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Thursday Bullets

Not feeling so great this morning. I don’t have time to get sick, dangit! But this means you get the bullet-point blog post today.

• My agent e-mailed me my latest royalties statement, and all three goblin books have earned out their advances!  Can I get a Booya?  To everyone who bought and shared the books, thank you so much!  It looks like Stepsister will likely follow suit, but not until the Reserve Against Returns decreases a bit more.

• The caption contest is still running strong, and there are some seriously entertaining entries already, mostly on the LJ post.

• I donated an autographed copy of The Stepsister Scheme [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] to an auction to raise money for MSU Safe Place, the local Domestic Violence shelter where I used to work as the male outreach coordinator.  Bidding starts at $15 here and runs through October 9.

 • Since I’ve gotten into the habit of wrapping up these random blog posts with LEGO, have a LEGO Star Wars chess set, courtesy of icgetaway.  Click the picture below for the full photo set.

Polanski Apologists in Translation

I’ve been reading a lot of justifiably angry posts about those who would defend Roman Polanski, who was convicted of raping a 13-year-old thirty years ago.  I did a bit of research, trying to understand the mindset and the concerns of the people arguing against Polanski’s arrest.  What follows are the most common reasons I’ve found, as well as my translation of those reasons.

Polanski is a charming, intelligent man – We should only arrest scary-looking, deranged rapists, preferably the dirty homeless types.  Bonus points if they’re a racial minority.  Arresting “nice guys” forces us to consider that many rapists do appear charming, intelligent … even normal!  This disturbs our simple view of the world and makes us uncomfortable, so please cease at once.

The victim’s mother pushed the child at Polanski – He shouldn’t be blamed because men are helpless to resist a 13-year-old girl.  Remember, rape is always the fault of the women!  If we can’t blame the victim, we’ll blame her mother.  Even when that girl is saying “No,” and trying to get away, men are helpless to control our urges–the male penis forces us to drug and rape the girl.

It was more than 30 years ago – Accountability comes with an expiration date, and if I can avoid taking responsibility for my actions for a certain period of time, I should be absolved of that responsibility.

The victim doesn’t want to put herself or her family through this ordeal anymore* – If I can intimidate my victim enough, I can get away with it!  Note: I have a great deal of sympathy for Polanski’s victim, and I’m torn about this one.  Polanski has been on the run for 32 years.  I’ve read commentary about how hard it’s been for him–he couldn’t even get his Oscar, he poor man.  But what about the survivor?  She’s also lived for 32 years with no closure, and wants to be done with it.  *My research might have fallen short on this point.  See this comment thread for clarification and further discussion.

He didn’t know she was thirteen – All girls should be required to tattoo their ages in a visible location in order to protect men from accidentally raping them.  Also, it would have been perfectly okay for him to drug and rape her if she had been sixteen.

Nobody would even care about this case if Polanski weren’t famous – Who cares about rape anyway?

Sadly, there’s some truth to this last one.  According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women will be raped in her lifetime.  (My sense is that the numbers are even higher.)  Yet only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.  As a society, we don’t care.  At least, we don’t care enough.

Caption Contest

• Only one week until the official release of The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]!  Eep.  (And if you’ve been thinking about posting a review of Stepsister Scheme, might I humbly suggest that this would be a perfect time?)

• Congrats to Harry Connolly (burger_eater) on the release of his debut novel Child of Fire [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], which comes out today.  Read the first chapter on his web site here, or check out Sherwood Smith’s interview with Connolly.

• Thank you to everyone who offered suggestions yesterday about bleeping out certain parts of my reading.  At this point, I’m thinking either the cardboard speech bubble or a squeaky rubber duck, depending in part on whether or not I can find a suitable duck.

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Steve Buchheit took one look at the picture below and offered up the following:

“What, no new goblin book this year? You have failed me for the last time, Hines.”

“You are part of the Princess Alliance and a goblin sympathizer. Take him away!”

This has inspired me to run a caption contest.  Keeping it PG-13 or better, post a caption in the comments below no later than Friday, October 2.  On Saturday, I’ll pick my favorites and put them up for a vote.  The winner will receive a signed copy of one of my books — your pick.

Have fun!

Diabetes Details 4: Embarrassing Pump Mishaps

Help please!  I need a small device I can use to make the “bleep” sound of censored swearing.  I’m hoping to do a reading of “The Creature in Your Neighborhood” at my book launch next week, but there’s one scene that wouldn’t be appropriate without the bleeping.  Any ideas on a device that might work?

