Monthly Archives: September 2012

10 Inspirational Disabled Characters From Sci-Fi And Fantasy

29 September 2012

From SFX:

SFX honours 10 disabled sci-fi and fantasy characters who don’t let disability stand in the way of achieving their goals.

We’ve also concentrated on characters who truly have to cope with their disabilities. Losing limbs and having them replaced by superior cyborg parts (the Six Million Dollar Man, variousStar Wars characters) is tragic, but the fact that the characters in question can get along pretty much as before (sometimes better) hardly feels like a real struggle against adversity. And yes, Dark Angel fans, we did consider Logan and his wheelchair, and he almost made the cut, but we felt his constant whinging about his situation wasn’t particularly “inspiring”.

. . . .

Gary Bell


Disability: Autism

Played with commendable dedication by Ryan Cartwright – it can’t be easy to act without looking any of your co-stars in the eye – Gary is the genius at the heart of Syfy show Alphas. He’s what the show refers to as a “transducer”, or “human antennae”, which is a fancy way of saying that he can see and feel electrical signals in the air around him and tap into them. This comes in very handy when you need to trace a phone call or use CCTV to find someone. The show’s FX team has also come up with some rather lovely effects to show us how he sees, with data streams forming beautiful patterns in the air as Gary plucks at them. Pretty cool.

Of course, some may object to the notion, propagated by films like Rain Man, that all autistic people are geniuses who have what amount to superpowers compared to the rest of the population (Gary’s powers are obviously a little more super than most…). There’s a similar character in Kiefer Sutherland’s new show Touch, a young boy who can interpret numbers and predict the future (again, another acting masterclass from David Mazouz, who can’t look anybody in the eye or even speak, except in voiceover mode). While it’s true that some autistic people can do extraordinary things, most are merely separated from the rest of us by a condition which locks them into themselves. Many would never function as well as Gary does.

Alphas doesn’t shy away from the fact that autism makes sufferers difficult to socialise with: Gary can’t relate to people properly, fails to understand certain emotions, and doesn’t think about how his words affect people. When it comes down it, though, he’s mainly just a computer nerd who’s been given powers that transcend his keyboard. Not a bad skill to have.

. . . .

Tyrion Lannister

Game Of Thrones

Disability: Dwarfism

The insults thrown at Tyrion Lannister in both the books and the TV show Game Of Thrones are, sadly, a reflection of what many dwarfs in our real world have to go through (although Tyrion, being a contrary sort, takes one of these insults – “Imp” – and makes it his own). And so there’s a lot to be said for the fact that Tyrion has emerged to become the most popular character in the series, with Peter Dinklage deservedly nabbing an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for his performance in season one of HBO’s show.

Focusing mainly on the TV series here in case you haven’t read the books (no spoilers!), Tyrion has become the breakout character for two reasons. Firstly, his size, which automatically sets him apart from the rest of the cast… and pretty much everybody else on television, too. There’s not much serious work out there for actors like Dinklage, with only a lucky few (Warwick Davis is the best example) getting enough work and recognition to make a mark.

After a career spent steadfastly refusing to play roles that he thinks are demeaning to dwarfs (you can read him discussing this, and other things, in this excellent New York Times interview, Dinklage hit the motherlode with Game Of Thrones thanks to the fact that Tyrion is a fantastic character first and a dwarf second.

Of course his size is an important part of what makes him Tyrion, but he’s so much more: clever, sardonic, scheming, sexy and vulnerable. Tyrion is not “just” a dwarf: he’s one of the best characters on TV right now. And it’s made Dinklage a star. “They’re somewhat expecting Tyrion, you know?” he says, about attending fan events for the show. “I mean, they like me, but they just kind of want me to say my favourite lines and stuff… He’s a great character to hide behind. He’s a large personality.”

