My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The BEST Stand Alone Fantasy Novel--Round Two

Sure you can win when everyone has a
fifth vote to throw away.
But I think The Mists of Avalon
will spank you when every vote counts.
I'm home from Vegas and first thing's first.  Round two of our poll!!

The poll itself is at the bottom of the left hand "widgets" (the menus, ads, share buttons, and such that run down the left side of the screen). 

For round two, everyone only gets four (4) votes.  With five votes, everyone has one or two left over to give to The Princess Bride.  But will it do so well against The Mists of Avalon when people have fewer votes?  We shall see!

And be careful.  The poll is still pretty long.  It may still longer than your screen depending on your resolution, so there may be more choices if you scroll down.

Remember, the nomination process has concluded, so if you think it's a travesty that something you would consider to be the best fantasy novel ever is not on this poll, feel free to leave a comment, but the poll itself will stay as it is.  HOWEVER I encourage you to stick around as A) I'm pretty much always running some kind of similar poll (we'll be doing horror next), and if you care that much, you might actually like it here, and B) fantasy will eventually come back around and you'll have the chance to get in on the nomination.

With round one concluded, I fleeced the bottom four performers from the list--everything that had only gotten one or two votes.  For round 2 everyone gets four votes (yes 4), so you can make sure several different titles get some love.  At the end of each of this week (one week from Wednesday) I will trim down between two and four more choices (the actual number depending on ties) that have the fewest votes and reset the poll.

Then we'll do round three with only three votes each.

I'm doing this to minimize some of the affect that passers by have.  "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative" is still bringing in a lot of demographically atypical readers, so only the people who keep coming back each week will really be able to influence which titles move on to the next rounds.  For the final poll we should have somewhere between seven and ten titles and two votes each.

Here are the books that didn't make it through the first round.  They will be receiving some lovely parting gifts.

The Hallowed Hunt--Bujold
The Trope--Bennet
Into the Dream--Sleator
The Twelve Kingdoms Sea of Shadow--Ono

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quotes by Writers on Taking Chances

Photo: Steve Punter (Wikimedia Commons)
In honor of the fact that I am in Vegas on vacation, today is a super quick post with some quotations on gambling, luck, and taking chances by writers.  Enjoy.

“Every time I read to her, it was like I was courting her, because sometimes, just sometimes, she would fall in love with me again, just like she had a long time ago. And that's the most wonderful feeling in the world. How many people are ever given that chance? To have someone you love fall in love with you over and over?” 
― Nicholas SparksThe Wedding

“Fear? What has a man to do with fear? Chance rules our lives, and the future is all unknown. Best live as we may, from day to day.” 
― SophoclesOedipus Rex

“The first thing he noticed was that Las Vegas seemed to have invented a new school of functional architecture, 'The Gilded Mousetrap School' he thought it might be called, whose main purpose was to channel the customer-mouse into the central gambling trap whether he wanted the cheese or not.” 
― Ian FlemingDiamonds Are Forever

“Everything's a gamble, love most of all.” 
― Tess GerritsenThe Sinner

I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

Oh don't chase your loss.  Just decide what's a fun enough game to keep you entertained while you slowly lose money and enjoy the free drinks and eye candy.

― Chris Brecheen to Supportive Girlfriend 

Also, in looking for these quotes, I found this really neat blog article on taking chances in writing/by writers.  Well worth a two minute read!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Mailbox: "Creepy Guy Narrative" Feedback (Part 2 of 4)

This is clearly fake.  Are you perpetuating homophobia?  Your writing is terrible!

This is part two of a massive reply to some of the most common questions and criticisms about my article, "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative."  

This story is fake/this never happened!

~shrugs~ Whatever.

If you’re going to take the time to crawl under a bridge and jump out at passing goats, you need to commit.  This....this is like Bruce from Family Guy jumping out from under the bridge wearing a T-Shirt that just says “Troll Academy Hopeful” on it.

“Hey there.  How you all doing.  Listen, it’s my first day as a troll and all, so I don’t want to hurt y’all’s feelings.  Hows about we just split a sleeve of Oreos and a six pack of soda, and I’ll say I don’t believe you or something.  That’s good enough on my watch.  Go on....everyone loves a snack.”

If you don’t believe my story, that’s fine, but you would have to believe that I emerged from a no-internet chrysalis just earlier this week to have skin so thin that I actually care.  My fourth graders use that insult on each other (“That never happened!”) and even their response is blasé (“Whatever, yes it did.”).

They're nine and ten, by the way.  

The people who know me (the ones I actually respect and look to for validation in my life) rolled their eyes or laughed knowingly, and said “I can so see you doing that.”  They know I’ve been in a few fights with bullies because I wouldn’t back down, that I've never been successfully mugged despite four attempts, that I’ve chased home invaders down the street, and that when I see someone being an ass, I often use my powers of snark to be an ass back to them. They know I dive into ENDLESS forays online in defense of consent culture against rape culture and against the ideas that women owe it to the poor menz to never bruise their fragile egos by rejecting them, and that men are entitled to pressure women after the first "no" because they all read "The Wooing of Ariadne" too fucking much as kids or something.

So congratulations on your not-quite-9 year-old caliber trolling attempt. 

Was approaching him as if you were gay perpetuating homophobia?

Okay, I’m going to drop the persona for this one be. The fact is that this is a conversation WORTH having.

I cannot claim innocence.

A few things rang in my head in that moment before I acted. One was a saying that I think was on a meme or something back a few months ago: "Homophobia is the fear that gay men will treat straight men the way some straight men treat women," or something like that.  Another was a tumblr (I think) of a teacher whose students who were intimidated by a gay person because he was so big and they were together in a taxi, and the teacher (correctly) realized that they were uncomfortable because they were in a situation where someone stronger than them was hitting on them and they couldn't get away.  The teacher pointed out that this is what most women go through all the time. 

The third is a bit harder to explain.  I’m a white, heterosexual, male.  That means that there are certain groups of people (namely OTHER whites, heterosexuals, and males, or combinations thereof) who will, because of who I am, pay more attention to me.  They sometimes don’t realize that the advantages they get in this society for being white, male, and heterosexual can be invisible if not examined closely. Therefore, since I often lack the ability to do anything but listen in most situations involving inequality. One of the things I CAN do--over and over and over and over--to try to help in some small way is to explain to other white, heterosexual, males how they might think of things from a different perspective. Partially because I may be able to frame it in a way they understand, but mostly because whether they know it or not, they're going to listen to me a little more closely.

