1. A Michigan school is refusing to allow a transgender student to be homecoming king. Even though this student received the most votes, he is listed in the school’s records as female, and therefore the school administration says he is ineligible. Personally, I hope the school gets idiot-slapped for this. But I keep thinking to myself, those kids elected an openly transgender student as their homecoming king. I can’t imagine that happening when I was in high school 20 years ago. Change is a slow thing, but this gives me hope … for the kids, if not for the adults.
2. The Sorting Hat: Which Kind of Activist Are You? Yonmei‘s piece explores the different approaches to confrontation and activism, and touches a bit on what I talked about in Anger vs. Reason. Only Yonmei uses Harry Potter references, and came up with a much more entertaining post.
3. Getting Published is Not a Crap Shoot. I’ve said this before, on many occasions. Writer Beware says the same thing. I take this as official proof that I’m right, so from now on, anyone who refers to publishing as a lottery, crap shoot, or any other gambling metaphor shall immediately be booted in the head.
4. Empire Strikes Back Chess Set, by icgetaway. Because it is awesome. This is a sequel to his Star Wars chess set, which I linked to a while back. Click the pic or link for the full photo set on Flickr.
September 30, 2010 @ 9:51 am
1. It gives me hope, too. I think it’s got to be hard enough for him to deal with GID, let alone a school being so ridiculous about something like this. It’d be a huge boost of confidence for him (Something a lot of transgendered people need) and they want to take it away.
4. That chess set is *awesome*.
September 30, 2010 @ 10:02 am
Well done, me. Managed to half-bake that point (i.e. the transgendered point). I really hope the school gets a great big boot up the backside. It’s a trivial matter with a large effect on that particular student. They’ve no right to take it away from him! It’s not about the school, it’s about him. I bet a lot of people were furious with them (I know I was very annoyed with the Daily Mail’s article on the subject, which constantly referred to him as “she”).
September 30, 2010 @ 10:40 am
Thanks for that first story. It does give me a sliver of hope, which I’d thought was entirely quashed by other recent news reports, about Billy Lucas in Indiana, Cody Barker in Wisconsin, Justin Aaberg in Minnesota… all of whom committed suicide in response to anti-gay harassment by their peers.
September 30, 2010 @ 12:23 pm
1. It is sad when school administrations don’t let children be who they want to be. It doesn’t matter if it is gay, lesbian, or transgendered. It just shows that teenagers can’t be who they want to be, even if their peers are comfortable with it. Very sad and I only hope I teach my children otherwise (and fight it if I ever see it myself).
3. Heh, I used to say that I would be published if I just got a chance. Then I got the chance… and didn’t get published. After that, I realized it really came down to skill and my inability to create a compelling story.
4. I *love* that chess set but more for the LEGO and Star Wars awesomeness than the chess bit (I prefer Go).
September 30, 2010 @ 1:27 pm
The maker of that lego set needs to get in touch with those people who made the automated lego chess set. I think they could hit a real market with that combo.
Side note: I read number 3 as “Getting Punished is not a Crap Shoot.” Sleep me not did good night last do.
September 30, 2010 @ 3:11 pm
Can I be very pedantic for a tiny second, please? I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it’s a common mistake and I’m sure you mean no ill harm about it, but it’s more about letting people be who they *are* rather than who they *want* to be. Sorry if this seemed rude, but I thought it best to point it out.
Jim C. Hines
September 30, 2010 @ 3:13 pm
Re: automated LEGO Star Wars chess, you do realize there’s such a thing as Too Much Awesome, right?
Jim C. Hines
September 30, 2010 @ 3:15 pm
I didn’t get the sense you were blowing that off. I think we both recognize that there’s a lot of negative here and elsewhere, but I also think the acceptance of the other kids in electing him is a hopeful sign, and I didn’t want that to get overlooked, ya know?
Jim C. Hines
September 30, 2010 @ 3:16 pm
I’ve heard some of those stories, but not all. Damn… I do think we’ve made progress, but there’s a hell of a long way to go.
September 30, 2010 @ 3:38 pm
Yep. I think that’s great that his classmates are that accepting, and hopefully they’re defending his right to the title. Hopefully this level of acceptance (i.e. that of the students) gets more and more prevalent!
September 30, 2010 @ 4:34 pm
From the point of the administrators, the transgendered teenager wants to be male, but they are not male. So, they would see it as a “want”.
