April 15th, 2007

rengeek the puppet (poisoninjest)

Pixel-stained technopeasant wretch

papersky has declared Monday April 23rd to be International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.

She says, in part:

In honour of Dr Hendrix, I am declaring Monday 23rd April International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. On this day, everyone who wants to should give away professional quality work online. It doesn't matter if it's a novel, a story or a poem, it doesn't matter if it's already been published or if it hasn't, the point is it should be disseminated online to celebrate our technopeasanthood.

Whatever you're posting should go on your own site. I'll make a post here on the day and people can post links in comments to whatever they're putting up on. If you are a member of SFWA, or SFWA qualified but not a member (like me) you get extra pixel-spattered points for doing this. If other people want to collect the links too, that would be really cool. Please disseminate this information widely.

Yeah, yeah, I've been staying out of the SFWA thing because I frankly don't care [/Tommy Lee Jones]. I'm not a member anymore, and I don't expect to be ever again.

But it's hard to let this pass:

I'm also opposed to the increasing presence in our organization of webscabs, who post their creations on the net for free.  A scab is someone who works for less than union wages or on non-union terms; more broadly, a scab is someone who feathers his own nest and advances his own career by undercutting the efforts of his fellow workers to gain better pay and working conditions for all. Webscabs claim they're just posting their books for free in an attempt to market and publicize them, but to my mind they're undercutting those of us who aren't giving it away for free and are trying to get publishers to pay a better wage for our hard work.

--Howard V. Hendrix, SFWA's current Veep, as reprinted by Will Shetterly.

nihilistic_kid, with whom I often disagree, nevertheless knows a lot about labor unions and comments here on the fallacious definition of scab.

scalzi responds at length here.

As the granddaughter of a union plumber, raised in a staunchly pro-union household, and--apparently--a webscab, I have this to say: if SFWA were an effective labor union, in touch with the realities of publishing in the 21st century and interested in serving the professional needs of its members, I would rejoin in an instant.

It isn't.

And this purblind sentiment is an example of why, and how it got that way.

Unofficial writer's organizations (Critters, the OWW, Forward Motion, the Rumor Mill) do a far better job of serving my needs as an independent artist than SFWA does. If I were working in Hollywood, I'd join the Writer's Guild. I still pay dues to the Author's Guild, which is at least marginally more effectual than SFWA, and I'm far enough on the outside that I don't notice whatever mindless infighting there might be.

But it's not just selfish laziness that keeps me from joining any attempt to reform SFWA. In other reasons:

1) it's not my job--I have no investment in the organization, and the organization is set up to insure that I never develop one, and when I did, some time ago, attempt to answer honestly a question regarding why younger SFF writers weren't joining, I got alternately tarred-and-feathered and told that if I wanted the organization different, it was my job to change it, which kind of defeated the point of the original question.... which soured me on the whole thing somewhat. (Don't ask if you don't want to know.) 

2) I actually suspect there is no salvaging SFWA, but I'm pleased that there are people who want to try, and I'm not about to get in their way. I will cheer from the sidelines and bring lemonade and gatorade and soda pop, how's that?

3) I think it would be easier, frankly, to form a new trade organization (one that's interested in actually defending authors' rights, not arguing over codes of conduct,  having flamewars, holding award ceremonies, practicing bizarre policies of secrecy, and panicking about e-piracy) and start from scratch.

No, I'm not willing to organize one. I'm not an organizationally talented person, and I'm not a politician, and I'm certainly not a leader, and I'm not much of a joiner either.

I know my limits.

(Although that would be a great indicator of a trade union I might want to join right there: No awards. Ever. Except service awards.)

So, Howard, no worries about rotting the organization from within, at least from my direction.  I'll do my rotting from without, like a proper scab.

I'm leaving comments on this entry open, but I won't be responding to them. I have to clean my house and do laundry and watch Doctor Who today. So, you know, knock yourselves out.

In the meantime, there are some links to some of my free online fiction in my CV, here.

(eta: suricattus points out rightly in comments that it's not a union, and never was one. Fair enough, and my mistake in adopting HVH's metaphor without clarifying. It's also not an effective trade organization, although I hear tell it was one, once.)

writing softcore nerdporn _ heres_luck

there's just one thing that i've got to know: can you tell me please, who won?

