1) OMG, another terrorist attack in England! But maybe you haven’t heard of it because it was an attack against a mosque.
2) We only just started watching GLEE on Netflix (and I didn’t much like it) but we were all saddened to hear that one of the stars died of a drug overdose.
Media reports keep saying “He had just spent a month in rehab to break his addiction” as though it’s a shame that rehab failed him, but what few people say is that the risk of death by overdose is incredibly high after an addict has been clean for a while. Their tolerance drops, and when they fall off the wagon they go back to pre-rehab levels of drug use. That can be lethal with lowered tolerance.
I realize it could be undermining to say: “We don’t want you to fall off the wagon, but if you do…” but someone ought to warn people.
3) And of course there’s the Zimmerman verdict, which… Christ.
Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.
It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn’t come back from twenty-four down.
To paraphrase a great man: We are what our record says we are. How can we sensibly expect different?
4) There’s a growing movement for people to boycott the movie ENDER’S GAME because the author of the novel is a wackadoodle homophobe who done work for the NOM and has, in the past, advocated revolution if the same-sex marriage became legal. Lionsgate acknowledged the issue in their own official response, but I like this response better.
Personally, I doubt I’ll be seeing the movie myself but I was already meh on it before I heard about the boycott. Color me skeptical of stories about child soldiers. Besides, if I’ve already skipped the sequel to the rebooted Star Trek, Epic, Oblivion, and a bunch of other half-baked summer fare, I really can’t see myself stealing writing time for this film.
5) In much lighter news, JK Rowling published a book under a pen name, which was just outed last week.
I’ve talked about this a lot on Twitter and it’s hard to summarize everything for this space. Personally I think it was a smart thing for her to do; a pen name gives her the freedom to write without expectations. No one is comparing her books to the last Potter book, no one expects a huge event out of it. It’s just her doing what she wants.
Now that it’s out, of course, it’s like the blind wise sages describing an elephant: Some people think she tried to abandoned her fans, some think she proved that publishing is all (or mostly) about luck, some think it’s all about how a few bestselling authors dominate the market and make things incredibly difficult for new and midlist authors.
And then there’s this:
So, I can now say that I turned down JK Rowling. I did read and say no to Cuckoo's Calling. Anyone else going to confess?
— Kate Mills (@Kate7Mills) July 14, 2013
Which I think is hilarious.
If so, you should read this guide to reporting sexual harassment at a convention. The dude who did the harassing is named in comments, and a number of people on Twitter are expressing amazement that he wasn’t outed years ago.
If you’re a convention-goer, that post and the others it links to may be useful resources for you.
Hey, guess who has the number one book on Amazon three and a half months before it comes out! Paula Deen! (link to her book removed since it’s been canceled.) Sure, she may have lost her Wal-Mart deal and her Food Network show and whatever, but average folk are buying up her books like piranha swarming a whole platter of doughnut-bun cheeseburgers.
But who are these people? Well, you aren’t allowed to leave reviews for books that haven’t come out yet, but there’s “good” news! The number two book on Amazon is Deen’s last book, and the comments there are ripe.
The normal thing to do would be to screencap and post those, but time is tight and I don’t want this shit in my Flickr account. Instead, I’m going to just pop in some quotes:
Political correctness is just tyranny with manners. I’m glad her book sales soared 1300%. Where are the rappers being scrutinized for using the N word? They use it in every song, no matter what color they are, and face ZERO repercussions. It doesn’t matter where you use it, saying it is bad in ANY case. The double-standard is entirely obvious, and plain wrong.
I’m shocked and saddened at the public lynching of Ms. Deen. What on earth has she done that is so offensive?
I don’t even cook but I am buying this book in support of the liberal media crucifixion of Paula Deen. If she said it, so what. Bill Cosby, Red Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Lisa Lampanelli, and many other comedians say it all the time. It is said in many movies. Blacks say it to blacks everyday.
I AM SO SICK OF THE MEDIA OVER DRAMATIZING EVERYTHING. THEY ARE DEFLECTING FROM THE 100 MILLION DOLAR VACATION TO AFRICA THE FIRST FAMILY ARE TAKING NOW. HOLD YOUR HEAD UP GIRLFRIEND. AM IOOKING FOWARD TO TRYING YOUR RECEIPS.
She voted for Obama people. She is a registered Democrat. The liberals, that she thought “felt so good” to support, are the ones that did this to her and she is only getting what she deserves. All Americans that support the liberal agenda are going to find out that that they will be tossed under the bus with the rest of us. Keep being stupid liberals. Your time will come too and you will see.
I don’t cook but I dislike terrorist acts,shame on media and especially Matt profiting on someone’s pain. Decided to buy 3 books.