(Or worded another way: “I try to be a good ally, so I do a lot of 101 about privilege.”)

When it comes to rape culture and victim blaming, one of the most useful tools in my toolbox to explain this to heterosexual men is to have them envision that they are the victims of the rape.  But since many claim they would be delighted to be taken against their will by a woman (which is particularly offensive to me for reasons I’m not ready to get into) I tend to reverse the gender of their hypothetical rapist.  

Well. I found it. It looks like a screen capture from a phone that was
posted on Tumblr, but I found it.
Suddenly it clicks--at least for almost every single one of them it has so far.  There is no outfit so skimpy that they are asking for it from another guy. There is no level of so drunk that they should have known better than to pass out at that gay bar. There is no point of no return where saying no should no longer count to a guy they maybe just wanted to flirt with or see what a kiss might be like with. There is no party too shady. No crowd too questionable. No situation in which they should not simply be able to expect that the gay men around them WON'T RAPE THEM rather than them having some duty not to entice their attacker.

Suddenly....they GET what victim blaming really means.

And I’ve done that thought experiment enough times with enough guys who started out saying women should know better than to wear short skirts or get wasted or be around shady guys, that I have to admit it was in my mind when I saw Creepy Guy not taking her obvious lack of interest as a clue.

I didn't set out to "be gay" or "act gay." I didn’t bend my wrist or speak with a lisp or anything so stereotypically offensive.  I just gave the guy a taste of unwanted attention, and showed him what it felt like when someone he wasn’t interested in wasn't getting the hint. The fact that I'm a guy and he was a guy means that spur of the moment choice came with its own package of implications, so I admit it might not have been the best choice.  I may not have set out to invoke homophobia in him (technically I still don't know if he was homophobic or just angry at being cock-blocked).  I simply set out to show him what he was doing to her, and I may have stumbled into the homophobia narrative by mistake.

Was what I did wrong?   I wish I knew.  I tend to listen to a "critical mass" of progressive folks I respect when I'm not sure if I need to be called out, and the critical mass of feminists, LGBTQ folk, and my friends who I respect seemed pretty happy with my choice.  Vociferously so.

But I never think my actions are above reproach.

I actually welcome the larger discourse this seems to have created about narratives of invoking homophobia to combat rape culture. However in a large part I really can't do anything but listen to that discussion.  This is partially because it's not my place to tell anyone they aren't offended by my actions, and partially because I don't want to say something I'll regret in a moment of knee-jerk defense when I really did try to do the best I could in the spur of the moment. 

If you read the comments (both here and elsenet) a lot people think my approach was perfectly illustrative of what he was doing to her and was EXACTLY the right thing to do. They have cheered that no other approach would have been quite as effective. Some have brought up the points you did and criticized my actions. Some have said that I should have asked the woman if she needed help and that not doing so disrespected her agency in the whole affair.  Others have said that involving her would be TOO “white knighty,” and the fact that I left her out of hit made my choice better.  (Some think that the fact that she mouthed "thank you" at all made the whole thing a White Knight trope.) Some think I should just have talked to him or called him out in some typical way (“Quit being ‘that guy’ man!”); some think that would have probably caused a violent escalation--possibly against her. Some think that by not talking to her she became a prop in my story. Some think that if I had talked to her I would have been as creepy as the guy hitting on her.

Where is the sweet spot?

I'm not sure I can answer that question, but what I do think is that as a community we SHOULD discuss it because it's tragic that someone might do nothing for fear of causing PC offense...or being too white knighty....or not respecting her agency....or....or....or.  I don't mind the criticism, but the vitriol behind some of it can lead to people staring at their phone and pretending they don't notice, and if you read the comments on that entry, you will discover that bystanders doing just that is all too common.

Not only that, but it's what four or five other people in the car that day actually did. If every action is objectionable in some way, to some people, then we have to consider the implications that it is possible that the overarching dialogue may be perpetuating inaction, and we need to find ways to deal with the utterly ubiquitous problem of street harassment and bystander interventions that we can live with. (A few of my friends, after watching the hell I've gone through in messages, e-mails, and comments flat out said they're never helping anyone again–that's not good.) Hopefully within that crucible we come to some good progressive, socially responsible conclusions about how to call creepers out.

But as a white, het, cis, able, male, I can't reasonably participate in a conversation about what is or isn't hurtful to marginalized groups. Unless you want to talk about being Jewish, having ADD and dyslexia, or being in an "alternative lifestyle choice," I can really only listen. So even though a lot of comments seem directed AT me for my part in this, I would honestly encourage people who feel this way to engage in that respectful discourse.

And maybe we leave that table grumbling at the fact that no approach made everyone happy, but that we can all agree that doing SOMETHING is the right thing to do.

Your writing is terrible!

Fair enough.

That reminds me though, this guy goes into a doctor's office.  He says, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."  The doctor says "Don't do that."

To oblique? I'll break it down.

I hate Sylvia Plath, and I can only deal with Jane Austen in the most detached, clinical, way if I am to avoid throwing the book across the room in disgust.  When I read Hawthorne, it is with the pleasure of someone who has trained themselves to enjoy kale eating a kale salad. Though a small part of me moans out for the "cheeseburger" of a good fight scene or dialogue or....for something to freaken HAPPEN.  Not everyone is going to like every writer’s style.  There are even webpages dedicated to hating Shakespeare.  

And I’m no Shakespeare, Hawthorne, or even Plath (hell, I’m not even a King or a Rowling), so I’m okay that I’m not to the taste of lots of people.  Writing is a just another type of communication and so readers and writers have to click in the same way they might in person.  There must exist a certain shared wavelength, based on everything from similar sense of humor, to methods of deconstruction ideas, to shared colloquialisms, to relative intelligence level, to thoughts on the physical and mental benefits of group sex in order for reader and writer to really get along.

And for a writer like Shakespeare or Faulkner or even Austen, it’s completely worth tuning yourself to their frequency to try and get them a little better.  But for me? Nah. If you and I don’t click, that’s okay. Go find authors and writers you enjoy. Life is too short.

Just don't forget this, okay?

In general, let me give you a hint about dealing with writers. You could tell I was a writer from the post, right?  (That’s a little joke.)

