Swan Tower

Aug. 14th, 2014

01:50 pm - The Cluster&#$@ of Xanth

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have described the Xanth series as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that got kind of creepy about sexuality later on.

Now? I would describe it as somewhat puerile humorous fantasy that has had really awful attitudes about sexuality and gender baked into it from the start.

The change started with this post. If that isn’t enough, you can follow up with this tag, because she’s continued on into the later books (she’s partway through Castle Roogna now), giving me more than enough evidence to say this isn’t a fleeting problem. It’s pervasive. Xanth is horrible. In addition to the constant male gaze evaluating every female character (including human-animal hybrids) for their hotness or lack thereof, you have pretty women being stupid, ugly women being totally not worth anybody’s time, and the very few women who are both pretty and smart being untrustworthy schemers. You have women, countless women, who only exist to be used for men’s gratification. You have women’s protests against mistreatment being explicitly described as an act women practice to make themselves more attractive to men. You have marriage and raising a family being dreadful fates men are expected to run away from. You have men pretty much wanting to rape every woman they see, and being held up as wonderful paragons of morality when they refrain. You have a farce of a rape trial that is I guess supposed to be funny . . . somehow.

And that’s just Xanth. That isn’t even getting into his horror novel Firefly, which goes so far with the pedophilia that merely reading descriptions of the content (and the author’s justifications for same) has guaranteed I will never read anything written by Anthony ever again.

Sorry to rain on the parades of the people who remember the early Xanth books as being Not That Bad. They are. They really, really are. I mean, the original edition of A Spell for Chameleon contained the following passage (taken from that oh-so-funny mockery of a rape trial):

Bink felt sorry for his opposite. How could she avoid being seductive? She was a creature constructed for no other visible purpose than ra—than love.

Case closed.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/676458.html. Comment here or there.

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May. 27th, 2014

11:28 am - Amazon is at it again

The one bright spot is, people are starting to notice.

In 2008, Amazon got into a pissing contest with Hachette, the smallest of the large publishers (and owners of Orbit, who published my first four novels). In 2010, it was Macmillan (owners of Tor, my current publisher). In 2012, Penguin. And now, in 2014, we’ve wrapped back around to Hachette. Books published by subsidaries of Hachette are currently shipping “in 2 to 5 weeks” — including Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, and In Ashes Lie. Is it because there’s a problem with Hachette? Are they not supplying stock to Amazon in a timely fashion?

Nope. It’s because Amazon is trying, once again, to use its market share to strong-arm publishers into accepting unfavorable terms. Unfavorable for the publishers, unfavorable for writers — and ultimately, unfavorable for readers.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s an ongoing pattern of behavior. It’s something people have been warning about for years, but the response has usually been that Amazon is your friend. They sell things cheaply and ship really fast (just don’t think about how they treat their employees), and hey, 70% royalties on ebooks! Except that Amazon is demonstrably willing to tank the customer experience if it will help them gain more power in the marketplace. And the more they control, the less friendly they become. They are the abusive boyfriend who systematically isolates you from everybody in your life and then, once you have nowhere else to turn, shows his true colors.

If we had better anti-trust legislation in this country, Amazon would have been stopped long before this. But we don’t, and they haven’t been.

Back when they pulled the buy buttons off Macmillan books as a “negotiating tool,” I removed the Amazon links from my website. (Mostly. Scanning the pages, I see I left the Book Depository there; I don’t know if they hadn’t yet been bought by Amazon at the time.) I’m going to go through and scrub the remainder, with two exceptions: Audible (also owned by Amazon, but they are the publisher of my audio editions) and Kindle Direct Publishing (for the BVC-published ebooks). Notice a pattern there? I’m leaving up the links where Amazon has enough power over me that I can’t just walk away from them. I don’t like it, but I don’t feel I can choose differently. More than half of my ebook sales come via Amazon, and there is no way to buy the audiobooks that doesn’t put money in their pocket.

