Posts tagged with "discussion" - Faerye Net 2010-08-24T13:33:41+00:00 Felicity Shoulders What is the purpose of blog comments? 2010-08-24T13:33:41+00:00 2010-08-24T13:35:05+00:00 <p>A while back, Ryan mentioned to me that he may remove the capacity to comment from his blog, <a href="" target="links"></a>. This rocked my world. No comments? But blogs have comments! It&#8217;s a universal constant! Okay, so I exaggerated there. Sure, I&#8217;ve seen comments-disabled posts, often on touchy or personal matters, on otherwise comment-enabled blogs. And I&#8217;ve visited a few blogs with no comment system. It tends to have a more&#8230;austere feeling. Like a museum, rather than a tearoom. Comments invite you to stay a while and have a scone. No comments? You are invited to move along to the next exhibit.</p> <p>Ryan tends to think things through, so he had plenty of arguments against the necessity of comments <em>for his blog</em>. His blog is increasingly about technical matters. I pointed out that people like to discuss these matters, and he pointed out that they are welcome to do so by e-mail or on twitter. If their comment is longer than 140 characters, he pointed out, they&#8217;re welcome to post it on their own blog and send him a link. Obviously, he has a point.</p> <p>Different blog spaces carry different necessities. I read a fair amount of social justice blogs, like <a href="http://racialicious" target="links">Racialicious</a> and <a href="" target="links">Feministe</a>. Part of their purpose is discussion &#8212; lively at times &#8212; and to provide a space dedicated to hashing out issues, often nominally or actually &#8220;safe&#8221; for those participating. Many major blogs of this type even have &#8220;open threads&#8221; from time to time, where the management offers no guidance on what the commentariat should mull. Obviously, these blogs are part forum.</p> <p>But my blog isn&#8217;t like that. I am glad it&#8217;s not. Writing a social justice blog means setting yourself up as an authority and giving yourself a certain responsibility to keep up with and comment on current events. That&#8217;s admirable, but it&#8217;s not the path I&#8217;ve chosen in life. I&#8217;ve chosen to be a fiction writer, which means a certain amount of dreamy detachment is part, parcel, perquisite and peril of my vocation. Some of my blog posts ask for audience participation, but some of them don&#8217;t.</p> <p>I can see some arguments against comments in general. Where the commentariat is largely people one knows, there is a sort of social pressure. If I post good news, do you have to publicly f&ecirc;te me? I like congratulations as much as the next person, but I don&#8217;t want to make anyone feel they <em>must</em> pipe up. (I&#8217;m the sort of person who tends to send off-list congratulations to on-list good news, so obviously I&#8217;m a little weird about the dynamic of clapping people on the back in front of a crowd.) In other cases, I&#8217;ve heard people talk about the social pressure of commenting &#8211; someone you don&#8217;t know or barely know comments on your blog, so you feel you have to comment on theirs.</p> <p>This brings me back to the responsibilities of blogging: I don&#8217;t want to ever be in a position where I <em>have</em> to blog about something. If something dreadful happens in the world &#8211; which happens all too often &#8211; I usually feel that my perspective on it is redundant, if not useless. I may feel stunned and wordless. Political bloggers and social justice bloggers seem to have a socially mandated duty to speak on current events. I never want to be there. Neither do I want to be committed to post everything of a certain sort in my own life &#8212; every time I make a pie, for instance (I guarantee you, while it makes useful filler here and there, that I don&#8217;t post every pie I make!). There&#8217;s too much speaking for speaking&#8217;s sake in the world. That isn&#8217;t a call for seriousness, by any means: anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am chock-full of nonsense. What I am advocating is sincerity. Don&#8217;t blog if you don&#8217;t feel it. Don&#8217;t comment if you don&#8217;t want to (and if you do want to, don&#8217;t feel constrained!)</p> <p>And if you do want to respond to something, I hope you have the space or make the space. Ryan&#8217;s point that would-be commenters can post on their own blogs is well taken. Even in the forum-like bustle of large social justice sites, people take a step back into their own spaces and respond there. A long comment may not get much attention when it&#8217;s attached to someone else&#8217;s work. On your own blog, it has the chance to breathe, to be read on its own merits and for its own sake. Much of what we want to say in the world is a response: to someone else&#8217;s speech, yes, or to our own lives, our own experiences, to nature or culture. Maybe it would be silly to start a blog just because you wanted to comment on someone&#8217;s post and comments were locked. But maybe it will happen again, and again. Maybe you should have, if not a blog, a text document on your own computer. Even if you don&#8217;t need or want anyone else to hear, hearing yourself is vital and healthy.