Tag Archives: self-publishing

Why Amazon Getting the Snot Kicked Out of It Might Be the Best Outcome For Self-Publishers

There’s a contract dispute going on right now between Amazon and Hatchette, one of the “Big 5” publishers.  Lately, there has been some increasingly outsized rhetoric by people in the writing world, with some people trying to frame Amazon or Hatchette as the good guy and the other as an evil evilling evil monster.  I’m not going to link — Google if you must, but you’ll probably come away with a headache.

I don’t feel I know enough about the issues under dispute to have a firm opinion on what the outcome should be or whose tactics are more underhanded than whose.  From what I know I will tentatively say that I think it would probably be a good thing for the book market as a whole if Hatchette is able to (at least mostly) stand its ground against Amazon, but I’d be willing to be convinced otherwise on that.[1]

But one thing that’s happened lately is that a few voices in self-publishing have spoken up to plant self-publishers firmly on the side of Amazon The Glorious Let Us All Love Amazon, with Hatchette painted as the Reader-Hating Author-Trampling Hellhound, Slavering to Mash the Poor Book Industry in its Fanged Jaws.

I’m not sure quite what I think on this dispute, but I’m pretty damn certain it’s not going to be that.  Most things, in my experience, have a bit more nuance to them.

But here’s the crux of what I wanted to address here: I see self-publishers saying that others calling for boycotts of Amazon will disproportionately hurt their incomes (since most self-publishers make the majority of their sales through Amazon).  I see self-publishers complaining that others don’t understand how important Amazon is to self-publishers and that we all need to appreciate this fact more.

But I think Amazon taking it in the chin here would ultimately be better for self-publishers — for all authors and publishers, actually.  Oddly, I think that would be good for us regardless of whether they’re in the wrong.  To be clear: I’m not saying they should be punished if it turns out they were all rainbows and sunshine this whole time and just had horribly bad PR; I just see them being dinged as being ultimately beneficial to self-published authors rather than detrimental.

Yes, Amazon did a lot of really cool things with disruptive innovation that helped self-publishers.  I’m a HUGE fan of disruptive innovation!  I think it’s awesome.  I’m on record as saying that I think people should ALWAYS adapt new business models to changing technologies rather than try to restrict or destroy them — for instance, the answer to television piracy isn’t “sue people into oblivion,” it’s Hulu.  I love it when people do shit like that.  I loved the ideas Amazon had from the outset — I was going around telling people it would succeed when the stock price was a nickel and everyone said it was going to go bankrupt the next year.  And I love a lot of what Amazon did to help catapult the ebook market into existence.  (I don’t like other things it did in doing so, of course, as that is the nature of life — I’m bound to agree with some things and not with others — but I like a lot of it.)

Amazon has done a lot of cool things.  It’s also done a lot of shitty things, both as regards ebooks and not.  It has some shady business practices.  And it’s out for its own self-interests.  The fact that it’s done a lot of cool innovation in that self-interest doesn’t make the innovation any less cool — but, you know, it also means I’m not about to give Amazon much of my own personal loyalty.

And the fact that I think Amazon has done some really cool things doesn’t change the fact that it scares the shit out of me.  My impression of Amazon is that it is unrelentingly competitive: it weakens and gobbles up other markets and does its absolute damnedest to be the only game in town.  It’s like the Blob.  It wants to absorb the brains of everyone in the world and then control as much of the market of everything as it possibly can.

(Google scares me in much the same way, but at least Google’s PR machine has done a much better job of convincing me it would be a benevolent dictator, which probably speaks well to their PR.  Still doesn’t mean I want either company to take over the world.)

What happens if Amazon gains 80, 85, 90 percent of the book market?

I don’t know.  I don’t want to know.  I don’t think any other authors or publishers want to know, either.  I don’t think it would be good for any of us.  Because Amazon’s out for Amazon.

If people boycott Amazon because of the ongoing controversy — and let’s be clear, I am not advocating a boycott, nor do I think an effective one to be likely — then what happens?