Link to the rest at SFX

YA Books Ratings and Publisher Arrogance (shh, it’s about the $$)

29 September 2012

From author John Brown:

I wish I could talk to a publisher about this. I should talk to a Barnes & Noble corporate book buyer. But since I don’t have one handy, I’ll discuss it with you folks. Maybe I’m up in the night? You tell me.

Here’s the deal. My wife is 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher. My wife is also a mom who loves books and wants her girls to read until their eyes bong out of their heads.

So we go to find books for her students and for our girls and, jeez, wouldn’t you know it, but this YA book features masturbation and that one features lots of fine words like F*** and S*** and this one is about giving the guys a blow job (tee, hee, hee).

Yeah, I know about YA saves. This isn’t about banning this or that content.

It’s about the fact that I’m a parent. And, geez, I have a certain way I want to raise my kids. My wife is a teacher who needs to provide books to her students that aren’t going to piss some parent off. Why? Because she’s providing a service to that parent. Because she wants to keep her job. And because it’s her job to help parents improve their kid’s reading ability not tell them how to raise a family.

So why in the Sam Hill can’t publishers rate their books?

. . . .

Well, here’s one answer I was given by a writer friend I respect.

Everyone in the industry is really pushing back against the idea of a rating system. Let me see if I can explain why.

A friend of mine, ZZ [name removed], is the nicest person in the world. Volunteered for years at a prison to help people learn to express themselves by writing. Her older brother was a closeted homosexual for years, contracted AIDS, died too young. She wrote a book recently called [title removed], about a family in the restaurant business (as hers was) who have a “late” baby and the problems it causes for the older teens, one of whom is coming out as gay. It’s a soft, quite, sad, moving book. And it would be part of the “rating” system and banned from a bunch of schools. ZZ also wrote a book a few years ago about teenage pregnancy. Also beautifully written, kind, compassionate. But it would get tagged by schools as “inappropriate.” ZZ feels strongly that there are kids out there who need books, kids in your wife’s school system who need to be told they are not alone.

I don’t see any way to have a system that distinguishes between books that I see as anchors to kids who need help and those books which I see as genuinely offensive and encouraging bad teen behavior by glorifying it. The only system I know is me recommending the best books I see. And I’d much rather see librarians and school teachers go through books on a case by case basis, deciding whether they personally think it fits the values in their community than to have someone else not attached to the community do the same thing.

Uh huh.

If this is accurate, it shows the industry’s stunning lack of creativity AND arrogance. Because if publishers really were listening to parents, they could come up with a solution.

Link to the rest at John Brown and thanks to Heather for the tip.

Moby Dick – Live on the Web

29 September 2012

One chapter per day read by a different person and accompanied by an original work of art.

Moby Dick Big Read

Librarian Patience Has Run out on E-Book Lending Issues

28 September 2012

From Digital Book World:

Patience has run out for librarians around the unsolved issue of e-book lending at libraries, according to American Library Association president Maureen Sullivan.

Speaking at a private gathering of publishers organized by the Association of American Publishers, Sullivan was explaining why earlier this week the ALA sent a strongly worded open letter to publishers about the need to figure out way for publishers to sell libraries e-books for “equitable use at a reasonable price.”

Later in the week, the AAP sent its own letter in response to the ALA letter, citing anti-trust concerns and other reasons for a lack of collective publisher action and criticizing the ALA’s letter in light of the private audience the association would have the AAP’s New York offices on 5th Avenue later that week.

. . . .

An executive from Perseus Book Group who did not identify herself said, “our executives are confused as to what is a library?” She cited concerns that the free and wide availability of e-books to library patrons could undercut publisher business.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG is deeply impressed by the commitment of Big Publishing to scrupulously observing antitrust law. He is less dazzled by executive confusion about libraries.

There’s always something new to learn in the fast-moving world of publishing.

