Okay, let me back up. “Fangs and Fonts” is a podcast about writing, hosted by four writers in (and out of) furry fandom: Roland Ferret, Yannarra, Tarl “Voice” Hoch and Ocean. So far the episodes have mostly come across as structure-free conversations about a given topic. There’s a lot of spontaneity and liveliness to it, although I suspect they’d benefit from spending an hour or so before recording making a list of Things To Cover.
Anyway. While it was fun listening in on the conversation, my impression was that none of the four hosts had read much of the genre past the Wikipedia entry. They’d seen movies with cyberpunk tropes to varying degrees, but… well. There’s no way to say this without an implied tsk tsk, but you guys, it’s a writing podcast!
So let me back up more. Specificially, to the early ’80s.
It's been reformatted with OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion, not 10.9 Mavericks), and given a clean pass by the extended Apple Hardware Test. It's still covered under AppleCare until August 2014. The battery health is, according to iStats, 89%, so it's still getting pretty good life.
I'd prefer to sell this to someone local to the SF Bay area, but I'll consider out of state offers, although you'll need to pay shipping.
All right, I don’t really hate to say that, of course—I’ve been thinking about it off and on for years. It’s possible that a new story that I’ve started may be a good candidate. I’ll have to get several months' worth of updates in the bag before feeling confident trying this, though, so it might not start until next year. We’ll see.
I still have to figure out where to serialize it, too. As much as “serialize it everywhere!” sounds like the right answer, it could quickly get exhausting given that posting to each archive site is multiple steps and difficult to automate. I may stick to just my blog (http://cprints.ranea.org) and probably the LiveJournal mirror (which I’ve almost but not quite automated), with links to the posts from my SoFurry and FA accounts. In some ways I’d prefer to keep the story a separate “stream” from the blog, but mixing the stream doesn’t seem to hurt the audience of other people who’ve done it, so.
A couple minor updates: Why Coyotes Howl has been submitted to Bad Dog Books and should be available there in a couple days for $5.99 retail. And, the ebook version of “Indigo Rain” is now available at Amazon and Lulu (and should be on the iBookstore and Nook store soon).
A discussion-slash-debate broke out among friends and acquaintances on Twitter earlier this week relating to the value of reviewers—specifically with respect to furry writing (and by extension other subgenres), but also in a more general philosophical sense.
“Reviewers = haters” is not an attitude unique to fandom; I know a lot of people who express disdain for movie reviews—which also happen to be the media criticism we’re most familiar with. “If I listened to bad reviews, I’d have missed a lot of movies I liked,” the thought goes. “And reviewers never like escapist stuff. They only like artsy fartsy stuff.”
Believe what you will, but I believe that just doesn’t hold up. Most critics liked “The Dark Knight” and the Lord of the Rings movies and “Star Trek Into Darkness” and countless other popular flicks. And do not tell me that critics can’t appreciate escapist fluff when “Fast & Furious 6” is sitting there with 70% on Rotten Tomatoes as I write this, okay? Critics have different likes and dislikes (surprisingly similar to normal humans), but in aggregate they tend to be fairly reflective of movie audiences. Yes, the critics probably will all hate on “Transformers vs. GI Joe: Give Michael Bay All Your Money,” but let’s not pretend it’s because they’re all horrible people who hate fun.
I’m happy to announce that Indigo Rain is available as an ebook from Bad Dog Books, in both Mobi (Kindle) and EPUB formats. Bad Dog’s ebooks are DRM-free, and Indigo Rain features all three of Sabretoothed Ermine’s interior illustrations.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I serialized a novella in YARF! called A Gift of Fire, A Gift of Blood. It's had a couple minor revisions since then, and an attempt a few years ago to rewrite it entirely. I mostly shelved the rewrite attempt with an "I'll get back to it someday" thought, but for various reasons I decided this weekend that someday was here--I'd do a less dramatic revision of chapters 2-4 to go with the new and completed chapter 1, which did most of the heavy lifting with respect to the parts that bugged me.
And now, I'm re-serializing it, on several of the archive sites.
If you're interested in it, you have three places to follow along:
The text is, of course, the same on all of the sites, so if one of them is Your Favorite Site, great. If you don't have a clear preference I'd suggest SoFurry, which has a notably better reading experience than the other two sites. (While Weasyl gives stories better treatment than FA does, they're clearly second bananas at both sites. it's just that FA has no first bananas.)
Once the serial is finished I'll probably write about the changes I made and why (there are no changes to the actual plot, I promise), and I have vague handwavy plans to produce an ebook version after that that may have some kind of exclusive something added to entice you to buy it (although I hope "I like this story and would like to show that by giving you a couple bucks" will be a bit of a reason on its own!).