</p> <p>Maybe I&#8217;ll close down comments on a post here and there. I experimented with this on the most recent <a href="" target="links">update</a> on my upcoming story. Just the facts, ma&#8217;am, and no meaty topic for discussion. But upon reflection, I&#8217;ll be keeping comments open on most posts here. I like the idea of putting out tea and biscuits for all comers.</p> <p>This blog&#8217;s purpose has shifted over the years. When I began, I hoped to share a few silly anecdotes, but mostly give myself room to write and hear myself. I needed a place for words and creativity in a life that didn&#8217;t otherwise hold that space. Now my life fully inhabits those spaces, and the blog serves to share &#8212; my news, my nonsense, things that make me laugh, delight me, or make me think. It&#8217;s my blog, but I need to believe you&#8217;re a part of it. I&#8217;ll definitely be keeping comments, but I&#8217;m glad to have considered the question. Rethinking and questioning keeps blogs, as well as people, healthy.</p> On Genre, Part II: the future of genre 2010-02-28T17:15:02+00:00 2010-02-28T23:16:15+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve been trying to write adequate responses to the fabulous comments I&#8217;m getting on my first post in this series, <a href="" target="links">a very brief manifesto</a>. And, as I rather feared, my responses are growing into blog posts. So here we go.</p> <p><a href="" target="links">Eric A. Kugler</a> writes in <a href="" target="links">his comment</a>:<br /> <blockquote>I think the problem comes down to the human need to label and package everything and put it into its proper place. Genre is simply a way for people to keep track of stories. The literary is simply another genre to those of us who simply read books, rather than publish them.</blockquote></p> <p>To an extent, I agree. Genre is quite artificial, relatively recent, and obviously confining. I do believe the current &#8220;literary novel&#8221; is a genre in itself. Witness my <a href="">&#8220;literary is a genre&#8221;</a> tag here, and my <a href="">literary-is-a-genre</a> shelf on Goodreads<sup class="footnote"><a href="#fn1">1</a></sup>.</p> <p>I wouldn&#8217;t suppose, however, that literary <em>isn&#8217;t</em> a genre in the mind of those who publish books. I very much believe it is. Because genre is about marketing. Genre is a way of classifying books so that you can sell them more readily. While I haven&#8217;t read a history of genrefication, I&#8217;d imagine it&#8217;s a consequence of the number and diversity of books that existed, say, in the mid-twentieth century, widely distributed. Some system for determining which titles were of interest to which readers was a public good. A system for telling a reader who enjoyed <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9781439132838'><em>The Puppet Masters</em></a> they might like <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780441172719'><em>Dune</em></a> probably seemed logical, even helpful to the consumer (as well as to the publisher.)</p> <p><img src="/media/StarWarsMoviePoster1977.jpg" alt="The 1977 Star Wars movie poster" title="Star Wars poster" align="left" /><br /> Genre, we all know, isn&#8217;t just a category on a library&#8217;s card catalog. It&#8217;s a way of marking things. Covers with rockets or exploding spaceships, in the 1950s and today, mark a book as science fiction. Look at the original poster for <em>Star Wars: A New Hope</em>. If you&#8217;d never seen that movie, you&#8217;d know the genre instantly, from a dozen details (including those that don&#8217;t entirely represent Princess Leia as she appears on film.)</p> <p>So genre allows a product to reach its desired audience, the publishers sell books, what&#8217;s the trouble? Two sources of trouble to start with. In another comment to my first On Genre post, <a href="" target="links">Philip Palmer</a> writes &#8220;there’s a tendency to assume that labelling the genre of the piece is a black &amp; white/either-or process. But most novels belong to <span class="caps">SEVERAL</span> genres.&#8221; The strict genre system serves these novels poorly, as it does books which are hard to place firmly in any genre at all. When you use marketing to shape readers&#8217; expectations, betraying those expectations is a bad idea. So you may end up with frustrated readers who bought the cover and don&#8217;t like the book, or a great book may languish unpublished or poorly marketed because it didn&#8217;t fit neatly.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780802142108'><img src='' style='border: 0px' title='More info about Broken for You at (new window)' align="right" ></a><a href='' rel='powells-9781565129771'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-left:5px' title='More info about A Reliable Wife at (new window)' align="right"></a> The second big problem, I&#8217;d say, is that &#8216;literary&#8217; has become, as we said above, a genre. Maybe it wasn&#8217;t in the mid-20th century, but now it is. While it&#8217;s more subtle than an exploding spaceship, I can tell you without having read the two books at right that they are the same genre. I could have found a much closer match if I&#8217;d looked further. Why is &#8220;literary&#8221; being a genre a problem? Because &#8220;literature&#8221; is also a pursuit and an ideal. &#8220;Literature&#8221; is a laudatory term, and having a genre name that&#8217;s a value judgment is a disaster. Just try discussing whether U2 makes &#8220;rock music&#8221; with someone who hates U2 and thinks &#8220;rock&#8221; is a laudatory term. It also has to do with marked/unmarked status, I think, but that discussion&#8217;s too big to add into this already epic post.