Jess drew the way some people drank whiskey

28 September 2012

Jess drew the way some people drank whiskey. The peace would start at the top of his muddled brain and seep down through his tired and tensed-up body. Lord, he loved to draw. Animals, mostly. Not regular animals like Miss Bessie and the chickens, but crazy animals with problems—for some reason he liked to put his beasts into impossible fixes…

He would like to show his drawings to his dad, but he didn’t dare. When he was in first grade, he told his father than he wanted to be an artist when he grew up. He’d thought he would be pleased. He wasn’t. ‘What are they teaching in that damn school?’ he had asked. ‘Bunch of old ladies turning my son into some kind of a—’ He had stopped on the word, but Jess had gotten the message. It was one you didn’t forget, even after four years.

Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia

Big Book Publishers Not Innovating Fast Enough

28 September 2012

From PBS MediaShift:

When I saw Jason Ashlock take part in a panel on the future of book publishing at the Aspen Summer Words conference a few months ago, I immediately noticed something different about him: He lacked that black cloud of doom floating over his head that many people involved in the book industry tend to cower under these days.

Ashlock, who makes his living as a literary agent and multimedia book packager, was downright chipper even as he discussed the demise of bookstores, book reviews, and the traditional publishing model. Why is he so upbeat? Instead of worrying about what’s been lost, he focuses on capitalizing on the new enthusiasm among readers that the advent of e-books has created.

. . . .

Many publishers and bookstores have suffered financial losses in recent years, but on the other hand, readers have embraced e-books and some studies show that people who own e-readers are reading more than ever before. Are you optimistic that readers’ enthusiasm for e-books will translate into new sources of revenue?

Jason Ashlock: I have the luxury of being optimistic because my position in publishing is as close as you can get to the author, and that’s the best place to be. The anxiety that big publishers, bookstores, and other traditional players in the value chain feel is due to myriad factors, economic and cultural, but the truth is, the farther you stand from the author, the more danger you’re in. The author’s all that matters now — the author and the reader. Everybody in the middle is in a period of redefinition.

My job is to lock arms with the author, help them craft outstanding stories, and help them find their way to the readers who right now are craving those stories — even if they don’t know it yet. It’s a great time to be an author and a reader. It’s not as great a time to be anyone else. If you’re a reader, there’s more great content than ever, it’s more accessible than ever, it’s better priced than ever. If you’re an author, you have more venues than ever, more control than ever, more access to powerful technology, more direct relationships with readers.

. . . .

You said the author’s “biggest enemy today is not piracy, but obscurity.” Is anyone stepping up to fulfill the curatorial role that book reviews and booksellers used to play?

Ashlock: The void is being filled in an ad hoc manner by a mixture of online community recommendations, such as book clubs and newsletters and social media, and the ever-inaccurate online reviews. But these aren’t sufficient for most readers. The transition out of the bookstore and review tradition is a difficult one, and curation and discovery is still in a state of disorientation.

I’m glad you ask that question in that way, because it’s for this very reason we’re launching this fall. In short, The Rogue Reader is a digital publishing channel for outstanding suspense fiction. We select only the very best new voices in the category and introduce only one author a month to our readers. That’s it. We call it precision-curation. We help that one author produce elegant e-books, beautifully designed and carefully edited, and we position their novels in the market in very strategic ways.

We believe there is exceptional value in quality curation. The signal-to-noise ratio on the web is immense. How do we know what to pay attention to? What’s of value? What’s worth my time?

Theoretically, what publishers do is up the signal strength by their brand. For authors, publishers offer the sense of being selected. Authors know when they’re published by, say, Random House, that they have been chosen from among thousands of prospects. And readers know when they pick up a Random House book that professional book people have selected these as the works that should be attended to.

But increasingly, the self-publishing community is producing works of arguably equal quality that are just as popular and appealing. Last week, 27 out of the top 100 books on Amazon were independently published. But among the millions of self-published books –which were not curated, and went through no filtering — how do we know what to read? We rely upon trusted voices: recommendations of friends, buzz on social media, even very impersonal and regularly useless systems like how many stars a given book averages in a retail channel.

Link to the rest at PBS MediaShift and thanks to James for the tip.

