Sunday, August 13, 2006

Everything Old is new again

It was almost a year ago that I made my last post, and at the time I was tracking conversation between pro writers and fan writers and the clashes and points of agreement that rise and fall between them.

surprise: the topic has come up again, this time in response to a rather well documented bit of fannish plagiarism and thus a lively discussion of the implications of that and the standards to which (some) fan writers at least attempt to hold themselves.

The conversation is worth reading (the comments especailly) as people weigh in on the validity of fan fic as a modern form of storytelling, how it clashes with US copyright law (and when it does.)

this time it's John Scalzi genially holding the debate with his first post "Crimes of Fanfici and then following up a day or so later with Follow-up on Crimes of Fanfic.

Completely irrelevant to that discussion, I found myself once more getting irritated (As I have on Lee Goldberg's blog) with the term "fanficcer". It kind of has the cutsey slap in the face quality of calling a grown woman, "little girl", and I won't even speak to the possibly underscoring individual reasons why people use it. Like any other online terminology, I'm reasonably certain it's an organic growth, coming out of the inherent laziness that prohibits the use of "fan fic writer". although I'd be willing to take specualtion as to whether it's actual laziness as opposed to a kind of childish refusal to call those who write fan fic, "writers" sinc ethat seems to be a bone of contention in perpetuity.

Of course, I'm equally annoyed by the use of the term "ficcies" which I'm pretty sure sprang out of the collective Hello-Kitty id of the post-asdolescent budding writers on, although I doubt seriously whether they consider it derogatory at all. It's merely linuistic, jingoistic shortcutting.

Oh, and look! Lee Goldberg has indeed chimed in, since fan fic is something near and dear to his heart (or at least a thorn in his paw). Although, categorizing the participating fan writers as irked at Mr. Scalzi's assertion that fan fic is illegal seems to be taking a bit of creative dramatic license with what was actually being said. I'd categorize the discussion as being a rather reasonable disagreement with Mr. Scalzi's position as opposed to being irritated.

I tend to side with Mr. Scalzi in this regard, that it is most definitely copyright infringement, but mostly harmless, although it would be an interesting mock-court hearing to apply the same level of infringement to media properties (outside of trademark) as to literary one. I do think Fan fic mostly closely provides competition with literary properaties than film or television, the mediums being similar, but since Mr. Goldberg writes tie-in novels in addition to his original works, I could see where he might disagree.


Update: and the legality debate rages on...I'm thinking about making popcorn.

Paul William Tenny from weighs in here and here

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Mirror, Mirror

I've been watching with some interest the parallel universe of pro writers and their discussion boards and amateur writers and their discussion boards.

They are amazingly alike. Granted, pro-writers rant and warn against POD and Vanity presses and amateur writers have no real comparison unless it's an archive or LJ comm that people are warned to stay away from ( springs to mind), but in terms of writing extends to the comms themselves and not just individual writers.

Really, very little difference even to the levels of disparagement one group holds against the other. (Well, not exactly true since pro-writers seem to, at least on the boards I'm reading, hate amateur writers, particularly fan writers, with a level of linguistic verisimilitude and blood pressure raising hyperbole that I haven't seen outside of a floor debate in the House of Representatives.) But then, I, being the masochist and curiosity-killed-the-cat personality that I am, actively seek out the best vitriol.

But over all, they all worry about the same things: they worry about getting through their particular rough patch, they worry about audience reception, they are inordinately proud when people they admire (or even people they don't) say nice things about their work. They get their feelings hurt over bad reviews (no matter how philosophically they try to present themselves.) They have comparative reactions/weakness regarding genre competition and envy of people who are more popular/prolific than themselves.

I probably need to add more pro-writer comms to my listing so I can actively track this stuff.

Seriously, train wrecks! Now, with popcorn!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Plague of Angels

A Plague of Angels: Speak No Evil is out this month in the ezine Jack.

I'm very, very happy with the cover art. I also highly recommend Masks by Parhelion. It's a lovely twist on the superhero model. Very cool. I'm stil reading through the rest.

