Help Spread The Word?

Pursuant to my last post–in addition to bidding again and again and again, if you could also help spread the word by posting about the Interfictions auction I would greatly appreciate it.  If everyone who reads me posts something, and then the people who read then post, and so on, we could take over the world :)

If you’d like some sort of picture thing to use on your sidebar or in your post or whatever, I’ve been making them here.  I’ll add more as more auctions go up and I come up with ideas, so scroll all the way to the bottom to see them all.

Shiny Shiny Shiny

Because I was so involved in setting it up yesterday, I neglected to post here about the auction of jewelry based on Interfictions stories. From the press release:

Interstitial artists and admirers of Interfictions have come forward with some truly stunning pieces based on Interfictions stories by Matthew Cheney, Catherynne M. Valente, Jon Singer, Veronica Schanoes, and Colin Greenland. Participants include artists Elise Matthesen, JoSelle Vanderhooft, Mia Nutick, Kris McDermott, and many more.

And, most remarkably, some of the authors themselves have created unique pieces based on their own work! Keep an eye on IAFAuctions.com to see wearable interpretations of their own work by Interfictions authors Leslie What, Rachel Pollack, and K. Tempest Bradford.

I like that term: wearable interpretations Ellen Kushner came up with that!

So far a piece by JoSelle based on the Valente story and a piece by Sarah based on Cheney’s story are up. And today I posted a preview of stuff to come.

And yes, it’s true that I have something going up, too. I have been trying to come up with something for months. Months! But then I saw this gorgeous piece based on “Black Feather” (which is, can I just say, so amazing to see something beautiful that was inspired by something I did. So cool!) and was inspired myself. I don’t know if my idea will pan out, but here’s a sneak peek of the earrings I am making called “Inwood Hill”:

Work In Progress

I want to add one more chain, but I’m afraid of making it too heavy. But then I use pretty light materials on there — very light/hollow glass beads, coral, tiny Jasper beads that weigh very little. There will also be a black feather hidden in there somehow. What do you guys think?

Engaging in negative stereotypes — the ongoing struggle

I was busy all morning doing IAF stuff and missed out on the beginning of this “debate” going on in the comments to Lisa’s story on Fantasy. It’s kind of ironic that this came up today because yesterday I had a long conversation about a similar issue surrounding one of my stories.  I wonder, actually, if I would see the thing that happened today in the same way had it happened last week, before my conversation yesterday.  Hmm.

So to clue you in on what I’m talking about, my other writing group, the Black Beans, met yesterday to discuss a story that I’m rewriting for a market.  Without going into too much detail, my story has terrorists and those terrorists are from a specific ethnic group.  (And in my story, it’s not ambiguous, nor did I mean for it to be.)  Now, being a not-racist person, I thought that I was not engaging in negative stereotypes with my story.  But due to the way I wrote things and the length of the story, it totally came off that way.  After much discussion I realized that, in order to have these terrorists remain the ethnic group I’d chosen, I would have to do a LOT of explaining to show that I wasn’t just trading on stereotypes.  And that even if I did that, many readers would probably focus on that aspect of the story, which would be bad as it’s not the point of the story at all.

Now, I’m extremely lucky that I belong to two writing groups with many talented people of many different backgrounds who are not afraid to speak their minds.  Thank goodness I had the sense to show the rewrite to them else I might have found myself in a similar situation as Lisa today: not meaning to have dealt in stereotypes, but perhaps doing so nonetheless.

This does not mean that writers have to censor themselves, or not include any disadvantaged groups they don’t belong to in a story.  What it does mean is that the author needs to know exactly what they’re about, and needs to get the opinion of people they trust so as not to fall prey to their own unconscious biases.  Or, you know, it’s not an unconscious bias per se, but an ignorance to how certain images, characterizations, and depictions of this or another group sink into our unconscious and don’t get pegged as “wrong” or “prejudiced”.  They may not affect us, therefore we don’t immediately recoil from them.  And they may come out in our writing, or our speech, or whatever.  Innocently, perhaps, but it’s still painful, damaging, wrong.

