Browsing Tag

ranty mcrantypants


Because apparently I need to say this again

While I was working the NIWA table at Worldcon, one of the people who came by was a very outspoken, charming fellow who took the time to chat and make jokes with several of us. I wanted to like him. Except for one thing: he was very blunt in his opinion of romance, sweepingly dismissing the entire genre as “swill”.

And as soon as he said that, I had to speak up in romance’s defense, as well as back off from talking to him much after that. Because it seemed pretty evident that he had an opinion, the kind of opinion that isn’t easily going to change in one chance meeting, and I didn’t want to drive him away from buying anything at the table if there was a chance he would.

But I did want to talk about this here. Because it’s yet another example of what I see out of SF/F readers on a regular basis: i.e., the broad-spectrum dismissal of romance as a genre that’s worth paying attention to. Usually this is hand-in-hand with misogyny, targeted at female SF/F authors who get their work dismissed as “thinly veiled romance novels”, thereby insulting female authors and the romance genre in one double-fisted blast of “oh for fuck’s sake, this again?”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m really tired of SF/F readers snarking on romance. And hell, I’m not even as devoted a romance reader as many; I’m on the periphery of the romance readership at best.

I see in the regular remarks to the effect of “X is still a better love story than Twilight“. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to run out and read Twilight, but I think it’s also unnecessarily condescending to go on and on and on about how anything is a better love story than Twilight. Particularly when most of the time, the people doing the snarking haven’t even read the series, so they have no real basis on which to deliver the snark.

I see it in the constant dismissal of the romance genre as nothing but “porn for women”, and how “bodice rippers” still gets thrown around to describe the genre, despite how the genre hasn’t really been rife with bodice rippers since the 80’s. As anyone who actually cares enough to explore the modern state of the genre could easily discover for themselves.

I see it in the constant ever-so-convenient failure to ever give male authors any level of shit for having love stories in their work, either. You don’t see men getting their books dismissed as “thinly veiled romance novels” or “porn for women”. Even when they also have sex scenes in them, especially given how rapetastic a lot of modern fantasy epics can wind up being. Because apparently a woman getting raped in a fantasy novel by a man is “realistic”, while a woman having a positive consensual sexual encounter in a fantasy novel written by a woman is “porn for women”.

Surely I can’t be the only person who sees the injustice in that attitude?

So I’ll say this again: SF/F readers, quit it with the genre snobbery. We’ve all grown up with a history of getting snarked on for our reading tastes, so we shouldn’t be sneering at what other people like to read. Particularly when we haven’t even bothered to look at the books in question ourselves.

Sure, romance has its share of bad books. Every genre has its share of bad books, and SF/F is not exempt from that. And not every genre is going to be appropriate for someone’s reading tastes. I’m not asking for people to unilaterally embrace romance as the awesomest thing that ever awesomed.

But I am asking, yea, challenging you: next time you catch yourself about to snark on a book in the romance genre, particularly one you haven’t even bothered to read, take a step back and ask yourself how you’d feel if somebody else was about to do that to a book you loved. Remember that the person you’re snarking to, or people who may be reading that tweet or post to your Facebook wall, might well have actually read and loved that book.

Likewise, I challenge you to consider: is a book that portrays romance and love stories and positive sexual encounters for women really all that bizarre a concept?

Here endeth today’s rant. Thank you.


On the matter of Southern pride

I’ve seen a lot of reaction in the news to the events in Charleston, and in particular to the growing outcry to take down the Confederate flag from various places–South Carolina and Alabama being the ones I immediately noticed. I’ve also seen reports that Amazon and Walmart are removing merchandise with the flag on it from sale, and I’ve even heard that merch involving the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard is taking the flag off the car’s hood.

But, this being the contentious issue that it is, of course there are people shaking canes and yelling about this. I saw one particular report going around Facebook of an individual loudly pontificating about how removal of the Confederate flag from public display is tantamount to “cultural genocide”.

For the record: speaking as a Southerner born and bred, cultural genocide my ass. I mean honestly. Have you met the South?

I am for the removal of this flag. There are a whole host of reasons to be proud of being from the South, and that flag ain’t one of ’em. I posted about this on the social networks yesterday about several of my favorites, and got a flood of responses from others as well.


