Sunday, September 29, 2013

Copy, paste, publish...

Well, another week and another plagiarism scandal breaks. And once I was over my usual incredulous head-shaking, I started wondering...

Okay, so just imagine you want to publish a book. So you trawl through the vaults of fanfiction, and what do you find? A few different stories that you decide to cobble together as one, change the names, and voila, a book! 

Except instead of being a shortcut, doesn't that actually seem like a lot of work? 

Now, I understand how easy it would be to steal a book, change a few details like the title and names, and slap it on Amazon under my name. Easy, and totally reprehensible. But this more sophisticated sort of plagiarism where you steal from multiple sources? Frankly, I'm not seeing the point.

If you're talented enough to take a bunch of different manuscripts and edit them together with all those pesky tenses, and POVs, and voices, and plot points, then you're talented enough to come up with your own idea surely?

I could download 80 000 words of a couple of different fanfictions in minutes...but putting them together? That's like one of those jigsaw puzzles with no edges. And where you also lost the box with the picture on it. 

I don't know about you guys, but I find editing the hardest part of writing. And the very thought of taking a bunch of different stories and actually making them into something cohesive...hell no. I'd rather start from scratch, thanks. 

I'm not saying this to be disingenuous. Once, I tried to restart a WIP after I'd already written three chapters because I wanted to change the genre, and go from sci-fi to contemporary. Easy, right? I'd just have to change a few details and it would all be done. I had to throw those chapters out and start again, because simple tweaking didn't make it make sense. It had to be entirely rewritten. 

Plagiarism seems like it would be hard work. Harder than actually writing. And why would you pick something that managed to be hard and reputation-killingly-stupid at the same time? I just really don't understand it at all. 

Which is lucky for me, because it means I'll never be caught out in this sort of shit fight. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Book Review Week

In what can only be a tribute to Banned Books Week, Goodreads now bans book reviews.

Well, not exactly. According to their new policy announcement (which has been amended so many times in the past few days that it looks very little like the original anyway) GR is now deleting (without notification) reviews that they feel are harassing, threatening, not about the book, or are focussed on author behaviour.

Sounds reasonable, right? Until…

Let’s talk about Orson Scott Card. Everyone else is. And sure, maybe his particular beliefs don’t have a lot to do with Ender’s Game. So, if I discussed Ender’s Game with you, or wrote a review on it, why would I bring up the fact that Orson Scott Card believes that a large number of gay people are gay because they were molested or raped, and actually desire to live a “normal” life?   

I'll tell you why. It's because readers have every right to purchase a book for whatever reason they want. Or refuse to purchase it. And maybe I don’t want to give my money to a hateful homophobe. And maybe I rely on my friends to bring things like this to my attention, in a free exchange of ideas and opinions. 

But I’m weird like that. I like to spend my money ethically. A book is like any other product, and an author is a brand. I buy dolphin-safe tuna. I don’t buy clothes made by five-year-old kids in Third World sweatshops. Not if I know better, at least. And how will I know better if nobody can tell me?

And it gets really scary...buying a book means more than supporting the ideology of an author I don’t agree with. Sometimes it means that if I rate that book negatively, or tell my friends it’s a piece of crap, I’ll be the one who gets threatened and harassed. Oh, and here’s the best part. Maybe someone will even post my home address on the internet, and maybe even call me at home. Or even try to hire a hacker to find out that information. Now that’s some personal service, right?

I refuse to link to STGRB on my blog. The acronym stands for Stop The Goodreads Bullies, but possibly without the same intentional irony as The Ministry of Love, or other Orwellian gems. If you do go to their site, I would strongly suggest you use a proxy. Also, smarter people than me have talked about STGRB at length before.

But back to my hypothetical attack by a badly behaved author. Let’s say that all of the above has happened to me, as it has happened to others. It seems I now can’t warn other readers on GR that they might now be about to step onto the same dangerous ground. I can’t shelve a book on GR under the tag of “bad author behaviour” even when an author’s behaviour was unarguably bad, and there is plenty of proof of it.

Because GR are also deleting user shelves.

Well, who decides what is an appropriate shelf name and what is not? Is “badly behaving authors” inappropriate if it’s true? In fact, who decides what is a threatening or negative shelf name and what is not? For anyone interesting in that question, I’d suggest not starting with the Salon article claiming an author had her book shelved as “author deserves to be raped”, which, as the update at the bottom adds, never happened. For screenshots, go here.

