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Posts Tagged ‘ranty’

I’m perfectly capable of speaking for myself.

Kate Elliott on authorial intent.


I’m smart enough not to respond publicly to reviews, of course; that pretty much never ends well. But if you want to know which ones get up my nose the worst, it’s the ones that make unfounded declarations about what was in my head while writing. If you read a particular thing out of the story, fine — far be it from me to say ur doin it wrong. But please don’t claim you know why I did things that way.

Mind you, the line between the two isn’t entirely clear. Sometimes — as Kate’s contrasting examples show — a lot of it comes down to phrasing; if you say “it seems the author felt X,” that creates a different impression than “the author felt X.” This is one case where I think it’s a good idea to use qualifiers for your assertions, even though in other circumstances it’s better to just say things directly. And, of course, if you’ve been reading my blog or an interview with me or whatever, anything I say there is fair game for use later; your review can say “because Marie Brennan is concerned with not taking events out of the hands of the real, historical people who were involved, she does Z” — though even there, it would be better to say you presume there’s a causal relationship, because when you get down to it I may have forgotten my own agenda and done Z simply because it looked nifty, or the rest of my plot required it.

Talk all you like about the product. What you say may sound very odd to me; I may blink in surprise at the cool thing I apparently did without noticing, or wonder exactly what novel you read, but in the end “the book” is the product of a chemical reaction between the words on the page and the contents of the reader’s head, and I only control one half of the ingredients. The contents of my own head, on the other hand, do not belong to the reader, and so I would prefer that reviewers phrase any speculation as speculation. Don’t be the guy who went around telling people what Ursula LeGuin “intended” with the Earthsea books. Don’t presume to speak for the author. If I’m going to bite my tongue and not tell you how to read my work, don’t tell me how I wrote it.

Not *again*.

Dear Book:

I hate you.

No, really. We’ve gotten to that stage of the writing, the stage where I really just want to light you on fire. It happens almost every book (except for the rare ones that just sail straight out of my head — of which you are SO not one), but this time, I really, really mean it. Why? Because I just figured out that I could solve about 90% of my pacing problems . . . by moving your start date back three months.

This falls into the category of “annoying change” rather than “major seismic upheaval,” since most of what I have to do is change the dates on scenes. But that’s about 100K worth of scenes I have to re-date

FUCK I just realized that doesn’t work.

Because there’s a scene that has to happen on a specific date, and that specific date is before what I thought would be the new start date. But there are other events that have to happen on other specific dates, and SON OF A BITCH I HATE YOU.

<beats head into desk>

Never again, people. Never again. I am so very done with this historical fiction thing, where I can’t just decide when stuff happens because history says otherwise. I’ve been doing this for four books, and I will never subject myself to it again*.

I’m sure I’ll find a way through this. But it is going to cost a lot of pain and suffering along the way. (It already has.) And right now, I kinda want to light the book on fire.

No love at all,
Your Writer.

*Of course I’m lying. It’s like childbirth. In a few years, when I’ve forgotten the pain, I’ll probably decide this is a good idea again. But right now, I mean it.

museum (shop) gripe

Why is it that, without fail, museum shops never have the thing I want to buy?

I’ll go through an exhibit and there will be some painting or sculpture or artifact or whatever that just charms me or blows me away, and when I get to the museum shop, I begin an eager race around the room, wanting to take some memento of that piece home with me . . . but there’s nothing. No print of the painting. No postcard showing the artifact. Nada.

The worst offender in my memory was probably the touring exhibit of The Lord of the Rings films. I walked out of that thing prepared to buy anything, man — replica costumes, replica weapons, replica jewelry, you name it, I would have bought it, because seeing the craftsmanship of the props up close had impressed me so much I was ready to pay for a cheap knockoff of my own. Instead they had some hoodies, some jewelry not from the films, a bunch of books, and that was about it. The incident sparking this post was my visit to the Asian Art Museum’s Shanghai exhibit yesterday: among the works showing how Shanghainese artists experimented with combining western and traditional Chinese techniques, there was a giant wall scroll depicting plum blossoms in moonlight, and it was stunning. The brushwork of Chinese ink painting, and the play of light and shadow of Western art; it wouldn’t have looked as cool on a postcard, probably, losing the vibrancy of the real thing, but I would have bought it as a way of sparking my brain to recall the original.

Nope. No dice.

The Impressionist exhibit at the Legion of Honor had a neat thing set up on a computer screen in their shop: you could pick a work of art, pick a size, pick a frame, and have a custom print shipped to your house. Awesome — except the selection of works you could do this with was tiny. (And, naturally, didn’t include any of the ones I really liked.) I do understand there are practical limitations on producing memorabilia of everything in an exhibit, but my batting average on this is abysmal. The things I like are never the ones chosen for reproduction. Oh museum shops, why do you hate me so?

People get paid for this crap?

