Amazon has announced the Kindle Worlds program, wherein they will acquire the licenses to various IPs, and then publish for profit genuine fanfiction using that IP. They currently have Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girls and Pretty Little Liars, all from the same IP owner. They will sell it and pay royalties to the fanfic author and the IP holder. There’s links and stuff below.But I also wanted to collect some of my thoughts posted in various places into one location. Sorry if it seems disorganized.
I feel…. a little unhappy about this.
(On how it’s different from current tie-in work) It’s shotgun approach. Star Wars and Star Trek novelizations are commissioned and read and approved individually. Amazon is going to publish everything that checks the ‘Vampire Diaries’ checkbox and the ‘Yes it complies with your list of requirements’ checkbox and then only cull the ones that get complaints or that their automated systems flag as questionable. There’s going to be guidelines for what’s acceptable, of course (and porn won’t be). The difference is that if I wanted to write a Star Wars novel I’d have to write a proposal and get the proposal in the right hands and get the proposal approved and then I’d write it and they’d copy-edit it and promote it and sell it and so forth. If I want to write a Gossip Girls novel, all I have to do is write it and then pull the trigger myself when the Kindle Worlds system goes live. The unhappy-causing part of that is when you consider it on a major scale. When you consider all the old tv-shows licensed by Netflix and Amazon Prime may also soon be available for commercial fanfiction, and when you consider that when you reward a behavior more people engage in it, and when you consider what Amazon Self-Publishing alone did to the book marketplace. Whether or not it affects me or anybody or any story I care about, within the Amazon marketplace and among the fanfiction and self-published community the effect is going to be phenomenal.
We already lose great writers of original work to TV and teaching and other better forms of income. Fanfiction has a vast reach. Some old readers won’t pay. Many new ones will. Suddenly there’s less and less fiction that isn’t, in one way or another, hugely mainstreamed. And so much ends up belonging to the corporations, rather than the individual creators.
I’m not prophesying DOOM TO LITERATURE, for reference. I’m complaining about increased corporate control (and demand for profit margins) over what is published, along with professional authors with mouths to feed leaving their own work for better paying jobs. That isn’t a new phenomenon but if you’ve never had a world you enjoyed abandoned because the author wanted to write for TV or movies where the money was better, you are lucky.
I’ve encountered more authors than I can count who are published by Big Corporations and have had series they’ve been writing cancelled or suspended indefinitely because the series wasn’t selling enough to meet the profit margins required by the company. But ‘selling enough’ is variable depending on the overhead; a big company requires a lot more sales to justify a product than a small one. I don’t want to get into it about whether Big Publishing is All Bad (because I don’t think it is) but they do exert a lot of semi-arbitrary influence over what their writers produce. With this move by Amazon, especially if they can get a lot more old properties, a lot of writers who aren’t already in the corporate-influence sphere (other than using Amazon as a platform) are going to move into it. It won’t be the same relationship, but– even though the fanfiction author retains copyright over any individual original elements of the fanfiction, they can’t ever take those elements outside of Amazon. Things like that. Plus, well, golden handcuffs. Definitely not the end of Literature As We Know It, and it might even have good ramifications for the professional-caliber indie authors who stick it out, as they might stand out better in a smaller marketplace. My unhappiness is for the individual authors who find themselves under even more pressure to stop writing something that they love and their fans love because they just can’t justify doing that rather than something else any more, whether those are indie authors or midlisters under the big houses.I do think this is probably going to hurt not-for-profit fanfiction of those licensed properties since Amazon is not a fan of competition.
And it isn’t that I strongly value original world-building particularly. I value authors not being angry and bitter because they were pressured to give up doing something they loved, or to write something they’re not enthusiastic about because they need to earn a living. I value things I love not being abandoned, too.
I don’t mind normal fanfiction; a strong fanfiction community is a great sign that you’ve not only arrived, you’re established. It’s just the paying for fanfiction suddenly attracts professionals and wannabe professionals who want to be paid, while solidifying the grasp of corporate control over entertainment. Fanfiction seriously has huge reach and a number of youngish authors got their start in fanfiction and then when they did produce original works, that start helped them succeed. So fanfiction has been influencing the market long before 50 Shades appeared, in a more subtle way. This is just going to change things in the most overt way yet.
