Well, it's been a good while since you've all been treated to a nice, long, Kate-style rant. Why, I believe there are some people now on my F-list who have never been treated to a Kate rant, and don't get the reference! Don't worry. You're not missing much. Anyways, lo, I am annoyed. BUT, I shall try and turn said annoyance at consumer entitlement into a topic for productive discussion. Aren't I awesome?
So, I came across a discussion today about a random-thus-official 'Best of Science Fiction Authors' list, which apparently was laboring under the impression that no worth while science fiction has been produced since the sixties, seeing as how the youngest author on the list was Heinlein, and you know, dead. Whatever. Not the point, though the 'ZOMG if it's not fifty years old its not classic and if its not classic it can't be good' idiocy is a subject for another day. No, the point is that in the course of said discussion, people started naming current scifi authors they believed should be on the list. One name put forth was Dan Simmons, award winning author of Hyperion, Ilium and the like. It was decided by random internet peoples that why, yes, Simmons, IS a quality writer. However, popular consensus also decided that his 'problem' was that he had 'writer's ADD' and gets bored in one genre and moves on to the next, and thus has written sci-fi, horror, crime noir, etc.
Seriously? That's a problem? Because the thing is, this random group of people on the internet aren't the only consumers that see things this way.
I'll admit, my initial annoyance stemmed from the 'my genre is superior to yours, and ACTUALLY, my good sir, sci-fi is properly pronounced skiffy' tone set forth by the discussion. But once that past, it got me wondering about the actually fairly widespread belief that authors should stick to one genre, and what I like to call consumer entitlement. I've certainly seen it before.
So where exactly does this belief that authors should stick to one subject come from? To my understanding, its pretty standard advice that writers seeking to branch out into more than one genre use pen names so as not to alienate their existent fanbase, and you know, I still don't quite understand why. What is it that says if an author makes a name for themselves in science fiction and becomes known for a certain type of fiction, that they then are 'less free' to venture into mystery novels or urban fantasy?
Creative writing classes all agree on one thing: the start of your novel sets the tone of the whole piece. It's your contract with the reader, the first taste that says "If you like this, you'll like the rest of the novel, as it's more of the same.' And for the most part, that's good, practical advice. Today's society is leery of false advertising. Nobody wants to pick up a dark gothic blood and guts book from the horror section and get a happily ever after romance ending. People browsing the science fiction section for tales of teleportation gone wrong and hostile AIs out of control aren't usually looking for scar-toting, Abra Kadabra uttering boy wizards half way through. Pick up a novel and read the back copy, yes, you should expect the book inside to fit the tone. And yes, to a degree, if you buy that book and take it home with you, you're entitled to expect to get what you pay for.
But why is it so many people seem to expect the same to hold true with an author's entire career? Some genres seem to be more tolerant of it than others. YA readers couldn't care less if their favorite authors have adult books in the mystery or romance section. Urban fantasy readers don't seem to care as much if their must-buy authors have some sci-fi, YA or romance offerings on the shelf. But god forbid an acclaimed 'mainstream' author write a pulp scifi, or a Hugo winner jump ship for another genre.
Again, there is at least a basis for the logic. It's the reason quality series are in such high demand. Tastes are varied, and subjective. When a reader finds a book they love, the first thing they do when they finish it is go and see if the author has more of the same. What else do they have out there? And if that reader exclusively reads science fiction, yes, they're first going to look for more sci-fi. If instead that author has a bunch of contemporary mysteries, some will be intrigued enough by the author's first offering to venture into unknown territory and give a new genre a shot. Others, apparently, will go raise sound and fury.
But that, to me, smacks of consumer entitlement. The idea that because "I contributed to your career, I am thus owed this and this and this." But I don't think it works like that, and maybe I'm missing something here, because plenty of people apparently do. The thing is, yes, by buying the author's first book, you contributed to their career. But you also got what you paid for. You wanted a science fiction book you'd enjoy. You bought that book and gave your hard earned cash for it, and in return, the author delivered precisely what you wanted, a sci-fi book you'd enjoy. And maybe you proceed to do the same for the author's next ten books, all also science fiction. But that transaction only extends to each book. As soon as you finish the one, the transaction between consumer and author ends there. What you decide to do about the next book is an entirely new transaction. The seven or even twenty five dollars you dropped on Book One, does not entitle you to a say in the genre or subject matter of Book Five.
