Niche Something-Or-Other

I’ve been thinking–dangerous as that may be–about regular features I can do on this blog: what I can offer that three hundred other people can’t.

Okay:

1) I’m a romance novelist.

2) I’ve studied a fair amount of wacky occult historical stuff. Enough to know about a number of interesting theories and people.

3) I, um, play a lot of video games.

So the regular feature here–I’ll try for every week, though I may not always succeed–is romance plots (and possibly more general interpersonal relationships) in video games. I’m going to start with The Secret of Monkey Island, because yay nostalgia, probably go on to Dragon Age, which I’m currently playing, and then move into Shadow Hearts, which also gets the occult wackiness. (As do the other games, a little, so that might come up too.) If it stays hot, I may postpone the last one: my PS2 is in a windowless room.

Eventually, I will probably tackle the Final Fantasy games, at which point the phrases “oh my God SHUT UP” and “Cecil, you goddamn moron” may appear as tags. I will also take suggestions for games. Fair warning: I have very little patience for spinelessness, jealousy, or uber-dependent heroines; I also do not bear gracefully with either the Love Makes You Dumb or
Love Makes You Crazy
tropes, especially when displayed by people I’m supposed to be rooting for.

The occult wackiness posts will probably be a little less regular, just because they hinge on something poking at my brain cells. Hopefully frequently, though.

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Serious Business Tiems

So I’ve been sort-of-following the Thing About Heinlein, and by “sort of following” I mean that I read Jim Hines’s blog post about it, and then I went over to Tor and read half of a column and…just so you guys know? Talking about the Innate EvoPsych Differences Between Women and Men makes my head asplode, as the kids say. Let me just say that I disagree. Fervently.

Anyhow, I have not read a whole lot of Heinlein, being not so much into hard SF. The stuff I have read struck me as, yes, sexist–in a fairly condescending “ooh, look at the neat alien creatures that are women” way–though possibly, as others have pointed out, average or even forward-thinking for his time, which was a pretty damn sexist time. That point has been discussed elsewhere, and they’re good discussions, but the discussion over on Mr. Hines’s LJ raised a point that I’ve talked about elseblog before, and that bears repeating, I think, because I see a lot of defensiveness whenever someone mentions problematic content in the works of [Author People Like].

Here it is: you can enjoy fiction whose sentiments you don’t agree with.

You really can. I love Stephen King, but the man leans on the Magical X button and does not stop, especially in his early works. (Also, the “science and rationality are evil” thing bugs: yes, Stephen, you were a hippie back in the day, WE GET IT.) Of the main female characters in Dragonlance, the only one whose deal doesn’t center around a guy is Evil–and I won’t get into my feelings about the other women right now, because we will be here all day–but the world itself is a lot of fun, and I like the poetry. Lovecraft…changed the way we look at horror, and many contemporary writers–myself included–owe a great debt to his cosmology, but was the man racist? Oh my GOD.

I think that I can read any of the above without being a bad person, or a bad feminist. I don’t even think that I’m obligated to consider the issues at length, or while I’m reading the books in question–we, as a species, can overlook a lot, and sometimes that’s a good thing. I do think that I’m obligated to acknowledge the issues when they come up and why those issues might push a lot of people’s buttons, or to gracefully bow out of the conversation if I can’t do that, rather than trying to deny that they exist.

Your favorite writer doesn’t have to be a perfect, enlightened being. Your favorite writer doesn’t even necessarily have to be a good person, though it’s nice when they are–and makes me feel better about supporting them if they’re alive*–and their morals don’t reflect on you. People have a lot of reasons for reading what they read; other people know that. If you want to set out those reasons so people don’t assume you actually like the problematic bits, that’s cool, but admitting that someone’s screwed up on various issues doesn’t mean you can’t keep enjoying his or her work.

Those people who do get turned off by whatever-it-is? I’d imagine they’d rather hear a “Oh, yeah, I know he’s sexist, and I totally understand how that would put you off big time, but he’s such a good world-builder that I can’t resist!” than a frenzied defense. I know I would.

*I would have a lot more qualms about reading Lovecraft, for instance, if I thought I was supporting him by doing so.

Edited to clarify that it’s also a totally reasonable response *not* to read something because the sexism/racism/etc gets to you. The things I forget to add…

On Change or Something

As pretty much every publishing blog ever has reported by now, Dorchester, starting in September, is going to release ebooks followed by POD trade paperbacks rather than releasing mass market paperbacks.  A lot of very serious people who know the industry very well have discussed this elsewhere and made very good points. I am not a very serious person, so I’ll make two points.

1. I, personally, am cool with this. Books are still going to be in stores, and in libraries, so I’ll still get my atavistic thrill from browsing at Borders. Also, POD and ebooks were a model I remember discussing back in my days at O’Reilly, so I think that is where things are going. Which is not to say that anyone else’s reaction is invalid, mind: I can speak only from the perspective of a new author whose book is releasing in spring. But I, myself, am fine with things.

2. Moving on to a lighter or at least less emotional topic, I’ve seen a lot of discussion, as a result of this announcement, about the advantages and disadvantages of ebooks. Ebooks are more convenient; ebooks are harder to curl up with; ebooks are more easily available; ebooks are less affordable. All good points. (I personally have no problem reading online, though I’m not buying an e-reader until either the price goes down or I go a whole year without leaving my cell phone somewhere random, because otherwise I foresee DOOM.)

The point I haven’t seen yet?

Ebooks are way easier to get away with reading at work.

Er, not that I do that. Or at least not at my current job: I like my current job. However, I’ve had jobs I liked a lot less, and I’ve also had jobs that were basically answering the phone when it rang and otherwise doing whatever I wanted as long as I looked professional. You break out a paperback while you’re at your desk, people are going to glance at you suspiciously.

But an ebook? You can read that at your desk and look like you’re scrutinizing important email or going over annual reports. Plus, if you hear the boss coming, you can switch over to an Excel spreadsheet far more easily than you could put away a hard-copy book. I’m just saying, is all.

Maybe I should find a way to market directly to millennial-generation slackers. 😉