I also appreciate Amazon not abandoning Mrs. Deen.
I conclude my ‘review’ with this poem about the rise of Nazism by Martin Neimoller:
“When they came for the butter-fried Twinkies, I did not speak up because that stuff is gross.”
So, Deen has lost a bunch of mainstream income but is now beloved of the sort of people who complain about Obama’s $100 million “vacation” in Africa, call criticism “lynching” or “terrorist acts”, and who think it’s some sort of clever riposte to point out that rappers use “the N word.” Sure, she has the #1 and #2 books on Amazon at the moment, but her fan base has shrunk down to these assholes. Yeah, you can make a living off of those people, because there are more of them than we’d like, but it’s not a living I would feel comfortable with.
ADDED LATER: If you’re curious about the actual complaint against Deen and her company, read here.
The Public Insight Network has posted a comic called Moral Injury, Beyond PTSD (well, they’re calling it an “illustrated story” but so what). It’s incredibly powerful stuff and I recommend everyone read it. I’d originally planned to drop it into a Randomness post, but it felt too big for that.
Seriously, you’ll want to read that.
I’ve seen this sort of thing addressed in fantasy before, but not in a way that satisfies me. Not in a way that breaks out of the hero/villain paradigm.
Part of it, I think, is the incredibly powerful appeal of the dehumanized enemy and the heroic capable figure. Is Aragorn supposed to have nightmares about all the orcs he’s killed? Is he supposed to change his most basic self-concept after all that killing? Frodo returns from his adventure a ruined man who can no longer live in his own community, but that’s due to the proximity to and temptation of the power of evil. It’s not because he recognizes that he did evil to an enemy that was very like him.
I’m also revisiting Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (by watching the dvds). The whole thing plays like a parody of the superhero genre written by someone who wants to call out its most fascist aspects. And yet, even while I’m disgusted by, for example, Miller’s contempt for peaceful protest, I’m also feeling the powerful pull of the narrative of justified violence.
It’s incredibly affecting and entirely artificial. Reading that comic I linked to above makes me a little ashamed of it. #SFWApro
making books The outside world: a blessing of monsters people progress words
by Harry Connolly
Yes, it’s the solstice, and yes, I’ve signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon.
That link above will take you directly to my pledge page, but if you want more information, here goes.
Clarion West is a famous writing workshop in Seattle.
For nearly 30 years, Clarion West has been run for six weeks during the summer. As you might guess, it spun off from an older workshop with the same format in Michigan (I think) called simply “Clarion”. It’s taught by five writers and one editor, each trading off for a week, and writers come from all over to attend. They quit jobs, end relationships, lose apartments, and generally uproot their lives to spend a month and a half sequestered away from the world working on their fiction.
I’m not a graduate. I applied once in the 90′s but was turned down. However, the list of graduates is sure to include authors you love.
Clarion West has a reading series.
This is how I know the workshop. As part of the fundraising efforts, the workshop runs a reading series. It was the first place I ever heard a writer read, way back in the early 90′s (back when they held them in the basement of Elliott Bay Books), and it helped me find some terrific writers.
This year’s instructors are: Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Margo Lanagan, Samuel R. Delany, and Ellen Datlow. Too bad I have a kid or I would definitely be busing across town for these.
Clarion West still needs support.
Times are tough for everyone, including non-profits. To help raise money, CW is holding a “Write-a-thon” in which people pledge to
walk a certain distance write a certain amount of words while the workshop runs.
Me, I’m hoping to wrap up the first draft of THE GREAT WAY in that time, so any pledges in my name will be considered serious and for real motivation.
Hey, it’s a good organization and a good cause. If you can bear to make a pledge, please do. #SFWApro
making books The outside world: a blessing of monsters people publishing words
by Harry Connolly
Author Kameron Hurley
is procrastinating on her novel has written another interesting blog post, this one called UNPACKING THE “REAL WRITERS HAVE TALENT” MYTH. She makes a few points that are similar to ones I made in a previous post about talent and hard work, Teaching Writers To Be Talented, but she comes at it from a different perspective.
I especially like the way she emphasizes study as much as hard work. Sure, a writer can create page after page of prose, but unless there’s a continuous struggle to separate what works from what doesn’t, and unless there’s an open-minded willingness to study the form in depth, all that hard work may not mean actual improvement.
Yeah, it’s nice to have “talent”, whatever that is. I mean, I talk about talent in that old post I just linked to, but I’m surprised to see that I never used the term black box to describe it.
People call others “talented” based on what they create, but you can never really know the process that lead to that final creation. Was it a “natural gift”? Did they study the craft for years? Were they working in a parallel field then carried a few lessons over? Did they grow up in a home rich with language?
