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Posts Tagged ‘ranty’

Holy hell.

Facebook has shut down the group “People Against Racebending: Protest of the Cast of The Last Airbender Movie,” apparently on the grounds that its campaigning against the whitewashing of the movie constitutes being “hateful, threatening, or obscene [… or that it] attack[s] an individual or group, or advertise[s] a product or service.”

I’ve already got a lot of reasons for not liking Facebook. Now I have a new one. And while I don’t know for sure that the people behind the movie (Shyamalan or the production company or whoever) pushed Facebook to do this, it’s certainly the first and most likely possibility that springs to mind. Because that group’s been around for months, with over six thousand members. Something had to bring it to Facebook’s attention and insist it was a problem. And that something was almost certainly a someone — a someone with a vested interest in shutting down protest.

This? Is not. cool. For all the reasons that Hal Duncan outlines at that first link, and more besides. If anybody hears word of useful things to do in response, please let me know.

no more Ms. Nice Writer

I’ve gotten decidedly snippier with the queries I send to magazines when they’ve held my story for an unreasonably long time. These aren’t your everyday queries — “hey, Strange Horizons, you say to nudge you after 70 days, so I’m politely nudging” — this is the “hey you’ve had it for a year and I queried and you said you’d gone on hiatus (would have been nice if you told anyone that) but you’d have a response for me Real Soon Now but it’s been another three months since then” kind of query.

The really sad part is, I’m betting half the short story writers reading this post just thought, “I wonder if she’s talking about Market X,” where Market X could be one of a number of different ‘zines. I’ve actually sent out more than one of these queries lately. Which is a really depressing statement on the lack of professional behavior to be found in some corners of our field. I know that precious few editors out there actually do this as a job, and I cut very large amounts of slack for that; a market pretty much has to have a regular response time above six months before I’ll consider them “slow,” and all too often I let a year go by before I actually get annoyed. But when you do things like putting your magazine or anthology on hiatus without informing the people in your slush pile (or even announcing it anywhere other people might see), or ignoring polite queries for months on end, or continually promising results you don’t deliver . . . eventually, I do lose patience.

And it’s started to show up in those late-stage queries. I’m not rude — at least, I try not to be — but I’m less forgiving. I’ve been burned a little too much lately by editors jerking me around to cut anyone endless slack anymore. I’m confident enough in myself now to say I have better things to do than waste my time on this kind of crap.

Not confident enough that I haven’t second- and third-guessed my decision to post this, but hey. I haven’t named names, and I think we do need to occasionally remind ourselves that not everything is reasonable. When I start having to specify what year a story got submitted in, things have gone too far.

your daily dose of gender rage

Cat Valente (yuki_onna) is on a roll at the moment, first with a splendid jab at the gendering of deodorant marketing (men get Science! women get Squishy Feelings!), and then with a right hook that takes down Super Bowl commercials.

Pretty much all I have to say is, right on. This is why I hate watching TV as it airs; this is why I stay away from sitcoms and comedic movies in general. Because they present me with this awful, appalling world of Bitchy Women and Immature Men and How They’ll Never Understand One Another, and then they ask me to find it funny. And not only do I not find it funny, I don’t want to. I look at the world they’re trying to sell me, and I hate it.

Amazon vs. Macmillan: my verdict

The part behind the cut is going to be long and somewhat arcane, but if you want to know some of how the sausage gets made — just what’s going on with ebooks and Kindles, how pricing gets determined, and why Amazon’s strategy is problematic for the industry (let alone the petulance of their tactics) — then read onward. Outside the cut, I’ll point you at the response from Macmillan’s CEO, and the more belated response from Amazon’s Kindle Team (dissected by anghara). If you read only one other thing on the topic, it should be John Scalzi’s magesterial (and highly amusing) analysis of how Amazon failed, because his post is about the tactics, and why they were such a resoundingly bad idea. The rest of this will be about the strategy, the behind-the-scenes stuff that explains why so much of the publishing industry is up in arms against Amazon.

Macmillan may not be the good guy, but they’re the better guy in this particular war.

a brief note on the Amazon thing

Short form, for those who haven’t heard: Macmillan (publishing conglomerate that includes, among other companies, Tor) allegedly told Amazon (you know who they are, I imagine) that they wanted to price their ebooks at $15, and Amazon, in refusing to cooperate, has stopped selling Macmillan’s books. Not their ebooks; all of their books. As in, right now you can buy the Wheel of Time used from third-party sellers, but not from Amazon.

Oh, and undoubtedly this has to to with the iPad thing — Macmillan is one of the corporations that struck a deal with Apple for the iBookstore.

Cory Doctorow has a good analysis of what that means, and I think it’s a good analysis even if you’re not usually on board with his copyright agenda (as I’m aware many people aren’t). Shorter Cory: Macmillan’s $15 thing is dumb, but what Amazon did is a hell of a lot dumber, and either way it’s like two bull elephants going tusk-to-tusk while the rest of us, the writers and readers, get trampled underfoot. This is the consequence of the conglomeration of publishing, and it really isn’t a good thing.

Lots of other people have commented. John Scalzi here and here, Jay Lake here and here; also Jim Hines, Cat Valente, Janni Lee Simner, others I’ll undoubtedly see when I open up my Google Reader, and more besides.

At the moment? I’m waiting for more information. Nothing’s certain at the moment, not even that the pulling of the books was done by Amazon rather than Macmillan (though it seems very likely). Lots of authors have pulled the Amazon links from their sites. I haven’t done that yet, mostly because a) there are a lot of them to pull and b) we don’t have the full story yet; I’d be pissed if I went to all that work only to learn something that paints Amazon in a better light. I’m not real optimistic about that, mind you, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to wait another day or two. Once I know for sure what’s up with this, then I’ll make my decision.