But they don’t control everything, at least not yet. You can get my books from Barnes and Noble — ebook and print alike. They aren’t perfect, but they’re Amazon’s main competitor. Or you can buy from Powell’s. Or from IndieBound. Or Books-a-Million. Or Indigo, if you’re Canadian. You can also get my ebooks from Book View Cafe or Kobo (and by the way, if you’re the sort of person who’s motivated by Amazon’s “author-friendly” habit of paying a 70% royalty, note that Kobo pays the same, while BVC pays me a 95% royalty instead). Maybe it won’t be as convenient as Amazon; you won’t get free two-day shipping. But that convenience is the bait: they use it to shift more and more business into their hands, and then they use what they hold to change the market to benefit them.

It isn’t illegal. But it also isn’t something I care to support. There are alternatives, and I encourage you to use them.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/652918.html. Comment here or there.

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May. 18th, 2014

02:41 am - Nine Princes Nowhere to Be Found

I am croggled to discover that Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber is apparently not available as an ebook (not commercially, anyway — my library seems to only have it in electronic format). Furthermore, if I wish to purchase the dead tree edition new, my only option seems to be buying an enormous honkin’ omnibus of all ten main novels.

I would welcome evidence that I am wrong about this, likely on account of searching when it is nearly 3 a.m. here and I need sleep. But if it is indeed as it appears: what the heck? Why has the rights-holder not made the book more widely available? This is not some obscure novel nobody’s ever heard of except academics and three Yuletide fans; it’s a reasonably well-known classic. I want to give the rights-holder money, whoever they are. But they are making it annoying to do so. I don’t want a giant omnibus; I want the instant gratification of an ebook, which I can take with me to Wiscon, and then if I like the first one I’ll probably buy it and the rest in paper. I do not want to carry a brick on the plane.

Grrr. Argh.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Apr. 14th, 2014

11:10 am - world’s worst ad

I play solitaire a lot on my tablet, and there’s a banner add that has been popping up on it lately which is, I think, the worst ad I’ve ever seen.

It flashes between a white bar with black text and a black bar with white text. And I do mean flashes — very nearly at the level of “isn’t there something about this kind of stimulus causing epileptic seizures?” It is phenomenally distracting. Good ad, right? Nope — because it is so. bloody. annoying. that I might light my hair on fire before voluntarily tapping it. (Nor is it in a location where I’m likely to tap it by accident.) And if you’re thinking that even annoyance-publicity is still publicity, and they’re at least getting their product into my head . . .

. . . the text of the banner is “(1) Free Game.”

That’s it. No brand name. No hint of what type of game it is. No image I might recognize if I see it again later in a less annoying context. Just a seizure-inducing, content-less banner which is so obnoxious, it’s giving me a strong inclination to stop playing solitaire entirely, so I’ll never have to see it again. Which is about as profound of an advertising failure as I can imagine.

What were they thinking?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Feb. 26th, 2014

03:56 pm - More reasons to hate Google Hangouts

Dear Google,

I’m so glad you decided to link all of my settings to my Google account, rather than to device on which I’m using that account. Because of your decision, I don’t get to say that I would like chat notifications on my tablet, but not on my phone. I either get notifications in both places, or in neither. This is perfect! I get to choose between never seeing chat messages unless I’m on my laptop (where I use Pidgin, a wonderful program that does all the things Hangouts won’t), or having my phone pester me with pinging and buzzing every single time somebody sends me a chat message. Which is fabulous when I’m, y’know, in a public place.

This is such a brilliant move on your part. Even better than that time you decided to take away the nice Talk app and replace it with Hangouts, where I don’t get to see whether somebody’s status is Active or Away or Do Not Disturb. I just love having companies strip away utility and force me into some marketer’s pre-determined idea of how I’m going to use the program, rather than the way I was using the program. You’re doing a bang-up job of understanding your audience; if you didn’t have such a firm grasp of what we wanted, you wouldn’t be so successful at giving us the exact opposite.

