August 2014


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Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 12:49 pm
Today is the last day of the half-price sale in Frankenstein's Family.  There are still two poems left.  With only one open epic, these are eligible for microfinding if somebody wants to open one.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 01:27 pm
What do books have to do with plus-sized clothes? (Apart from that I buy a lot of both).

I was reading this fascinating article about the future of publishing by Iam Json over at Dear Author, and it made me think Now where have I seen this dynamic before?

You know, the dynamic where suddenly buyers go from 'your options are buying on the high street, where there's not much choice, or by mail order, which is a niche market, or going off the grid and sourcing your own stuff' to 'Hey, there's now lots of choice and cheaper too!'

It's plus sized clothing. In the beginning there was Evans, which sold matronly polyester that was priced a bit above the rest of the high street, but after all they had to pay for more material, and it was only if you happened to need a plus-size interview suit that they really soaked you. If you wanted something that would hopefully (but not guaranteedly) be better quality and you were willing to pay more, you went to a department store or (if there was one nearby) a specialised plus size boutique. If you wanted something a bit less matronly and hopefully a bit cheaper, you had to hope there was a discount or seconds shop somewhere nearby, or a market stall doing large sizes. If you didn't mind waiting 28 days for delivery and jumping through a lot of annoying bureaucratic hoops apparently designed by a pathologically suspicious debt collection agency, you could buy from catalogues. Or you could get out your own sewing machine or pay someone else to do so.

Then two things happened at more or less the same time. One was the Internet and the other was supermarket clothing. I suspect Primark and similar fast fashion stores also played a part for smaller plus sizes, and if someone who knows more than me about that wanted to chime in, I'd be very grateful. Not only were there UK businesses selling over the Internet, but if you were really motivated to find clothes in your size and style and you didn't mind emailing strangers saying 'er, so, international shipping?' suddenly there were all these other marketplaces available. At the same sort of time, supermarkets started selling cheap and more often than not well-made basics and their ranges often went up into the plus sizes.

What did Evans and the catalogue sellers do?

Well, they got online themselves. But that didn't help with the problem that they had overheads their rivals didn't. A warehouse costs less to run than a shop, and while the supermarkets were running shops, they could soak up the clothes sales among the proceeds from milk and eggs and all the rest of it.

They had a go at out-competing their rivals on the style front, which didn't last long but did produce the Beth Ditto line for Evans and various collaborations with people like Maria Rinaldi for Simply Be, which were good news for people who wanted more than basics. For whatever reason, that didn't last. Maybe there just aren't enough buyers out there who want that kind of thing and knew it was available, though the prices the Beth Ditto pieces fetch on eBay makes me wonder.

Then they started mistreating the people who had loyally stuck with them by dialling the quality down and the price up. I should put in here that paying garment workers a living wage is more important than assuring clothes buyers a constant stream of artificially cheap clothing, and that there probably does need to be a shake-up in the pricing of garments in general. I'm not talking about the t-shirts that cost less than the price of a coffee here. I'm talking about the £45 top that was £40 last year, and you can tell the newer top from the older in the drawer without looking by the thinner feel of the cloth.

(There's a parallel here with the publishing industry, of course. Iam Json says, 'The majority of authors who write good books already don’t make a living traditionally publishing. So they also don’t make a living self-publishing.' I don't make anything like a living from self-publishing. I am astonishingly bloody lucky that I'm married to a man who has a set of incomprehensible but apparently in-demand skills involving staring intently into screens and muttering to himself, and who has always been utterly matter-of-factly OK with supporting me while I write. I know people who do make a living self-publishing, and I can understand why, because their books are great and have a wide appeal. [1] But I'm not seriously equating my troubles with those of a sweatshop worker, because I have a sense of proportion)

The old-time plus-size sellers may still be racing to the top when it comes to price and the bottom when it comes to quality. I don't know, because as you can tell from my Clovember posts, I buy almost exclusively second hand these days. I have noticed, however, that they've branched out with another tactic, and that's reaching out to fashion bloggers. It's hard to find a UK plus size fashion blogger who doesn't occasionally post from a press junket sponsored by Simply Be or by Evans' parent company, Arcadia.

This is where we loop back to the flailing publishing industry, and where it all gets interesting, in the sense of 'interesting' that translates to 'reach for your flak jacket now'. Because at least in the genres where I tend to hang out, relations between authors and book review bloggers are in the middle of something that varies between a conversation and a shouting war about what the expectations of an author's role and a reviewer's role should be. Unfortunately, I have to say that most of the bad behaviour has been from the authors. Most recently, there's been this jaw-dropping display from Kathleen Hale, who somehow thought it was OK to attempt to go and and physically confront someone who wrote a bad review of her book. And then there was A Report On Damage Done By One Individual Under Several Names, compiled by Laura J. Mixon, about someone who has one identity as a writer and another as a reviewer, and... Well, just go and read it, if you've got the spoons. I'll wait.