</p> <p>&#8220;Literary&#8221; has two meanings: One, high-minded, pursuing the act of writing as an act of art, trying to increase understanding and beauty in the world. Two, realistic or occasionally surreal, written with attention to language, telling a story that could happen, using a minimum of adverbs. The confusion of the two is poisonous, and leads to moments like the one I touched on in my <a href="" target="links">first genre war post</a>, when a young English teacher told me that &#8220;science fiction isn&#8217;t literature.&#8221; He didn&#8217;t think science fiction was high-minded and artistic (except when he did) so we stood there, me listing work after work whose merits he could not deny: <em>Brave New World, 1984, Lord of the Rings</em>; and he insisting these <em>were not science or speculative fiction</em>. This is exactly what another of the commenters, <a href="">Casey Samulski</a>, noted: &#8220;&#8230;a critic will retroactively reclassify something as &#8216;not SF&#8217; when it has reached a certain status, thinking it impossible for the two to inhabit the same space.&#8221; Circular logic, faulty thinking.</p> <p>I said then, as a teenager (even though at the time I believed that by this age I&#8217;d have a doctorate in paleontology and only be writing science fiction on the side) that one of my life goals was to take some bricks out of that wall, the wall between the literary and the science-fictional.</p> <p>There is good news about that wall. While Margaret Atwood did, as Philip Palmer notes in <a href="" target="links">his comment</a>, say some abrasive things about science fiction, she does <a href="" target="links"> admit to writing &#8220;speculative fiction&#8221;</a>, which is a distinction even <span class="caps">SFF</span> grognards might make. Michael Chabon&#8217;s stunning <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780007149827'><em>The Yiddish Policemen&#8217;s Union</em></a>, which I lauded <a href="" target="links">here</a>, joins other works by him in receiving praise and readers from both sides of the wall. He seems to embrace both sides of his literary heritage. More and more, the surreal and the speculative is creeping into the &#8216;literary&#8217; mainstream. While there are aspects of this I find troubling and appropriative (more, perhaps, on that later), it may be, as a very smart friend of mine (an academic and spec fic fan) has predicted, that the Hemingway/Carver era of literature is at an end, and only the speculative can ask the questions literature wants to ask next.</p> <p>I&#8217;d like to tie that possibility back into my discussion of genre as marketing earlier. You&#8217;ll notice that the situation has changed a lot since the days of the simple genre division and the rocket on the cover. We have even more books, even more widely available. In spite of <a href="">tax codes in the U.S.</a>, we have a <a href="" target="links">Long Tail</a> of books still being sold that were published decades ago, as well as new books coming out all the time. The publishing world seems largely to be adjusting to this by continuing to <a href="" target="links">split</a>. We have more subgenres now, like urban fantasy (tattooed woman with weapons on the cover), literary science fiction (trade paper back, abstract cover), et cetera. The mix of small categories and large can be confusing to consumers &#8212; while I won&#8217;t link it, I recently saw a reader complaining that there were &#8220;too many female writers in sci-fi&#8221; because when he clicked on &#8220;sci-fi/fantasy&#8221; he saw mostly urban fantasy covers.</p> <p>I&#8217;d argue that it&#8217;s time to move away from genre and subgenre, even in an economic sense. They may still be useful if we make them less restrictive: as Philip Palmer points out, novels can have many genres. Sure, let&#8217;s label books, but let&#8217;s not put them in exclusive parts of the bookstore, segregated by shelf. I&#8217;ve waxed rhapsodic about <a href="" target="links">folksonomy</a> before, so I&#8217;ll keep it to a minimum here, but tags add information instead of reducing scope. Tags are freeform and encourage creative thinking. Lets use genre and subgenre as tags, not categories.