No love,
Me

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Jan. 29th, 2014

11:36 am - Jim Hines on Correia and MacFarlane

So, there’s this.

As I said in the comments on Jim’s LJ, it took me a while to read the post, not because it’s long (though it is) but because my AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH meter kept maxing out and I would have to go away and breathe for a while before I could read any more.

I just . . . ye gods and little fishies. If you’re trying to respond to a piece on gender, and right up front you tell everybody that you’re assuming the person you’re responding to is a man and you can’t be bothered to check and see whether you’re right — even though the bio is right there at the bottom of the page, waiting to answer your question — then that’s pretty much a red flag of “Nobody should bother to listen to me on this topic.”

Because you just reinforced MacFarlane’s point. Yes, sure, she’s talking about the default of non-binary gender — but sweet baby Jesus, if we can’t even get past the default of male gender, then the problem you’re trying to dismiss is even bigger than she’s saying. Correia makes it clear, over and over again, that he is uninterested in putting anything other than the straight white male default into his stories unless there’s a “reason” for it. And apparently, “people like that exist and would like to read stories in which they exist” is not a reason. Their identities have to be plot-relevant, yo, or it’s back to the straight white men (because that isn’t a political act at all, natch). Doing anything else will make science fiction BORING and then people will STOP READING IT and that’s why the genre is DYING. Because the way to make it thrive is to cater to the comfort zone of straight white male gun-loving conservatives: only non-binary people want to read about non-binary people, and presumably only black people want to read about black people, etc, so let’s stick with what’s safe, shall we?

I mean, sure, there’s money to be had in catering to that demographic. Correia is probably not wrong that he makes more money from his writing than MacFarlane does (though I don’t agree with the follow-on implication that this makes him right and him her wrong). But the notion that the future of the genre depends on not rocking the boat? That including the full range of human diversity is automatically a MESSAGE — but restricting that diversity is neutral and value-free?

Bull. Shit.

Take care in reading the comments on Hines’ site. He says they’ve been “civil,” but there are a lot of Correia’s fanboys in there, waving the flag of their ignorance on matters of sex and gender and so forth, and straying very close to the border of getting banned.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Nov. 13th, 2013

12:41 pm - An open letter to dog owners

This post has been brought to you by the behavior of a very large dog at the post office today.

***

Dear Dog Owners of America:

Please train your dogs.

To those of you who actually do, I say, thank you! I appreciate your effort, and your dogs are probably lovely creatures. Unfortunately, you are in the minority, and the other dog-owners and their pets are making you look bad.

It used to be that whenever the Great Pet Debate came up -- dogs vs. cats -- I found myself wondering, why don't I like dogs more? After all, the qualities ascribed to them sound great. I liked Platonic Dogs very well, but Actual Dogs much less, and I didn't know why.

Then I realized that was because the majority of the Actual Dogs I meet are badly behaved.

They bark. They bite. They chew on stuff. They jump on anything and anyone they can get near. No, their "enthusiasm" is not adorable. In small dogs, it's annoying; in large dogs, it can be outright dangerous. You know what's adorable? A dog who knows how to express his enthusiasm in a socially acceptable fashion. Which is to say, a dog who is trained.

And no, a dog who brings the ball back when you're playing fetch and sits (sometimes) on command is not "trained." If you have to drag your dog down off the counter of the post office, your dog is badly trained and badly behaved. If he barks for a minute straight every time the doorbell rings, he is badly trained and badly behaved. If you have to bribe him with treats to get peace and quiet during dinner, he is badly trained and badly behaved. If he draws blood through my clothing because he tried to jump on me and his claws went raking down my thigh, he is badly trained and badly behaved.

A well-trained dog is one who knows how to behave like a civilized member of society.

I have met far too few of them in my life.