I had to sit through eighteen units of workshop classes to get my degree, so most vapid criticism, for me, is like throwing a Superball at a cement wall as hard as you can.  Most of these were night classes, and the teacher grouped us up randomly and told us we could go for the night when we were done (huge mistake). So half these sessions were with nineteen and twenty year olds, who thought Robert Asprin was considerably better than Toni Morrison and were practically wetting themselves to hurry it along and get out for the night. I learned right away to tell when someone hadn’t read my work or that they weren’t going to have an opinion I respected. (I also learned right away who offered good feedback and was worth listening to. I jotted down what they said, took it seriously when they had an issue, and worked their feedback into my next draft.) When those who couldn’t write, or take the time to formulate feedback more cogent than “this is terrible," started to talk, I nodded and pretended to jot down notes, but what I was really writing was “Total tool,” next to a doodle of that person’s face.

By the way, do you have a selfie I can look at? No reason.

Click Here for Part 3 (This is self aggrandizing/congratulatory/indulgent!  The way you described her beauty made you just as creepy.  Why didn't you post this from her perspective?  Describing him the way you did was also a trope.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Mailbox: "Creepy Guy Narrative" Feedback (Part 1 of 4)

You deleted my comment!  Douche is a sexist pejorative.  I'm not sure, but are you a writer?

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox.  And if you come to my blog and anonymously act horrible, I'm very comfortable mocking you.] 

All of todays mailbox write-ins come from the comments from my article "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative" or its companion Comment Overflow Post.  While some people wrote thoughtful, civil criticism and questions, many were deplorable examples of "the bottom half of the internet" and why conventional wisdom suggests that you never read the comments (though I think it is good for writers to do so).  I got a lot of comments, private emails, and messages through other social media about each of these, so none of them represents any one commenter.  Chances are if I replied to you, I felt you were being civil enough to be worth replying to.

You deleted my comment!  Clearly you hate disagreement.

[ETA: I have since retired the word "butthurt" from my lexicon as it has been explained to me to be problematic (homophobic and a little rapey). But I have left the original wording here as a record.]

To kick off our butthurt-a-thon, I figured no ordinary butthurt would do.  It couldn’t just be my butthurt, or some commenter’s butthurt.  Only their butthurt at MY butthurt about their butthurt will properly set the tone.

I hate disagreement huh?  Well, I would say: "Have you met me?" in that really sarcastic way, but it occurs to me that that joke is kind of ineffective if you actually haven't actually...ya know...met me. But trust me that if for those who had met me, it would be off-the-hook funny.  

I kind of love a good argument. I love them a little too much. I've looked up and realized I've been arguing on Facebook all day and haven't actually written a productive word more often than I want to admit. 

Yep, if you HAD met me, you would be giggling right now and saying, "Oh Chris!"

If I deleted your comment, it was because you were being a big meanieface pimple squeezing.  I wasn’t, you know....like...kidding around when I added that edit to that post stating that I would cheerfully delete abusive comments.  As they came in--almost all anonymous--I simply clicked to the comments section and removed the content like a cathartic game of whack a mole.  

These folks are the reason we can’t have nice things on the internet.  Learn to disagree without being an unwiped, post-runs anal sphincter about it, okay?  You may only be LOOKING at a box of pixels but there’s another human with feelings on the other end, and if you want to make any impact in their lives at all (beyond maybe entries like this one), try not to conflate the feeling that someone is WRONG with the justification for forgetting every single interpersonal skill you learned since you were roughly two.

I left up comments that disagreed pretty intensely with me, that took umbrage with my actions, that didn’t like my writing, that didn’t like the word douche, that thought I made the whole thing up, and even that claimed I was making it hard for some poor man to get his game on because teh poor menz have it so hard. You can go read the whole 750 reply thread if you want and see how many of them disagreed with me.

I left those comments up.

Trust me when I tell you that it was not what you said, but the fact that you couldn’t say it without acting like an immolating paper sack of human excrement that got your comment deleted.

A few of you really tried.  I could tell you did. You used the word “problematic” and everything. But you just couldn't not be just....horrid, and I knew that actually trying to communicate with you wasn’t even worth the calories from my egg salad sandwich. I'm glad you stopped by the blog, and thanks for taking the time to reply, but no one has to put up with being insulted in their own house.

Then again, if you comment with the same impetus with which taggers spray paint a wall--just to see your existence validated in print or to say you messed with me--don't forget that it’s exactly three clicks to remove all record of your bullshit.  Even a tagger gets to admire their handiwork for at least a day or two.  Something to consider.

I know there's an intersection here with respectability politics, but I don't have to have no boundaries on my own blog to be willing to confront my own fallibility. 

Are you aware of how much of a sexist pejorative douchecanoe is? You should really think about your use of that word.

[Note: since writing this, I have shied away from douche and douche-derivative pejoratives as the trans community has pointed out that its ubiquitous use isn't very intersectional.]

To be honest, I'm pretty sure no one actually knows what a douchecanoe is....at all.  Maybe it's like a boat for rowing crew with little bidets below each rower?  If the captain has a control mechanism, that might even be more effective than saying "Stroke" over and over again.

(Am I the only person who thinks that crew rowers have to work hard not to imagine someone saying "Stroke.....Stroke....Stroke...." while they're having sex?

Though...um...maybe I'm getting off topic.)

The word douche though...yeah I get it.  That one's up in the air right now.  

Actually, I've probably given that word more thought than you might expect (hell, I have given that word more thought than I would expect) including an afternoon of linguistic study and trolling Google  looking for what people I respect think about it (especially feminists from zines and blogs I have come to think highly of).  I turn into a total word nerd like that when there's an issue of a possible systematically harmful slur on the table.

And believe me when I tell you that I have retired words from my lexicon when I find that the voices I respect tend to agree that they are hurtful.  You'd be hard pressed to find the word "bitch" in Writing About Writing outside the comments, and I'm not sure I've ever used "retarded" (or words that end in tard to try and be edgy.) As of this edit (4/5/15) I'm even trying to work the word "stupid" out of my bad habits.

Got to tell you though, unless I want to write blender instruction manuals, my writing is going to offend someone, and it can't always be moralizing Christians.  Words aren't provocative if they don't evoke emotion, and there's only so many times I can fucking use the fucking F word before it becomes fucking inert.  So what I try to do is really listen to the groups I respect on an issue like this.  Not one or two tokenized opinions, but a sort of "critical mass" of people who actually ARE very conscious of social justice.

A lot of feminists I know use "douche" to describe guys who are jerky in a particular way--especially variants like bag, nozzle, canoe, and my personal favorite--aircraft carrier.  I know there's a rift about whether it's a sexist pejorative, and I know my choice won't please everyone, but at least it's not an uninformed decision. 

In a way it's the perfect word: here is a totally unnecessary tool of the patriarchy that is not only useless, but actually harmful to women and primarily makes them feel bad about themselves. And any woman who knows better isn't going to allow it anywhere near their junk.  Sounds about right to me!