From the point of view of the transgendered, they are male or a mixture of male/female or any degree of both. I don’t know the teen, so I can’t answer if they want to be known as only a male, a transgendered female to male, both, or something else. You also have ones who are content to acting and dressing of a different gender verses ones who physically want to change. Even then, there are TG people who only go part of the way, because that is all they need. And there are people who are a “woman in a man’s body”, but have no intent of physically changing their form. From my experience, transgendered is a huge spectrum instead of simple F2M or M2F. Because of that, I usually ask TG people what they want me to treat them as and what gender to assign them. Most of them are pretty willing to give me an answer. Once I know it, I use it.
The above might show that I’m using “transgendered” in the wrong way, but that is what I came to understand as I grew up.
Of course, it is hard to write all that down concisely. The first sentence “school administrators don’t let children be who they want to be” was written from the administrator’s point of view since they aren’t the one allowing something. The second sentence… probably could be more generic.
I think there is also something to be said about a transgendered who is physically one gender (one form of “are”) verses mentally another (another form of “are”). Since the mental/social gender is not obvious, they are asking others to acknowledge it, which is another reason I call it a “want”.
I call people whatever they ask me to call them: male, female, furry, friend, or frappuccino. I’m a programmer, I consider labels less important than actions. 🙂 (Related point, I treat religion and race in the same vein. If you want me to call you black, brown, cheese-colored, pale skin, I will.)
And there in no ill harm intended, just practicality since I don’t know what goes on in other people’s head. And others are more focused on labels than I am.
September 30, 2010 @ 5:27 pm
That just made my head explode :p
I see your point, and I withdraw my correction! I hadn’t considered that the board may see it as a “want to be” situation.
October 1, 2010 @ 10:42 am
I don’t mean to bring down upon myself a boot to the head… but mathematically I have to take issue with Writer Beware on this one (and several of her own commentors call her out on her complete lack of any objective data in making her claim). But let’s say I have a physical network of about 500 people that I actually know in some form or other. Of those, roughly 5 of them are aspiring writer/novelists. These figures are roughly close to real life (if anything, my number of aspiring writers is understated, because I’m discounting poets and others who don’t specifically aspire to writing novels; it might also be worth pointing out that all of these who do aspire to writing novels write fantasy or science fiction)… but let’s further say that I’m not representative of your typical population, and say that the real occurrence of aspiring writers is half what my own experience suggests… so 5 out of a 1,000.
With 300,000,000+ million people in the United States, that extrapolates to 1.5 Million aspiring writers. Taking the 90% of everything is crap meme and applying it, I still have a population, in the United States alone, of roughly 150,000 aspiring novelists who are potentially quite good at writing. Now, extrapolate this by the entire population of the literate western world.
This is back-of-the-envelope stuff… but even if my pesonal experience overestimates the population of aspiring novelists by 10 times the actual… we’re still talking a massive group of people who are still producing high-quality work. Being one of, what, maybe a few dozen each year out of potentially tens of thousands whose work passes the quality test that are all gunning for the same coveted status of “published writer”… That’s kind of like a crap shoot.
What makes it not a crap shoot is (a) your chances improve with time, as you improve and (b) once you’ve won, in theory, you’ve won, and even if your career doesn’t quite take off, you’ve still got “published author” on your resume.
I mean, I accept that writing high-quality prose is the most important thing we, as aspiring writers, can do to up our chances. But to suggest that it’s the only factor that matters is, I think, disingenuous. All the evidence available suggests that there is far more going on in the process that is outside the writer’s control than the quality of their work and submissions. It’s just that none of those factors (or almost none of them) will work in our favor if we don’t produce top-quality work, first.
October 1, 2010 @ 10:42 am
P.S., that Lego Chess Set is made of sublime, and awesome, and win. And also Legos, which are all of the above.
Jim C. Hines
October 1, 2010 @ 10:58 am
Let’s start with the math. I know a lot of aspiring novelists/writers. Few of those will ever finish a novel, let alone submit it. In addition, a population of 300,000,000 does not mean all of those are old enough, skilled enough, or have the time to write. (I.e., your 300,000,000 figure includes my five-year-old son, and he’s still working on writing his name.)
Beyond that, talk to anyone, anywhere, who’s worked as a slush reader. It disabuses you of the “luck” notion pretty quickly, or the idea that a massive group or even a significant fraction of submissions are quite good.
Data point from myself: My first book got rejected everywhere, because it sucked. Goblin Quest got offers from three different publishers, all independent of one another. If mere odds were a significant factor in any way, then the odds of those three offers all happening would be one in a million … probably closer to one in a billion.
I never said skill was the only factor in getting published. But luck is both uncontrollable and pretty darn insignificant as a factor.
October 1, 2010 @ 11:32 am
I’ll definitely agree that luck is pretty uncontrollable. That’s part of the problem, and what leads many aspiring writers to despair. It’s the degree to which luck factors into the equation, then, that’s at issue, and from the outside looking in, and running the numbers, without any ability to influence the process besides what we actually write, it sure looks like the bigger factor here is luck.