And that's the thing I don't understand. Because the author's first book is NOT a contract with their readers. At least not from where I'm standing. Yes, readers tend to expect that an author will stick to one genre. But that doesn't mean the author has any obligation to do that, just because you enjoyed their book. The first chapter of a book is a contract with the reader because YOU'VE ALREADY PAID FOR THE BOOK when you continue past that first chapter. You want to be reassured by then that you're going to enjoy the rest of it. The same does NOT hold true of an author's second and third and fourth books, because in purchasing that first book, you are not agreeing to a contract in which you then promise to purchase every other book the author puts out.
Again, I suppose there's room for debate. Because I know many readers who just don't like investing in one-time authors or ones without a lot of other work to peruse. Invest seems to be the right word there, as these readers are usually ones who prefer long, epic series. They want to invest in a world, or a set of characters, immerse themselves in it and come back to that world in numerous future installments. They don't want their journeys into the author's imagination to end after one dip in the shallow end. And when they find an author they invest in for several installments, even year's at a time, only then to see the author switch seemingly without warning to another genre, then yes, I suppose I can see how there could be disappointment there, maybe even a sense of betrayal. That still doesn't mean I feel the author owed you anything different. Its their career after all, and books take far longer to write than they do to read. The individual consumer's twenty dollars a book is (I feel) not in ITSELF comparable to the usual months of work a book takes to produce. And I think everyone would agree that good books do not result from a sense of obligation, or simply to fulfill a contract established with the reader. If that's the only reason an author has for continuing with a certain series well....we've seen how that ends. And that's when readers tend to slide to the opposite end of the spectrum and start accusing the author of padding the series, and taking it places it doesn't need to go just to keep bringing in the paychecks.
But still, maybe it's not quite as black and white as it was to me when I started writing this post. Maybe there is a line, a balance somewhere in the middle. The question then becomes, where is that line drawn? How much does an author owe their readers? How much do readers have a right to expect from the authors they've followed and supported over multiple installments? I absolutely can't fathom the idea that an author should only be limited to their first genre, they're only human of course, and just as reader's tastes change over the course of their life, of course an author's tastes can change in the same fashion (And of course it's not like I have any vested interest in this discussion. I don't have writer's ADD at all. Oh no, the first book I write, yeah, that's my genre for life. Absolutely.)
So. Still. Where do you all draw the line? If an author wants to write in multiple genres, doesn't want to limit themselves to a set subject matter or area, how should they best go about it? Write under other pen names and don't publicize them? Hope it works out better for them than it did Nora Roberts? Or is it all about those first few books, making sure that the readers know from the get go that you aren't going to be sticking to a pre-set pattern with an initial ensemble offering of novels of varying genres?
Personally, I'm thinking I lean more towards the latter. Pen names can be see through, especially more and more these days where successful marketing seems to suggest that each pen name would need an equally established web presence of their own.
Anyways, that's my thoughts.
- Kalen, who's mostly talking about the kinda uproar we can all expect if JK Rowling ever dares write another book and its NOT in fact a new Potter-verse novel
Okay, after finding the 70 Days of Sweat challenge via nephele, I have decided that makes more sense than NaNoWriMo, given the whole....packing and moving to the other side of the country the day NaNoWriMo is supposed to start. So! Yeah. Signed up for that, which starts next Monday, and I shall like, plot and outline and whatnot the rest of this week. I have also decided to like, disregard all that I'd previously decided on which new project to start, and begin my new urban fantasy series instead.
So yeah. That's the plan. And I guess I'll just like....write more during NaNoWriMo, or something. Shut up, it'll totally be like I'm doing both. Go multitasking!
Forewarned is forearmed. For people who have no interest in my rants, and/or gratuitous female examples of all that is wrong with the comicbook industry, proceed no further. For people who do....enjoy.