During the conversation/critique this weekend I found myself feeling very uncomfortable and even defensive on that particular point.  However, what I tried to do, and hope I succeeded in doing, is to keep my damn mouth shut until I could absorb the things I was being told, take into account the people who were saying them to me, and check myself mightily.  It’s only because I have so often been on the other end of conversations of this nature that I was able to do this, but it was hard.  As I said, very uncomfortable.  Most people don’t want to think that they have it in them to even appear racist, etc.  But achieving that takes work, and working through discomfort, and listening, and understanding.

One thing I do know: the proper reaction to an accusation or even hint that one is engaging in negative stereotypes about a group is not to do or say anything contained within this most excellent post.  Instead, as I have said very recently, you should find someone who is knowledgeable about such things whom you are comfortable with and know will tell you the truth, even if that truth makes you uncomfortable, and ask their opinion.

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto

Wil Wheaton has a great post about moral panic and GTA, sparked by the fact that GTA IV comes out today. Before the game is even out there’s people freaking out about bus ads and screaming WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN and whatever other nonsense. Cue eye roll.

The fact that kids shouldn’t even be playing the game and that, if they are, then perhaps the problem is their parents’ inability to parent never comes up in certain circles. Go fig.

But what really annoys me is the panic about how horrible and morally degrading the game is. Not because of the violence, necessarily. People rarely ever get up in arms about that. But because the character can have sex with and also kill prostitutes. OH LORDY.

First of all, the player does not have to kill prostitutes if they don’t want to. Second, the player can kill just about anyone, not just prostitutes. Why are people so concerned about pixilated prostitutes and not pixilated old ladies?

I think we all know the answer.

Anyway, I only care about this because I love me some GTA. Oh yes! I own GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas. Surprised? Maybe not. But it may surprise you how I play these games.

When I fire up GTA, I do pretty much the same thing. I first activate a cheat so that the cops will leave me alone. I then activate a cheat to get a bunch of dangerous and fun weapons. Then I walk out of my safe house and find a car. I then carjack it. Then I drive off in a random direction and explore the city while hitting pedestrians, running into other cars and making their occupants angry, and trying to find new ways to travel to San Francisco and Las Vegas (if I’m in San Andreas). Sometimes I get out of the car, pull out a weapon, and randomly kill people just because I can. I particularly love the flamethrower. When nighttime comes, yes, I go around looking for prostitutes. I enjoy the little having sex/car jumping animation. Sometimes, if I am in the mood, I kill the prostitute. Sometimes I kill the ones that won’t get in my car. After about an hour of flying the plane, killing people, picking up prostitutes, and causing general mayhem, I turn the game off and go do something else.

I could make a joke about how doing this in a game keeps me from doing it in real life, but the truth is that I have never had the desire to find a flamethrower and go to town on some random folks. I don’t drive, but if I did I think I could refrain from crashing into cars and running down pedestrians. I don’t have any interest in prostitutes or in killing them, or killing anyone. Playing this game has not made me more likely to knife anyone. I am not more hostile than I used to be (I’ve always been pretty hostile, just ask F. Paul Wilson). I bet this is true for most people. But I am sure there are plenty of moral outragists who will pass out from the vapors upon reading my GTA routine.

These are the same people who are convinced that Harry potter will turn kids into Wiccans and/or Satanists. Basically people who themselves are unable to distinguish fantasy and play from reality and right thinking. People who, because they listen to whatever some authority figure tells them without applying their own critical thinking skills, are convinced that everyone else is the same. Sorry, but no. I can think for myself, I know right from wrong, and some book, tv show, or video game isn’t going to change that.

Reviewing

Reviewing

The recent stuff about Authors Behaving Badly reminded me that I wanted to write something on Mike Brotherton’s SFNovelists post about reviews and reviewers. A little while ago he put up some guidelines for what he thinks reviewers shouldn’t do from the perspective of a writer. The basics:

Guideline 1: Reviewers should stick to reviewing the kinds of books they like.

