Archive for the ‘Fails and controversies’ Category

Uphill, in the snow, every day, both ways…

I saw a tweet today where someone was having a moment about Kickstarters for “Help me Fund my Novel”.  According to her,  you can write novels for free and if you need money, you should get a job.


Well, okay.  Not a technically incorrect statement, but I was curious as to why the judgey. As an author herself, I was a little surprised to see that amount of vehemence and pissy.

So I tried fishing for the reason behind their statement:

“I dunno. Go a bit the other way and people start arguing that writers should write for free, too.”

Which, I stand by that statement. Once you start talking about in which cases people should or should not be allowed to charge for their work or how and how not…it’s a slippery slope straight to “well, if you really loved doing it, you’d find a way to make it happen and to provide it for free”.

I’ve seen it — it gets ugly.

They responded with:

“Absolutely not. That’s entirely different. You write your novel yourself. You sell it for money. That’s how it works.”


At this point, I’m both amused and a little non-plussed by the vehemence and the almost dictatorial tone.  So, there’s a correct and incorrect way to do it now?

Personally I’m not usually one to spend money on Kickstarters of that ilk, but I’m not against them either. In my opinion, if someone is capable of selling their unwritten book in such a way that makes people want to give them money, I don’t see the problem.

I wonder if she’s all right with people self-publishing — is there a correct way to do that too? Or is it simply incorrect because the gate-keepers have not opened the pearly gates of Author-dom to them and they have burrowed under the gates illicitly?

She responds with:

“Every writer I know wrote their novels while working a day job. We didn’t ask people to fund us. We just wrote and worked.”

…at this point I’m wondering if there’s some sort of “I did it the hard way, therefore everyone else should too” mentality going on and if their “how things should be done” extends to housewives/husbands who don’t have a day job and stay home and write.

Also, seriously? That’s a lot of able-ism going on.

Just because you managed to pull yourself up by your own damn bootstraps doesn’t mean everyone else should be obliged to. Especially since it’s not even like welfare or food stamps where her taxes were going to pay for it.

I have clinical depression, anxiety and a list of health problems — I find it really hard impossible to cope as a working adult, much less managing to write on top of that.

When I work full-time, the job gets done, but laundry/feeding the self/cleaning doesn’t necessarily happen. If I magically find enough spoons to make sure that I’m behaving in an adult fashion, writing is simply not going to happen.

Even during the summer when my job goes on hiatus, I can either write or I can be an adult who gets her chores/laundry/cooking done. I do not have the energy to do it all. If I had children, I don’t think much of anything would be going on at all. The child would get fed and changed and that’d be all.

I find it offensive for someone to make blanket sweeping statements like that and to be so judgmental about what other people can or cannot do with their lives.

Life’s short; you never know what is going to happen in the next moment. Is it truly so unacceptable to say: “I have a dream to finish a novel / write full-time and I’m not currently capable of it on my own while I’m engaged in subsistence living, so I’m going to ask for help”?

I would never presume to tell someone, so long as they’re not hurting anyone, that how they’re choosing to prioritize things in their life are wrong. Besides, I kinda wanted to come back with: “So, what if it was a cancer patient who has only so long left to live and they don’t want to spend the time in the rat race and instead wanted to fulfill their dream instead”? And if she’s okay with that, how is that different from anyone else?

A plane could crash into your house. An earthquake could collapse your life. You could get hit by a car crossing the road. You could choke on something and die.

Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. Especially not life and what you get to do with your time.

I mention something about patrons and she comes back with: “I would never ask anyone for money to do something I know I can do for free.”

SWEEPING GENERALIZATIONS ARE SWEEPING, GAIZ! There are many things one could do for free. It doesn’t mean that asking money for it shouldn’t happen, especially when holding someone up at gun/knife point isn’t happening.

So I ask her: “Do you have a similar reaction to people who live off their partners while attempting to create art?”

