Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We’re Here! We’re Queer! Our Purchasing Power Is Clear!
15 September, 2011

Rachel Manija Brown wrote in “Say Yes to Gay YA” about an agent asking her coauthor and her to eliminate a gay character in their submission. On the one hand, it is surprising that anyone would be that outspokenly homophobic. On the other hand, it is unsurprising that an agent would prefer to avoid what they perceive as a more difficult sell. I have no experience in the agent’s profession so I can not comment on whether a novel with a gay character is harder to sell than one without.

Brown wrote, “Forcing all major characters in YA novels into a straight white mold is a widespread, systemic problem which requires long-term, consistent action.” Certainly forcing all characters into any mold is counterproductive as it would frustrate the primary purpose of telling a good story. Racism and homophobia obviously should not be tolerated. But publishers are businesses who must be concerned with marketing their products.

Brown added, “The overwhelming white straightness of the YA sf and fantasy sections may have little to do with what authors are writing, or even with what editors accept.” My intuition is that she is correct. SF and fantasy authors are (Orson Scott Card notwithstanding) more tolerant and less racist and homophobic than the general populace. Editors thereof are, if not writers themselves, at least readers of SF and fantasy and show similar tolerance. My experience with marketeers (albeit not in publishing) is entirely consistent with sales and marketing avoiding anything unconventional or out of the ordinary, hence the striking lack of characters who play rugby, for example.

This seems to me to be entirely compatible with the majority of marketing. Advertisements now consistently show different races but just as consistently show only one specific kind of appearance. Despite some companies that target consumers that think differently, most companies focus on the mainstream. Publishers aiming for brick-and-mortar stores and libraries have an economic incentive to avoid the long tail because what is mainstream takes less explaining and sells more easily.

Brown declared, “This does not make for better novels. Nor does it make for a better world.” I oppose making a story worse by insisting that a character be white or heterosexual. I also oppose making a story worse by insisting that a character not be white or heterosexual. (For example, Sarah Rees Brennan writes non-heterosexual characters who are better for it, not worse.) Artists should make the very best art that they can. Not all authors are just artists, though. Those who support themselves with their writing are also businesspeople. As such, they can find themselves balancing the business against the art.

I hope that newer business models will allow authors more freedom from the demands of marketing. For that matter, I hope that newer business models will allow everyone more freedom from the demands of marketing.


The Futura Is Wild
14 November, 2007

My eldest is working on a poster for a science project and, without any help from me, chose Futura for the typeface. My kids are brilliant, even without their Mac.

Sacred Cow Disease
9 February, 2006

linked to a CNN article about a long-term study of a low-fat diet that did not show the expected health benefits. In contrast to the study's authors I do not find this especially surprising. But the reason for studies such as this is to find the way things really work, not just the way we think things work.

What I do find surprising is that attitude evidenced by Dr. Manson, one of the study's authors. She says, “[the results] are somewhat disappointing. We would have liked this dietary intervention to have a major impact on health.” Manson appears to have gone seriously awry with her motivations. Science is not about validating her theory; science is about determining the facts. Science requires objective analysis of the results. Manson and her fellow researchers should not be disappointed that the data does not support their theory. Rather they should be excited that the data gives insight into the reality of the situation.

From the remainder of the article it seems that the researchers have already accepted a solution and are in search of facts to support it. The article offers weaseling from the researchers like claims that the women did not cut enough fat out of their diet and that the study did not account for different kinds of fat. If the theory is that A is correlated to B and the data shows little correlation, the data does not support the theory. Such claims by the researchers are like saying that if adding boogers to silicon wafers has little effect on their yield we should add even more boogers to see if that will have a better effect.

I think what has happened is that the researchers are true believers in the religion of Fat Is Evil. (Apparently not only the creationists let belief pollute their science.) The obsession with being lean seems to have led many, not just the researchers, to conclude that if fat in the body is evil, then so must be fat in the food. Instead of advocating healthy moderation, this religion demands abstinance. Of course a diet consisting solely of fried foods is unhealthy. But so is a diet consisting solely of uncooked fruits and vegetables.

Being healthy is much more than restricting the fat in our diets. Being healthy is about eating, moving, laughing, living, and loving well.

