October 7th, 2009


Plans and Goals

Sometimes it helps to talk out the things you want to do and the projects you want to work on, and get cheers for stuff you've finished.

What are some of your upcoming plans and goals?
Are any of them things you'll need help with, and if so, what kind of help?
What are some plans/goals that you have recently completed?

Transparency in Government

This post bothers me. Whenever politicians say, "Just let us do our jobs, you wouldn't understand anyway," or people support that approach ... my sirens wail, lights flash, and red flags snap in the wind. America is supposed to be a democracy: a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." If the people don't know what's going on in their government, and nobody including voters thinks they could understand it even if they did know, the result is going to be a disaster. Like, oh, the economy would crash, we'd wind up mired in spurious wars, public services would break down, and people couldn't get their basic needs met.

Sound familiar?

If you are of voting age, it is your responsibility to know what your elected officials are doing. Study the issues you care the most about. (No one person could cover them all, but together we can.) If you don't understand something, find someone to explain it to you; the Internet, public libraries, and community centers are full of information about important issues. Tell your politicians what you think they should be doing and why. Talk with your friends and family, if that is safe for you, about current events and politics. And then if someone tells you that you wouldn't understand how this country is run, beat them briskly about the head and shoulders with facts until they whimper and crawl back under their rock. Because folks, in a democracy, we're supposed to be driving this bus. That means we had better understand how it works and where it's going!

Gender in Entertainment: Do It Yourself

I read this essay about gender in Pixar films, which complains that there are no female leads. Apparently some people are trying to pressure Pixar into featuring girls or women as main characters.

This bothers me. I'm all for having strong female leads in entertainment. But Pixar is a great studio precisely because they're making the kind of movies they would want to watch. That's an approach I want to encourage. If you want strong female characters, you make some. Don't try to fob off your creative desires on somebody else. If Pixar wants to tell a girl story, great. But if that's not what inspires them, I don't think they should have to do it. I'd rather see a great boy story that they love than a mediocre girl story that they made because somebody said, "You should put a girl in the lead role." Apparently Pixar does have a princess story somewhere in the works; that has potential.

I don't mind ragging on an entire industry, if it has a bad habit of misrepresenting or under-representing certain people. I don't mind people saying, "I'd really like to see X," or "I'm offering merry bundles of cash for people who write/draw/produce X." But I don't think it's right to point to a specific creative company or individual and say, "You HAVE to do X." That is not how creativity works. If you put something into a story strictly for political or moral purposes, and not because it's the core of a cool story that excites your imagination ... chances are, it's going to suck.

I think that if women really, really want a movie with a strong female lead, they should make their own. Same with books. If you don't like what's on offer, do it yourself. Do it better. Because if you're right, and there's a real gap in the entertainment, then there will be other dissatisfied fans out there who will flock to your offering.

If you want stuff with strong female characters but you don't feel creative yourself, there's another option: support women in entertainment. Give them your attention and your money. Here's a terrific movie by a woman, starring a goddess in the lead role. Here's an online serial by a woman, featuring a cookie-baking mom who slays alien bugs to save the galaxy. Here is some vivid art by a woman, inspired by the African diaspora and frequently depicting women. Here is the landing page for my Poetry Fishbowls; feel free to suggest a strong female character whenever a fishbowl is open. Want more examples? Check out the Links list over in crowdfunding; many (though not all) of those projects belong to women and/or feature strong female leads.

Because asking the guys to do stuff for you? Is not feminism. You want girls to have good role models, be one. Do it yourself.

Dealing with Greenhouse Gases

This article caught my eye:

Firms Divided Over Obama's Emissions Cuts
Eli Clifton, Inter Press Service: "Momentum is building in Washington for an overhaul of climate policy, with President Barack Obama signing an executive order Monday directing federal agencies to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions and set targets to reduce their emissions by 2020. Meanwhile, tensions in the private sector flared as several major companies quit the US Chamber of Commerce to protest the federation's opposition to federal legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions. 'As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies,' Obama said in a statement."

Some polluters quit the Chamber of Commerce? Goody. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. I'm satisfied with Door #3 here. If you can't understand that the Earth needs green businesses, and that need is rapidly increasing, then you should get out of the way and let other folks take the lead. There are plenty of companies who want to be on the cutting edge and develop clean, energy-efficient products and utilities. They understand that interest and demand are both rising. Consequently, they will reap the profits from having green goods and services available before the rest of the market catches up. Because in the business world, if you wait until everybody and his dog are doing something, you've waited too long.

FTC and the Low-Hanging Fruit

I am frequently disgusted by my government's behavior. It regularly fails to protect citizens from serious dangers, such as health-damaging food additives, corporations that poison well water, or financeers who defraud people. But the FTC has the time and money to police ... bloggers. WTF?

Yes, the FTC plans to fine bloggers up to $11,000 for posting reviews without disclosing whether they were compensated for doing so. They're also going after bloggers who receive freebies instead of cash.

This is utterly, moronically stupid. Why?

Because magazines and newspapers do this stuff all the time. When I ran a magazine, we got review copies by the boxload. We reviewed the good stuff, and the worst of the bad stuff, and ignored the rest. Most magazines and newspapers run the same way. Just because somebody gives you something for free, or advertises in your pages, doesn't mean you have to say something nice about their stuff. Review columns in hardcopy usually don't start with an announcement about the free review copies; individual reviews certainly don't contain that information, because it's tacky and distracting. Reviews are opinions, free speech; they aren't required to be factual. You can lie your face off in a review, or fill the page with ad hominem attacks; people do it all the time. And you know what happens? Readers learn not to trust that reviewer or venue, and when the audience shrivels up, so does the flow of review copies or cash. Yes, amazingly, readers are capable of figuring out that some reviewers are unreliable.

Now if a company pays people to say nice things about a product whether they actually like it or not, that could be considered fraud; but I'd blame, and want to prosecute, the company not the writer(s). Writers need to make a living; threatening to sue them is not going to help with that. Doing so in the midst of a major recession when people are scrambling just to survive is vicious. It's one more example why America is going broke, because we keep putting up barriers for self-employment.

Hey, FTC? You want to worry about disclosure and journalistic integrity? Go to Washington, D.C. They could use all the help they can get. Let's disclose all the money gushing into (wiping out) health care reform or (continuing) the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Got time left? Check the major news stations and newspapers, who are dispensing with fact-checkers more and more. Do something useful.

Like This: Grammar in Guidelines

There is an age-old squabble between writers and editors over when grammar rules are too loose or too tight, sloppy or stultifying. I think that the submission guidelines for Beneath Ceaseless Skies are a lovely example of proper literary balance:

We know grammar rules, such as which types of clauses should have commas between them and which types should not. We respect the author's freedom to bend the rules as suits their story. However, be forewarned that repeated ignorance of grammatical principles for no apparent artistic reason will make a manuscript look unprofessional to us.

Stories Submitted Today

These are today's submissions:

"Arfrus Beeblebottom, Wizard" -> Beneath Ceaseless Skies
"Kyrie Alison" -> Interzone
"The Political Courtesan Strikes Back" -> The Lorelei Signal
"The Quest for the Ivory Upik" -> Strange Horizons

For tonight's market search I used Duotrope's Digest. Their current donation status is Orange, so if you can afford to send them a few bucks, please do. Many writers depend on this resource to find places to sell their work so you can read it.

Recession news: Many many markets are closed or "temporarily closed." On one search, 11 of the 25 results were TC. That's almost half.