entries friends calendar profile Elf Sternberg's Pendorwright Projects Previous Previous
profile
Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Name: Elf M. Sternberg
calendar
Back July 2014
12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031
links
page summary
tags
Elf M. Sternberg
Add to Memories
Share
I'm at the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association (PNWA) annual Conference, and I'm having the worst feelings of conflict and anxiety I've felt in a very long time.

I have often felt that the first duty of a writer was to write, and nothing else. And while I've seen a few people here writing, it feels like there's an awful lot more hustling going on than actual writing. And my general impression of the whole thing is that it's vaguely seedy and flimflam.

I've been to a lot of SFnal conventions where "how to write a scene," "how to market your book," and "how to manage self-publishing in both book and ebook formats" have been the subject of highly professional panels. The average convention runs me about $120 or so, for three or four days of that sort of advice with room parties, drinking, hobnobbing and the always-potential for canoodling in the evenings.

This "professional" convention is almost $600. (I didn't pay that amount, though; my membership was won at a school auction, where one of the parents put it forward, and Omaha got it for me as a gift. We paid much, much less for it.) For five times the price of (what I think of as) a "regular convention," you get the same advice, in an overpriced hotel, without the colorful evening festivities. What you do get in the evenings is a chance to pitch your WIP to agents and editors, and to meet the people who have "made it." The evening meet-up has a strange air of desperation.

The table in the temporary bookstore really tells the whole story with terrible clarity. There is the centerpiece table: thread-bound hardcover novels from Hatchette, HarperCollins, Penguin, with one strange and tiny cover given over to Ellora's Cave. These are the authors who have "made it," and who are here as guest speakers and presenters. These are the authors who attendees have spent $600 to meet.

The tables around the perimeter tells the rest of the story: the lackluster bindings of Smashwords and Lulu, the squarebound feel and poorly-chosen cover typography, the shoddy feel much of self-publishing goes through as authors try to find their footing. I genuinely hope most of the people here are satisfied with seeing their own work in the totem form of the printed page, and nothing else, because there's not much else here on offer to them.

The remaineder of the conference is author services: freelance editors and proofreaders, or companies that will build websites for the author, or handle the epub or print formatting, or do cover art, or make peripheral materials (bookmarks, pens, even video trailers for "less than a thousand dollars").

I have been published, and I have self-published, and I don't work that hard at self-marketing. $600 represents three years of the income my own efforts have made. (In contrast: my freelance web development rate makes that much in four hours.) For most of the people here, the income they see from their writing probably amounts to much, much less: some of the conversations I've had here indicate the amount so far is zero. $600 seems an awful lot of money to pay for the hope that lightning may strike.

Tags:
Current Mood: cynical cynical

Add to Memories
Share
We didn't all know how to consent to sex when we were 16. Most of us were bad at it. Men fumbled, and the good ones heard "no" and backed off, and waited their turn; the *really* good ones learned how to get to "yes" without being creepy and pressuring. The women were just as bad, mostly too terrified to do anything more than wait for the moment when they had to say "no."

One of the weird fears of the men's-rights crowd that's getting traction right now is called "legalism," the idea that you need a detailed advanced plan of consent and action before having sex. The fear is that this'll put the kibosh on romance, if men and women have to actually, you know, say what they want before taking their clothes off, they'll never actually want to take their clothes off.

Bollocks.

Learning how to consent to sex is like learning how to cook for friends. At first, you're bad at it, and having an explicit cookbook you can follow precisely will help you produce a pleasurable experience. Once you've cooked enough meals, though, you can fake it; you can throw together the right ratios of fat, salt, fiber, meat, and vegetables and make almost anything delicious.

When you're just starting, learning how to have sex in an informed and consensual framework starts with explicit agreements. Eventually, after a few times with one partner, you can relax: you both know what the other person is after. Eventually, you can transfer this skill to other partners. You can get to the point of "Here's what I like, here's what will turn me off, I trust you to hear my 'no', and I promise to hear yours." That's pretty much the pinnacle of a casual sexual consent agreement. Even that last part can be implicit in certain settings, or — in S&M, especially in public events — so important it need not even be said.

The idea that explicitly listing out what you want, what you don't want, and explicitly promising to respect the other person's "stop" is somehow going to stop men and women from having sex is laughable. The trials men and women will endure to get laid are amazing. Being naked is the ultimate vulnerability, how can asking for pleasure make you feel any more vulnerable?

Although, maybe, most men really don't like sex after all. Some of those who don't fuck to satisfy their sense of power, and don't care about the woman that much, so long as it is a woman he's demeaning. The others just desperately need a sense of relief, and don't have an actual desire for a mutually pleasurable experience.

Current Mood: amused amused

Add to Memories
Share
Over the past year, I've gained about 15 pounds that I didn't have before, and it's all in exactly the wrong place for a man my age, about my midriff, and it's all that dense stuff that, unfortunately, in lots of guys heralds the potential onset of heart disease. So I've been modifying my diet further in the hopes of getting rid of it, and I've also been considering doing more radical things like trying Soylent or doing on a Tim Ferris-style three-day fast.

