). I wish I could say the same about events in my home state, but instead, I AM an outsider here because it is all about exclusivity and who you know. Sorry to say. (Although, KJA and the SUPERSTARS event in C.Springs is really trying to change all that and doing a pretty good job at it.) Bottm line though, the Utah writers have their stuff together, no doubt about it. And everyone serious should go to LTUE.

    1. Well, at first everybody wanted to exclude you, but I was all like, naw man, he paints minis. He’s cool. 😀
      Seriously though, KJA is awesome.

    2. I still remember the first panel I ever attended at LTUE. It was on writing believable military, instead of rehashing those same old Hollywood tropes. And it was brilliant!
      My issue wasn’t that I don’t understand the military (I’m a military brat, born on a base overseas). Rather, I had the opposite problem, not sufficiently explaining things that seemed perfectly obvious and natural to me, but it turns out are completely foreign to civilians. It was eye opening, to see all the stuff other writers didn’t know. 3 main points really stuck with me, about things most writers apparently screw up.
      1. Don’t mix up your branches. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines are all separate and distinct, thank you very much.
      2. Don’t mix up officer and enlisted. Again, 2 very different groups with unique skills, training, and mindsets. (My dad and brother are both officers, while my sister and 3 brothers-in-law are/were enlisted, so I’ve seen that difference up close and personal.)
      3. Don’t mix up military personnel with civilian contractors. You can order soldiers to do something, and they cannot refuse without facing serious repercussions. But try to order a civilian contractor to unload a ship using a crane in a thunder storm, and he’ll just laugh at you from the cozy warmth of his office. And there’s not a darn thing you can do about it.
      There was a whole lot more, but those 3 points were apparently novel glimpses into the hidden world of the military, for the writers around me. The panel was enjoyable, memorable, accurate, and very positive. We had real military personnel on the panel, both active and retired. And they knew their shtick, and were skilled at explaining it.

      1. Hah. Yeah, way back in the mists of time, trying to explain the weird and wonderful world of the military to civilians was why I first started writing at the old Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief blog. Which by degrees and readily logical steps turned into my own writing career…
        And when I was stationed at Hill AFB in the early 1990s, I started going to the local science fiction convention in SLC, to the local StarFleet chapter, and even a couple of turns at the Dr. Who fan club, which my then-teenaged-daughter adored because she was one Doctor fan among other, who ranged from her age all the way to fourscore and ten. There is nothing more empowering for a teenager, I believe, than to have the company of enthusiasts of many ages.

      2. “But try to order a civilian contractor to unload a ship using a crane in a thunder storm, and he’ll just laugh at you from the cozy warmth of his office. ”

        Contractor: “Show me where that’s in the Statement of Work.”

  3. A great clarifying, article. What do you need to help an aspiring author navigate their career? Navigate = getting started. I have submitted both short stories and novels and gotten a little feedback and lots of rejection (thankfully so, because my submitted pieces sucked). Self-published a story on Amazon (The Fear Place, by Joseph Parker, can I get a whoop-de-do?), read every day and write every day (usually after the kids are in bed when my brain has been fragged sufficiently to not feel how painful the process is). Thanks for everything you do and I look forward to hearing from you.

    (Also, your books and stories are amazing. Am listening now to Spellbound.)

    1. If you look at the Best Of tab above I’ve got a bunch of writing and business advice posts called Ask Correia. Hopefully there are a few there that might be of use to you.

  4. As a True Blue Aggie… Screw the Y!
    I lived in Norther Utah 3 different times for a total of 12 years. I totally missed the ComicCon. I gamed a bit and would visit some gaming stores. I had even completed a degree in history to help me write. My day job was computers/networking and learned through the USAF.
    I officially left UT the last time in 2009, a year after I got back from Afghanistan. I reprioritized my life and wanted to live in place w/less taxes.
    I was completely oblivious to the writer scene in UT. It’s sad to say and I will admit this coming from a family of LDS from both maternal and paternal I had a lot agnst against Mormons.
    I got over it for the most part on my last tour at Hill AFB. However, I see that I missed out b/c of my blindspot.
    I didn’t discover MHI until after I had moved out of Utah.
    A non-LDS friend I was serving w/at Hill AFB, even recommended reading Enders Game. I refused b/c the author was LDS.
    Yes, I know… Assanine….
    Anyway, Larry keep up the great work and I admire how you help and mentor new/other authors!
    Go Blue! Go Aggies!!!

  5. Amazing what you can accomplish when kids are brought up in a stable home environment that places a high value on educational achievement, innit?

  6. I’ll repeat and reiterate something I said in the comments of the group discussion. As Larry points out, there truly is a higher proportion of LDS writers in genre fiction. It is also worth looking at some of the reasons why we notice them, too.

    Very few writers are going to not include any aspect of their personal worldview in their writing, whether or not they’re actively seeking to “write a theme” or “tell a message”. That said, the culture of Latter-day Saints and of LDS writers specifically is one that, in my opinion, encourages openness, which in turn fosters more presentation of LDS beliefs and philosophies in their fiction, as well as characters when the wetting allows it. Orson Scott Card was a trailblazer in this respect. Whether or not you like Card or his work, most LDS writers that I know of have attributed his influence in helping to encourage that openness even in settings where they are not writing to a specifically LDS audience.

    Another factor is historical. There are so many instances of “the Mormons” in fiction that are downright wrong and sometimes offensive. I enjoy Westerns, but they can particularly have this problem, with many LDS characters falling into two categories, which I call “villains” and “those weirdos over there”. The villains are generally based on the “evil murderers who steal our women” stereotypes of the 19th century, whereas the weirdos are those who are usually background characters or victims for the heroes to rescue, naïve and ignorant and often pacifistic to a fault, and generally not worth turning into three-dimensional characters. (By the way, isn’t it funny that the two main stereotypes are inherently contradictory?)

    Obviously I’d rather be a weirdo than a villain, but if you’re gonna call me a weirdo, at least do it accurately!

    Because most Latter-day Saints are aware of these stereotypes and have come across them plenty of times in fiction, we have extra motivation to include positive, accurate portrayals of them in our own stories. (How many of us LOVE Milo from the MHI novels? And we can’t forget John Browning the wizard gunsmith, either.) As a result, LDS writers often get noticed! And because of that culture of openness, most are willing to talk about it to some extent, even if it’s less about religion specifically and more blog posts about cultural trends like this one.

    So, yes, there ARE a lot of LDS writers. AND that openness and enthusiasm for depicting our own people positively makes it especially likely for readers to learn about that trait.

    1. That’s one thing that killed me about Hell On Wheels. I liked the first seasons. I thought having Mormons as the bad guys was great even. But the subplot with the Swede infiltrating them was just so damned dumb and required an absurd suspension of belief (small group of interconnected people and yet nobody catches on that this psycho-who had a couple days of prep work-is an imposter?). Only that dumb bit paled in comparison to the episode where Elam comes back from the dead… Holy shit. I stopped watching after that episode and never bothered with the end. I could handle getting all the stuff about my people wrong, but the amnesia bear episode was just too stupid to continue. 😀

      1. Ha! I have a story from a family member about an infiltration attempt sort of like that. The guy figured out “Mormons like to help each other” so he pretended to be a member who just moved into the area so he could get free food and whatnot. Didn’t count on the fact that the bishop would contact the ward he supposedly moved from and ask to have his records. If I recall correctly, it even turned out that he had an active arrest warrant due to similar previous scams.

