(1) DOG DOESN’T BITE MAN. Can you believe it? Someone is not getting sued. His name is Wil Wheaton: “The library for Storytime With Wil just got a little deeper…”
For a few weeks (months?) I’ve been doing this silly and fun thing on Monday nights. I pick a random Choose Your Own Adventure book from my collection, and I read it on my Twitch channel, letting the audience make the choices for me…
So it’s pretty much a regular thing, now, and I seem to have settled upon 6pm Pacific time every Monday, unless there’s a Kings game or I have some other pressing engagement.
Anyway, I always point out that I am not doing this for money, and I don’t mean to infringe on Choose Your Own Adventure’s IP rights or anything like that. I always point out that I’d rather beg forgiveness than ask permission, and I hope that if CYOA ever stumbles upon my thing, they’ll treat it as free marketing and not a thing to throw lawyers at.
So last week, someone from CYOA emailed me … and it turns out a lot of them at the publisher are fans of my work, including my Storytime with Wil thing!! Not only do they not want to sue me to death, she offered to send me a care package, and it arrived today.
See what good things happen when, for a random example, you don’t raise half-a-million dollars on Kickstarter to turn a fan thing into a moneymaker?
A few people have mentioned they see this as an important cover, because it has a Black girl in a dress. That’s what I want to talk about. I didn’t realize when the cover was being designed (that’s my privilege), but this is the first time a big publisher has this kind of cover.
It shouldn’t be the first time.
The first time a major publisher designed a YA cover with a Black model in a gown, it should have gone to a Black author.
Again, me not realizing that hadn’t happened yet: that was my white privilege at work.
The fact that mine came first is a symptom of the problems in publishing, and who publishing is designed to work for. By the time I knew what was at stake with this cover and the timing, the model had already been hired and her photos taken. At that point, changing the cover would have meant telling a Black model that she couldn’t be on my cover because she’s Black.
I hope it’s obvious why I wouldn’t do that.
Dhonielle Clayton told me I should say all this upfront, but I resisted because I couldn’t think of a way to do that without seeming preemptively defensive or like I wanted a pat on the back. So I just didn’t talk about it. Now I see that was the wrong decision, because this hurts people. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.
Meadows also discusses a soon-to-be-published YA novel by a black author that will feature such a cover.
Some of the names involved in the Meadows story are also sources for Everdeen Mason’s recent Washington Post article, “There’s a new way for novelists to sound authentic. But at what cost?”, which reports how publishers are hiring “sensitivity readers… who, for a nominal fee, will scan a book for racist, sexist, or other offensive content.” From Mason’s article, it appears these readers are used most often for YA fantasy novels.
For authors looking for sensitivity readers beyond their fan base there is the Writing in the Margins database, a resource of about 125 readers created by Justina Ireland, author of the YA books “Vengeance Bound” and “Promise of Shadows.” Ireland started the directory last year after hearing other authors at a writing retreat discuss the difficulties in finding people of different backgrounds to read a manuscript and give feedback about such, well, sensitive matters.
One reader for hire in Ireland’s database is Dhonielle Clayton, a librarian and writer based in New York. Clayton reviews two manuscripts per month, going line by line to look at diction, dialogue and plot. Clayton says she analyzes the authenticity of the characters and scenes, then points writers to where they can do more research to improve their work.
Clayton, who is black, sees her role as a vital one. “Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they’re supposed to be escapist and fun,” she says. They’re not supposed to be a place where readers “encounter harmful versions” and stereotypes of people like them.
(3) WHO’S SECOND? The “America First, <yourcountry/etc here> Second” meme (explained in this CNN news segment) has inspired at least two fannish responses –
- Mordor Second
- Mars Second
(4) HE’S ON THE FRONT. Cool cover by Tom Gauld for the Guardian Review:
— Sarah Habershon (@SarahJHabershon) February 11, 2017
(5) ROUNDTABLE REMOVED. Apex Magazine has pulled the “Intersectional SFF Round Table” that Mia Sereno (Likhain) protested in an open letter to the editors quoted in yesterday’s Scroll. Jason Sizemore passed responsibility to those who packaged the roundtable, who also are “Likhain’s publisher” (bolded in the original as shown).