Sure, good reviews can be fun, too. But let’s face it—stuff you hate gives you more occasion for zingers. Roger Ebert opened his review of one infamous movie with “Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time.” (My favorite review opener, though, is from Mary Pols of TIME: “More than 24 hours has passed since I watched the new Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill and I am still dead inside.”)
But a good review can’t be just zingers, and the point of a review is not to show off how witty the reviewer is. Ebert explained—without rancor—just what it is that made “Battlefield Earth” suck. He didn’t accuse the movie of being an assault on all that is good and holy; the movie’s creators and stars needed a thick skin to deflect the barbs, but they weren’t personal attacks. No one was writing, say, “This is a steaming pile of shit.”
“That may be vulgar, but it’s not a personal attack.”
Well, see, that’s kinda the heart of the matter.
When you’re just talking trash to your friends about something, you can get away with that defense. In a printed or filmed review, saying that becomes considerably nastier. And if that review isn’t of a movie but is of something that a single person created—like a book—the review is personal, because the work is personal.
I’ve avoided mentioning the reviewer—and specific review—that inspired this, but if I reveal that it’s a furry story, some of you may quickly guess both. When it comes to writers and publishers, this is still a small community. The phrase “steaming pile of shit” comes from that review, as does the assertion that the book under review somehow “tricked” the reviewer into thinking it would be good, except that it really isn’t. It tricked him! Then he recovered from its evil spell and realized it was shit. Shit shit shit shit shit. (I suspect I’m undercounting the number of “shits” he used.)
Without knowing the book in question, the chances are you’re already thinking gosh, even if this is self-published fanfic spewed out by a fever-gripped teenager who left no comma unspliced, you’re making the reviewer sound a little unhinged. Well, he comes across as a little unhinged. To some degree that’s clearly a schtick, but it’s still startlingly vicious.
This is, in fact, a book I saw in draft form. It’s well-written. You could definitely make the case—as the reviewer did, with stentorian profanity—that the protagonist isn’t sympathetic. Neither is the influence character. (He’s charismatic, but not sympathetic.) They’re both con men. They make bad choices. I wanted to slap both of them at multiple points. Some readers might genuinely hate both main characters.
But a badly written book—a “steaming pile of shit,” to wit—would hardly be powerful enough to make anyone angry with it. Whether you like a character or a setting has little to do with the quality of the work. The problem isn’t that this is a negative review. It’s that it’s an unfair review.
I mentioned before that the furry writing community is small, and bluntly, it’s small enough that this edges past merely irritating toward flat-out irresponsible. I doubt it’s going to hurt this particular book’s author, but public viciousness can be genuinely damaging at the scale we’re still at. Also, keep in mind reviewers earn—and lose—reputation currency as well. Authors and publishers do talk. And I can assure you I’m not the only one who’s saying, “Hey, can you believe this guy thinks this is an appropriate way to review a book?”
Let me underline that I’m not suggesting we never say negative things. Furry truly needs good criticism to advance, and we have a history of denying glaring problems in work by our community. But good criticism is well-reasoned. It distinguishes between this has objective problems in its storytelling and this story just isn’t my cup of tea.
And if you really don’t think something has any redeeming value at all—whether it’s competently written but just makes you want to pluck out your eyeballs, or it really is self-published fanfic spewed out by a fever-gripped teenager who left no comma unspliced—then you need to stop and ask yourself what your intention is in reviewing it. I’m betting the honest answer is “I want to mock this so everyone can laugh at my witty zingers, and I can be a capital-P Personality.”
If so, my advice is don’t do it. Because your review will probably be a steaming pile of shit.
Everything seems to have gone really well from those standpoints. It sounds like FurPlanet sold about two dozen copies of “Rain,” which may not sound barn-burning but I’m pretty happy with it. (Look for information about an ebook release, er, eventually. Sooner rather than later. There’s a non-zero chance the ebook will not have Sabretoothed Ermine’s great interior sketches, though.) I got positive feedback on the writing track from both attendees and the con committee. While I didn’t pull the reading off flawlessly—and I’m not likely to be recruited by Audible.com any time soon—overall, it was pretty smooth.
Also, I will probably not be drinking for the next week.
As I mentioned on Twitter, my current job is being phased out, switching from full-time to part-time at the end of the month. (I confess my enthusiasm for the work has already phased out, although the job loss is due to the company’s finances, not my performance.) This may or may not give me more time to work on my personal writing projects like the glacially-developed science fiction novel I’ve been hammering on since roughly 1858, tentatively entitled Kismet, as well as a couple new pieces I’ve been playing around with and the hopefully-soon-reviving Claw & Quill Magazine—but one of my definite goals for 2013 is to get both of those specific projects launched.
I also have a subject I may want to rant about, but I’ll decide later. (In short form, I’m considering how to compare and contrast “giving a small press book a negative review” and “shoving your junk in a light socket and screaming on YouTube for seven minutes.” The differences are subtle, but I think they’re important.)