Hating Nazis is Counterproductive

Pity and disgust are less harmful, and understandable. But unless they’re actually doing something, in which case they should be opposed, it’s better to ignore Nazis. Since tweeting isn’t really doing something, there’s little point engaging them on twitter.

Nazism is a child’s tantrum, craving attention and acknowledgement, while demanding of the world that which a moment’s rational consideration would realise was impossible.

Nazism is bred of desperation. A lashing out against fear and feelings of isolation and impotence. It’s a symptom of a condition in society, and can only really be fought by fixing the underlying problem.

It may never be entirely eliminated, as some people are simply incapable of learning differently once an idea has been rammed into their minds. So they’ll grasp it closely, even when its popularity wanes, and try their best to spread the infection where they found suitable hosts. But a few stray cells of the disease will have little direct impact on the social body.

The polarisation in society sees people increasingly split into those defined by what they hate, and those defined by what they love.

And while it’s easy be angered by those consumed by hate, don’t fall into hating them. It only creates a cycle that let’s them feel justified in their choice.

Don’t define yourself by hating Nazis. Find something you can love, and focus your passions there.

Random TV Rants

The First

There are too many programs on. So many that decent ones with maybe too few viewers by some arcane scale get shunted into late night slots, with only the title in the listings that can easily be overlooked.

So it’s been with season 3 of Orphan Black. I’ve been checking every few months or so for mention of when it’d be shown over here (in the UK). Remembered to check last week and found it’d started in September, in a late night slot, two episodes a week, so it’s already finished, and no longer even on iPlayer.

I realise this is a result of previous seasons not getting the viewership to support an earlier slot (giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt in terms of competence) but this is a rant.

So now I’m waiting for the DVD to reach an acceptable price. But given how many programs I like that I have to get by DVD because they’re no longer on TV, or never got on TV over here, it’s irritating to miss one that actually was.

 

The Second

I feel the most important aspect of background music in TV shows is that it stays in the background. That it doesn’t overwhelm the dialogue so you can’t hear all of what the cast are saying and have trouble keeping up.

I’m looking at you CSI: Cyber.

Now maybe it was a glitch with the broadcaster, or just something with that one episode. But this is a rant, so doesn’t need to be balanced and fair.

At least it didn’t happen to a program that does more than fill the time, so that’s something. I find it fairly bland, even compared to the others of the franchise. It ticks all the necessary boxes, tries to add some relevance with its basic concept, then sits back and has a snooze through the earnest dialogue.

Maybe it was intentional, trying to cover some particularly bad writing.

 

I’ll try and have some more substantive posts soon, or at least less irate ones.

 

 

Formatting Rant

[Another one I did in draft and then forgot to publish, hence it’s absence last week. I need to stop using Save Draft on scheduled posts]

The longest time spent on formatting is for the print version of my work. Most of that time is spent avoiding widows and orphans: single lines from a paragraph that appear on a different page to the rest of the paragraph. While some places suggest expanding or contracting the spacing of certain words to force their paragraph to lose or gain an extra line, I feel they always look odd. Possibly it’s only because I know about them, but it niggles. I prefer doing a round of editing in the print format, forcing me to reword so as to eliminate widows and orphans.

[Whether the time spent is worthwhile is debatable, since I have pitifully few print sales. They’re mainly there in hopes of my work starting to sell, so that they’re available in that format rather than losing out on sales.]

The frustrating part tends to come when I think I’ve got it in a perfect format. Then I load the .doc into Createspace and run through the pdf version they convert it into. I’ve just done so for the print collection of Tales of the Thief-City, and again run into the problem of the converted format not matching the Word version for no discernible reason.

Only one of the stories has the problem. The first four are fine. The subsequent ones are fine. But the fifth one, after the first few pages, starts losing lines, which are slipped on to the next page, building up and gradually adding two pages to the length of the book.

There is no obvious reason in the text, nothing unusual that could cause the lines to require extra space. It’s using the Createspace template document, and the other stories are going in fine. I did a blanket removal of all formatting on the story and redid only what was necessary. No change.

After hours of fruitless messing I gave up and shortened the page height for that section so it has one fewer line, then went through removing widows and orphans again. This time, no problems. The same number of lines in both versions.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and won’t be the last.

 

Cover Rant

That isn’t the end of my frustrations with Createspace. Oh, no.

The next step (and problem) is the cover. Especially if you provide the image for the whole wraparound cover, which I’ve been doing increasingly of late.

