Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How many can you name?

So, writing in and of itself is nothing new. Storytelling has been going on since before language was even in literate form. Oral narratives and oral tradition paved the way for our physical, written languages to take the reins, and now writing and literature and stories of every genre, age-range, country, language, and style can be found at the tap of a button or the flip of a page.

It's like we have a never-ending library in our closet. Now that's something I want in my room. Ah, yes, move those shelves right in here. I'm sure we'll make room. Somehow.

Writing, however, didn't used to be so easy as it is now. Easy, you say? Pah! I've been trying to get published for a decade (and others can claim rejection even longer than that) and I still haven't gotten more than one initial peck of a response that then turned into nothing because I didn't have the right subgenre that they prefer.

Still, writing has become a hobby/lifestyle that all can attempt if they want to. There were times (and still are) when certain genres or genders couldn't write freely without derision or simply a lack of payment. Women had to use pseudonyms, much of the time. And Science Fiction is still fighting against those who would claim it as being outside of the 'literature' category.

The Encyclopedia Britannica blog recently put together a list of 10 Women Writers Who Changed Literature, and it's interesting to see what names are on there and why. Such obvious power houses as Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and Virginia Woolf are included, and also some surprising additions: Sappho, Murasaki Shikibu, and Colette. I don't call them surprising because I don't think they should be there, but because they are such little-known names to many literature lovers. Shikibu who wrote the Tale of Genji, Sappho, whose poetry is recognized today as being some of the most beautiful and lasting in the world of poetry...

Let's do a little test. Here's a list of 7 women who wrote under pseudonyms to get their books/tales published. How many on this list match those on the other?

Well let's see...J.K. Rowling, the Bronte sisters, Alice Bradley Sheldon who wrote in the science fiction world long before it became gender-neutral, Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women...and while all of these names are undoubtedly names of literary forces who changed writing (and indeed reading) as we know it, it does not appear that their pseudonyms affected their power. Indeed, all of these women shucked their male pseudonyms rather early on, and many only used them as a means of separating their income from their purposeful writing.

What does this mean, ladies and gentlemen? That we have no excuse. Wrong genre, wrong name, wrong style, it doesn't matter-- we can write and make great strides in literature even by just tapping away at our keyboards day after day, scribbling in ink-stained notebooks and smudging fingers along bits of napkin. All of these authors, both men and women, have struggled and hurdled great obstacles. What's standing in your way?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Battle for Middle Earth

I am filled with annoyance.

It has recently come to my attention that the SZC (the Saul Zaentz Company, who made the animated Lord of the Rings movies back in the 70s) is attempting to trademark the word 'Shire' and press legal charges against companies which employ the use of the name 'hobbit' in their company titles.


Wait wait wait. No, you can't be serious. A company that owns nothing about the original world of Tolkien and merely made movies based off of the books is trying to do what now?

First objection: the word 'shire' is alive and well in the English language today. You know what it means? It actually has nothing to do with hobbits or Middle Earth at all. A shire, my dear friends, is defined thusly:

  1. A county, esp. in England.
  2. Used in reference to parts of England regarded as strongholds of traditional rural culture, esp. the rural Midlands.

county - earldom - province

Tolkien was integrating the world he lived in and the countryside he envisioned for the hobbit-kind by naming their home THE Shire. It made the land green and lush and homey, everything that people from England would understand and be able to relate to the little plump peoples (which, if you think about it, several connections can be drawn between the English and hobbits). So how in the world can the SZC trademark a word that has been around for decades, probably even centuries?

How about I try and trademark the word 'potato'. You can't use that word unless I say you can. Stop it. My potato.

Boil 'em. Mash 'em. Stick 'em in a stew. Still mine.

Second objection: SZC didn't write The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit or anything else to do with Middle Earth. They do not own the copyright to any of that. They have nothing to do on a primary level with the Tolkien estate. They are a secondary interpretation, and as much as we love Peter Jackson (for example), so are his films (though arguably way better than the 70s cartoons). Neither of them have any claim to the original copyright of Tolkien's works or world.

So how in the world is the SZC pressing charges on companies for using the word 'hobbit' in their name? Did the SZC invent the word hobbit? No, I'm pretty sure Tolkien did when he described In the hole there lived a hobbit. And I ate at a great restaurant in Bruges called "The Hobbit Hole" when I was over there years ago, and I'm pretty sure the SZC has nothing to do with them either. In fact I'm pretty dang sure none of these restaurants or companies are sucking millions of dollars from their revenue fund every year. Huh. And yet,
"The Hungry Hobbit sandwich bar in Birmingham, based alongside historic sites associated with Tolkien, has been targeted by Saul Zaentz Company for using the word 'hobbit' in their name. Despite being established over 6 years, Saul Zaentz Company only wrote to owners Wendy and Rosy a few months ago, demanding she change the name of the business she bought..."

