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Iddy.

Very often hate reads are undertaken by people who fall outside of the text’s original demographic. I must stress that this doesn’t invalidate the criticisms (especially if we are talking about marginalised people deconstructing mainstream work written about them but not for them), but when it comes, say, to an unqueer white nerd who fundamentally believes all vampires should scary monsters and not romantic heroes, his point of view on Twilight may be useful but ultimately, I shouldn’t consume so much of his work that I internalise his voice. It would not be constructive. Because I am not trying to write for him.

I should not cultivate in my head a Critical Voice that is antagonistic to the premises of the genre I want to write in. That way lies compromising my ideas to appeal to hypothetical readers who would never actually want to engage with my work, all the while alienating people who are actually invested in the premise itself.

Jeannette Ng on not requiring what you hate.

Ng’s point here is that brutal, nitpicky critiques, sporkings, and hate reads can be fun… but they’re fundamentally poisonous to your own ability to write, because they stifle creativity. Part of learning is fucking up, and unfortunately when you’re a paid creative oftentimes the only way to fuck up is to fuck up publicly. But if the threat of the critical voice means you don’t have the courage to try and fail in the first place, you’ll never get anywhere at all.

And as Ng points out, this critical voice seems to hit marginalized creators the hardest. “Submit like a white man” might be a jokey thing authors say to each other when they’re angsting over whether to send this novel to that agent, but there’s a painful core of truth there. Because who is it in society who gets permission to fuck up royally, in public, and recover from it? Who gets lauded for “doing better” and who gets eviscerated for not being perfect in the first place?

These things matter.

As a personal confession, I do occasionally indulge in bouts of hate reading although, honestly, not that much given the state of Mt. TBR. But even when I do hateread I try and approach it constructively; obviously someone liked a work well enough to publish it, or make it popular, so… why? Dan Brown makes mediocre men feel smart. Twilight makes awkward teenage girls (and women who were once awkward teenage girls) feel loved. And, yes, usually there’s more to the story than just that (cough E.L. James cough), but…

But.

People like things for a reason, even if you don’t. It’s often useful to understand why.

2020-03-27T08:07:52+11:008th July, 2020|Tags: culture, writing|

In fic-related news I find it endlessly fascinating what I consider ATG/OOC in AUs (or even just UAs/canon divergences), versus what I’m prepared to go along with.

Like… I’ve read some totally wild and wacky AUs that still “clicked” for me as being Yes, That’s Definitely Still Them while others, even if they’re technically more adept, fall short because they’re missing The Things. What are The Things? We may never truly know! But they are!

This Hot Take brought to you by one-too-many interesting, well-written, very hot fics that seem to just… fall apart in the third act because they don’t address That Canon Thing (You Know The One) in a way that makes the whole thing retrospectively feel serials-filed-on-ish. Like, okay. You took Generic Romance Novella 2083, slapped some canon names on it, rewrote a few minor scenes… but couldn’t structurally alter the denouement enough to really bring things home.

And actually writing it out this way has made me realize that what I probably mean is that the AUs that work for me essentially adapt the canon’s A Plot into the fic’s B Plot (since the fic’s A Plot is usually a romance). But fics that don’t successfully manage this, even if their characterization is otherwise pretty good, just… (sad trombone sound)

2019-12-12T18:16:38+11:0030th March, 2020|Tags: fanfic, writing|

Writeout.

One student uses an extended cookie metaphor to contrast the writing she was tasked with in high school with what she’d experienced previously. High school has been a series of repetitive tasks, “I have (for the most part) only written one essay–introduction, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. I would clearly state my thesis, structure my evidence into three neat little pieces, and wrap everything up in five sentences rambling about how extremely significant my point was to the world.”

To this student, “My writing as well as my experiences with high school english in general ended up dry and flavorless, like a grocery store sugar cookie that sat on the shelf for too long. Sure, it’s beautifully shaped and frosted, but it usually doesn’t taste that great. It’s the type of cookie you only buy for its appearance.”

In contrast, in middle school, where the student was given more freedom to explore, “I enjoyed writing a lot more; rather than focusing on making a cookie look good, I could focus on making a cookie taste good. They were homemade, and cookies that are homemade tend to contain a part of the person who made them. Despite being rather misshapen and ugly compared to the store cookies, they at least tasted, if not good, how I wanted them to taste. I could write in a way that was meaningful to me, and as a result, I felt as though I improved and grew as a writer.”