The problem comes with working out where the spine will be so I can place the title and back blurb so they appear centred (maybe I should plan covers so the title doesn’t have to be centred).

While one of the views Createspace offers of the cover does mark where the spine appears, it’s only on the pdf proof version, which can be reviewed after the book is compiled, a process that can take up to 24 hours. It usually doesn’t take that long, but I could easily have to wait until the next day to view it and tell how much I need to adjust the text. Or get a vague idea anyway, since it could easily take a few runs through to get it looking right in the pdf.

And once I get the print proof it may look slightly off on that, requiring another round of fiddling.

Update and Unoriginal Thoughts

The first draft of the next novel is finished. I’m considering The Old War as the working title, just for something to call it. Leaving that aside for a month or three I need to do further preparatory work on the remaining Tales of the Thief-City stories so I can try and do them during NaNoWriMo this year, and another short piece is nagging at me for attention.

To try and keep some content appearing here – in word count if not substance – here’s some meandering thoughts on the recent Amazon-Hachette trouble.

 

The Amazon-Hachette Slap-Fight

I’m sure most people have by now heard of Amazon’s fumbled attempt to gain public support in their conflict with Hachette (a public move they felt forced into after authors called them out on their somewhat childish blockade of Hachette authors’ works as part of a negotiation).

As a KDP author I received their email call to arms against the bullying publishers (I assume all KDP authors received it, since I’d hate to feel I was special). After wading through their rambling plea, I did indeed feel a swelling of anger. Just not at Hachette.

Ignoring the fact that high prices on traditionally published books gives self-published authors an advantage, in the long term it does me no good for Amazon to gain control of the large publishers, which appears to be their goal. Why should I therefore support them in bringing public pressure where their bullyboy tactics have failed?

Not that I particularly support the publishers. They’ve made mistakes in pricing ebooks so high which must have cost their authors, and their slowness to get to grips with ebooks and the changes to the market have allowed Amazon to gain so much control.

Particularly irritating is when Amazon (or any big publisher) claims to be working for the betterment of books, readers, or writers. While I certainly appreciate what Amazon have helped achieve in the growth of ebooks, and the services they provide, it’d be wrong to view the company as purely benevolent (and their attempts to monopolise the market with KDP Select readily dispel such illusions).

Individuals working for Amazon may well see that as a goal, but Amazon and the publishers are themselves corporate entities. They survive by making money, and they became so successful by making more money than everyone else. Any ideal they work towards is one where the majority of money from book sales reaches them.

There’s nothing inherently wrong, or evil, with this. It’s what they are. The only problem comes when people want to see them as something else. Publishers publish what they think will sell, because otherwise they’d go out of business. Amazon sells at low prices to maintain a cashflow and to push competitors out of business so they can then raise their prices (from a pragmatically cynical point of view), because this is how they survive.

It’s not personal – because corporate entities aren’t people – it’s business.

Of course for a company fixated on global domination, their amateurish attempts to manipulate events don’t bode well for when they do take control.

…Continued

[Warning: this meanders quite a bit, towards no real destination]

It occurred to me that last week’s post may have read as though I’m totally against continuing stories, which isn’t the case. I read a lot of comics, where continuing series are the standard, and many have been around longer than me. (Series with a continuing creative team, or at least writer, tend to be different beasts, and not what I’m wittering on about below)

Long running series have both good and bad points. And shared universes tend to exacerbate the bad points, making them things that need to be accepted, ignored, or retconned (retroactive continuity is the rewriting of history to say that something never happened. If you’re lucky they’ll give a reasonable explanation of why people thought it did).

I recently reread Daredevil stuff from the last decade, from Bendis’ run through to the Shadowland stuff (which is a few years old now, so not really spoilers). The main idea behind Bendis’ run is what does it look like when a superhero has a nervous breakdown. It uses the character’s history under previous writers, building on your emotional investment with the characters.

The serial nature of corporate IPs opens it up to interesting interpretations by successive creators. Some are good, some are simply servicing the IP, a situation not helped by the monthly schedule: they have to have a story out even if it’s not a good one.

This was played with during this period, with each writer leaving the character in a worse place than they found him, for the next writer to carry on. Bendis left him in jail, his identity public but unproven; Brubaker destroyed his life even further, and left him taking command of the Hand, a cult of assassins he’d fought for years; Diggle left him shattered after the events of Shadowland, which kind of marked as far as he could fall. When the series relaunched under Waid, Daredevil’s trying to get back to what he used to be, but his recent history continues to overshadow his actions.

