megwrites: Dualla from BSG. Dualla > EVERYONE ELSE.  (dualla)
My good friend [ profile] vanessabrooks asked me via twitter: Why don't you buy the 1000 True Fans theory?.*

If you don't know what the 1000 true fans theory is, you can read about it here. It's, more or less, the idea that you can as an artist create a sustainable career if you have 1000 true fans willing to buy everything you produce (the number thrown around is $100 worth of stuff).

Simple math will tell you that 1000 fans buying 100 dollars worth of stuff gets you $100,000. Not bad, right?

Don't let Charlie Eppes fool you. Numbers can lie. Just like anything else that people use or create. Or why I don't buy into the 1000 true fans theory. )

*And in case I haven't introduced you to the addictive excellence of her web serial "Strange Little Band", let me do so now. This stuff is truly addictive in the way really good dark chocolate is addictive. Psychics and romance and shenanigans and some occasional lulz. It's got it all! Get thee hence to the website!
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
I've been seeing commentary about the whole Roman Polanski arrest thing, and I frankly just do not understand how anyone can make a cause celebre out of this man. If you can stomach his films, that's one thing. Be that on your own head. But signing a petition on his behalf to help him elude serving his sentence? Unforgivable in my book.

He raped a thirteen-year-old girl. Let me repeat that statement: Roman Polanski RAPED a thirteen-year-old girl. I don't care if he makes movies or shoes in a factory. Your job should never be a Get Out of Jail Free card when you physically and sexually violate someone against their will.

I'm tired of news reports saying that he "had sex with a thirteen-year-old girl". No, he didn't. He FORCED sex onto a thirteen-year-old girl. Toning that down and not using the word rape means that you somehow, in some way, think that something about what he did wasn't that bad.

That girl (now a woman) didn't have sex with him. She had a traumatic, tragic, horrible experience with him. What she had? Was not sex. It was an assault. None of this is about her age, or about Polanski somehow being a straw man for us backwards Americans. If thinking that forcing drugs and sex on someone when they say "no" is backwards, I'm proud to claim the title.

This is about the fact that she said "No" and he said, "But I'm a famous director!" and we're still living in a world where that last bit apparently still matters when it comes to paying the criminal penalty for crimes of which you have been convicted.

In a way, I'm as angry at Polanski's supporters as I am him, because they're not just supporting him - they're voicing their assent and agreement with rape culture. Those famous celebrities (gee, a lot of them are men and at least one is Woody Allen. Like [ profile] thewayoftheid said, the jokes write themselves) are saying that they believe that sometimes, rape can be okay. Given enough time and money and fame, rape is okay. That it's all right not to face punishment for it if you can afford to fly to another continent and make movies.

Nor is this about whether his victim has forgiven him, because she probably did that for the sake of her own sanity. I can't imagine living in a world where the man who did that to you wins awards and has people patting him on the back because he made a movie where a woman has the devil's baby or Adrien Brody sits in front of a piano and looks really sad and skinny. I bet you pretty much have to just let it go or lose your sanity.

This is about more than Polanski and his "art" (and I resent the implication that any movie he's made is good enough to be considered art rather than just slightly-better-than-bad cinema) - it's about telling people that just because you're rich and famous doesn't mean you can victimize whoever you want. It's about telling people that you can't abuse the power you have over others.

Because when you say that maybe Polanski should get away with this - and yeah, fighting for him not to be extradited and punished is helping him get away with it - you're saying to that teacher who's thinking about putting his/her hand down his/her student's pants that if they're really nice and inspiring otherwise, it's okay. You're saying to that priest who's looking a little too long at that altar boy that, well, since they're a priest and they serve soup to the homeless, it's okay. You're saying to anyone who finds themselves in a position of power over someone else - a child, a woman, a subordinate, or just someone less famous, less rich, and less empowered than them - that if they make pretty things or are charming enough, it's okay.

And those victims? Those children who's teachers, priests, parents, and other folk abused them - you're telling them that their pain doesn't matter. You're telling them that someone else was entitled to their bodies, their dignities, their well being.

You're saying, in essence, that some people can be made worthless just by standing next to someone we like better. You're saying that the value of human dignity has a sliding scale.

So, to you petitioners on Roman Polanski's behalf, I ask - where on the sliding scale of Human Value should we put you now? Where on your scale is his victim? Where am I? And what will you say to the next rock star or politician or Hollywood A-lister who sees this and decides that if Polanski can get away with it, so can they. Most of all, what will you say to their victims?

This isn't about his movies, this is about his victim. This is about all victims. All the ones that have been hurt, are being hurt, and will be hurt if we don't stand up and say "THIS IS NOT OKAY. THIS IS WRONG. YOU WILL BE PUNISHED." And yes, we need it to say it in all caps as loudly and frequently as possible.

As for the works of Polanski and his supporters? I'm envoking the Fuckmuppetry Doctrine* which states that since the amount of works to be read, viewed, heard, and enjoyed far outstrips the amount of time I can possibly have on this Earth, I will eliminate from my selections the works by those who have elected to act like complete and utter fuckmuppets and instead concentrate on works by those who I have less uncomfortable feelings about - you know, people who don't support rape and rapists.