I consider myself to be a fairly enlightened individual. Err, all things considered. But there's legitimate grievances against 'the man' and then there's just being bat-shit crazy. For those of you wondering what the hell I'm talking about, I'm referring to the ridiculously controversial cover for Heroes For Hire #13.
Mostly I suppose I'm just annoyed by the controversy because its just a bad cover made for a bad book.
Does it objectify women? Umm, duh. That in itself is a fairly obvious complaint. And I could actually get behind that argument, and what it suggests about the market's view of the average comicbook consumer and what they want to see. But that's when arguments start to get weird. Because according to all the 'experts', this cover is obviously an allusion to 'hentai' which apparently is a staple of Japanese manga, and translates roughly to tentacle porn. (No, I kid you not). And clearly the dripping goo is meant to be semen, and the whole thing is an obviously suggestive rape fantasy. And those of us who don't see these clear as day implications - even if we've never heard of hentai before this whole mess - are obviously just Marvel apologists.
A bit heavy with the use of the 'I'm right, you're wrong, now fall in line' debate tactic, but still fine. I can at least see what they're basing these assumptions on, and they gain a little more weight when you consider that the cover art was produced in a manga-esque style by Sana Takeda, a female Japanese artist. But that's when it really starts to get ridiculous. 1) Its been stated by editors that the cover image, soup to nuts, was entirely Ms. Takeda's idea. 2) The book in question is 90% over the top parody. Its titular character is Misty Knight for pete's sake! One of the most infamous blaxploitation creations, still rocking her seventies style afro and kicking ass. One of the only two male characters in the book is named HUMBUG. His superpower is to communicate with insects. 3) None of the people fussing about this cover believes even for a second that any of these characters are going be 'tentacle-raped' within the issue itself; when asked that point, they easily admit as much.
Yet clearly the cover is not an attempt at satirizing comics industry stereotypes like the rest of the series has done thus far. Clearly it is not Ms. Takeda's fault for coming up with an idea that in hindsight, was in poor taste. No, obviously, the only conclusion to be drawn is that this is yet another example of Joe Quesada's blatant misogyny, as he and the rest of Marvel's fat, obscene, gay-hating Boy's Club sit around wanking off to their latest effort to put down strong women. Because they're threatened by strong women that kick ass, duh. And the fact that they're the ones that publish the title about strong women kicking ass is completely irrelevant.
I mean, COME ON! Seriously? I find myself having trouble believing that these people are for real, given how ridiculous that sounds, and yet Tamora Pierce is leading the charge herself. But just try and contest any of those points and you're being 'dismissive'. And you know what? I guess I am being dismissive, because I think its taking a legitimate complaint and over-inflating it to the point where it costs you all credibility. If I'm asked to accept as fact that this cover is a clear allusion to 'tentacle rape,' in an effort to undermine strong women everywhere, let's take a look at some other facts:
Heroes For Hire is a title about three strong, independent heroines who routinely kick ass without the benefit of any enhanced abilities at all. Its male characters, Shang-Chi and Humbug, show up as afterthoughts most of the time, and they're usually the ones 'in distress'. In last month's market shares report, Heroes For Hire #9 came in at #95 on the Top 100 Sales Chart. That's ridiculously low for Marvel, their only title lower being Irredeemable Ant-Man. Not to mention, issue #9 was a World War Hulk tie-in. A tie-in to a major Marvel tentpole event....and it still only makes it as high as #95 on the sales chart. And look at the actual sales!
Nobody has any definite figures for last month yet, because there was no Batman issue, so Detective was substituted as the unit-sales comparison index. Issue #9 is listed as having 38.10 units moved. New X-Men is listed as having 67.40. I know usually New X-Men is only in the 35-40,000 issues sold range, so that means this month's actual figures are roughly 30,000 units lower.