</p> <p>Which brings me to my final point. People are always talking about the effect of the internet on publishing, but often in terms of physical books vs. digital media. I have to care about that because I hope to have my own books published in the future, but I&#8217;m more interested in how the internet will affect how we choose and discuss books (which in turn affects marketing). I am a member of <a href="" target="links">LibraryThing</a> and <a href="" target="links">Goodreads</a>, and I am delighted by the rich social exchange over books that I see on those sites. I can see what my friends are reading, what they think of it, read reviews they&#8217;ve written. I can get a sense of people&#8217;s tastes, how well or poorly it aligns with mine, and let that figure in to <a href="" target="links">how I choose books</a>. It&#8217;s not about genre. It&#8217;s about the individual reader and the individual book. Publishers do use the individual book in marketing &#8212; look at how many books have covers reminiscent of <em>Twilight</em>&#8216;s admittedly beautiful cover design &#8212; but I hope that in the future they&#8217;ll do so even more. The information readers can add to the system &#8211; tags, reviews, personal recommendations to friends &#8211; is precious.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780765319470'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px' title='More info about this book at (new window)' align="left" ></a>Marketing&#8217;s never going to go away, as long as it works. (And it does work. I wanted to buy <em>Indigo Springs</em> as soon as I saw that cover, though I suppressed the urge until I met and liked the author, too.) But I hope in the future, restrictive definitions of genre &#8212; and especially value judgments based on it &#8212; will take a backseat to a web of preference, similarity and serendipity.</p> <p>Serendipity and possibility have always governed my reading. That&#8217;s the feeling that makes me tingle when I walk into a <a href="" target="links">vast bookstore</a>. The knowledge that half<sup class="footnote"><a href="#fn2">2</a></sup> the books I love are in the Yellow Room and half in the Blue? That makes me feel something too, but it&#8217;s definitely not a tingle.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn1"><sup>1</sup> I have put books in this category which I feel guilty for shelving so: I can&#8217;t help but feel that Dickens, and even Fitzgerald, shouldn&#8217;t be drawn into a fight that is rather after their time.</p> <p class="footnote" id="fn2"><sup>2</sup> This is figurative. I don&#8217;t know actual percentages, and I love a fair number of nonfiction books too.</p> On what I read and when 2010-02-07T22:20:14+00:00 2010-02-07T22:21:06+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m planning, tho&#8217; it&#8217;s February, to blog about my two favorite books of 2009. I found myself about to confess my love of an award-winner from several years ago with the words &#8220;I&#8217;m a bit late to this party&#8221;. But I can&#8217;t really apologize for being a late reader with any sincerity, since it&#8217;s something I don&#8217;t plan to change.</p> <p>My list of books to read, housed at <a href="" target="links">Goodreads</a> and <a href="" target="links">LibraryThing</a>, is well over 200. Those lists, while they capture all the recent additions, probably miss a few books tucked on shelves that I&#8217;ll &#8220;get to eventually&#8221;. I have a daunting, delicious heap of books to read, many of them already made manifest through the cunning use of <a href='' title='' rel='powells'>Powell&#8217;s</a> gift cards. Therefore, I&#8217;ve a natural reticence about adding to the list.</p> <p>It usually takes more than one &#8216;strike&#8217; for a book to get added to my list, unless the strike is a doozy (recommendation comes from great authority, I need an audiobook and it&#8217;s on the library shelf, et c.) I wait for a general impression to accumulate: people whose taste I tend to share say &#8216;yea&#8217; (often I couldn&#8217;t even tell you who by the time I get the book), it&#8217;s a Powell&#8217;s staff pick, the blurbers are writers I admire, the premise is interesting, and so on. The thing about my accumulation system is that it takes a while. Rave reviews when a book is fresh don&#8217;t count as much with me, subconsciously, as continued mention a few months down the road, and even my early-reading pals take a while to work through a book and share their opinions. I don&#8217;t tend to buy new books, or even put them on my list.</p> <p>This puts me at odds, I think, with Jo(e) Q. Public, and even with my younger self, who counted her allowance money and waited with anguish for the latest Mercedes Lackey book to come out in paperback. My reading is more erratic and my choices more eccentric these days, but it&#8217;s making me happy. I very seldom read a book in paper that doesn&#8217;t, at very least, entertain me. My delayed reading system probably contributes quite a bit to that.</p> <p>That doesn&#8217;t make it any less embarrassing, though, when my favorite books of 2009 were published in 2007 and 1988, and my 2008 picks were the <a href="" target="links">2000 Booker winner</a> and a <a href='' title='Mrs. Dalloway at' rel='powells-9780156628709'>masterpiece from 1925</a>.</p> <p>Do you read a lot of new releases? How long is your list?