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Links to Chew On: The Great Library

September 6, 2013

Oh look: it’s my semi-annual link dump.  Enjoy these links to chew on:

  • Has one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World been reborn?  Bibliotheca Alexandrina explores the new Library of Alexandria – which is pretty awesomely cool.
  • Jim Butcher offers his advice to aspiring authors (of which I am one).  He warns that most aspiring authors will kill their dreams by their own hands.  I know of what he speaks: I struggle daily with whether to pull the plug and turn off the terminal life support on which my dreams of authordom subsist.  (Those dreams have been nigh-mortally wounded by my abyssmally-low wordcount productivity, which is a result of many factors, chief among which is my decision to focus my attention on things that I’ve deemed more important than writing – you know, the stuff I go on and on and on about here in my blog.)  If I ever come out on the other side of this, it will because of my dream’s will to live, to survive, to endure and, yes, to “transcend”.
  • Cory Doctorow has some thoughts on the ca. 19th-century marketing platforms that Publishers are currently using, and how they can move forward into the 21st-century.  (Hint: It doesn’t involve DRMed eARCs.)  Marketing is one the of four or five top reasons to go with traditional publishing instead of self-publishing.  But if traditional publishers can’t be bothered to use modern tools to do a more effective job at this, then that severely diminishes the argument in their favor.  Heck… even I, with my homely Microsoft Access and Excel skills can do better than a word processing file to keep track of this stuff.  (Okay, who’m I kidding: I’m mostly a whiz at Excel and pretty darn good at Access, too; but who else am I kidding: these aren’t so rare talents that any given corporation can’t find an intern or two who’s at least sufficiently competent with these basic tools to create a better tracking mechanism than that…)  As the number of publishers drops to a few, large corporations, it seems nonsensical to me that they can’t find the wherewithal to do even basic 21st-century business stuff.  I hope this changes, and changes soon.
  • Speaking of Marketing, this recent post on io9 about “7 Misconceptions About Sci-Fi Publishing” talks a bit about Marketing in one of its 7 points (the seventh, in fact).  It jives with a lot of the things I wrote about book marketing on my blog here, but comes with added extended quotes from actual book publishers!  The other six points in that piece are of varying grades of quality.
  • In “Movements: So What Do You Think of My Story…” on Strange Horizons, Filipina author Rochita Loenen-Ruiz discusses the mindset and headspace needed to write about cultures other than your own.  Her article doesn’t use the word, but it’s highly critical of people who use “Exoticism” when writing other cultures.  By the same token, the piece praises those who approach writing other cultures with a humble attitude, as exemplified by: “I have these characters from a culture that is not my own, and I’m trying to get it right.  Can anyone help me and take a look at this?”  For my own purposes, since I work largely in secondary-world fantasy, this becomes a question of how to portray interesting non-real cultures that reflect more than just the typical Western-European tropes, but which are also not mere cultural charicatures.  Except for the occasional foray into sci-fi, I won’t have a lot of “Japanese” characters or “Filipino” characters or “African” characters or, for that matter, “European” characters.  But I hope that I will be able to write characters from a variety of different fictional cultures and borrow – graciously, humbly, and respectfully – from a variety of real-world cultures to fill my invented worlds.  So, not “Japanese” characters or “African” characters, but characters with a clear cultural and ethnic connection to other real-world cultures, and done in a way that is interesting and (hopefully) not offensive.  I’ve no doubt that I have and will fail, from time to time, but I will strive to improve.
  • Packing to go on a book tour is not something I have to worry about.  It may not be anything I ever have to worry about (but it’s a worry I’d love to trade up for).  If, however, I do have to face the challenges of preparing for a book tour, John Scalzi’s rundown of how he packs for it would undoubtedly serve as a useful primer.
  • This is really for my own theoretically future-reference, but seeing as how I have almost no experience querying and writing synopses for my stories, this turn-by-turn run-down of what to include in a synopsis should prove a useful instructional aid if I ever need it.