        I never saw Hell On Wheels, but all that stuff sounds more than a bit aggravating!

        1. On a related note, I heard about a car salesman who scanned the parking lots of all the churches in his area and joined the one that had the most expensive vehicles in the lot. Apparently this was a successful marketing strategy.


      2. Yeah, I recently read a story set in Canada where the local Mennonite community was involved in drug trafficking with the Mexican cartels and while the story may have portrayed it in an over the top fashion it turned out when I looked into it that it was a riff on actual events in Canada.

      3. You should finish Hell on Wheels. Yes, the swede plot was stupid, but I thought the series was fantastic and ended well.

    2. There is a lot of LDS ideology in LDS authors writings. However most people don’t know enough about LDS to recognize it.

      For instance, when someone told me that Brian McClellan was a Mormon who went to BYU I was initially surprised. Then I thought about the structure of those books where SPOILERS the deities are essentially starfaring nigh-immortal super-mages and thought, well, maybe him being a Mormon does kind of make sense.

      1. I kinda wondered, in Monster Hunter Vendetta. Where Franks appears as a cloud of blue light in the Old Ones dimension with Owen.

        Reminded me of a discussion I had with a missionary, where (I’m paraphrasing a conversation from five years ago with somebody I haven’t seen in nearly as long, so I apologize if I explain this incorrectly) the missionary explained that human souls existed in Heaven before birth. We were offered a “mission” to be born into this world, without our previous memories and whatnot, to live and fulfill our Heavenly mission. After our mortal bodies died, depending on how well we fulfilled the mission, you got into different tiers of Heaven. The better you did, the better the tier you get into.

        The scene with Franks reminded me of that conversation because the missionary, Sister Adams, described the souls as “little clusters of light, floating in a void”. Nemesis reminded me again of that conversation.

        I never did get much farther into the missionary lessons, because my girlfriend at the time, who had moved from Oregon to live with me right after the missionaries started coming by, was hardcore anti-LDS (and pretty anti-religion in general, as I came to find out) and eventually told me to stop inviting them over, or she was leaving, so, young dumb me, fearing the prospect of not getting regularly laid anymore, politely explained to the missionaries that I wasn’t ready to convert at that time (grew up Presbyterian), and never continued the Sunday School lessons.

        Fast forward five years, me and that girl broke up, I kicked her out of my house a few months afterward (long story), and now I’m married to a proud LDS girl whose family history with the church goes back 170 years. And we now attend the same church that I quit looking into back then, and nobody there batted an eye. Which tells me I made the wrong call five years ago.

        1. I think that was the right call it led to you meeting the young lady you are married to now and that is a good thing.

          1. I think Paul is right! ????

            (I’m Mrs. Hankins, by the way. And I’m proud of Brennen. He’s a good guy.)

        2. Everything about Franks — particularly when you see more of his personal history in Nemesis — was very familiar to me. All the War in Heaven stuff, and the parts about how Satan’s followers are jealous about not having bodies, is very much in line with Latter-day Saint doctrines. Compare the New Testament story of the demons who inhabited the Gadarene swine.

          If I hadn’t already known Larry was part of the church via reading his blog, I would have guessed it by then.

        3. The first time I read the books I didn’t know that part of LDS theology so I thought it was just part of Larry’s fictional universe. The second time I read the Franks stuff I’d heard of it and looked it up. “Ah ha…..!” I am not LDS and do not agree with LDS theology, but I have no animosity to it. On the contrary I think fiction can really help communicate theology on a visceral level, and I think the LDS fiction I’ve read that includes or is inspired by theology helps me understand and appreciate it a lot better than non-fiction explanations. It goes to the heart of things. Hillaire Belloc wrote that you can’t understand another religion, present or past, (or a heresy in your own) until you understand what “grabs” people about it — not his actual words — and that people find central about it for their own lives and hearts. So for me that’s a real plus. I like that the Hunters have a lot of different religions (or none) but Milo is the one with the most holiness. It’s nice to read fiction where everyone isn’t exactly the same.

    3. I remember one blogger who reacted to the announcement of Sanderson continuing the Wheel of Time series with a barrage of the most ignorant anti-Mormon stereotyping I’ve ever seen. His view of the religion was firmly rooted in the 19th century. Even a Gentile like me knew how off-base he was.

      It’s not my religion, nor is it ever likely to be, but I’m proud to count Mormons among my friends and favorite authors.

      1. Yeah, usually those types don’t even base their assumptions on the real 19th century, but rather bad stereotypes from the 19th century. Which is even more layers removed from reality.

  7. Was going to comment on the FB thread but currently doing a three day sti.t in FB jail.

    Years ago I noted to someone who was trying to figure our why Jews tended to be so financially successful. I said, add together families hanging together, a strong work ethic, and valuing education (actual education, not just credentialism) and you’ve got a recipe for success. Not a guarantee, but enormously improved odds.

    You know who else combines those three things? LDS. And, yes, it applies as well to writing as any other endeavor.

    1. Interesting. I had the same thought. I know, correlation isn’t causation; but it is a tell that there may be a relationship there. Consider Jews to be the test case, and LDS to be the peer review confirming the results.

      1. Also consider the cultural similarities and social limitation / exclusions between Jews and overseas Chinese. Both were / are often limited in the types of businesses open to them, have insular / family based communities and businesses, strong work ethics, and self select for intelligence / success.
        Like Mormons, both could be considered pioneers from their base cultural millieu, and all have been forced to compete and succeed against the hostility of their surrounding cultures. Indian merchants in Sub Saharan Africa are similarly positioned.
        John in Indy

        1. Thomas Sowell spends a decent portion of Black Rednecks and White Liberals discussing the “economic other”, using examples of the Jews and the Chinese. They are outsiders filling societal roles that others might find distasteful – banking, traders, etc. There are other groups that he mentions, too.

        2. Amy Chua wrote an interesting book on the topic of why certain cultures tend to be more successful – The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. She concludes that pressure to succeed is a big part of it also.

    2. Yeah. A people whose coming of age ritual is based around the ability to read is probably going to be pretty good on the education front.

      1. And historically, based on the ability to read in a different language with a different alphabet.

  8. Any advice for a guy like me?

    I got Dave Wolverton to edit my book (gladly paid for the privilege). He was so impressed that he gave me a free second pass, and agreed to supply a cover quote.

    Yet I’m still getting rejected by agents. I don’t know what else to try.

    1. Well logically then you have to be your own agent, which is yet another time sink and requires yet another skill set to do well. Good luck.

      1. It’s not really inevitable that the cream rises. Lots of cream down there in the depths; not every good writer is good at marketing, and not every good writer and good marketer has good luck. But it is pretty much true that whatever isn’t cream does not rise, and if you are a good writer, that hugely improves your odds.

