Today in stupid advice

I can’t even pretend to be polite about this. It’s ridiculous.

Yes, some of the greatest SF/F writers out there love to read SF/F, some don’t.

As a writer you should love to read. If you don’t read you … it’s hard to explain but consider it Furthering Education or whatever the devil that modern phrase for it is when teachers are required to go back to college every few years kinda thing.

But reading should be something you love.

This and it’s myriad copies (seriously, I find it both terrifyingly cult-like as well as exceedingly telling that these are always worded nigh identically) are phrased in a way that clearly implies “so you known what is selling right now and you can write that”.

I call bullshit.

Don’t believe me? Follow editors and they’re all wanting to see something new and different and lament all the agents who’re only accepting the tried and true.

Look at how many clones of Twilight failed to garner its numbers. The Harry Potter knockoffs. Too, look at the insane number of people of all ages who prefer YA because it’s where they can find something different … to say nothing of YA not actually needing a special genre tag for “this isn’t depressing, dark, etc”.

In short the people like Ms Dawson who say this are horribly out of touch.

You want advice on writing? Look to the successful writers: Ed Greenwood, Neil Gaimen, Terry Pratchett, Spider Robinson, J K Rowling, Saladin Ahmed, Jeph Jacques …

What do they all have in common? They didn’t look at their own genre for anything. Not really. Pratchett’s Discworld stuff started out parodying Dragon Riders of Pern which is a fantasy novel, but I’m pretty sure that is not what the Dawsons of the world mean.

In many cases they utterly defy genre. Ben Bova acknowledges that Spider’s stuff is not, strictly speaking (and doubly so back when Ben was editor of a major SF magazine!) SciFi, but where the hell else could Spider’s stuff find a home?! It definitely wasn’t Romance, Horror, Mystery, or Western. It could be called SF/F if you squinted and turned your head upside-down … so, what the hell! True, Spider reads SF/F … because he likes a good Heinlein, not because it has anything to do with his work.

Ed Greenwood is a librarian whose home is packed to the gills with tens of thousands of books, all of which he has read. So, okay, yeah he reads Fantasy … and cooking, and architecture, and biology, and mystery, and horror, and poetry, and … he just likes books. And that diversity of tastes influences his work.

The thing is, do your thing. Whatever that thing may be. Try to sell it to an agent if you like, but agents are … no one’s sure why … a bit obsessed with finding the next big clone of the current hot trend; like it costs them anything to accept something great and just actually do their flippin’ job! But publishers won’t let their editors accept unagented stuff anymore. But luckily traditional publishing is really just great for an advance which is pretty paltry and for being distributed by Ingram which I probably misspelled and don’t care but is also pretty much the distributor for All Things Book for US audiences (sad but true, Reagan & Bush’s dismantling of antitrust laws was a Bad Thing … not that publishing much got enforcement of them anyway).

Still, as truly awful as they are (and words can’t express how awful they are) it’s as effective or more so to be available on Amazon which is easy enough to do. Though I’ll be damned if I’ll engage in the modern day slavery of Kindle Unlimited (exclusivity to Amazon and I make a piece if an arbitrary sized pie made of pocket change that Amazon sets?! Fuck that.)

But read what you like, write what you like. And remember: Ursula Vernon doesn’t read SF/F. But she writes it and can’t seem to stay off the bestseller lists 🤷‍♀️.

Romantic Inclusivity

Now, I’ve said before that Romance is not a genre I’m well acquainted with. It mostly bores me and drives me up a wall.

To be fair I do watch good rom-coms like Imagine Me & You, But I’m a Cheerleader, For a Good Time Call …, Pretty Woman, etc.

But it isn’t something I read I’ve tried but I can’t get into it.

I realised today, thanks to @NeolithicSheep just what the problem I have is.

She decided to tweet-stream a book. And I mean zero criticism to the charming Comrade Shepherd herself; she’s merely a catalyst and her tweet-stream is quite entertaining … far more so than I find the story itself.

And I may have made a brief subtweet on the subject of today’s blogpost but there’s zero point linking to that because I’ll say the same thing here with LOTS more words.