Amazon isn’t much hurt much, really.  Most of what they sell isn’t books, and most people not in the book world probably don’t know or care that this is happening.  The biggest ding from any boycotting will happen in book purchases.  Yes, that might hurt self-publishers in the short term (though it may, assuming people are buying equal numbers of books, help independent bookstores on the other side — which I consider a good thing but may understandably be of cold comfort to self-publishers).  But it also potentially gets book buyers onto other platforms.

The more readers are on a diversity of platforms, the better I feel about my future as a self-publisher.  The more viable retailers there are, the better protected I feel by the competition among those retailers for a slice of my book sales.  It becomes an environment in which, I believe, the publishing atmosphere can better remain a viable one for self-publishing in the long term.  (And remember, much as Amazon helped self-publishers, they did not invent self-publishing — it exists independent of Amazon, and I wish it existed more independent of Amazon.)

Anyone with near-total control of the ebook market could easily make self-publishing into something people make hobby money off of only.  Heck, there’s been plenty of rhetoric in self-publishing already that making a little hobby money is better than not being published at all.  And I see this sort of thing happening in my other industry (movies) already: people are so desperate to work that they’ll sell themselves for almost nothing.

Like I said, I don’t know enough about the actual terms under dispute between Hatchette and Amazon to have an informed opinion on them.  Maybe Amazon’s being unreasonable.  Maybe Hatchette is.  Maybe (far more likely) they both are, and the situation’s all sorts of complicated and they’re both using underhanded tactics and authors are caught in the middle.

Here’s what I do think: whether in this dispute or any other, whether the other guy is more evil or not, it might be an overall good thing if Amazon’s book market share were to be disrupted.  Even if it were to mean fewer sales for self-publishers in the short term.  Because I worry about my ability to sell my books over the long term, and I can’t see how Amazon getting more and more of a stranglehold on the ebook market is a good thing for any of us.

I’m not urging anyone to have an opinion on the Amazon/Hatchette issues that they don’t hold.  By all means, hold whatever opinion you have after reading through the issues (or, like me, hold no firm opinion!).  I’m also not trying to suggest that people looking at what’s best for THEM should necessarily be the driving force behind what they think the outcome here should be.  But I do think people should re-think the rhetoric that any hurt to Amazon is a hurt to self-publishers — I, for one, suspect that the exact opposite is true.

  1. I have no particular love for Hatchette, by the way — they’re probably the most anti-free data, pro-DRM of the Big 5.  My concerns are more broadly how this is going to affect the book industry, authors, and other publishers.

Fun with Numbers: 1066

I went to get a mailbox last week for my self-publishing venture, and the employee let me choose my own number.  Math nerd that I am, I stood there for a solid ten minutes looking at the bank of mailboxes and figuring out which number I would prefer.

1729 would’ve been my first four-digit choice, but they didn’t go up that high.  The obvious choices like 1024 were taken.  I started scrolling through this site, looking at what interesting mathematical qualities each of the open mailbox numbers had.

And then I spotted 1066.  Damn.  That was the one.

The Historical

When I told my friends I chose 1066, they immediately said, “Normandy?  Why?”  After rolling my eyes at having such smarty-pants friends, I explained that it wasn’t the Battle of Hastings per se that I was into, it was the Bayeux Tapestry.  Ever since I studied it in art history, something has tickled me about the Bayeux Tapestry — as a piece that has been so remarkably preserved, as a piece of craftsmanship so grand in scope, as a piece of such extensive narrative storytelling — and I just get a kick out of it.  I’ve never seen mention of anything else like it in the art world.

And I always associate 1066 with the Bayeux Tapestry.  So there was that.

The Numerical

From the “What’s Special About This Number?” list, the following happens to be true about 1066:

2\phi(n) = \phi(n+1)

Since I’ve done some work with the totient function before, and since it gets a shout out in Zero Sum Game when my main character is hallucinating (yes, she hallucinates math, what else would she hallucinate!), that seemed rather perfect.

The Historical / Mathematical / Personally Significant

There’s this game called 24.

I first learned it with cards.  You set out four cards, and you try to use each of them exactly once and end with a result of 24 (with the face cards being worth 11, 12, and 13).  So, an ace, a three, a five, and a jack could form (11 – 5)(1 + 3) = 24.  If you’re the first person to come up with a working combination, you win that round.