    2. You could submit to Baen. It took a couple of years, but my novel eventually got a look from the slushpile. They eventually rejected it (two editors liked it and two didn’t) but it wasn’t professionally edited.

    3. If you go indie, you can write and publish more books in the time you could be wasting on “finding an agent” and “waiting for your agent to find a publisher.”

      I know a guy who is fairly energetic and loved going to writers’ conferences to meet agents and try to woo them. He’s not hurting for money, but… he spent years doing this. Years. And then the agent did nothing except make him feel professional.

      He found his own publisher (a small one). He found and paid his own editor. He markets the books himself. His agent gets a percentage of money, but he did all the work and spent the cash.

      Oh, yeah, and he markets his books himself too, and spends the cash for ads.

      So if you are willing to roll the dice and wait for years, or spend your own money in order to get validation from strangers calling themselves publishers and agents… fine. My friend is happy about his pretend-version of a traditional publishing career, and he has the money for all this LARPing.

      Or… you can stop wasting writing time, format your book with Kindle Create, get a nice cover, feature your Wolverton/Farland pullquote prominently in your sales blurb, and slap it all up on Amazon (or any other platform you like). And then you write some more books, and slap them up there too. (And keep using that Wolverton quote if you can, because that is freaking gold.)

  9. Regarding the RPG/writing correlation, I wonder if it’s not so much playing RPGs as GMing RPGs that might correlate. After all, a GM is also creating a story. Granted, it’s a story for half a dozen of his friends who can and will derail his plot, but if he’s a good GM he at least has to create some sort of backstory.

    1. No idea if that’s Utah specific, but as a gamer/GM, I’ve found that it has helped my writing in that a lot of really good ideas/lines/characters pop up in games, and I later use them in books.

      1. Jim Butcher creates full on D&D-style character sheets for all his main book characters. Jim rolled a natural 18 for Harry Dresden’s constitution. That’s why Harry’s always getting the crap beat out of him.

    2. It also teaches good Gms to do the friggin work which I find the #1 key to success in paying the rent with the arts. If a GM slacks on the planning with maps,c math, etc the players will sooner or later take their pizza and go home.

      1. You ever notice a game when all of a sudden the GM gets stuck? Doesn’t that seem a lot like a form of writer’s block? Had it happen to me once with a group in Belgium and it’s like my brain went totally blank.

  10. Thanks. If someone had asked me, I guess I would have said BYU because my only impression of them was Brandon Sanderson’s comments about the class he teaches.

  11. This was a good read. Very insightful.

    Speaking of paying it forward, I’ll take the opportunity to thank you for helping me get off the stick and getting me to write and get my stories published. I may not be ready to quit my day job anytime soon, but I’m getting my stuff out there, and more importantly, I’m Getting Paid. Probably wouldn’t have gotten there without your help. So thank you.

    Between that and introducing me to your wife via your fan group, I’m going to owe you my firstborn at this rate!

          1. (holds newborn son up in the hospital nursery, Lion King-style)

            “Behold! Larold, future terror of the seas and lover of fine women everywhere!”

  12. As a convert to the Church (with a prior life as a soldier and a cop who also swears too much for Deseret Books) I thoroughly enjoyed this article. ???? Love the Romney assessment. ????

  13. “It’s also why when the Woke tried to muscle in on LTUE a couple of years ago, locals got righteously pissed. The last thing the Utah writing community needs is to have those vampires destroy it. The Woke are a bunch of communist puritan locusts who won’t be satisfied until they suck all the fun out of life. ”

    I was glad that LTUE pushed back and it’s one of the reasons I still love that conference. Sadly the woke mob has taken over some other writing conferences that were once good to attend (**cough Storymakers cough**). May the Utah writer community continue to thrive!!!

  14. Interesting take on it, Larry, and yes LTUE is definitely worth the effort regardless of your affiliation!!!

    1. I’m looking forward to an in-person LTUE next year. I’ve ramped up networking and socializing, and don’t hit quite as many classes as I used to, which seems like a normal progression.

  15. What an insight. I currently live spitting distance from Utah in SW Colorado with a heavy LDS majority in the community. I can see the work ethic/education emphasis as clear as a neon sign in the middle of the desert. The northern end of the county is where the highest density of LDS live, and amazingly the top performing schools/students hale from there. Since I have several family members and friends who are LDS, I have never had an issue with LDS. As a matter of fact, I have told my FIL (who is extremely prejudiced against anything LDS) that I would rather live in a community of LDS rather than any other just because of the positive influence the pro-family pro-community vibe that the LDS promotes. I look forward to maybe bringing my daughter to a LTUE if she continues to show interest in writing.

    1. My folks were never into religion, but growing up most of our neighborhood was LDS, and so we’re most of my friends. I wholeheartedly agree that I would prefer to live in a predominantly LDS neighborhood compared to other places I’ve lived. Not only is the emphasis on hard work and a good education something to admire (and as a kid whose friends came from that background, something to emulate.) It also tends to lead to quiet and polite neighbors.

      The only time I feel bad for some LDS kids is when we get missionaries who are sent out here to AZ in the dead of summer from someplace like Minnesota or (like a missionary that was out here last year) Iceland. I keep bottles of water and Gatorade in the downstairs fridge for those kids, and while having interesting theological discussions, I *also* give them advise that is rather pertinent to living in the desert. (Take about twice as much water as you *think* you need, don’t worry about looking stupid if you have to pour water over your head to cool off, what the signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke are, what the signs of dehydration are, what animals to watch out for ect.)

  16. Full disclosure: Not a Mormon, nor a believer of any type.

    This take certainly jives with my experience with Mormons, well, even those brave few who approached me in my front yard years ago while I was doing some yardwork (funny story that).

    Served with a few in the Marines. Even in that crowd, the Mormons were among the hardest working, most dependable, best able to articulate themselves I encountered. After the SHTF and we’re trying to scrape by in our dystopian future, I just hope the Mormons will take me in.

  17. I can attest to this, and I am not a Mormon and have never lived in Utah (visited a couple times, tho’).

    I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, CA, which has a fairly extensive Mormon community today, and did so back then. Our gaming group of 6 was half Mormon. We also had a Liverpudlian punk-rocker, a Roman Catholic, and Me…. >:)

  18. I said this (rather tongue-in-cheek) at an LTUE panel when the topic was raised. How come Utah generates so many successful SF/F authors in particular?

    – No sex before marriage.
    – Fidelity after marriage.
    – No booze.
    – No drugs.
    – No coffee.
    – No R-rated movies.
    – No profane, loud music.
    – No porn.

    What else is there to do, but write awesome science fiction and fantasy?

    Got a lot of laughs, plus long applause.

    NOTE: I may (ahem) have occasionally flagrantly violate those last three, in my time. (cough)

      1. I know it was meant as a little joke, riffing off Brad’s.
        But thinking about it, the primary difference between LDS and Hasidic Jews is the evangelism factor. Not so much the religious aspect, but the culture it develops (as Larry notes extensively above) – Hasidic Jews might be comfortable living amongst others, but they don’t really have a culture of specifically going to those people to talk to them. The Mormons do.