In fairness to the authors of these stories, I do not have the faintest idea how monochromatic they are. For all I know the were-bears are Iroquois, and were-tigers are Nepalese, and … stuff. Which, I’m sure, Tumblr-folk (look, they haven’t settled on a new platform so the name can’t change yet) will complain “that’s so problematic!” but there’s a reason nobody takes the Tumblr crowd seriously: They’re the looking for reasons to be offended sort and I’ve no patience for that; won’t even argue with it, occasionally contemplate slapping the snot out of it but mostly I roll my eyes and move on, because there’s no discussion or debate with that sort. They’re basically the alt-left, the liberal-Nazi … you know, the opposition’s morons. But to return to my point, the cast may be if divers skin tone, accent, religion, and nationality 🤷‍♀️.

But, you know, despite my wife’s cruel sense of humour including reading about all these crazy subgenres of Romance she never hits a single lgbt+ example?!

Not among were-erotica romances, not among the 50 Shades knockoff garbage (I abhor 50 Shades as much or more than Twilight), none of it. The Romance shelves are barren of a Red Sonja-esque Fabia with a damsel draped in her arms. Of a Sean Connery kissing a Valentino. Of … gimme a break, Romance covers don’t get very creative.

I mean, if you’re diligent enough you will find a het-romance with a male POV character or a 3rd person that is either over his shoulder or includes his perspective in the omniscience. That bends the mould a little.

But where’s the shattering?!

I mean, literally – near as I could determine it after weeks (months?) of scouring both trad & self pub – Now & Forever is either first of its kind or damn-near-so as being gay fiction that’s happy. I wrote the Male POV Bodice Ripper of Gay Teen Romance (note: Both girls’ bodices remain intact in the only occasion any bodices are worn).

Now, I’m probably going to have were-things in Færie Patrol because why not. And they’re going to be anywhere on the gender spectrum and anywhere on the sexuality one as is my wont.

But where’s the cliché, formulaic nonsense about A Woman and a Were-Tigress? The Alpha-Bitch taming the New York Banker Man? The (oh gods, I can’t not go here) Were-Bear Bear Couple? (Sorry, not sorry) The Trans Marine Time-Traveller and The Viking Princess/Prince?

Nowhere to be seen! Even in the nightmarish dregs of Smashwords‘ strangest tags (not for the faint of heart, it’s safer to go have tea with a Lovecraftian Horror) I found nothing.

I’m sure it exists. Schrödinger’s Novella mandates it must; but then again, Law of Cliché Themodynamics may overrule and state that no one has actually tried to counter the cis-het momentum in any meaningful way! thus it actually does not yet exist! Which, of course is in keeping with Schrödinger’s Novella because quantum cheats by maintaining strict neutrality.

Why, my dears, must we all suffer at the hands of [Insert culturally stereotypically masculine animal] were-bro of muscles, machismo, misogyny, and let’s collectively vomit 🤮 now wins the vaginal canal (surely he wouldn’t know a clitoris if it bit him on the pecker … oh! An Akira twist! I love it!) of the Lovely Lady With Humdrum Life (or sometimes a bit Kardashianesque Life) which the author conflates with her heart and they all live abusively ever after, amen 🙏?!

I say bollox to all that. Go forth, my lovely minions! I say: Subvert, pervert, and anything else ending in -vert all the Romance Genres! Flood them with lesbians, Enbys, aces, bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, drag queens, bears, and twinks, a veritable Pride Parade of queery awesomeness 🏳️‍🌈! Drape the cover models in rainbow flags! Have the Naga Queen with the mostly nude virgin in her clutches from behind have her hand upon yon maid’a crotch and breats the embrace rapturous rather than terrible!

Why? Because it’s getting boring around the genre. I used to boggle at the “plot” crap my wife would torment me with from this stuff and now I just shake my head and finish washing the dishes.

Let’s shake things up like the megaquakes that broke Pangea!

P.S. I proofread this twice. Any typos have earned the right to live via natural selection.

Mental health, medication, and creativity

So, apparently (read: according to my wife), it’s a Thing (read: trending a bit on Twitter) to claim that untreated mental illness is a font for creativity.