Full disclosure: I toyed with making Nightlights a Bleach AU. It started out as Nightlights but was inspired by some things I liked about Bleach, after all. And if I just changed a few names and terms, whoa, INSTANT HUGE AUDIENCE. I didn’t, because…. it was a little too manipulative for me. But I did consider it. Because the vast audience available to fanfiction authors writing for Big Properties is very tempting. (It’s true that fanfiction suffers even more from the All The Shitty Indies phenomenon. But it was still tempting.)
Links and commentary on links:
http://www.forbeck.com/2013/05/22/kindle-worlds-worlds-burning/ Thoughts of a professional tie-in writer.
A bright side is that this could totally resurrect beloved but dead properties. Possibly as zombies, admittedly. But if they get licenses for all sorts of dead properties, people can bring what they’ve loved back to life and prove there’s money in it (if there is) and then the rights holder can take their ideas and sell them to everybody as a new movie/tvshow. I mean, none of it will be canon until the rights-holder says so. Why not sign up your dead IPs for it? Crowdsourcing! I mean, do you have some kind of ideals about what that rotting carcass of an IP should be that trump free money?
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/05/22/amazons-kindle-worlds-instant-thoughts/ Thoughts of a highly successful SF writer.
Amazon (and maybe other companies who think in terms of publishing platforms) wants to disconnect the writer as person from the product (yes, product) they create. Crowdsourcing content. Content creators. We want your ideas, but we don’t want you.
And finally: I know that old school fanfiction has a strong not-for-profit ethos. I think this evolved because that was, well, illegal. Even if it’s settled into the general mindset, I have low expectations that any philosophy can stand up to MONEY, unless there’s also money behind the philosophy. I don’t think the old school tradition alone is going to stop this from happening to old school IPs.
And now, well, new comment game: Hey, are you a writer? What IP would you write commercial fanfiction for? What IP would you give up your current project to write commercial fanfiction for? You can bet I’m thinking about that… Because you know, we don’t have a family income right now and Nightlights and Matchbox Girls aren’t doing so well…
I have a garden!
It's two plots. One was at the house when we arrived and is really awkwardly shaped: 8×9 feet or so. I used to grow pumpkins and squash in it but this year my husband asked me very nicely to skip the pumpkins. I was okay with this because last year I expanded my repertoire from tomatoes/pumpkins/zucchini to snow peas and beans and broccoli and I wanted to expand on last year's successes.
I'm also usually a container gardener. I have a lot of largish containers (5-8 gallons, I think) and I usually grow tomatoes in them. But this year instead of having a container we turned last year's auxiliary bed (which hosted the cauliflower/broccoli experiments) into an intensive 4×8 raised bed. So far all my containers are empty. We'll see if this lasts.
I also have a pallet I, uh, found in a parking lot unattended. I have some herbs and lettuce in that.
So this is what I have and plan to have: 1.5 8 foot rows of snow peas. Several teepees of pole beans. A couple square feet of bush beans. 3 cauliflower and cabbage plants (grown from starts because I planted too late last year). Various forms of lettuce. Radishes. Carrots (I forgot, some carrots are in a pot, but that's for my son.) Zucchini and summer squash. I have 3 tomato plants, and an eggplant coming from Territorial Seed. And I have a fair amount of basil and other herbs planted here and there, in the pallet and the cement blocks edging the raised bed. (Lemon verbena, 5 kinds of basil, marjoram, dill, chives, French tarragon, thyme, green onions, if you're curious.)
I'm very excited and I'm hoping to have a great harvest this year.
OK, start here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-johnson/gender-coverup_b_3231484.html
This leads eventually to a discussion of book covers and how the perceived gender of the author influences the cover design (and thus who picks the book up).
Even if you're not digging the premise, the covers are worth looking at. And the Tumblr tag below is keeping the discussion going.
coverflip | Tumblr
Post anything (from anywhere!), customize everything, and find and follow what you love. Create your own Tumblr blog today.
I should write a post about my garden at some point. And other things I've been up to. Maybe when we're back to May-appropriate weather. Five days of hard labor & 80+ degree heat means I feel floppy and only have enough energy to tend to children, do basic chores and work on the novel/game writing.