Even if you were to ask the author directly, you could never be sure their answer is accurate, not when writers say things like “I didn’t have talent. I had hard work.” and “I just sat down to write a book and a publisher picked it up!” People have a tendency to overlook important factors like years of fanfic/journal writing, or even something as simple as a house full of books.
Hurley’s post is worth reading, not least because she gives hard concrete examples of the way she learned. “Blindly groping along” I think is the way she put it, which covers so many of us.
To take this even further, consider artist Molly Crabapple’s post Filthy Lucre:
Meritocracy is America’s foundational myth. If you work hard, society tells us, you’ll earn your place in the middle class. But any strawberry picker knows hard work alone is a fast road to nowhere. Similarly, we place our faith in education. Study, and the upper-middle class will be yours. Except the average student graduates $35,000 in debt.
Artists too have their myths. The lies told to artists mirror the lies told to women. Be good enough, be pretty enough, and that guy or gallery will sweep you off your feet, to the picket-fenced land of generous collectors and two and a half kids. But, make the first move, seize your destiny, and you’re a whore.
But neither hard work nor talent nor education are passports to success. At best, they’re small bits of the puzzle.
It’s easy to ignore luck, privilege, and bloody social climbing when you stand onstage in a pair of combat boots. It’s easy to say that if people are just good enough, work hard enough, ask enough, believe enough, they will be [successful].
She’s coming at things from the fine arts, so her concerns are somewhat different. She needs funds to create her artwork, while for writers the main constraint is time. Time to read, research, write, and revise. Time to make the work and do it without interruption. For me and most writers I know, the major limitations on our time come from the paying work we must do to support ourselves and our families, and the time we have to spend caring for our loved ones (addendum: we need loved ones; being lonely can kill you).
Even with talent and hard work, there’s always a chance of failure. Money helps. Luck helps. Lots of free time helps. Supportive people help. Success comes from a mix of some or all of those things, and the more of them you have the better.
However, just to re-emphasize the point:
Hard work + self-awareness + perseverance = MAYBE
That’s a quote from Scott Lynch’s post from today. It’s another long one, but again worth reading.
The big takeaway is that, you have to work hard, you have to be lucky, you have to stick it out, but even if you do everything “right” there are still no guarantees.
Speaking of which, if you’ve read this far you’re entitled to a little news. Here it is:
THE WAY INTO CHAOS, aka A Blessing of Monsters, aka Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts, has gone the rounds of New York publishes and found no takers. The very last rejection came this morning, which is why I dredged up this post from the pile of unfinished ones in my dashboard.
The reasons giving in those rejections are interesting if not instructive. Today’s pointed out that the current market favors fantasy that’s very dark, while TWIC is not. (So much for being ahead of the curve).
In any event, yes, I will have to finish the book, then self-publish it (with some crowd-sourced help to pay for editing and cover art). That’s some weeks away still, but damn.
There are no guarantees.
The outside world: internet people politics publishing
by Harry Connolly
I’ve been following the fight over sexist content in The Bulletin and sexist content in the genre in general, but I hadn’t planned to comment on it any more than I already have.
However! I want to drop a couple of relevant links and make a point I haven’t seen elsewhere. First, the links:
My very complicated reaction to issue 202 of the Bulletin by Mary Robinette Kowal encapsulates a lot of what I’ve been thinking about the whole shit smear. SFWA is not required to put out sexist commentary and the fact that it does (or simply lets it slip through the editorial sieve) is a major distraction from the good work it does. Her whole post is worth reading.
Ann Aguirre came into the professional part of the field only a few years before I did, but the sexism she details is ridiculous. Worse, if you read down to the ETA on that post, you see that she’s still getting vicious emails that include rape threats. I can’t stand that this bullshit is still going on.
Finally, I just want to comment on this quote from Mike Resnick in his most recent column:
The next question is: is this an overreaction to attempted censorship? The answer is simple and straightforward: I don’t think it’s possible to overreact to thought control, whether Politically Inept of Politically Motivated or merely displaying the would-be controller’s personal tastes and biases
For the record, the “attempted censorship” is the online criticism he and the magazine that published him has received. Never mind that criticism is not censorship; the point here is that Resnick thinks that only his speech should have power. He seems to think the people who criticism are welcome to do so as long as nothing comes of their speech: no one can be swayed by the points they make, no one can have their minds changed. If Resnick’s editor sees the criticism, thinks they have merit, and ends the column, that’s “censorship” and must be fought.
Which is bullshit, obviously. Speech has consequences. Speech sways the opinion of others, and maybe–just maybe–that might have an effect on your life. Resnick has that power; he’s going to have to get used to the idea that others have it, too.