Elvis freggin’ Presley. That man right there is singlehandedly responsible for most of my pride in being a Kentuckian, thanks to his “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Kentucky Rain”. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: he’s also responsible for the vast majority of my lifelong tastes in music. So damn straight I’m proud of that.

But it would be remiss of me to not mention the rest of the awesome musicians that hail from the South–white and black. Here’s a roundup of the names that came up in my Facebook thread! Johnny Cash. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton. The Oak Ridge Boys. Jerry Lee Lewis. Ray Charles. Aretha Franklin. Nat King Cole. Fats Domino. Charlie Daniels. The Big Bopper. Little Richard. Hank Williams. Buddy Holly. The Everly Brothers. Asleep at the Wheel. Austin City Limits.

There are many, many more I’m sure a lot of you out there could name, thanks to bluegrass and country music in general, not to mention rockabilly and the early days of rock and roll and zydeco (special shoutout for zydeco because hell yeah, Cajun and French \m/).

Also honorable and noble mention to the entire O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Mmmmmm Key Lime Pie

Mmmmmm Key Lime Pie


The South: land of food that is very, VERY bad for you but OMG SO TASTY. Kentucky Fried Chicken. Chicken fried steak. Okra. Key lime pie. Pecan pie. Sweet tea. Popeye’s Chicken. Cornbread. Crawdads. Catfish. Grits. Peaches. Sweet tater casseroles. Gator tails. Gumbo. BBQ. Tex-Mex food.

‘Cause yeah basically, if it looks like food, the South deep fries the hell out of it.


There’s a lot of Southern literature. Being, well, me, I’m specifically interested in the science fiction. Cherie Priest and Alex Bledsoe come immediately to mind as awesome SF writers from the South whose works I have deeply enjoyed–Cherie Priest’s Eden Moore books in particular, and I’ve rhapsodized in depth about Bledsoe’s The Hum and the Shiver.

Shoutout to Rachel Caine as well, hailing from Texas! ‘Cause y’all should know I love me some Rachel Caine, too.

And my aunt Teresa brought up Fannie Flagg who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! (See below re: frying things being a critical part of Southern cuisine!)


It was pointed out QUITE CORRECTLY that New Orleans has Mardi Gras. And while we’re on the topic, let us note that the Kentucky Derby was brought up repeatedly on my Facebook thread.

Also, while I historically have favored going to Worldcon, it is important to note that the South DOES have DragonCon–and a lot of other science fiction conventions as well. We DO represent in geekdom!

Places to Visit

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Fort Boonesborough State Park in Kentucky. Bernheim Forest, also in Kentucky. Dollywood (see previous section on Music!). Busch Gardens in Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. DISNEY WORLD, f’r chrissakes. What cultural heritage wouldn’t be proud of Disney World, I ask you!


Kennedy Space Center. Astronaut training and mission control in Houston. Because SPAAAAAAAACE.


Y’all know I’m a language nerd. This includes Southern-isms! “Criminitly”. Describing large quantities of anything as “a big ol’ mess o’ <whatever>”. If you’re in a reasonably good state, being “fair to middlin'”. Just off the top of my head–there are, of course, countless more examples.

And more…

Dogwood trees. Thunderstorms (because I do miss good and proper Kentucky thunderstorms, though I do NOT miss Kentucky tornadoes). Fireflies–or, as we called ’em when I was a kid, lightning bugs. Pussy willows. The chirp of crickets.

In other words…

All of this is just barely scratching the surface of the rich culture of the South–none of which will be threatened in the slightest if states stop flying the Confederate flag. If anything, hopefully it’ll help Southern culture take stock of itself and realize that it wouldn’t be what it is today without both white and black Southerners–because yeah, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.? SOUTHERNERS.

Go back and look at that list of names under Music further up the post, too. Lots of black artists there–and I wouldn’t be a truly conscientious Elvis fan if I didn’t acknowledge how he was influenced by the black artists who came before him.

Fellow white Southerners, I put to you that we should not be this guy:



Because let’s get this straight: racism has stained the honor of the South for long enough.

