Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fanfiction as a social force

I did a guest post today on my mom's blog about fanfiction as a social force and reclamatory action by young women. Read it here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let's (not) Play

My friend MahoganyPoet has been doing Let's Play videos on Youtube. Let's Play videos are a whole booming genre where you can watch someone else play video games. Which - okay. So video games are basically the only form of storytelling that one can actually be bad at: a Let's Play lets you take a passive role. That's why I like them! I didn't grow up with a video game console, and skills such that I don't die horribly and/or kill all my teammates aren't ones I've developed (or, really, tried to develop) as an adult. Let's Play videos can also let other players see how to get past tricky bits or see alternate endings to the one they got, and they let you listen to or watch entertaining people. MP's official job title is 'youtube personality.'*

Her first move is to close Skype to minimize noisy interruptions and to make sure the computer's running cool: the games + Avus4U recording software take a lot of RAM and if the computer heats up too much the game might freeze and crash, losing her place in the game.

Conveniently, this also lets her feed me cheese and fancy crackers.

MP has what she jokingly refers to as the most professional studio setup in the world - a couple monitors, a game controller hooked up to the computer, a freestanding microphone with directional settings and one of those spitguard screen things, and headphones so the game music doesn't get caught on mic. Her recording software already catches the noise from the game, so a microphone pickup would be out of sync, and probably not as clear.

She plays the game, Child of Light, fullscreen on one of her monitors, while the other one shows what's being picked up by the recording software.

I'm only able to see about a quarter of the screen from behind her, and moving might get picked up by the mic and would also take me away from the crackers and cheese, so I mostly know what's going on by what she says, and will pick up the action when I'm watching the video later. She accidentally summoned an ogre, which she hadn't intended to during this episode, which prompted her to pause, sign off on the video, and then start a new video so she could finish with the ogre and save the fish people.

It's not quite the same as watching someone play video games directly and snarking at them, which made it difficult to refrain from snarking when sitting directly behind MP and listening to her commentary, but the videos are cool and progress pretty linearly through the story.

Mahogany Poet can be found on Twitter and, of course, on Youtube.

*Seriously, it's her job: turn off Adblock for Youtube.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Piracy and books

I spend a lot of time talking to writers.

I spend a lot of time specifically talking to indie writers who make all their own publishing decisions.

It's pretty great!

But one frustrating part of it are some of the myths that get perpetuated, like that free stuff hurts sales. This can take the form of distrust of and unhappiness with Creative Commons licensing, but on the whole tends to take the form of aggressive anti-piracy stances.

And, hey, I'm not super enthusiastic about piracy, because intellectual property is important and it's important to respect it and the people who create the things one likes. But the thing about piracy is that it's not actually lost sales.

You heard me right.

The people who are pirating your books either never would have bought them or are going to like it and either buy a copy or consider buying future works of yours.

Okay, let me talk about examples from my own life. Four books I have pirated are the 50 Shades trilogy by E L James and Sunshine by Robin McKinley.

50 Shades I wrote about here: to say I was unimpressed is a dramatic understatement. I also knew, going in, that it was going to be probably-enraging Twilight fanfiction, and made a deliberate decision to not support the author. That was never going to be a sale. I was never going to purchase anything written by her. It does not affect her sales numbers in the least.

Sunshine* was the opposite story: I love it, and have purchased two paperback copies of the novel, both of which have gone missing. It's also not available as an ebook through legitimate channels. So nor was that a lost sale: I'd already purchased it, and was unlikely to purchase it a third time in the same form.

Piracy can actually increase sales, but hey, if you don't want in on that, the best way to discourage piracy of your particular works is to make legal downloads ubiquitous. Make DRM-free purchase of your works for multiple platforms easy, and I can guarantee at least some people will find hitting the 'buy' button more appealing than piracy.

*Ms. McKinley, if you happen to see this and be unhappy with someone pirating your work, I'd be more than happy to Paypal you your royalties.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Walking Away

Something not a lot of people know about me is that sometimes I get rage-induced nosebleeds. Conditions have to be right: fairly dry weather, and I have to be sitting still so that the spike in my blood pressure is a substantial difference, and I have to be really enraged. But it's happened, a couple of times. I get headaches, too. More frequently, I'll burst into tears when I'm really frustrated.

None of these circumstances are great for making an argument, which goes kind of counter to my burning and vicious desire to get the last word.

One of the things I was told when I was bullied as a kid was to just walk away. This was not helpful advice, as kids are, by and large, sociopathic and predatory, and pounce on weakness. Turning your back and trying to 'be the bigger person' like adults advised was not a functional solution, and sometimes made things worse.

The good news about kids being awful is that they grow up!

As an adult, arguments that degenerate to shrieking that someone else is a poopy-head . . . are not productive, and for me the stakes no longer involve social ostracism. The stakes different, a lot of the structure of disagreement is different, and usually the premise of the disagreement is different (Russia should be sanctioned for human rights violations vs. "you're fat"). This means that a lot of the - really maladaptive! - strategies I developed as a kid are no longer functional.

Which brings us around to walking away. Because it's a more tenable strategy now. I get to consider things like 'will staying engaged in this conversation yield anything productive?' and 'is getting the last word now worth the headache I'll have in an hour?'

And if the answer is no, I can walk away. I can physically remove myself or say 'I'm done talking about this right now,' or  'can we please be done with this,' or block people on social media sites, and I'm not required to engage in things that harm me. Being an adult kicks ass.