One Time at CAD Camp…
2 February, 2006

I did two years at Harvey Mudd, a place a lot like Real Genius. As a frosh, the dorm officers were all members of a group of friends with the exonym “The Bozos”. (Not because of size 16 maroon shoes but because of things like have a keg fridge in the closet.) A good-natured bunch of blokes, they had a somewhat, er, coarse sense of humor.

For example: Like most Mudders, they had their fair share of nerdiness, including D&D. One somewhat shorter fellow played a fighter in full plate mail. During one session, someone suggested that his character became aroused and somebody else commented that his erection hitting the plate mail sounded like a ping. Sure enough, his nickname thereafter was “Ping”.

No one had an explanation how another fellow acquired his nickname. Regardless, each and every one of them studiously referred to him only by the nickname, “Butt Sex”. (His attempts to quash this had no effect and probably exacerbated it.) This was amusing in casual conversation, but really shined when yelled across the dining hall, e.g., “Hey, Butt Sex needs more butter!”. But his nickname reached full fruition only during parties. Our man would be off in a corner, chatting up some lass, when one of his (naturally drunken) friends would spot him and bellow at the loudest possible volume “Butt Sex!”. Invariably his carefully crafted seduction would be scuttled, leading him to secret assignations with ladies of dubious provenance.

As I work my way through the back issues of Mac Hall, this strip reminded me of good ol' “Butt Sex”. Ah, good times!

1 February, 2006

Last week I ran across this article. I have read Graham's work before and found it worthwhile so I printed a copy to read this weekend. So I was surprised to read the following in his discussion of avoiding prestigious occupations for which one has no talent:

… you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.

"Elaborate lies"? Stories are created to entertain; lies are created to defraud. There is a big difference between entertaining readers and defrauding readers. (Some authors notwithstanding.) Perhaps Graham liked the turn of phrase, “elaborate lies”, but it is both inaccurate and unfair.

But I ploughed ahead, trying to overlook the misstep. Some paragraphs later, though, I was startled to read the following:

… people would rather be English professors than work in ad agencies … but it is the existence of English majors, and therefore jobs teaching them, that calls into being all those thousands of dreary papers about gender and identity in the novels of Conrad. No one does that kind of thing for fun.

Point of fact, I know someone who finds discussing gender and identity fun. Regardless of that, I find the assertion that the people who pursue English as an occupation can not love what they do ridiculous. Such a position immediately fails the Laugh-Out-Loud Test and suggests that Graham has some unexplained antipathy toward the arts.

These two ludicrous points ruined the article for me and I suspect ruined my opinion of Graham.

1 February, 2006

I publish the newsletter for the PTA at my eldest's school. This is my preferred form of volunteering because I'm a word nerd but mostly because I can help without dealing with the personalities involved. Case in point: the current president.

I have been doing the newsletter for a year and a half. During that time I have repeatedly sent out an email detailing the schedule for going to press. Specifically, submissions must be to me by the Friday before the Friday the parents will get the newsletter. One week, is that so hard? Yet she continues to try to submit things on Monday or Tuesday for publication that Friday. I continue to expect (apparently vainly) that she'll eventually learn.

But one thing that really irritates me is that she doesn't bother to pay attention. Every time she wants something in the newsletter, she sends it to my spouse. Even though I set up an email address specifically for the newsletter. Even though I publicized that email address. Even though everyone else in the PTA can remember that email address. She doesn't even send it to me at the wrong email address. She insists on sending it to my spouse. (grrr)

If the Shoe Fits…
27 January, 2006

From this entry:
After this brief exposure to linguistics, it seems to me that linguists are science-minded persons, who like words more than numbers, and are too nice to want to be lawyers.

While I am neither a linguist nor do I play one on TV, I have always admired linguistics and had people assure me that I had the abilities to be either a linguist or a lawyer.

And it flatters my ego to think that I am too nice to be a lawyer.

Righteous, Dude!
26 January, 2006

This picture is worth a thousand words. This and the 900. Wow, Birdman.

These are a Few of my Favorite Things
25 January, 2006

He is an Evil Genius.

You like me! You really, really like me!
24 January, 2006

Yesterday Kawasaki-san asked his readers to add a photo that captures their essence. Since I use a Canon camera and iPhoto, I had thousands of photos ready to hand. After some reflection I chose a photo that I thought best captured my essence. A quick filtering with Photoshope Elements and the photo was ready to go.

This morning I read that I won an award!