And pulling that flag down from being publicly displayed is a good first step to fixing that. Let’s keep it up.


A rant about book formatting

And oh yeah, one other thing I wanted to post about today: my current levels of frustration with badly formatted ebooks.

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about author Aliette de Bodard, and so I snapped up her Obsidian and Blood books from Angry Robot. The entire prospect of a trilogy set in the ancient Aztec Empire, combining elements of both fantasy and a murder mystery, struck me as too damned tempting to pass up. ‘Cause I mean seriously, how often do you get to string “Aztec-mythos fantasy murder mystery” into the description of a book?

Problem is, as I discovered when I delved into book 1, the ebook is very badly laid out. By which I mean, paragraphs that are barely indented, making it almost impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins–and in some cases, paragraphs that are split partway through. When I dug into the ebook to see what the hell was going on in there, I found that all the paragraphs were laid out as <div> blocks rather than <p>, and that what indentation there was was being done via two non-breaking spaces. Which was not done consistently, either. Every so often there would be none, and every so often three.

Which was a damn shame, because the book is quite good, or at least that’s been my impression on my attempt to slog through the initial chapters and follow the action. The layout though was frustrating enough to me that I went through the whole damn thing in Calibre and fixed the formatting, just so I could read it. I’m going to start over from the beginning now, with paragraph indents I can actually see, and give the story the attention it deserves.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this, either. One of Kat Richardson’s Greywalker books (about which I have enthused quite a bit in the past) had the deeply baffling problem of every single Q throughout the book being capitalized. ALL of them. At the beginnings of words and in the middle as well. This was hugely distracting.

Likewise the ebook copy I tried to buy of The Green Glass Sea–wherein the whole damn thing was italicized, because somebody forgot to close a tag at the front of the book. And then there was the superlatively crappy OCR job somebody did on Elizabeth Peters’ The Falcon at the Portal, wherein the accented characters in the occasional German word in the dialogue were broken. And even worse, the character Selim kept being called “Scum” in the text, because whatever they used to do the OCR conversion choked on his name.

My overall point here being: c’mon, publishers, do better.

I’ve got the technical chops to be able to get into a book and clean it up, so that I can fix a broken digital reading experience. Since I’m a QA Engineer in my day job, I understand HTML and CSS, and I know what to do to fix problems with them. But I shouldn’t have to. When I buy a book, I’m putting down my money for the expectation that I will be delivered a story that’ll entertain me for the span of time it takes me to read it. I should not have to crack open that file and spend several extra hours on top of the actual reading time, cleaning it up so that I can actually get back to what I paid for in the first place: i.e., the story.

AND: not everybody has the same skills I do. A non-techie reader has no recourse in scenarios like this but to either a) slog through a poor reading experience in the hopes that the story will outweigh the broken formatting, or b) return a clearly broken ebook and go buy print instead, if they really want to read that book. Which, okay, yeah, it’s another sale and that’s all good for the author and all–but it’s potentially still very inconvenient to the reader, depending on their book budget and whether they have any issues at all reading in print, e.g., vision problems or what have you.

Moreover, speaking as a small-fry digital and indie author, it’s deeply frustrating to me to see so much brouhaha over how self-pubbed authors are so often putting up badly formatted, unprofessional material–yet to turn around and see the big publishers still sometimes doing the same damned thing.

I beg you, publishers, take the time to quality-check your digital productions. Load them up on different devices to make sure they are actually readable. Hire people who know HTML and CSS and who can fix problems that arise.

And, fellow indie authors, the same goes for you. If you’re going the indie route, and you’re going to publish digitally, review your layout. If you don’t have the technical chops to fix problems, recruit friends who do. Ask your social circle who has what ereaders and who can sanity check your book for you on them. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, it’s time-consuming. But it’s part and parcel of producing a book that makes you look like you know what you’re doing, and an indie author has to work even harder than a traditionally published one to hit that goal. So do that work.

Your readers, technically inclined or otherwise, will thank you.

The Internet

This is not encouraging me to listen to U2

So there I was reading my feed of articles coming off the Mary Sue when I saw they’d put up this: “101 Things We Wish Apple Gave Us Instead of That U2 Album and How to Get Rid of It”.