You can find a very cogent defense of douche as an insult in this Feministe article.  But there are other defenses of the word, many by feminists.  

Definitely cheerleaders on both sides. 

So I hope you can accept my paradoxical position: that is, I am simultaneously apologetic that I've offended anyone on a personal level (and I would absolutely watch my mouth if I were in your personal company), but also that the word seem to have enough "critical mass" of feminist and progressive voices (who find it deliciously appropriate) that I probably won't stop using it in my work until/unless that changes.

Are you a writer?  Hey are you a writer?  Hey, I'm not quite sure, but are you a writer?  Hey, you should mention a few more times that you're a writer.  I wasn't clear....are you some sort of writer or something?

Yes, yes.  You're all terribly clever.  

You know I used to be a server, and at LEAST once a shift, some middle age guy would answer the question "What can I get for you folks?" with, "How 'bout a million dollars?"  I swear to you that every single one of them, had the same little self-congratulatory half laugh--like they were totally sure they were the first person in the history of full service restaurants to think of that one.

I would stand there in front of those tables, pen and pad in hand, trying to disguise the fact that I wasn't laughing at their joke so much as the way the other people at the table always assumed the EXACT SAME "Oh-my-god,-I-can't-believe-I'm-friends-with-this-guy" pose with their fingers pressed against their forehead--or just their fingertips pressed to the bridge of their nose--and their heads shaking slightly.

Then I would smile sweetly and let them know that gratuity was automatically added to orders over "ten G's," so I would be happy to oblige as I was hoping to buy a house later in the day.  That's when they looked sour and their companions started to smirk.

That story may be a non-sequitur.  I'll let you decide.

But you're right. You are. That part was a little silly.

But before "Are you a writer?" becomes Writing About Writing's version of people asking how Strongbad types with boxing gloves, do me a favor and look at the title of this blog.

Are you looking?  I'm serious.  Look.  Scroll up if you need to.  I'll wait.  

Did you read it?  Good.

This blog is about writing.
So when I came home dying to tell a sort of non-writing, personal story that had just happened to me, I came up with a way to fit that story into the container of the blog.

My hand to god, if I'd known this were going to go so viral, I would have just written it. I totally agree that the meta was a bit stretched, and even painful, at time. More's the pity. It was clunky and ham handed, and suddenly a million people saw THAT as their introduction to my writing. (Let that be a lesson to you....)

If I had even the slightest inkling that it was going to be read by a quarter of a million people in just the first week, I would have written it to a far more general audience. If I left the writing stuff in at all, I would have toned it way, way down. (I also would have drafted it at least two or three more times.) But I didn't know that. And it did go viral. Suddenly I was getting three thousand hits an hour, and it felt dishonest to try and go back and make major edits to it at that point.

So I'm sorry if the interwebs just happened to pick something up that was written to a niche audience. But can I beg for this joke to be over now?  Please?

Now that I've cleared that up, I'm sure this will be the end of it, and everyone will go back to their rational, reasoned, lives. Also, I'm sure middle aged dads will stop asking servers for a million dollars.

I'm just so sure.

Click for Part 2 (This story is fake.  Are you perpetuating homophobia?  Your writing is terrible.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Working to Bring You the Very Best in Knee Jerk Reactions

This week's Mailbox offering is going to be a multi-part response to some of the feedback I got on my "Creepy Guy" article.  Of the roughly 600 comments I have gotten there, and on the Comment "Overflow Parking" page (including several I deleted for being abusive) there were a number of common themes among the questions and criticism.  Some of those replies got pretty buried in the thread, so I thought I'd put them in a Mailbox.  As it is way too much for a single Mailbox article, I'm instead going to break it into two or three and post them on consecutive days.

So probably tomorrow night the first of those will go up.

Anyway, it turns out that this is quite an undertaking, so all my mojo is going towards that right now.

After I finish teaching summer school, Supportive Girlfriend is taking me to Las Vegas (where she has hinted that she may have paid someone to pretend to be a groupie--fingers crossed!) for a small vacation.  While I am usually able to do some blogging during my vacations, it is often among my "lower key" fare.  But once I'm back from Vegas, we'll hit the ground running.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Poll: The BEST Stand Alone Fantasy Novel

Choosing this image for the poll is in
no way intended to get you to vote for
The Mists of Avalon as the best book.
If you want to vote for one of the other
sub-par books, you shouldn't feel like
this picture of sheer awesome is, in any way
influencing you.
(Note: We are now on to round two which has fewer choices and only four (4) votes per person.)

The poll itself is at the bottom of the left hand "widgets" (the menus, ads, share buttons, and such that run down the left side of the screen).  It's big and long and black (hur hur).  

Everyone gets FIVE (5) votes for the first round.  

And be careful.  The poll is actually so long, it's longer than a screen at normal resolution, so there may be more choices if you scroll down.

Also the nomination process has concluded, so if you think it's a travesty that something you would consider to be the best fantasy novel ever is not on this poll, feel free to leave a comment, but the poll will stay as it is.  HOWEVER I encourage you to stick around as A) I'm pretty much always running some kind of similar poll (we'll be doing horror next), and if you care that much, you might actually like it here, and B) fantasy will eventually come back around and you'll have the chance to get in on the nomination.  

I'm going to try something a little different with this poll.  Normally with this many nominations, I would break up the poll into "semi-finals" and then run a final poll of those winners.  However, I'd like to try a different tack this time to account for how many people right now are sort of just "passing through."  I think it will work, but it might be an abject failure.  Let's throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

Here's how this one is going to work (you should pay attention--there will be a quiz):  Everyone gets five votes (yes 5), so you can make sure several different titles get some love.  At the end of each of this week (one week from Tuesday) I will trim down the three choices that have the fewest votes and reset the poll.  (Then you will only have four votes.)  This should minimize some of the affect that passers by have as only the people who keep coming back each week will really be able to influence which titles move on to the next rounds.  I'll do this twice more, removing one vote and three choices.  If I did my math right, the last round you should have eight books left and two votes.  I'll leave that poll up for a little longer than a week.

Here are the books that will be contending for BEST stand alone fantasy.  You may use ANY criteria you deem fit to decide which is worthy of your vote.  Remember that I was lenient with the definition of "stand alone," so if you feel like something here could NOT stand alone, you are welcome to not vote for it.