Some people claim the rules say you can only use addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.[1]  I think it’s FAR more fun — and more challenging! — to allow any operation.

Anyway, I’m addicted to this game.  I play it solitaire-style with anything that has four numbers.  Like license plates when I’m stuck in traffic (CA plates have four numbers and three letters).  Or dates.  And 1066 is one of my favorite 24 combinations ever:

(6 - (6^0 + 1))! = 24

Boom.

I liked that solution so much that I put it in a story I wrote when I was in high school.  In the story, the character couldn’t remember what happened in the year 1066 — only that it was “something important,” and that the combination of the digits to make 24 was a cool one.

So, there you have it.  1066 became my new mailbox number.

  1. I know some people claim this, because they’ve tried to disqualify my creative solutions!

Ebook Formatting Woes: Remember Trying to Be Compatible With Netscape? Yeah, That.

My book is done and has been going out for review this week (if anyone wants an eARC, let me know!), which means I am finally through the formatting process.  And, let’s see — do I still have any hair left?

Not because it was all that bad, mind you.  On the whole, the formatting process was reasonably painless — I used Guido’s excellent guide, and I have good knowledge of HTML and CSS already, which made it much easier.  The reason it was so frustrating was that it ended up literally impossible to get perfect thanks to the differences between devices, and for a diehard perfectionist, this kills me.

I very quickly realized the best strategy was to format as simply as possible and make even the least bit of fanciness something that would degrade gracefully if it didn’t work.  But dear Lord, does anyone remember trying to design websites that would still be compatible with IE4 and Netscape Navigator?  I started designing in the late 90’s, when there was still a concern people would be using those godawful dinosaurs, and I remember wanting to put my head through a wall whenever there was that one thing that would break spectacularly in Netscape.  And even the latest IEs were only half standards compliant, so ninety percent of the time I would design a clean page that would open beautifully in Opera and Mozilla (yes, Mozilla — this was before Firefox, I’m old!) and then it would look like a Picasso in IE and I would have to write “if IE” workarounds for half the code because Microsoft couldn’t freakin’ design a browser that bothered to comply with the standards.

Coding for ebooks is almost worse, because as far as I’ve been able to find, there aren’t really workarounds or “if Sony . . .” clauses I can add if I want things to look a certain way.  It’s a good thing I’m down with simplicity anyway, and “degrading gracefully” became my mantra of the month.  But there were two things that had no good solution, and I am still incredibly bugged by them.

No Love for Paul Erdős

My book has a passing reference to the Hungarian mathematician Erdős, who has a double acute accent over the o in his name.  This has an HTML entity — ő — but it’s not a named one, and it broke for at least one of my formatting checkers.

What to do!  I appealed to Absolute Write, Twitter, and my RL friends.  Do I Anglicize his name?  (Ick!)  Do I use a common misspelling, such as the umlaut over the o?  (Also ick!)  Do I leave the character and accept that it will break for some people?  But — but — but my readers!

I ended up leaving the name spelled correctly — in my informal poll, about half the people thought I should Anglicize it (possibly with a note in an afterward) and about half the people said I should leave it, but nobody had terribly strong feelings and everyone agreed it was a hard choice.  What decided me was that if I had an ereader that didn’t work on the character, I’d still prefer the author spell it correctly, even if it broke for me.

But the fact remains that I have some readers that will see “Erd?s” in that paragraph.  And that freakin’ sucks.

Orphaned Em Dash: My Worst Nightmare

Amazon Kindle has a problem with orphaning em dashes that are at the end of a line.  In other words, if the line falls on the page in an unlucky way, “What do you mean, he’s —” would become

“What do you mean, he’s

—”

GAH.

(I don’t know enough to consider myself a typography geek, but maybe I would qualify as an armchair typography geek, and this makes me go into spasms.)

And there’s no solution!  The worst part is, HTML has a solution to this, a character you can put between the em dash and the word in all of those instances to make sure no break happens, but Kindle doesn’t recognize it.  And I sure as heck wasn’t going to put it in and risk having it pop up as a question mark on some devices.

