Archive for 'my opinion for what it’s worth'



What Stace had to say on Friday, June 24th, 2011
I’m here! and a wee ranting…

Yes, we arrived safely in England, and all is well. Amazingly well, in fact; touch wood, but we’ve had gorgeous weather, even. Warm, mostly sunny, but with enough drizzle to make us feel at home. I’ve had fish and chips twice (aaah!) and we’ve rented a car that, although it’s not the Vectra we had before (how I loved that car), is very similar (Vauxhall isn’t making the Vectra anymore, which makes me sad inside). We’ve done some wandering around and some loitering, and hubs has been pounding the pavements and his job hunt is looking *very* promising at the moment, so please keep your fingers crossed for him!

I missed a few things while I was away, sigh. First, and most importantly: L.A. Banks has been diagnosed with adrenal cancer. It’s serious and it’s awful, awful news, and her medical bills are and will continue to be astronomical.

An auction–several auctions, actually–are being held to help raise money for her. I heard about it/got involved too late so couldn’t offer anything; fortunately many, many other people did hear in time, and there’s lots of awesome stuff available to bid on. Please, I urge you all to go have a look. Leslie is really a fantastic person and writer; one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Nowhere near that in importance is the fact that SACRIFICIAL MAGIC is now up for pre-order on Amazon (I don’t see it on B&N.com yet, and Book Depository has it but with the incorrect release date [though you can still pre-order it]) and Amazon UK! So if you’re planning on buying the book anyway, you could pre-order it now, and that would be frankly awesome.

I understand that while I was away there was something of a kerfuffle about this whole pre-order business and the “How you should buy my books” thing again and that whole business. I’ve already made my position on such things clear, but since people have a tendency to forget, let’s just go over it again quickly, shall we? Let me make clear too this particular comment isn’t directed at any one author, or at least not at the one this mess seemed to be directed at.

But I do have issues with authors who think it’s okay to scold people and make them feel guilty for buying her book on the Monday before it comes out rather than the actual Tuesday release date, which is such bullshit. First of all, the NYT counts book sales for the week. They tally numbers Sunday night, which means, unless no book ever sold on a Monday ever counts, that a “week” in those terms runs Monday morning-Sunday night. So a book bought on Monday? Fucking counts, so shut up. Second, shut up anyway, because your arrogant assumption that your listing should matter to your readers grosses me out. You want to grumble privately? Fine. But to make them feel guilty and bad? *gag*

Sorry, but I can’t see myself ever having the ego-driven nerve to assume I’m going to make any kind of list. Perhaps that’s because I’m barely midlist, sure, but either way. And even if I did… Seriously, dude, do you really think that if your sales are going to be big enough to give you a shot at the NYT, those ten or twenty copies people managed to buy early is going to keep you off it? Really? Especially when it’s a day early, which I remind you again, still counts?

Also, pre-orders count, and pre-orders matter. Pre-orders help determine print runs and convince bookstore buyers to place bigger orders. Pre-orders count as first-week sales. Again, even were that not the case? Pre-orders are fucking sales. They count. Every fucking sale counts. (When the previous “Buy my books this way so I can hit the NYT” thing broke out I actually had a chat with my editor about it; she confirmed that yeah, every single damn sale counts as a sale, and that–ta da!–helps our sales numbers, and those determine if we get to write more books or not.)

Getting to write more books or not is what matters to me. Would I love to hit a list one day? Of course; what writer wouldn’t? But honestly? What I care about is getting to write more books. Please, please let me get to write more books. If I could get paid a little more for them that would be great, sure. If I could get a bit of recognition beyond the circle of incredible awesome people who’ve actually read my books and are kind and wonderful enough to talk about them that would be pretty cool, too; I’d love to have a bigger audience. But really, I just want to write more books. I dream about getting to write more books. I can’t imagine being so secure in myself and my sales that I think I can totally hit a list as long as those damn readers don’t fuck it up for me, and worrying they will fuck it up by exercising their rights as a consumer to buy available products.

You know what I worry about? Whether or not they’ll like the book. Whether it’s as good as the last one. Whether they’ll understand why Chess did X in that scene or if I didn’t make it clear enough; whether they’ll see the changes being made or not and like them or not. I worry I’m not giving them a full enough experience, that this book will be a let-down, that I haven’t made it exciting enough, sexy enough, thrilling enough. I worry I’ve failed them–you. That’s what I’m crying about in the weeks before release. That’s where my focus is, what’s on my mind. Not “Will they buy it on the right date?” but “Will they love it?” I honestly, again, can’t imagine being in a position where worrying about what on what day the book was/is bought overrules my absolute terror that my readers will hate my new book, or be disappointed by it.

I just can’t explain how furious I get; not when I see the initial posts about “How you can help me hit a list,” because really, they bug me but oh well. Read it or don’t; follow it or don’t. I dislike the implication that it’s the reader’s job to care about such things or that they exist to serve the writer, yes. As I said above, I dislike the sort of arrogance implied by “My book is going to sell big numbers, y’all, so let’s get me some accolades for it.” The initial posts annoy me. But those aren’t such a big deal to me; it’s the follow-up comments about how no one is following instructions or how they’re obviously not reading the posts because if they were they wouldn’t be behaving so damn badly by buying the book when they see it/in the format they’re buying it in/whatever or how they’ve just made the author cry and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing that when I get angry. That’s what infuriates me; that’s where I start to get that sort of deep raw burning rage inside me that makes me want to start screaming and punching people. That’s where slight rudeness or even innocence of tone becomes real arrogance.

Why am I saying all of this now, when the current little internet mess is over? Well, because I’ve just posted pre-order links, that’s why. And I want to make it clear that while I would love you to pre-order the book, I really would, because I need every sale I can get and a sale is a sale, you’re under no obligation to do so. My sales numbers are not your problem; you are not required to do shit for me, my career, or my sales, frankly.

Yes, maybe it is the case–as I’m sure will be pointed out–that it’s easy for me to say all of this because I’m not in a position where I could hit a list, the implication being that because I’m not a big success I don’t have to worry about growing that success, I only have to try to hang on with my fingertips, whereas these people actually are successful and what do losers like me know about that. But I also know writers who have hit the NYT–quite a few of them, in fact–and none of them made a stink about buying the book the day before release or tell their readers they’d made them sick by buying the book a day or two early. And again, oh well. Maybe I’ll never hit a list. I don’t really care. I care about having a long career, and selling enough to make my publishers happy and make them keep offering me contracts. I care–deeply–about writing books my readers love, books that make them happy and make them want to see more books from me.

I got into this business so I could write books. I stay in this business because I still want to do that. That’s all I want to do. I want readers to like my books. That’s all I worry about.

So pre-order my book or don’t. I hope you do. I’m not worried if you don’t. I just want you to LOVE the book, and be excited by it and not feel let down, and that’s what I’d much rather focus on: you, the reader.

What Stace had to say on Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Elder Griffin is Gay

(There is a point to my saying this, I swear.)

I’m pretty sure most of you know that already, actually, although I did see a bit of confusion over the summer when the subject of a possible youthful dalliance/crush of his came up in UNHOLY MAGIC (and for the record, for those curious: yes, there was some canoodling, although it was more curiosity/ego-feeding/careless fun for the other party). I thought that was fairly obvious, but didn’t see any reason to press the point or have him running around monologuing about being gay; the man is gay, and Chess obviously knows he’s gay, and nobody cares that he’s gay, so why would he do a speech about his gayness? Especially in that world, where being gay isn’t remotely an issue to anyone and gay marriage is totally legal.