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I debated whether to share this one, but I decided what the heck.  My ego can take it, and everyone can use a laugh on Monday mornings, right?

My insulin pump is a pager-sized device which contains a plastic vial of insulin.  It sends out a low base dose of insulin, and I can program it to deliver more as needed for meals and adjustments.  That vial is connected to a tube, which goes to a small catheter in the belly (or wherever else you stick it.)

Photo from Minimed (this is not Jim’s belly):

I use the 43″ tubing, which gives me plenty of … um … maneuvering room when changing clothes, etc.  Extra tubing gets tucked in, and life is good about 98% of the time.

Last week I had a 2% night.  I was getting changed for bed, and the tubing got tangled with my pants.  I didn’t realize this until it was too late, and the pants/tubing mess was tugging the catheter and sticker on my belly.

I couldn’t straighten up without ripping the catheter out.  (And there’s a sentence you don’t read every day.)  I tried to yank the pants back up, but they were binding my knees, and I started to fall.

Graceful as ever, I turned the fall into a hop.  My other foot came down square on the edge of the laundry basket, wrenching my little toe.  At this point, some primitive self-preservation instinct in my brain screamed Just surrender to the inevitable before you destroy half the bedroom hopping about like a one-legged kangaroo on an LSD trip!

I fell.  There was an earth-shattering kaboom.  My wife rushed out thinking … okay, I don’t know what she was thinking as she saw me sprawled on the floor, pants at the ankles, rugburn on one knee, still doubled over to protect the pump tubing, and clutching my throbbing toe.  I don’t want to know.  At least she was kind enough not to laugh too hard after she saw I was okay.

Grace?  Dignity?  I used to have these things, once upon a time.

This is the sort of thing they don’t warn you about when they’re teaching you how to use your insulin pump.

Friday Wrapup, with LOL Book

Seanan McGuire (of Rosemary and Rue fame) has drawn a nifty promo piece for The Mermaid’s MadnessClick here to see her pretty little dead ghoul mermaid in all her glory.

• Tomorrow (9/26) from 11 am – 7 pm I’ll be at the Durand Fantasy Expo.  Details available on the Facebook page or on MySpace.  Lots of nifty guests lined up.

• I’ve heard from three separate sources now that Mermaid is on the shelves at some Borders stores.  Woo!  (I’d still call ahead though, just to make sure.)

• Finally, Elizabeth Bear unveiled the cover of her forthcoming book Bone and Jewel Creatures.  I like this cover an awful lot, and decided to express my appreciation in LOL form.  (For newcomers, the entire LOL Book series is available in my LJ archives, if you’re interested.)  Enjoy!

Depression at SF Novelists

I’m off to Durand today for a news interview in preparation for the Fantasy Expo on Saturday.  Today was also my day for blogging at SF Novelists.  So if I’ve set things up properly, you should be able to click on over and read my post about depression as a writer.

Or you can stick around and admire LEGO Wall*E, built by corran-101.  Click the pic for the full set.

Slush Reading, Seuss Style

Slush I Read
by Jim C. Hines

(Apologies to Seuss)

I read slush.
Slush I read.

That slush I read.
That slush I read!
I do not like that slush I read.

Do you like fanfic with vamps?

I do not like them Mary Sue.
Why do these vamps all worship you?

Here’s a tale from D & D!

I do not want your D & D.
I do not like your elf PC.
I can not stand your purple prose.
I want to punch you in the nose!

Would you like a hot sex scene?
I wrote it for my online ‘zine!

I do not like your pervy tale.
Your metaphors make readers pale.
Your paragraphs are pages long.
Your bad sex scene is oh so wrong!
Can people do that with their lips???
I do not like your manuscripts.

This one is in Comic Sans!
My parents are my biggest fans.

That evil font we do not want!
My aching eyes, my weary sighs.
Why can’t you get the format right?
We post our guidelines in plain sight!
I will not read your 8-point type.
I want to bash you with a pipe!

Would you read this in the loo?
Let me slide it right to you!

I would not, could not, while I poo!

You just hate me ’cause I’m new!
I’m too original for you!

Too original you say?
This book is one absurd cliché!
It should not see the light of day.