But I gotta tell you, Amazon’s done some kind of craptastic things in the past, and adding this one to the list does more than put a bad taste in my mouth. As Jay says, what they appear to have done isn’t precisely wrong — they’re within their rights to decide which products to stock — but the implications of it are deeply troubling. Amazon isn’t just a retailer; they dominate the audiobook market, and have been trying to lock down the ebook market, in ways that aren’t good for any of us. They’ve tried before to use that weight to strongarm publishers into doing things their way (insert industry neepery here, of a lower-profile sort), and if they succeed, we’re all going to lose.

Things to make you chew on the walls

Back in September of last year, I wrote a post for SF Novelists about the Bechdel Test. Well, a few days ago I came across a post — don’t remember how I found it — from Jennifer Kesler, written in 2008, about why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass that test.

Short form: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

(Which is a direct quote from either a film-school professor or an industry professional — it’s not clear from the context who said it.)

There’s a lot more where that came from; follow the links in the posts, and the “related articles” links at the bottom. Like this one, in which Ms. Kesler relates how her screenwriting classes instructed her that “The real reason […] to put women in a script was to reveal things about the men.” For example, the female characters have to be attracted to the male lead in order to communicate that he is a babe magnet and therefore worthy of being admired by the target audience, which is of course male (and straight).

Ms. Kesler eventually quit screenwriting, not because nobody around her wanted to do anything other than straight white men’s stories, but because the machine is so finely tuned to crush any attempts to do otherwise. Criticize Joss Whedon’s gender depiction all you like — there’s plenty to chew on in his work — but never forget that Buffy was seven seasons of a show with multiple interesting female characters, who regularly talked to one another about something other than men (or shoes). How many other creators have managed to get anything comparable through the industry meat-grinder? And apparently one of the rationales behind canceling Firefly was that it rated too highly with women. You see, advertising slots aimed at women go for cheaper than those aimed at men, which meant Firefly brought in less revenue for Fox. So off it goes.

Because the female audience doesn’t matter. We’re talking about an industry where a WB executive can say that he isn’t going to make movies with female leads anymore, because they just aren’t profitable enough. (Sorry, I lost the link for that quote. Mea culpa.) An industry where they can write off Terminator and Alien as non-replicable flukes. Where they look at the droves of women who flocked to The Matrix and conclude, not that women like action movies too, or that Trinity appealed to them, or even that they wanted to look at Keanu Reeves, but that they were accompanying their boyfriends or husbands. Where they look at the failure of, say, Catwoman, and instead of swearing off Halle Berry or the director or the committee of six people who wrote the script — instead of saying, “hey, maybe we should try to make a movie that doesn’t suck” — they swear off superheroines. Because clearly that’s where the error lies.

There’s no particular point I’m trying to arrive at, here; the topic is a kraken, and all I can do is hack away at a tentacle here, a tentacle there. And try to feel good about the fact that at least the situation in fiction isn’t a tenth so dire as it is in Hollywood. (One of the most valuable things that came out of the intersection of my anthro background, my interest in media, and my professional writing is that I became much more aware of how texts are shaped by the process of their production. I wish more criticism, of the academic variety, took that into account.) Anyway, read ’em and weep, and then look for ways to make it better, I guess.

signals that deserve boosting

Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border.

Watts’ own account of the incident.

Here’s the thing. In the various comment threads on the many posts advertising this incident, you will find people popping up to make the inevitable argument that Watts probably brought this on himself, not by actually assaulting anyone (the charge), but by not being sufficiently respectful to the border guards.

And that attitude is, quite simply, part of the problem. Because it says we have to knuckle under, not ask why we’re being detained, not question authority, not demand the basic right of knowing what’s happening to us. Last time I checked, though, that is not actually how our laws work. Even if Watts was disrespectful, that isn’t a crime. Cops even get training in how to cope with people getting up in their faces, without resorting to violence, because punching and kicking and pepper-spraying someone is not an acceptable response to being shouted at, or called an asshole. But rent-a-cops don’t always, and given the growing tendency to outsource these jobs in America, I won’t be surprised at all if these guards turn out to be contractors — who seem to be statistically more likely to get drunk on their own authority.

Authority which goes only a certain distance, and no further. So telling us we should bow down when it pushes pasts its bounds, and it’s our own fault if we get punished for being mouthy, only reinforces their bad behavior.

Even if you can’t agree with that, then agree with this: that turning a guy out, at night, into a winter storm, without even his coat, isn’t an acceptable response to anything.

If you’d like to donate to his legal defense, details are at the first link. Either way, the more noise gets made about this, the more likely it will be picked up by news outlets, which means we’re more likely to get proper investigation into the matter and maybe steps taken to make things right. We can hope, anyway.


And after that last post?

Two e-mails have shown up in my inbox, advertising Black Friday special offers. Granted, for online shopping rather than some doors-open-at-midnight riot, but still.

Reminds me, too — I need to get myself taken off those lists.


It occurs to me that it’s more useful to post this today than two days from now.

I’ve condemned Black Friday before. This year, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden at Making Light does it way better than I can, focusing on Wal-Mart and the company’s persistent refusal to institute measures that would decrease the frenzy and protect both customers and employees.

It isn’t like this takes them by surprise, people. That post documents a four-year history of injuries and property damage, hospitalizations and crowd violence that takes police to shut them down. And there are well-defined methods of reducing that risk.

They do not include tossing laptops at the crowd like t-shirts during a rock concert.

When your employees are making statements like “They trampled each other for ’em, […] It was great,” then something has gone horrifically wrong. Wal-Mart’s corporate masters create and feed the mob mentality, because it benefits their bottom line. But the cost to the rest of us — including their employees — is sickening.