Dream of the Dolphin
a.k.a.
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore

Free Story!

Thursday, August 31, 2006
 

And on a lighter note

Changing the world is hard and serious work, so it's time for some fun stuff.

First, following the meme sheep: ask me three questions, any three questions, and I will answer them.

Second: Writing news (sort of). Alice and I have set a Karina/Jana-esque deadline. Our respective novels must be finished by May. When in May? We're not exactly sure. What's the penalty for not finishing? Ummm… not much. Though it will involve public mockery by Karina.

It doesn't have to be good. It just has to be finished.

Third: More fun things about the Ex:
  1. Snakes on a Plane.
  2. Domesticated dinosaurs and baby goats.
  3. Tourmaline (henceforth known by Stellar Magpie as "awesomeite").
  4. Snakes on a Plane.
  5. Here's a llama, there's a llama, and another little llama, fuzzy llama, slippers-llama, llama, llama, duck!
  6. Greek nuts! Mmmmm, Greek nuts….
  7. Did I mention Snakes on a Plane?
  8. The rest is up to Karina.

( 4:33 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

More on Harlangate



I've been giving this a lot of thought (probably more than I should), due largely in part to some of the discussion on Fandom Wank, and the more I think on it, the more I think that the angry reaction to Harlangate has very little to do with Harlan himself.

I think the reason that Harlangate became The Grope Heard Round the Fandom is because it was a) a very public venue that is b) held in high regard by those in the industry, and c) involved very notable professionals within that industry. And because it was Harlan, the "boys will be boys" dismissal tended to be stronger.

But as I attempted to explain within that thread, not everyone involved is offended on Connie's behalf. Some of us are offended on our own behalf, of which Connie's treatment is just a very visible example.

Leah's discussion has, I think, been one of the most reasoned and constructive (yes, that includes the fatwa, which is probably a lot easier to understand if you're familiar with Leah-Brand Sarcasm™). Most notably, her follow-up post, in which she explains why TGHRTF made her so angry, makes a lot of very good points.

It can be surprisingly hard to articulate why this kind of thing is so hurtful. I'm by no means aloof -- I survived high school by joining community theatre groups, who are notoriously touchy-feely. I got hugged more by the opposite sex in those few years of high school than I have in the rest of my life put together. I always enjoyed it, because they were interacting with me. Even the rowdier moments, which on occasion involved smacking or biting (theatre kids can be an odd crowd), were never hurtful, because of the manner in which they were done.

Then there are moments like the one in high school in which I was walking home and a guy on a bike smacked me hard in the ass as he passed by. Some people still can't understand why my mom came home to find me sobbing afterward. It's not so much the act -- the act was a very little thing (which, nonetheless, hurt like hell). It's the fact that the act managed to reduce me, my hopes, my dreams, everything I'd ever worked for, into an object. Something less than human. That physical contact wasn't about me-as-a-person. It was about me-as-a-thing. Sarah didn't exist to this man -- and that was the first time I'd ever actually understood something like that. That kind of act can be painfully humiliating, which a lot of people still sometimes don't understand. Which is also why aggressive-scarf-selling-guy seriously skeeved me out.

I've seen this kind of treatment in the fandom before. I've seen things like what happened to Leah. I've seen friends at cons get hit on by guys that want to send me screaming for a bar of soap. I've seen teenagers pursued by men old enough to be their fathers, despite the teenagers' repeated rejection and pleas to be left alone, and the teenagers' co-workers' threats to pursue said stalkers with pointed sticks. It wasn't even out of malice on the part of the stalkers -- it was simply because the men were still interested, and it just didn't occur to them that the fact that the girls weren't actually mattered.

I've watched award-winning, professionally-published authors being dismissed or trivialized, simply because they're female. I've seen men in the bookstore refuse to read very good SF because it was written by a woman. I've had people express Awe and Surprise that I've published SF. "Wow, that's… I mean… you're a girl."

