Camp Necon and the dog days of summer

These jellyfish were very photogenic.
These jellyfish were very photogenic.

This blog has been sleeping for a little while. I wrote a long post a few days ago but finally had to admit it was too incoherent and meandering so that’s not going to see the light of day. Perhaps I’ll revise it at some point once I try to figure out what point I was trying to make.

I’ve actually been really busy in the last couple weeks, doing summery things like going to the New England Aquarium for my birthday and going to Cape Cod with some friends at their timeshare and saying goodbye to a friend who’s decided to strike out west and find her fortune there. Oh, and I went to Camp Necon, the Northeastern Writers’ Conference. I don’t know why the “wri” is silent in that acronym. Let’s talk about that for a bit.

She died as she lived
She died as she lived

Camp Necon is a very tiny conference mainly focused on horror writing, with shades of speculative fiction thrown in. This year’s guests of honor were Chuck Wendig and Seanan McGuire, who are two of my favorite authors, and since it was close by I decided to commute in every day and attend panels. I went with R.K. Bentley, who’s the head of my writing group and is also local. We were two of only a handful of newbies there, and everyone was very welcoming. The con has been going on for 35 years now and most of the people there attend every year, so it’s very close-knit. I can see why they want to keep their registration capped at 200. It’s more of a gathering of friends than a conference. Still, there were interesting panels and it was tiny enough that I got a chance to talk briefly with both GoHs, so that made my weekend.

The con left me with a massive pile of books to read, more on my list to buy, and a lot of motivation to write darker fantasy. With the pile of books I’ve already borrowed from Rob, and the stuff on my Kindle, I have my next few months booked (heh heh get it) solid. Better get to work. (Just kidding, I’m totally going to play Borderlands).

These are just the books I got on day 1.
These are just the books I got on day 1.

Oh and I booked my excursions today for the Writing Excuses cruise in September. I can’t wait!

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See You Next Tuesday

Decorative Gourd seasonThere’s been some discussion today about a new app called Clean Reader, which will allow you to read your favorite ebooks with the profanity edited out. Not surprisingly, some authors are vehemently against the idea, seeing it as, at best, censorship of their work, and at worst, unlawful editing of a copyrighted text. Others point out that the app doesn’t actually change the text in any way; it simply blanks out the offending word, and the app user has the choice to read the uncensored book if they want. The Clean Reader blog says that customers, having paid for a book, should be allowed to consume it however they want.

It reminds me of the controversy a few years back when an Alabama publishing company decided to replace the n-word with ‘slave’ in their reprint of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The publishing company argued that some people can’t get past the word in order to grapple with the actual issues of the story, and their edition allowed more schools to add the books to their summer reading lists. Critics pointed out that making the book more palatable was missing the point. Pretending people didn’t use that word meant ignoring the very reason the word is considered harmful today.

It’s twee to say that good writers don’t need to use profanity, or that clean writing is quality writing. Authors use words for specific effects, and the words people use can tell a lot about character and setting and class. Anyone who has seen movies edited for television can understand the comical effect that the sanitized language can have on a story. Words are tools to be used, and there are some effects that can only be achieved with the use of profanity.

On the other hand, I can see good reason why people should be allowed to convert the media they consume into a more accessible format. Many video games have colorblind mode for gamers who wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the default colors of the game. Visually impaired movie viewers can watch movies with audio description tracks that sometimes change dialogue. Abridging stories for audiobook is a common practice. Publishers translate books into other languages to make them available to larger audiences. The Harry Potter series was edited to make it less British for American readers.

A dislike of profanity doesn’t exactly constitute a disability, but I can appreciate that some people have a far greater distaste for dirty words than I do. If they prefer to read bowdlerized versions of their favorite books, even knowing that the edited content might be inferior or even incomprehensible, then that’s their choice. Perhaps Clean Reader should allow authors to opt out of having their text available, and let readers read the rest however they like.

Further reading:
Joanne Harris’s post, “An Email from Clean Reader
Chuck Wendig’s post, “Fuck You, Clean Reader: Authorial Consent Matters

A list of unrelated things

In no particular order:

It’s been a slow, lazy summer for me. I went on vacation a couple weeks ago and read John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. Both very good books in very different ways. The Windup Girl has breathtaking worldbuilding and is the book I would write if I were smarter. He has joined China Miéville as my favorite go-to author for mouth-watering worldbuilding.

Related to my previous blog post: A few days ago I saw this great article on Pacific Rim and the “Mako Mori Test”. It had a lot of the same problems with the film that I did, but was a lot more eloquent about it. One of the links in that is this article on why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test. Both articles bring up really good points, and I strongly recommend them.

Chuck Wendig posted about how he’s started jogging, partly inspired by this Oatmeal comic. I’ve been jogging on and off for the past two years (mostly off at the moment because I have done very little of ANYTHING this summer). It’s something I never thought I’d enjoy when I was younger, since I have asthma and considered the mile run in high school to be the worst torture imaginable. Ironically I could run a much faster mile then than I could ever manage now, but for some reason when I run now I actually find it enjoyable. I’m slow, yes, and still pretty out of shape, but running makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something, even if I’m not.

I noticed the other day that my bookshelves are packed with books I’ve never read. I think I might make it my goal this fall to start plowing through them. Maybe a couple books a month? Maybe I’ll review them here? We’ll see how that goes.

Thus ends the unrelated list of things.