…One correction I need to make regarding Likhain’s email since this is a discussion she chose to take public rather than giving Apex a chance to respond. She says: “It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.”
This is not true. Djibril and Rivqa, Likhain’s publisher, invited Benjanun to be on the round table. The round table contains four other people with greater wisdom on what is and is not appropriate when it comes to intersectionality than I will ever possess: Cassandra Khaw, Vajra Chandrasekera, Miguel Flores Uribe, and Rivqa Rafael. Since they participated in the discussion I could only assume they had no issue including Benjanun. Djibril had no issue with Benjanun. Therefore, I felt it was okay to move forward.
In consideration to the concerns expressed by Likhain’s public post, our readers, and the counsel of several friends in the genre community, I have decided to remove the round table from our website….
(6) WHAT WATCH? James Gleick asks Guardian readers “Do we still need Doctor Who? Time travel in the internet age?”
Two generations of TV watchers have been schooled in temporal paradox by Doctor Who, and when one Doctor gives way to the next, as will happen in the next series, the reincarnation generates almost as much speculation as the royal line of succession. Who will follow Peter Capaldi? She will be a Time Lord, after all.
Nor does time travel belong solely to popular culture. The time-travel meme is pervasive. Neuroscientists investigate “mental time travel”, more solemnly known as “chronesthesia”. Scholars can hardly broach the metaphysics of change and causality without discussing time travel and its paradoxes. Time travel forces its way into philosophy and influences modern physics.
How strange, then, to realise that the concept is barely a century old. The term first occurs in English in 1914 – a back-formation from HG Wells’s The Time Machine (1895). Somehow humanity got by for thousands of years without asking, what if I could travel into the future? What would the world be like? What if I could travel into the past – could I change history?
(7) REVISITING AN OLD FAVORITE. Cat Rambo walks the razor’s edge between a fisking and a fond reading of the Doc Savage novel Quest of Qui in her latest blog post.
Cassy, in the process of shedding a box of Doc Savage novels, found out I loved them and passed them along. I remember Doc and his men fondly; while at my grandparents for a Kansas summer when I was twelve or thirteen, I found my uncle’s old books, which included a pretty complete run of the Bantam reprints and reveled in them for years to come.
I’m going back and rereading while making notes because I loved and still love these books; my hope is that I’ll start to notice some patterns as I move through the books and that I’ll be able to talk about pulp tropes, gender assumptions, reading fiction aimed at a gender other than your own, and writerly techniques in an entertaining and (maybe) useful way….
You’d think Doc would train himself out of that tell, but even the Man of Bronze has limits. An alarm clock rings and a knife appears from nowhere and hits Doc in the back. At this point, we discover that he habitually wears a fine chainmail undergarment. The material of the undergarment isn’t specified. Neither Renny nor Doc can figure out where the knife came from; at least, Renny can’t. Doc’s a cagey dude and you’re never really sure what he knows and what he doesn’t. The knife is an ancient Viking relic.
The phone rings; it’s another of Doc’s men, Monk, aka Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair (“Only a few inches over five feet tall and yet over 260 pounds. His brutish exterior concealed the mind of a great scientist,” the frontispiece helpfully informs us) What’s new, pussycat, he asks Doc, only not in those words. An alarm clock just rang in my office and then there was a knife out of nowhere, Doc retorts. Of course the phone goes dead at this point….
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- February 13, 1923 – Chuck Yeager, the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Born in Myra, West Virginia.
(9) AVOID THE KISS OF DEATH. Leading up to Valentine’s Day, the Horror Writers Association blog presents Mac Child’s latest piece of writing advice, “Love is a Disease: Prevent the Romantic Storyline from Strangling the Scary”.
First, a caveat: There’s nothing wrong with paranormal romance; it’s simply a different genre from horror (and the two genres frequently have a substantial overlap in readers). A romantic storyline, in and of itself, is not a terrible thing at all. This argument is by no means a condemnation of love and the readers who love it.