And my immediate reaction was “wait, WHAT?” And I found another article on Ars Technica, here.

Because apparently not only did U2 hand their album out for free over iTunes as part of Apple’s big event this week, the album’s also now been added to everybody’s iTunes libraries.

And sorry, Apple, sorry, U2, but that’s just obnoxious. If the band wants to hand out their album for free, dandy, more power to them. Promote the hell out of it and tell everybody on iTunes ‘hey look! A free thing! Click here to get the free thing!’ And stand back and watch the downloads roll in, because sure, people like free things.

But you know what people don’t like? Editing their online data without their consent.

I just logged into my iTunes account and clicked on ‘Purchases’, and yep, there it is, right there at the top of my recent purchase list. Except I didn’t ask for the damn thing. I don’t want it. Even aside from the matter of how I’m not a fan of this particular band or of most rock in general–’cause as you all know, if your band doesn’t have a fiddle player and at least one bouzouki, I do not care–the thing that annoys me here is the editing of my account data. And giving me no way to delete it, either. It’s useless data to me. It’s taking up space in my purchase history, and okay yeah fine I can apparently ‘hide’ it, but my point is, you shouldn’t be messing with user data like that to begin with.

And okay yeah sure fine, the album does not appear to have actually shown up on my phone; I’ll need to check my computer to see if it showed up there. And I’m aware that there’s an easy answer here: “if you don’t want the album, Anna, don’t download it or listen to it”.

Thing is? If that album shows up on my computer without me having asked for it in the first place, that’s pretty much the equivalent of Apple not only standing on the street yelling FREE ALBUM GET YER FREE ALBUM HERE, but actually walking up to people and stuffing CDs into their pockets, no matter how you try to say “NO THANK YOU”.

It’s not a big problem in the grand scheme of things. It’s absolutely a petty first world problem.

But dammit, have some respect for the integrity of your user data, Apple. Don’t go stuffing things into our pockets that we didn’t actually ask you for. You wouldn’t do that if we walked into your Apple Stores in person, would you? (You’d BETTER not.) So don’t do it online either.

ETA: Okay, further investigation shows that this album does not appear to have actually invaded my iTunes library, no doubt because I do not actually have Automatic Downloads turned on. I am however hearing from friends that THEY have had it show up. userinfoscrunchions tells me it startled her quite a bit because she KNEW she hadn’t purchased any U2, and for a long bit there she was afraid she’d gotten hacked somehow until she saw the news going around about the promotion.

The takeaway here: I don’t care what you’re promoting. I don’t care if it’s the finest album in the history of music. Any promotion that alarms your users and makes them think their account security might have been compromised is seriously not cool.

The Internet

Oh look, more snobbery about people reading the wrong things

While the SF/F genre’s been busy with yet another round of You Wimmens Are All Crazy, There’s No Sexism in Science Fiction, looks like Slate decided to put up an editorial rant about how adults who read YA should be ashamed of themselves. I’ve seen a unilateral reaction of “fuck you” directed at Slate, justifiably so.

I’m not going to link to the article because I’m not going to give it the click traffic; if you really want to read it, io9 does link to it in their excellent rebuttal.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–any form of “you’re reading the wrong things” snobbery is bullshit and it needs to stop. And in this particular case, people who roll their eyes and assume that YA novels are dumbed-down, simplistic crap just because they’re marketed to teenagers clearly has no actual working familiarity with the best that YA has to offer. It’s also dismissing the mastery that an author can bring to a story, in general. And while I’m not a regular reader of YA, I’m here to tell you: it’s rare that I’m compelled to plow through an entire trilogy as fast as I can cram the words into my head. But the Hunger Games books did that.

Also, two simple words: The Hobbit.

Sure, it’s not marketed as YA, but Tolkien absolutely intended children to be the primary audience for that story. And sure, it’s not nearly as complex and dark as The Lord of the Rings. But Tolkien lavished his love for the language all over that book, and turning up your nose at it just because “oh well, it’s intended for children, and I am a Mature Adult” means you miss out on a masterpiece.