</p> Book organizing 2008-10-21T21:55:54+00:00 2008-10-21T22:04:21+00:00 <p>&#42;dusts off website&#42; &#42;evicts family of pigeons roosting in blog software&#42;</p> <p>Greetings from Portland, where two industrious humans and one cat (slightly less lazy than usual) are unpacking and reassembling their home. Also trying to keep at least part of it from disappearing under the resultant layers of empty cardboard and crumpled newsprint, but that&#8217;s another story. The big story here is that for the first time in recorded history, Ryan has more books on shelves than I do. Yes, the man who was storing his books largely in artistically arranged stacks (don&#8217;t knock it, I&#8217;ve seen it done very beautifully by the French) has an entire bookcase full of the beggars. Whereas the woman who used <a href="" target="links">LibraryThing</a> to tag her books with the number of the box they were packed in&#8230;has 14 in a tiny Target bookshelf. Ooh, and the Millennium Edition of <em>Lord of the Rings</em> sitting flat on another shelf.</p> <p>So book-arranging has been under discussion. Ryan, in the course of getting other people to go to <a href="" target="links">Ikea</a> to buy this now-full bookcase, made it clear that my books should stay away from his books (like beets from mashed potatoes) because our systems are different. I like mine alphabetized by author, and he recoils in horror from this idea (like the average human from beets). His mom (in the &#8216;other people&#8217; going to Ikea) says she does hers by topic, then by size within topic. Ryan said this sounded about like what he does, though he conceded my point that having books by the same author together made sense. However, so far, looking at his bookcase, I don&#8217;t see that author-grouping occurring much. Here are the <a href="" target="powells">Complete Aubrey-Maturin Novels</a> next to a glossary for the Aubrey-Maturin novels&#8230;good call. On the next shelf, two non-Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O&#8217;Brian together, next to two Jonathan Lethem books, next to a Brust novel which isn&#8217;t next to any other Brust novels. Well, it&#8217;s a stand-alone, isn&#8217;t it? But still in the Dragaeraverse&#8230;then there are the random sprinklings of Heinlein. I don&#8217;t really get it. You&#8217;ll have to ask him. But it appears that taller books are on the sides, which I guess is pleasing to the eye.</p> <p>Which is (at last! Your patience is rewarded!) the point of this blog post. I had never thought of using book size as the organizing precept within each shelf of my library. When Ruth first said the words, I had to blink to reorder my universe, as if she&#8217;d said she organized her books by color (which I hear used to be pretty common). It made me wonder if my system seems as odd to others. Here is how I organize my books:<br /> <ul><li>One shelf of &#8216;fawncy&#8217; books (collector&#8217;s editions, rare-ish editions, leather-bound, otherwise pretty). I&#8217;ve kicked a few borderline books off this shelf when it got too crowded. Points for being beloved as well as beautiful, or for sentimental value. This shelf&#8217;s arranged to look nice, with a preponderance of slipcovered editions on one end.</li><br /> <li>The rest of my fiction books, regardless of target audience age, alphabetically by author, then by title except within series.</li><br /> <li>Fiction anthologies, themed then general, alphabetical by title.</li><br /> <li>Poetry books, alphabetical by author.</li><br /> <li>Poetry anthologies. I don&#8217;t really have enough to have a rubric. Don&#8217;t hurt me, poets!</li><br /> <li>Nonfiction. Ah, this is the question. Right now, it&#8217;s alphabetical by author. But doesn&#8217;t topic make more sense? I used topic originally, so there must have been some good reason why I changed. When in doubt, consider libraries. <em>They</em> use topic for non-fiction. But then I end up trying to decide whether to put pterosaurs before or after dinosaurs in the paleo section, and which possible segue book to use. Maybe I should get a labelmaker and use the Library of Congress system.</li><br /> <li>Exceptions: oversize/art books, bottom shelf. When I had franchised novels, I put them all together alphabetically by franchise (under &#8216;S&#8217;. Yes. I mean those. Those, too.)</li></ul></p> <p>Obviously, I&#8217;m open to changing how I shelve nonfiction. I am also still struggling with the question of drama, which in my case is 90% Shakespeare (the Shakespeare:drama ratio is even higher than the paleontology:nonfiction ratio. I have at least two complete works and massive piles of individual plays.) I have been shelving it as fiction, but perhaps it needs its own section, cuddling up to poetry, since it is, after all, largely Shakespeare.</p> <p>This entire system was implemented in high school. Before that, I used a system of vague feelings. I read constantly, and reread constantly, and relied on my long searching browsings of the shelves (to decide what to reread next) to refresh my impressions of the current state of the shelves. So, if I had a sudden desire for a specific book &#8212; say <a href="" target="links"><em>The Midnight Folk</em></a> &#8211; I would stand in some fairly clear patch of my bedroom floor &#8211; possibly balancing awkwardly, if the clear patches were far apart &#8211; and summon the physical memory of the book, the picture on the front, the color of the spine, until I remembered where I&#8217;d last seen it. This was possibly good for the mental muscles and may count as meditation, but it was an odd book-organization system.