Interesting Writings on Writing and Publishing

Lot going on here and in about three, four weeks, I’m going to be making some changes to the blog, but until then, have some more links! These are about writing fiction, book publishing and SFFH media:

Author Ferrett Steinmetz talks about selling his novel.

Lauren Davis talks about the perils of genre shaming readers and writers.

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff talks about issues in critiquing people’s writing.

Mary Robinette Kowal talks about turning off your inner editor when writing.

An article on award-winning SF author Ann Leckie, her novel Ancillary Justice and its impact in the field. (I quite liked Ancillary Justice — more on that later.)

Ask a Game Developer explains what it is important to focus on in higher education if you want to get into games development.

Gwenda Bond explains quite simply about fiction being a symbiotic market for authors and how you should concentrate on your own career in fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weird Al Yankovic Still the Gentle King Of Music Video Parody

Been one of those days, so here, have some parody homage videos from venerable satirist Weird Al Yankovic, from his new album, that are taking the Web by storm:

First, an alternate text animation version of Robin Thicke’s controversial “Blurred Lines” called “Word Crimes“:

Next, a version of Pharrell Williams’ huge hit “Happy” called “Tacky” with a plethora of lip syncing guest stars:

A different take on Australian rapper Iggy Azalea’s hit “Fancy” retooled as “Handy“:

And finally, a tribute to Lordes’ sensation “Royals” called “Foil,” which goes in unexpected directions and also has some guest stars:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Diversity Writings That Still Echo

Under a bit of a time crunch today, so I am offering up some links of writing I have found good and interesting on diversity and discrimination that came out earlier this year or previously.

People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse. — Teju Cole

Kelly Thompson, author, comics writer, and journalist, at the GoodComics blog did a seminal piece about diversity issues and sexism in the comics, for her column “She Has No Head,” entitled “No It’s Not Equal.” (Thompson just had her graphic novel The Girl Who Would Be King optioned for film.)

Foz Meadows did a blog post about exclusion of women as the default in female geekery.

A few months ago, journalist Jessica Valenti did a piece for the UK’s The Guardian about how the notion of a women’s confidence gap is a sham used to justify and continue excluding women from the fields of endeavor.

Liz Bourke did a piece last year for Tor.com that I find particularly relevant these days too, entitled “Sleeping with Monsters.”

The definitive overview on cover whitewashing from TheBookSmugglers.com – definitely one of the biggest problems facing fiction publishing, especially YA, and SFFH publishing.

Saeed Jones at Buzzfeed.com takes an illuminating survey of things that women writers are sick of hearing in interviews and events.

Owen Lloyd explains why the main arguments of the men’s rights movement are mainly false.

Macy Sto Domingo at ThoughtCatalog.com looks at white privilege based communication blocks.

At Salon.com, Soraya Chemaly tackles the sexual harassment of insisting women smile.

 

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Humor to Eat Chocolate By

You may have seen this already, since it went viral quickly. Richard Dunn, delayed for his flight in a strangely deserted Las Vegas airport in the wee hours of the morning (but, but Vegas never sleeps!) decided to make his own music video with his smart phone and a gerry-rigged dolly, complete with visual effects, to the tune of Celine Dion’s “All By Myself.” It’s magnificent. Dion has invited Dunn to attend one of her concerts whenever he likes:

The Swamp Donkeys, a deeply talented bunch of musicians, played a Southern jazz version of the theme music from the television show Game of Thrones at the New Orleans B.B. King Club. It’s magnificent. They dedicated it to Ygritte. Extra geek points and a bearded nod from George R.R. Martin for all of them:

And speaking of Game of Thrones, Steve Love does some impressive impersonations of the cast of the show for Season 4. The show should probably hire him:

 

 

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Spam Confusion

I have not done a spam poetry entry in quite awhile because I’ve been getting nothing interesting. (Although, it seems the German spammers have found me and send me fake comments in German, which might have something interesting if I spoke German. My German flatmate in Scotland tried to teach me some German long ago but I am physically incapable of making the back of the throat sounds that seem to be required for proper speaking of the parts of the language that do not sound exactly like English words which were originally German words we borrowed or is  the word Volkswagon.)

But I recently got a couple that struck me as worthy of exploring. The first one I think is a psychological test:

You are foregoing rest. You are forcing the children to make their own pancakes. If you jump into the binge pool, head first, then make sure it is the deep end.

It’s true! I have been foregoing rest! But why would I force the children to make their own pancakes? How terribly heartless! And if I jump into the deep end of the binge pool, won’t I drown? Wouldn’t shallow binging be safer? (Note to self: entitle something The Deep End of the Binge Pool before someone else steals it. Also, possibly, The Shallow Binge Pool.)

The word salads of strange translations of disparate languages creates a wonderful kind of art. You should contemplate it next time you are forcing your children to make their own pancakes. (Note to self: entitle something Make Your Own Pancakes.)