Obviously there's already a relationship between book bloggers and publishers, because of review copies and so on. But I would not be at all surprised if publishers tried to do an end run round the authors (and Amazon [3]) and reached out to bloggers, and I think that would make life very interesting indeed.

[1] Occasionally at this point in the argument you get some traditionally published author or other wringing their hands about how people keep buying that terrible genre instead of whatever it is they write. To which I'd say that people like what they like, the trick is getting your writing in front of the people who might like it. As proven by Fifty Shades Of Grey which caused the Romance Industrial Complex to have a collective spasm over why people who would otherwise probably be reading thrillers or chick lit should be buying this thing that does a lot of the same things as romance but doesn't come out of the romance tradition. Which I've written about elsewhere, but basically: unless you are very skilled indeed at interpreting romance covers or you're already in the hearing-authors-recommended loop, it's hard to find the stuff you want as opposed to the stuff you don't. And unfortunately some of the stuff you might want comes with the stuff you don't, in much the same way that you're out of luck at present if you don't want salt in your caramel. The salt in the caramel, in this case, being anything from 'Why the hell does this silly man want to pay a woman to be his mistress? How can he have a mistress if he's not in a relationship already? If he has a fear of commitment, why doesn't he just look for a friend with benefits or pay an escort?' to 'Ick, unexpected children in danger plotline!' to ''WTF, ghosts!'

And now a lot of otherwise mainstream romance books have dom heroes, and... eh, it's not what salts my caramel, but good luck to those for whom it does.

[2] The problem with doing an end run around Amazon is that Amazon owns GoodReads and GoodReads is where a lot of reviews hang out. I don't do GoodReads myself because reading reviews of my own work makes me gibber, but being a GoodReads recusant is rapidly becoming nearly as inconvenient as my long-term boycott of Facebook.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 01:25 am
I saw it this afternoon with R&S. Quite liked it. I continue to prefer the movies to the books, largely because I prefer the broader focus of the movies, not being quite so deeply inside Katniss's head. I've noticed a number of reviewers saying negative things about the decision to split the book into two movies. While I rolled my eyes pretty hard when the split was announced, I actually think it was the right choice. And I don't agree at all with criticisms that the movie seemed bloated, too exposition-y, not enough action. I felt like the pace and level of detail was just about right. Maybe the decision to make four movies instead of three was financially motivated, but it's working on an artistic level for me as well.

Spoilers, but only if you haven't read the books. )

Good movie, good performances. Great casting -- Julianne Moore is pitch-perfect as President Coin. Recommended.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 03:07 am
 "Nebula" is a short film about a girl and a magical creature.  Lovely animation, adorable story.
Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 12:17 am
This poem came out of the September 2014 Creative Jam. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] helgatwb. It also fills the "indecent proposal" square in my 6-11-14 card for the [community profile] fanbingo fest and the "Frankenstein" square in my 9-11-14 card for the Halloween Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

WARNING: This poem contains rude behavior and sexual harassment.  If those are sensitive topics for you, please consider your state of mind before deciding whether to read onward.

Read more... )
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 07:52 pm
Thanks to a donation from [personal profile] janetmiles , there are five new verses in "Save the City."  Danso tries to relate to Nathaniel's grandmother Abigail.
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 07:34 pm
This poem is spillover from the June 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and LJ user Moonwolf1988. It also fills the "loss of possessions" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

Read more... )
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 06:47 pm
This poem was inspired by the "biology" square of the Science Bingo fest public card 10-31-14. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

Read more... )
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 06:14 pm
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls. It fills the "perfect" square of my 9-29-14 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. This poem belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

Read more... )
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 05:06 pm
Wow, I just pasted in the latest poems to the Frankenstein's Family collection ... which is just over 35,000 words now, nearly at the novel threshold of 40,000.  Not quite all of them have been published yet, but the sale is still running through tomorrow.
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 02:47 pm
Today we needed a crockpot lined with foil.  Therefore I needed to know how much foil to pull off the roll.  Now, I know there's a formula for calculating that; I could've looked it up.  But I wanted to figure out a way to do it myself, without the math.  So I used a piece of string to measure the inside of the crock, and then the foil.  Problem solved, no math required!

