Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The horror of Marion Zimmer Bradley (some graphic content)

Earlier today I read some stuff about Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) that's pretty difficult to read. I'm familiar with her work, as I'd cut my fantasy teeth on many of her works. I want to state outright that she contributed a LOT to the fantasy world. Nobody can deny that, but she did some pretty awful stuff that I hadn't heard about for the longest time because when people spoke about her, they spoke about MZB in these hushed, reverent tones.

What did she do, you ask?

First off, she was married to a convicted pedophile and by all accounts, she was fully aware that he was molesting several children of varying ages during their marriage. Apparently she knew that he was taking children into his bed but told people that she didn't think that he was molesting anyone because he was supposedly impotent. Part of me wishes I could go back in time and strangle her for that statement because MZB was a highly educated person and would be fully aware that molestation does not begin and end with the molester to achieve an erection. Or at least be aware that there are acts that one can perform on someone that does not include penile penetration or contact of any sort. MZB defended him in court and eventually divorced him, but it's fairly clear that she knew about everything even if you want to ignore part two of this.

Secondly, MZB's daughter has come forward and said that her mother was fully aware of everything and even moved one of her husband's victims to another apartment because her daughter complained. Her daughter also said that she was molested by MZB. Her mother began molesting her when she was three years old and continued until she was twelve. She only stopped because her daughter finally took action to stop the molestation. Her daughter also said that she was not her mother's only victim and that there were many, many others and that her mother had both male and female victims.

I'm more than a little horrified at how little attention this has received. I know that people are likely afraid that this will impact MZB's fanbase negatively and I can understand that. I know that despite loving her works as a child, I'll probably never read her stuff again. Her stuff got me through some dark points in my teenage years and I'm grateful for that, but we still need to acknowledge the allegations made against MZB. If we don't then we're essentially sending out the message that you can do whatever you want if you have enough fame, talent, and power (even in death).

This was all sparked by a post on Tor.com about MZB that has since been removed due to the criticism. There's a good timeline here and I'll post more links about it below. I just figured that I should write about this because it's so important that we recognize molestation and rape when it happens and we don't cover it up out of "respect for the dead" or because someone is very talented or powerful.

Here's the basic timeline:


  1. Tor.com posts a blog post about MZB's contributions to fantasy, but mentions nothing about her husband's molestation and how she essentially enabled him. Some people posted in the comments section, criticizing the article for not mentioning this, if even briefly. 
  2. Deidre Saorise Moen (DSM) posts an article about how important it is to discuss child molestation and rape, even if it is unpleasant. She is very critical of the Tor.com piece and highlights several rather horrifying Q&As where MZB discusses her husband's activities. 
  3. Tor.com takes their blog post down. A few blogs and websites post about this. 
  4. DSM gets in contact with Moira Goldin, MZB's daughter. She talks with her about everything and learns that MZB molested her daughter for several years, along with several other victims of different genders. 
  5. DSM gets permission from Moira to post her letter. Jim C Hines discusses it on his blog. A few more websites pick the story up, but nowhere near the amount that we got for say, some of the author meltdowns along the lines of Candace Sams or Jacqueline Howett. 





Further reading:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Help fund Reading Rainbow!

If you're reading this, odds are that you're familiar with the show Reading Rainbow, which ran on television from 1983 to 2006. It was a staple of my childhood and was shown in many of the classes I had while I was very young. Even if you didn't personally watch it yourself as a child, you likely heard about it from someone else that watched it as a child. LeVar Burton was a huge role model for a lot of us, as he was a smart, charismatic, handsome black man that liked books and just so happened to also be on a very popular television show (Star Trek: The Next Generation). He showed us that it was OK to read and that it can be incredibly fun. I was fairly sad when it was cancelled in 2006, despite it still being fairly popular and it still being used in various classrooms.

So when I discovered that there was a Kickstarter campaign to launch Reading Rainbow as an online app, I had to donate. I've never donated to Kickstarters before and I'm happy to say that this was my first. What's so amazing about this campaign is that they hit the million dollar goal in less than a day.






So I'm coming back on here to spread the news about this. I figure that word of mouth could help get Burton a few more donations at the very least and it'd be nice if they hit their stretch goal and then some.

Basic gist of the Kickstarter: There's a Reading Rainbow app and the Kickstarter campaign will help get the app to more people. The app will allow children to access hundreds of books as well as video field trips (sort of like some of what you'll see on YouTube, but presumably far higher production values and less chance of seeing someone photobomb the camera). Classrooms will be able to use the app and the more people who donate, the more classrooms that will be able to access it for free (presumably permanently free). Lots of schools don't have the money to pay for subscriptions as stuff like that adds up fairly quickly. They might be able to afford a computer, but not monthly subscriptions. I'm going to presume that the free versions will be given to lower income classrooms first and then up the scale for the more well funded schools. The first emphasis of the Kickstarter kind of reflects the classroom emphasis, as nowadays it's somewhat a given that a school will have a computer somewhere, if not in each classroom.


Further reading:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Long live the king? Nope! Bring down the king!

I'm not exactly sure when this started, but recently someone raised a statue to Joffrey, the insane boy king from Game of Thrones.