        You might find a lot of writing by Hasidic Jews, but I’m betting it’s going to be much more internally focused than LDS writers.

        1. The Hasids have a culture that specifically REJECTS interaction with outsiders in any personal way – business is fine, but don’t socialize with the goyim. Or non-Black Hat Jews, for that matter.

    1. LOL! I am not LDS but it’s pretty well known that Utah produces a lot of performers and some great painters. I think the work ethic and lack of time spent doing stupid things (which artists can be drawn to out of the mistaken idea that all true artists are tortured and dissipated) and education that seems to include a value for arts have a lot to do with it. I have seen the same in many homeschooled kids of various Christian denominations — but not in denominations that teach that art is frivolous, or must only have a “Christian message.” A lot of the new Classical schools are now going for this as well.

  19. This was intelligent, informative, and the Romney joke really made my day. My own experience with members of the LDS Church — in high school, the Army, and those two missionaries who lived a couple apartments down from me when I was in Nashville — jibes with yours.

  20. Hmmm, had no idea you were of the Mormon sect, nor does that change my opinion of you or your writing (loving it) but you do give me more insight into the world of writers as I’m a wannabe at this point, still wondering if I should jump off the cliff despite having encouragement from two writers I greatly respect and enjoy….Weber, Gannon….in the last few months. Plenty of ideas but no idea where to start…..Is it a matter of “just write the damned thing” or what? I plead ignorance and naivete about the whole process….but I’m a fast learner….and I don’t want to waste time in the university process of being pressed into the woke mold. Any suggestions for all of us wannabe’s out there?

    1. Back in the days of yore a fan met the late John W. Campbell at a conference. Fan happened to mention that he had written a couple of science fiction stories. When Campbell aske if he’d sent them in he said, “Oh, no. They’re not good enough.”

      Campbell’s reply was “Young man, how dare you reject stories for my magazine.”

      Lesson to take from that: You’re not always the best judge of whether your work is “good enough.” Don’t reject your work for other people.

      The late Robert Heinlein once gave tips for having a successful writing career:

      1) Write
      2) Finish what you write
      3) Never rewrite except to editorial request
      4) Put it on the market
      5) Keep it on the market until it sells.

      I’ll note that depending on how you work as a writer “finish what you write” may include various drafts, revisions, and even rewrites, but once you finish leave it. The temptation is often to keep tweaking and revising to which point you can rewrite all the flavor and life out of the story.

      Next, I’ll cite the late Dorothy Parker. She noted that when you start, you suck (I’m paraphrasing), but you don’t know you suck because your “taste” isn’t sufficiently developed to see how bad it is. As you gain skill your “taste” improves first. You start seeing the flaws in your work and you think you’re getting nowhere or, worse, actually getting worse. But that’s not the case. Your ability with your craft is improving, but your judgement and ability to see the weaknesses in it (what Parker called “taste”) is improving faster. This is where many people give up. But if you persevere your ability with the craft will catch up and you’ll start producing good work.

      There’s an old saw about how you have to write about a million words of crap before you start producing good copy. Well, some folk seem to short circuit that saw (looking at you Larry; I am so jealous) and the actual word count may not be exactly one million words. May be half. May be ten times that. Depends on the individual. But the key remains to write, write, write, write. However, it can’t be just any old crap. It has to be the best crap you can write.

      Sarah Hoyt (for a change not “the late” in someone I’m citing here 😉 ) uses as an example a story of a pottery teacher who divided his class in half. One half would have their grade based on one pot, simply the best pot they were able to make. The other would be graded simply on the total weight of the pots they made. The first half spent all their time trying to make one perfect pot. The second half by producing pot after pot after pot. However in doing so that second half was producing better quality pots at the end than the first group was producing better pots than the “perfect pot” people. You learn something from each one and what you learn carries over to the next. And the one after that. And the one after that.

      So, if you want to be a writer, write. Finish stories. Then move on to the next. Thanks to things like Amazon you no longer have to be beholden to publishers and wait to be anointed by the Publishing Fairy. You can put your stuff up and make a few shekels while continuing to hone your craft.

      1. I didn’t get to a million words before MHI, but if you count my first novel (that got shelved) and all my blogging and non-fiction magazine articles, I probably got pretty high up there in word count.

    2. If you look at the Buy Stuff tab above, I’ve got a section called Ask Correia about a bunch of writing and business topics. Check that out. There might be something in there that’s got some good suggestions for what you’re working on next.

    3. There are a good number of writing podcasts about how to get off the ground. Listen to a few, see if one catches you.

      One called World Builders Anonymous I’ve enjoyed and has helped inspire me to get back to writing.

  21. Just moved to Utah and am ashamed to admit that I knew of neither LTUE nor the vibrant writer’s scene; I will definitely be checking them out, whether this year or next.

    1. Dont wait!

      Get into everything now. Mormons make fantastic neighbors, get to know your neighbors ASAP.

  22. Great take!! Thanks, Larry,

    To tack onto the open-mindedness paragraph: I think we’re one of the few religions who preach that other worlds with life on them exist. I wonder if that makes it a bit easier for Mormons to get into SciFi.

    I do disagree with one of your points. You said you don’t represent the faith well. I call BS! You are one of the kindest and most giving authors I know. And you do it with a Christlike, charitable love. Isn’t that what Christ said was most important?

    1. You beat me to it. Mormons are “over-represented” in astronomy, too — see Larry’s remark about NASA.

      I can think of only two religions that start out with the concept of a round Planet Earth orbiting the Sun, with other planets orbiting other stars … and I view the *other* religion as an elaborate con game invented by a sociopath.

      I’m a devout agnostic, but I know plenty of Mormons … and in general they value intelligence and learning.

    2. Not a serious writer (not yet, anyway, and probably never in fiction), but just wanted to mention that I belong to one of those other faiths that explicitly preaches about extraterrestrial life. I have to be careful about what I say about LDS theology, because a lot of it is very similar to my church’s beliefs, so I will keep my thoughts on that to myself. I will say, however, that LDS people work hard, value family, take care of their own without enabling, and manage to make Utah a hospitable place to live, so clearly the Lord must have at least some love for them. ????

    3. Larry is at his most loving and charitable when he is raking an SJW over the coals in text.

      It really is what is best for them.

  23. I think it was the 2016 AIAA JPC conference (scientific conferences are far more boring than your writers conferences sound!) in Salt Lake city where I saw these interesting floats that were part of a parade a day earlier: Models of the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft and the X-15 for something called the “pioneer parade” or equivalent. An interesting inclusion to the mileau. As an aerospace engineer, it’s nice to have those achievements celebrated.

  24. So, what I’m hearing is I should move to Salt Lake and head down to the nearest ward and sign up for success? LOL. Hell, I was born in SLC and lived amongst Mormons my whole life. Mostly good solid folks who would go out of their way to help a neighbor. They’re usually successful because they work at it. Not a tough concept, too bad everyone can’t be like that.

    1. I wouldn’t recommend “signing up for success” unless you’re willing to live the lifestyle! You could sign up all you want, but it’s not going to change anything unless you put effort into it.