The Mists of Avalon by Marian Bradley
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Hallowed Hunt by Bujold
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Book of Night With Moon by Diane Duane
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The RiddleMaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip
The Twelve Kingdoms Sea of Shadow by Fuyumi Ono
Yarrow by Charles de Lint
Lions of Al-Rassan by Gavriel Kay
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Into the Dream by William Sleator
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone) by J.K. Rowling
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Milestones--400,000 and I Can't Thank You Enough

We've switched to metric, so if you could go ahead
and start calling us kilometerstones....that'd be greeeeeaaaaat.
Thanks a bunch lexicon.
The viral post, "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative," is finally dying down a little from it's viral week.  I didn't wake up to thirty emails this morning (half of them cranky nasty-grams that begged for the sweet finger swipe of "Delete This Comment?" justice).  This morning I woke up to only a single comment--a well worded, thoughtful concern about how my approach may have perpetuated homophobia.  (The comment and my reply are on the Creepy Guy Comment "Overflow Lot" article if you're curious.)  The insanity has ebbed.

There was one commute to work--Tuesday I think--where I was switching between email and Facebook, and by the time I had just read (not responded--just read) one, the other had ten or twenty new notifications.  But now things have died down.  Facebook followers (of me personally or the Writing about Writing Facebook Page), are no longer pouring in.  My inbox isn't pointing and laughing at my impotence to stop it from exploding.  I'm not spending my afternoons futilely trying to reply to so many wonderful, thoughtful comments, but knowing I'll never get to all of them.

Even "died down" has it's own sort of surreal meaning to me now.  Before that article--eight days ago--I every once in a while when I posted a really popular article the night before and then wrote something really popular that day, I would go over 1000 page views. It was a rare treat that happened maybe once every month or two.  (Seriously, I would put it on FB and get lots of congratulations for breaking four figures.)  I would take a victory lap, eat bon-bons for dinner and watch FFM porn while whispering "Soon," to myself.

Right now "died down" means I'm about to edge over 7,000 hits instead of 50,000 (and there's still an hour to go before the cut off).  So everything is a little red shifted, and my sense of scope might be relative for a while.

Traffic analytics from the last two hours in terms of page views per minute.
Man, it's like a fucking GRAVEYARD in here!

It may take me a while to figure out what the new "normal" is.  Really popular articles have a way of going into a "slow burn" mode where their secondary spread can go on for weeks, and even months, and even after that, they become major tributaries to the blog in general.

I also picked up hundreds of new followers (~waves~ Hi everyone!) across Facebook, Blogger, G+ and Feedly.  I know some of them might not stick around once they realize that this isn't a blog about my exploits as a public transit roving crime fighter (Deep whisper: "I'm BARTman"), but is rather just one more snarky blog about writing.

I don't know for certain that I'm ever going to feel excited to break 1000 again. In a way, that kind of makes me sad.  I have a chemist PhD friend who says he's a little sorry to know that seeing an actual electron in an electron microscope will probably be the greatest experience of his career and that nothing else will quite hold a candle to that.  In a way that sort of feels analogous to my current thoughts on being featured in Wil Wheaton's Tumblr.  (And what a class act he was to add the URL back into the story after the place he got it from just cut and past the whole article!)  I wonder if anything is ever going to be as cool as this last week has been.

A part of me (a small part, but definitely significant) is a little sorry that it all happened so fast.  I feel kind of like I just stepped off of Peter Pan's Flight at Disneyland.  "Wait what the hell just happened?  Is it over?  I stood in line; I feel like I deserve to have gotten to ride a ride."  The first day it was so exciting to get 2,000 hits, but then the article really went viral and I started to scream like a little kid who's told that Alien isn't any scarier than The Dark Crystal (I'll never forgive you for that one, Kent).  There's been a lot of screaming this last week each time I looked at my hits.  Fortunately not so many face huggers.

20th Century Fox
With me, you only need one hit, baby.

Of course I want more readers, and I want more traffic--that's the only way the groupie threesomes are ever going to happen (and I totes want those yo).  But in these last seven days, so many milestones have gone flying past so quickly that I didn't even really get a chance to notice some them. I sort of imagined they would be moments I would savor with a Barbaric Yawp.  I didn't even realize I had passed 200,000 all time views until I was at 208,000. Normally I would have posted a post with a screen shot of 200,001 (or something close) and thanked the hell out of everyone for reading. It's like wolfing down your food at a four star restaurant or something.

Then I past 300,000 without noticing.  Just looked up one day and I was already at 330,000.   (And I know this sounds like "Waaah my diamond soled shoes are so fucking tight, lemmie tell ya!")  A part of me feels...well technically it's something called "impostor syndrome."  I feel like I cheated to get here--like I should be back struggling to make 16,000 this month instead of 15,000 last month (and not 246,000....so far).  I feel like the interloper who will be discovered any second now.

However....writing mirrors life well in one regard.  It is nothing anyone is ever "good enough" at.  You can break through plateaus, but there's always more room to grow.  It is something we can continue to improve and never perfect.  So today I looked at this:

...and I decided it was time to begin struggling towards new milestones.  You all have been so wonderful and generous and supportive (even those who left nasty comments because you have burning ulcers in your soul and want to suck the happiness from all creatures of good heart) and I can't thank you enough.  For those who have been here all along, I thank you.  For those who are sticking around, I thank you.  And even for those who just popped by, I thank you.  Now we will look over our shoulder, say "Daaaaaayuuuuuum!" and set new goals.

Everyone knows what a Wheaton is, right?  >:-)

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Mailbox: Persona

If you write through a persona, why not use a pseudonym?  You could reach more people without your persona. 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer them each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments may end up in the mailbox.  I'm getting a LOT of comments and questions lately.]   

Mark asks:

If you write through a persona, why don't you use a pseudonym?  I mean not that I mind the whole Glen Quagmire/Hank Moody thing you've got going on, but don't people kind of assume you are a pervert?

My reply: 

Yeah, I sure wouldn't want people to assume that.  There might be some cute, sex positive reader out there (who maybe thinks I'm attractive or really likes esoteric speculative fiction jokes) and is way into threesomes.  Then they might seek me out at a convention or a party and ask to get to know me better and then...oh I can't even go on; it's just too horrible to contemplate.

Let me tell you a story about a happy go lucky young director named J.J.  In 2009, J.J. was a plucky movie mogul chiefly known for the way people who had watched Armageddon or Lost through to the end pressed their lips together and shook their head when they saw him. J.J. took under his wings the title of a huge fandom's beloved franchise, and he created something that did very, very well in theaters.

This movie was called Star Trek; you may have heard of it.