(I can’t resist throwing in another worldbuilding note there: for certain people, like Church employees, simple cohabitation is not permitted [gay or straight]. You’re either married or you live alone, period.)

(Oh, and those of you who read THE BRAVE TALE OF MADDIE CARVER may have noticed a slight reference to his sexuality there, too, when Maddie thinks about how his family abandoned him because of it.)

Anyway. So Elder Griffin is gay. And his part in the next books is a bit bigger, and (minor spoiler) he does have an active love life and that becomes part of the next books as well, and it’s something that makes me happy. Because it’s important to me to add that to my books. It’s important to have some diversity. It’s important because the real world is diverse, and it’s important because who knows might see it and maybe think about it, or maybe feel better about it. Elder Griffin is first and foremost a good man, a smart one and a kind one and a loving one; one who adds great value to Chess’s life. His being gay is part of him but it’s also incidental. He is more than GAY. He is (at least I hope he is) a full, living, breathing, thinking, feeling, human being of worth who happens to be gay.

All of this is my way of explaining why yesterday I emailed Trisha Telep to pull my short story HOME from the MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE anthology.

You can read the background on this here and here.

HOME is a Downside story; I think I’ve mentioned it before? It is, I think, the closest thing to a “happy” Downside story as can exist–at least one from Chess’s POV–and for that reason it was fun to write (again, plus kinky hippies, which was a hoot).

It also involves–revolves around, to no small extent–bisexuality/homosexuality, in an important and positive way.

HOME is not dead. I’m considering some other options at the moment, because I absolutely want to make sure those of you waiting for the next Downside book get to read the story in the interim. And in fact there are a few potential Downside stories in the works for you guys in addition to the one appearing in HOME IMPROVEMENT: UNDEAD EDITION, which will be released August 2nd. So you’ll get to read it, I’m just not sure how, where, or when (but my plan is sooner rather than later).

Because I feel that to not speak up here, to not pull the story, takes something away from Elder Griffin, and from every other gay character I’ve ever written (Carter in the Demons books, too, as another example). In fact it takes something away from every character I’ve written, because it makes them all less human. It treats them like characters and not people; it treats them as unimportant, as lip service. They’re not that. They matter to me. And hopefully they matter to readers. And maybe they even matter to someone who sees themselves in them–in any of my characters, no matter what traits or differences or faults or personality quirks or whatever else they may have that some people feel it’s okay to judge or condemn–and realizes it’s okay to be exactly who and what they are.

Because it is.

What Stace had to say on Monday, March 21st, 2011
Keep your tongue where it belongs!

I was updating my FAQ a little while ago and wanted to link to the Polish editions of the Demons books on Amber Publishing’s website. And guess what I found? The Downside books are available in a boxed set over there! How cool is that? (Google translate tells me the wording at the top is “STACII KANE in a Box.” Which makes me think of the end of the movie SEVEN. Eek.)

Anyway, I was excited to see it, so there you go. Also, it occurs to me that I haven’t really updated the FAQ in a while, so if you have any questions you want in there, please ask them! (I did remember to add “How do you pronounce “Cesaria?” because I do get asked that fairly often.)

So. I saw something yesterday that reminded me of this; I’d ranted about it a bit on Twitter one night but not in a post here. You know what I really dislike? I really dislike kissing scenes in books where at any point one character “runs his/her tongue” over the other person’s lips. Eeeew. I don’t want my mouth licked, thank you. It tickles, and it feels slobbery.

I asked about this on Twitter and one of my pals there said he’d once dated a girl who really, really liked it. I think she’s an anomaly, since I’ve never known anyone else who did. And yet, this happens all the time in books. Why? It’s such a weird thing to do! Especially before that very first kiss, at least I think so. The lip-licking makes me think of a snake. Or a dog. It doesn’t make me think of sexy times.

There are plenty of places on the human body where tongues are welcome (that’s what she said, yeah, ha ha). But having the outside of my mouth licked just feels like the guy has bad aim, or like he’s trying to figure out if I’m something edible or a rock, or maybe like he’s seen way too many movies and thus will probably try to pull all those slick moves that look erotic but aren’t at all, and thus will bore me to death before anything actually happens.

I don’t want tongues inside my ears, either. In fact, I don’t want anything inside my ears. Not even air gently blown.

So…who is it out there who likes this, and keeps sticking it in books? It’s kind of like how someone got the idea that it felt good to have the cervix banged into, and for a while there were tons of books where men were banging into cervixes and that was driving the women wild. Um, actually, that hurts every woman I know. (But I confess, even I wrote it; I can’t remember what book it was in, but I did write it. Mainly because it seemed like it was in every book so I started wondering if maybe it was just me who found it painful, and everyone else loved it. It wasn’t until I had the guts to ask around that I discovered no, it hurts pretty much all women. I don’t remember if it stayed to publication or not.)

Anything you see in books and don’t “get?” How do you feel about the lip-licking thing? Got any questions you’d like put in my FAQ?

To-do update:

Finish Downside 5 (just over 50k now)
edits for SACRIFICIAL MAGIC
more words on New Project
possible exciting new Downside thing I can’t discuss yet
erotic novella (not yet started)
Demons novella (not yet started)

What Stace had to say on Friday, March 4th, 2011
Don’t ever take sides against the family

Wow.

Last night I got a couple of pingbacks in my email, letting me know some of my posts had been linked to. I think you can guess which ones; the little series I did several weeks back about watching what you say online.

Turns out that little tempest-in-a-teapot has not in fact died, but has grown and changed and turned into something huge and sinister. Turns out there are people out there now–otherwise reasonable people, I assume–who are equating my words with threats that someone will never be published or will never find an agent, that authors can and will “blackball” someone for a negative review, or whatever. Turns out I have somehow inadvertently created a cabal (NOTE: This doesn’t mean I think it’s all down to me or anything, just that my post is being linked to by people who say it was/is a “key exchange” in starting the whole thing. Trust me, there may be things in this world I’d like credit for. Threatening to ruin people’s careers from behind the scenes like some sort of self-important literary Blofeld is not one of them). The YA Mafia. I’m not sure how that happened, given that I’m not published in YA, but my posts are being linked to as the ones that started it all. And hey, my agent has a YA proposal from me as I write this, which I’m extremely excited about because it has all sorts of dark bloody creepiness in it. Including Springheel Jacks (yes, Jacks, as in more than one. Whee!). I digress.

I’m extremely tempted to ignore all of this and just move on. The only reason I’m not doing it is because it apparently started with me, so I feel partly responsible for the discussions, and because people are spreading some pretty wild stories about what I said (no offense to that commenter, who seems a very nice, rational person. Hers was simply the first comment I saw to illustrate my point. It is far from the only comment of that sort out there, and most people don’t apologize when it’s pointed out that they’ve misinterpreted something like that. She did. I appreciate that. This isn’t about her at all. It is about the fact that this is all getting blown way out of proportion, and I don’t appreciate being lied about).

There is no “mafia.” No writer in the world can keep you from getting published if your work is good. Period.