But there’s a new trend in spam advertising commentary, one that eschews flowery word salad and existential insights. Yep, they’ve gone for a reverse psychology approach. It’s the Men’s Rights philosophy — insult your target and she will be yours:

Hey, you used to write fantastic but the last several posts have been kind of boring.

This was of course attached to a post full of embedded videos from more than a year ago, not text by me, but no matter. The fact is that I am horribly, horribly chastened, yes I am, and I see nothing for it except to buy a designer handbag and sunglasses. Or possibly to just point out that such a bland insult is nowhere near as interesting as telling me how I should jump into a binge pool. And without waiting a half hour after eating the pancakes, so there.

 

 

 

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Editors Like Stories

A bit back, we were having a discussion on SFFWorld.com about submitting short fiction to SFFH magazines. That SFFH as an area of fiction still has a viable magazine market in this day and age is a truly wondrous thing. It’s due to the deep interest of fans in checking out a variety of voices, a lot of interesting on-line magazines trying new models and older print ones trying new approaches, and a lot of authors willing to give short fiction a shot, even though it no longer pays a living wage.

When submitting short fiction to magazines, writers do have to be aware that individual magazines (and anthologies,) have specific audiences and select stories in line with those needs. Consequently, when the magazine puts down guidelines about what sort of stories they do and do not want to see (as well as the usual admonishment to read their magazine to get familiarity with it,) writers do have to pay attention. There’s no sense in beating your head against a brick wall.

The problem is, writers often don’t know how thick the brick wall is or even if it’s there. You usually can’t know, in fact, unless you submit a story and see if it flies with the particular publication. Because the reality is that the terms we use for various sub-forma of short SFFH fiction are often vague and open to a wide variance of interpretation. Outside of things like sending a science fiction story to a magazine that never publishes science fiction, or vice versa, a writer may not really know what the boundaries are. The requirements of many of the magazines are in fact fairly wide; a magazine might publish science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery all in one go.

And editors of magazines like stories, so much so that they may publish stories that aren’t quite what they would usually go for in the magazine but they think the stories are too good not to share with their readership. And sometimes, they think a writer’s story does fit within their parameters. A story that a writer doesn’t really think is steampunk, for instance, but does have a Victorian setting and one or two details that might be considered kind of steampunky, may totally work for a magazine editor as steampunk. So the range of magazines a writer can submit to is usually a good deal broader than what stated guidelines may imply. Writers simply can’t completely know what might make it through, and the penalties for trying a submission out within reason are slim to none. (The postage cost used to be considerable, but electronic submissions are fairly common now.)

A clear example of this issue was displayed in an April article at io9.com by Charlie Jane Anders, given the provocative headline: “10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories That Editors Are Tired of Seeing.” How useful — stories that editors didn’t like, didn’t want to see anymore, so you know what to avoid and never try. Except if you read into the article, the reality is that editors aren’t necessarily tired of certain stories and are often just noting some recent trends in what they’ve been sent. As Anders herself says:

Also, no editor ever wants to say “I’m tired of unicorns,” because right now someone is probably writing a unicorn story so good it’ll make you weep to read it — and chances are, the editor who just swore off unicorn stories would buy that story in a heartbeat. So this mostly isn’t a list of stories you shouldn’t write — more a list of areas where you’re going to have to work harder to stand out.

In actuality, it’s not even a matter of “standing out” more on a subject that has commonly appeared. Nearly every subject in SFFH has already commonly appeared, and stories about such subjects might not be filled with dazzling prose and certainly not with new plot twists, but may still connect with editors who feel it is right for their magazines. And the situation is often self-selecting — editors may see more of one kind of story because writers have gotten the impression that it’s the kind of story their magazine likes.

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Music Videos for Eyes and Ears

I have occasionally written about the perplexing advertising strategy of selling products through images of women photo-shopped to make them look like weird stick alien creatures — not simply skinny but disjointed and inhuman. Since advertising is the process of association, associating your fancy perfume or haute couture with horror movie images seems counter productive. The band Foster the People has explored this idea more fully in the music video for their new hit single, “Best Friend.” It’s a good song about a troubled relationship and the SF style video is excellent, funny and disturbing. Check it out:

And oddly enough related to that, I got introduced to the delightful Meghan Trainor‘s music in this pastel dance party video for the snappy ode to loving your body, “All About the Bass.” This one will stick in your head:

And finally, after too long away, OK Go, the indie masters of the music video, have returned with a new one for a song, “The Writing on the Wall,” from their up-coming new album. The video is both a nod to their famous Rube Goldberg style video for their song, “This Too Shall Pass,” and a feast of visual special effects and brain teasers that work with the new song, a poignant ballad about the ending of a romantic relationship:

 

 

 

 

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