John Warner on how to kill the love of reading and writing.

2019-10-29T12:37:13+11:0022nd February, 2020|Tags: education, english, writing|

Random things that bug me in fic.

Greatest Hits from Random Things That Bug Me In Fic:

  • Fics set in New York where people constantly brush up against each other.
  • Pinching. Of any kind.
  • That’s not how encryption works!
  • That’s not how RFID works!
  • That’s not how the government works!
  • That’s not how the military works!
  • That’s not how computers work!
  • That’s not how the Vikings worked!
  • That’s not how skyscrapers work!
  • That’s not how the publishing industry works!
  • That’s not how Michelin-star restaurants work!
  • That’s not how Australia works!
  • That’s not even Russian, bro.
  • THAT’S NOT EVEN COFFEE BRO!!!!!

And how could I forget my All-Time Ultimate Nitpick OTP:

  • That’s not how pronoun-antecedent agreement works!

 

2019-08-06T10:06:23+10:005th December, 2019|Tags: fandom, fanfic, writing|

Sekret project reveal: UNNATURAL ORDER!

Hey, y’all. You remember these guys? And how they were from a totally “secret” project I couldn’t announce yet?1 Well now I can announce it; I’m editing an anthology. About monsters!

The dragon on her hoard. The horror in its void. The word-spanning AI. The demon reaping souls. Too often fiction portrays the non-human as Other; as a threat to be destroyed, to be conquered… or to be “saved”, assimilated back into the teeming throngs of humanity.

Not this time. This time, it’s the non-humans’ turn. What is life like, to be imperfect. To observe humanity from without? What does it mean to be seen as horrific, to be rejected… and to overcome that? Or embrace it? To embrace it or reject it? And what does our love of these stories tell us can we, as human readers, learn from that about ourselves?

Unnatural Order is an anthology for strange days and grotesque beauty, as the monstrous seeps out from the dark, and makes the light its own.

A tentacled demon snake-goat thing.Sounds awesome? OF COURSE IT DOES! Monsters, man! Monsters! I can’t believe someone gave me and Lyss the opportunity to make an entire goddamn short story anthology of monsters.

Oh, and did I mention we’re looking to launch this at next year’s WorldCon? Because we totally are.

Because that’s a super-tight timeframe, submissions are open, like. Now. Until October. Next month we’ll also be launching a Kickstarter, managed by Rivqa, who you may remember from the totally awesome, multi-award-winning Mother of Invention anthology. The base project is funding (i.e. there’ll be something at the end), but the Kickstarter is for things like paying authors more, commissioning interior art,2 and actually paying the people we’ve currently got volunteering on services like copyediting and layout. For you guys, however, the Kickstarter is a way to, a) pre-order copies of the final anthology, including an exclusive hardback edition, and b) get sweet, sweet monster-related merch. So… definitely keep an eyestalk out.

And, finally, to celebrate: Liesmith will be free on Amazon for the next week. So… monsters! Eee!

  1. Though, confession, totally talked about anyway on Mastodon. []
  2. We already have a cover artist lined up and I… might just be a teeny tiny bit excited about it. []
2019-07-18T10:18:05+10:0018th July, 2019|Tags: books, csfg, gonzo author stories, unnatural order, writing|

Narrative will.

The reason that letting the audience choose its own story keeps failing when the entertainment industry tries it is that it’s a bad idea. It’s the author’s job to write the story. They can then choose a way to convey that story that gives the reader freedom in how they experience it. But if the story itself is merely a loose collection of different options, each in a different genre and with a completely different tone, then what they’ve created isn’t a coherent work, but a self-indulgent mess.

Abigail Nussbaum on story.

This is from a really, really good comparative look between Black Mirror‘s “Bandersnatch” and the “walking simulator” video game genre which, among other things, really nails why I can’t fucking stand Black Mirror‘s smug, lukewarm, late-to-the-fucking-party takes on things. Also Firewatch was a fantastic game, so was Gone Home, and while I didn’t love Night in the Woods I can see why people do.

Also related thought: the tension in tabletop RPGs between “the GM designs the game and the players experience it” versus “the players make-up the game and the GM facilitates” it. I’ve mentioned before I am… not particularly a fan of the latter approach and, again, I think this article well-articulates why.

2019-02-04T10:01:28+11:005th July, 2019|Tags: gaming, pop culture, tabletop rpgs, video games, writing|
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