She responds with: “As long as they’re not crowd funding something that costs no extra money to create, then no.” and “Simply this. You don’t need someone else’s money to write your book. It makes zero sense to crowd fund it. It costs nothing.”

At this point I really don’t know what her problem is. It is increasingly seeming like she just really doesn’t like the idea of someone having it easier than she had it.

Also, lady, opportunity cost is still cost.

Also, your partner’s money is …your partner’s money? Not yours?

Me: “JOOC, how is one more morally/ethically/whatever acceptable than the other?”

Her: “A private decision between couples and crowd-funding a novel which is free to write seem different to me. I don’t get the question.”

… this is where I get the impression that this conversation is not going to go anywhere useful for anyone at any point. My thought is that if she objects to someone being supported through creating art by someone else, then she should theoretically also object to someone staying home and writing instead of getting a day job.

Apparently not, because despite the Kickstarter not somehow magically roofie-compelling people to pay them money, it is less acceptable despite Kickstarter backers probably have a less emotionally fraught relationship with the Kickstarter owner.

I’ve seen people get emotionally manipulated into doing things “for love” and I’ve seen people who emotionally abuse the people who depend on them while creating art and so I’m really not convinced that one is a “cleaner” concept than the other.

She then comes back with: “I’m sure these people who work from home and write are also doing other things besides writing. Like raising children.”

…not always? And does this mean she’d judge those who didn’t have children and had the gall to stay home and  write eat bonbons all day?

Her: “Simply this. You don’t need someone else’s money to write your book. It makes zero sense to crowd fund it. It costs nothing.”

….okay. Again, opportunity cost is cost. And again, what is easy/possible for you isn’t necessarily easy/possible for another.

We then go back and forth a couple more times where I ask her why one is morally acceptable and the other isn’t and she says it’s not about the morality of it.

Well jeez, if right/wrong isn’t involved, why are your panties in a bunch? Do you go around policing people on how they raise their children, do their job, wear their clothing, etc? Or do you get similarly pissed when restaurants mark up soda from the pennies it takes to make to a couple of dollars?

Finally, from her: “It’s not necessary to crowd fund something that costs no money to make. The end.”

I let her flounce because it wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t/don’t actually want to get into a pissing contest online. Before, I genuinely just wanted to figure out what her rationale was and once it became clear that she wasn’t anything close to being logical about it, there was no point in getting riled about it.

It’s just frustrating the same way it’s frustrating that feminists/moms can’t get along.  I thought the whole writer divide re: self-pub and trad pub was silly enough, but this is just depressing.

This whole conversation makes me really, really sad. I would have thought that a fellow artist would have understood the value of allowing someone their dream, irrelevant of what/whether they end up producing as a result.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

All right. *deep breath* I’m going to try and tackle this because I feel like this is something I have to say. I feel a bit like stepping off into the abyss of privilege and ignorant obliviousness, but…

I’m not disputing that Eleanor & Park has certain aspects of it that are troubling. I do not dispute this at all. Wendy Xu has a great summation of just what was wrong about the handling of the subject matter. Laura’s take on it is also brilliant and brings up much needed historical background about that time period that sheds some light on the portrayal of Park’s life. 

I agree with 100% of what they’re decrying about the execution of the book.

What I disagree with and what I expect will get me tarred and feathered, is that I disagree with the opinion of some that this book should never have happened.

The self-hatred, the obsession with height and looks and all of that — that is something my brother went through and still deals with now. It doesn’t matter how much we tell him that he’ll find someone who will love him the way he is and that how he carries himself is more important than his height — it’s something that has made him voice thoughts like “I wish I could hit reset on my life and start over with a new body”.  It’s been a month or so since I read E&P, so I can’t recall if Park just wants to be taller and have more masculine features or if he actively wants to be white. The two I feel are different and it’s important which. One is a basic rejection of what he is and another is a very teenage “I wish I were skinnier, had tits, have a lower voice, bigger eyes” thing that I see as a phase that many go through while figuring out how to be comfortable in their own skin.