  • I’ve waxed on and on about my inability to spend any time writing (and my attendant shame at being so anti-prolific).  One could say I’m “obsessed with daily wordcounts”, inasmuch as you extend that phrase to include obsession with a daily wordcount that’s consistently 0.  Author Jason Sanford looks at this sort of obsession a little differently.  The crux of his argument is that quantity does not equate with quality – but frankly I take that as a given, an article of faith.  On the other hand – you can’t have quality with a quantity of 0.  Author Rachel Aaron – she of the 10,000-words-a-day fame – also has some thoughts on this subject, to wit: she likes her some writing speed, but she still has to go back and rewrite to make her stories better, and she finds herself doing that more and not less as she goes along.  So at the end of the day, she and Jason are basically on the same page: you can’t skip the rewriting/editing/revising/whatever stage.  I suppose that what is best in life is to have both, eh?  Fast first drafts and nice, thorough rewriting/edting/revising/etc.
  • Here’s a very brief round up of links on SFWA and the GenderFail Kerfuffle – these links go mostly to authors whose blogs and feeds I already follow, but contained within these links are a wealth of additional links that provide a lot of food-for-thought.  First, I saw SFWA President John Scalzi’s post on the subject.  Without a little more context, though, I was more-or-less a fish out of water.  What, precisely, had happened?  Thankfully, Jim Hines was on hand with a somewhat more complete round-up of links on the subject (although see also the caveat he adds here, and his additional thoughts).  Included in that list was a link with a pretty thorough diagnosis of what happened, and included scans and/or PDFs of some of the offending material.  (Hines’ link list is worth perusing if this issue is of interest to you.)  The quick-and-dirty version: the last few issues of the official SFWA publication have had some problematic and misogynistic material in them: from a female warrior in an overtly “sexy” chain-mail bikini, an article about “lady” editors that spends too long extoling the phyiscal attributes of some of those editors (i.e. their beauty), and a praise of Barbie as an exemplar of longevity as attributed to her maintaining “quiet dignity the way a woman should.”  And then in the latest edition, two venerable old authors of the genre – the ones who wrote about the attractive “lady” editors, lambaste their critics and compare them to censors, fascists, and mass-murderers. Mary Robinette Kowal was more angry about how those two authors were able to singlehandedly trash the credibility of the SFWA with the misogynistic rant than about the rant itself – an understandable reaction from a former board member.  Jason Sanford is a little more direct and to-the-point: it’s “Time for the men of SF to tell the sexists to go to hell“.  Tobias Buckell, without providing context for why the post was necessary, linked to an article that made the point that “criticism isn’t censorship“.  (Jason Sanford seconded that notion.)  N.K. Jemisin made a reference to the SFWA kerfuffle (as well as to past kerfuffles such as RaceFail and others that were new to me) in her Continuum GOH speech.  This is one of those cases where I’m glad this discussion is happening before I become a writing professional.  It’s good to see people who are gracious and upright about these issues bringing them up and pushing for change – it’s good to have good examples.  It’s also good to expose myself to viewpoints that may illuminate some previously-unexamined latent sexism that I may contain within myself as a product of the culture I grew up in.  I hope I can be better, myself.  Meanwhile, some people are leaving SFWA over the ongoing sexism, while others are joining in the hopes of making a change in the organization.  At present, I am in a position to do neither…
  • The SFWA Gender-Fail dust-up was really just the beginning.  Misogyny is just one form of hatred and bigotry, and now an SFWA member has hijacked the SFWA twitter feed to spread other forms of hatred.  The hater-in-question was briefly referenced in Jemisin’s Guest-of-Honor speech linked above, and he took the opportunity to direct a lot of his own trollish malevolence toward Jemisin, and to do in a most transparently racist way.  There are now members of SFWA calling for him to be kicked out of the organization.  I don’t get a say – I’m not in SFWA – but I support their cause, and if you happen to be in SFWA, you should to.  Check out Amal El-Mohtar’s post on the subject linked above.  He’s got details on how to contact your SFWA representatives.  (ETA: The deleted section is no longer relevant, thanks to the next bullet.)  Tobias Buckell shares some similar thoughts on the matter here.  Jemisin replied (only a little obliquely) here, with a true take-down that cuts to the heart: “There can be nothing more pitiful — dangerous, certainly, but still, pitiful — than a person whose self-worth depends solely on their perceived ability to diminish others. That is a person who truly has nothing of his own.”  Some additional reactions to the aforementioned hateful bile here.  (As it turns out, the SFWA Board started looking into what actions it thinks it might take…)