But one thing I have noticed, and I wish I'd known about this beforehand, is how the extra weight makes me feel nauseous all the time. That extra fat doesn't just press outward and look ungainly; it also presses inwards on the organs, including the intestines, resulting in unpleasant restrictions and pressure on body parts that previously weren't nearly so constricted. That unpleasant pressure has led to constant discomfort and a vague, constant sense of physical unease.

I will say, that alone has been encouragement enough.

Tags:
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

Add to Memories
Share
For reasons, I ended up trying to read the documentation on LINQ, Microsoft's new DSL for refining collection lookups, i.e. sorting and looking stuff up in large datasets. It's a lot like embedded SQL, only performant with regular language features like lists and lookup tables.

MSDN's (Microsoft Developer Network) LINQ documentation page has an "outline" on the left side. The feature I wanted, "LINQ to XML," was not in the outline. I found it down at the bottom of the document. I clicked on it, and followed the links down through five different pages until I found, you know, actual examples.

The outline on the left is worthless. It obscures more than it shows. If I have to "open" a level of the outline, and all that does is show me what's on the page I'm currently looking at, then I'm not getting an index, I'm getting an index-shaped-thing that might help me once I'm completely familiar with the material. It's not searchable in-page using Ctrl-F, not when the content is hidden. As someone who learns best looking at other people's code, this was an exercise in frustration, and it really needs to be re-thought.

Tags:
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Current Music: Archive, Controlling Crowds

Add to Memories
Share
I am a man.

I'm pretty sure, when I went off to college, that my mother and father sincerely believed that I would make it through all of college without getting beaten up. The "beat down," in their vocabulary, something reserved for low-lifes and in my mother's case, sadly, for people with skin significant shades darker than her French heritage.

The right wing is notably upset about the current attention being paid to rape culture, to the cultural mindset that makes women prey and men- some men- predators. The real target of this attention is the support mechanisms of rape culture, the guys who laugh at jokes about drunk women, who snicker at rape jokes, who help the rapist feel comfortable among other men. The idea behind the pact is that, upon hearing about a guy who "took advantage" of a woman too drunk to consent, most men are now trained to believe "There but for the grace of God..." when what we want them to think is "I'm better than that."

Harvey Mansfield goes on a tear about Feminism and its Discontents, complaining that (cliche warning) humorless feminism now wants a culture of sexual adventure that never results in a "misadventure."

Rape isn't "misadventure." Falling off the bed and spraining your ankle during sexual adventure is misadventure. Straining your neck during marathon cunnilingus is misadventure. Running into a misplaced elbow during orgasmic collapse is misadventure.

Failing to respect your partner isn't misadventure. It's being a jerk. Failing to respect your partner's "no" isn't misadventure, it's rape.

A beat-down isn't a misadventure. It's a deliberate attack by one human being on another with intent. It isn't the physical trauma of a bicycle crash or falling out of a tree. It's a deliberate act by one human being visited upon another. And it's cause for police involvement.

Beat-downs happen rarely, because men view other men both as potential brothers-in-arms and as equals, and as threats: the likelihood is high that in any one-on-one physical fight, both men are going to get seriously hurt. That parity doesn't exist between men and women, and women at college don't have the familial and social structure necessary to visit any kind of tribal retribution on the male perpetrator. This is one of many factors that lowers the threshold that enables men to contemplate rape as a rational act.

Mansfield's "misadventure" isn't just about illegality or disrespect. It's about parents failing to teach young men to view women as their equals, to respect their boundaries, to learn how to communicate and hear women's wants and desires. One person recently and brilliantly said that "For some men, preserving misogyny is more important than sexual pleasure." I'm afraid we're going to have to put Harvey Mansfield into that group.

Tags: , ,
Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

Add to Memories
Share
Kouryou-chan and I went out last night to go see How To Train Your Dragon 2. I want to rave about it, but I can't. The art is gorgeous, the voice characterizations solid, the characters themselves are well thought-out and actually have some depth to them, to the point that they make many Disney characters even more flat and lifeless than usual. The terrible lighting bugs that were all throughout Frozen aren't happening here. All the female characters have distinctively different faces. It's not a musical, so if you can't stand musicals where people randomly break out into song like Frozen or Tangled, you'll appreciate that. It effectively pulls no punches, either; the two main protagonists effectively maimed and amputated each other's body parts (one leg below the knee; one tail-wing-stabilizer-thing) in their first meeting, and this film makes it more explicit that that's what happened.

Great art, great characters, great acting... so.... ?

The story tries to do too much. It's too big a story to fit into just 102 minutes. There's way too much going on, and the whiplash one would feel from all the emotional spots this film is trying to hit don't really have the impact they should. Even the moments when the film slows down don't last long enough, and while it's obvious what the script is trying to accomplish, it doesn't give the camera or dialog enough time to fully develop.