      One of the things I have thought about throughout my life (but particularly as a missionary) has been how some belief systems expect you to say “I believe!” and once you do that, you’re saved, and you don’t need to do anything after that. I have come to conclude that if embracing an idea doesn’t change your life (preferably for the better), then there’s really not much point in embracing it. Might as well be an atheist for all that it will do for you.

      Belief (or lack thereof) is definitely more complicated than that, but it’s a rule of thumb that I try to live up to even for non-religious ideas. Sure, you can try to explain all you want about how the world is flat, or quantum and relativistic effects are imaginary, or evolution is false, or there is no God, but I see people do interesting things with round Earth, quantum and relativistic effects, evolution, and a belief in God, so if you’re going to sell me something new, tell me (1) how I can do those very same things with your new-fangled theory or idea, and (2) how your idea will enable me to do new things, I’ll seriously consider embracing that idea! And I certainly won’t criticize those who don’t embrace it.

      (I say “seriously consider”, though, because I’ve worked in too many situations where it would take too much effort to jump to something new, due to the inertia involved. Indeed, my greatest annoyance with computers is how there’s so many awful ideas that just have to be used, because too much work in a given project has already been devoted to that idea, and it would break too many things to suddenly jump ship to something new.)

  25. Growing up in the same place Larry did, I can attest to the prevalence of the “book=nerd, nerd=bad” attitude. Some give up the books, some learn to fight.

  26. Last year’s LTUE was my first, and while I can’t necessarily point to any panels that pushed the “Eureka!” button, just sitting in the lobby with my laptop got me 3/4 of the way through what turned out to be my first real short story sale.

    It also really helped show me who my friends are.

  27. My mind is trying to come up with a term that combines sweat equity, the tenacity to keep on after the door slams with “piss off tye boy, yah cultist freak”, the calluses from pulling weeds, and the ability to go back in after that (sound) when the knuckle vs cartilage in the nose gives.

  28. I’m feeling very old because of this post.

    See, this got me thinking about one one of my favorite mystery authors. Get her annual Christmas mystery every year. She’s a member of the Church.

    But suddenly….I couldn’t remember her name.

    I couldn’t remember.

    Typing in the titles of her books just brought up actual Christmas stuff.

    I flew into a panic. Is is it? Have I finally lost it?

    15 minutes later, out of the blue-

    “ANNE PERRY!!!”

    “Er…what about her?”


    1. That’s been happening to me for as long as I can remember. I have a great memory as far as capacity, but access times vary widely. Usually I can recall a name on the same day, but not always.


    2. She was one of my favorites as a teenager, and I still quite like her books, though I haven’t read any in a long time.

      And boy, has she got a particularly interesting story about how she ultimately came to join the Church! (And become a mystery writer, heh.)

  29. A Mormon couple I used to hang out with years ago were among the smartest people I know. They owned the Radio Shack franchise in a nearby town, but that ain’t the half of it.
    They were originally from San Diego. They moved to north Mississippi because James was tired of spending an hour in his car to drive 15 miles to work. When James and Mary were dating, her parents owned a print shop. James was the president of the Homebrew computer club at the time and these two dudes came in and demonstrated a computer kit they had cludged together and everyone thought it was cool. James suggested they clean up their instruction manual and get Mary’s parents to print them a more professional looking assembly guide and manual, so Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak took his advice and showed up at the print shop with a “neatly” hand typed manual with a bunch of Polaroids taped to the pages for Mary and her parents to clean up.

  30. Better question: Why are there so many inventors?
    Electric Television
    Digital Sound
    Electric guitar
    Hearing Aid
    Traffic light
    Call of Cthulhu (and some of the most unusual/experimental Doom 2 levels, but these same levels are also typically considered the game’s worst)
    Artificial diamonds
    And, of course, everything JB, JMB and VAB did.

    1. The ‘bad’ levels in D2 are only truly bad in retrospect(except the one with the giant arrow on the floor, that one was crap), which is what comes from massive improvements in game design knowledge and game engine advancement. It didn’t help that Petersen was pounding those out in quick succession to meet the launch window(Thus, I suspect, the giant arrow). Really the biggest problem is that the pacing of the episodes was horrible, which is what happens when you go from 8 level episodes to a 32 level megawad without careful consideration of how that should affect your gameplay arc.

  31. I’m a handful of years younger than you Larry and I grew up raising hogs and steers in a midwestern German Catholic community. I can say we were never encouraged to read wasn’t my dads thing until later in his life but we were never discouraged either. My brother was a huge reader.

    I didn’t read anything deeper than Garfield until I was a sophomore in high school when my English teacher and I realized we were both fans of Babylon 5 and she started handing my scifi and fantasy books.

    I have found over the years the Mormon community in my area(still in the upper Midwest) very friendly even in my liberal hell hole of a city I’m in. Even the locals leftist admit Mormons are one of strongest communities in our area and help each other more than other communities. From helping people move in, to personal charity. Take that with parents that stay together makes a huge difference in the lives of kids. Divorce at any at does huge hurt to children and make children more likely to get divorced themselves.

    Thanks for the article and all your books Larry.

  32. Our poor Mormon kids were such avid readers that we used to punish them by not letting them take books to bed.

  33. Us evangelical Christians aren’t portrayed any better on TV. Spent some time in Salt Lake City last summer. We should have known (coming from Texas) that all the liberal crackpots would live in the capital. That being said we met lots of nice young Mormons attending some sort of conference. We are hoping to get back up to Utah and visit the Jerusalem set in Goshen since we’re huge fans of The Chosen.

    1. We try to keep all our weirdos confined to the Salt Lake metro area. The further you get from that the more sensible the state is. 🙂

      1. Like Texans do with Austin . . . and the universities. Oh, and Deep Ellum, but every big city has one of THOSE neighborhoods.

  34. Oh don’t sell your self short. One day you might just make it into Independent Deseret stores 😉

    1. Speaking of which, it might pay to clean up the language so as not to exclude people who don’t swear a lot. Correia’s stories are awesome, and the language isn’t necessary in any way.

      I read books to my wife, and I had to “translate” a lot. When she’d fall asleep while I was reading, afterward she’d pick up the book to catch up, and was totally aghast at the language. I don’t care for it either. But I am unhappy that polite people, including myself, have to choose to do without because we don’t wish to pick up those words in our vocabulary.

      A compromise could be having the books in two formats: with and without the language. I really, really liked the Monster Hunter series and would consider buying it if it didn’t have all the language. The stories are great for teens too, and this seems like an increased marketplace for those stories. I also noticed that Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have great reputations and almost no language problems.

      1. Nope. Words are just tools in my tool box. Don’t like the tools, oh well. I’m not changing them to suit anybody but me.
        There’s almost no profanity in the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series or in the Malcontents books. Neither one takes place on Earth.

  35. You’re one of those crazy Mormon guys, who believes the 13th tribe or whatever, came to America.

    That’s totally crazy.

    Meanwhile, I believe in transubstantiation, the virgin birth and that Mary was STILL a virgin, after she gave birth to Jesus’ brother.

    As a character in one of my stories tells a friend: “I believe in the virgin birth, Who am I to call anyone else’s religion kooky?”