And what about the shelf called “due to author” that was deleted? Was that negative? What if it was shorthand for "will buy immediately due to total awesomeness of author?" Who knows what it really means? Well, GR apparently knows, because a reader had that exact shelf deleted.

This is where I’d planned to mention something about the Thought Police, but then I worried you guys would think I was over-reacting. And then I thought, fuck it. It’s censorship. It deserves an over-reaction.

Yes, even posts like Nathan Bransford’s extolling us to all be nicer to one another on the internet deserve an over-reaction. I have a lot of love for Nathan, and I agree that yes, we actually all could be a lot nicer on the internet, but who gets to be the arbiter of what is allowable and what is not?

And that’s the thing with censorship or any sort. (On an earlier incarnation of the GR policy, they specifically said it was not censorship. That particularly disturbing c-word has now disappeared. Probably choked on its own sense of irony.) Censorship is a bad thing, even in tiny creeping increments like this. Especially in tiny creeping increments like this. Because, usually, the censors are hoping that they take such small steps that nobody notices they’re even moving.

And yes, I accept that GR is a private site and can change its policies as it sees fit. But to implement a policy like this with no warning, and to begin to delete members’ content with no notification, well, that’s not even giving members (who very nicely built the content of this site for free so that Amazon could come a-courting, and then a-buying) the right of response. Or even the chance to save their content. See that slippery slope? Wheeee!

Apologies for the rant, but this sort of thing makes me angry.
And I hope it makes other people angry as well. 

Oh, and for some people who have summed up this issue better than I ever could have, check out Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud or Amandaw38 via Buzzfeed

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gender roles, alternative readings, and a song I love

After my last post, featuring pens for ladies, I thought I’d share one the songs I listen to when I’m writing. It's a favourite of mine. 

Preconceived ideas of sexuality and gender roles? Pfft. Leave those at the door, thanks. 

What I like about most about this song is that it gives us an alternative reading to the original. I think I've got that right -- if I haven't my sister Kath, an English teacher, will correct me. Kath, is this an alternative or a resistant reading? Or have I overreached entirely? 

(I'm actually pretty excited to ask Kath this because, after years of reading my blog posts, she finally figured out how to comment last week. I'm the technologically advanced one in our family, which you know means the rest of them are back at the cave knocking rocks together, right?) 

The alternative reading is a reading of a text that differs from the commonly accepted interpretation, or the dominant reading. Listen to a man singing Jolene, and suddenly that familiar old love triangle is different than you first perceived it to be. And I like that. I like it when you rethink one tiny thing, and the entire framework shifts. 

And this is how I've always approached my reading. I like to look for more underneath the story. I like to speculate. I like to wonder. And I like to have more questions than answers when I've finished. 

I also really like this version because I find the original, despite the depressing lyrics, just a little bit too toe-tapping. Heartbreak should not be toe-tapping. Sorry, Dolly. 

What are you listening to this week? 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pens: Now for Women

From the WTF files, or, more accurately Amazon, here it comes: 

That's right. It's pens. For ladies. Seriously. And, I quote, "Elegant design -just for her!" And "Thin barrel to fit a woman's hand".  *checks diary to make sure it's not the 1950s anymore*

But you guys, it gets funnier. Check out some of the product reviews: 

From Tracey Hamilton: 

Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! I use it when I'm swimming, riding a horse, walking on the beach and doing yoga. It's comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty! Since I've begun using these pens, men have found me more attractive and approchable. It has given me soft skin and manageable hair and it has really given me the self-esteem I needed to start a book club and flirt with the bag-boy at my local market. My drawings of kittens and ponies have improved, and now that I'm writing my last name hyphenated with the Robert Pattinson's last name, I really believe he may some day marry me! I'm positively giddy. Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with.

From Ersil: 

Can these pens be bought individually? I only intend to write things until I find a man and get married, so it's a waste of my hard-earned secretary salary to buy the whole pack.

From Courtney: 

I see this comes in a sleek design. But as a "full-figured" woman, do these pens come in "curvy and carefree"?

And a note of warning from P. Davies: 

First of all I'm a male. I picked a pink one up by mistake to write a quick note... Next thing I know I'm sitting down to take a pee. Be careful.


Anyone who says that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit is doing it wrong. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More slut shaming..this time IRL

Okay, so I'm putting my feminist pants on. (Note, these are still my pyjama pants.) 