Aaaaaand of course, in my book, I have one paragraph which, in the default font size on Kindle, orphans an em dash at the end of it.  Motherfucker.

(My friend laughed at me.  “Is this your worst nightmare?” she said.  “YES!” I cried.)

Now, I could alter the text of that paragraph, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problem — in other font sizes on other devices, this orphaning will still happen.  And I’m really stubborn about changing the text of a book to make the formatting work better.  That doesn’t seem right to me.

So in the Kindle default font size, there’s an orphaned em dash.  And I sit here, grinding my teeth, and can do nothing.

Kills me, folks.  Kills me.

Holy Mackerel Folks IT’S A COVER! Zero Sum Game HAS A COVER!

I never used to understand why people did cover reveals.  I mean, the book is going to be released anyway, right?  Won’t people see the cover then?

That was before I started working with the most kickass cover designer of all time, Najla Qamber.

That was before she built me a cover I love so much I just want to wrap myself up in it FOREVER and never come out.  I want bedsheets made out of this cover.  More importantly, I want to tell the world about it, because it’s SO RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME that I can’t help shoving it in people’s faces and saying, “LOOK HOW AWESOME THIS IS!  Forget the text of the book, buy it just to get a copy of the cover!”

So! I present to you! The cover of Zero Sum Game, the first book in the Russell’s Attic series:

Zero Sum Game

And if you need a book cover, for Pete’s sake hie thee over to Najla Qamber Designs.  You won’t regret it!

When On Earth Did Self-Publishing Become a CAUSE?

I sincerely do not understand this.

Self-publishing is a business decision.  Some books and authors will do better self-publishing.  Some will do better trade publishing.  Sometimes an author will do better trade publishing one particular book and self-publishing a different one.

Sometimes self-publishing might be a personal decision.  That’s fine, too!

But when—and why—did self-publishing become a cause?  Why is it something some people feel the need to evangelize and “convert” others to?  When did tearing down or looking down on trade publishers—or authors who choose to trade publish—become part of what some self-publishers[1] like to do?

I just don’t get it.  I really don’t.

Most, though not all, of my close writer friends are aspiring to trade publish, because they’ve determined that’s what will be best for them and their books.  I’m self-publishing, because that’s what I want to do with my books.  It just seems incredibly odd that I would go to one of my friends who wants (or has and is happy with) a publisher as a business partner and try to convince them that they’re wrong.[2]

Who am I do say that?  Why would I say that?  There are so, so many reasons to pursue one route or the other.

Not to mention that self-publishing is often a shit-ton of work and initial investment, if you want to publish at a standard comparable to trade, and that there’s the business side of things that a lot of writers just don’t want to tackle—I don’t know why I would automatically assume that anyone else would be up for that.

Of course, I do discuss self-publishing with friends and colleagues.  All the time!  We talk about the pros and cons.  We talk about the business side of it, and what it can involve.  You know, as you might do when you’re artists exploring any sort of business decision.  And yeah, we discuss the pros and cons of trade, too.  We talk about bad deals, or bad publishers.  Just as we talk about pitfalls one might run into self-publishing.  We exchange knowledge.  As you do.

But I see some people fly the flag of self-publishing as if it’s a religion they want to convert people to.  A religion.  Which, why! Not to mention that even if we were talking about religion—look, I’m totally fine with people being whatever religion they want to be (or no religion!) as long as it works for them and their life, and I love discussing religion and learning about other religions, but when people shove their religious texts in my face and tell me I’m doomed if I don’t subscribe to their beliefs—well, I’m not a fan of that at all.

Even if it’s the religion I belong to.  Especially if, as it makes the rest of us look bad.

  1. Not all self-publishers, of course!  But why is it even happening at all?
  2. Likewise, if one of my friends tried to hammer at me all the time about why self-publishing was the wrong way to go, I’d be more than a little pissed.

Links to Analysis Regarding AuthorEarnings.com

Because I am, apparently, incapable of keeping my mouth shut when it comes to certain things.

Like math.

Like bad math.