*credit for the Fuckmuppetry Doctrine should go to [ profile] yuki_onna
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
There are a lot of straight people who are voicing some rather heated resentment of the change to the Lambda Literary Awards rules.

For the record, I identify as a bisexual, cisgendered female. Yes, I am marrying a cisgendered male in less than twelve days from now. No, I don't give a shit if you think this makes my bisexuality "legitimate" or not. We're not here to debate the erasure and denial of bisexuals. That's a whole other post.

What I'm here to say is that I'm really frustrated with so called "allies" who are upset about this, who think that this is about gay men vs. straight women and who has the "right" to pen m/m works. That's missing the point completely. Writing GLBT-themed/centric works does not carry the same level of risk, reward, or hardship for GLBT folks and straight people.

Even as a straight writer pens their GLBT-themed/centric work, they get to go home to their legally and socially sanctioned marriages (and yes, I acknowledge that I share in this privilege because my partner and I are of different genders) and their gender security and their knowledge that nobody is going to say that their sexuality is "just a phase" or "just experimentation." Nobody gets to vote on the legality of your marriage, Straight Writers. Nobody gets to choose whether they refer to you by the right pronoun, Cisgendered Writers.

So don't look the GLBT community in the eye and say that because our topics are the same, that we're all on equal footing. Our daily life experiences are very different, and I think those experiences deserve one tiny award of their own. I think we GLBT writers deserve one place where we don't have to compete against YOUR STRAIGHT, CISGENDERED PRIVILEGE. It's one award. It's not a statement that "straight women can never write m/m slash again!" Nobody is taking away your toys. It's not a universal declaration. It's ONE GODDAMN AWARD.

These writers who are objecting didn't mind being part of the GLBT scene when calling themselves allies added to their Liberal Street Cred, when it made them cool and different. But when it comes time to actually support the GLBT community and make one eensy, weensy little sacrifice? They just won't do it.

Ally does NOT mean "I am the same as you", it means "I support you". Sometimes support means sitting down, shutting up, and giving people some space. If you're not ready to accept that fact, if you need to have access to every single area, then you're not an ally. Quit calling yourself that and quit pretending - both to us and to yourselves - that you're here to support us.

*Just so we're clear, I'm talking to the people pitching a fit about this. If you're a straight writer of GLBT subject matter and you're not part of this fail, I'm not even talking in your general direction, so feel free to keep on keeping on.
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
[ profile] fashionista_35 has some very interesting things to say about writing "the book of your heart" as opposed to just writing "what sells" and self-censorship.

I have to confess that I agree with the principle, but I sort of hate the phrase. I agree that you can't just write something on the sole basis that it'll sell.

I have so much 'but' face beneath this cut. Reasons why I like the principle but hate the phrase. )
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
This article about Borders' fiscal woes comes as the least surprising thing I've read all year.

I've been saying for a while that Borders is sliding down the path of fail. It says something that I'd rather spend two bucks and forty minutes to get from Queens to Union Square in Manhattan (the location of the nearest Barnes and Noble) than go to a Borders that is, technically speaking, within walking distance of my house. By car, it's 4 minutes with good traffic.

Barnes and Noble just has more books and better books. The customer service is about the same, which is to say there is none. The staff at both places are more than happy to ignore any problems and questions you may have. Good luck getting someone who actually knows about books, because I don't think the people at either place actually read what they sell. Or, read at all. The prices are more or less the same. So it comes down to selection, especially genre selection for me.

Every Borders I've been to (and I've been to Borders in Tennessee, Florida, New York, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) has had the most irrational, utterly inexplicable, completely stupid SF/F section. And it seems other sections follow suit.

Borders' stocks writers I've never heard of, but don't have the popular series I'm willing to pay full price for. During my most recent trip there last week - the Boy and I wandered in to kill time while waiting for a movie at Atlas Park theatres - they had five copies of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (not a bad book, mind you, but it's from 1997). They had none of the books on my "Buy As Soon As You See List". Didn't find Acacia by David Anthony Durham. Didn't find Green by Jay Lake. Didn't find Norse Code by Greg Van Eekhout. Didn't find Blue Diablo by Anne Aguirre. Didn't find Scott Lynch's rip-roaring Lies of Locke Lamora or Red Seas Under Red Skies (though, to be fair, I already own those). Didn't find Liz Williams' Detective Inspector Chen novels. Found neither hide nor hair of such authors as Nalo Hopkinson or Tobias Buckell, who are on that list as well.

But there were five copies of that one book from 1997, oh yeah.

Heck, I didn't spot C.E. Murphy's The Pretender's Crown (which is a rather addictive, intoxicating book, I might add) at Borders until that *same* visit. A book that came out in April.

Why do I know this? Because the release date for said book - which I was ready to buy hot off the presses - was scheduled for two days after my birthday. When I was guaranteed to have extra money in my pocket and intent to spend in the first degree. I checked the Borders first. Nada. Then I checked Barnes & Noble. Sure as anything, there it was. Displayed in an easy to find way, right at eye level. Saying, "Come on, Meg, you know we were made for each other. Give the nice man your money so we can go home together."

Okay, so it didn't actually say that. Because it's a book. It doesn't talk.

But guess which store keeps getting my money and which doesn't?
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
I know I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating. I really, really, really wish some agents would be more specific about what they want or do not want, especially if they don't accept e-queries.