It is a problem within the fandom. It's by no means universal, and it's definitely better when you get into the newer generation of pros and fen, but it's still there. It's been there for a while. It's discussed often within our writing circles.

As the predominantly female (with the exception of Ben) staff of North America's oldest SF bookstore, we're also treated to a unique perspective (there have been long discussions around the store about "girl-cooties" and the "Boobies! Oh noes!" reactions we get sometimes). This is also why I think TGHRTW was a Very Bad Thing. As we've seen in the store, SF/F fans run a huge gamut of social abilities, from very articulate and outgoing people you'd never be able to pick out in a crowd as fen, to people who make Comic Book Guy look well-adjusted. There is a subset of fandom who are very, very bad at social interaction, to the point at which they honestly have no idea what to do in a social situation, and who take their cues from the visible professionals within the industry (I was on a panel once that pointed out research linking this kind of functional autism to a propensity to gravitate toward the SF/F fandom -- it was quite fascinating). TGHRTW is not a cue you want them taking.

Reading over the discussion that's emerging now that the initial anger has settled, when you come down to it, this isn't about Harlan. It's about a long-standing and pervasive attitude, especially amongst the Old Guard. Harlan has just provided a very public, "see, this is what we're talking about" example of a much larger problem. TGHRTW is just a catalyst prompting us to do something about it.

And what's going on now, especially on Leah's journal, is that the initial, knee-jerk expressions of outrage are turning to "okay, now we can all see it's a problem. So what are we going to do about it?"

And that's what's really interesting me.

( 2:26 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

Fun at the Ex

Yesterday, Karina and I celebrated the first anniversary of Stellar Magpie at the Ex. It was exactly one year ago at the Ex that we first came up with the crazy mixed up idea of starting a jewellery business. And since a woman there literally asked about buying the necklace off my neck, I'm taking it as a sign that we're doing something right.

The Ex itself was great fun. We didn't even make it to the craft building this year -- we spent too much time in the International Building trying on sparkly shawls (bought two), sparkly shoes (bought a pair), looking at sparkly mirrors (bought one for Stellar Magpie displays), and checking out component parts for jewellery (we scored a great set of pearls, and I found some shells and jade turtles). We spent pretty much all of it singing "Snakes on a Plane", too.

There was one moment that kind of stuck out, though. Karina and I had been discussing Harlangate, and about PNH's very valid point that this is not so much about Harlan as about this generation standing up and saying "okay, no more of that." There was a guy at one of the scarf booths I was looking at who, when I showed signs of leaving, grabbed me in what he must have assumed was an affectionate hug and went on about me not buying anything. Now, I am a very touchy-feely person and I love hugging, but all I wanted to do was get away from him. Fast. And he honestly had no idea what he was doing.

But other than that, it was great fun.

Well, aside from the morning sickness. This I find just unfair. The contraceptives I'm on to stop my ovaries from hemmoraging are giving me severe morning sickness. All frelling day. Which make for a very unhappy Sarah.

( 2:23 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, August 21, 2006
 

Stuff about Cons

Theresa Nielsen Hayden, Sherwood Smith, Michelle, Theresa again, and Elise offer thoughts and advice on cons in general, and Worldcons in particular.

There's a lot of really great information in there. I've heard a lot of pro-con and anti-con arguments, and the strongest anti-con sentiment usually boils down to "going to cons is a waste of time that could be better spent writing / people who are serious about writing don't waste time socializing / so many writers fail to live up to their potential because all their energy goes into cons instead of writing."

Thus, I'd like to point to one thing in particular in Theresa's post last year:

Fiction is fiction, publishing is an industry, but the science fiction community is an old and complex social continuum. You don't have to become a virtual citizen of that virtual commonwealth in order to sell fiction; but if you attend one of their conventions, you're on their turf. The attendees at that convention aren't there to worship science fiction and the people who create it. They're there to see each other, and to talk about SF and fantasy and related subjects. If the only reason you can imagine going to a convention is to promote your career, stay home. The benefits won't repay your cost and effort, and your attitude will irritate the natives.