Others have pointed out, too, that YA gets a lot of shit because of more than a little sexism, too. A lot of YA authors are female. A lot of YA readers are female. It’s not a coincidence that “YA is simplistic claptrap for children” goes hand in hand with “women write YA because they can’t write real science fiction”.

At the end of the day, though, it still all boils down to “Hey you, you over there, you are reading the WRONG THINGS, and now I’m going to appoint myself the arbiter of your reading choices”.

I’m tired beyond belief of this. Literature readers sneer at genre readers. Male authors sneer at female authors. Male readers sneer at female readers. SF/F sneers at romance–hell, everybody sneers at romance, and boy howdy am I sick of that in particular. Now we’ve got sneering at people for reading books because of a mistaken idea that “marketed for a young audience” equals “claptrap”.

The other two words I’ve got for that: “fuck you”.


In which Anna rants about the government shutdown

So in between the network outage fun we’ve been having today, and a whole mess of various unpleasant things happening to various friends of mine (seriously, Monday, KNOCK IT THE FUCK OFF), oh hey look the threatened U.S. government shutdown has happened. Because the Republicans have their damn shorts in a twist over the specter of Americans finally getting some goddamn healthcare.

How disgusted am I that the government is even arguing over this? Let’s review my and Dara’s health care timeline, shall we?

2003: I broke my arm.

2004: I had the first half of my thyroid out.

2005: I had the second half of my thyroid out.

2006: Dara got hit by the car.

2007: I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

2007-2009: Assorted lumpectomies, biopses, radiation treatments, and eventual mastectomy and reconstruction work.

2010-2011: Actually got some breathing room for once, and then…

2012: I get smacked with the h. pylori infection. Which, for the record: NOT FUN.

Throughout all of this, I have been fortunate to have regular enough employment with insurance that doesn’t suck that we managed to flounder our way through what out of pocket costs we had to handle–and even with the insurance, the cancer costs alone that Dara and I had to put down were well into five figures.

If we’d had to do this without insurance, it would have bankrupted us a long time ago. As it stands, I’ve simply had to learn to deal with a body that aches in various places from the various medical problems it’s undergone, and Dara and I both have gotten way more familiar with Evergreen Hospital than anyone should ever get with a hospital, except the people that actually work there.

I am beyond grateful that I’ve managed to maintain employment with insurance that doesn’t suck. I’ve been in a situation where that wasn’t the case–because I came out of a childhood and adolescence with a mother who had to fight cancer, and which killed her too damn young. My mother died when she was 38, people. Because we were too damn poor to continue to get her the care she needed. She went through grand mal epileptic seizures through all that I can remember of her life, because she’d had a goddamn tumor in her brain, and she remained in poor health up until the day she died.

And the thing that disgusts me? The thing that really disgusts me? It’s that similar situations continue to happen all over this country.

Time and time again I see good people having to turn to their friends on the Internet to ask for support to get care they desperately need–for surgeries, for cancer treatment, for any host of things that could possibly save their lives or at least lessen some goddamn misery. I see good people having to make their own ailments worse because they can’t actually afford to get treated. I see people having to choose between whether they go to the doctor, or whether they go to the grocery to get food.

But apparently we’re supposed to like this because it’s a free market health care system. Because it’s not a socialist/communist/whatever-ist health care system. Because AMURKA.

I not only don’t like it, I am outright disgusted by how certain parties in our government can turn a blind eye to the suffering Americans undergo every day. But apparently it’s the Americans who don’t actually count: the poor, the women, the non-white, the queer.

(And yeah, I don’t want to think about how much more difficult the medical crap Dara and I have been through would have been if we didn’t live in a queer-friendly part of the country.)

Look, I’m not a hundred percent behind Obama. He’s done some things I have massive issues with. But in this, in trying to get some health care to the Americans that need it the most, I’m actually with him. No, I don’t expect it to be perfect. But I’d much rather see the Republicans in the government pull their heads out of their asses and try to work with him to make the system suck less, rather than holding the government itself hostage.

I’ll be remembering this, people. In memory of my mother, whose birthday would have been TODAY, in fact. And in the name of every American who’s had to suffer rather than get the treatment he or she needs. Because this inhumanity has got to stop.