Like people using bad math to support their pet Cause when the data do not support those conclusions.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about: self-publishing evangelist Hugh Howey and a silent partner went and scraped a bunch of Amazon data.  That’s fine.  That could be cool, even.  But then they made a bunch of pretty charts and used it to bang their pro-self-publishing / anti-trade publishing drum, and wrote a whole lot of paragraphs next to the pretty charts as if they were Conclusions, when, in fact, those paragraphs were not in any way implied by the data collected.

This pains me in my mathematician heart.  And it makes me angry when people misinform aspiring authors this way.  Mr. Howey touts himself as an author advocate, but that’s not what this is.  These data do not support his “conclusions.”  To be fair, they don’t disprove his ideas, either; they just don’t really say much of anything.  And when Howey pretends that they do support him, he’s giving authors bad information.

I’m not saying all this because I’m anti-self-publishing (I’m not!  I’m doing it myself, in fact!).  But science isn’t about “sides.”  When talking about science or math, there shouldn’t be sides; there’s no “teach the controversy” or “we’ll let the people who believe Earth is flat have equal air time.”  Or there shouldn’t be.  There’s just what the data imply, and what they don’t.  And there’s absolutely no shame in saying, “I firmly believe in XYZ.  And I just collected a lot of data in the field . . . but unfortunately those data don’t support XYZ.  They don’t contradict it, either, but there are just too many limitations here, and too much we don’t know.  That said, I still believe my ideas on XYZ are right and that the data will bear them out eventually!”

There’s no shame in that.

But that’s not what Howey did.  He used the numbers to pretty up a dog-and-pony show that pretends to support his preconceived notions with data, and he posted a piece that is actively detrimental to anyone trying to cut through the obfuscation and agendas and learn about publishing.

Now, who wants MATH?  Have some links![1]

How (Not) to Lie With Statistics.  “[The authors of the report] make claims that the data cannot possibly support […] they do a lot of inferring that is analytically indefensible.” (emphasis in the original)  I highly suggest reading the whole thing.  It’s a very detailed and well-written analysis by someone trained in research and sociological methods, and it concludes, as I did, that these data do not imply anything like what Howey claims.

Some Thoughts on Author Earnings. “The failure to compare the model’s results to actual measurements before making pronouncements is a huge problem.”  Courtney Milan is an extremely successful self-publisher, so obviously she’s pro-self-publishing.  She’s also clearly incredibly knowledgeable about data analysis, and she points out a myriad of problems with the way these findings are presented, as well as also some possible discrepancies in the raw data.

The Missionary Impulse. “Sorry, Hugh.  There is absolutely nothing in your blog post that justifies that conclusion.  This is not the same as saying that your conclusion is wrong.  Maybe it’s right.  But if it’s right, it’s not because of anything — anything! — in your blog post.”  This makes many excellent points and comes with a context of a lot of details of the publishing industry (the author is a literary agent).  Once again, the conclusion is that the data do not actually allow Howey to make any of the extreme claims he’s making.

Digital Book World: Analyzing the Author Earnings Data Using Basic Analytics.  “For myself and others, I wish I had more optimistic findings that showed we could all share in an incredible gold rush, but the data are the data.”  This article makes a case that the data are actually entirely consistent with the site’s own (far more pessimistic) prior survey, and can’t be used to prove anything more extreme.  (Obviously it’s possible there’s a bias there, and I can’t comment on the DBW survey as I haven’t seen the full thing, but I think what’s said here is valuable and knowledgeable regardless, and I note that the author is exceptionally qualified at data analysis.)

Some Quick Thoughts On That Report on Author Earnings. “[W]hile the report gives the illusion of providing hard data, it appears to be as built on guesswork as anything else we’ve had.”  Steve Mosby also makes excellent points about the unique path a published book takes, and that this can’t be repeated with hindsight.

Edited to add: Comparing self-publishing to being published is tricky and most of the data you need to do it right is not available “Unfortunately, Hugh’s latest business inspiration — a call to arms suggesting to independent authors that they should just eschew traditional publishing or demand it pay them like indie publishing — is potentially much more toxic to consume.” Mike Shatzkin weighs in with a long list of other variables Howey’s report does not take into account.