    1. We believe that certain families who belonged to the tribe of Manessah (Son of Joseph who was a son of Jacob also called Israel) were lead by the Lord to the ancient Americas, among other peoples. (Including a group that came from Babel around the time of a certain tower of note.)

      Not sure where “13th Tribe” came from. Technically that would be the Levites, but they served all of the tribes. ????

      1. The 13th Tribe left Kobol thousands of years ago and settled on Earth. At least according to something a Mormon TV producer once created. 😉

          1. Though I think it does help answer the question of “why so much scifi/fantasy in particular”, though.

            Because our doctrine totally encourages thoughts in that direction!! 😀

  36. There are very few of us Mormon romance writers, though, and one of the more successful ones got un-invited from a BYU author event.

    A more thorough fleshing out of why LDS writers are drawn predominantly to science fiction/fantasy would be welcome.

    1. LDS doesn’t approve of romance novels? Or writing romance novels? Or is it just Mormon patriarchs that disapprove of them?

      1. BYU is not the church. They make their own decisions about most things and just because someone at BYU decided against hosting an event doesn’t have anything to do with church leadership. It’s just a reflection on the people who are part of the BYU community. Though in the situation Moriah is talking about, have no idea what happened with that author, or why the disinvite.

        My personal opinion, influenced by my religion but not to be taken as official, is that romance is totally fine, but some novels labeled as romance are way too sexually explicit.

        1. I know two romance novel writers — one of them I grew up with, from kindergarten to high school graduation — and I will not open their books for fear of what I will find.

        2. I -know- Deseret Book sells “sweet romance” type novels (clean language, no explicit sex) so I don’t think it’s any objection over genre.

          I do recall articles in Church magazines about how prose pornography should be avoided, from what I hear some of what is called romance definitely crosses into that territory.

          It’s all in how it’s handled. In one of OSC’s Book of Mormon SF novels he had a few love scenes, but they were tastefully done, focused on the characters and their emotional reactions as opposed to…other elements.

          And Dave Wolverton’s stuff? Hoo boy, very Frank about that side of life. ????

        3. I really disapprove of people who issue guest invites and then turn around and uninvite them. Kind of the same way Heinlein disapproved of rude people.

      2. There’s plenty of romance writers and romance readers around here so I’ve got no idea what that’s about.
        Also, for us Patriarchs are specifically old guys who give special blessings to people, and I’ve never heard of one of them getting snooty about romance novels. 😀

    2. I know a few Mormon romance writers, and like I said, BYU sucks. There’s no explaining BYU.
      I think the sci-fi fantasy bent is explained by the geeky nature of the state.

    3. Someone in my town in Arizona is a successful romance novel author who happens to be Mormon. She makes a decent living at it, anyway.

  37. I grew up in the faith and never contemplated a writers faith in anything sold outside of a Deseret Book store so I’ll just take your word on most of your content above. I’m here to address the limited pie fallacy.

    I have dollars litetally waiting for good reads. I want a good story, and preferably a long one over multiple books, that pulls me into a new universe waiting to be explored. I’m not finding enough of those stories to consume my book budget. If those literati snobs would learn to collaborate more and take good advice from others, I would find more quality books to spend my money on.

    And… Michael Haspil, your name is going into a search bar in 3… 2…

    1. Michael made FantasticFiction.com. Not bad! Looks kinda like a relative of Larry … Hmmm …

  38. “ask if somebody there speaks Tagalog and have a really good chance of success. When your immediate family has lived in Brazil, . . . ”

    You pick the best examples. 🙂 My brother speaks tagalog (Philippines) and I spent time in brazil and speak portugese. 🙂

    1. I had a fixation on cozy mysteries one winter. The library had a lot of them. I am under the impression the authors sell a few ten thousand copies of each book. Then crank out two or three a year

  39. Speaking of Sanderson and teaching, an entire semester of his SFF creative writing course at BYU from 2020 is on Youtube for free. I caught almost every lecture.

    It’s worth the time.

  40. “Across the board groups with more readers create more writers.”

    Makes sense to me. The set of writers who don’t read is pretty small. /grin

    I’d have to say that groups that produce more readers are in general going to be more successful financially and career-wise that those who do not. (Okay, maybe a bit of personal bias there.) (And that definitely doesn’t apply to Donald Trump, because I understand that he doesn’t read anything for pleasure – too bad we can’t get him hooked on MHI.) Knowledge is power and reading is still the best way to stoke that engine.

  41. Great post and spot on. I’ll enlarge a bit on something you touched on: spending 18-24 months on a mission opens your eyes to life in the real world in a way that college never can. Besides the potentially exotic experience, LDS missionaries often find that the non-LDS people who do invite them in open up about things they wouldn’t share with their closest friends.

    As per your comments, I laugh when I hear people describe Latter-day Saints as provincial or sheltered. I spent two years (1972-74) traipsing around Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama), usually living with local non-LDS families, paying room and board, eating whatever they fixed. Got yelled at (accused of being a CIA agent), hit by a rock, propositioned more than once, and had a warning shot fired at us. But, yeah, those college students who are binge-drinking and skipping class while burning through a hundred K of student loans know what the ‘real world’ is like. 🙂

    1. That’s sort of my reaction to people who went on a curated vacation for two weeks to some exotic place, who hold all the proper beliefs and attitudes about colorful diversity, and who think somehow that people who’ve been stationed overseas with the military, or lived on the economy in another country for years, don’t know more than they do about the world.

      1. Expat communities can be pretty bad about it too. They think they understand the world because they’ve hung out with the exact same circles in 10 different big cities.

    2. I always thought the amount of FBI/CIA accusations I got (Brasil) was funny. Then I really started seeing how much they were down there. Biggest exports grew among the sugarcane and coffee.

  42. “The only writer there who hadn’t played something like D&D was L.E. Modesitt. ”

    Oh man, I may not be able to enjoy one of my favorite writers anymore…

    ” I’ve seen lots of writer events where the established king boss expert head honcho, is generously speaking a relatively meaningless entity when it comes to actual book sales. But people like that love feeling powerful while pontificating to a bunch of unwitting newbs (I think I just accidentally described most of the college creative writing classes in the country)”

    I looked up my local college’s creative writing class as I was looking at taking one. I found the teacher’s only published work was as an editor for an anthology. Every review of the anthology stated in one way or another “editting sucks.” Needless to say, I wasn’t paying money for that.

    On a more on topic note, I’ll have to look it up, but I think it was the Writer’s For the Future had a guest who, on top of other things, talked about Mormon’s and Sci-Fi in particular. In addition to a lot of the things she listed, she also mentioned that your faith involves belief in life on other worlds, so it’s natural. Added to that, there’s a belief in hardship but also in hope wrapped up in Mormon religious beliefs that leads to enjoyable story telling.

      1. Hence why he’s on the favorite writers list.

        I guess that’s enough to get a pass, this time. But someone had better introduce him!

  43. >>it’s amusing to be told by people who’ve never left a 15 block radius of Manhattan about how we’re so amusingly provincial<<

    Yes. The more universal example is the New York who understands the world because they spent two weeks in Europe between high school and college.