Updated 8/2006 the webzine is offline. The new home for A Plague of Angels is here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Resurrection of the Dead Horse and My Little Pony

Maybe that should be "Return of the Dead Horse" or "Revenge of the Dead Horse", because yes, through a series of not-at-all-connected posts by Mr. Goldberg, the minions of -- well, I'm not entirely sure who the minions belong to -- but the minions are at it again.

It's like watching a train wreck. No, actually, it's kind of like waiting for a train wreck. Statistically, you know it will happen -- that there isn't going to be any post that involves fan fiction that isn't going to devolve fairly rapidly from discussion to detente, from mildly interesting to a meta discussion brick wall.

But oh, the tidbits found along the way and this one just made my jaw drop and then I started laughing.

you have to read the whole thing though but in short, in a "discussion" about characterization and the mechanics or writing on Aug. 13th, one regular poster stated:

"How To Write Good" books are held in low esteem--to the point of outright ridicule--by many excellent, published, well-read writers. It may benefit the aspiring writer to consider, every once in a while, how much money is being made off her aspiration, and not her writing."

Which you know, is a comment worthy of investing at least some attention to, except that well, today, Mr. Goldberg announces the release of WGA's "Writing for Episodic TV -- From Freelancer to Showrunner" in PDF form and puts in a plug for his own 2003 release of "Successful Television Writing"

I'm sorry. I just think that's funny.

And I admit it, This time I succumbed to commenting, which was probably a mistake, although Mr. Wheeler was far more gracious than some of the other posters. Maybe he picked up some of that rough charm from all those westerns he writes.

Despite a few female posters who could count as regulars (who, you know, aren't setting themselves up to be derided and belittled) it's very much a good old boy's club. And here I always thought such progressive places as California (L.A.) and New York (N.Y.C.) had substantially fewer rednecks, frat boys, and provincial chauvinists than the deep south. Apparently not. I'll take the home grown ones though if I have to suffer them. At least they're more likely to win a bar fight and still be able to go to work the next morning. Just as long as I keep the beer cold.

Although, granted, the vocabulary is more varied on this particular board.

In the my Little Pony division, though, the Smart Bitches continue to delight and entertain me. A review of the Scott & Scott book "Hot Sauce" was up today, rating a B+, and it was fun to watch Sarah discover the fun and sexiness that is homoerotic romance. I've read "Spare Parts" by the same authors and while I found it t o be a little on the shallow side, it still was a quick, fun read, with some mildly provocative guy on guy action. Not quite the fully realized characters that Mel Keegan offers, with the extra complex plots, but fun nonetheless and the line is supposed to be within the "Romance" umbrella. Mel could certainly use their editor though. I adore Keegan's books, but really and truly, she/he needs an editor. They aren't horrific, but another set of eyes would benefit the overall continuity in most cases.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A roaming I will go.

I should drop Lee Goldberg a thank you note; not so much for the conversations that kept me so entertained and opinionated last week but because I've tripped over some truly, delightful people via his blog. I'm not sure they'd find me as delightful but I'm having a grand time.

It started with a few posts about the RWA (Romance Writers of America) who apparently have had a few kerfluffles lately. One over trying to define what "Romance" means in terms of the publishing/writing industry (and who should be allowed to play and by what rules) and then, over the past weekend, there was yet another gaff -- this time involving their annual Convention/Awards ceremony which apparently took a hard-right turn.

While both of those are interesting in and of their own right, mostly what I've discovered is an intricate network of writers, mostly women, blogging and opinionating and kvetching and playing together in a way that's oddly familiar...

Eh hem.

I have found some gems of commentators though. Up front and center is Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels. The site commentators and their fans and colleagues are funny, brazen, alternately girly and hard hitting as only women who understand the rules of the publishing industry can be. They offer reviews, comments, gossip, contests and just general chit chat about a genre they love and what it is.

Then there's Paperback Reader, another review site which has a little controversy of it's own going, but the reviews are fun and well written.