 

Look, you can’t list a lot of numbers and a lot of pretty charts and then list “conclusions” next to them and say one follows from the other because they happen to be next to each other on the page.  Science doesn’t work that way.

The poor way these data have been presented only serves to feed the adversarial “us vs. them” mentality that (some) self-publishers and (some) trade published writers are for some strange reason so invested in.  Personally, I want to see that attitude go away forever.  It’s not productive.  It’s not helpful.  I wish to all that is holy that Howey had come out with this spreadsheet in a more professional way, an invitation to other people in the writing/publishing world to analyze the data and see what we might be able to learn.  That might’ve been nifty, a positive addition to the knowledge base.  Instead, by presenting it as part of such a massive load of bad math and misinformation, he’s only clouded the discussion even more.

That’s not good for anyone.  And speaking as a self-publisher, it embarrasses me.  False conclusions that are unsupported by data, written up in something that pretends to be a study but is anything but—it just looks desperate.  Self-publishing is all grown up now, and the people most responsible for stigmatizing us in the eyes of other writers and publishers are the self-publishers themselves who pull stunts like this one.

 

Comments are closed, as I don’t have time to babysit the blog right now and from what I’m seeing elsewhere this subject can be rather contentious.  I may reopen them later.  If you have something you feel would be a valuable addition to this post, feel free to send me the comment through the Contact page and I will post it here.  Be warned that I am only going to be prone to posting contributions of the dry academic variety on this one.

  1. Note that this list is, in order, a researcher who doesn’t write fiction, a successful self-publisher, a literary agent, a data analytics professional whose research is in digitization, and a trade published writer.  And I’m a math nerd who is self-publishing my fiction books.  The biases we’d be expected to have are all over the map, but like I said, science doesn’t take sides.

My Business Plan: Ninja Pirate.

It should come as no surprise to people who know me that I’m a huge fan of Creative Commons.  In fact, one of the primary reasons I’m self-publishing is so that I can publish under a Creative Commons license instead of under traditional copyright.  Specifically, I’m going to publish under a CC-BY-NC-SA license, which means:

  • People can pirate my book all they want, as long as (1) they’re not making money, and (2) they leave my name on it.
  • People are free to create fan fiction and other fan works on my writing, as long as they credit my book and license their own work the same way.
  • No one else is allowed to make money off my work except me (unless they make a separate deal with me).

In fact, I am so convinced that piracy will be good for my sales that I will probably try to seed piracy of my book myself (well, if I can figure out how to do that; I’ve never tried to make pirated copies of anything available before!  But it can’t be too hard, right?).  Since I’ll be enabling the piracy, it’ll be sort of like . . . stealth pirating on my part.

In other words, I will be a Ninja Pirate.

:D

(Yes, this entire post was a poor attempt to set up that punchline. I’m going to be over here in this other corner of the Internet now.)

Final Thoughts on the SFWA Thing, and Additional Linkspam

Final Thoughts on the SFWA Thing, in the Form of Other People’s Thoughts

For those who are getting news through my blog, Scalzi apologized in his position as president and editor Jean Rabe resigned.  That’s the latest official news I know of.  While talking about official news, however, I would like to note that SFWA does have an official statement on sexual harassment that was in effect when this article was published.

Jim Hines has a great list of links for those interested, but I shall make particular note of:

Ann Aguirre’s for how much sexism and misogyny are not dead (horrifying);

Mary Robinette Kowal’s for a heartbreaking perspective from someone to whom SFWA means a great deal;

Foz Meadows’ for a breakdown of why the column is so problematic (warning for language);

Laura Resnick, Mike Resnick’s daughter, doesn’t respond to the issue in particular but talks about sexism in SFF;

and Radish Reviews, the wonderful purveyor of the original scans, has a great roundup / summation, including links to the sexist reaction of a former SFWA president and a critique of Scalzi’s apology in the first comment.

Personally, I’m still waiting and seeing.  I want to see what SFWA does to come back from this going forward.