So you might not get a blurb from someone. As I said repeatedly when this all started, so fucking what? That’s not going to ruin your career, or end it before it’s even begun. So when you do a panel with someone they might not invite you for a drink afterward. Again, oh well.

The statement was NEVER made, by me or anyone else I’m aware of, that writing a negative review of a book could mean you never get published or repped.

The statement was NEVER made by me or anyone else I’m aware of that I would ask my agent not to rep someone who gave me a bad review. I said I might be a little hurt. Sorry, I am a human being, with feelings, just like everyone else. My agent and I have a very close relationship. I might be a little hurt. I probably wouldn’t even mention this to him (and for the record, he told me that if the review was really nasty he’d assume the writer isn’t very professional and thus not be interested in them, but a calm “This is why it didn’t work for me” wouldn’t be a big deal if the work was wonderful). I certainly wouldn’t email or call him and say “So-and-so only gave me two stars. I never want to see you go near her/him ever.”

Nor would I do that with my editor, which is another claim being made. Would I care if she signed a writer who didn’t like my work? Not one damn bit, no. An editor-author relationship is different from an agent-author relationship, for one thing. And for another…

Geez, guys, it’s just a review. Who cares about it, really?

Yeah, I might not want to blurb you if you took the time to write a big old post about not liking my book. So what. As I said in my original post, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help you with other things if you needed it. That certainly doesn’t mean I’d start calling people to put your name on the Secret Mafia Blackball List. It certainly doesn’t mean I’d go out of my way to damage your career.

The simple truth is–and I mean this in the nicest possible way–I don’t care about you. I don’t know you. You don’t mean anything to me, beyond being another human being with whom I share this planet. If you’re one of my readers you mean a little more to me, sure. I try to do whatever I can for my readers; I love them. I will and have gone out of my way for them, whether they blog or not. But if you’re not one of them, you’re probably not on my radar at all. If I see your negative review I’ll probably shrug. Again as I said in those posts, if I have to choose between blurbing you and blurbing a book by one of my readers, my reader gets the blurb (unless her books sucks, which of course it won’t, because my readers are so awesome it hurts). That’s assuming I even remember your name; I don’t write this shit down, and I have a horrible memory. I might google you, if I’m bored. I might not; I probably won’t.

Somehow it seems book bloggers in general got tied up in all of this, which I find extremely upsetting, and frankly confusing. I’m not really sure how much more outspoken I can be on the subject of book bloggers/readers having the right to say anything they damn well please about a book, short of buying a bullhorn and picketing genre conventions. I have never once failed to back the reader/reader-blogger when it comes to an author vs. situation, and yeah, it is personally upsetting to me to see that completely disregarded, to see no one even bothering to read the posts I linked to on that subject before declaring what my intentions and words were.

That’s too bad for me, though. Because–and here is where we go full circle–anything you say on the internet is public, and people are people and don’t always take things the way you want them to. Because, which was honestly the whole point of the first post in the series, once you become a writer and have work published you are no longer free to speak your mind as clearly and openly as you once were; or rather, you certainly are free to do so, but there are and will be consequences. I can point not only to this little kerfuffle, but to numerous others to illustrate this. The line “She put it out there on the internet, it’s public, she can say whatever she wants but she has to accept that people might not like it and will talk about it” has been repeated so many times by so many people it’s almost funny at this point.

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s frustrating and difficult sometimes. Tough. It’s part of the job.

What this all boils down to is that somehow, my attempt to pass on a bit of advice–the internet can be scary, it really can, and you never know what might set someone off so it’s best to just be very careful and not burn any bridges–has turned into ALL YOUR PUBLISHING CHANCES ARE BELONG TO ME.

There is no “Mafia.” No one has that much power. Quite frankly, nothing that happens on the internet is that damn important. All of those “Authors Behaving Badly” posts out there? Don’t really matter. Those authors are still publishing, and the vast majority of readers have no idea of the scandal du jour. Although it seems big, the number of readers who actually hang out in the online readerworld is minute.

And something else I learned is that for every person who sees what you say and thinks “Man, fuck that bitch”–whether it’s because of what you said or what they think you said or whatever–there’s someone else who thinks, “Man, that chick is awesome for speaking her mind.”

The lesson there? People are people, and we’re all different. Some of us may feel one way, some another.

But we’re still people. Yes, people can be incredibly scary sometimes. But most of us aren’t. We’re a pretty decent bunch, I think, we writers. We might get annoyed by something or upset when attacked or whatever; we have bad days just like everyone or anyone else. We have to be careful when we have those bad days, more careful than non-writers. We have to be careful especially if we’re women.

But I’m also careful when I go out alone at night. That doesn’t mean I’m afraid to do it at all. I’m just careful.

My post was intended as a bit of advice, and something interesting to discuss. I say down on the Sunday night and thought, “Oh, that’ll be a cool topic to discuss. I can do a little series on it, that’ll be fun. I like doing series.” It was not intended as some sort of rule. It was most certainly not a threat; it never occurred to me that anyone would think of it that way, because to assume someone is threatening you is to assume they have some power over you, and I have none. I’ve never claimed to have any.

But sheesh, guys, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Yes, the internet is forever, but you know what? Nothing is forever. Things are forgotten. People move on. People stop caring, if they ever did. No one is threatening you. No one is calling the Boss of Publishing–Don Paperback, or whatever–to tell him you sleep with the fishes. I’m not sure how exactly that belief came about, but it’s not true, and as Zoe Winters says here, “No one EVER Said That.” (Interestingly enough, that belief, the misunderstanding, was really the main point behind my saying “You can’t be both”–not that writers would ostracize you but that readers would misunderstand you/mistrust you. Sadly, it does happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it.)

What you say online may lose you a few readers. It might gain you a few. It might make Author A not inclined to blurb you. It might make Author B more inclined to do so. I don’t enjoy controversy so I avoid it. I think making enemies is pointless so I avoid it. (Frankly, I think writing negative reviews is generally a waste of my time, because I have no special attachment to reviewing and never have. You may feel differently, and that’s fine. But for me, I’d usually rather spend my time talking about books I loved.) What you say online might very well make you some enemies or thrust you into unwanted controversy. It may cross a few names of your list. Like I said, I don’t understand why someone would feel so strongly about being able to review, or why they would be upset at being told they have to be careful with what they say, since A) When you’re published you have to be even more careful, and B) Isn’t that sort of standard in the world? Don’t we always need to be careful what we say? Just like we don’t walk up to someone on the street and say “Wow! Your dress is really ugly!” so we are careful what we put out there publicly online, too.

But what your statements online won’t do is keep you from getting published if your work is good. (Hell, even if it isn’t; I know one specific example of this, who although the houses aren’t particularly well-regarded or established, they’re still putting out books with that writer’s name on them, and there are so many marks against that person it makes my head spin.) Unless you are a complete ranting harpie, if your work is good you will find people who want to work with you.

The writing is everything. The work is everything. Focus on that, and quit worrying about whether or not it’s okay to say you didn’t like a book. There is no “Mafia.” There is no “blacklist.” There are only people, and we’re all different. And most of all there are books, and those are what matter more than anything else.

Seriously. Don’t worry about this. Just write the best book you can.