I know that it's hard in this day and age to imagine anyone wanting to sit through more movie, to spend all their evening in the seats. Theaters want to cycle people through fast, and the young kids who want to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 may not be able to sit still for that long. But the compromise of compressing the action down and down to the barest bones, to have every moment flit past so fast the audience has trouble engaging, isn't going to give you a hit, or a fan base, or box office.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: satisfied satisfied

Add to Memories
Share
Reddit is a hotbed of the manosphere; there are plenty of reddit channels where MRA's and PUA's talk to each other about "the game" of picking up women and having sex with them, or not. And while there are many things I don't get about the whole "manosphere," but one of them that perplexes me the most is simply this: among the manospherians, two of the most popular books are Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Olivia Fox Cabane's The Charisma Myth.

Both of these books teach you how to be more charismatic, more sensitive, and more empathetic, and both of them start with this premise: "If you don't find other people interesting, they'll never find you interesting." Neither Carnegie or Cabane mean that in a superficial way: you have to like other people, you have to want to get to know other people in a validating way, you have to empathise with them and want to understand them better; you have to have their best interests at heart.

The game of putting notches on one's belt or bedpost is diametrically opposed to this kind of empathy. The idea is to get into a woman's graces immediately, to manipulate and control, and not to actually treat the other person as a human being. How is that Carnegie and Cabane both win high praises from the very people they could never countenance?

Tags:
Current Music: Linkin Park, Blackout

Add to Memories
Share
So, Larry Correia is taking credit for getting Vox Day and Ayn Rand on the Hugo ballots, and then enjoying the idea that "the left" is "losing its shit" over the nomination of those two as if they were somehow representative of "conservative" values.

They're not. And it's deceitful to claim they are.

Look, I'm not going to go into Vox "If Hitler could eliminate the Jews without computers, surely we can track illegal Mexicans," "Women ruin everything," "There's no such thing as marital rape" Day's infamous history, nor am I interested in taking Ayn "No meadow is beautiful without a billboard to show man's claim" Rand apart any further. But they're not conservatives. They're radicals, and they belong in the same edge of a Venn Diagram with anyone who's primary interest is to see most of humanity reduced to cattle, with a few born and bred to ride, booted and spurred with whip in hand.

There are plenty of conservative SF writers who have won Hugos. Bujold and Weber come to mind: both adhere tightly to the conservative values of taking the world as it is and seeking out how to preserve what is best in human institutions, the research program begun by Adam Smith, Russell Kirk, Michael Oakeshott, and so forth. The Baen Catalog reads like a who's who of conservative writers; not all of them, surely, but Baen has never been a home for leftist values whatsoever. What Baen offers is confirmation of conservative values, and it has always been consistent in doing so.

Rand and Day belong to an ancient, ugly impulse that believes some people simply *are* better than others, and deserve *more* before the law, and the rest are left without protection for their weaknesses or compassion for their failings.

Before we start taking so-called "right wing" writers seriously, we should see just how many of the believe most human beings are little more than cannon fodder for their dark fantasies. SF is supposed to be forward-looking; I look forward to a world where no human being's life is considered so cheap we can just throw it away.
Add to Memories
Share
Kouryou-chan has this class assignment: "Write a letter to your state representatives about an issue you feel strongly about." Kouryou-chan, for whatever reason, followed her sister in wanting to discuss teenage homelessness.

But she had a problem. She complained to the teacher, "I don't know how to write this in the formal language I'm supposed to use. It's really hard."

"Why?" said the teacher.

"Because I know Tina and Dave. Like, personally. My Mom's the chairperson for our district. I campaigned for Tina last year, and Dave invites us to barbecues once in a while. It just feels weird writing to them this way!"

Current Mood: amused amused

Add to Memories
Share
It's curious that one of the people responding to my previous post laid some of the blame for men's poor sexual performance and general lack of pursuit of sexual pleasure on all of us being just a little too busy.

I'm not. I'm never "busy."

I will often say "I'm busy that day," because that's the phrase we've agreed to use, instead of what's really going on. And what's really going on, worded truthfully, would sound brutal and tragic: "I'm sorry, but compared to getting a little downtown / watching Game of Thrones / playing Call of Duty / drinking alone, you're just not a priority."

And that's what I do, on paper, in my calendar, when people ask me for my time. I look back through my calendar and tally up the amount of time I've had with people recently, and the experiences I want and the pleasures I seek and the education I crave and the downtime I need, and I prioritize. Explicitly. I rank encounters and schedules with an eye toward gratitude and pleasure, accomplishment and camaraderie, and then I decide where I'll go each night, what I'll do, and whom I'll do it with.

Maybe I'm not getting as much writing and coding done as I used to, but I'm having a lot more fun.

Tags:
Current Mood: awake awake