Tag Archives: social media

Links for October 16

Josh and I spent the last two weeks in London and Paris, having a splendid time and getting to hang out with an astonishing and wonderful variety of people. Now we’re back, trying desperately to get caught up. While I clean 400 emails out of my inbox (not an exaggeration), I found a handful of interesting links that had accumulated:

  • Avon just launched a Facebook app, Avon Social Reader, that will let readers preview and discuss Avon titles and buy some of them DRM-free from AllRomanceEbooks.
  • I recently signed up for Daily Science Fiction, lured in by Nicole Cipri’s wonderful “A Silly Love Story”, and have been enjoying it; it’s easy to make time to read one short story a day, and the quality’s pretty good. Newcomer SnackReads looks to be aimed at the same market, but instead of a free plain-text email to read in a few minutes, you get a $1.99 epub file to read over a lunch break or commute. They’re launching with Suzy McKee Charnas’s long-OOP story “Scorched Supper on New Niger”.
  • Want even more short fiction? Cemetery Dance is putting out a bunch of short horror e-books to lead up to Halloween.
  • A 12-year-old interviews China Miéville about Railsea.
  • I interview Jo Walton (on video) about Among Others, just before or just after it won a Nebula Award. I haven’t watched this and have no idea whether it came out well, so if you get a chance to watch it, let me know what you think!

The Content of Their Characters

NOTE: If you’re already up on racism and The Hunger Games and kind of exhausted by the thought of reading another post about it, you may be interested in reading about sexism and The Hunger Games instead.

Everyone’s buzzing about Hunger Games Tweets, a Tumblr that collects and discusses tweets from people who are shocked and upset that Rue, a character described in Suzanne Collins’s book The Hunger Games as having dark skin, is played by an African-American actress in the film. The link started making the rounds a couple of days ago, and after Jezebel picked it up, the hits went through the roof. Cue a great deal of head-shaking.

But why is everyone so surprised that some of Collins’s fans are having indisputably racist reactions to her books? When the movies were first cast, the excellent Racebending site covered the controversy over white, blonde Jennifer Lawrence being cast as olive-skinned, dark-haired Katniss. That led to a pointed question in an Entertainment Weekly interview with Collins and director Gary Ross, and an interesting response:

EW: In the books, Katniss is described as being olive-skinned, dark-haired, possibly biracial. Did you discuss with Suzanne the implications of casting a blond, caucasian girl?

GR: Suzanne and I talked about that as well. There are certain things that are very clear in the book. Rue is African-American. Thresh is African-American.

“Very clear” to Ross and Collins, perhaps, but not to all of their fans. A blog post that went up on EW about six months before the interview took place asked whether Rue was black, and–as a separate question–whether she should be played by a black actress. The comments immediately, inevitably, filled up with exclamations like “RUE IS NOT BLACK NEATER IS THRESH READ THE BOOK AGAIN!” and the slightly more considered “I feel like a jerk for not noticing she was black in the book”. And when African-American actors were cast for the parts of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, Racialicious reported that the Hunger Games Facebook page was inundated with exclamations of surprise and dismay; those comments sound exactly like the recent tweets about the movie.

So I’m surprised that anyone’s surprised about the latest round of complaints. Sure, not everyone reads Racialicious and Racebending, but Jezebel covered the casting controversy back in 2011 too. More broadly, I’m trying to figure out how insulated one has to be from the wider world to be shocked! shocked! that racism is pervasive in American culture, and among American teens. Those wide-eyed tweets about Rue’s death being less sad because she’s black clearly come straight from the brains of adolescents (nearly all of them white, presumably) who have bathed in subtly and overtly racist culture since birth, absorbed far too much of it, and not yet learned to second-guess or even censor themselves when they parrot its tenets. They’re surprising only if you haven’t noticed that when real people of color are killed, there’s always an immediate attempt to justify or downplay the deaths. Art imitates life; reactions to art likewise imitate life.

On the bright side–and I am trying mightily to find a bright side here–this many surprised people might mean that more of those people are starting to pay attention, and will keep paying attention even after the latest furor dies down.

Twitter: The New Publisher Recruitment Tool

Remember some years ago when the big shocking thing was John Scalzi getting a book deal with Tor because of material he posted to his website? Well, move over, WordPress: publishers are now finding new authors through Twitter. I just got this press release from Angry Robot:

Those busy metal fellows at dynamic SF publishing imprint Angry Robot have pounced upon the debut novel of British-based New Zealander ADAM CHRISTOPHER.

Christopher is well-known to many at the heart of the British science fiction community through his strong presence on Twitter, under the nickname @ghostfinder. It was through reading his posts that AR first became aware of him – a lesson to other prospective authors, perhaps. In keeping with Angry Robot’s emphasis on the new channels for promoting all of its authors, he will of course continue to promote his work via Twitter.

The deal, for world rights to two novels across all formats, was done between Christopher and Angry Robot editor Lee Harris.

Actually, the parallel isn’t so much between blogging and Twitter as it is between face-to-face networking and social media. Obviously Christopher wasn’t posting novel excerpts to his Twitter feed. In an interview at Floor to Ceiling Books, he says that connecting on Twitter was just the first step in a mostly conventional in-person process:

The whole submission process was pretty straightforward – I knew the Angry Robot guys online (as the press release says, nothing would have happened if it hadn’t been for Twitter!) and sometime in mid-2010 I dropped by their office for a visit. Over lunch I described Empire State, and outlined a few other novels I’ve also written (including Seven Wonders). Marc and Lee liked what they heard and invited me to send it in.

After that it was pretty much the usual thing – sample chapters and a full synopsis, and then the full manuscript was requested. The whole process from that initial meeting to signing the contract took about nine months. People talk about the publishing industry being slow but it’s a complicated business. There were a lot of individual stages and checkpoints that Empire State had to get through before they made the offer.

So it’s not actually that knowing publishers on Twitter will get you a book deal, any more than having lunch with publishers will get you a book deal. What will actually get you a book deal is having written a book that a publisher thinks is worth buying. It probably helps to have a foot in the door, but there are, if you will pardon the tortured analogy, many kinds of feet that can be wedged in there: connecting on Twitter, meeting at a convention, having a good agent.

Speaking of which, I note that Christopher negotiated his own book deal, and take this as an opportunity to remind writers that agents are not just matchmakers who can be bypassed if you have other ways of getting your synopsis and chapters in front of someone with buying power. Agents are there to make sure you get as much money as possible and don’t inadvertently sign a contract that will come back to bite you later. As Theodora Goss says, “When I’m going over contracts, I’m actually grateful that I was a corporate lawyer, because at least I know what the various parts of the contract are for. How do people who aren’t lawyers do it?” The buying and selling of books remains a business, regardless of how those first introductions are made, and I hope authors will keep treating it as one even if their publishers are also their friends—or their social media “friends”.

The World’s Best, Smartest, Funniest, Most Energetic Book Club

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you were in a room surrounded by writers without leaving your house, Twitter is possibly the best way to do it.  Just yesterday, I was watching Ta-Nehisi Coates, Atlantic editor and blogger about race, nerddom, and pop culture, get details on Jane Austen from Macmillan anti-pirate Nina Lourie.  Today, I’m watching horror writer Joe Hill talk offhandedly with William Gibson about fun things to read.

Joe Hill tweeted, “Twitter is pretty awesome. I feel like I’m in the world’s best, smartest, funniest, most energetic book club.”

And he’s right.  I had a lot of mixed feelings about Twitter before I started in on it.  It’s still hard to keep up with, but it’s worth peeking in on when I have time for it.