Holy wow.

Okay. To be fair, sometimes it very well may be. There are those whose art IS their mental illness, or more precisely their illness is the inspiration for their art. For these folks, I suppose, it’s reasonable to assume treating the illness may hamper their art. Would Stephen King write the horrors he does if he were medicated to cope with his nightmares? (Is that even possible?!) I mean, obviously, until he ran out of the memory of any not-yet-written nightmares … but after?

A frequent example is Van Gogh … no idea why. For one, in some respects he WAS medicated. Not well, but he was. And even modern meds … well … in some ways there’s no difference between using opium and using Xanax besides the side-effects. But never mind that he blows the argument that way, which can be counter argued that booze and getting high aren’t medicating, how about the fact he painted such beauty and life in spite of his “tortured soul”? I’m pretty sure his depression didn’t create his work, it just cut it off at the age of 30.

My wife, is less creative unmedicated. Without meds she can not write. She’s also arguably not a functional adult or even a strictly function hominid lifeform, but she can’t write for her anxiety issues.

Me? I can’t actually say. I mean if my oestrogen levels sink below some threshold it triggers depression (this is a woman thing … cis/trans doesn’t matter … men suffer similarly for low testosterone … fun fact for the day) so I suppose my HRT is medication for depression, but my depression is far more complex than that. I don’t medicate, though. Not really because I l’m afraid I couldn’t write without depression. If I’m depressed I avoid writing, after all … partly because it goes in dark directions and I’m not into goth fic so generally hate what I write, but also because I can’t seem to get the motivation and focus to. But when depression isn’t dragging me down I quite enjoy writing. So, arguably, meds would be a Good Idea. I just look at the side effects of anti-depressants and figure I’d rather cope because they would make me depressed.

I’m not going to take a side in the argument. There shouldn’t be sides, nor should there be an argument. Mostly, I think, the ‘illness is art’ are quite mad and part of a group I wrote about before who feel Art Must Be Torture! (Load of bollox).

Thing is, we’re all different. Maureen in Ready or Not has very firm opinions on not taking meds for her depression. Because for her they are more torture than benefit. She knows her little sister enough to advise her against them as well because it’s a likely point in commont betwixt the siblings to hate the sensation of being confined to a certain parameter of mood; it’s too suffocating. Now, trial and error with other medicines, other doses, may have been good but she couldn’t tolerate the way they left her feeling until that magical cocktail is discovered. She does actually use medical marijuana for insomnia and her depression it’s later revealed (uh … spoiler alert?)

The flip side of the coin are people “meds are why I’m alive now! Meds are miraculous and everyone should medicate!”

No. As is my wont I’ll stay right here in the realm of reality and rationality. Each human is unique. That uniqueness is important. Nothing works universally. Some people should definitely medicate, some definitely oughtn’t, still others can take it or leave it. Let’s chill and let it go.

My single point of firm belief is that some drugs are over prescribed. Many psychiatrists and psychologists do feel too many GPs will see someone seems stressed or down and give them a psych drug with no further evaluation, no actual attempt at therapy. Some GPs and psychologists alike are a little too happy to give Timmy and Suzy a Ritalin script … even when they don’t need it and thus a creative child becomes a zombie. But this is not a mental illness thing, this is a modern western (especially the for-profit American) medical profession thing and pathologicalising and medicating everything & sundry. So, ultimately, I suppose it comes back to moderation.

It’s amazing. Nothing is good in extremes. Change for the sake of change can be as terrible as holding onto tradition too strongly. Even rights have an interesting point of moderation: your rights and mine should not impede each other. Thus laws against theft, murder, wanton discrimination … these are sensible. Your right to religion shouldn’t impede my right to service BUT my right to service shouldn’t impede the rights of a church or church affiliated service (but that service shouldn’t get anyone’s tax dollars either, it’s only fair after all).

I ramble. If you haven’t caught on to this you’ve not been paying attention. But really, this is one of the internet’s more colossally asinine arguments. Let artists medicate or not. And if an artist may be in danger for their mental illness, let’s recommend they may want to seek help … conversely those suffering for their treatment should be encouraged to cease or reevaluate said therapies. It’s balance, baby.