</p> <p>How about you? How do you organize your books? And if you are Ruth or Ryan and I have grossly misstated your system, feel free to abuse and disabuse.</p> Water and film 2008-08-14T11:31:34+00:00 2009-12-15T23:20:55+00:00 <p><strong>Spoiler Warning:</strong> <em>This post contains extremely mild spoilers for</em> Dark City, <em>medium-sized</em> Batman Begins <em>spoilers, and sizable spoilers for</em> Signs <em>and</em> The Wizard of Oz. <em>I will put a friendly bold phrase after the spoiler paragraphs are done, for your skipping pleasure.</em></p> <p>I watched the Director&#8217;s Cut of <em>Dark City</em> yesterday. The movie was already splendid, but the Director&#8217;s Cut was more or less flawless.</p> <p>I was struck by the fact that the Strangers are afraid of water. This sounds familiar, so I started cataloging all the adversaries in film that are similarly afraid of water. I only got as far as the grays in <em>Signs</em> and the Wicked Witch of the West, but I feel certain there are more. In <em>Dark City</em> it&#8217;s particularly intriguing because the adversaries have a conflicted relationship with the human psyche. Sadly, I could not refer to von Franz&#8217;s <em><a href="" target="links">The Interpretation of Fairy Tales</a></em> as it went in the first box of books I packed, but in it von Franz says that water in fairy tales represents the unconscious (which in Jungian theory is not just the forgotten and suppressed psyche, but the part of the psyche that contains the richest creative potential and which we must embrace in order to be whole Selves.) This makes sense if you consider water as a source of fear for the Strangers, and in fact water&#8217;s central role in the imaginative life of John Murdoch.</p> <p>One of the writers of <em>Dark City</em>, David S. Goyer, also worked on <em>Batman Begins</em>, in which the villains try to use the water which connects the people of Gotham to drive them mad. It&#8217;s almost like they&#8217;re trying to poison the Collective Unconscious!</p> <p><strong>No worries!</strong> I try not to go crazy with the Jungianism, in general. It can be, as von Franz admits, just a way of &#8220;replac[ing] one myth by another&#8221;. But you all know I love water &#8211; water <a href="" target="links">in the ocean</a>, water <a href="" target="links">falling from the sky</a>, water <a href="">running headlong off a basalt bluff</a>. It&#8217;s interesting to think what place this necessary element, this harbinger and nurturer of life, holds in our collective imagination. It&#8217;s beautiful how the tropes of old hold true in our modern myth-making.</p> <p>Any other hydrophobic movie villains to add to my list? Other movies whose waterways make for interesting musing?</p> "Better because it's true" 2008-07-04T10:48:40+00:00 2008-07-04T10:49:33+00:00 <p>A few months ago, I spent a lot of time hanging around big-box bookstores. I visited the local Borders and B&#38;N daily in hopes of surprising my <a href="" target="links">first published work</a> on its first shelved day. The local Borders was more convivial and boasted more clearance racks of stationery, so I lingered there longer and noticed that there were two major genera of employees. One day, every counter would be occupied by listless, asymmetrically-coiffed young men with pendant chins; the next, by cheery middle-aged women with long hair and an ineffable air of library.</p> <p>It was one of these latter beings, friendly though they seemed, that shocked and distressed me. Standing in line one day, I listened to the woman at the counter chatting about books with the soccer mom before her with such loquacity that it gave you hope for the brick &#8216;n&#8217; mortar bookshop. The customer, recognizing a font of literary enthusiasm when she saw it, asked for recommendations: light, funny reading.</p> <p>The bookseller immediately launched into an elevator-pitch for a book she&#8217;d just read about an eccentric family, &aacute; la <em>Royal Tenenbaums</em>. As the customer obligingly chuckled, she finished, &#8220;I simply loved it, and it&#8217;s a memoir, so it&#8217;s better because it&#8217;s true!&#8221;</p> <p>Gentle reader, I gaped. Perhaps this underlying value statement is more than evident given the publishing world&#8217;s memoir obsession; perhaps you even agree with it on some fundamental level. But for this fictionist, the implicit statement that the same work would be a &#8220;good&#8221; novel and a &#8220;great&#8221; memoir was chilling.</p> <p>Is this true? And if so, why? There may be greater artistry involved in making a truly compelling narrative without breaking the bounds of personal history. But surely that lack of inventive liberty is balanced by the artistry necessary to create such a narrative out of whole cloth. Why is the book not its own achievement, to be judged on its own merits, on the world between its pages?</p> <p>Is the act of reading different if the reader believes the narrative to be reported fact? If the reader were not told until the end whether the book were memoir or novel, would her &#8220;star-rating&#8221; change upon hearing? And if so, what does that mean for our enjoyment of books &#8211; that we use them as artifacts, not just art; that we are unduly influenced by the biography of the author? Or does it simply mean we expect less of memoir?