    Meanwhile, half the folks working the grain elevator in Perryton, TX are veterans who spent years overseas, lived in Europe, Japan, South America, Korea, etc, speak the language, ate the food, lived in the community. But they're uneducated hicks who don't understand anything…..

    1. Heh. I’ve lived in NYC twice. Met a bunch of people who thought New Jersey was the third world.


    2. *Waves from Amarillo* Oh yeah. And all the guys (and gals) in Canadian who are “just ranch kids” and happened to do multiple tours with the military, among other interesting experiences.

  44. I became a Latter Day Saint four years ago. I always thought I was the smartest guy in the room, no matter what room, until I moved to Utah. Living for Christ, Saints end up with the “mind of Christ”. Today I solved a fundamental secret of the universe, and I now post it here to share freely with the world:

    The Grand Theory of Everything

    The social and scientific have been in a great divorce. Neither social or physical scientists have any hope of finding the ToE because they can’t see the forest from their respective trees.
    It is life, and even social life, that ties all together.

    The four primordial forces of nature are time, energy, matter and space. In Genesis these are described as four rivers that flow out of a garden. In reality, they are the four flows that emerge from each Big Bang of new creation.

    Life ties them together as we are born, as spirits, in the future in order to live in the past.

    When our spirits are incarnated into bodies, at our natural birth, they have already been alive in our own future since time eternal. The blueprint has always been drawn, from before the beginning of this creation, we are now just living out that blueprint that we helped draw.

    What we call “God” is our own memory of our own design gradually coming into focus in our own lives as we learn to live, love, and leave one another.

    This is the unity of the social and scientific, they march hand in hand as does light itself.

    We are one in the Spirit, and we take a leave of absence from our position in the universal Body of Christ in order to each do our own small part here in ordinary time. When we leave, we resume our place in the universal Body.

    And others are sent, to this world and others, to continue to build worlds without end.

    That building process from inside ordinary time, looks like social and scientific progress. From outside of time, it is already done, for the work of creation allows for mistakes along the way, but the final creation will be as conceived, for we all agreed to that at the beginning.

    Some of us involved in this creation may appear, in ordinary time, to be “good” or “bad”. In truth, in eternity, all is always good for all, all the time.

    This is a world of blessons, everything we experience is either a blessing in itself, or a lesson that matures into a blessing later.

    And two men have gone before us, and remain before us, on this path of life. They are our Heavenly Father, and our brother, His Son, even Jesus Christ.

    1. I’m not even gonna try to parse that, but word of advice, you might want to read the room (a conversation about a writing community) before you start pontificating on your deep doctrinal hot takes.

      1. I was going to say . . . like, what even?

        Did, did someone have a stroke in the middle of a spiritual epiphany?

  45. My own take, complimentary to Mr Correia’s, as a fellow Utah resident who didn’t actually grow up here (originally from New Jersey) and spent 2 decades in Silicon Valley:
    Part of what drives people to write and create in Utah is the physical environment. There are vast stretches of Utah that are MIND BLOWING AMAZING STUNNING. No exaggeration. These areas are also quite varied in terms of mountain, forest, prairie, desert and variations within. Such panoramas stimulate the imagination in even the most dull-witted.
    However, not all of the physical environment is tremendously beautiful here. In some places, it’s horrifying in its dreariness and dreadfulness. These also stimulate the imagination, but in a darker way, and will drive a person indoors to take refuge with a good book and escape from their surroundings.
    Regarding the Mormon ‘influence’ on such things: there are basically two kinds of Mormons – those who are part of the religion but also have a life, and those who are quite orthodox, zealous and intense about it. The latter group is, as far as I can tell, a much smaller proportion, but they can aggravate the larger “Jack Mormon” group thru nosiness, gossip and judgmental criticism. I imagine every religion has that fringe in their ranks. As a Catholic (a mighty sinful one) I’ve occasionally encountered the highly devout ones who sneer and condemn me and always consider whether or not I should simply walk away or go Hannibal Lecter on them. So far it’s been the former, but no promises…
    Regarding the average utahn’s respect for reading and education: an empirical survey suggests a greater than average interest in reading but an educational system which, I must say, I find wanting. I am quite draconian regarding education – an extremist, even. But I don’t see Utah’s schoolkids getting sufficiently challenged and would admonish the state’s parents – you’re not taking this anywhere serious enough, either at K-12 or University level. “Good enuf” ain’t. This is an area of life where being really weird about it is a good thing in my book.
    A little more on reading here in Utah: it’s definitely a vast improvement over my 2 decades in Silicon Valley. You’d think a rather highly educated workforce like you have in the technology sector would have a healthy respect for the intrinsic value of reading, but if you ask folks there if they’re reading anything interesting, the universal answer is “WHUT? Hoo haz time ta reed?” We’re talking about idiots whose day is 80% consumed with checking their goddam smartphones and who are, on average, several steps below Oprah Book Club readers in their reading interests. There’s squirrels that are better read than Silicon Valley denizens.
    Work ethic in Utah? I must mildly disagree with Mr. Correia. People work pretty hard here, but compared to the work ethic I’ve observed in India and South Korea, folks in Utah don’t know what working hard means. I admit that’s an extreme example, but I continue to be irritated with how long it takes to get bids responding to jobs and the stunning lack of follow-thru from contractors in the state. The economy has been strong here for quite some time so maybe that’s part of it. My infallible test: if a workman comes over to the house because I’ve blown my boiler or have some other problem I’m too stupid to fix, and I offer them an espresso and they say “Sure!”, I know I can rely on them to respond promptly the next time there’s a problem. (I make the best espresso west of the Mississippi – Black Rifle Coffee ain’t got nothin’ on me.)
    Overall though: very positive experience living here. Could rain a bit more in certain parts, but that’s ok. A huge downside: the number of goddam californio’s who keep coming here and bringing their STUPID F****N’ socioeconomic/sociopolitical S***F***ERY.
    An extra upside: a deep and abiding love statewide for the 2nd amendment. 🙂

  46. I always wanted to write a sci-fi fantasy book. I guess I’m halfway there since I recently bought a house in St. George. Now all I have to do is convert from Lutheran to Mormon.

    Keep up the great writing Larry.

  47. Why did you not post my comment that revealed a great secret of the universe and was on topic with Mormon writing, since I am a Mormon writer in Utah?

    1. Because first time commenters automatically go into moderation until I get online and approve them manually.

  48. One other factor is that might be relevant is simple chance. If there’s going to be any true randomness, there’s going to be some clustering; and the only way for clustering to not occur is some outside factor influencing the outcome. In this case, there would have to be some conspiracy in several different publishers assigning a quota of successful authors to each religion, and shutting down any Mormon would-be authors who exceed it. Or possibly, giving them bad reviews.

  49. When we first started CONduit in SLC, I went to several conventions outside Utah and asked for advice on dealing with all the writers. We were pleased to have them but there were quite a number and we weren’t sure the best way to handle them all. The experienced con runners that I asked were confused and couldn’t understand our problem. One person’s con had 4 local writers, another 6 and one was very proud to boast of 12. Oh. How many did we have? We had 72 who could qualify for SFWA at the time and it was only our second year. Finally, one person told me that when a con has a built-in natural resource, just go with it. So we added more programming rooms and tried to have a writing panel almost every hour.