Other posts on this topic:

Holly Black

Ally Carter

Justine Larbalestier

Amperstory

Janni Simner

Cleolinda Jones

Foz Meadows

Dia Reeves

An older but extremely trenchant post from Ilona Andrews

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Movie Milquetoasts

The other night the hubs and I were watching GONE WITH THE WIND. Well, we didn’t watch the whole thing, just part of it. He took me to see it in the theater, though, when they did that reissue a while back. That was when I stood in line at the concession stand behind Dan Marino. He was BIG. And then a few minutes later as I was getting on the escalator, I saw him, and pointed at him like a moron, and he looked right at me to see me standing there gaping at him. It was a proud moment. I digress.

So we’re watching GWTW, and it’s one of those scenes where Rhett Butler is being all take-charge-y, and hubs says, “You don’t see men like Clark Gable anymore in movies.”

It’s something I’ve actually thought about for a while; a few of you who’ve been with me for years might remember “Macho Week” 2007. (Those of you who go back and look at them might find the first glimmerings of inspiration for a certain character in a certain series I write there, too.)

Why don’t we see men like that anymore? Why are we constantly given these irresponsible, semi-effeminate little boy-men? Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate good-looking men, and I see the charm of a lot of these characters. But seriously. Is this what we want to teach our daughters to expect and appreciate? Men who run from any sort of responsibility, men for whom calling when he says he will is just too big a damn commitment for him? Men who use “products?”

Yeah, I know, the metrosexual thing has been done to death, and that’s not what this is about. It’s more about the fact that as our lives become more and more consumed with computers and video games and stuff like that, as we hide from the real world more and more as a society, as we cut out manual jobs and refuse to give them dignity anymore, as we become more and more fixated on money and material things, as we grow lazier and lazier…our men become more and more childish. Why should they have to take care of anyone when they grow up/get married?

I’m not saying real men don’t exist. I’m sure they do. But…where are they?

In the 60s and 70s, you could see real men in movies anytime you wanted. Lee Marvin. Steve McQueen. Paul Newman. Clint Eastwood. Charles Bronson. John Cassavetes. Gene Hackman. Sean Connery. Burt Reynolds (of course). Jack Nicholson. George C. Scott. James Garner. James Coburn. The list is endless. These were men. They drank hard and fought hard and played hard. They were commanding and decisive. They knew what had to be done, and they did it.

Where do we see men like that anymore? When is the last time you saw a man like that in a movie, seriously?

I suppose you could say Hugh Jackman is sort of manly, or at least he was in the first X-Men movie. Then he showed up doing cabaret on TV and the cloud of testosterone just disappeared. Nicholas Cage looked promising in the 80s and 90s, but now he spends all of his time doing silly B movies. You could mention Liam Neeson, but he keeps getting shoved into second-fiddle type roles; men have gotten younger, just like women. By which I mean, where a leading man might once have been in that 35-55 range (which I personally have always believed are a man’s sexiest years, when he’s all confident and authoritative but not knee-jerk-y or too set in his ways, when he’s wise but still youthful) now it seems they’re all in their early 20s. Movies aren’t about men doing manly things now, they’re about men running away from manly things so they can just hang out with each other.

I’m not saying some of those movies aren’t good, and/or funny. I like Judd Apatow movies. I thought OLD SCHOOL was hilarious. And sure, people just don’t go see westerns so much anymore, or action dramas like THE FRENCH CONNECTION. And yes, at the same time those men were on the screen, we also had the first glimmers of the child-man, the sensitive man who expected to be petted, in Woody Allen movies and Alan Alda and Dustin Hoffman.

(Incidentally, while hunting around the internet for names and examples I found this article by Tracy Quan. Quite interesting, and speaks to my point, so it’s worth a read. So is this NYT story from 2004.)

A while ago I talked about TWILIGHT, and why I think the book and movie have become such phenomena. For those of you who missed it, I think–I believe pretty strongly, in fact–that a big part of the reason is because TWILIGHT is a book which tells young women that love, and being in love, is a worthy goal on its own and that it’s important, instead of being something they should just sort of have in their lives while they achieve whatever lofty ambitions they may have–and if they don’t have lofty ambitions, there’s clearly something wrong with them. TWILIGHT tells young women they have every right to expect a man to pursue them, to protect them, and to commit to them. (NOTE: This is *not* me saying I approve of the particular methods used by the character in that book, or that I don’t see the way that relationship moves beyond caring and into controlling, or anything like that. I do see it. But I believe it is–or at least it was–the only book out there that condoned teenage girls putting love first, so all of that is less important to readers than that main message, which is that it’s okay to expect a man to be responsible and it’s okay to want love and romance instead of being focused on a career.)

Where else do we see that message anymore? Where else does anyone tell young women that they have a right to expect young men to stick around and behave responsibly, and where do young men see the massage that they should behave that way? (It always makes me laugh in a sad way when I think of that Salt n Pepa song from a while back, the “What A Man,” song, remember it? And the line “He spends quality time with his kids when he can.” Because apparently the idea of finding a man who hasn’t already impregnated someone–or more than one–is impossible; we assume he has children somewhere, because all men do, I guess.) Where do we tell young women they should expect commitment, and they should expect romance and love?

Instead it seems like everyone is on a treadmill–a hamster wheel–spinning faster and faster to stay a teenager as long as they can. We don’t demand responsible behavior from our young men anymore (and lest you think I’m being sexist here, we don’t demand it from young women anymore, either, which I think is just as bad), and we don’t show them role models like that anymore, either. We don’t teach them to be men; they grow up without fathers, and when they look to the media they don’t really see men there, either. All they see are millions of variations on the emo boy who needs a cuddle. Or maybe, if they see a manly man, he’s some sort of sexist caricature or violent maniac, a cautionary tale. In our entertainment today, you can either carry all of the responsibility of the relationship so your man can stay home playing with his Wii, or you can be beaten and locked in the bedroom because you have too much eyeshadow on. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.

I know there are some movies out there, yes. But actors these days…they’re delicate. They’re almost feminine-looking, it seems. They’re not very tall. They’re not hairy. They’re not gruff. They cross their legs at the knee and drink cocktails, if they drink at all, which they probably don’t. We used to have men like Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, whose wild exploits were legendary and who’d rather curl up and die than swear off drinking because it wasn’t good for them. These days it seems you have to have floppy hair and slight features if you want to be on-screen as a man, and be in bed by eleven. You’d never see Clark Gable now; Clark was manly and sexy, but he wasn’t exactly handsome, was he, with those big sticky-out ears?

The only one I’ve seen is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who I looooove, but who never seems to get work. Who doesn’t seem to get work despite the fact that every woman I know loves him, but whatever. He’s not pretty, I guess, and he’s not boyish, so he wouldn’t be appropriate for any of the tee-hee-let’s-stay-children movies we put men in these days (unless they’re comic book heroes, of course. Comic book movies are the only place men get to be men anymore, and even then they’re sensitive and motivated not by honor or what’s right but by their feelings).

It just bothers me, and I think it’s sad. It bothers me that we don’t encourage men to be responsible and we don’t encourage women to expect men to be responsible. And I think it’s time we started changing the message of our popular culture. Because I’m sick of paying money to see a bunch of fifteen-year-olds in men’s bodies running around on the screen.