That's it exactly. I go to cons because I have fun, and get to catch up with friends and geek out about the genre I love. People who go because they think they'll make that magic contact / it'll help them get published are usually going to be disappointed. It's true, cons aren't for everyone. Which is okay. But some people really like going, and have a very good time. Which is okay, too. Avoiding cons is not going to hurt your writing career. Neither will taking weekend off every few months to go hang out with other writers and fans for some really good geekery.

In addition, I'd like to add the following (reposted from Elise's comment section):

Food is very important. It is also often expensive and hard to come by. Time is often scarce. Having a durable and non-perishable snack with you (such as sesame snacks, fruit bars, or meal replacement bars) comes in handy when you're starving and in the middle of a four hour stretch of "must be here" panels.

Also, never underestimate the value of coffee pot oatmeal. Never attempt coffee pot macaroni and cheese.

( 10:21 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, August 18, 2006
 

Heard on my morning subway ride...

"The next station is Broadview... Broadview station... ... ...there certainly are a lot of us on this train this morning. Strangers all brought together.... but we all have one thing in common... we're all going west. Think about that a moment.... Discuss."

I love it when the subway drivers get bored.

In non-why-I-love-Toronto news, you know those test strips you used in high school biology to determine if you had the gene to taste PTC? The ones which, if you do have the gene, taste absolutely foul (incidentally, the foul-tasting chemical is also found in brussels sprouts)?

I could taste it. And the antibiotic I'm currently on is making my saliva taste just like that.

Ah well. As side-effects go, I've had worse. But it's awkward when you're in the middle of a conversation about dinosaurs with an eight-year-old, and a particularly concentrated dose hits the back of your tongue, making you gag and pull horrible faces.

Speaking of dinosaurs, I had a context-error moment in the dig tonight. I have this thing about context -- I can know you perfectly well, but have trouble recognizing you out of context. I had trouble recognizing Nancy, who I used to work with at the ROM for ages, on the subway; I didn't recognize Nathaniel's sister at the ROM, etc. If I know you from a con, I'll identify you no problem at the con, but have no idea who you are outside of it.

Tonight I was facilitating for a while with a really enthusiastic boy in the dino dig (only slightly manic, as it was crazy insanely busy and the only other person in the dig was on her first shift and still trying to figure out what things are -- it really requires you to be in three places at once -- although at one point on the schedule tonight I was scheduled to be in the dig, on the exit, and on my break at the same time. As I told Charlene, "I'm good, but I'm not that good. Anyway.).

It wasn't until his dad pulled him out and he said "Thank you, Sarah!" that I realized I was talking to Clinton Kenny.

( 10:50 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Wednesday, August 16, 2006
 

This made me feel better...

Finally, a church I'd feel comfortable attending (though I could do without the strippers).

Also, I'm finding great joy in the Dance Like a Monkey video.

( 11:19 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

The Ignoble Collection

So as promised, here is my rant on why The Noble Collection sucks.

About four or five years ago now, whenever it was that the Fellowship of the Ring first came out, the Noble Collection released an Evenstar Pendant.

I fell head over heels in love with the damn thing. I wanted it like I haven't wanted anything else for a very long time. I wanted it soooo badly. But I was dirt poor back then (not that I'm much better off today), and there was no way in hell I could afford the thing.

Enter my awesome friends. Four of them got together and agreed to pay for a significant chunk of the necklace if I paid the rest. I was absolutely thrilled. I was slightly less thrilled when it took multiple tries to just get it over the border. But when it finally arrived, I was ecstatic. Not only because I loved it like no other piece of jewellery I owned, but because it represented how great my friends were and how much they cared.



Not long after, one of the crystals fell out. I was somewhat dismayed, but I took the crystal to the jeweller, had it fixed, and forgot about it.