But I do love my garden, I do.
The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni is a historical fantasy by debut novelist Helene Wecker. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC so I’ve already read it! And I liked it so much I’d like to give a copy away to somebody else. Here’s the blurb:
In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free
Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
It’s being pitched as a cross between A Discovery of Witches and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I haven’t read the former but I’m very familiar with the latter and I think the primary point of comparison is the historical nature of both. But Jonathan Strange has a sweeping scope and relies heavily on adding to known history. The Golem and the Jinni is far more personal in scope, describing a story that might have happened under our noses. It’s an intimate, beautiful look at the lives of only a few people both fantastic and mundane. And because I judge books quite a bit by their endings, I’ll add that it has an enormously satisfying conclusion, too– although I admit I’d happily read more books about the Golem and the Jinni.
I could go on– but I’d rather just give a copy away. I will give away one hardcover, shipped via Amazon, OR one ebook from the ebook vendor of your choice OR the audiobook (via Audible). Retweeting (or otherwise sharing) the giveaway with your friends will gain you additional entries. As far as I know, the book is currently only available in the United States, so the contest is only open to people with addresses in the US. The contest runs from now until 12:01 AM Saturday PST, and I’ll contact you when the contest is over.
ETA: The contest is now over and a winner has been chosen and notified! Everybody else, thanks for participating and I hope you’ll still check out the book!
So, elsewhere on the internet, I've been sort of involved in a discussion about feudal fantasy cultures and whether it's 'unrealistic' to put gender equality into those. And, eventually, what would need to be considered in order to make gender equality 'convincing' to these so-focused-on-realism readers.
There's been a lot of rhetoric about how men are just stronger, and men want to consolidate power for their own sex and how it's just impractical to have women at war, in differently fitted armor, requiring more training to make up for their weaker bodies, etc. They keep talking about how physical considerations make up at least half of the issue, no matter how much other people talk about cultural consideration offsetting many of the 'practical' considerations.
You can probably guess how I feel about these discussions.
But what I find interesting is that all of their 'physical considerations' seem to spin around men being stronger and women being weaker. And not, for example, around the fact that women died and died and died in pregnancy and childbirth.
The more thoughtful among these 'realists' will admit that sufficient magic (or guns) can certainly equalize the sexes in a fantasy culture. But that's still focused on power rather than species (or cultural) survival. I think it's not a coincidence that some of the most egalitarian fantasies I've read have had easily available nearly perfect birth control and medical care equaling or surpassing late 19th century care. I even find myself wondering how much more magic is really necessary.
In any case, an interesting personal lesson in how bias in asking questions can lead to a very narrow set of answers.
Today, I am thinking about the vast numbers of people who cling to the belief that only bad people do bad things. Bad, irredeemable people who would do those things even if measures were put in place to stop them. Rapists are aggressive, violent monsters who stalk their prey carefully, and whom you can identify with a trained eye. Murderers are hardened professional criminals (or insane!) who can only be stopped by superior weaponry. It’s like the label precedes the event: rapists and murderers are that way at birth, apparently.
There’s a grain of truth in that theory of People, and it’s this: no, you can’t stop people determined to do wrong, not by any regulation or law and only occasionally by education (but then usually by the close personal encounter variety). You can’t stop somebody who truly believes information should be free from stealing your novel or your song. Somebody who really wants to murder somebody will find a way. Somebody intent on dominating and torturing somebody sexually will find a target.
But most crimes aren’t a matter of cold-blooded planning. They’re a response to a moment of strong emotion. I need that song it’s not fair I have to buy the whole CD. She led me on. Oh god, he saw my face. I thought he had a gun too. That fucking cheater. God, why do I have to pay Comcast AND HBO to watch GoT when they post it on their website? I could make a killing if I stopped compartmentalizing my financial knowledge for a moment.
And intelligent regulation and general education DOES help with crimes like that. Not all of them, of course. But many, many. Because labels don’t precede the actions that earned them. People make choices. If we help, they can make informed choices.
Remember: most people want to do what’s right as they understand it. But there’s a reason the Christian devil is associated with temptation.
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