What Stace had to say on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Reviews are for Readers

You know, I don’t even really want to discuss any of the stuff that came up last week anymore. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of having my motives questioned, sick of being told I’m lying about them, sick of being told I’m a petty vindictive bitch, sick of being called a hypocrite, sick of being told I equate bad reviews with mean and thus obviously can’t handle reviews at all, sick of being yelled at for my “tone,” sick of being told I’m obviously egotistical and self-centered, sick of being referred to and treated like the Will Hays of the publishing world or something, or like I think I’m the freaking Black Gate of Mordor and you must get through me personally to be published so you better do exactly as I say, or that I told anyone they “wouldn’t get published” if they didn’t follow my advice, which is the biggest pile of bullshit. Since when is “another writer might not want to blurb you” equal to “forget about being published ever, bitches?” FFS. I was even told by one non-writer that I was making all women writers and the entire urban fantasy community look bad.

And in fact I was/am seriously considering either giving up the blog altogether or going back to what I’ve been doing the last few months, which is basically just making the blog about me personally and not really expressing any opinions at all. Because quite frankly, it’s not worth it to me (which funnily enough was the point of last week’s posts, too). Watching myself get slammed all up and down Twitter and all over the internet and finding nasty emails in my Inbox is not worth it. Being thrown into the center of some kind of huge swirling controversy simply for sharing my experience as truthfully as possible and giving a bit of advice which people are free to take or leave–advice I wish someone had given me, advice that was just meant to be helpful and friendly, something to think about, since the subject came up (publicly, not privately as some people seem to think)–isn’t worth it. I have too much going on in my life, frankly, and don’t need to be screamed at and torn apart by a bunch of people I don’t know, who don’t know me, who’ve never even heard of me before or read any of my work but who nonetheless feel qualified to call me rude/egotistical/self-centered/weak/scared/vindictive/fake/hypocritical/oversensitive/advocating dishonesty, and feel perfectly justified in doing so as loudly and as often as possible, even though my post was nothing personal, and aimed at no one in particular.

(Yes, I got some nasty emails about UNHOLY GHOSTS right before its release, too. That was quite upsetting. That was also worth it, because it was about my work; my art, and that matters deeply to me. This isn’t, and doesn’t.)

Of course, what’s happened is the perfect example of why I said “Be careful what you say because people will misinterpret it/take offense when none is intended/attribute motives to you which aren’t yours/claim you’re ‘protesting too much’ when you try to explain that no, that really wasn’t your motive.” That reaction is exactly what I meant, everyone. Go ahead and tell me again why I’m wrong to suggest caution in your online dealings unless you enjoy being attacked. I don’t mean that to be rude, I’m just pointing it out.

Anyway. I was going to give it up. And I’m still considering what I might do. But meanwhile I had this post planned, and have told people to expect it, and a few people have encouraged me to go ahead and post it, so here it is. I guess I really can’t be attacked more than I have been, or made to feel worse, or made to wonder any more what the hell I did that was so wrong that I deserved that kind of fury.

One of the most interesting comments I saw last week and throughout the weekend were the number of unpublished writers, or un-NY-published writers, talking about “helpful” reviews, and how great it can be to find reviews that give “constructive criticism.” (Those are actual quotes, btw, not me being sarcastic.) How they would never feel bad about any review because it’s all feedback and that’s so valuable and they learn from it.

And it got me thinking. What do I learn from reviews? What have I learned from my reviews?

Well…not a damn thing, to be honest.

Before you get all up in arms again, let me make a couple more things clear. I love readers. I love reviewers. I will and have stood up (many times) for the right of readers and reviewers to say whatever they like, in whatever way they like, and have said over and over that reviewers are great and I’m grateful for them, and that I wish the tension that often appears to exist between writers and readers wasn’t there. I do often read my reviews and I almost always enjoy reading them, even if the reviewer didn’t like the book.

But enjoying them and respecting them isn’t learning from them. I don’t. And here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
Publishing: It’s a Business! And it’s hard sometimes.

It seems, much to my surprise, that there’s something controversial about saying “Don’t make enemies of people who may be in a position to help you later on in the career you hope to have.” I had no idea that this was something people would disagree with.

(While I’m on the subject, a link in comments led me to this post by Jeanine Frost, a NYT bestseller and very nice person I had the pleasure of meeting once a couple of years ago. I hadn’t seen this post before I posted; I wish I had. Maybe if you don’t want to believe me, you’ll believe her.)

Several people brought up Roger Ebert, I’m not sure why. Roger Ebert is a professional reviewer. He is a good and successful reviewer. I just must have missed the part where Ebert started actively pursuing an acting career. Nobody said you can’t be a reviewer. Just that you should think before you decide to try to be both. When is the last time you saw, say, Sandra Bullock, reviewing a film?

I’ve been referred to as being “scared.” I wanted to clarify this. I am not fucking scared. Ask anyone who knows me; I believe they’ll tell you there’s very little I’m afraid of (and if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see more clarification). I carry two switchblades. Hell, I have “I am not afraid” tattooed on my arm.

Some people are shocked–yes, shocked!–that writers would actually not take time to help out someone who criticized their work in the past. You know what? Writers are people. Just like any other people. When is the last time you took time you couldn’t afford to help a stranger who’d been publicly critical of you in the past? Why does everyone think this is a matter of anger? It’s not. I’m not sure what’s unclear about the fact that my time is extremely limited. If I have two bound mss in front of me, I likely only have time to read one, and that’s with me barely scraping that time from my schedule. Let’s see. I can pick the mss of the person who in the past said they disliked this or that about me or my work, or I can pick up the mss of the person who never said a word about me, or complimented me. You tell me what person you know–who isn’t in the running for sainthood–who’s going to deliberately pick the one of the critical person. It’s not about revenge. It’s not about anger. It’s about practicality.

This isn’t about being nice, either, to be honest. or rather, it is, but only in so much as it’s about not actively being unpleasant to or critical of people who could have an influence on your career. I’m not saying you can’t ever speak out against injustice or rudeness. I think we should do so. I think if you’ve read my blog before you know that; hell, remember what happened in May? I saw another writer–one “above” me, in fact, with whom I was friendly, who I liked as a person, and who was friends with many of my friends–behaving in a manner I found shockingly bad, disgusting, even; aggressive, rude, and unpleasant to readers. I blogged about it. Did that writer see it? I know she did. Do I think she’ll ever help me out with anything? I don’t think she’d piss on me if I were on fire, frankly. Do I think it’s possible she showed my post to her editor, and her editor now thinks I’m a bitch? I know it’s a distinct possibility, yes.

But the fact is it was worth it to me, because it was something I felt very strongly about and believe very strongly in. Do I think writing a review of her book is so important that I’d be willing to alienate her? Fuck, no. It might be worth it to you. Make the choice.
Read the rest of this entry »

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
Women’s Books

Before I start I want to make something really, really clear. This post is NOT about any specific review outlet/magazine/blog/website. It is NOT claiming this is the case for all reviewers, in all places, or that this is a constant. And most importantly it is NOT saying reviewers can’t feel about a book however they want to, or view it through any lens they want to, or whatever else. I also want to make it absolutely, positively clear that I am thrilled beyond words at how readers and reviewers in general have taken to my books and characters; this isn’t about some sort of personal grudge on my behalf, not at all. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I’ve seen several other people discussing it recently, so wanted to stick my nose in.

I also want to mention something else, because judging from a couple of comments I need to clarify. The story about bookstore shelving was one small indie bookstore. This has nothing to do with where books are shelved. It’s about the perceptions of those books once purchased/the standards by which they are judged/the dismissal of them. But it’s not about where they’re shelved at all.