</p> <p>There are plenty of issues raised, many questions around the primacy of memoir in today&#8217;s writing market. Many of them, I hold, would benefit from the attention of fictionists as well as of nonfictionists. But I will stop this ramble here for now, and ask: do you agree with the Borders lady, reader? Is a satisfying, rollicking good read <em>better</em> if it&#8217;s true?</p> "Burgerdroid" discussion thread: SPOILERS 2008-05-18T18:25:39+00:00 2008-05-30T14:43:12+00:00 <p>If anyone still wants to discuss my story, &#8220;Burgerdroid,&#8221; which appears in the June 2008 issue of <em><a href="" target="links">Asimov&#8217;s Science Fiction</a></em>, I am opening up a thread for discussion <a href=";parentid=2218#2218" target="links">as requested here</a>.</p> <p>Please observe the following provisos: spoilers are fine within the text of your comment, but please refrain from spoilage in the title of the comment so as to spare any unspoiled produce reading the &#8216;Today&#8217;s Comments&#8217; page. And, umm, I can&#8217;t think of any more provisos, so&#8230;&#8221;Burgerdroid&#8221; does not have a space in it, so there! Spell accordingly!</p> Compartments 2008-05-07T21:50:33+00:00 2008-06-09T15:20:14+00:00 <p>So upon reflection and discussion, I&#8217;m really quite indecisive about what divides, if any, to forge between my professional life on the internet and my footloose bloggery on the faeryenet. Ryan, the man who manages to mix videogame reviews, rants, and paens to pie with his coding offerings and opinions on <a href="" target="links"></a>, thinks my entire mental framework is outmoded. The idea of &#8216;personal&#8217; versus &#8216;professional&#8217; web presences, he would have it, is more or less gone. And I&#8217;ll admit, since I didn&#8217;t pseudonym up this blog, he may have a point. Regardless of whether I think some coy non-linking and non-use of keywords and a separate domain is a conceptual bright line, the average intertronner probably does not see or care about that line.</p> <p>So what is gained by pretending? I&#8217;m not sure. Perhaps the sense of consequence-free play that gave rise to <a href="" target="links">Justice Man and the Lure of Milk-Bones</a> and <a href="" target="links">Master Taco</a>. If I think &#8216;serious&#8217; readers or, goddesses forfend, <em>editors</em> might be looking on, would I feel so free to drivel at the mouth and overflow at the brainpan? Does my dim little bright line actually fool even <em>me</em> enough to allow such tomfoolery these days?</p> <p>And what&#8217;s at stake? Well, there are the unknowables. The people who might not want to be associated with me if they read, well, Justy. And there are the archives. By posting it, I said I was okay with it being known; but by making a part of my professional web presence, I&#8217;d be owning this as part of my writerly persona. I might have to go through the archives pruning things. That sounds daunting, and even possibly dishonest. But it also, to venture even further into alliteration, bears a resemblance to due diligence.</p> <p>So, opinions? I know EMeta, at least, has been frustrated by my strange and arcane attempt at compartmentalization. Lemme hear it, folks. Is there a line between personal and professional on the web? At least, when you&#8217;re non-anonymous and under thirty? Why did you choose what you chose?</p> <p><em>nota bene: whatever the outcome of this discussion, Faerye Net is due for a rehaul. Hopefully it should be shinier, more folksonomic, and more <span class="caps">RSS</span>-friendly quite soon.</em></p> Trade paperback original 2008-04-04T14:45:50+00:00 2008-05-25T19:57:44+00:00 <p>Being the slothful sort of person I am, I&#8217;m still working through a copy of <em><a href="" target="links">Poets &#38; Writers</a> Magazine</em> that my fairy godsister <a href="" target="links">Jeannine</a> gave me way back in December. It&#8217;s the January/February 2008 issue, for the record. I initially began reading it front-to-back (for the thoroughness), but set it aside after finding it to read a little doomy. <span class="caps">USPS</span> rate hikes doom small litmags to early graves! Historical fiction loved only for being nonfiction&#8217;s stepsister! Novel crushed under the wheel of Memoirmobile! At any rate, I closed its pages and planned a less thorough perusal centered on the main article, which promised to unlock the secrets of Literary Agents.</P> <p>Over the last few days, I have read all about Literary Agents, and, as is my wont, continued to turn pages. Soon I found myself reading, with great interest, an article called &#8220;Paperback Writer: Do I want to be one?