Before anyone thinks I'm ranting about how terrible agents are (they aren't!), this is a problem with some agents, not all. Most agents have submissions guidelines that are easily found and very specific. I appreciate those agents. A lot.

Some agents, however...

I wish agents would make sure their AgentQuery, PublishersMarketplace, and LitMatch listings are specific and accurate. So many have several (or every) fiction genre listed, but very demonstrably - and by demonstrably, I mean looking at their client lists and recent sales - only represent one or two types of books. A literary book about angsty ghosts is not the same as fantasy or horror or mystery. They're not even on the same side of the bookstore! Why in the world does your page list every conceivable genre when your client list is telling me that you've probably never picked up an SF/F book in your life? Why?

I don't know whether this is because of the way that AQ, PM, and LM list agents or how the form is filled out, but it's problematic.

Especially when that agent doesn't have a website, blog, or other place where I can see their guidelines. Or the ones who like to add a little Vague Sauce. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones where the agent says something like, "I'm looking for a book that stands out from the rest and sweeps the reader away! I want something with a unique voice and an interesting perspective!"

Which makes me say, "Yeah, that's real cute. So, do you represent SF/F or not?"

I used to get mad every time I saw submissions guidelines saying, "Absolutely no SF/F! No vampires or werewolves!" Now? I want to thank those for being straightforward and specific. Once I know that they don't want to pick up what I'm throwing down? I can hit the back button and save us both some very precious time.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (sex goddess)
This entry about women relating to other women by Ekaterina Sedia sort of upset me.

Especially this bit:

What I found the most interesting, however, was the number of people in comments who said that "well, it's not about sex or romance – I just relate to men better." And these comments really bothered me on several levels.

Or, on the flipside... )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Is there a rule somewhere that says the women in SF/F cover art must look like they're just copypasta of fashion models, except with bigger boobs?

I went surfing around a few of the sites of artists who do the covers for SF/F books and I swear I've seen some of those women in the advertisements and fashion shoots for Vogue or Vanity Fair or something like that. One picture - which I shall not link here - featured a model with slicked back hair standing behind something and I realized that I'd seen nearly that exact same pose, model, and body type in an advertisement for body wash.

Somebody really needs to do something about SF/F cover art's representations of women. Like, right now. Because no matter how revolutionary the text, if we (the larger we) are still representing it using old, harmful standards of beauty when it comes to women and people of color, we're taking two steps forward and two steps back.

Which, if you do the math, leaves us exactly where we started. And I'd really, really like to be somewhere different than where SF/F is right now. Somewhere that has less tramp stamps and improbably tight fitting leather (seriously? How do you fight demons and vampires wearing that stuff? And how do you not sound like a walking fart machine when it starts squeaking? God, the chafing must be unreal!) on the cover of urban fantasy novels.

Just once, I'd like to see a cover which features a model wearing practical shoes. High heels are great for cocktail parties, but when it comes to fighting off the monstrous undead, I recommend a solid pair of Nikes. Because otherwise you're going to fracture your ankle during a battle and get eaten. And I will not feel sorry for you because anyone who tries to fight a vampire while wearing a pair Manolo Blahniks is sealing their own fate.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
A while ago, [ profile] irysangel posted some annoying questions she gets as a romance author, and it made me think of the annoying things people say when they find out I write SF/F books.

My biggest peeve? When someone says: "I don't like science fiction because I like more realistic books."

Because my immediate mental response is: "Bitch, you are stupid. That word does not mean what you think it means and now I have to smack you down with my learnings." I generally try to say something a little more polite, but that's what I'm thinking.

I don't mind people telling me what they dislike about the SF/F genre. It's valid. But do NOT bring out the r-word in front of me.

Realism was a literary movement in the late 19th century, and 99.9% of fiction in stores today does not qualify. Even the really hoity-toity literary fiction with pretty covers that get $500,000 advances and sell twenty copies.

What people mean by "realism" is "plausibility". They're actually saying, "I don't find SF/F plausible." I have no problem with this statement. Fair enough.

I object, however, to someone pretending that their idea of what's plausible is somehow superior to mine. Because it's not.

The events that unfold in the books they're so proud of aren't any more probable than the events in my SF/F books. Some are, scientifically speaking, less likely. Future space colonization is more plausible than a lot of the crap spies do in Tom Clancy novels.

Furthermore, as the fiancee of an NYPD forensic scientist, I can tell you nobody who enjoys crime novels can get snooty. I know the precise crap-to-fact ratio in those books, and it's running about 30:1 on a good day.

My favorite piece of Completely Made Up Stuff? When a forensic scientist tells a cop that they know the exact shade, color, and manufacturer of someone's lipstick (e.g., "The killer was wearing Revlon #25 Cha Cha Cherry!"). There is no way to test for that in a lab. The best you can get is a GC readout telling you what elements and chemicals are in it. Which will tell you that it contains wax, oils, and dyes and that it's probably lipstick.

Furthermore, neither my fiancee nor his coworkers would waste the time or taxpayer dollars on finding such useless information. Unless someone asks them to identify a substance specifically, they don't bother.