What kinds of books do women write?

I know, I know. Women write all kinds of books. But it seems–from a very extensive search I’ve done over the last few weeks/months of various bookseller sites/review sites/magazines/databases/blogs/whatever elses, that books written by women are far, far more likely to be categorized as romance, reviewed as romance, and judged by romance standards, than are books written by men.

In a Twitter discussion about this (Twitter use update: I’ve been using Hootsuite the last few days because Seesmic has a slight tendency to balk when I leave it up all the time, which I do; it’s always the second tab in my browser. I do miss the little crunch noise, though, and will be going back to Seesmic; I like switching back and forth between them, but Seesmic is the main one I use) someone told me about a bookstore near them where any books written by women that have any sort of romance subplot or whatever–including sci-fi and of course urban fantasy–are shelved as romance. Period. SFF written by men is SFF, no matter how big the romance subplot is. But if the author has ladyparts, it’s romance.

I’ve talked before here about the frustration of women’s books–urban fantasy in particular–being categorized/called/dismissed “chick books” just because there are sex scenes in them or just because finding love/romance is part of the story. And how romance is often a subplot in books written by men, too, but those books are not dismissed or judged as romances, and why it is that women’s books are denigrated as “not real fantasy” if they contain stronger romance elements but those written by men aren’t.

Neil Gaiman’s STARDUST, for example, is still called and reviewed as Fantasy, despite its incredibly strong romance plot/subplot. But I’ve seen Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series called and reviewed as Romance. Why? What’s the difference? Carey calls her books Fantasy. Gaiman calls his book(s) Fantasy. Why is his categorization honored and hers isn’t? More to the point, why do reviews of his book–including reviews written by women, too–focus on the writing and story, whereas reviews of Carey’s books focus on the romance?

In her book How to Suppress Women’s Writing, Joanna Russ–herself a fantasy/sci-fi author, among other things–uses as one of her methods “False Categorizing.” She says:

It is bad faith that stands behind what I shall call Denial by False Categorizing, a complicated now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t sleight of hand in which works or authors are belittled by assigning them to the “wrong” category, or arranging the categories so the majority of “wrong” Glotolog fall into the “wrong” category without anyone’s having to do anything further about the matter.

Later, she elaborates a little further:

The assignment of genre can also function as false categorizing, especially when the work appears to fall between established genres and can thereby be assigned to either (and then called an imperfect example of it) or chided for belonging to neither.

Does this sound familiar?

Again, reviewers have every right to bring their own tastes, thoughts, and opinions to a review; honestly, this really isn’t about reviews or reviewers as such. It’s more about genre itself. But what’s happening is, every time a work of literature, or a work of fiction in a genre that is not romance is reviewed as a romance, that author is being denied her agency; she is being denied the right to have her work seen on its own merits, and is instead being forced back into a particular box. In other words, her work is being denigrated not because it isn’t a good or worthwhile example of what it is, but because it’s not a good or worthwhile example of something it never claimed to be.

This is akin to giving Schindler’s List a bad review because it isn’t funny enough, or complaining about Caddyshack because the viewer didn’t find it scary. That these films never claimed or set out to be funny or scary doesn’t matter; the work isn’t being judged by how well it is what it’s supposed to be, but by the standards of something completely alien–standards which may even be totally unknown to the filmmakers.

Is this a way of suppressing women’s writing?

How many books by men do you see re-categorized in this fashion, either as women’s fiction or romance or whatever?

I often see Lolita discussed when the topic of underage sex comes up in regards to romance. And the very correct argument is made that Lolita is not a romance, and therefore should not be judged by romance standards. But do you think the difference would be so clearly and carefully mentioned if Lolita was called Laurence, and was written by Valentina Nabakov? Do you think people would avoid mentioning how sad and saggy Humbertina Humbertina was, how desperate to recapture her youth, how sexually useless she was, being past her sell-by date?

Of course, I am chiefly talking about genre fiction here, since it’s where my experience is and what I read, so it’s what I pay more attention to. But I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels dismissed as “chick books” or downgraded in reviews because the reader didn’t fall in love with the main love interest in whatever story. I don’t remember seeing Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels treated that way either. But I see lots of urban fantasies by women being downgraded for exactly that reason.

It’s not just the romance or lack thereof, though. It’s the “unwritten rules of romance” which are applied to women’s books but not men’s. And they’re applied not just by reviewers, not by a long shot (like I said, this really isn’t about reviewers) by society in general, who insists on shoving books into certain boxes or classifying them/their main characters as “good” or “bad” according to a strict set of rules.

It’s about how male characters–in any genre–can sleep around and their exploits are cheered; it even makes them more desirable, but a promiscuous heroine–again, in any genre–is looked down upon. Not only is she disliked for her sexual escapades, but it’s automatically taken as a sign of some intrinsic weakness in her character, i.e. she obviously needs sexual approval to feel whole, or she obviously has no self-respect.

The promiscuous heroine is unlikable–and worse than unlikable, she is unworthy–simply because she likes sex, and likes to have it with whomever strikes her fancy, at any time she feels the urge. Again, whereas the promiscuous hero is applauded; he is an object of desire. Getting him to settle down is the chief achievement of the heroine in those romances or romance subplots, in fact (of course, it should be in a genre romance). Every woman’s dream is to make him settle down, and if any negative mention is made of his bed-hopping past it’s made with a sort of wink, a boys-will-be-boys sigh. Either that, or his past promiscuity is made much of, but it’s made clear that this sort of prudery is part of the heroine’s prim/uptight character. She’s generally a virgin, or someone who’s only slept with one or two men, and she generally has other very straight-laced views and thoughts.

The hero’s promiscuity is an aspect of his character, which may or may not have consequences. The heroine’s promiscuity is a flaw, one she usually must answer for.

It’s also about how male characters can be distant or cold, even in some cases borderline psychotic/sociopathic, but they’re still regarded as likable and appealing. Whereas a cold and/or distant heroine is regarded with hostility and suspicion, because women are “supposed” to be kind/loving/feeling/friendly/caring.

Male characters can be intrinsically violent; shoot first, ask questions later, and readers approve. When female characters are like this they’re called “too angry” or “flies off the handle too fast” or, again, just plain “unlikable.”

A man whose morality is relative is morally relative. A woman whose morals are relative is morally vacant.

And yes, when male characters have drinking or substance abuse problems very little mention is made of it–the hard-drinking detective is a genre staple, in fact–but for a female character to do the same makes her a bad or unworthy person, one who should be ashamed of herself.

Does whether or not the author is a man or a woman make a difference as to how these characters are perceived? What do you think?

What about if the main character is a man or a woman? I haven’t seen any reviews of K.A. Stewart’s A Devil in the Details (which is excellent, btw, and has a male MC) called romance or put down for being UF, but J.F. Lewis’s Staked was dismissed by quite a few people simply because it has a woman on the cover, regardless of the fact that the MC is a man; and some people who did expect it to be a romance judged it rather harshly because it isn’t, although, again, it never claimed to be..