Fast forward to this year. I opened my jewellery box to put on the pendant, only to discover that another crystal had fallen out. Dismayed, I looked everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. Not terribly upset yet, I contacted the Noble Collection. Having just received my replacement Knight Rider disks for the ones that didn't work, I didn't anticipate a problem. The Noble Collection was a professional company just like Universal, surely they realized the value of keeping their customers happy by replacing defective merchandise, as Universal does.

Hah.

So I explained the situation to the Noble Collection, and got the following response:

Thank you for your email. We are unable to locate an order in our system for you. Please provide us with the order number or the purchaser's billing information. This will help us assist you better. Thank you and have a great day!!


This being four years later, I no longer had the order number. But I had my billing information for that time, so I passed it on.

Thank you for your email. We are sorry to hear that the stones have fallen our of the pendant. Regretfully, we do not do any repairs and are unable to exchange this item. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.


Um… inconvenience? Try "I can't wear your frelling expensive jewellery anymore because it looks like a piece of crap". But I was much politer when I answered, asking if they have a supplier where they get the stones, so that I could order one from them and fix it myself, as I just want to be able to wear it again.

Thank you for your email. We are the manufacture of our products. Unfortunately, we do not have any replacement stones to send out. However, we would be more than happy to offer your a 25% discount on a new pendant. If you wish to purchase a new pendant with a discount please contact our customer service department at 1800-866-0232. Thank you and have a great day!!


Okay, that first part is not exactly what I asked. And yeah. 25% off a bucketload of money is still too much. So I explained that I can't afford to replace the pendant I have already paid for, and asked again if they manufacture the stones too, or if they have a supplier to whom I can go through my own small business to get the stones.

They bumped me up to the manager.

Ms Elliott

We sincerely don't have any crystals we can mail to you.
Patricia Canestra Heenan
Customer Service Manager
The Noble Collection
1 800 866 0232 X 624

So now they're pissy with me, they managed to avoid my question again, and I still am the proud owner of a $125 (Canadian) piece of crap.
I sent what I thought was a fairly reasonable response:
Yes, I do understand that, and my last e-mail was not actually asking you to send me a replacement crystal.

What I'm trying to determine is whether you manufacture the crystals yourself, or whether you order them from a wholesaler that I might subsequently contact. I am a partner in a small jewellery business and am capable of ordering wholesale with our large orders if I know the name of the supplier and preferably the name or number of the component part. My regular supplier here in Toronto does not carry that particular shape of crystal. I have not yet begun contacting wholesalers here and in other cities, as I'm hoping an answer from you will at least narrow my search.

As this is a piece of jewellery I treasured, for aesthetic and personal reasons, and one I cannot afford to purchase twice, I was extremely saddened to discover that it had fallen apart. I hope you can understand why I'm trying to follow every avenue available to me to make it wearable again.

Thank you for your patience,
Sarah


She completely ignored me. I haven't heard from them since.

I now know, from reading on various online forums about the countless other people who've had their Evenstars fall apart, that they're Swarovski crystal navettes. I'm just not sure of the size. This is obviously not a new problem. So surely it can't be that hard for customer service to say "it's a swarovski crystal 15x4 navette, good luck with your search", is it? Oh, but then I wouldn't be giving them more money. Darn.

So, needless to say, I'm less than impressed with the Noble Collection, their "screw the fact you paid already for a defective product, we want more money" customer service policy, and pretty much everyone involved with the company. There was quite a bit of merchandise I actually wanted to order from them too, such as the display case for the Evenstar pendant, which I intended to purchase once my pendant was repaired. But as I've learned my lesson about spending half my week's income on an overpriced piece of crap product that they won't replace when it falls apart, I'll be damned if they're getting any more money from me.

Jerks.



So for the record, let us state right now: If your Stellar Magpie jewellery ever falls apart, we will repair or replace it for you. Unlike some people, we do actually care about our customers.