But if such forensic farces tickle your fancy, have fun. Just don't tell me that it's more plausible to solve a crime based on information that scientifically is not obtainable than to fly a spaceship or cross swords with elves. The objective probability is exactly the same for all the given scenarios. It's just the scenery that scares you less.

In the end, all fiction is fantasy. Some people fantasize about cops, some about spies, some about handsome men who sweep them off their feet, some about meandering meaningless journeys of self discovery, and some, yes, about aliens, elves, vampires, and mutants.

So, for the sake of my sanity and your safety, don't use the word "realism" and don't look down on SF/F. Just accept that it's not your cup of tea and leave off the commentary.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
When I become a professional, I will remind myself not to berate my blog/LJ readers for not commenting enough when I post on a certain topic. Because that seems like a terrible way to Make Friends and Influence People. It could be that people don't respond because they have nothing to say or people were busy with their lives (you mean people don't spend all day reading your blog? the hell you say!) or because what you wrote on the topic isn't terribly interesting or comment-worthy.

I just don't know that making someone feel beholden to say they felt sorry for not thanking you enough for spewing a few paragraphs about your job on your blog like every other jerk on the interwebs who posts about their jobs is the way to garner fans or earn respect. Just sayin'.

I'll work on the being more positive/less snarky thing tomorrow.

Until then, have a link about about the romance genre and scholarship. Because it's only trashy unless you got a degree from Harvard. Although the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books gals got a mention and that's always a good thing.

Best quote of the article:

When Tan tells people she reads romance novels and blogs about them, "I can see it in their eyes that their opinion of my intelligence is just being revised downwards."

Today's twist: "I feel embarrassed for them."


It's the "Snap" that really makes it work, I feel. Because I agree. You just got schooled, interwebs.

And for the record, I feel the same way. If you think writing, reading, enjoying, or otherwise studying the romance genre makes someone less intelligent, I will be more than happy to give you some evidence upside your head. The knuckle sandwiches are free all day.

Grr. Argh.

Jul. 6th, 2009 10:47 am
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Since when the hell did aspiring authors become the whipping boys and girls of the writing world? Because apparently it's okay to treat us the way bullies treat high school freshmen. Complete with derisive comments and stereotyped generalization. Because we're not people or anything like that. Not at all.

For instance, did you know that all aspiring writers hate Harry Potter and Twilight? They're jealous and just like to tear down wonderful published authors and their completely flawless works for no good reason. Because there could never be any legitimate criticism of such books. Never.

Not to mention the many agents who apparently regard us in the same way one would regard bubblegum on the bottom of one's shoe. It's so nice to know that dealing with us and our queries and manuscripts is so unpleasant that it is the bane of an agent's existence and makes their lives nearly unbearable.

Sarcasm aside, I'm getting a bit tired of this. What exactly would these folks like me to do? Stop aspiring? Because I refuse to stop trying and I can't get published any faster than I'm trying to. You can't just pop out of the womb with a publishing deal in hand. You have to aspire and write in order to get one. So, to sum up: Fuck you, I'm an anteater aspiring writer.
megwrites: Dualla from BSG. Dualla > EVERYONE ELSE.  (dualla)
Doing the meme from the previous entry brought up something that I'll one day get around to doing a full blown post on, which is why I have a love/hate with so called "chick flicks" and "chick lit". I want to make it clear that I separate this from the romance genre as a whole, because I do not consider "The Devil Wears Prada" to be equivalent to, say, Harlequin Romances or classics of the genre.

Chick lit and chick flicks are their own category, though they borrow heavily from some bits of the romance genre.

I think some films and books that fit this genre are very smart. Some are surprising. But my problem with the genre, especially as it's portrayed on covers is the attachment to upper class and upper middle class materialism. Often, expensive brand names (for instance, Prada) are part of the selling point, and there is an attachment, superficially or thematically, to commercialization.

The obsession with connecting women's issues and women's lives with shopping and designer names, with this, "oh, it's so hard trying to be a fabulous appletini-drinking, Gucci-wearing single girl in the big city" attitude makes the blue-collar, coupon-clipping, penny-pinching Southerner in me cringe.

I have that same issue with many of paranormal romance and urban fantasy heroines I read about. I find the thought that somehow possessing a vagina makes me more interested in clothes and makeup and shopping and designer duds offensive and maddening. Especially when I'm not there for the high heels, I'm there for the vampires and, essentially, it's either Fangs or GTFO for me when I'm reading.

Yes, some women like shoes, shopping, fashion. Nothing wrong with that. Some of the best women I know are total clothes horses. And I won't deny there's something nice about occasionally getting prettied up for a special event.

But shopping? Clothes? Fashion? Leather pants? They do not factor into my life in the stereotypical fashion. I own exactly three pairs of shoes. One pair of sandals. One pair of tennis shoes. And one pair of oversized shiny black flats that I stuff tissue into the ends of because they're wide enough but too long. The newest pair of these were my tennis shoes and I bought those in July of last year. I probably purchase one new pair of shoes a year, and I have a hard time doing this. New shoes do not delight me. They scare me. I fear change.

I own exactly one dress. I do not wear high heels. The subject of shopping and clothing causes panic attacks in me. If you're a woman of size who was large as a child, especially in places where there were not a lot of clothes for overweight/obese children, you'll understand this.