How much of a difference does it make if the reviewer or reader is a man or a woman? I see far less slut-shaming coming from men/male reviewers than I do female ones, but I also see men/male reviewers as quicker to dismiss books by women unread because it “looks like a romance,” or to cast it aside as a romance because there is a sex scene in it or a romantic subplot, as if romance isn’t a valid genre in and of itself or one that may have some worth to men (again, I discussed all of that this summer, and how I don’t understand male dismissal of romance or of UF by calling it romance, or the sort of “eeew cooties” mentality which seems to often go along with that dismissal). Again, that may simply be where I’m looking.

How much of this do you think is because of the blending of genres? Perhaps because the genres have blended a bit to a certain degree, readers/reviewers/whomever are paying less attention to authorial intent/classification (although again, it seems men’s wishes/thoughts in that regard are taken more seriously and heeded far more).

I just find this all saddening, and disturbing. I find the way women tend to put down other women for not conforming to be very disturbing, and always have; it’s been an issue with a direct effect on me my whole life, quite frankly. And while I stopped caring about shit like “fitting in” or being accepted by people who were essentially unpleasant, or whose entire achievements were that they had very shiny hair, or people who were narrow-minded that anyone who had a different viewpoint or opinion on an issue was automatically worthy of insult or simply stupid/lying/whatever–people who felt they had a right to judge others and/or the choices of others based on the presumption that everyone had the same privileges, possibilities, educations, finances, lives, cultures, etc. as they did–it still disturbs me. (In fact, I read a fantastic quote the other day that summed up my feelings on it exactly. It’s from Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (which is tons of fun, btw, and the authors definitely know their shit) which reads: Acceptance from the fascist hierarchy is death of the spirit.

This sums up pretty much my whole life.)

I certainly don’t intend to blame anyone for this. My thought is more to examine it. Is this something we do, consciously or unconsciously? How guilty are we all of doing it? It’s not something isolated; it’s pretty widespread. And I believe that the person ultimately hurt by this is the reader, because they’re not being given accurate pictures of what the books are and are not; the romance reader who grabs a book from the romance shelf in the bookstore mentioned above, only to discover it’s not in fact a romance, will be pretty angry, and they have every right to be.

And is this inevitable? Are we all going to judge a main character according to our specific 21st-century Western middle-class/upper-middle class standards, with no regard for time period/world/adversity suffered/whatever else? (This is part of another discussion, actually, the one about characters in historical novels being surprisingly PC or about books written hundreds of years ago being rewritten to make them more “acceptable” to modern audiences.)

What do you think? Have you see instances of this lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What Stace had to say on Monday, December 20th, 2010
Let Me Show You My Updates

First, lookie! The German version of UNHOLY MAGIC, which will be published by Egmont Lyx in July 2011, has a cover! And a new title. SEELENZORN, which as far as I can tell means either Angry Souls or Soul’s Anger or something like that. (Also, Egmont is calling the books the “Ghostbusters series,” which is awesome and yet very scary in a trademark-infringement sort of way. So, um, I’m not the one calling it that, okay, Sharp Hawk-Eyed Lawyers? Totally not me.) Anyway, here it is:

Sigh, no bangs. But it's still cool.

There’s a blog, a review-and-interview-and-everything-books blog, called Floor to Ceiling books, and Magemanda, the lovely lady who runs it, has posted her Best Of… list for 2010. Guess who’s on it? Me! Well, me, for “Breakthrough Novelist,” which she says is in part because of YOU, and the fantastic little community you guys have made! So thank you all so much. Also–and I know this part will interest you far more–Chess and Terrible won for “Best Kiss.” Nice, huh? She doesn’t say which book it’s for, though, so I’ll ask you guys. What was the best kiss?

And I know you’re all dying to hear how my Twitter odyssey ended. It hasn’t. I did look into Destroy Twitter, which I liked the look of quite a bit–I loved that you could customize it and pick different themes. Unfortunately, not only is the info/FAQ/etc on the site really sparse, to the point where I had no idea what the thing would even DO unless I downloaded it and actually started running it, it was also a download program. Which makes me think it’s a opens-in-its-own-window thing, which as we know, I don’t want.

So it’s down to Hootsuite and Seesmic. I’m actually liking both of them. I’ve hooked up my Facebook page to Seesmic, so I’ve actually gotten a few FB updates in yesterday and today, which is nice. I don’t know if I’ll make Seesmic my only program, though. I do like it. The more I use it the more I like it.

The problem is, the more I use Hootsuite the more I like it, too. They both have things I really like and things I don’t like as much; the bad part is those things complement each other. Like I don’t like Hootsuite’s DM thing, because it doesn’t automatically show me the ones I send. But I like Hootsuite’s photo uploader much better. Plus Hootsuite has that cute little owl. But Seesmic’s FAQ etc. is more comprehensive. Seesmic allows me to quote part of someone’s tweet, and–I LOVE this–when you go to someone’s profile it tells you if they’re following you as well as whether you’re following them. So it’ll say, “This user and you follow each other,” or whatever, which I’ve always thought Twitter should do. But Hootsuite has some cool Google Chrome extensions available, whereas Seesmic has none. I love that neither of them force me to look at people they think I’d be interested in following. I detest that.

So I don’t know. For the moment I’m keeping them both open in separate tabs and switching back and forth between them, basically.

Also, an update on the Downside Market. I’m basically waiting to get bigger versions of the original designs, because some of them look really small on the shirts etc., and we don’t want that. I’m also going to get white ones to go on black or dark-colored shirts. I’m trying to make as many color options available as possible.

And I’m doing a few more with text, because that’s a bit cheaper, so again, lots of color options. I’m trying to get maybe a few Downspeech phrases in there, just some sort of fun stuff. And some of the really basic shirts are very inexpensive, which makes me happy. I’m also expanding the UF stuff a bit, more pro-genre/genre-related shirts.

And of course, if anyone out there wants to do some designs, please send them in! And if your design goes into the store I’ll send you a shirt. You can find the specifications right here, if you’re interested.

Oh, and I’m ripping out and rewriting like 40k words on Downside 4. More explosions! More violence! More dying! I’m hoping it’ll be a really good time when it’s done.

I think that’s all the updates I have for the moment.

What Stace had to say on Friday, September 10th, 2010
Everybody’s Gotta Right to be Right

Oh, before I start, there’s a new interview with me up at Paperback Dolls, done on the Saturday night during Dragoncon. It’s pretty decent, I think, though I could have sworn it went on longer than that. Maybe it was just because the interviewer was really fun to talk to. It was my first ever face-to-face, talk-into-a-recorder interview, too!

So I do wish I’d been more comfortable/experienced with that. And, you know, that I didn’t sound so silly and like I wasn’t actually answering the questions posed. Sigh. But still, it’s fun, and Caitlin came to hang out with us partway through so she’s in there too, which is of course awesome except all of our little asides and stuff aren’t in there, heh. Anyway. Go read it if you like.

I’ve also done another interview, with Julie at Yummy Man and Kick Ass Chicks, which was, again, lots of fun. That’s going to be posted at some point tomorrow, Saturday the 11th. (Which, has everyone forgotten what that day is? I don’t think we should have a national day of mourning forever, but I do think it’s sad and upsetting that I’m not even seeing mention of it anywhere.)

Anyway. A few months ago I had a discussion with a few friends about this subject, and now it’s come up again. Will someone please tell me when everyone decided that they had to be right all the time, that they never had to take blame for or accept responsibility for their mistakes or the effects their words and/or actions have on others, and that apologizing in any way is a terrible, weak, dumb thing to do?