( 10:34 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, August 11, 2006
 

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy

Due to a slight miscalculation (or unbridled optimism on my part), my last paycheque was several hundred dollars less than I was expecting. Wups...

So on that note, the Thai food I ordered last night included a big honking thing of steamed rice with my order. I haven't been able to eat steamed rice since that three month stretch in which I could eat nothing but. But I don't want to throw away a load of perfectly good rice. So can anyone suggest something tasty (and inexpensive) I can do with it?

( 12:45 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Thursday, August 10, 2006
 

Meet Sheldon!

Everyone, meet Sheldon.



Sheldon is the most adventurous of our deck cats, and she needs a good home. Sheldon loves to curl up on your lap and purr, and give you kisses.



She likes to play with toys. Including things like string, or a trowel.



She does, you will note, looks something like a cow.



But this little cow is always ready to play.



Sheldon's little brother, Mortimer, needs a home too. Mortimer needs someone very special, with a very big heart. Mortimer is very shy, and he needs to see a vet about his eye (the brown marks on his face are stains from his eye running -- we're trying to get a picture with them cleaned off, but he's hard to catch).



But Sheldon is ready to go home right now. She'll need a trip to the vet for a checkup and her shots, and lots of love, but as you can see, she's waiting for somebody to take her. If you or anyone you know has room in your life for Sheldon, please let me know.


( 6:49 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Saturday, August 05, 2006
 

Submitted with musing...

I found this while not working on the book ego surfing today, from this larger review:

The other novella was Sarah Jane Elliott's "Blood Ties", which I found fairly interesting, indeed promising, but not quite a successful work in itself. It's about a rebellious young woman and her attempts to free a griffin cruelly imprisoned by her basically decent but misguided father. Much of it intrigued me enough to think that Elliott may eventually do pretty strong work, but this particular story doesn't realize its promise.


I think I'm growing up. As little as a year ago, this review would have made me cry. Or at least stamp around in a petulant snit. Now I'm all "cool, I show promise."

Part of it may be what I went through with Christine's writing project on me (still very "hee!" on that one), in which we compared version one, written in 1998, and the current version. I know how much better the published version is than the original take on it. And I admit, when I come to writing the book in five years or so and I rewrite it yet again, I'm very curious to see how that version will compare with this one.

It's also not my favourite of the two from which Julie chose. I'm fonder of "Warmth" than I am of "Blood Ties", largely because by "Warmth", the damage the two of them go through has started to heal, and they're acting more like the characters I know and love, and I think "Warmth" works better as a standalone. But Julie had her own (very good) reasons for choosing this one, and I have no objections.

But I think much of it is that even since "Blood Ties", I've learned more about writing. I'm still growing. I'm still changing. And I've finally come out and admitted that I'm a novel writer, not a short story writer, and looking at it purely objectively, Blood Ties works a lot better when you know where it fits is the grand scheme of the Kichaniverse. At the moment, I'm the only one who really knows where that is.

But I promise it's not going to stay that way.

( 10:42 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, August 04, 2006
 

On Professionalism



There are certain authors I turn to as examples as how to behave as a professional. You know, in case I ever manage to finish this book (didn't get any work done last night, but I have a good excuse -- I was working on a wedding tiara. Photos going up at Stellar Magpie soonish). Julie Czerneda. Neil Gaiman. Nora Roberts. Certain others.

And then there are those who astound me with their unprofessionalism.

Not even speaking as an author, but speaking as a bookseller who often gets the question "is there any good stuff to read online?" I have a few thoughts. If you are going to put together a professional-quality online magazine, aiming to be the model for short story publishing in the future, there are certain things you can and cannot do.

First, your behaviour does have an effect on your readership. If we lived in a vacuum, no, people would judge the stories you write or edit completely independently of you. But we don't. If you behave in a childish, unprofessional manner, many people aren't going to bother with you or your publication, to the detriment of the authors you edit. And booksellers certainly aren't going to be inclined to recommend you.