I'm not trying to brag or somehow say that I am better because I don't tend to make much of my clothing and accessories other than to look clean, presentable, and at least reasonably clothed. It's not a virtue, it's just a choice.

Being interested in clothes, and having lots of shoes and dresses isn't somehow a sign of being a horrible, shallow person. So long as you're not spending beyond your means or putting your family into debt to buy a Kate Spade bag, your disposable cash is your business. No judgments from me.

But the women who are like me exist. And that is why I resent the term "chick lit", because it implies that such literature is the literature representative of all chicks, of all women. And it is not. More than that, I think it enforces this idea that women must be tied to material and socio-economic ideals that are inherently harmful to them.

I think women are not just a marketing group, but sometimes outright targets of advertisers who prey on the societal pressures and stereotypes women labor under to bilk dollars out of them, and I see that same predatory tendency in these books.

I feel utterly excluded from chick lit at moments. I imagine many women who are lower class, of color, queer, fat or otherwise different may feel the same.

And I think there are a lot of chicks who's stories and struggles aren't being talked about because they don't fit into the urban, wealthy, upwardly striving, college educated, white traditional chick-lit model. They don't wear Prada or Gucci. Hell, they don't even wear high heels.

For some "chicks", yeah, this literature is spot on. But for a lot of us? It isn't our literature. These aren't our stories. This isn't us.

Which, coincidentally, is another reason I separate it from romance. Romance, quite smartly, can divide off and tell the stories of many different types of women. There are lines of books specifically for women of color, and many romance novels I've read do center on women who are not fabulously rich, who are the kind of common-sense, thrifty, trying-to-get-by women with two kids, two jobs, and need for love that I actually know about. Of course, romance has it's problems, as all genres do. For instance: nobody in romance novels is ever fat", and that's a problem, but every genre has it's foibles. Ask me about SF/F and racism sometime.

There's an academic paper in here somewhere about the function of materialism in chick lit relative to the romance genre, but like I said. That's for another time.

I have very unchick-like writing to go do.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
The short story market, not so grate askhully, according to [ profile] sandramcdonald, which is really sad. Because I think it actually could be thriving right now.

As I said in my last entry, I think the industry is creating a set of market conditions that is driving readers away. And it's not the readers, ultimately, who suffer from getting driven away. They turn to alternate sources. Free downloads or illegal downloads. They go elsewhere to find their wares. They get theirs.

The people who get hurt most are the authors, and along with them the equally overworked, underpaid editors, copyeditors, and other such literary support personnel who make their living off of books or magazines. Somebody somewhere needs to get pissed at their publishers, and by "somebody", I mean a large enough swath of writers, editors, and such that it would force the publishers and the people who own them to pay attention.

I'm telling you guys, seriously. If somebody did for books what iTunes did for music, short stories would make a stunning comeback. In fact, I'd wager that if short stories could be made available very cheaply (maybe 1.99 a pop), you'd see them out sell novels and longer fiction in some instances.

Short stories as a form, though they're not my preferred form, have their appeal. They're quick, they're low investment (for the reader), and they're like the portable, fun sized snacks of the literary work. Now, this isn't to say that they aren't serious forms of literature. Of course they are.

But I can imagine how people might start reading more of them if they could imagine themselves being able to get through an entire story in the time it takes to take the train from home to work, or during the little bit of lunch time they manage to get, or in the car (if they're not driving), or anywhere that they might have free time.

I think this isn't happening right now because the places where short stories are available (internet sites, magazines, and short story collections in books) aren't all that appealing. Sure, books are portable enough, but people just don't buy short story collections. And I don't blame them. I stopped buying full albums years ago because most bands barely manage to produce two or three songs per album that I think are worth my time.

And since iTunes has been around, I can cherry pick those songs for myself. I can say "ooh, I like this one!" and buy it for a nice, fair price and listen to it on my jog/walk/forced exercise death march in the mornings. Everyone gets paid, everyone's happy.

I'd probably get more into short stories if I knew I could go to one place where there were lots of them available to me that I could buy them individually. As it stands, short story pickings are kind of a crap shoot. You go to a website/magazine? Well, maybe this month the stories are good. Maybe this month they suck. Everything is scattered around, and there's no one definitive, complete source where I can go browsing to sate my desires.

As it is, I stick with the longer forms because it's easier to find a large browsable collection of them in a somewhat convenient place (ie, a bookstore or library).
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
While cruising the f-list, I saw a writer's opinions on pirated e-books linked many times, and as usual, it got me thinking.

In that post, [ profile] pbray discusses how she feels that downloading or providing free, pirated e-books is wrong and tantamount to theft.

I won't say I disagree with her basic premise. She's right. You download something you didn't pay for and didn't get permission to take, something the writer, editor, and all the other folks involved didn't get paid for, and yeah, you're stealing the results of their hard work. And that's not cool. No matter what your reasons, downloading books you didn't pay for (with a few exceptions) is completely wrong.

I speak both as an aspiring, completely unpublished writer and an avid reader. Let that inform your opinion of what I say as it will. But mostly, I'm speaking as a reader and a buyer of books.