As I think I’ve said before, we all–every single one of us–has at one time or another hurt another person. We said something we didn’t mean. Or we meant it when we said it but regretted saying it after. Or it was a flip, throw-away comment, made as a joke, that inadvertently really hurt or upset someone else. Or made them angry. Or whatever. Maybe we were having an off day. Maybe they were simply someone who doesn’t and never will understand us, and so the ability to connect and follow meanings just isn’t there.

We’ve all done it. All of us. We’re human, and that’s what humans do. Show me a person who has never in their lives hurt another person and I’ll show you a person who’s spent their entire lives in one room, or who has simply never spoken to anyone, although even then, what if someone tried to speak to them, and they didn’t reply? Wouldn’t that be hurtful? I think so.

But when did it become such a horrible, evil thing to do to just say you’re sorry? When did we decide we would rather argue and argue and argue, instead of just saying, “I’m sorry,” and letting the matter drop?

My friends and I were discussing a few of the biggest internet kerfuffles of the last year/year and a half or so, and how big they got, and how painful they were for so many people, and how in pretty much every case, the whole thing could have been avoided had one person, early on, just said, “You know, I’m not sure I understand why you’re upset, but it’s enough for me to know you are upset, so I really want to apologize because I certainly didn’t want to hurt you or make you angry.”

Apologizing is not giving in. Apologizing is not admitting you’re wrong. You don’t have to believe you’re wrong to apologize. It’s simply the right thing to do. The polite, civilized thing to do. And in a society which is supposed to be polite and civilized, I notice a disturbing number of people lately who don’t care who they hurt, who don’t care how many people they drag through the mud or rip apart, who don’t care how much filth spills over onto other people who had the misfortune of being in the same area. It’s all worth it if they get to prove they’re right. They are unequivocally, absolutely, totally right, and all the people who don’t see that are obviously morons with no soul, and if Person A just explains him- or herself enough times, or offers enough justifications, then Person B will of course realize how wrong they’ve been, bow meekly, and walk away, leaving Person A victorious.

Except life doesn’t work that way, and people don’t work that way, and all that will happen is everyone will get angrier and angrier and angrier, and friendships and reputations will be ruined and psyches scarred, just because everyone had to be right.

Why is it so damn hard to just say, “I’m sorry?” To just be graceful, and admit that although you meant no offense, obviously whatever you said or did had an unintended consequence? Why are people so reluctant to do that, why are they so determined to sacrifice the feelings of anyone and everyone else just so they can be right? Why are they so determined to convince themselves and the other people involved that they were wrong to be offended, or to take the comment that way? That it’s all their fault for being oversensitive, or babyish, or for expecting special treatment? People will rely on the worst self-serving pop-psychology bullshit to justify their own nastiness and insensitivity, because apparently just acknowledging and respecting the feelings of another human being is just way beyond their skill level, or what they’re prepared to do.

I don’t get it. It pisses me off. Grow up, you fucking morons. Just apologize, the way an adult does. Only a child needs to insist on being right all the time, and in resorting to this “blame the victim for their obviously skewed worldview” crap so they can avoid taking responsibility for their own actions. And you know, if you’re like that, and you seriously need so bad to be right all the time and to believe that you personally exist in this ethereal bubble of spiritual, social, and mental perfection that no mere mortal can possibly understand, then go fuck yourself, because you’re an asshole.

Yes, there are some people who deliberately set out to hurt or offend others. But most people don’t. I get that. Most of us get that. And like I said above, we’ve all done it. I can totally understand the “I really don’t understand what I did to upset you,” feeling. I’ve been there. I can totally understand the “That’s really not what I meant, and I find it pretty impossible to even understand how you misunderstood me so thoroughly, or why you assumed the worst like that.” I’ve been there too. I understand how it hurts to be misunderstood like that, because again, been there. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of hurt feelings and offense. And it’s not pleasant. It’s not fun. Nobody likes to be hurt, and honestly, no decent person likes to think they’ve hurt someone else.

But sometimes we just have to suck it up, you know? If I make a joke about trees, and someone’s cousin married a tree and they then take offense, I need to apologize. By doing so I’m not admitting what I said was wrong. I’m not admitting defeat. I’m not admitting that I am an anti-tree hatist of the most evil proportion. I’m just saying that I didn’t mean to hurt or offend them. How is that wrong? How is that a lie? How is that insincere? Why is that so hard for people?

And even if I think both the person and their cousin are completely nut-rot crazy, I apologize. Yes, because again, I hurt or offended them, and that’s not a good thing to do. But also because perhaps someone offended by something like that is a bit unstable or is simply having a really bad, painful day, and by apologizing I can make them feel better. Maybe someone offended by that is the type who’ll stick around arguing for hours and hours, who’ll start spamming the blog or sending crazy emails, and I can head all of that trouble off at the pass just by saying I’m sorry. (That’s another thing too, about the Need To Be Right: why do you spend so much time and energy arguing with someone online? Why not just shrug and walk away? Stop replying to comments about it, stop engaging in discussions about it. It’s very simple. Let it go.)

By arguing and arguing, and needing so badly to be right, I prove not only what an insecure, needy little twat I am, but that I truly have no manners, that I truly am a selfish boor. Who wants to hang out with that kind of person?

There comes a point in every argument where the best thing to do is simply to give up. I believe that when you’re hurt someone, it’s your duty to apologize right away. But if that’s not what the argument is about, or if it’s past that point or whatever, there is still a sense of class and grace in being the one to walk away. It doesn’t make you look weak; just the opposite, in fact. Being willing to apologize, being willing to say that although you can’t agree, you don’t want to argue anymore, makes you look braver, stronger. It makes you the bigger person. I admire someone who can gracefully apologize and walk away. I do not admire someone who will resort to anything, any argument no matter how low, any justification no matter how crappy, any defense no matter how far-fetched and desperate, to prove themselves right. And especially, to lay the blame on the other person.

You know what? An argument–whether in real life or, especially, online–isn’t a fucking trial to save you from a murder rap. You’re not trying to escape a death sentence. It’s just not that damned important; it shouldn’t be, certainly. It shouldn’t be so important that your entire self-worth and self-image hinge on you being deemed THE VICTOR in this particular throwdown. It’s just a disagreement. You apologize and move on. And you know, if you’re so offended by the other person taking offense, maybe all of the bullshit you’re trying to ascribe to them apply to you as well, hmm?

It’s never pleasant to be told something you said or did was taken badly and upset someone. Nobody likes to feel like the villain. And certainly, when there are issues like racism or sexism involved, that can be really upsetting. But the way to prove that you’re not isn’t by arguing and yelling and claiming anyone who saw that in your statement is obviously a moron and way oversensitive. The way to prove you’re not is just to apologize. “Oh, man, it didn’t even occur to me that someone would read my comment that way. I’m so, so sorry it made you feel like that!”

It’s very easy. It’s part of being a member of society, whether that’s an online one or a Real Life one. And it’s part of being a decent person, frankly.

You don’t need to be right. You do need to behave like a human being. Just fucking apologize. Or soon you’ll have no one to apologize to, because no one will be speaking to you–except, perhaps, a couple of other sycophantic tools, but how long do you think that will last, when you’re all so rude, unpleasant, and convinced of your own superiority?

You hurt someone, you own your words. Whatever. Just do it. Grow the hell up.