The one possible exception to this is Harlan Ellison, but he's Harlan f*cking Ellison. And even he isn't really getting away with it anymore. There are authors (Card, Rice, others) who have lost readers at our store because of their online behaviour. There will always be people who can dissociate your work from your conduct. There may even be people who agree with and applaud said unprofessional behaviour. But they are rarely in the majority, and supporting such behaviour can often lose you the respect of people who formerly admired your work and valued your opinion.

Second, if you ask for feedback and discussion on the stories you edit, it is extremely unprofessional to then mock and ridicule the reviewer. There are many authors and editors who handle bad reviews with grace and dignity, and have turned unhappy readers into regulars because of the decorum with which they conducted themselves (I will always remember the "I'm very glad you were involved enough in this story to care this much" response to a negative review discussed in Julie's newsgroup).

Readers tend to like that kind of response from an author or editor, even if that person's stories or collections got negative reviews, and are more likely to hang around to see if what comes next shows improvement. People will support authors they like, even if their feelings toward that author's work are lukewarm. There is a reason why authors do book tours.

And if you do persist in ridiculing any negative feedback, putting out cries of "why isn't anyone talking about the stories?" makes you look really bad, because it becomes apparent that what you're really saying is "why isn't anyone raving about the stories? Praise me! PRAISE ME!" [/Zim]

Third, delivering backhanded insults to major players in the field of Speculative Fiction and sneering at them as minor authors, whether on not they disagree with you on certain issues, does nothing for you but demonstrate a staggering ignorance of the field in which you are writing and editing. Especially to a bookseller who actually has sales figures in front of her. Which again, does nothing to prompt said bookseller to recommend you to people looking for good online fiction.

Finally, how you conduct yourself in public matters. It doesn't matter if it's in your own editorial pages, at a convention, or in a discussion group run independently of your publication. What you do will ultimately reflect back upon you and what you publish, and if you are an editor, it reflects back upon your authors as well. Writing and publishing does not happen in a vacuum, especially in the age of the internet.

For instance, alt.books.harry-potter has nothing to do with J.K. Rowling or her publisher. And there are often kids (and adults) in there complaining. They don't like that so-and-so died, they hate that Harry is dating *her* instead of the OTPOMG!!!1! They don't get why Rowling writes so slow. They disagree with where the series is going. They don't like that Rowling has a policy of not sending autographs to everyone who writes to her. Etc. etc. etc. "I don't read these books, I think they're stupid and promote witchcraft and everyone who reads them is dumb."

But if someone from the publisher, or Rowling herself showed up in that forum and started cursing the kids out as brainless assholes, why the hell isn't anyone talking about the books, oh wait, you who didn't like the book, you're stupid and you don't get it, I think I'm going to kill off the Patil sisters because of their fucking stupid religion, and you who are complaining can just fuck off and die, I'm brilliant and edgy and those of you who disagree are just too stupid to understand how clever I am…

It wouldn't reflect well on Rowling. Or her publisher. It would hurt her sales. It would certainly disincline me as a bookseller to recommend her work. And that has absolutely nothing to do with whether she or her publisher is professionally connected to alt.books.harry-potter or not.

How you conduct yourself as a professional matters. I'm not going to buy clothes from someone who says people with my body type are fat and ugly. I'm not going to read work authored or edited by someone who calls me (or people I know to be intelligent, thoughtful, and extremely well-read) brainless assholes. And I'm certainly not going to recommend them to anyone else. Especially when I've read better, in print and online.

I'm going to recommend the people who deserve the chance to succeed.

( 11:47 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Sarah Jane Elliott
The often frustrating progress of my life and writing...

(Once known as "The Mystic's Dream", now known as "Dream of the Dolphin", but inclined to change title depending on what's stuck in my head)

Okay, I liked "Confessions of a Post Graduate Pity Whore" a lot more than I thought I would. That line is still hilarious. But I've started writing again, so it's time to go back to before. :o)





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