And your point about the relative age and experience of those writers is a valid one. But even cutting out the population of those who have just under the threshold of the age of majority doesn’t change the overall probabilities significantly enough to matter that much: it still rounds to 0.
My point isn’t to denigrate the achievements of those who actually make it. As I said, the gateway by which an aspiring writer must enter in is high-quality prose… And so publishing success is generally evidence of having gone by that gate, which is to be commended. And once you’ve passed that threshold, I would expect that even in a machine riddled with chance, each successive leap in quality will improve the odds that much more.
Ultimately, what I think it gets to is that you can’t just be in the 10% that are good. In order for the machinery of chance to work in your favor, you have to be in the 1% or less that’s not just good, but really, really, really good. Which, by all accounts, is where you were with GoblinQuest. And I think you’re kind of getting at that in your comment about the slush pile – that the population that editors consider to be “good” is a smaller percentage than the 10% I use here.
But, even the anecdotal evidence from editors suggests that there’s a huge factor of chance involved in the equation. How many posts are there from editors/agents/gatekeepers/etc. are there on blogs that say something to the effect of “just because I rejected your story/pitch/whatever doesn’t mean it’s not good. It just means it’s not what I need right now, maybe because I just bought something like it/my issue is full/my calendar is booked/I just dropped a load on someone famous and can’t afford it/or insert some other chance-based reason here”. That’s a common enough sentiment to suggest that chance does play a not-insignificant role, even if overall it is a minor one.
That said, I’m still a big advocate, from the aspring writer’s side, of working hard and keep writing and trying to improve. For one, it’s pretty much the only factor in our control. For another, I love writing and telling stories… and even if I am never to be paid the first red cent for it, I’d still expend as much energy as I can on the endeavor because I can’t not do it. Plus, if you flip a 1% coin enough times, eventually it’s going to come up heads. In this game, hopefully each time you flip it your chances get better (because your prose has improved)…
Jim C. Hines
October 1, 2010 @ 11:47 am
From talking to editors/agents/slush readers, it seems like most submissions break down into one of several categories. There’s the stuff that’s just utterly painful. Then there’s a large range of stuff that’s not bad, but isn’t anything special either. (Obviously it’s special to the one who wrote it, but you know what I mean?) Then there’s the fairly small percentage that are publishable.
It can be frustrating to be in that “good but not quite good enough … yet” category. I’ve talked to a lot of writers who hate the “Almost” rejection letters even more than the form rejects, because it’s so painful to be that close but not there yet.
“How many posts are there from editors/agents/gatekeepers/etc….”
Few that I’ve come across. It happens, sure. And if you only ever submit to one editor or agent, then this could be a problem. If you’re submitting to multiple editors and agents, then while this might be an issue for one of them, it’s not likely to be a significant factor.
“Plus, if you flip a 1% coin enough times, eventually it’s going to come up heads.”
This is where I think part of the problem comes in. If 1 in 100 submissions gets accepted, that doesn’t mean your odds are 1 in 100. If you write a crappy story, your odds are 0. (Or if not, it’s probably not a market you want to be in.) If you write a kick-ass story, your odds are pretty darn good. Which I think you’re kind of getting at as well with some of your comment.
I’m sticking with my position, though. While luck/chance is a factor in everything, I believe it’s one of the least important factors in getting published.
October 1, 2010 @ 11:59 am
And you surmise what I’m getting at correctly: the better your work, I agree, the better the chances. But yes, I think there’s a threshold where your work is pretty darn good, but where the mechanics of chance will still weigh against you. The trick to success is to keep going, on past that, and to keep improving past “pretty good”.
Jim C. Hines
October 1, 2010 @ 12:03 pm
I think that’s where persistence comes in. Once you reach the point of writing good, publishable material, there’s still a pretty good chance of being rejected by any one particular publisher or editor. (See Harry Potter, Left Hand of Darkness, or pretty much any “first” book by anyone.) But if you keep submitting (and also make sure you’re writing the next book), you’re much more likely to get that sale.
There’s also the issue that most of us suck at recognizing whether or not our books are “good enough” — myself included. I sent Snow Queen to a friend, in part for feedback, but also just so she could let me know whether or not it sucked 🙂
October 1, 2010 @ 12:10 pm
Unfortunately, in my experience, rather few friends are that good at recognizing whether my work sucks or is good enough, either.
Jim C. Hines
October 1, 2010 @ 12:14 pm
It helps to have published author friends 😉
I know what you mean, though. The feedback I used to get from friends and family was helpful, but there’s nothing like the cold, harsh truth a published author can smack you with.