An Interview with William Gibson

28 September 2012

From io9:

What is the novel for? How do we deal with living in such a futuristic time, without getting future shock? Do novelists have a duty to provide optimism about science and the future? We sat down with William Gibson, for a half-hour discussion about writing and the role of science fiction in society. And here’s what he told us.

. . . .

One of the things that a number of science fiction writers have been thinking about lately – partly, I think, spurred by Neal Stephenson’s ideas about writing optimistic science fiction – has been trying to create works that are self-consciously encouraging people to think about the future in constructive or positive ways, and I can tell from your eye rolling that you’re like, “How could you?” Do you ever think about that?

Well actually, in spite of my eye rolling, I always thought — I thought when I wrote Neuromancer — that I was doing this ludicrously optimistic science fictional thing, because when I wrote Neuromancer, anyone with half a brain woke up every day with consciousness that they could be humanity’s last day. Everybody you knew was going on in the world, and just took that for granted. Because the US and the USSR were sitting there with umpty-billion nukes pointed at each other, and actual live humans with the controllers watching radar screens, I mean, Tiptree’s (11:58) last couple of years, her letters are filled with this terrible grinding resignation she and all of her friends in the CIA felt at the impending end of the world.

So, my childhood was very colored by that stuff, and it was still going on in 1981 when I started publishing fiction, and there didn’t really seem to be any end in sight. The drying up and blowing away of the Soviet Union wasn’t in sight yet, and so the world of the future of Neuromancer was, in those early short stories, was to some very real extent created to depict a world that had a little bit of a nuclear war, and something had happened, probably the corporations probably just said “No wait, we’re not making any money, you can’t do that anymore.”

. . . .

So, it sounds like you feel that writing about a future where humans are still around is itself a kind of optimism, basically.

Yeah. Well, I think it is. I really think, yeah, I really think it is. I don’t know, I’m a little uncomfortable the idea of the novelist as a vehicle for boosterism. Or the novel as a vehicle for boosterism, because my idea of what good novels do is to kinda go out and read the signs, and come back and make something in their image, and the idea is, the signs aren’t always very good, and lately they’re kind of wildly un-good. But we never know. I mean, the nuclear wasteland of my childhood never happened, in spite of it having been this terribly real emotional place.

Link to the rest at io9

Formatting problems with J.K. Rowling’s latest novel

28 September 2012

From TeleRead:

J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel hit stores (and e-book readers) today, and almost immediately, the lukewarm reviews trickled in—not for the content of the book itself, but for the Kindle formatting: a glitch on the tech end . . .  made it impossible for Kindle readers to adjust the font size to their preference. You had to read it in either Really Big or Teeny Tiny, with no in between.

Curiously mixed in with these complaints was an outcry over the e-book price: $17.99, based on a discount off the $35 hardcover retail sticker. The book is coming out in that strange little window where agency pricing has been discontinued, but new contracts with the retailers haven’t yet been worked out, so Amazon and all the other usual suspects can’t discount this title as steeply as they might want to.

. . . .

It seemed especially unfair to have to pay so steeply for a book that wasn’t even done right. Even those who may have tolerated the occasional typo in the past were beating the drum of complaint, and the song seemed to be this: For $17.99, publishers, you’dbetter get it right …

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Don’t indie authors check their ebook files before they put them on sale? PG does that for Mrs. PG’s books.

Yesterday, Hachette released the following statement:

Yesterday the eBook file for The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling was released to all U.S. eBook retailers. There were issues with that file, including the adjustability of font color and size and adjustability of margins. As soon as Hachette was made aware of these issues, a replacement file was uploaded to all eBook retailers. Hachette has requested that each retailer contact their customers directly about reloading their eBook. Any consumer who purchased the eBook on Thursday, September 27, before approximately 3:00pm ET, who has not heard from their retailer, should contact them and request that their eBook be reloaded. No consumer should have to repurchase the eBook.


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