As justified as [ profile] pbray's anger is, I don't know that it's ultimately useful, nor do I think the tactic of going after the end users or the providers of such pirated wares is at all fruitful. The problem with that is that when you focus your energy on being angry at these folks, you're playing an unwinnable game of wac-a-mole where there are infinite moles and infinite holes and they can work much faster than you.

You take down one site, you take down a few downloaders, good for you. Their replacements are already been trading their black market literature under your nose and will continue to.

I think there are two things are work when people download these books illegally. One is an attitude, the other is a set of market conditions that is actually chasing away readers, making easy downloading a much more viable option.

The attitude at work is one that stems from ignorance of how the industry works (from the reader's perspective) and an economic climate that encourages people to cut corners wherever they can. Whether those corners can or should be cut.

[ profile] pbray says (with no shortage of sarcasm):
Everyone knows authors are rich and we don't need the money.

Well, actually, that's sort of the problem. How much can you really expect the average reader to know about how much an author makes from a book? After all, it's been much touted in the media that J.K. Rowling is richer than the Queen of England. We see books that tell us over and over that this author is a Best Selling Author and 500,000 copies sold!. Where, precisely, do you expect your audience to get information on your income from?

You're not exactly doing a lot to convince the reader that you need the money when you do that. Or rather, when your publisher does that on your behalf. Readers have no way of knowing what your cut of the profits (if, indeed, there are any) are. So as rightfully angry as you are, there may be a reason that readers are making such assumptions.

Yes, you're hurting for money. So are your readers! Many of them are in the same boat as you are, or even worse boats. Their jobs (if they've kept them) aren't paying enough, their houses have been devalued, their dollar isn't going as far as it used to, the price of everything is just going up, up, up. You think you're alone in your economic woes? You're not.

Which is where the market conditions come in. The current system of publishers and booksellers is just not working for the reader. Not at all. I wish I could find the right statistics to back me up here, but it's clear that the publishing industry is not doing well. I can tell you that retailers are definitely not doing well, including the big chain booksellers.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of which are the industry's own goddamn fault. Not the writers, not the readers, but the companies that have been doing business in the ways that lead to them needing to make record lay offs.

And it doesn't need to be that way. The way to lick piracy is not to take a defensive, entrenched position. It's to make piracy less and less appealing and less and less necessary. I think nothing has done more to stem the tide of piracy in the music industry than such things as iTunes, where a song can be easily and reliably downloaded for a mere 99 cents. I, like most people, feel that 99 cents is a fair price to pay for a song you want to have. Especially when you can, if you like, cherry pick from albums to get only the songs you care for without having to buy the inevitable crappy studio songs that some artists do.

Somebody in the publishing industry needs to understand the principle behind this. iTunes works because it's cheap and everything you want is there. The problem that piracy has is that no matter how unstoppable it is, the collections that people are able to offer are always incomplete, unreliable. Very new or very old texts are not to be found. Rarer books by an author are also not to be found. Not even the best piracy sites can offer everything.

A legal, cheaply available library with an extensive collection would easily attract people AWAY from illegal downloading, and ebook formats have, so far as I am aware, lower overhead. Plus, if there were some company that were willing to share collections among major publishers? They'd own the market.

Second, if somebody, somewhere would invest in making a viable and affordable e-Book reader, the revolution would finally begin. While the new Kindles are sexy beasts, I can't afford that shit, to be blunt. At $359, it'll be years before I can afford that shit. I can't think of an ebook reader that is currently a viable option for me to buy.

Not to mention that formatting is a problem, and availability of books.

These problems are not insurmountable. If somebody in the industry would actually make the push for a cheap eBook reader that is under $150. If iPod can make a device that plays music, videos, and games and sell it for $149 (the price of an iPod nano) and a tiny shuffle for under fifty bucks (before tax), then somebody ought to be able to make an eBook reader that's actually affordable for those of us who have to pay rent next month.

The problem is that the solution to these things does not lie with the readers. The solutions lie with publishers and booksellers.

So, yeah, you're right to yell and be furious with the purveyors of these illegal goods, but save some of that vitriol for your publishers, because they're hurting you as much as anything else. In fact, I'd submit that they may be doing more to prevent you from getting the sales you need and turning away YOUR potential readers. More than that, I'd wager that it's not piracy that's taking your sales. The people who pirate those books were probably the least likely to purchase those books anyway and probably would just have given you a pass if they didn't have the piracy option. Not that it justifies their actions or makes them right, but it does mean that your anger may be more beneficially redirected in a way that ends up putting money in your pocket for the hard work you've done.

Why I Read

Jun. 13th, 2009 03:41 pm
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
I think it is helpful, if only for my own fun, sport, and edification to enumerate the reasons that I read what, how, and when I do. And why I stop reading books when I do.

First and foremost, I read either to learn or be entertained. Hopefully, a bit of both. I find learning new things to be a form of entertainment. Or if not entertainment, then enjoyment. I derive pleasure and satisfaction from adding to my knowledge of the world, especially if it's done in such a way that it opens a new interest to me, something undiscovered and waiting to be mined for more treasures. I'm sort of sad for this reason that I'm so dysfunctional at math that I could never understand physics beyond what gets explained to me on the History Channel. I think I'd like contemplating the universe and tiny particles and time and space and playing with the fabric of reality in my head and thinking about how you can unify the way the big and small all move together. That is, if there can be unification. I've always suspected that there'll never be a unifying theory of physics because physics isn't unified.