Star Trek was an exciting, thrill-a-minute action movie with eye popping special effects and more lens flares than anyone even knew could fit in a 2 hour movie.  It had giant ravenous animals, explosions every two minutes, and phasers that looked and sounded like Star Wars blasters.  Other than some convoluted time travel logic, the plot was your basic "They blew up our shit.  Let's blow up their shit right back."

In short...it was nothing like Star Trek.

Except for the names of the characters and the relative shape of the ship, it was almost, but not quite, entirely UNLIKE Star Trek.  There was no exploration.  No moral ambiguity.  No intellectual wrestling with a complex idea.  No, violence as a last resort.  No diplomacy.  No exploration of the human condition.  No prime directive.  No alien culture that is scary because it's unknown, but maybe we're more alike than we realize.  No thinly veiled allegory to modern social issues.  And no moralizing speech. You couldn't even rightly say there was a clever out-thinking of the antagonists--their basic strategy ended up being: "SHOOT MOAR!!"  Even the photon torpedoes didn't look like torpedoes--they just look like blue phaser bolts.  In fact, they changed so many things that it was necessary for the plot to involve a rationale for why they tossed out the old canon.

"Oh it's okay that we took the old continuity and twisted it beyond recognition.  You see, it's a parallel timeline!  Yeah.  That's it.  Yeah so it totally makes sense that it shifted genres from thoughtful science fiction to a pulse pounding action movie that happens to take place in space.'"
Our uniforms are almost the same color.
It's like the exact same movie!
What more do you vultures want?

Yes, it's true. Star Trek (the remake) was an action movie. Fun. Exciting. Totally worth $10. I had a blast. But not very Star Trekish.

What Abrams and his possie gambled on (and won.....and have funded at LEAST two more sequels with) was that brand recognition would bring the fans no matter how far the movie strayed from the thematic and idealistic core of Star Trek, and as long as he didn't do a Transformers 3 caliber fuck up of the franchise, most people would be happy enough that they wouldn't notice that what they were watching wasn't exactly like the show of the same name.

They were going to see the words "Star Trek" and proceed to wet themselves.

And they did.

Of the two dozen or so mainstream movies currently in theaters, eight are sequels (Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hangover Part 3, Grown Ups 2, etc) , four are some caliber of remake (Gatsby, Oz, Man of Steel, Much Ado About Nothing), one is a oft-performed play (Much Ado) three are [actually] based on books (Gatsby is one), and one--World War Z--is a movie which may be a decent zombie flick, but which bears absolutely no semblance to the book other than the fact that they knew using a familiar title would sell more tickets than using a title no one had heard of.  The movies coming out that there is buzz about (Kick Ass 2, Wolverine, Planes, Perry Jackson) are pretty much universally either sequels or are remakes or are books.

Branding works.

Branding sells.

People like the familiar.  They will give something a chance if has a name they recognize.  And as long as something with an established franchise doesn't suck, or (as season 7 of Voyager demonstrates) even if it does but there's still a established Acceptable to Suck ratio, they will keep giving it another chance.

So I could write my fiction under one name and my blog under another name, and even introduce myself in person under a third name, but that would be at cross purposes to my eventual hope of not having to work three jobs to be a writer.  If I use the same name everywhere, it will spread faster.  People who like my blog will give my fiction a chance, people who like my fiction may check out my blog, and "brand recognition" has a better chance of working for me than against me.

At least that is my hope.

As for those who meet me in person, I'll let them draw their own conclusions. While it's fairly safe to assume any writer or artist is probably going to have a rich imaginative life, I'm also a consent zealot, and fairly shy.  But mostly I'm just okay with being avoided by the kinds people who would judge me exclusively because of my work and not bother getting to know me.

Samantha says: 

You know, you could probably reach more people if you didn't make your blog rated R.  I've seen you "drop the act" before--that's what more people want (don't you think?).  I think you would be more popular if there weren't so many sex jokes and swearing.   

My reply:  

You're absolutely right.

FX Network
This is FIGURATIVELY the best show you will ever watch.
Literally, not so much.
But it is totally ninja.
I'm pretty sure Archer would also get higher ratings if it were a Disney show that came on Fox's after-school cartoon line up.  Babou could talk in a voice not entirely unlike Shnarf from the Thundercats and tell Archer poignant life lessons about prejudice, honesty, friendship, and not randomly befriending wild animals like ocelots. Cheryl would be addicted to really big hugs and would love everyone but would easily have her feelings hurt and might even be tempted to go to the evil castle of and help the Polynesian pirates in a tearful episode titled "Cheryl Just Loves Too Hard." And when Pam says "Sploosh" she would really be talking about....uh....well, we might just have to get rid of "Sploosh" completely.

But that's not really what Archer is. That's not really what Archer could ever be. And if Archer tried to be that, it would only be funny for that brief, exquisitely painful second between when you said "What the honest to goodness fucking fuck is this?" and when you changed the channel to something edgier. Archer struggles on with it's cult-like fans within it's highly irreverent niche and stays edgy by making a lot of jokes that might make most folks glad they're not watching it with their mother, but which only really offend the sorts of people who would rather have guns in capitol buildings than tampons or who want to make oral sex illegal.

The same could be said of South Park, Drawn Together, Boondocks, even King of the Hill, Aqua Teen Hunger Force's (we have not forgotten the linoleum knife....oh no) or any number of shows that push the envelope of what is appropriate (some while being socially aware and some while being problematic as fuck).  But nothing that dirty is ever going to be shown on a popular after-school.....uh......um.....

Well, Animaniacs aside, I trust you get the gist of what I'm thrusting at here.  (~snerk snerk~)

Honestly, some of the worst art and entertainment ever put out in the world suffers is so bad simply because it tried to be something it wasn't. Writing About Writing may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as long as a few people enjoy it, and it's still finding new folks who enjoy, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing.

There are a lot of ways I could sell out to get more traffic--from General-Audience-izing my humor to be palatable to more people to incendiary politics to porn. And don't even get me started on incendiary politics IN porn.

("Mr. Perkins, it's time for your fiscally responsible Obamacare sponge bath.  Oh my! I know the second amendment includes the right to bear arms, but it sure seems like some comprehensive and reasonable reform might be in order if you're going to go around packing a concealed weapon like this! Oh you're a conservative? Well I hope I can sway you with my ORAL arguments." ~Bow chicka bow wow~)

But most of these changes would move towards writing I don't want to do. I like blogging, but I already miss some of the energy it pulls from my fiction. Shifting it even further away to some sort of sterilized generic advice just to pull in a few more views would be dishonest.