Guideline 2: Reviews should describe what the book is like, and not just represent a visceral reaction of the reviewer.

Guideline 3: Putting a book in context relative to other work by the author is great, as long as there is clarity in doing so.

Guideline 4: Review the book, not the author.

On the surface maybe these are good guidelines. But, as I read, I felt myself disagreeing with almost every one of them. I’ve been thinking about why ever since.

Guideline 1 comes out of many genre authors’ frustration with reviewers who clearly don’t “get” SF still being assigned SF books, to predictable results. Still, I don’t think the problem is reviewing the kind of books one likes, but the kind of books one is likely to understand or get.

I’m not a huge fan of horror, but I’m confident in my ability to tell if a horror story is good or not. “Not My Target Audience” is an excuse that can only carry one so far. If a reviewer is actively hostile toward a genre, that’s a different thing. But I think that any competent reviewer can read books that are outside her “favorite genres” and still deliver intelligent proclamations about them.

Guideline 2 strikes me as something that bothers writers of the books being reviewed, but not the readers. The last thing I want from a review is to describe the book. I have a jacket flap for that. I do want the visceral reaction, because that is a signal of what a book is going to do for me. Perhaps I am alone in this.

Guideline 3 I’ll discuss in a bit.

Guideline 4 almost, almost got past me until I read this supporting bit:

No reaction to the author as a person is appropriate (e.g., that apparently “racist story” might just be an attempt to understand a particular type of unsavory person, something that writers need to do effectively from time to time, rather than an expression of racism).

Oh here we go.

The problem with this guideline is that, on some level, you cannot review a work without taking the authorship into consideration. Certainly it isn’t useful to dismiss a book because you have something personal against the author. In fact, if you’re pissed at the author, you shouldn’t be reviewing that book at all. And, of course, you shouldn’t be going on about your perception of the author based on your own hangups or, need I say, their name and how stupid or fake you think it is. (Okay, I will admit, that still irks me a little. I am working to get over it.) However, it is perfectly valid to consider the author’s motives and question his process and reasoning concerning the themes, ideas, and characters in a book or story.

And, quite honestly, most people intelligent and brave enough to bring up how the racism in a story might reflect the (perhaps unconscious) racism of the author are usually smart enough to tell the difference between a story that is exploring racism and one that is based on the racist ideas/thoughts/tendencies. And if an author has to say, “No, I was hoping to EXPLORE that concept, not endorse it!” they have obviously failed and someone should point that out.

Which brings me back to Guideline 3. If a reviewer is allowed to discuss a book in relation to the other books that author has written, whether those books are related in any other way or not, then that is “reviewing the author” in a sense.

Now that I’ve just torn Mike’s poor post apart, I will say that I do recognize that everything he said comes from the perspective of the author being reviewed. And it’s perfectly fine for him to feel that way and want these things. Except that reviews are not for the benefit of the author. They might have that effect, sure, but reviews are there for readers. They are there to let readers know, in one person’s opinion, whether they should pick a book up.

What do readers want when they look at reviews? That’s what I’m mostly concerned about.

What I’m Saying Elsewhere

What I'm Saying Elsewhere

1. The Fangland contest is over! But you still have a chance to participate (a little). We have more than one copy to award, so we’re going to give one to the entry the readers like the most. Check out the entries here and vote for your favorite in the comments. The entry with the most votes wins Reader’s Choice. We’ll reveal the winners on Tuesday. @ Fantasy

2. PodCastle Has Girl Cooties! I have been poking my head in the forum topic and the post for the third episode, “Run of the Fiery Horse” because Rachel, the editor, asked me to do the intro (because I love, love, love the story).  As with most Escape Artist forum discussions, people have wildly varying reactions to and interpretations of the story.  But there’s also been some discussion of the “tone” of PodCastle as being too women-centric/feminist. Quotes & Anti-Quotes @ FeministSF The Blog.