Now it's time to take it down!

Every time someone sends out a tweet with #bringdowntheking in it, that statue comes ever closer to being toppled. As of this blog the meter is about a third of the way towards the statue's demise, but I doubt that it'll take all that long to really get that many tweets. To put it mildly, Joffrey is quite the ass and one of those characters that people love to hate, so odds are high that this might take less time than the organizers expected. (5 days)

Further reading:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When facepalming isn't enough to show my frustration

I've largely left this blog alone, as personal family issues and school have taken up a large amount of my time over the last year or so. Once in a while I'll find something that just makes me feel the need to have an opinion about something in a public forum. You guys all know the feeling, right?

So recently author Lynn Shepard posted a blog saying JK Rowling should stop writing after publishing The Casual Vacancy. At first I was ready to see things from her perspective because of the heavy criticism the book has received. Many have called the book "mediocre at best" and a lot of people have openly wished that she would go back to Potter and Potter-esque books. I've heard some theorize that the book would have been better if she'd "let go" of the Potter world and stop trying to add to the world afterwards, as it would have allowed her to really devote herself more to what she's currently writing. Part of this is fueled by the fact that TCV seems to try to be as un-Harry Potter as it can be at times, which could be argued is JKR still allowing her Potter world to exercise its hold on her. I'm listing all of this because this is what I was expecting from the article: for Shepard to say that she wanted JKR to stop writing until she can figure out what she wants to do as an author. Sort of the whole "find yourself and then write" type of article.

No, as you can guess this is not the type of article that Shepard wrote.

The article is pretty much just Shepard asking Rowling (and arguably by extension, all major league writers, thereafter referred to as MLW) to stop putting out books because it makes it harder for smaller authors to get sales and attention. There are so many things wrong with that concept that I couldn't help but think of that John Cleese gif:



Now the thing is, Shepard isn't entirely off base with that remark. A lot of publishers will choose to ignore new, small, unknown, and/or independent authors because they want to stick with their known commodity. And an author is very much a commodity.  The average publisher sinks a lot of money into even the smaller authors, so they stand a lot to lose even if the author is e-book only.

However the idea that a publisher would automatically pick up various other authors if a MLW stopped writing is a very faulty one. They might look for something to fill the gap, but odds are they'll just lean a little harder on the other authors they already have in their stable.

(Any excuse for a Futurama picture, right?)

The reality is that while publishers do want to stay with the "tried and true", the existence of MLW in any given genre makes it more likely that a publisher will want to publish similar works by various other authors. This doesn't mean that the publisher is going to pick up every author or even your work, but it does make sense. After the urban fantasy market boomed years ago with the output of various MLW in the field, multiple publishers rushed out to snap up every Sookie and Anita clone they could find. You can also see this in the cozy mystery genre with just about anything involving recipes or the supernatural. The lack of a MLW in the field that consistently brings in money will just make the publishers assume that the genre is "tapped out" and will likely stop looking to sign new authors while cutting a few other authors loose from their contracts.

Now if you're talking about how the media covers authors, then sure- there are a few arguments someone could make about that as well. Some outlets just don't want to cover too many of the same types of authors at a time unless they're doing a compilation piece about various authors in a specific genre and/or that are similar to a MLW. They don't want to be boring or lose the idea that they're about all things entertainment or news, so they try to mix things up. However a lot of those places tend to be fairly major, so we could also apply the arguments above: there's no guarantee that they'll decide to write about other authors in the genre for the same reasons publishers won't look for new authors.

This is also overlooking the obvious: if JKR really loved writing then why should she stop? As a coworker of mine said upon hearing about the story, "Wouldn't someone who really loved writing want to keep writing? Why would they stop?"

Ultimately a MLW deciding to bow out of writing entirely wouldn't have any true positive effects on the world of writing as a whole. It's not like it's a position at a business where the office manager or company president steps down and there has to be someone there to fill his or her shoes. Sure there might be something new that someone could find, but lets look at it this way: JKR hasn't written a new Potter-type book in a long while... yet you don't really see a huge and overwhelming flurry of people getting published. People like to say that Twilight was the replacement Harry Potter, but the thing is... Twilight was published in 2005 and was already wildly popular by the time the HP series ended in 2007. Meyer may have gained a few spillover readers after the HP series ended, but odds are that a lot of the people who were reading HP probably picked up Twilight because they'd enjoyed the whole reading experience with JKR and wanted more.

In the end, that's why MLW can be so beneficial: they make it more likely that someone will read something and want to read something similar to it, thus enabling them to find your book. Sure, JKR and SM aren't really similar in ways other than both are supernatural but the work did come up in a lot of "if you like... " searches. Trust me- my Amazon feed was filled with recommendations for various authors, both independent and well known. Having MLW in the field only heightens the chances someone will find your book.

And as for someone else going into another genre... the same rules apply. If a MLW publishes in your field, regardless of how good the book is, odds are high that it'll bring new readers in. They might hate the MLW's book, but then they might think "I liked the idea of this, so let's check out something else to see if there's anything better out there". Some might toss the MLW's book aside and never read anything from that genre again, but then those readers were unlikely to have picked your book up anyway... so you're not really losing a reader.