You've got to be honest and do what you love in art. If you don't love what you're doing, there's just no point. Fame and fortune are far too mercurial to consider the ends for which writing is just a means. The writing has to be its own reward, and that means you have to write what you love to write. Almost without fail, audience chasers end up tired and jaded and, more often than not, turned upon (not to be confused with turned on) by the very people they worked so hard, and for so long, to placate. It's the artists who just do what they love doing, and let the audience come to them who end up happy--and almost always the only ones whose work is ever really appreciated.

I like being funny. I like being snarky. I like a think layer of "Hur hur" coating everything W.A.W. touches. (Ew.) This is what makes $2/day worth it in the end. So while I might do something tactical like include bacon in a post or use the same name even though I'm writing through a persona, I'm not going to fundamentally change my work.

I've got it!
The show can take place at a water park instead of above a dry cleaners!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Memo to the Staff of Writing About Writing

General Memo

To the Staff and Guest Bloggers of Writing About Writing (including the weird cheese guy on the third floor):  

It has come to my attention that we've had over 200,000 visitors in the last week.  I know I told you that it would be months before we had a total of 200,000 visitors, but apparently Grendel's most recent batch of milkshakes did, in point of fact, bring, if not all the boys, at least a very significant number of them, to the yard.

Which brings me to the issue of your bios....

You see, now there are hundreds of people who are stopping by the W.A.W. Staff  page only to see that there is dust everywhere and a big bulldozer, and that fracking yellow sign, but no actual bios.  When we were getting one looky-loo a week, this sort of negligence was minimally acceptable, but now it is unforgivable dereliction.  We are failing in our task to be entertaining.  This is my top priority (second only to the groupie threesome hook up attempts)!

Chop, I say.  Chop.

I would like to remind you that these bios were due ON MY DESK last December, and as of this moment, I currently only have a PostIt Note from Guy Goodman St.White stating that we are out of Whisky in the commissary.  I am a goddamned fucking writer (as the entire blogosphere has recently pointed out that I point out too much), but even so, I actually literally lack the linguistic aptitude to express just how completely fucking unacceptable this situation is.

I have been more than lenient in granting extensions.  I even granted the SciGuy an extension on getting an extension because he didn't think he was going to be able to put in for the original extension in time.  Leela Bruce has had more extensions than Paris Hilton.

But my clemency has come to a end.

Bios are due on my desk by the end of this week or I'm switching every vending machine in the compound to nothing but low fat, sugar free, chocolate skim milk for the rest of Season Two.  Are we clear?

If you have any concerns or criticisms about this deadline, or any new policy, you may direct them to the commenters on Metafilter.

-Chris Brecheen

P.S. Yes, Grendel, this means you.  And I expect one from your mother as well.

Ongoing Comments From "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative"

I'm putting this entry here strictly as a dedicated "over flow lot" for comments to the Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative post.  At over five hundred comments, and without collapsing threads in Blogger, just getting to the most recent replies takes three or four minutes of scrolling down and clicking "Read More."  Not something I want to do several times in a row.

I encourage further comments to come here instead, especially if you are hoping to get a reply from me or other readers.  If you reply to the original post at this point, it's going to be very buried.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Lit Major Watches Pacific Rim

There will be SOME spoilers here because an article like this can't help making a few, but nothing TOO major.  No plot synopsis.  No character secrets.  No revealing who makes what noble sacrifices.

Pacific Rim.  It's a decent movie.  Really.  It's not bad.  It delivers exactly what it promises.  Two hours and change of mind numbing special effects, explosions, and a tissue paper thin plot that is JUST plausible enough to bridge the space between fight scenes without me wanting a refund. The sentimental-a-thon that you have to sit through to get to the money shot is not even 17% as awful as Bruce Willis's farewell to Liv Tyler.   ~shudder~

Of course, you have to leave your brain at the door for movies like this because that's how big special effect summer blockbusters work.  You're there to watch special effects and if some plot or characterization happens to occur while you're there, that's cool too.  Brains shouldn't even come into the theater.  I gave mine enough money for a Starbucks and dropped it off at the nearby Barnes and Noble.

This concept is especially important with Pacific Rim. You have to accept that a united-world task force, instead of designing a better bunker buster bomb, depleted uranium shells, or even some kind of armor piercing missile, decided to build twenty story robot mecha that would kung-fu fight the monsters.  (Yes, you read that right.  KUNG FU FIGHT the monsters.) You have to accept that even though the monsters (kaiju) are coming in from a SINGLE POINT OF INGRESS in an ocean fissure near Hong Kong, the world's greatest military minds came up with the idea to build robots that deploy from miles away and not simply have a bazillion cannons aimed right at the fissure that fire the second their incredibly accurate monster sensing computer detects a kaiju....or even, like, patrol the area or anything. You have to accept that even after six years of fighting the best tactic they have is still to spend twenty minutes punching the kaiju in the face and doing WWF moves instead of just inventing a bigger gun.

And don't even get me started on why they didn't use the sword a couple minutes sooner....

But then what kind of movie would that be, right?  We want robots doing a suplexes on shark/dragon things and beating them up Fist Of The North Star-style.  That's what makes it fun!

So I used some extra duct tape to suspend my disbelief, and smiled as the robots and monsters reenacted "Enter the Dragon."  All was well.

But I want to warn you now, something might go wrong if you're a literature major, or indeed if you have any experience in critical analysis.  Don't let your brain join the party.  This is especially, especially true if you've studied any psychoanalytic theory.

Even before the popcorn coma started to kick in, I noticed that Pacific Rim was changing the us vs. them theme from a typical Hollywood blockbuster.  Usually even if you're watching a "World in Peril" movie, you notice that the cast looks like it was plucked from The Fair Oaks Country Club or something.  (Aliens like invading Utah, I guess.)  Michelle Rodriguez might bring some edgy ethnic flavor to the cast (even though she won't be making it to the end....ever).  And of course there's Will Smith.  But other than that, it looks like the floor of the Senate during an abortion debate.

I'm not saying Pacific Rim passes the Bechdel Test (it doesn't), that it wasn't more of a sausage fest than a German town in early fall (it was), or even that has a genuinely multiethnic cast (it doesn't), but it gets closer than a lot of its contemporaries.  There are mostly Asian looking people in Hong Kong.  The leader is a person of color with an Aussie accent.  Not everyone speaks English.  It kind of feels a little more realistic.  Okay, well maybe except for Ron Pearlman.

The problem was....that sort of got me thinking, but my brain was still back in Barnes and Noble.