  • At the end of the day, SFWA decided to expel the member referred to above.  Jemisin – the injured party in this case – responded to Beale’s expulsion, then offered a glimpse into her thought process had SFWA chosen not to do the right thing (thankfully, a counter-factual).  Meanwhile, writer SL Huang has a convenient timeline (with tons of links) of events in this latest dust-up, starting from the January 2013 SFWA Bulletin with the bikini chainmail cover and the initial, mildly offensive articles by Resnick and Malzberg, going through Resnick & Malzberg’s subsequent meltdowns, former SFWA president John Scalzi’s apologies, the unmasking of a serial sexual harasser from within the halls of Tor Books, the reactions of aforementioned hateful racist, homophobic, misogynistic turd, subsequent online discussion related to said turd’s misuse of SFWA communication channels, and finally the expulsion of said turd.  That’s a lot of controversial stuff, and I could link to all of it, but in the interest of time it seems more efficient to link you to someone who’s already aggregated a lot of those links…
  • It seems Amazon has decided to get into the Fanfic business… I haven’t much – or anything, really – to say on the subject.  I don’t write fanfiction or tie-in-fiction or anything of the like and neither do I have any desire to tread down that road, pesonally.  I  have way, way, way too much of my own stuff that I want to do to worry about adding to other peoples’ worlds.  But I’ll let some other, pro-authors opine: here’s John Scalzi, Jim Hines, and Tobias Buckell with some thoughts.
  • An infographic on the effects of writing on the brain http://www.bestinfographics.co/amazing-facts-about-writing-and-the-brain-infographic/
  • A modest bit of research on the classifications of Geeks and Nerds
  • Tobias Buckell has some interesting thoughts on the nature of “advice” from people who are doing well in publishing – whether via the new “self” model or the old “traditional” model: their advice is heavily skewed by their “Survivorship Bias“.  In other words: they think that because what they did worked for them, that there is some universal truth that can be taken from their experience and replicated perfectly.  What the Survivorship Bias ignores is the stories of the people who did the exact same thing as those who succeeded and yet… they failed.  Because they failed, we don’t hear their stories, so we assume the stories of the successful are accurate.  There’s a lot more than this on Buckell’s post, and you should check it out.
  • So how did that case/trial against Apple for publishing colluding work out? No big surprises, but Apple was found Guilty.  The evidence suggesting probable collusion seemed pretty strong – which is why all the publishers eventually bowed out; they knew they couldn’t win this fight.  Only Apple had pockets deep enough to bother trying.  Scrivener’s Error, of course, has thoughts on the ongoing matter here and here.
  • Scott Lynch doesn’t understand what you mean when you say you’re looking for a “shortcut” to publishing success…
  • Is Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader on it’s last legs?  They seem to have made the decision to exit the “tablet” business.  It would be pretty sad if that were the case – the Nook readers are the only really substantial competition for Amazon’s Kindle readers, as far as I can see.  I’m aware others exist, but without being attached to a content-purchasing backend, I suspect they’re all pretty much dead-in-the-water.  Nothing against Amazon (really; I use them all the time) but I’d really prefer they didn’t have a de facto monopoly over e-book distribution… (and no, Apple doesn’t count, first, because they don’t make readers, they make only tablets, and second because hello aforementioned antitrust litigation.)
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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2013 2:26 pm

    A very interesting roundup here. A couple of comments:

    Criticism is indeed not censorship, and the odd thing is that nobody thinks it is. Well, some people apply it to criticism they receive, but nobody would apply it to criticism they give.

    Interesting about the Nook e-reader. I’ve never owed one (I do own a Nook HD tablet, but B&N is already out of that business — which is why I got it at such a good price), but I do agree that it will be a shame for the field in general if the Nook goes away. Plus I hear it’s a good device, though it’s missing a couple of features which are key for me (but no company ever got rich designing products for me 🙂 ).

  2. September 7, 2013 9:27 am

    Oh, and speaking of “a female warrior in an overtly ‘sexy’ chain-mail bikini,” it’s interesting that Red Sonja, the archetypal warrior in a tiny bikini, is now being written by Gail Simone, a very interesting comic book writer with a history of writing great female characters (I wrote about her here: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=4249, #4). I’m buying the book (first time I’ve ever bought a Red Sonja title) because I’m interested to see where this is going to go.

Trackbacks

  1. SFWA, the new KKK? -or- If I join the SFWA I’d be in jail | The "Professional" Blog of J. M. Brink

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