But I digress. The point is, I do like to learn from books. While I'm mostly a fiction reader, I do occasionally have a quick fling with non-fiction, either of science or historical variety, if I am so tempted.

I don't consider reading for sheer pleasure to somehow be less worthy a venture than reading for Important Literary Intellectual Reasons. Entertainment is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. So long as you don't do it to excess or to someone else's detriment. It's good to light up the pleasure centers of your brain with positive activities like sports or reading or enjoying art or playing with the small mammalian creature of your choice (children, dogs, ponies. Anything will do). It's good to have something that affirms that the crap you put up with is balanced out. That there is indeed a pay off for continuing to suck oxygen and belt out carbon dioxide, that there's a reason not to off yourself so someone can have your kidneys and corneas.

You need that, I think, in your life.

So maybe you're not building an ivory tower with your brain cells from reading. Some people do this and it does push their happy buttons. I try not to make judgments or sweeping statements about what is and isn't acceptable. If pushing yourself intellectually through reading, regardless of pleasure, is what makes you feel your time is well spent, by all means. I applaud you. Just don't look down your furrowed brow at those who get their buzz elsewhere.

Maybe you're reading just for the tingly feelings and the warm fuzzy kittens that solve crime and reassuring routines that ease you into a state of satisfaction with each repetition. The bad guy loses, the caper is foiled, the meddling kids win again, the dashing hero sweeps the heroine away with a charming smile and witty rejoinder.

The fact is that life is short, and the hours you spend doing things you don't need to do (work, mandatory school, eating, laundry, cleaning, etc) are your own to dispose of as you chose. But you don't get a refund on those hours if they don't make you happy or justify themselves. Even if they were taken from you unfairly, without your consent.

You won't always get to control these types of things in life. In fact, most times it'll be out of your hands. So I figure that what is in your keeping, what you can control you must control absolutely. People and things and circumstances will steal time from you like seagulls plucking bits of food off an unguarded picnic table. So you must protect what precious bits you can keep to yourself and enjoy it.

If you read a book and it doesn't add anything worthwhile to your life experiences, either pleasure or knowledge or whatever it is you value, you don't get that hour or two or however many you spent back. It's gone forever.

I think this stems from me being an especially selfish person. Not with things, but with time. I'm very greedy and possessive of my time, because I feel acutely aware that one day, I will die. I will be on a deathbed somewhere and I don't think I'll be ready to die. Ever. I'll want to live so bad that I'll wish and pray for God to grant me another hour, another day, another week, another month, another year.

When the end comes, you'll want those wasted hours back. You'll want the time you spent waiting in line, in doctor's offices, in airports back.

But it won't happen. Time doesn't flow that way. Well, not unless you're a very small and strange kind of theoretical particle (at least that's how I understand it). But you're not. You're a very large and strange kind of particle called a Human Being. Time only goes unmercifully forward.

I think part of me believes that if I fill my life with things I think are worthwhile, even if they may be less-than-gratifying in the short term (like *grumble grumble* frickin' exercise and dieting), that when the times comes that I can't stay here anymore, I'll be less hesitant to go. Maybe I'll even be ready.

So, sometimes, I put down a book because I'm not willing to look down that long tunnel and think that I hastened it's coming by plowing through that particular literature. Does that mean it's a bad book? I don't know. It means it's a bad book for me, certainly.

Which is not to say that in a year or two I won't be ready for it. Books, like everything else, have their season. Ones that I hated a year ago I might love today. Books I once was in love with as a kid are now bewildering, boring, or just plain abysmal to me now.

But I've stopped telling myself, in that old English teacher voice that still lingers in my head, that I must finish every book I pick up. I'm an adult, I can stop. I can quit. I can go somewhere else. Maybe that means I miss some satisfying books that would've gotten good if I'd kept going. But maybe it means I get to pick up other books I might not have had time to read if I hadn't stopped.

Sometimes I feel a bit of inferiority complex about this, especially since reading as a physical activity is sometimes a challenge for me, but I tell myself that this isn't school. It's not a competition. I'm not on anyone else's clock by my own, and that there's no prize for wasting time. There's just hours you don't get back, and the Invisible, Imaginary Better-Than-Me Judgmental People I was trying to impress will not hand out refunds, even if I come with receipt and tags in hand.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
First off, holy crap. I didn't expect that the threads in this post would explode like it did with people bringing the truth and covering it in awesome sauce, but it has. While Ms. Bujold's responses have upset and disappointed me, seeing lots of other people stand up and call her on it has really been heartening.

I also note that some people are friending me. I love new friends (yay!), but I feel like I should warn them that I'm probably very boring and a complete dweeb.

All of which is to say that one semi-related issue that the comments brought up for me is the idea that somehow you can use attendances at cons as a litmus test of the SF/F fandom and readership as a whole. I hate this idea and want to punch it in it's big ugly face.

The only thing con attendance can tell you is who attends conventions.

The reason it bothers me is because, well, I've never been able to attend a convention. Either because I never lived near a city big enough to have one, or because I've never had the time and money to go. I don't feel this should mean that I don't count as an SF/F fan. Because trust me, I've been reading and fangirling along with everyone else since I was, like, eight years old. I think I have earned my geek badge by now.