Writing/Publishing/Intellectual Property

Mark Twain’s hilarious, devastating critique of castigation of James Fenimore Cooper’s “Deerslayer.”  Oh, how I hated “Deerslayer;” I love that Twain agrees! Quote: “Now I feel sure, deep down in my heart, that Cooper wrote about the poorest English that exists in our language, and that the English of ‘Deerslayer’ is the very worst that even Cooper ever wrote.”  And people say negative reviews shouldn’t be written with entertainment in mind!

Trademarks.  Fascinating article on what they’re meant to do and how they work, legally.

Tor.com on their experience going DRM-free.  “As it is, we’ve seen no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year.”  What!  Shocking! </sarcasm>

Tobias Buckell on why 90 percent of the “knowledge” and advice about self-publishing is crap (with graphs!).

Gender/Race/QUILTBAG

We Have Always Fought: Kameron Hurley brilliantly challenges the long-held ideas about women throughout history.  This is the post that has inspired women all over the net to pop up calling themselves “llamas.”  Highly, highly recommended.

Liz Bourke, one of my favorite people on the entire Internet, wrote a follow-up to an article I had previously linked to (Sophia McDougall’s The Rape of James Bond) that I somehow missed.  She goes into even more depth about the statistics regarding male rape and the strange double standard in fiction that the rape of women is “necessary because REALISM” and the rape of men is . . . nonexistent.  (She has numbers.  Lots and lots of numbers.)

The Hawkeye Initiative succeeds in real life!  A touching story of challenging sexism in the workplace through humor.

Television Writing Staffs Are Still Overwhelmingly White and Male, Surprise!

Hollywood is remaking The Crow, and they want to cast a white guy.  Fucking Hollywood.

What Kind of Asian Are You?  *snerk*  Hilarious video.

The iNotRacist App!  Best.  Satire.  Ever.  (video)

For more satire: Sexual Abuse in the White Community

It’s Time to Retire “Boob Plate” Armor.  Because It Would Kill You.  (Tor.com)

Strong is the New Skinny.  Great article about pushing for healthier aesthetic expectations for women.

Wikipedia’s sexist categorization.

People are racist about a Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple.  Every time I decide to have faith in humanity . . .

A former Navy Seal came out as transgender.

Kelly Sue DeConnick on the crap she goes through as a female comics writer.  More of the same, folks.  More of the same.  Still worth a read.

Nerdy/Scientific/Environmental/Etc.

We don’t have a twin primes proof yet, but there’s a new proof that infinitely many pairs of primes come within 70,000,000 numbers of each other.  That’s AWESOME.  Seriously.  We’ve hit finiteness!  And apparently since the publication of the proof a couple months ago, the bound has been reduced to 5 million.  Closer and closer!

If you heard about the poachers who stole 10 percent of an entire tortoise species, here’s a sobering follow-up.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!  Scientifically Accurate Ninja Turtles (video) and Scientifically Accurate Spider-Man (video)NOT SAFE FOR WORK!!

Stunning graphical representation of why sharks should be more afraid of you than you are of them.

I feel like reading about obscure neurological conditions like this one should not be so fascinating.

Video of someone solving three Rubik’s cubes in six minutes . . . while juggling them.

And a few more links on Star Trek: Into Darkness, because I can:

Some hilarity from io9 that pretty much sums up how I feel about this movie.

All the plotholes and questions the movie failed to address.  Spoiler: There are a lot.

Could Benedict Cumberbatch really crush a skull with his bare hands?

The first Star Trek conventions were female-dominated.  I’m just going to leave this here.

Amazon To Sell Self-Published Fanfiction Tie-Ins Through Kindle Worlds

So, the corners of the Internet I frequent are blowing up this morning about Amazon’s announcement that they’re starting a marketplace called Kindle Worlds that is, essentially, a marketplace for fanfiction.  The rights holders of the canon must opt-in, of course, and royalties will be split between the fanfiction writer and the original rights holder (and, of course, Amazon).