I don’t know what it is, but within the last year or two, the synopses on the Apple movie trailers site have just become abysmal. Not so much in content — though a few of them are irritatingly content-free, leaving me with no sense of what the film is about — but style. A sentence from the synopsis for Lovely, Still: “What begins as an odd and awkward encounter quickly blossoms into what appears to be a romantic late life love affair that takes us on a heartfelt and wonderful journey which takes an unexpected turn.”

Okay, seriously? The first thing that caught me was the repetition of “takes,” which made me notice they had this whole daisy-chain of subordinate clauses, plus you’ve got that “appears to be” (what, is it actually a CIA plot? a behavioral experiment by a psych student? a dream in the head of an old man in a nursing home, that he’ll wake up from at the end?) cluttering up your sentence, and gahhhhhhhhh. Not to mention the tendency in these things to tell me how heartfelt and moving or thrilling or hilarious or whatever the film will be, which really makes me want to hit the writer with a raw fish, because if you tell me that, I automatically disbelieve you. And don’t get me started on the hideous cliches that get deployed in some of these things.

I don’t know where they get them from, but I hope to god it isn’t the marketing department for the films themselves. It would be appalling to think the people who pour months or years of their lives into making a movie would pay somebody to promote it so badly.

Memes that AREN’T so good

So this meme goes around, where you plug in a sample of text and it tells you who you write like.

I give it four selections from the prologue of Midnight Never Come and get four different results, ranging from Dan Brown to James Fenimore Cooper. I roll my eyes at the uselessness of the meme and move on.

Then nojojojo links to this post, which points out that <sigh> yet again it’s the same old carnival of white guys, with a tiny number of white women (and Jewish men) tossed in for “variety.” Sure, it’s a stupid meme, who really cares — except some of us do care, because that’s a problem that gets iterated over and over in other places, and it got old a long time ago. (Especially the responses the guy gave when called on the homogeneity of his list.)

THEN, just to thicken the plot, Jim MacDonald at Making Light points out that the meme results come with advertising for a well-known (and well-criticized) vanity press. Yes, folks, this appears to be a promotional tool for a scam.

So. What started out looking like a dumb meme turns out to be sketchy from several different directions, quite apart from its failure to carry out its supposed purpose in an effective way.

Meh. Give me more Old Spice riffs, please. This one was broken from the start.

Edit: It appears that the promotion of the vanity press came after the meme took off. Still. Not cool.

In which the Cat preaches it, again

Cat Valente on Lost:

But here’s the thing, guys. If you don’t want to get tarred with the SF brush, you don’t get to play with our toys, either. That means you do not get any of the following exciting action figures: monsters, immortal beings, time travel, alternate universes, glowcaves, Egyptian mythology, electromagnetic magic, insta-healing, psychic powers, Dark Lords, Lords of Light, magical touched by an angel fatecakes, teleportation, mystical islands, or bodily possession. Get your sticky hands off them–you’ll only break them. Make a sitcom and shut up, if you want to howl about not being SF. Make a gritty procedural. Make Thirty-Something, I don’t know. But don’t make an SF show and then prance around telling everyone it’s SUPER REALISTIC while trying to conceal your painful giant quantum rabbit erection. You can’t trot out all those shiny SF baubles and then refuse to develop them or treat them seriously.

And while we’re on the topic of TV and not respecting stuff? I’m at a point where I would like to ban all shows from touching the topic of sf/f community, including but not limited to: comic book fans, LARPers, Renfest folk, players of video games, and anything else of a remotely geeky stripe. Just leave them alone, TV people. You don’t understand those groups, and what’s worse, you don’t want to understand them; you just want to toss them in because you’ve decided to do an episode about people who are totally detached from reality and can’t keep their non-fantasy lives in balance with anything else. And you’ve decided we are those people. Kindly piss off, leave the geeks out of your police procedural or whatever it is you’re making, and stick with things you actually have respect for.

It’s not what Cat was ranting about, but it was on my mind, so I decided to kill two birds with one ineffectual blog post. After all, that’s what the internets are for.

reasons for leaving Facebook, longer version

Here’s the visual version, showing the recent expansion of information not only to your friends, but to your networks, to all of Facebook, and to the entire Internet.

The good news is, Facebook won’t be doing much more to undermine your privacy — because they’ve already decided to show just about everything to just about everybody.

The graphic is a representation of the information from this EFF article. Wired has more generalized discussion of the issues with Facebook, and Business Insider gives 10 Reasons to Delete Your Facebook Account. If you decide to do that, though, read this, because Facebook uses just about every trick short of outright lying to prevent you from actually deleting your account.

I’ve never given Facebook much private information; the furthest I went was to list my schools and graduation years, my marital status, and a few interests, none of which are particular secrets. But Facebook, unlike (say) LJ, allows for — sorry, let’s update our terms, is actively taking steps to facilitate — organized mining of that data. This bothers me on three fronts.