I haven't been a hard-core romance consumer in years. My mother was very much a fan of the Harlequin, and Harlequin special lines books for years along with a few other well known writers in the field. (I can honestly say, I'm probably one of the few women in the U.S.A. of my age who has never read Nora Roberts.) I was always a bigger fan of historical romances and later, a fan of the spicier ones that I think often made my mother uncomfortable. (But she read them anyway and skipped the spicy parts.)

I'm still not a huge fan of the core of the romance industry, be it the modern woman romances or the cliched bodice rippers I so enjoyed in my twenties. I was always one who read across a lot of genre fiction: westerns, romance, sci-fi, fantasy. (I was never much of a mystery fan.) But I still go back and reread Georgette Heyer on occasion or will pick up something light to read while in an airport. Something I don't' mind leaving on the seat of shuttle or bus when I'm done.

At any rate, it's been fun to revisit that old favorite genre and I may delve back in. Although as one of the side lines of the RWA kerfluffle, I tripped over a new line of Gay Romances.

I've read an excerpt. Ordered one to test it out. They are written by men, under Romentics imprint, and are more romance, perfect partner, soulmate than hard core. They focus on relationships.

Uh huh. You read me right. Homoerotic Relationship Fic.

Yup. Sounds a little like slash fic. Mainstream. No matter who their target audience was menat to be, I'd lay money on who it will be.

I am laughing so hard I can't see straight. (No pun intended.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on Free Books

Charlie Stross (who will be at Worldcon for any one going) piped up a few days ago about the publishing industries tentative foray into providing copies of entire novels for free -- midlist usually, but he's got some good information here:

Q: Do you think it hurts the Biggest-name authors more than it hurts midlist writers?

A: I don't think it hurts at all.

Here in the non-internet world, we have a technical term for people who, without the permission of the authors, take copies of their books and give them away for free to lots of readers: we call them "librarians". Complaining about readers "hurting sales" by reading free ebook copies "instead of" buying the paper edition is a bit like complaining that library withdrawals hurt sales. It assumes a false either/or dichotomy. In the first instance, some library users are too poor to buy the book in the first place -- hence, they are not a lost sale: they were never a potential sale in the first place. Secondly, many library users go on to buy copies of books they first read via the library. The library is a great browsing opportunity, and only drives sales in the long term.

I think that sector of the publishing industry that angsts loudly about "ebook pirates" is missing the point by the mile -- the readers are not your enemy, and once you start viewing your ebook rights as a marketing opportunity to boost your paper sales, rather than as an unfeasible and unusable profit centre, things fall into place and the pain is replaced by gain.

Edit Note: Emphasis mine

Monday, August 01, 2005

Copyright, Copyfight, copy this...

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

(via Making Light and PNH's sidelights)

There's a lot of intra linking in the article itself but the core of it espouses a view I believe; that the underlying principles of copyright and intellectual property are to foster creative thinking, creative expression and innovation, not restrain it.

This articles touches on some of the more egregious IP restrictions; such as making poorer countries (and people) have to pay outrageous sums for innovation in medicines and technology. It's like the genetically superior seed strains that corporate farm supplies are trying to get patented and trademarked so that farmers have to buy new seed every year rather than being able to reseed from their own crops.

It's one of the reasons the Electronic Frontier Foundation was created: (from their "about page)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was created to defend our rights to think, speak, and share our ideas, thoughts, and needs using new technologies, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web. EFF is the first to identify threats to our basic rights online and to advocate on behalf of free expression in the digital age.

I still think it comes back to the pervasive attitude of scarcity; that there aren't enough resources or ideas or opportunities for everyone so the urge to hoard them -- even when doing so isn't in your own best interest in the long term -- is rampant. But that only explains individual behaviors. For the corporate behavior, it's all about greed and it's a rare company that can show me they're doing it primarily to increase the profits of their shareholders as individuals.

I'm rapidly becoming a fan of the CreativeCommons school of reserving some but not all rights to work, which has a wide array of mix and match rights that can be assigned: say Attribution and non-commercial: So you could allow someone to write or produce derivative works off your own as long as they a) credit you and b) don't try to profit from the work.

Just imagine what could be accomplished if a little more common sense was introduced into the mix.