You need me boss? It asked. I'm just hanging out in the literature section near Faulkner and making esoteric jokes with the brains of all the other people watching summer blockbusters.  But I can come help you think about stuff if you want.

No way.  I don't want to mess this up.  If I start thinking about why these giant robots with missiles and plasma cannons and shit use hand to hand combat first and only use their guns as a coup de grace at....point blank range this whole thing is going to come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Okay boss.  Hey, do you know how many Chaucers it takes to screw in a lightbulb?

I tuned my brain out and went back to the movie.  But then Pacific Rim had to challenge me.  I don't want to ruin the movie, but it is very focused on shoes.  There are a number of shots of just a single shoe.  And suddenly I wondered what the hell they were supposed to symbolize. And maybe they had something to do with how the pilots had to work in pairs. A single shoe is useless after all.....

You can't do this without me boss!  I'm coming.

No, stay where you are!  You'll ruin everything!

But it was too late.  My brain came flying into the theater and to the shocked horror of everyone around me, it jumped into my head.

"What are you doing?!?" the mother of the family next to me screamed in her best Not-To-Fifty! voice.  "Nooooo!"

But it was too late.

SHOES, I thought.  Shoes are about status and mobility at the same time.  A loss of shoes might indicate a loss of both of those things. An inability to travel? Perhaps servitude? It did seem that everyone who lost a shoe was also fettered to certain duties--stuck, if you will, by a certain kind of status that shifts when the shoe is either taken or returned. Plus like shoes, the pilots of the mecha are useless if they're not in pairs. Wow, there might be some real symbolism here.

But once my brain was in my head, doing it's brain thing, it brought the semester of literary analysis with it and that horrible, horrible week of psychoanalytic theory and Herman Melville.  That's when I saw it.

Oh holy flaming Pope balls did I see it.

My jaw dropped.  Pacific Rim is a psychoanalytic smorgasbord.  Everywhere you look there's some Freudian implication right in your face (or in the characters' in some cases).   Everything is really, really big.  Big gigantic walls!  Big gigantic explosions!  Big gigantic monsters!  The predilection for showing the sheer titanic scope of everything in this movie could itself fuel a doctorate thesis in bringing Freudian analysis back into the spotlight.  But then these big robots start using freighters and swords and big, long phallic symbols to fight with.  Every single scene involves a big long object being bandied about by a gigantic robot.  They even decided who could best drive the monster by sparring with thick, long wooden staves.

And let's not forget the penistongue....

Well surely it can't be as obvious as.......oh.
Then the monsters start showing up with increasingly well rendered mouths dripping their horrible (sometimes acidic) saliva all over the place.  With every new monster incarnation, their mouths look increasingly like vulvas.  Oh and did I mention that the source of all these horrible monsters is a rift deep in the ocean birthing this stuff out.

And yes, if you're paying close attention, you notice there are more than a couple of shots of phallic symbol weapons being jammed into drippy sideways mouths.  As if you needed to be told that subtly was not among the virtues of a movie with giant robots.

And then there's the baby...but I don't want to get into spoilers.

I almost (almost) had myself convinced that maybe--just maybe--I was reading too far into it and that my brain had just brought too much baggage, until the end.  I don't want to ruin the ending, but I will just switch to my best Neo voice and say: "Sphincters.  Lots of sphincters."  It's like a giant en-utero fight complete with a placenta breaking birthing sequence.

Seriously, maybe Guillermo del Toro's next movie should tell us about his mother.

But if you can keep your brain from crashing the party, Pacific Rim is a fun ride with lots of explody bits, people who are easy on the eyes, and did I mention really really big robots fighting monsters?

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year (only one single less-than-a-cup-of-coffee dollar a month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Last Chance to Write in Nomination for BEST Stand Alone Fantasy Novel

[ETA: I've got enough nominations to run the poll, so if you want to second stuff to ensure it makes the cut, that's fine, but there's no room for new books this time.]

I almost have enough nominations to run a BEST Fantasy Novel Poll.  Current titles that have been
nominated are:

The Mists of Avalon by Marian Bradley
The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett
American Gods by Niel Gaiman  (Two nominations)
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Hallowed Hunt by Bujold
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Book of Night With Moon by Diane Duane
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

If I don't get more nominations, I'll put these next two on this poll.  Otherwise I may do a separate Y.A. poll.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Into the Dream by William Sleator
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone) by J.K. Rowling
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

If I get LOTS more nominations some of these titles may get edged out (especially if titles get multiple nominations), so be sure and give some "Second"ing love to the ones you want to see on the poll even if you've already voted.

1- I will favor nominations made in the comments here at the Writing About Writing site.  If thirty people write in on W.A.W.'s Facebook Page, I won't ignore it, but if there's a tie (and I often have to settle ties since the poll gets unwieldy at any more than 10 choices), I will settle it by first taking the nominations here.  So if you really want your book to get on our poll, please write it in the comments and don't put it on the G+ or FB feed as a reply to the crosspost.

2- Stand alone means "CAN stand alone"--not necessarily that there were never sequels (especially sequels that came after a first book's success).  As long as a book is contained, I will accept the nomination.  If reading a previous book is more than a incidentally helpful to knowing what's going on, or there is obviously more to come, it is not stand alone.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Sorcerer's Stone in America) is actually a stand alone work.  There is room for the story to go on (as it does) but it doesn't end on cliffhanger, and there's no sense that it needs to go on, and there's no book before it that sets up what's happening.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is NOT a stand alone work.  It very much helps to have read the first book, and the end is very clearly setting up more to come.  Generally, I will accept your judgement as to what is stand alone and what isn't unless you are really stretching it.

This rule may be particularly important as it is very unusual to find fantasy books that don't form sagas. But a stand alone novel in a world an author comes back to often is okay while the third book in a quadrilogy is not.

For the purposes of having an "interesting" poll, I'm not going to take Lord of the Rings as a single work even though I know it was the publishers who broke it up not Tolkien.

3- "Fantasy" has a very broad definition, so I'll take most nominations that aren't WAY outside the bounds of fantasy's umbrella.  It could also mean anything from modern day urban fantasy to medieval high fantasy.

4- You may use whatever criteria you desire to determine what is the "best."  From most foundational to most important to most literary to most enjoyable to read....even funniest.  It's totally up to you.  Best means whatever you want it to mean.

5- ONE NOMINATION!! (But you can "second" as many nominations as you want.)  This is for the "best" so nominating fifteen books is kind of antithetical to the point.  If you absolutely, positively can't decide between two books, give me two nominations, but know that if it comes down to breaking ties I will take you FIRST suggestion first.