While I felt the Shadowland stuff didn’t quite work, mainly by being turned into an event, overall the sequence held together even with multiple writers. Using the character’s history to build the story on adds to it in a way a standalone story which introduces you to that history can’t. That’s what ongoing series do at their best.

 

[Rant Interlude: Franchises]

One of the less good parts of corporate owned IPs is the danger of over-franchising of successful properties. I’m looking at you, X-Men. There was a time, probably longer ago than I now care to remember, when I could have named every X-Man. There have been so many associated titles out over the last couple of decades, introducing so many mutants, most of whom are now considered X-Men, that it’d be difficult without a good degree of study.

Franchising tends, from my experience, to run greater risk of substandard work than much servicing the IP. And then new stories build on stories that you haven’t read. At least the advent of digital comics and increased collecting of stories solves the problems even a decade ago of not being able to get hold of the stories referred to. Whether you’d be grateful to get hold of them is another matter.

Franchises run the risk of diluting your investment.

And I’ve ranted about Events previously, so don’t get me started on that again.

[End Interlude]

 

Series with ongoing characters can build up an investment that keeps the reader with the story, obviating some of the set up required (although you still need to consider new readers). Pragmatically, it can also keep readers with a series, which is why publishers seem to prefer series to stand alones. As a writer you also get invested in characters and see further places their stories could go.

But I find I’m often more interested in new stuff than revisiting old stories. Sometimes they do call me back fairly strongly, and the stories still have things to say. But pragmatically speaking none have yet sold well enough to really draw any number of readers back, so my time’s better spent on new stuff that might draw new readers. I would like to make a living from this, then I can write the further adventures.

Cliffhangers

I dislike the overuse of cliffhangers. As a tool to build up tension they can be useful, especially if used right before shooting off to somewhere else. Where I like them less (in prose and on tv) is when they’re used as a hook to get the audience to keep with the story.

It seems pointless. If the story’s well-written enough the audience should come back anyway, if it isn’t a cliffhanger may just irritate.

There’s at least one writer I read who at one stage seemed to end each chapter with a cliffhanger, which started to irritate. Too many and the payoffs will never feel worth it. That tic has passed, or at least become less prevalent, but any cliffhangers in the stories brings back the uneasy feeling.

While it’s one thing to use a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter – where you can immediately go on to the next one – using it at the end of a tv show is different. For some shows it becomes a staple, so something you grow used to. Where it can get irritating is a show that only uses cliffhangers at the end of a season (I’m looking at you CSI franchise).

Is that meant to hold the audience’s interest while the show’s off air? How long do they think before the interest turns to irritation? Or before the audience forget the details of what happened.

There’s also the danger of the series not being renewed for another season, so ending on a cliffhanger that could just irritate the fans. Which isn’t the same as intentionally ending the series on a cliffhanger. Angel‘s ending was perfect for the series. They’d tied up the plots, and there was no sense of being cheated by the ending (it did get continued in comics a while later, although the continuity of the series that immediately followed it was thrown into question – but that’s irrelevant to my point [yes, I have a point., Shut up]).

This could be worse for books, where the work (generally) falls on one individual. If they can get it done in a reasonable time then there’s (probably) still a long gap between books. And does it really offer anything? If the writer particularly wants to end it in that way then fine, but if they’re using it as a hook to try and get the customer to come back in a year for the next book then I’d have thought it more likely to irritate.

The nearest I’ve come to cliffhangers at the end of a story is in the Shadows of the Heavens series, and even there it was a kind of soft cliffhanger (and they were released weekly, all being written before the first was published, so there was less danger of reader irritation). I may use them within a story – although only sparingly, given the way I tend to write – but I prefer each story to feel relatively complete, even if part of a larger story.

Any ongoing story will have some ongoing threads that’ll be unaddressed at the end of a particular segment (I’m avoiding using the word chapter), but I try and give some sense of resolution. But ending on an indefinite note simply to try and keep the audience feels crass.

Reasons to be Irritated (month before last) #63d

As mentioned in previous installments, the Smashwords review procedure has been slightly erratic.

In an effort to get rid of the error message I finally changed the title so it exactly matches the sequence of the title on the cover. And it’s passed the review.

Which means that it no longer matches the other parts of the series. And that Smashwords’ review process fails 14 times out of 15.