Goodnight.

P.s. I can’t concentrate to go back over this for proofreading, so hopefully my recent bouts of extreme dyslexia this week won’t have impacted this too badly.

More Sports Journalism!

I tried to live-tweet a hockey game tonight. It was, unfortunately, actually the lead up to a hockey game that started after I was ready to go. But I did my best.

Tumblr

So, Tumblr is instituting a rather draconian adult content ban.

Some examples?

A blogpost from Tumblr suggesting its ban is actually on female bodies.

https://twitter.com/sketchshark/status/1069719613041078272?s=21

So some may be wondering if I will remove/abandon my Tumblr. An excellent question. No. Mostly because I don’t and never have exactly used my Tumblr in the first place. 99% of its content is links back to this blog automatically generated by WordPress. So while I’m ethically opposed to what they’re doing, I shouldn’t think my content there is contributing much to them in any capacity.

Now, that isn’t to say I won’t change my mind. For example, if they don’t get this algorithm under control and – as the first example above speculates – keep flagging any pictures of women then I will absolutely delete my Tumblr and ne’er return to that desolate wasteland. But if they sort themselves out to actually only exclude porn and nudity … 🤷‍♀️ … I certainly don’t condone the decision because I support the idea of people who wish to use their beauty as a source of income or merely as a source of pleasure by its sharing then that’s their right and I certainly am a vocal advocate that nudity isn’t sex and therefore the outright topless/nude ban regardless of context is horrifying.

That was probably a lot of horrible runons and atrocious sentences that even Tolkien would say go entirely too far, but to hell with it, I’ll edit this post later.

So, tl;dr: Yes, Tumblr are wankers. No, I haven’t immediate plans to abandon ship since I’m actually following in a tethered dinghy anyhow, but if they’re bigger wankers in future I will drop them in a trice.

Cheers

In other news

Book 3 needs a bloody title! 😩

So I’ve rather got back into writing of late! It’s crazy, I don’t have a lot of time for it because of work but I’ve been getting some squeezed in, even a little at work! (Thank you tiny quiet offices!)

Sadly little of it has been book 3. Three side project quirky … I don’t even know what they ares … have been eating at my attention instead.

One is a quirky telepathic girl from another galaxy meets a young space rat (think street urchin but on starships, in spaceports, and on space stations) orphan and … it’s a very weird pile of twists on the old princess falls for the poor street waif sort of story. Along with a sort of reverse Cinderella or Annie if you twist your brain into a tasty pretzel 🥨.

Another is a young half-human and half-not girl from Earth and her family fleeing the world and it’s social hostility to her existence, that of two other of their children, and none too kindly to the parents either … it’s poignant but it’s relatively happy and funny despite that.

And a young alien girl from an alien world joins a student exchange program by the Terran government to come to one of their worlds and attend school there for a term. I’m worried she’s going to try to start a revolution 🤭.

But my steam for those has waned so perhaps I can concentrate on Book 3 again soon.

I know how late it is. Exhaustion, Depression, and … Time … I work 6 days a week and at times am 13hrs or more a day spent working + commuting for said work.

But I have an interview Thursday coming for a promotion! That will mean MORE time. It’s also going to mean a chance to buy a big beautiful house (a specific one I have my eye on, to clarify), and other niceties.

And … bollox … how does one categorise and tag posts in the WordPress App these days?!

Oh found it … the the three dots, Post Settings. Makes sense.

Whoa … I’m …

So, there’s a Thing that’s a bit viral on Twitter.

Seems a young lady in a Minnesota school found herself assaulted by staff of said school.

Oh, yeah, see, there’s video evidence. One mo, and I’ll fetch that for you dears:

So … yeah, I mean I suppose that in some ways it could be argued it’s not assault … using a dictionary. Legally, however, there’s a few child sex crime kind of laws in violation by the adults seen. To say nothing of a little thing called psychological assault in violating her privacy like that and by misgendering her so thoroughly.