Plus think of it this way: there will always be a bigger writer than you. While you're praying that ____ stops writing, someone else may be wishing that you'd stop writing so they could have "your job" as an author. By this definition everyone published by a major league publishing house should stop publishing after one book so the next one can have their turn. Needless to say, I don't think anyone wants to actually do that.

Further reading:
*If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Help an indie horror movie out?

I have to admit that I love horror movies. I eat 'em up like candy, or at least I would if my active imagination didn't wreak havoc on me if I watch them before I go to bed.

In any case, I found the following horror film on Kickstarter. It's called "Death Walks" and the director, Spencer Hawken, is trying to get the funding to send the movie out to various film festivals. It's already made and ready to rock- it just needs a little help getting there.

I figured I'd put this out there for any of you guys that use Kickstarter and could put some funding forth.



Clicking on the photo should take you to the Kickstarter page. If you're curious, here's the film's plot synopsis:

One night a shopping centre is attacked by a sinister force, those inside fight to survive while an outside world parties. Nothing is quite what it seems, nothing is straightforward, relationships are forged, trust is broken, and something truly evil and unexpected takes an upper hand. The ultimate battle of good and evil has begun... Death Walks.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: Pandemic: A Novel by Scott Sigler



Title: Pandemic: A Novel (Infected #3)
Author: Scott Sigler
Publisher: Crown Publishing
ISBN: 0307408973
Release Date: 1/21/2013






There's a reason that Siglerites are such die-hard fans. It's because our FDO (that's "Future Dark Overlord" for those new to Sigler's fandom) knows what we want and tries to deliver it to us as best as he possibly can. Sigler has worked on quite a few trilogies so far and as far as his "mainstream" stuff goes, this is the first official series ender we've received. (Not sure if MVP ended his GFL series of not- I've fallen behind with those books.) I had to admit that I was a little nervous about whether or not this book would really live up to all of the rather lofty expectations I had for it and whether or not I'd be able to get over the distinct lack of Perry Dawsey as a main character- after all, he did die in a gloriously violent death that would eliminate any chances of him returning as a character.

The good news is that while you'll definitely miss Dawsey as a main character, the book does grab your attention and hold it until the finish. So even though you'll still miss Scary Perry, there's enough here to where this won't bother you as much. (Although he is in this book in a fashion.)

This is a rather weighty book, as my ARC copy was 500+ pages long. I ended up skipping a few hours of studying for finals to get into this book, which proved to be pretty addicting. It's told from the viewpoints of several different people- Margaret, Clarence, Murray, and new characters such as Cooper and Steve. No spoilers on what roles the two new guys play in this novel, but they're fairly major and some of the things that Cooper has to do in order to survive are pretty grim.

What made this so much fun for me was that Sigler made so much of it seem believable. Don't get me wrong- this is solidly fiction, but mixing in real life elements such as human biology, medical experiments, and other such things makes this a little more eerie than if he hadn't used them. For example, Sigler uses the idea of human paranoia over any large government movement to great effect. When the US government tries to do something to stem the impending Infected tides, its met with widespread criticism from people who assume that the government is trying to control them- something that I can genuinely imagine people doing. It made for a nice touch that I really appreciated.

I can't wait for this to get the podcast treatment and it's making me really anticipate future followups to some of Sigler's other works such as Nocturnal or Ancestor. If you liked Sigler's other works in the Infected trilogy at all, buy it. I'd even go so far as to say that if you like a good science fiction-ish read, that you just plunk down the cash to get all three. If you're hesitant, Sigler does offer free podcast versions of the previous two books (Infected and Contagious), but don't be surprised if you end up purchasing this novel as a result of that.

5/5 stars

(ARC provided by Amazon Vine)

Monday, November 18, 2013

"The Rise of the E-Book Jerk"

I read about this via Dear Author initially, so credit to them for the story.

The basic gist is that there was an article in Paste Magazine about people returning e-books on Amazon, who has a 7 day return policy. Some authors only have a few returns while others have quite a bit- 10% of their sales. The article lists a bunch of people who believe that many of these returners are reading the book and then asking for their money back.

DA brought up a good point: many people aren't able to immediately read the books for whatever reason, so a return could happen days after the initial purchase. I have to add this tidbit: some people return e-books because the title was so awful that they didn't want to finish it or keep it on their reader. Sometimes people do it because a book is filled with so many visible errors that they can't bring themselves to read it and return it more to prove a point that someone shouldn't have to pay for a book where the author couldn't or wouldn't edit out the grammatical and spelling errors.

I have to admit that I'm not a fan of returning books (print or e-book) if you've read them. I don't think I've returned a book for any reason other than already owning it or getting the wrong one as a gift. I do think that there's a bit of an issue with the idea of getting a book and returning it later just so you could purchase another book down the road. Reducing or eliminating the amount of time one can get a refund would help, but I think that many authors would see reduced sales in general. Many of the people who do this purely as a way to get "freebies" aren't usually the type that want to spend money in general.


Further reading:
*Dear Author
*Paste Magazine