As Mike Jung says:

I love Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. It moved me tremendously, and there were moments when I was flabbergasted by the existence of a character whose inner life so closely resembled mine, in ways I’d never found in a book before. I’m not mixed-race (although both my children are), but I spent my middle school and high school years as one of the very few Asian kids in an overwhelmingly white community. I was, and in many ways remain, deeply alienated from my Korean ancestry, and I became as thoroughly assimilated into the privileged culture of white suburban America as I probably could have been.I was confused, and I grew more psychologically distanced from my extended family by the day.

My feelings of self-loathing weren’t rooted solely in my disengagement from my racial and ethnic heritage, but they weren’t separate from it either. I think Park is a character with more than a little self-hatred, a deep sense of alienation from his own racial and ethnic roots, and a very compartmentalized, incomplete understanding of himself. And some part of me fell back and sang out in relief that a book had captured those old feelings of mine so truly and so well.

Of course, he also goes on to discuss how his feelings have since become more complex once the racism was pointed out.

I feel, for some, it might be comforting to know that they are not alone in their complicated feelings about themselves. I feel that for some, it might give them some hope that somewhere out there is a person who will love them as much as Eleanor loves Park and find them attractive for what they are, not despite what they are.

I feel that the measure of comfort that might be derived from that is worth the existence of the book. Barring that, I believe that if we say white authors aren’t allowed to write POC characters unless they get it completely right will just continue the trend of having too few books with POC characters rather than helping it. It’s like every author’s debut novel — you do the best you can and after a certain point you need to put it out into the world, learn from it, and then do better next time. And I’m not saying the first ever book you write as an author. I mean the one that’s actually worth publishing and has had more than just your friends and family’s approval.

I’d rather more people tackle POC issues than not. I just would. I believe that slightly damaging perceptions are still better than nothing, especially in this case where I believe the intent is good. Art and the improvement of it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Some might argue that Park’s self-hatred and Eleanor’s exoticising of him reinforces racial stereotypes and feelings of self-inadequacy and might be harmful to kids’s psyches.

I would say, yes, maybe. But then maybe we shouldn’t write novels involving the thought of suicide, depression, anorexia and a whole slew of other things.

No, maybe not entirely the same, but on the other hand, isn’t it?

They’re teenagers. The question of whether we infantalize our children for too long is not something I want to address here. I’m saying that it’s not impossible to imagine teens being that oblivious, that ignorant of the historical context of things (I especially bet most teens now won’t know the historical facts that Laura laid out), to consider their blinding Romeo and Juliet passion as something understandable if not laudable.

I do wish that Park had worked through more of his problems, but to be honest, I believe that Eleanor’s love for him helped. She let him see that he was attractive to her and that was important. Yes, she was othering him the entire time, but I saw that othering as part of the fact that he’s essentially the fairytale prince from another land come to bring light into her life. Which is not great, but if we’re going to allow Prince Charming stories from Disney…

Which, yes, I’ve heard arguments against that too.

But I believe that if our children read broadly and deeply, this isn’t going to damage them. At worst it’s going to be some of the same bullshit we see in media, but then we can’t keep them in a bubble of perfectly rendered input forever.

The only way to work toward perfection is to try and fail and try again.

*throws up a shield against rotten tomatoes*


Readercon Fail

Genevieve Valentine was sexually harassed, and some could even argue,  assaulted by Rene Walling at this year’s Readercon.

In her own words:

At the con, someone introduced himself to me and started a conversation, accompanied by elbow-and-shoulder touches that I moved away from. At one point he said I had to stop saying things that “made [him] want to say “wrong” things”; I shut him down politely, turned my back on him, and talked to someone else until he eventually left.

That night at a room party, I paused in the hall bottleneck and said to a passing friend, “Oh man, it’s crowded.” From behind me, the man wrapped an arm around my shoulders and said, “Well, you and I will have a good time!” at which point I spun and said loudly and clearly “You do NOT touch me,” and moved inside. He stayed in the bottleneck for more than thirty minutes trying to catch my eye before he left; I recruited someone to walk me to the elevator.