First, I can control what data I post about myself, but I can’t control what data my friends post about me. And while this is true of the Internet in general, on Facebook, any photo tagged with my name is automatically and unambiguously connected to me, in a way that I cannot avoid. Also, changes have made it such that I’m not just sharing that info with friends, and with Facebook-the-company, but with everybody who develops an application for them. Do I trust all of those people?

Second, this is a cynical violation of the principles on which Facebook was founded. After years of saying your information would be private, visible only to friends (thus encouraging you to submit a lot of it — after all, isn’t the point of the service to share news with your friends?), now the founder is claiming that our society’s privacy standards have changed and he’s just keeping up with the times. We all totally want to live our lives in public on the Internet, right?

Third — most offensively — this is opt-out, not opt-in. Facebook did not ask me, “would you like to share these pieces of information by connecting them to these public pages?” It said, “You’re now going to share all of this! Or you can pick individually.” And then I had to manually deselect every single item, because I didn’t get a “no, thanks” option. Given the way Facebook has implemented changes, I have no certainty at all that I’ve successfully kept myself out of that loop, because they bury the “stay private” options as deeply as they can — when they even provide them. Sometimes the only way to stay clear is to completely delete information about yourself: you can no longer have private “likes.” You either have them, and they’re auto-linked to public pages, or you leave them blank. So much for sharing private info with friends. To use the service now is to use it for all the Internet to see.

Which is faintly annoying when it’s just a matter of me listing, oh, music as a hobby. But what if you’ve listed “gay marriage rights”? Or “abortion rights”? Or something else politically sensitive? Now your activism is visible to your boss (who maybe voted Yes on 8), and to people who maybe like harassing activists like you.

There are more details in the articles I’ve linked, but those are enough for me. The value I get from Facebook is marginal: yeah, I’ve connected to old friends from high school, etc, but we’ve done nothing more than connect; I haven’t struck up conversations with them. The signal-to-noise ratio of my news feed is so abysmal I don’t even bother reading it most of the time. I hate the layout of the service, and as for the applications, they’re time-wasters I really, really don’t need.

And I don’t feel like continuing to patronize a service that behaves this badly, even if the actual damage to me is likewise marginal.

video games as art

Link from jaylake: Roger Ebert on why video games can never be art.

I’ve got a lot of respect for Ebert, but in this instance I think he fails signally to construct a rigorous argument for his point, even as he’s taking apart Santiago for the same failure.

I could go through his article responding line by line, but that would produce an incredibly long and rambling post, so I’ll try to just hit the central points. First off, he dings Santiago for “lacking a convincing definition of art.” Given that no one has yet managed to come up with a truly convincing definition, that’s a bit unfair. And indeed, he immediately follows that criticism by asking, “But is Plato’s any better?” Okay, so he recognizes the contentious nature of definitions in the first place — but then the rest of the paragraph is spent on his own definition, which at the end, boils down to taste. Art is the amazing stuff. Everything else is . . . something else.

He clearly means “art” as a category of quality, rather than anything structurally defined. Which is an approach I fundamentally disagree with. To pick the simplest way of pointing out the flaw of that argument: Ebert says video games aren’t art (and won’t be) because none of the examples he’s seen impress him. But I guarantee you there are movies that do impress him which would bore me stiff, while there are video games I consider artful. The message I take away from his argument is that my opinion doesn’t matter; only his does, and people who agree with him. And that’s why quality as the delimiter of “what’s art?” is a bad way to go.

More ways in which he’s wrong . . . .

a question

What is it with the writers of Dexter and incompetent female police lieutenants who only got their jobs for political reasons?

LaGuerta lied to earn her promotion, flirts with her subordinates, allows her a priori dislike of another female officer to hamper the progress of an investigation, and generally has the sole redeeming professional quality of being a media darling. It wouldn’t bug me so much if her replacement were an improvement, but no — Pasquale’s even worse. Granted, the chief of police is a jerk who makes plenty of his own mistakes, so it isn’t like women are being singled out as bad leaders. But the ep I just watched had the chief saying Pasquale “set back women in this department by twenty years,” while the only alternative the show has yet offered me is LaGuerta.

And the only other female cop shown in detail is Debra Morgan, who is sometimes so stupid and clueless and clumsy in her interactions with people that I want to kick her in the head. (Seriously, Debra — you’ve been a Miami cop for how long, and yet your Spanish is worse than mine?) Yes, she sometimes does things successfully, and so does LaGuerta — but it feels like those things happen despite the characters’ manifest incompetence at basic aspects of their job.

I’d like there to be one woman on the police force, in a leadership position or otherwise, who’s decent at her job the way that Doakes and Angel and Masuka are. The men’s character flaws don’t make me question their fitness for the job. And given that women in male-dominated fields generally have to be more competent to earn respect and promotion, the scenario Dexter presents me with feels all the more implausible.