  50. Wonderful post. As a non-Mormon living in deep LDS country in Utah (and loving it!), I found your reflections on Utah and the LDS community well-balanced and insightful. I write, and came to Utah to live more outdoors so I can elevate my indoor focus of writing.

    Keep up the good work. Thanks for representing Utah and the good Mormons of Utah.

  51. Very insightful! I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this in the comments yet, but another reason Mormon authors do well is because they tend to have an ethical compass in their personal lives and this spills over into their writing. They can find the heart of a story – where the conflict lives – because they can project how they would deal with it.

  52. yet the media portrays us as a bunch of friggin’ morons chewing on our straw hats while our women wear their floral butter churning dresses, as if we magically froze in the mid 1800s and haven’t changed since
    So Mormons are Amish?!? Bet the Amish would be surprised by that!

    (but what do the blue curtains mean?!?)
    Minor writing correction: it should be “meeeeeean” to get the appropriate level of whiny snowflake in there.

    you can just make more pie
    Technically there is a saturation point: when everyone has spent all their spare money on all the books and the stories have all been told, then no more additional pie. So, more pie, until we stop people dying and being born and every copy of every book has been through the used book store at least once.

    1. Funny story: shortly before I arrived in Romania (where I served my mission, lo, 20 years ago, argh) they had recently aired the Harrison Ford movie Witness on national tv. Whoever did the subtitles had opted to translate “Amish” as “Mormon.”

      Thus were born many very strange conversation starts the entire time I was there…

  53. Interesting background on several of my favorite authors. All that I ask is that you guys keep writing good novels….and get John Ringo going again while you are at it. He must have some serious writer’s block going on!

    1. Ringo’s first 3(technically 4) Aldenata books need to become like a star wars trilogy of films. If I could start a movie studio, I’d make ’em, and they’d be so epic that by comparison they’d make Godzilla look like a bug. Oh, and also the one he did with that colonel guy – “Watch on the Rhine.”

      1. There are at least 20 John Ringo books that would make incredible movies.

        The chance that Hollyweird would ever make any of them is something approaching negative infinity.

        Although they’d no doubt find the S&M and underage sex in the Kildar series tempting. ’50 Shades Of The Kildar’ couldn’t help but be better than the yawners they did make. Those were TEDIOUS.

    1. The Temple Garments are symbols of certain special, sacred promises made with God.

      It’s similar in some ways to the special clothing certain other religions wear to remind themselves of such covenants.

  54. I’ll be honest, the last time I was at LTUE, I missed half the panels I wanted to attend because I was talking with someone in the coffee shop. Usually because someone I’d met a previous year dragged them over and said “this is the one I was telling you about”. It seemed completely natural at the time.

    And yeah, the whole “read more, work hard, get better” seems to be a good combo for getting ahead in a whole lot of fields so why not writing, too, huh? And particularly science fiction/fantasy which has a ton of hungry readers.

  55. Some day, I’m going to get to LTUE, even if I have to take a leave on absence from Day Job to do it.

    Great piece, Larry. I’d guessed a few of those, but I hadn’t thought about how much people read.

  56. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is how often Mormon science fiction and fantasy writer explore the concept of free will in their genre writings. Especially Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson.

  57. Thank you for a great article, and then the comments have made it even better (though it has taken a long time to get through it all)!

    I grew up reading all of the time (yes, I am one of THEM). When I lived in Alaska (my dad was in the military) I used to babysit for a living. The family I babysat for the most used to give me grocery bags full of scifi books when I would go home. I loved to read them and would read a book in a few hours, so I went through them fairly quickly. My grandmother would send me a book as a birthday present every year. I have gotten out of the habit of reading over the years, which is unfortunate. I guess I need to get back into reading again because it really is enjoyable and helps my brain to be exercised more.

    I have a great friend who is a scifi writer, Jeff Wheeler. He also wrote a great book for writers, Your First Million Words: Finding the Story Inside You. My wife and I read the book to each other as we were driving from Utah to Washington. It was a wonderful read and I would recommend it to any of you who might be struggling with your writing.

    I realized that I know another of your authors, Steve Diamond. I knew him when he was growing up in California! What a small world!

    Larry, I believe that my son Jason knows you!

    Keep up the great work to all of you! You make life interesting and exciting!!

  58. L.E. being the only non gamer is the best part of this post. Probably goes a long way to explain why his stuff always feels different than everything else I read. Though Recluce books would be amazing as small town farming/crafting games.

  59. TL;DR –> Mormons should man the State Department

    I was Air Force. Not many but some of my brothers in blue were Mormon. Overall, I found them quieter than others but always competent. I like competent.
    Have met and befriended many Mormons over my ~mumble, mumble~ years. In all that time, my experiences with Mormon missionaries have always been positive. Likely I am one of the few non-Mormons to have read the Quad.
    If I were Emperor of the United States . . . .
    First thing I would do is change the organization of the State Department. As it is currently organized, it exists to give jobs to graduates of Georgetown’s School of International Relations.
    I would organize the State Department by desks, one desk for each country in the world including those we have no formal relations with. 15 bodies to a desk, 10 in Foggy Bottom, 5 in country. To start, everyone gets a year to learn the major language of that country fluently. After that, one year to learn the other languages in public use in that country. Examples: Canada, first English (with Canadian spelling), then French; China, first Mandarin, then Cantonese; Switzerland, first German, then French, then Italian, then Romansh.
    The State Department needs some working groups. A South Asian working group may include India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, and Indonesia. Rotate the chairmanship of the group annually. A Middle East working group may include Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. Make the Israel desk the permanent chair.
    Now comes the good part.
    Move the Secretary of State’s office into the Executive Building in Washington, DC. Move ALL of the rest of the State Department to Provo, Utah. When State needs replacements, the Church provides a ready pool of applicants fluent in the language. And the gov’t is a helluva lot more likely to get a foreign policy recommendation that favors American interests from Provo than one from inside the Beltway.

  60. Old article but I wanted to drop a comment. Another factor that isn’t mentioned is a belief system that says “You were sent here to earth with certain unique talents and gifts. In order not to be an ungrateful child you need to develop those gifts” So it isn’t just writing. If Mormons are 3% of your town’s population they will be 10-15% of your choir, of your speech team, of drama, and if you try to avoid having games on Sunday, your sports teams as well. Anyone who has a writing talent will be encouraged to develop it and the numbers will show it.

    ..and, tangentially my mom’s old BYU roommate does quite well writing clean fluffy regency romances.

  61. That really doesnt sound right. Lots of groups tend to value learning and reading. I dont see a whole lot of Jewish Sci Fi writers. Its not because Jews dont read.

  62. As a possible partial explanation, contemplate all the High Schools in the state, and focus on the bottom quarter or decile. How good or bad are they, relative to the rest of the schools? To what extend do they have many students who drift through while learning little, down to ‘actually never learned how to read’? Some readers can compare with other states.

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