So please. For the love of god. Train your dog. Teach him when it is and is not okay to bark. Teach him to show enthusiasm with tail-wagging and jumping in place, not on people. Do not reward his bad behavior by giving him commands and then, when he ignores them, rewarding him with whatever it was he wanted. You owe it to your dog to be consistent, to give him a framework within which he can operate and be happy. And the rest of us would appreciate it very much.

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Apr. 25th, 2013

11:17 am - Weather forecast: rain. LOTS of it.

Back in 2010, I decided that (as with the Wheel of Time before it), I was done reading A Song of Ice and Fire until the series was finished. I hadn't read any of the books since A Feast for Crows came out in 2005, and knew I would need to re-read to refresh my memory whenever A Dance with Dragons finally emerged -- and then would have to re-read again some years after that, when we got book six, etc. Better to just stop and wait, however long that took. I sold my copies of the first four (to free up shelf space) and washed my hands of it.

About a month later, Martin announced the Really No We Mean It publication date for Dance, but that was okay: I was at peace with my decision. It came out in 2011, and I didn't read it, and I went on not reading it.

But in discussing the show with friends, I've grown tired of dodging spoilers (sometimes unsuccessfully). So I kind of wanted to read the book, just to fix that problem. On the other hand, it had now been more than seven years since I read the books, and I knew that without a refresher, I wouldn't find Dance as satisfying as I otherwise might. And yet, I didn't want to take the time to re-read that much stuff. On the other other hand, [personal profile] teleidoplex told me I wouldn't find it satisfying whether I re-read or not.

Reader, she was right.

I am putting this behind a cut because a) it's long and b) if your personal parade is a happy one, I don't want to rain all over it. Because I was not impressed with this book. No, that falls short: there are things in here that decrease my enjoyment of previous books. If reading about that is going to make you sad, then click away now.

Read more...Collapse )

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Jan. 11th, 2013

01:09 pm - How to Fix iTunes

Several people were interested in this, so I figured a new post was better than replying in several places.

I believe what I did was this:

1) Click on the little dark/light rectangle in the top left -- the one with a down arrow next to it, that does nothing to tell you what it's for. (Design failure #1: I'm clicking semi-randomly on things to find out what they are.)

2) In that menu, tell it to show me the menu bar.

3) Now I have a "File/Edit/View/etc" bar. Thank god. But there's something else I have to do before that can become useful.

4) Click over to Songs in that top ribbon -- not the menu bar I just brought in.

5) This allows me to deal with the "Column Browser" sub-menu under "View," which was inactive when I was still on the default Artist tab. I think it defaulted to showing me the column browser (which is what I wanted), but if not, you can turn it on here.

6) Now you have your genres/artists/albums listings up above, with the songs below, like it used to be (at least for me). But where the hell are my playlists and such, that used to be on the left???

7) Again under "View," click "Show Sidebar."

8) If you want, you can also click "Show Status Bar," which gives you back the bottom edge of the window, where it lists stats.

That got me back all the navigational tools I was accustomed to using. I basically will never click on that top ribbon again, the one with "Songs/Artists/Albums/etc," as any tab other than "Songs" is Ye Newe Terrible View.

Also, the "shuffle" button now operates more like on an iPod: it's up by the top of a playlist name, and you click on it to start the music playing in a shuffled fashion. If, once it's started, you want to turn off shuffling, that's in the window where it shows time, etc.

Hopefully that's useful to people.

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Jan. 10th, 2013

09:09 pm - Dear Apple

I understand wanting to make improvements to your program. But when I install a new version of iTunes and it defaults to a different layout that is HORRIBLE and NOTHING LIKE WHAT I HAD BEFORE, and I have to hunt around to 1) find what to click on to get a toolbar and 2) experiment in that toolbar to get back the navigational framework I had before? That is not an improvement. That is me staring in horror at what you've inflicted on me and praying to high heaven I can get it back to what it used to be. (Which I could. Thank god.)

Don't do that to me again.

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