&#8221; by Steve Almond. It was about the <span class="caps">TPO</span> trend &mdash; the Trade Paperback Original. </p> <p>Those of us who read a lot of comic books tend to think of TPBs as big convenient bindings of delicious CB continuity, unburdened of ads and flimsiness. However, this is only a niche truth. In the greater publishing world, a trade paperback is a fancy paperback, printed on good paper with a larger (and these days, often more texturally intriguing) cover than its &#8220;Mass Market Paperback&#8221; brethren. </p> <p><center><a href="" target="links"> <img src="" alt="A hardback, a mass-market paperback, and two tradepaper titles" title="Figure 1. What we're talking about" border="0"> </a><br /><em>Figure 1. spokesmodel Qubit poses with examples. Left to right: old-school mass market paperback by Roger Zelazny; my first tradepaper novel purchase (memorable by dint of sticker shock); a comic book industry <span class="caps">TPB</span> by the almighty Whedon; and a hardback for comparison. Hardback selected for textural richness.</em> </center></p><p>Thank you, Qubit. For some time it&#8217;s been obvious that tradepaper is getting better play in publishing than it used to. Only the most popular literary titles ever make it to mass-market editions these days, which I thought was a calculated effort to make more money: why put out a $7 edition when you can put out a $12 one? However, I may have been a bit naive.</P> <p>In Almond&#8217;s article, he discusses publishers&#8217; new habit of putting out books in tradepaper <em>first</em>, without recourse to hardcover. Apparently, many authors worry about this, since it does cut costs for the publisher and thus is seen as a vote of no-confidence in the title. However, advantages emerge: many more people buy copies at readings when the book is affordable (some even buy multiple copies; ) bookstores hang onto a paperback &#8220;six months, versus maybe three months for a hardback&#8221; says author Rishi Reddi.</p> <p>And then we got to the line that really prompted this blog post: &#8220;The author of six novels and three story collections, [Jim] Shepard was told by Random House&#8230;his 2004 story collection <em>Love and Hydrogen</em> would be published by Vintage as a <span class="caps">TPO</span> to woo younger readers.&#8221; We then pass onto more negatives, more authors feeling slighted and a probably legendary tendency for big reviewers not to review TPOs. But to me, this line was important. I remember, though I didn&#8217;t understand the larger industry context at the time, arguing with fellow readers over whether hardbacks or TPBs were a more pleasant reading experience. I like TPBs; the increased cover size means a thinner volume, more convenient for my omnipresent messenger bag than a mass-market paperback. They are lighter than hardbacks, and less likely to have embossed letters which show wear. I even like the way they sit on my shelf, the sleek way the Harvest Book editions of Virginia Woolf cozy up to each other in matching harmony. That elegant look may even tempt me to buy a <span class="caps">TPB</span> of a P.K. Dick or a Woolf book when a cheaper edition is available, so that it will match my other volumes.</p> <p>TPBs <em>are</em> cheaper than hardbacks. As a student-author-barista, I&#8217;m not a particularly hardy hybrid; I seldom plunk down hardcover price for a book I need for school, let alone one I want on a whim or at a reading. Mom says she saw a new hardcover for $36 the other day, which is a whole lot of bubble gum any way you chew. There is a possibility that the insertion of TPBs into the cycle is driving or enabling the rise in HB prices, but that doesn&#8217;t change the practicalities on the ground. Even at the more reasonable price point of <a href="" target="links">$22.95 for Murakami&#8217;s <em>After Dark</eM></a> in hardback, I&#8217;m waiting for the $13.95 paperback release in late April. After all, to a struggling grad student with access to the Powell&#8217;s used books inventory, $9 is another book; maybe more than one.</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;m the only one for whom this is true, and I think that young people &mdash; more likely to be carrying books around every day, to be students with long reading lists or generally cash-strapped &mdash; deserve more than a line of consideration in this discussion. The author descends at the end of the article into depressing doomsay: &#8220;As Americans become increasingly frantic, impatient and screen-addicted, the printed word becomes that much tougher to sell.&#8221; Auditors who tell him after readings that they really want to buy a book but can&#8217;t afford hardcover &#8220;do have enough money, of course. But they simply don&#8217;t view a book &mdash; even a book by an author they happen to like &mdash; as being worth more than fifteen bucks.&#8221;</p> <p> Young people, college students, artsy Portland hipsters with bad day jobs&#8230;they have many decades of book-buying ahead of them. You want them to buy books. You want them to read more. You want them to read <em>you</em>. TPBs tend to be beautiful; in my experience, as beautiful and sensuously pleasing as hardbacks, if not more. If you want people to keep buying the printed word, this is a good thing to do: make the physical object pleasing. Price it reasonably. We don&#8217;t just want to buy books cheap; we want cheap books so we can buy more books.</p> <p><font color="#333333"><em>I would love to hear others&#8217; feelings as readers (or as writers) about TPBs versus other formats of book. As I&#8217;ve indicated, I have a real fondness for them. How about you?</font></em></p>