What does all that mean? It means Heroes For Hire, a TIE-IN issue, only sold around 18,000 issues last month. Since Quesada took over as EIC six years ago, Marvel's kill-zone has held steady at around 25,000 issues sold, cancelling any title that routinely sells less than that, as Heroes For Hire has for months now. The only time exceptions are made, are when either there's a strong name creator behind the title that Marvel doesn't want to risk alienating, or else they strongly believe there's a need for the title. An example of the former would be Warren Ellis's Nextwave, Robert Kirkman's Ant-Man, or Tamora Pierce's White Tiger. An example of the latter would be Runaways, Arana (another title with a strong female lead), Spidergirl (another title with a strong female lead), Spiderman Loves Mary Jane (oh yeah, look at that, yet another title with a strong female lead), and....what else? Right, Heroes For Hire. Gray and Palmiotti left the title after only the first couple of issues. For over six months now its been written by Zeb Wells, that funny guy who gave us a New Warriors mini-series. Not exactly a strong name creator they're desperate to keep around. The only reason Heroes For Hire hasn't been given the axe, has been pushed as often and loudly as it has by Marvel, and is still being solicited for three months from now when any other no-name title would have been canceled at the new year....is because Marvel and Quesada in particular feels there is a need for it, and wants it to succeed.
But all that aside....yeah, everybody's right. Quesada's clearly a misogynistic pig, and this cover was a definite effort to undermine feminists and demean the strong heroines of this title, because he and the rest of Marvel's women and gay hating Boy's Club are threatened by said strong females. And you know, really it'd just be a whole lot more effort for them to just cancel the damn women-promoting title that's no longer even breaking...well...even. Yes, clearly this was just much easier. Because they're lazy too, those fat womenandgayhating bastards. Damn them.
Does the cover objectify and exploit women? Umm yes. Is it gratuitous T&A imagery? Well duh. Is it just a bad cover done in even worse taste, even as a parody? I'd say so, yes. Is it a clear allusion to hentai and a production of rape fantasy? That's debatable. Does anyone even expect to find the characters in danger of being raped within the title itself? Apparently not. Does anyone even know what Ms. Takeda's intentions with it were, whether it was an effort at satirizing hentai or if she even intended allusions to hentai to be made? How odd, no one seems to have asked her. Is it ultimately, obviously, yet further proof that Quesada and everyone else at Marvel hates strong women and wants to see them put down and 'in their place?
......Just shut the fuck up already. Seriously, people.
(And if anyone even thinks to mention that damn Mary Jane statuette, so help me.....Ugh, still annoyed by THAT mess. For fuck's sake, Marvel's only contribution to the making of that bust was providing an Adam Hughes concept sketch. ADAM HUGHES! The man is glorified by feminists for his depiction of strong women. And you honestly think that's what he, and the people at Marvel who thought his art would be a great basis for a Mary Jane figure, intended? Blame the people who made the damn thing, Quesada EDITS. As in, dealswiththebooks. Whatever. /rant off).
1 - Tell you why I friended you. (If I can remember, that is...) 2 - Associate you with something. A fandom, a song, a colour, a piece of fruit. SOMETHING. 3 - Tell you something I like about you. 4 - Tell you a memory I have of you. 5 - Associate you with a character/pairing. 6 - Ask something I've always wanted to know about you. 7 - Tell you my favorite user pic of yours. 8 - In response, you must spread this disease in your LJ.
So here's a little something I came across via a friend's LJ. I don't know the person this happened to myself, but as a former resident of San Diego, and someone's whose spent years working in the service industry, I regret that I don't still live there so I could go down to this fucking piece of shit restaurant and raise some hell myself. I know all about having a bad day at work and having to deal with annoying customers, but there are some lines you just DO NOT cross. Not that these fucking idiots probably realize there's even still a line at all. I'm just....SO pissed.
Spoilers: Nothing obvious, but 'Taking A Break From All Your Worries', just to be safe.
Summary: Lee told Dee he needs her. He wasn't lying.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. You know how it works.
Author's Note: Yes, I know what you all are thinking, Oh look, Kalen picked up another fandom. Imagine that. But really....this doesnt count. Its just a short ficlet, written in a couple hours after viewing the latest Battlestar ep. Because, well, Lee's really hot. That's my story and Im sticking to it. So no, doesn't count as falling off the wagon at all.