The same website of the above quote (Save the Shire) also posted a protest against this form of literary greed, describing it as:
"trying to buy up anything to do with Tolkien’s work, ahead of the fans, and ahead of the Tolkien family . . . In both cases these are quiet, hard working, everyday, ‘hobbit like’ people, not big business entities stealing millions from the Saul Zaentz Company and their already abundant revenue stream. These are people like all of us who are absorbing Tolkien’s creation into their everyday lives."
Yeah, that sounds pretty accurate to me. So unless the SZC company somehow wants to claim being related to J.R.R. Tolkien and status as members of the Tolkien estate-- those who actually are credited with protecting the Middle Earth realm and all of Tolkien's work-- I think they need to take a massive chill pill. Maybe also a reality check.

Maybe watch out for Midsummer's Eve, because if the fans get annoyed enough, I'm sure some Nazgul will be crossing the river Isen in the form of protest letters.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Unintentional Hiatus

My dearest readers, ever faithful to my fluctuating whims of topic and length of verbosity...standing by my side in the faces of literary reviews and wild rants on the various rises and falls in eBook news and self-publishing thoughts...

It has truly killed me to be away from my blog for so long. Missed last week and late this week. This whole moving thing is harder than it looks. Though I am proud to say that as of yesterday everything sans groceries is in its place, if not necessarily cleaned up and put away. Thank goodness for that.
But next week I'll be back on schedule! I will regale you about the joys of type-coding and copy-editing, of manuscripts and deadlines, of missing commas and the comma fairy who comes down in the night and sprinkles the commas of 9,000 breaths onto your manuscript while you're not looking. I'll whisk you off your feet with my confectionery descriptions of file names and organization and code-speak, and I'll regale you with the charms and delights of The Chicago Manual of Style edition 15.

In and among that, I may even perform an interpretive dance.

In other news, Tamora Pierce is coming out with a new book in the fall, Lois McMaster Bujold just came out with a new book this last fall, and Diana Gabaldon promises a new book...perhaps? I'm still waiting on the next bestsellers by my other favorite authors Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip.

While I'm at it and contemplating my new life without homework, a life when I can actually read for fun, anyone have any book suggestions?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Penguin Up For Pecking

It seems like everyone's favorite academic novel publisher is in a bit of trouble...

Apparently, authors are in the process of suing the self-publishing service called Author Solutions and its parent company Penguin for "deceitful, dubious business practices", claiming that the defendants have
“marketed themselves as an independent publisher with a reputation for outstanding quality and impressive book sales," the complaint reads. "Instead, Defendants are not an independent publisher, but a print-on-demand vanity press.”
Ouch. Now that's what I call getting stuck with false advertising.

Publishers Weekly author Andrew Albanese writes the authors claim Author Solutions lures authors in with grand promises of higher royalties, greater speed, and more control over their works. Instead, the authors have suffered delayed publication, errors, generated fees, worthless services for sale, and failure in regards to fulfilling promises. Author Solutions has also been accused of failing to pay the authors the royalties they are due.

Luckily, the case is before a judge who has a sense of what's going on: with a background in publishing,
"Judge Denise Cote, currently presiding over the ongoing e-book price-fixing scandal"
will handle the angry authors and their accused publisher. Of course, the fire is on the wall with the news of this case. Albanese warns that
"This case could strike a nerve, as it comes at a boom time for self-publishing, and recalls a dark self-publishing past—the days of the Vanity Press—when unsuspecting authors were wooed in by companies, only to be saddled with expensive fees and left with stacks of sub-par print books."
Indeed, reading this myself I get the same second-thought feelings regarding self-publishing, which I had only just begun to consider as a possibility in my future. Do I still consider it? Yes, I think so. Will I be in a hurry to jump in with a company I don't know?

Not on your life, and not on my book, thank you very much.

Of course, Albanese concludes with a calming statement, asserting that
"It remains to be seen if the case has any legal merit, but it makes for fascinating reading, and one can certainly imagine a large contingent of similarly discontented self-published authors who would love a peek behind the self-publishing curtain."
Publishing is entering tabloid mode? Well, I guess it's only a matter of time before we have a reality TV show on authors, too. Maybe the editor-lifestyle will gain some screen time. Of course, none of the editors will ever actually see it, being too busy...well...editing!

The writers may hear of it when they life their heads out of their typewriters/word processors and blink blearily in that direction.

Being both, I may just shrug and grab another Diet Dr. Pepper.