Some people are going crazy with “OMG SELLING FANFICTION THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!,” but my first reaction is an almighty shrug.  After all, I grew up on Star Wars tie-in novels.  I have no objection to authors self-publishing original books, so why would I have an objection to authors self-publishing tie-in books, provided the rights holder has licensed them?  Which, in this case, they have.  In fact, this strikes me as a pretty good business idea, and I’m all about media conglomerates adapting to the changing world rather than throwing tantrums and stomping on people (cf. starting Hulu instead of suing college students into oblivion for downloading TV shows).

My initial reaction, therefore, was about equal parts, “So?” and “Hey, good idea on their part” (“they” being both Amazon and the rights holders who have opted in, which right now include Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and Gossip Girl).  I don’t think there’s any danger of Amazon trying to make opening a canon to Kindle Worlds non-optional for rights holders (they’d be pushing against too much cultural inertia for that), so this is rights holders saying, “Hey! We want to do this!” and fanfiction writers who choose to publish there saying, “Hey! We want to do this!” and everyone’s making money and I’m generally all about people having mutually beneficial agreements and making money together and being happy.  I personally feel no temptation to make use of it either as a rights holder, a writer, or a reader, but I’m all for people working out the publishing models that work for them.

But.  But . . .

Here are some concerns:

  • My chief concern here is whether rights holders—both those who opt-in and those who don’t—will see this as a reason to bring the hammer down on all the unlicensed, not-for-profit fanfiction and fan communities.  This isn’t a reason to criticize Kindle Worlds itself (unless they started encouraging such hammer-bringing), but I am concerned.  I suspect only time will tell.
  • For this reason, I’d rather the discussion be framed as “self-published tie-in novels and stories” rather than “legitimized fanfiction,” which is the term everyone seems to be using—because calling this “legitimized fanfiction” might tempt rights holders to draw the binary, “If we want to allow fanfiction we’ll allow it through Kindle Worlds and it’s NOT PERMITTED ANYWHERE ELSE.”  (Of course, the reason people are using the term “fanfiction” is that Amazon is using it quite eagerly, which does make sense as they’re trying to draw in fanfiction writers.)
  • Amazon’s terms seem to include the clause that the rights holder can use any of the ideas in a Kindle Worlds story without further compensation to the writer.  This seems like a spectacularly terrible deal for the writer.  It makes me curious what rights professional tie-in authors have—for instance, if they decided to film Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars books, do his contracts with Lucasfilm/Bantam/whoever entitle him to further compensation?  Personally, this release-of-rights clause would make me very uncomfortable, were I inclined to publish in Kindle Worlds.  (And to those who say, “Well, but the rights holders are letting them do this, they should have all the rights to it they want!”—no, that’s not how mutually beneficial contracts work; the writers are bringing something of value to the table too that the rights holders will be making money off of, and I feel it’s perfectly justified to criticize the contract terms they’re being offered.)
  • Speaking of contract terms, IANAL, nor am I at all well-versed in publishing contracts.  I’ll be looking out for what others have to say on the subject.
  • I hope this will not have a detrimental impact on fandom cultures (whatever that impact may be).  This concern is not a reason it shouldn’t be done, of course.

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Art & Me

By the time I was four or five years old, it was clear I had innate talent at visual art.  When other children were drawing stick figures with a line of blue across the top of the page to represent the sky, I was painting mountain landscapes and using perspective without ever having been taught.  Granted, at five years old nothing I did was good, but I showed enough promise to be placed in a gifted and talented program for visual art from the time I was in first grade.  Throughout elementary school I got to leave class to be taught all different types of media—pencil, charcoal, oil pastel, acrylic, clay, papier-mâché—and in between times I would carry around a sketchbook, drawing still lifes and portraits and landscapes and whatever else struck my fancy.  At the time I thought I would be an artist professionally.  (In fact, because my father had a Ph.D. and therefore I wanted one too, I decided I would get my Ph.D. in art, because a Ph.D. meant you were awesome at something.  And after that I would be President, of course.)

I continued studying art throughout middle school and into high school.  I was in a different town now, and my school had an excellent art program as an elective.  Even among a course load heavy with all the math and science I could squeeze in, choosing art as part of my studies was a no-brainer.

And then, somewhere around my sophomore year of high school, something happened.

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