3. On Feminism, Part 2. Feminism is made for and by white women. And I really feel like this is one of those areas where the white women need to get enlightened before things can change. But, of course, many of them won’t be because they don’t see racism, which is directed against women of color, as a feminist issue. They’re hard pressed to acknowledge that racism is as great a problem as sexism at all.

No, actually, what I should say is that the white feminists who are seen as leaders, who are given press and attention and cred are in need of enlightenment. Because there are plenty of white feminists who do get it, who are enlightened, who can see the interconnectedness between anti-racist work and anti-sexist work. So what’s really needed is a good purge. Those of you who know what’s up need to weed out or educate those of you who don’t. Because obviously we women of color are too angry or jealous or indelicate to do it. @ ABW

SFWA: Overrun By 12-Year-Olds?

Good news this weekend, the SFWA election results are in and Andrew Burt is NOT the next president. That honor goes to Russell Davis, who had an overwhelming majority. Go Russell! I was also pleased to see my bud Mrs Robinette in there as Secretary. Maybe now she can sneak me in!

But while perusing the election results I saw something I did not expect. The write-ins get increasingly more silly and childish as you go down. For vice-president, someone wrote in Spiro Agnew. Now this is amongst several sensible write-ins like John Scalzi and Charles Stross, but then you get to this one for Treasurer: Orlando Bloom.

‘scuse?

Eastern Regional Director: Angelina Jolie and Nick Mamatas

What?

I’m willing to bet this is the doing of one person, but still. Nick Mamatas? What’s next, Donald Duck? Superman? It’s like a bit from a sitcom when someone is trying to get a petition signed. Dude.

But I suppose I should not be surprised. After all, some folks voted for Andrew Burt. I guess Orlando in the write-in space pales compared to that.

(Hmm… I think I may have just torpedoed my chance of being snuck into SFWA… ah well)

P.S. And now someone pointed me to this. *SMH*

WTF Authors?

WTF Authors?

Scalzi encourages authors to post their 1-star Amazon reviews because, hey, it may sting, but it’s not the end of the world. What inspired this? Why, an author acting as if bad reviews are the end of the world! Not just by whining and complaining about them, but by actively harassing the reviewers and encouraging her readers, friends, and authors from her small press to do so as well. And, as if that’s not bad enough, she isn’t even going after a professional reviewer, but some poor Amazon reviewer. Just a regular person.

WTF author?

I thought Anne Rice was bad, but this is above and beyond.

It’s easy for me to sit here and say, “Oh you authors should calm down and stop whining!” because I don’t have a novel up on Amazon. I’ve also had to contend with very few bad reviews (because I haven’t published much that was reviewed at all, not because I’m super fantastic). Still and all, I hope that I have the sense and civility not to go careening after the bad reviewers with a virtual sledgehammer. In fact, many years ago I made a vow to have a good attitude about reviews and Amazon reviews in particular because of something I witnessed in another author.

I blogged about this back then, but my old journal now only exists in Bloggers servers. (I’m trying to decide if I want to import it into this blog. I doubt it would be at all useful). But the gist of it was this:

After my first World Fantasy I attempted to read all of the books that came in the free book bag. I was young, what can I say? One of the books was Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok K. Banker. I put it down after about 6 chapters because it just didn’t engage me. Too much set-up and introducing the huge cast of characters and not a lot of moving forward with an actual story. I went over to Amazon to post my review and found that there was a bit of a kerfuffle going on there between some reviewers and the author. I wrote at the time:

The author of the book has posted three (yes, three) reviews of his own. And they’re starred reviews, which I thought authors and publishers weren’t supposed to be able to do. (they were removed I don’t know how long ago, but there’s another one here. –T) The reviews are weird, too. One is a rebuttal of a bad review that is at once intelligent and also incredibly egotistical to the point of being comedic. Another is just a long list of praise for the book. And I do mean long. (It’s also one of the spotlight reviews, which I find highly suspect) The last is a note to Amazon – which he claims he didn’t want published, yet submitted it as a review – that asks Amazon to remove the review because it is obviously a malicious attack on his book, unfounded, by someone who didn’t even read it. And they should take it down because Amazon is in the business of selling books, right? So they shouldn’t allow bad reviews on their site because it would discourage sales.