I kid you not, this has created an uproar. Twitter seems to actually be in consensus about it (only other time Twitter was in consensus about something Joffery had been poisoned). I mean never mind any trans rights debates, everyone is enraged about treating a child that way. Oh and maybe because they didn’t issue an apology, they issued a statement and were then suddenly worried about ‘privacy’.

So I had a little something to say to such a non-apology:

As did the amazing Amanda Jette Knox (this one a thread):

And hundreds more with thousands of reactions that basically come to ‘I’m with you, mate!’

Ready for my new career in sports journalism!

Last night I live tweeted a football game.

I think I did really well!

Someone start a letter writing campaign to ESPN, I’m totally ready for that journalism salary.

(Psst it’s a whole thread for those unfamiliar)

The wrongness is strong …

So much absurdity 😱[

Okay folks, this is a thing that was found on Pinterest. It has so many wonderful things so tremendously wrong with it I think I’m going to have to break things down and enumerate them.

I think, for starters, I should be literal and actually break that graphic up.

No. Just … no.

Look, I grok, some folks plan. Some people construct. But this is not the way to present writing to new writers. This is a method (frankly a completely mad looking one at that, but some folks juggle geese) but it’s presented with a tone of absolution.

No. In fact I can think of no successful writer I’ve encountered who has a process like that. So that’s a suggestion it might even actually be a bad method, but no method is good or bad if it works for you. All methods come to “write your story”. That’s the method that matters.

Whether you prepare by complex world building or by trying to wrest the pen from the kitten the only step that matters is “write your first draft”; prior to that is only so much extemporaneous detail.

Personally I shudder at these kinds of lists because, unless you build it through your own trial and error it merely represents a barrier to writing. It’s these things, often quite unpleasant or unfun (for most people) things. Things that, if you feel you must do them before you write likely means you will never write because you’ll be years or eternities at steps 1-8 and “unable” to proceed to 9. To say nothing of the likelihood that such chores would suck the joy out of the creation. I mean … if you’re someone who is glowing at the prospect of using these 9 steps (or any of their infinite variations available on Tumblr, Pinterest, et al) ask yourself “how many people have I met who would agree this sounds great?” Not many? Yeah. You do you, sure, but trust me … statistically this is like inverse Literature Class which has been studied to indicate likely impairs love of reading and of literature. Food for thought.

Surprisingly this part isn’t bad. But it isn’t good, either.

Again with absolutism. This works for an organised, scheduling person. This works for someone who, if they don’t make a literal to-do list that they mark things off of, do nothing without the external motivation of the check mark.

My wife is such a creature. Even she is wont to start cursing at this kind of list. Apparently it goes to far and makes her OCD (or maybe it’s the Anxiety) itch really bad.

Look. Trust me, you don’t have to do anything to be a writer but write.

To reiterate, if it works for you, that’s swell, but no one will revoke your literary license if you don’t.

This is the meat and gravy of the horror of this “infographic”.

Class, this is not a list of questions to ask you publisher. This is a list of questions to ask of a vanity press company that will print your book. In this scenario you, my sweet, are the publisher and the other guy is just someone you’re going to pay to produce (and possibly distribute) your book. How kind.

A publisher of whom you feel the need to ask these questions is a “publisher” you should collect name and url, run away from at full gallop, bolt the doors behind you, and report them to The Authorities.

This one stands apart. While it ignores the option of self-publishing, it is relatively accurate if a touch outdated. For example I can’t recall the last time I saw an agent or publisher for whom stamps and envelopes would come into play. True, the publishing industry is still trying to decide how it feels about the printing press, and a committee is being formed to assess this “moveable type” notion they seem to have discovered that there’s something in the universe called “email” and some more avant-garde ones even use website submission forms. It’s pretty wild.

Seriously, this sort of stuff steams me. It’s never made by a writer. Or if it is, they’re an example of why fanfic or self-publishing have bad names (well, they’re a writer … they wrote … they maybe need things like an editor and/or talent … but they put words on a page b’gum!).

If anyone says anything about writing other than “well, what I do is …” or “have you maybe tried …” preferring instead “you really should …” or “a write must …” just back away slowly and don’t make eye contact. They’re criminally insane or something, I’m sure.