This is a vital life skill.  You don't have to be able to do everything, just know how to get everything done.  Schools don't teach it, parents these days are often unavailable, so people may not learn it.  There are usually a lot of different ways to accomplish things.  I could just as easily have asked my partner, who was three feet away chopping peppers.  But I'm proud of myself for knowing how to figure out these little everyday puzzles -- the stuff that ordinary people actually need math for, only a lot of time, you don't need the numbers.  You need an amount  of something.  That can usually be obtained through practical methods, faster and more accurately if you are not good with numbers.  I'm good with string.

The other thing is that a friend of ours was practicing with his longbow out in our yard, and let us try it.  This is the first time I've gotten to fire a longbow in this life -- the others were compounds.  It was way too heavy a draw for me, but I did manage to launch an arrow with it, and not smack my boobs or elbow with the string.  I remember how to do it, even if this body won't really go there.  Close enough is ... not good enough to put a rabbit in the pot, but good enough to put a smile on my face for sheer nostalgia.
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 01:27 pm
This poem is spillover from the September 2, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] helgatwb, [personal profile] lynnoconnacht, [personal profile] technoshaman, [personal profile] ellenmillion, and LJ user Laffingkat. It also fills the "humiliation" square for my 7-31-14 card in the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Frankenstein's Family series.

WARNING: This poem contains topics that some readers may find unappealing. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. There are embarrassing situations, menstrual issues, gender dysphoria, difficult negotiation of body boundaries, an abandoned child, and other touchy stuff. Consider your tastes before clicking through.

Read more... )
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 12:28 pm
Rosemary once was a child in a family with a sister, Fern, and a brother, Lowell. Now she's in college, palling around with a manic pixie dream girl named Harlow and trying not to think about the mysterious event that caused Fern to vanish and Lowell's life to go off the rails. The novel switches between Rosemary's childhood and adulthood as she comes to grips with whatever happened.

This novel has a possibly surprising plot twist about a fifth of the way in; I say possibly because I learned of it in a review, and there are other elements of the novel itself which may make it immediately evident. However, I will keep it a surprise for the benefit of those who don't want to be spoiled. I'll put it behind a cut.

Fowler is a highly skilled author whose books, unfortunately, never appeal to me anywhere near as much as they appeal to others. She always has intriguing premises and her novels always get rave reviews, so I keep checking them out. To date, I have never much liked any of them. Something about her prose style, characterization, and tone always strikes me as distant and chilly. This book was no exception. It involves a lot of potentially interesting and moving elements, but I found it dry and unsatisfying. However, I am in the minority in this, so you may well love this or any other of her books.

That being said, if you are at all sensitive to animal harm, avoid this book. It is centrally concerned with cruelty to animals, and contains multiple graphic depictions of it. (I didn't know this when I started, or I would not have read it.)

Great title, though.

Read more... )

By Karen Joy Fowler We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Pen/Faulkner Award - Fiction)
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 11:01 am
Hollywood's Disability 'Inspiration Porn' is Terrible, but Here's how We can Fix It

AV club: American Horror Story's Mat Fraser won't star in your 'Inspiration Porn'

We’re not used to people with “radically outsider” bodies like myself, so visibility is the number one thing.

Number two: We know we’re not allowed to play ourselves in contemporary dramas, because apparently those are reserved for able-bodied actors who want to get Oscars. Statistically, and we know this is a fact, the quickest way to an Oscar is to play a disabled person. So all the choice roles are earmarked for fading actors who want one last stab at the possibility of getting an Oscar. Of course, that comes across as sour and bitter—I am being ironic and sardonic!
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 12:54 am
But I don't think I've ever quite fallen so far behind as this. And I'm not really going to update now, either, because it's late, but I did want to mention that we've gotten through the prologue and are now futzing around in camp. Much more tomorrow, I hope.
Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 12:02 am
This article talks about untapped potential in SF.

Untapped?  I've been banging it like a rented drum since I could hold a pencil.  So have lots of other writers I know.  So have my favorite shows.  There's a reason most of my favorites run high in diversity, and why I've taken to dicing up ensemble casts to make a good mix.  It's how I want to see the future.  Plus I have an increasing tendency to look at the cast first when considering a new show.  All white male?  Back on the shelf it goes.  Some female, multicultural, disabled, etc. representation?  Flip it over and read the back.  The higher the mix, the more likely I am to buy it.

Steampunk?  It's not just for white blokes anymore.  Superheroes?  Explosion in a paint factory.  Far-future SF?  All my diversity, let me show you it!

I also used material created by and for people of color to entice prison inmates to read poetry and fiction -- to show them that people like themselves could be writers, heroes, could have a future.  It's one of the most subversive things I've done, and it worked.

But every time somebody says "untapped" or the like, they are dismissing  decades worth of awesome accomplishments by all us folks who have been make this stuff.