Sunday morning, I fell in with some friends and was chatting near the entrance to the book room, when I saw him, again hovering nearby. My friends, up to speed on the issue, eventually tried to walk me to the table, at which point he cut in with us and started apologizing. I said, “Don’t want to talk about this, don’t worry about it, goodbye,” and kept walking.

Later, he stopped by the Clarkesworld table again and hovered for so long that a friend stepped in while I went elsewhere.

Readercon’s supposed zero-tolerance harassment policy in theory:

Readercon has always had a zero-tolerance harassment policy. Harassment of any kind — including physical assault, battery, deliberate intimidation, stalking, or unwelcome physical attentions — will not be tolerated at Readercon and will result in permanent suspension of membership.

Readercon’s zero-tolerance harassment policy in action:

We want to thank everyone who came forward – both in person and via email – to report a harassment incident at Readercon 23. We followed up those reports with interviews with the target of the harassment, various witnesses, and Rene Walling, the harasser. The information we collected and reviewed was consistent, consequently, we feel the facts of the incident are not in dispute.

When we wrote our zero-tolerance policy in 2008 (in response to a previous incident), we were operating under the assumption that violators were either intent on their specific behaviors, clueless, or both.

During the course of our conversation with Rene it became immediately apparent that he realized what he had done and was sincerely regretful of his actions. It was that recognition and regret that influenced our decision, not his status in the community. If, as a community, we wish to educate others about harassment, we must also allow for the possibility of reform.

Our decision was suspension of his membership for at least two years. In the three years between Readercons 23 and 26 we will actively look for evidence of real and permanent positive change in his behavior. It was made very clear to him that if we receive any substantiated reports of continued inappropriate behavior at any venue – during or after the suspension period – his suspension will become permanent.

Should any other incidents occur, we encourage witnesses to report them to us at

We want to reaffirm our continued support for all members of the community who are the targets of harassment, and our continued determination to make Readercon a safer space.

Asides from the usual outrage over Readercon’s current fail and its apparent numerous other fails in the past, I actually am a little more perturbed by the language used by some people in their posts about this particular incident.

Originally, I was going to do direct quotes, but I closed the tabs by accident and after about half an hour of hunting through various link round ups, I have decided that I really don’t need to have precise links. Suffice to say that I noticed that some of the earlier posts on the incident referred to Genevieve Valentine as an “excellent and accomplished writer”, “an author guest”, a “novelist and SFF critic”, and so on and so forth in that vein.

I thought it interesting because it seemed like all of the posters were very careful to define Genevieve Valentine as not just the average convention attendee. Not only was she an author, but a panelist, a specific guest of the convention, and an excellent writer who is accomplished and …. therefore above reproach?

Perhaps it is my cynicism speaking, but I thought that perhaps these posters were careful to frame her as not someone who would be the type to be “overly sensitive” and who “didn’t understand the concepts of flirting” and who might have “misinterpreted his actions”, who might even have “sought attention by playing the victim when it was all in good nature”.

After the initial posts, the framing tapered off to “author” or simply “novelist” and then finally people were just referring to her by name. Presumably now that the whole brouhaha has already exploded, they don’t need to establish that this is a woman who isn’t just “out to get a man in trouble”.

I’m really frustrated and disappointed that a woman still needs some sort of proof of good faith before people can take her harassment or assault claims seriously. It’s very disturbing, to say the least.

I’m not even going to touch the whole “aspie” or “just socially awkward” thing with a ten foot pole. That’s already been exploded to bits by people more eloquent and involved than I am.  But seriously? The ladies who said that this was failed flirting and now they don’t have any idea what the rules are? I don’t even have words for you for how wrong you are.

Readercon? You fail.

Everyone else on the internet who is proving to me just how rape culture is still alive and well? You fail even more.