I really can't express how awesome the Logee's greenhouses are. They are not accessible, which anybody going there needs to be aware of. Access is down a steep flight of stairs, and the walkways are just about wide enough for one person who is either small or careful. Moving through the greenhouses involves a lot of careful ducking under branches and sidling past overgrown bushes: it's a jungle in there, literally.

There's room for mature citrus trees (I assume they're pruned at the top to keep them from pushing through the roof, but one grafted specimen (lemons, oranges, tangerines) was at least ten feet tall.) and there are kumquats and buddha's hand and just about everything else you could imagine. The stock plants are the real joy, of course, because they're just sort of out in the greenhouse growing madly away, mixed in with everything else, while the propogated cuttings are what you take home (so you get to meet the parent plant, in other words, and get an idea of what a mature specimen of the baby in the little 2.5" pot might look like.).

And the smell. Not just the green moist verdancy of a conservatory, but redolent of spices and flowers. There was one red tubelike flower that smelled exactly of cinnamon candies, arrestingly. Nobody knew what it was, because it wasn't in the current catalog. But it was strongly enough scented that I stopped in my tracks and cast around in circles until I figured out what smelled so good.

Also, there's jasmine and various false jasmines, at least one rose that we found in bloom, tropical flowers galore (oh, god, the hibiscus made me covet yes), tea and coffee plants (bunches of varieties of teas (Camellia sinensis)), plus all sorts of other random goodies.

I was hoping for more succulents. I love weird succulents.

I wonder how big this Ficus will get, with love and conversation. Apparently the mistletoe fig is a slow grower, but I have time.

Reminds me, I need to buy plant food.

I'm thinking of all this now because the jasmine plant woke up about fifteen minutes ago, and my apartment smells fantastic now.

And now I need to walk down to the Shaw's and buy laundry detergent so I can wash my clothes. I guess I could pick up the plant food there, as well.

Ahh, the glamour!
writing matthew

trailers for sale or let

So I just spent fifteen minutes picking gamely away at "Greensleeves" and got through it correctly exactly once. Even though I am playing the absolute idiot's version, just the basic melody, no ornaments, no arpeggios, no frills.

And you know what? I'm not upset about that.

Because it takes practice. You have to train your hands on what to do, and you have to train your brain on how it gets done, and you have to learn to do it. And that's okay. And you start off with easier stuff, with beginner's versions, and eventually you move up to harder stuff. You learn how to do more complicated things.

And more things at once.

And easy things better and more perfectly. And then you learn how to do the complicated things in such a way that they look easy.

The thing is, you don't just automatically start doing the hard things when you have been practicing the easy things for a while. Oh, no. You see, you have to try the hard things and fail. And you will never actually know that you are ready to try the harder things unless you keep trying them and failing, over and over again, until eventually you realize you aren't failing as badly... and then eventually maybe you are even getting it right.

And if you try to learn everything at once, you'll never see any progress in anything, and that will rapidly become frustrating. The thing is, practice actually does make you better at things. Seriously! Even when you are old like me! The more you do it, the better you get!

The trick is, you have to do it with attention. Doing it in a half-assed fashion does not help.

The funny thing is, this goes for writing too. Even though, for some reason, writing fiction is the art where people think they should just be able to wander in an do it perfectly the first time out. And of course that's not how it works.

See, artistry is not a gift. It's an acquired skill. There are certain gifts that can make it easier--auditory eidetic memory for a musican, synesthesia for a visual artist, a gift for proportion in a sculptor, an acute ear for dialect in an author (just to pick a few at random)--but the actual art of making a painting breathe or a story come alive, that's learned. And it's learned through hard work, apprenticeship, and just plain doing it a lot. And finishing projects. And pushing one's self past the boundaries of where one is working comfortably.

And working with attention and focus and intent.

And failing.

Lots and lots and lots of failing.

And maybe next time I'll get through "Greensleeves" twice without fluffing a note.

You never know.

Tomorrow, I think I will start writing again.