I do not like your Mary Sues.
I do not like your crackhead muse.
Eve and Adam, Star Trek slash,
Tolkien ripoffs, pointless trash,
Prologues forty pages long,
Spelling every third word wrong.
I do not want to read this slush.
It’s all too much, my brain is mush!

Just one more story for today.
Soon I’ll clear this slush away.
No more vampires, I pray.

Wait–
This cover letter’s brief.
The format’s clean.  What a relief!

Say!
This story from the slush.
This story gives me such a rush.
These pages have a brilliant hook.
I want to read it in a book!
The wordcraft makes me start to swoon.
Is that the end? It came too soon!
I read it one time, two times, three!
It is so good, so good you see!

So I will read the slush again.
And wade through drafts by Twilight fen.
And I will read the pointless plots,
And tales of busty blonde sexbots.
And I will read your pissed off mail.
And I will read it without fail.
Yes I will read slush by the bale
So I can find that next great tale.

Arr! Google Update Ahoy!

“The proposed settlement gives Google rights to scan and provide online access to millions of books, many of which are out-of-print or otherwise not commercially available.”  (Note that out-of-print =/= public domain.)

“The Settlement Agreement uses the term Commercially Available, which generally means that a Book is in-print. If a Book is not Commercially Available, that means, in general, that it is Out-of-Print. Google is authorized to make Display Uses and Non-Display Uses of each Book that is not Commercially Available for the term of the U.S. copyright for that Book UNLESS the Rightsholder directs Google not to do so or directs Google to remove the Book.”

The latest twist: “Google’s book project has scanned and digitised millions of out-of-print books and made them searchable online as digital files. Now, it’s enabling web users to make old-fashioned, bound hard copies of these hard-to-find books using a new high-speed, on-demand printer called the Espresso.”

ETA: “And On Demand Books, the Espresso’s maker, potentially could get access to even more hard-to-find books if Google wins court approval of a class-action settlement giving it the right to sell out-of-print books.”

What?  Isn’t this Talk Like a Pirate Day?

Enough of that. Off with ye, me hearties, and go enjoy the pirate ditty Talk Like a Pirate Day (MP3) by Tom Smith!

Bechdel Testing

Hey, guess what showed up in a big ol’ Fed Ex box yesterday.  I’ll give you a hint–it wasn’t The Tick 🙂

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Because it came up in the comments yesterday Tuesday, I thought I’d talk a little about the Bechdel Test.  For those of you unfamiliar with the test, check out the Wikipedia link.  In brief, a story has to meet the following three requirements to pass the test:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man.

The Angry Black Woman posted a modified version regarding race:

  1. It has to have at least two people of color in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a white person.

The first time I saw these, my first reaction was of course to apply them to my own books.  The goblin trilogy is iffy on the first test.  Book one fails, but then we get Grell, Golaka, Kralk, Billa, and we start to fare a little better.  The female characters are definitely in the minority though, and I’d have to go back and check to see how much they talk to one another as opposed to being all about the men.

In terms of race?  Not a clue how to apply it to the goblins, since few of my characters in this series are human.  On the other hand, the actual humans, dwarves, and elves were all white.  Why?  There’s no deliberate reason; I just defaulted to white when I wrote the books.

The princess series fares better, passing the original test with flying colors.  When it comes to race though, that’s a little different.  Of the three heroines, Talia is the only non-white character.  It’s not until book three that the books pass the racial test.

I’m not aware of anyone saying every story has to pass the tests.  We’re not talking about quotas, and I swear to Cthulhu I’ll loose the goblins on the first one to raise that strawman.

The point, at least for me, is how few stories actually pass these tests.  Because we default to what’s easy or familiar, or what we’re used to reading and writing.  Why did Darnak the dwarf have to be white and male?  Why is Talia the only non-white servant I’ve described working in the palace?  Did I think about the politics and racial atmosphere in Lorindar and make a conscious decision to minimize non-white characters, or was I just lazy?

Most of the time, I don’t think it’s a conscious choice.  I know I don’t always see the trends in my own writing until I deliberately stop and look back at my work.  The Bechdel tests are one way to do that.

Remember IDIC from Star Trek?  (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, for those of you whose geek-fu is not as strong.)  It’s not about quotas or satisfying the PC police.  It’s about telling better stories.  Because defaulting our stories to a single narrow slice of reality, limiting what we write and read to tales of Straight White Men, is simply illogical.

Jim C. Hines