Romantic fiction uses a different kind of tension—will the protagonist suffer heartbreak? Will the couple get together? End up together?—than the frequently external threats and emphasis on surviving found in horror. In a horror, too much ink spilled about love ends up replacing one tension with another, pulling focus away from whatever monster, human or not, is menacing your hapless heroes.
(10) NEXT CONRUNNER PLEASE. Steve Cooper discussed the latest Conrunner on Facebook and announced he and Alice Lawson will be organizing Conrunner 5.
…We even have a provisional theme – “new con-runners” and with that in mind Conrunner 5 will have a Y.A membership category for those who will be under 40. And we hope to provide bursaries to help members who are relatively new to con-running. We’ve already spoken with the chair of INNOMINATE who will try to find some money for this after pass-along to follow on from the generous donation by Satellite 4 to Conrunner 4. We’ll also be following this up with Follycon and the 2019 Eastercon. There will also be a 2nd Pete Weston memorial scholarship – but how that will be targeted has not yet been fixed.
But Alice and I don’t “Run” Conrunner – we provide the back-bone for others to put on a con-running programme. Claire [Brialey] & Mark [Plummer] did a stirling job this year. Now it could be your turn.
…But let me end by thanking the 70 con-runners who came to Nottingham, and participated in the convention especially the two thirds of members we managed to get on panels. (Next time join earlier and we’ll try and get that closer to 100%). We hope you had an enjoyable and instructive weekend and look forward to seeing you all and many others at Conrunner 5
(11) SELECTIVE EXCERPTS. That’s what Dave Freer always calls these representative quotes, but today I’m really doing it. Plucked from his typical stew of complaints against Puppy-kickers, Scalzi, Tor, and David Gerrold (as well as a big plug for Jon Del Arroz based on taking his story at face value) comes this spot-on statement about the movie Starship Troopers – “Truth in Advertising” at Mad Genius Club.
The other relevant aspect is you shouldn’t be just selling once. The key to success as an author is building a customer base, building a name. Now over on Tor.com they were busy displaying how not to understand this. You see –according to the genius on Tor.com (I hope he runs marketing for the company) – Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS was a work of genius satirically parodying that nasty evil Robert A Heinlein that the modern literati of sf love to hate.
(shrug) I don’t care if you agree, or disagree, adore the movie or hate it… the problem is one the writer of the article seems blind to, and yet, when you think about it, is behind almost all the adverse reaction the movie received.
…If Paul Verhoeven had called the movie I HATE HEINLEIN, or HUMAN FASCISTS KILL INNOCENT BUGS the same people now calling it ‘brilliant satire’ would still have loved it… (possibly less, because they enjoyed watching the Heinlein fans get furious), but it would have engendered almost no disparagement. It would also have lost a huge volume of sales to the suckers who believed the advertised name.
(12) LIFE INTERRUPTED. Is it dead or not? There’s a thematically appropriate question for a magazine about ghoulish movies, Fangoria, especially now with there being disputed claims that the magazine has produced its last print issue. Former editor-in-chief Ken W. Hanley announced on Twitter –
For those wondering: there will likely never be another issue of FANGORIA, especially in print, unless there's new ownership.
— Ken W. Hanley (@movieguyiguess) February 12, 2017
These words are in no way excuses, more the bitter truth about the current circumstances involving our print publication and interruption of production. With time and continued patience from our fans, writers, artists and subscribers we will be working endlessly to make good on any funds owed for magazines and/or articles written. In the meantime, we’ll continue trying to conquer the uphill battle to restore our print issues that our fans urgently long for.
(13) JOCULARITY. Adam Rakunas and Patrick S. Tomlinson have a plan for boosting author revenue – let’s see if this starts trending.
— Adam Rakunas (@rakdaddy) February 13, 2017
[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Lex Berman, Daniel Dern, Paul Weimer, John King Tarpinian, and an untipped hat for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]