It's time to talk slut shaming again. In the same week that Miley Cyrus is getting called a slut, while Robin Thicke is getting called...nothing, really; in the same week apparently the news broke that some guy from Google has been sleeping with some woman who is not his wife. Specifically, some woman called Amanda Rosenberg. Now, I know absolutely nothing about this case at all. Yep, I'll admit my ignorance. But I'll admit reading an article online just because I was at work, I was bored, and I was checking the news sites. And I really thought that there would be more to the article than was apparent. 


I mean, is she some femme fatale who is engaging in industrial espionage to bring down Google? 

Why is this news? Who cares about the private lives of these people? And, more importantly, why do people who know nothing of the parties involved feel like they have the right to make judgements? And write things like: “You are such a soulless person. No morality. Ruining a man’s life. Think of his two children ... Shame on you."

Okay...what? As far as I'm aware, only one of the people in this relationship was married. And it wasn't her. Does that make it right? Hell, no. But unless this poor guy slipped and fell repeatedly into her bed (you know, I was going to say something worse there) then at least he has to shoulder half the blame. 

And you know whose responsibility it was to think of his children? His. 

So she's a slut, and he's a victim? Yeah, right. Tell that to his little head. 

I actually don't know what is worse here: that this sort of bullshit attitude still pervades the real world, or that it's still a staple of fiction. A woman's a slut if she has sex. A home-wrecking slut if she has sex with a married man. And she's also somehow magically a slut if she doesn't have sex, but dresses in a way that a man might find provocative. 

And you know what? I find this attitude just as insulting to men, who obviously can't be trusted to make decisions with their brains, and are constantly at the mercy of their genitals. Wow, guys, must be difficult to live like that. 

For the record, I don't actually consider myself that much of a feminist. If you don't like me, that's fine. But if you don't like me because of the way that I dress, or the things I do in my private life, or who I choose to sleep with, just because I'm a woman, then go to hell. I'm unlikeable enough without bringing gender values into it, I promise. 

*Ends blog as feminist pants appear to have morphed into cranky pants*

(And, check out the linked article. Anyone who lists the phrase "children are the orgasm of life" as annoying can't be all bad. Eugh. What marketing team let that one out?)

What's annoying you this week? 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I have a cold

I have a cold. 

It is a very unattractive cold. It looks a lot like this: 

In fiction, people rarely have colds. This is because not only is it unattractive, it is also impractical. 

It's hard to save the world when you can't walk three steps without wheezing. 
It's hard to outwit the evil genius when your head hurts. 
It's hard to be an action hero when your holster is stuffed with tissues. 

When I was a kid, I had a love for that very romantic notion of dying of consumption. Or a broken heart. Which was usually exacerbated by consumption. Then, at some point, I learned what consumption was. 

Romantic? Eugh. No. 
Tragic. From a distance, sure. 
But there is nothing remotely beautiful about it. 
It's a lot like a cold. But bloodier. And fatal. 

Oh, sure, Keats made it a little bit beautiful: 

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

But you'll notice he ended La Belle Dame sans Merci before the blood and the phlegm. 
Probably because nothing rhymes with phlegm. 


This post has been written under the influence of cold and flu medication. 
I take no responsibility for it. 

Can somebody get me some more tissues? And some Cheese Twisties? 
I'll be in bed, smothered in tissues. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A thousand words...

Do you know who I really hate? 

(Not really.) 

I really hate people who can draw. You know the ones. The artistic ones who can take an idea, and put it down on paper, and it doesn't look like this: 

Self Portrait with Stripy Socks - Jen, 2013

Which I made earlier. 

And photographers, I really hate photographers. 

(Not really.) 

And it all comes back to that old saying: 


When I was at school, I hung out with people who were good at drawing. Hi, Shelley! Hi, Gary! You talented bastards... And I was insanely jealous of them. It shows, right? I was insanely jealous because I wanted to be like them. I wanted to make pictures that were visually arresting, and, well, not crap. 

I was moderately talented at art. I made some earrings that my art teacher paid money for. But that was on the crafty side, not the fine arts side. When it comes to fine arts, I have whatever the artistic equivalent is of a tin ear. 

Note: I also have a tin ear and wanted desperately to be able to sing, but that's another story. 

But I do believe that a picture is worth a thousand words. I really do. Just not my pictures. 

Which is why, back in the day, I decided that okay, if I couldn't do the pictures, I'd do the best damn thousand words that I could. Because I also believe the flipside: if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a thousand words are worth a picture. 

Written your thousand words today? 


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