Around this time I joined a mailing list of people I knew from the OWW and other related spheres. One of our members asked the group if she could invite Ashok in. They’d met during a con and shared a publisher (possibly an editor?) and she felt he’d fit in with us. We said yes, and I giggled behind my hand a little since I had been a bit WTF about him just a few weeks before. At the time, no one read my blog, anyway. He certainly hadn’t. Life went on.

Remember a few years back when something went wrong with Amazon Canada’s code and all of the reviews that had been marked “Anonymous” suddenly revealed the actual names behind them? And it became apparent that authors and/or their friends were going about giving themselves or friends positive reviews? Yeah, we all had a good chuckle about that. But in the course of discussing this on the list, Ashok lamented the Amazon review system and its many faults. Just anyone can put up a review! They can give negative reviews! And they don’t even have to have read the book! If they put up a bad review, it’s probably because they haven’t read it, anyway. Don’t they want to sell books! How stupid!

At this point I thought he was going to bring up the little scuffle he had with that other reviewer, but instead he said something like: “There’s a reviewer called fluidartist who gave my book a bad review and he didn’t even read it. It’s ridiculous! And if you look at all his reviews, you’ll see they’re all negative He just goes around giving negative reviews for no reason.”

Take a look at the URL of this website (or the Permalink, if you’re on LJ). Yep, he was talking about MY review.

I sat there wide-eyed for a long time because, firstly, I didn’t think my review was that bad. Secondly, I was trying to decide if I should say anything or not. Because my email at the time (and some of my emails now) came from fluidartist.com. It’s right there in every message, every reply. But Ashok hadn’t noticed. Everyone else did, though. And no one commented about it, on list. The thread just died.

I asked some of the others if I should say anything, but everyone told me it wasn’t worth bringing up if he hadn’t noticed. So, I didn’t. To this day I have no clue if he ever connected the two. No big reason for him to do so, as we weren’t close or friends or anything. Still.

It was just very strange to see how angry he was about what I considered a not all that horrid review. Certainly I’ve written worse. (Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon is still bleeding on the bookshelf, as is Master of None.) It left me feeling like authors need to have a thick skin. Not so thick that they can’t learn, improve, and admit to mistakes. But thick enough that random Amazon (or any other) reviews don’t send one over the edge.

I vowed never to be like that, if I could possibly help it. It’s also good to have role models in this regard. Though I suspect that Scalzi is not as level-headed, cool, calm, and collected about everything as he pretends to be, if he has nasty things to say about his negative reviews, he isn’t saying it on his blog. He hasn’t yet called me up to raise the pixel pitchfork in anyone’s general direction. In fact, most of the published authors of my acquaintance don’t do these horrid things. I respect them all the more for it. Sure, I know some people who are fakely aloof and passive aggressive about their negative reviews (“Oh, look at this bad review! Hahaha I don’t care. I REALLY DON’T CARE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU BUT GO LOOK AND SEE HOW SILLY AND WRONG THEY ARE.”), but I try not to spend time around them.

More importantly, I try hard not to be them. Now, we’ll see how well I succeed when my first book comes out.

Dear CSI (of any flavor)

Dear CSI (of any flavor)

Something you seem unable to grasp:

You Are Not A Soap Opera

Seriously. We don’t care if one CSI is cheating on another and we don’t appreciate the return of the Black Man As Addict storyline and, honestly, we really don’t need to know that much about the lives of the CSIs. That’s not why we watch. Sure, it’s great when you see that two people who are into each other hook up, but then that’s all we need to know. No more info needed, thanks. No drama required. We’re watching your tiresome shows for the hot forensics action and because we enjoy crime shows and puzzle solving. If we want relationship drama we’ll catch the replay of today’s All My Children. At least there we’ll find some more black people.

Once again: CSI =/= Soap Opera. Put it in a memo and send it to Gary, David, and William ASAP.