It’s not what they failed it on that irritates me, it’s the inconsistency that they didn’t fail the other fourteen. Either they have a formalized review process that checks specific things, and that isn’t working, or they have reviewers who have their own reviewing standards. Or, more likely, different reviewers interpret the standards differently, and only one of these got caught by the one reviewer who interpreted them in this way.

But it is now dealt with, so now I just need to forget about it. Until the next thing to irritate me.

 

Random Rant: Eureka

The TV series Eureka (or A Town Called Eureka in some places) finished not long ago, and I’m considering getting the box set for the last couple of seasons which I haven’t yet seen.

While enjoyable, one thing that always irritated me about it was its anti-science viewpoint. It has all these big scientific ideas (some even using actual science), but the scientists inevitably lose control and its up to the non-scientist to deal with things using common sense.

This is not a series that trusts science, and in that it mirrors a general feeling in society that also irritates me.

While a fair bit of this is historical (Brian Cox’s new series Science Britannica gives an interesting look at this), it’s those who loudly declaim science for various reasons with no actual evidence to support them.

Part of the problem is that the imbeciles screaming in the manner most entertaining to the media (which give them the best chance of selling stuff) tend to be those who believe a political viewpoint is as scientifically valid as a theory (in the scientific sense of the word, which this kind don’t distinguish from the general usage). And because the actual scientific rebuttal may not be as entertaining, the media don’t give it the same coverage, leaving the public with a slanted view of modern scientific exploration (that doesn’t relate to mobile phones, the internet, etc.).

Not that I’m saying these people don’t have a right to give an opinion (although proclaiming their opinion as gospel shows a lack of perspective, both on their part and that of the media), and I accept there’s a place for this kind of opinion to be voiced.

That place is the middle of the forest, dressed in animal skins, ranting as loud as they like.

We don’t want to force these people through the indignity of having to spread their message via the results of science, do we? They should be allowed to return to a time before science corrupted the world.

 

Science is basically understanding the world around us. And, yes, how to change it. Are there some boundaries we shouldn’t cross, things science shouldn’t do? Arguably. And reasoned debate would be useful, if unlikely in our current society. But a blanket suspicion of science is absurd.

Civilisation is based on science. We’re surrounded by the results of scientific inquiry. We drive around in the results of science. Science keeps us alive decades beyond what we could otherwise expect, with far easier lives. We can communicate with people whose existence we probably wouldn’t be aware of without science. Even communication can be seen as a science (possibly causing more damage than any other science), language evolving as a tool to explain the world about us and our place in it.

Science is ubiquitous, so being afraid of it is not healthy. Look around and think of the science that went into making the things surrounding you

To those who insist science is bad I can offer only this: Indoor plumbing is science. If you don’t like it, go spread your shit about the forest.

[End Rant]

I’ll probably still get the Eureka box set though.

Reasons to be Irritated (last month) #63c

Unsurprisingly, I suppose, Smashwords has again failed Part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens because of the titles.

Am I missing something here. Is there a misspelling in the title either for the listing or on the cover that I’m for some reason missing. Because I just can’t see it.

The alternative is that the other fourteen parts shouldn’t have passed review. Which they did. Meaning Smashwords have a massive hole in their reviewing procedure.

So I’ve got the irritating error message back, this time joining the irritating alert message. Since I’m not changing the cover (too much work), my only option is to rearrange the listing title. With the collected edition coming out in less than a fortnight I don’t suppose much attention will be paid (not that much has been yet) to the individual parts, so I may as well change it then. The main hassle then will be not changing it to ‘Smashwords are £)(!£<$’ (I’m undecided on the exact profanity to use).

 

Reasons to be Irritated (last month) #63b

As mentioned in previous posts I’ve had trouble getting Part 12 of Shadows of the Heavens past the Smashwords review process so it can be distributed, despite the issue it failed on being exactly the same in every other part of the story which passed review.

It’s now official that every other one of the fifteen parts of the story has passed the review. All with the titles in exactly the same format.

At least that means they won’t be in an error message at the top of the page when I visit Smashwords. And the error message for Part 12 irritated me enough that I’ve tried making a change. Rather than the cover or title I’ve tried changing around the title on the first page of the document. It’ll still be in a different order to one of the others, but given the inconsistency in reviewing it could always be passed. Or I’ll get the error message back.

[And of course a short while after getting rid of the error message, Smashwords use the alert space to prompt authors to use their new Series Manager. The day after I’ve used it for my existing series. Grrrrr.]