ETA: I see with grim satisfaction that Margaret and Helen are in accord with me on how the Republican part of Congress needs a bunch of emergency headfromassectomies.

ETA #2: Dara points out that our costs during my cancer care went into six figures, not five. Which only drives my point home harder. It took us until well into 2011 until we finally pulled out of how hard that hit us financially.


And another thing

I have a post on the Here Be Magic blog coming up soon, and I was going to save this for that, but fuck it, I want to post this now.

So yeah, as y’all can tell if you regularly read me, I’ve been keeping up with the recent SFWA explosions. However, on one of the posts I was monitoring, a generally reasonable discussion about the controversies at hand, somebody surfaced this morning to not only whinge about the dangers of OHNOEZ CENSORSHIP if people (read: women) complain about art involving absurd chainmail bikinis, but also to take a potshot at the romance genre. Which he described using the words ’emotional porn’.

I promptly unsubscribed from the thread on the general principle of oh fuck you. But I’ve been seeing red about this all day as a result.

Because you guys, I am sick and goddamn tired of genre readers snarking on each other’s tastes. Especially when the snark flows in the SF/F->romance direction, because c’mon, people, we know how it feels to have our reading tastes belittled. To be bullied and mocked because we like reading stuff with spaceships and robots and magic swords and unicorns and elves. To have our reading material derided as “not REAL literature”, to be dismissed as socially inept losers. And if we happen to be women, to have the added slam of being “fake geek girls” thrown at us, and to have our worthiness to be reading and enjoying these books, comics, movies, TV shows, etc., constantly assaulted and challenged.

Yet a lot of us keep turning around and leveling the exact same bullshit over at the romance readers.

A lot of it is sexist, for the reasons romance readers have been getting hammered with for years: patriarchal dismissal of stories primarily written by and for women, and therefore unworthy of standing on the same level as anything written by and for men. Though a lot of that isn’t even exclusively coming from men–I’ve seen this shit coming from women, too.

But a lot of it is also just general bullshit, on the grounds that certainly in the vast majority of SF/F I’ve ever read, y’know what’s front and center with the spaceships, robots, magic swords, unicorns, and elves? Yeah, that’s right, epic love stories. To name three out of Tolkien alone: Arwen and Aragorn, Lúthien and Beren, and Éowyn and Faramir. Here are a few more: Tarzan and Jane, Superman and Lois Lane, Han Solo and Princess Leia, Leetah and Cutter, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood, and Buffy and Angel.

The same applies if you go back and dig into mythologies and fairy tales from any corner of the world you care to name. Hell, you can’t swing a stick in Greek mythology without hitting a story involving a relationship of some kind–often highly screwed up, because the Greek gods were after all a pantheon of raging asshats for the most part. Ditto for the classic fairy tales, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast. At the core of almost all of them you’ll find a love story of some kind.

The point is, love stories are a fundamental part of just about every story ever told, because love is a fundamental part of human existence.

So why the hell, SF/F readers, do you keep snarking on romance?

Because if you’re doing it because we think that every romance novel is a bodice ripper full of prose so purple that it’s practically ultraviolet, I have three words for you: Eye of Argon.

If you’re doing it because we’re dismissing stories that focus on love, again I say: have you actually read your genre?

If you’re doing it because you’re dismissing novels with a lot of sex in them, because yes, a lot of romance novels do have sex in them, yet again I say: have you actually read your genre? Why is it okay to have fantasy novels wherein practically ever single female character gets raped at some point, but it’s not okay to have novels where the heroine and hero tear each other’s clothes off because they both want to?

If you’re doing it because your only conception of a romance novel is Twilight or 50 Shades, I challenge you to remember that those are the outliers in the genre, and no, actually, they’re not representational of the genre as a whole. No more than Harry Potter is representational of all children’s books in the world, or Tolkien is representative of all fantasy, or Star Wars is representational of all science fiction. I challenge you to find the authors that the regular readers of the genre are reading, so you can see what the current state of the genre is like. I will be happy to provide recommendations, or to point you right over to Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Like it says on the tin over there, “all of the romance, none of the bullshit”. And as you might guess, I do like my reading bullshit-free.

There. Now maybe I can let my blood pressure go back down for the weekend, hmm?