I just have never been a position where I could afford the plane ticket, the hotel, the entrance fees, plus food and other expenses. Not to mention that things I've heard have made me vastly uncomfortable about ever going to one. Notably, the Open Source Boob Project. Just hearing about it made me feel awful about being a woman seriously reconsider whether I'd ever actually want to go to one of those things unless I had a full detail of bodyguards and an automatic weapon.

So, it bothers me when something that is only available to a smaller subset of people is somehow meant to be a measuring stick for all of us. It bothers me even more because going to a convention is a pretty big luxury, and to me, there is some smack of elitism inherent in placing the kind importance on cons that the SF/F genre has.

I just rebel at the thought of something that is so arbitrarily available and safe should matter at all to who gets recognized and who doesn't.

All right, rant for the day is over. Gotta go do that writing and looking for a job thing that I should be doing.
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
I think one of my least favorite plotlines in Urban Fantasy is the one where the supernatural world goes public (or is made public) by someone and thus our heroes and heroines are taken off on a whirlwind adventure of trying to deal with the non-magical public and the world of magic at the same time.

Discussion of why I don't like this, and how it relates to queerness, and things I'd like to see. )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
I get that authors, even ones published with the big companies, have to do a lot of their own promotion and marketing. Because that's the name of the game. You wanna sell those books? You gotta get out there and tell people that Bird Is the Word.

But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it.

One of those wrong ways involves joining a discussion group for books just to spam people about your book and "vote for my book as the best book!" polls and other annoying messages when you don't participate in that group for any other reason and a quick check of your GoodReads profile shows that you're doing the same thing on other groups.

Also, maybe if you're said person, you could be slightly less proud of a book which - bless your heart - has probably the world's worst cover art. I'm not kidding, it looks like it was done in MS Paint and I suspect that this author actually did the cover herself and not the publisher (if that's the phrase you wanna use for them, since you have to pay them if they decide to publish your book. Gee, I wonder how many people they turn down).

Seriously, this cover art? Is like a girl who walks out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked into her pantyhose and toilet paper stuck to her shoe and doesn't realize it so she thinks the faces people are making at her are somehow in reaction to her being hot or something. It's actually a little bit hilarious.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
SciFi decides to become SyFy.

This is like that time when Coke decided to come out with New Coke because it got all self conscious about Pepsi winning a taste test or something and then they found out that people hated New Coke, and just had to go back to Classic Coke.

Yeah, in about a year, we're gonna see the same thing.

I'm sorry, changing the spelling isn't going to shed your geeky facade, and it's just going to piss off the people who helped you get where you are. People are still going to see that and go, "Oh, that's a geek channel".

Sci-Fi wanting to not be seen as a "geek" channel is like Apple not wanting to seem like a computer company. They can change their name to the French, couture sounding Ahppel, but they're still going to be a frakking computer company.

But honestly? If Sci-Fi wants to go in for the Spears-esque head shave of a makeover, let them have at it. Once Battlestar Galactica is over, I won't have a reason to tune in anyway. Both the incarnations of Stargate are over, and the new one looks so skanky and completely whitewashed that I have no interest in it.

Their show Warehouse 13 looks about as appealing as a sledgehammer to the forehead, and after they canceled Dresden Files even with good ratings, I don't trust their judgment.

I think Sci-Fi might find itself getting better ratings and more respect if, instead of trying to awesome up it's image, it bothered to focus on better programming. Which, of course, it won't.

It's not the geeks that are the problem. It's the deliberately bad B-movies that are the problem. I'm sorry, you can't show such classic works as Mansquito and Frankenfish and then blame the geeky fans for making your image so uncool.

The problem with the channel is that all their best programming has been second hand. The Gateverse, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and so forth and so on were things they got second hand (and by the way, they were idiots for showing Doctor Who episodes months later than their original British airing dates).

Any original programming Sci-Fi tried it's hand at just looked so absurd that even the geekiest of geeks couldn't watch it and respect themselves in the morning. Painkiller Jane, for instance, was one of the more wince-worthy of their attempts.

I think the channel would be better served trying to develop really interesting, quality original programming.

I think Tin Man was a fabulous attempt at that, and if they'd concentrated on making more TV shows/movies of that caliber and with that kind of cast, they'd be looking at a much different strategy. But you can't expect one good miniseries to erase years of Mansquito.

Like I said, wait a year, and you'll get Classic Sci-Fi back. Just try to endure the nasty New SyFy flavor in the meantime.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
This articles on authors who blog and recent nastiness regarding George RR Martin by Guy Gavriel Kay (author of Tigana and more recently, Ysabel) seems very wise and reasoned to me.

As a yet unknown, unpublished hack who blogs about her unknown, unpublished hackiness, I have to say that I agree with Kay when he says:

Disturbing as this is, in some ways, I find it difficult to come down hard on readers of a writer who has steadily made him or herself "available" to them.

Discussion beneath the cut of fans, writers, of the responsibilities and problems of writers who blog, of blogs as personal versus professional spaces, and of how it feeds into RaceFail as well as other things. And wow, did this go to a tl;dr kind of place in a hurry. )

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