Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Self-Published Porn Flap

This probably didn't hit the national news. It might have barely made it to the major newspapers. But the author world seems to have risen up in indignation at decisions made by some publishers to stop carrying self-published books. Those publishers have done so in a knee-jerk reaction to complaints about porn.

I don't know for sure where or how it started, but apparently some self-publishers of print smut were disguising their work by giving innocuous titles, descriptions, and meta data. I suppose, if you were a reader of these things, you would recognized the veiled descriptions and know the book was for you, but if you didn't read these and were searching for something else you might accidentally buy a porn book. Such terms as "daddy" would alert the smut buyer it's about incest, but not alert other buyers it wasn't about an innocent family situation. Of course, that must also mean those innocent buyers didn't access or read the "look inside" sample.

Some publisher, maybe W.H. Smith in England, took all self-published books down from their web site while they sorted it out. WHS was not the publisher of these books, but they sold them on their book retailing site. I guess Kobo also did this in the USA. Self-publishers were understandably upset. Kobo's reaction was the most extreme, as they took every self-published book down until they could find the ones that violated their terms of service.

Since I don't check the websites of all book distributors to see if they have my books for sale, I never would have known about this without the uproar in the self-published authors blogosphere. For the record, I support the concept that these e-retailers can refuse to sell any book they want. They have no obligation to carry a book that is against their terms of service or business model.

But oh the uproar! How could they do this, delete books just because they had disguised smut that might end up on the e-readers of children? Some Facebook writer acquaintance linked to a petition about this, except the petition was aimed at Amazon, because apparently Amazon doesn't allow a whole lot of that in their e-store to begin with. I didn't copy the petition, unfortunately, and don't believe I could get back to the two-week old FB link. I started writing something about this at the time, looking at the petition and the comments from those who signed it. Here's what I wrote.

That "petition" is laughable. Amazon is just a retailer that makes decisions on what products to carry. They choose not to carry a certain kind of book. So what? Buy it somewhere else.

The comment son that thread are also ridiculous. "Who gives anyone the right to tell me what I can and cannot read?" and "I don't want anyone to tell me what I can or cannot read." Hello, people! That's not what Amazon is doing. Read whatever you want to. They just aren't selling what you want to read. And why, if you don't want anyone to tell you what you can read, do you think you can tell anyone what they have to sell?

Reading that now, I'm remembering that the petition accused Amazon of censorship. Never mind that Amazon isn't the government, it's a private company. Never mind that they aren't suppressing publishing, since so many venues exist where you can publish with no restrictions. Never mind that Amazon has had this policy in place for a long time, and that it was other retailers who had caused the recent flap. The Passive Guy calls this "Amazon Derangement Syndrome", and the people who created and signed this petition and commented on it sure had it.

How laughable that those who don't want to be told what to do (not that Amazon was doing that) are fine telling Amazon and other e-retailers what they must do. Unbelievable.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Next Generation

I was part of a recent "dust-up" at a political group on Facebook. These are all conservative people on the site. It's name is Conservative Arkansas. Yet, I posted something that bothered some people. I posted something about my theory that my own generation, the Baby Boomers, is in large measure depending on the government to fund their retirement through Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obama Care). I called us "The Candy Store Generation" after my book of that title.

Well, that got people really riled. I knew what I wrote was a little provocative, but I was unprepared for what some people posted. Here's what I first posted and what some others said in response.

Me: He's [a person referenced in an Internet news article] a baby boomer, a member of the Candy Store Generation. Most of them will expect to have their health care paid by O.P.M.—other people's money.

Another: David have the market on a special kind of ignorance to make a remark as you did.

Another: David Todd is one kind of Special Ignorant Libtard Retard!

Another: David Todd, You must have grown up in neighborhoods of wealthy people.

Another: David Todd, you are sweeping with too wide a broom when you say most.

Another: VERY STRANGE RESEARCH. I've traveled the country managing 10,000 units of apartments from getto to upper end and never recall a conversation with a boomer that thinks the way you say. I suspect your reading liberal propaganda and/or talking direct with northerners who for the most part are twisted liberals

Another: David Todd does not know what he is even talking about!!!

Another: Pure puked up propaganda.

Another: It seems like Mr Todd has been bitten by the BarryBug. Fearsome little critter that has an obscene way of making one believe the most horrendous tales.

Another: Obama wasn't elected by Boomers. He was elected by bullshiting the young know-it-all Young people that live in the Give-Me Society-CHILDREN if the Boomers, combined with Low-Information Voters with challenged IQ's, voter fraud and the Black Vote that didn't care if he was the X-Dictator of Kenya that was here seeking political asylum. The Silent Majority Boomers is why we have a partial conservative House. They WILL rise to take the senate & presidency unless Obama can create a big enough civil war, declare Martial Law & cancel the election in the name of national defense.

Sorry for the profanity in that last one; I'm just quoting it as written. All of these are as written, including any typos. Only two of these are the complete posts. And some are repeated people. These aren't nine different people, but probably just four, maybe five.

Two or three instructive items can be drawn from this. The most important one is how every generation venerates previous generations, never sees a problem with their generation, and runs down the next younger generation. I believe it's been that way forever. No doubt the generation that fought the civil war blamed the long depression in the 1880s on the younger generation. Those who came of age during Reconstruction probably thought those coming of age during the Ragtime of the 1890s were a bunch of blooming idiots. They in turn would have misunderstood the era of good feeling leading up to WW1 and those who were euphoric about it.

Then, those who were adults before WW1 thought the "kids" of the Roaring 20s were profligates and reprobates. Eventually those who lived through the Great Depression and who fought and won WW2 thought the next generation were spoiled brats who were good for nothing. But wait, that would be...the Baby Boomers. Yes, the so-called Greatest Generation, who were our parents and grandparents, who raised and mentored us, saw us as a bunch of druggies, hippies, free-love freeloaders.

Now, on this conservative political site, those same people can't see that everyone in their generation isn't like they are, that a majority of Boomers have their hands in the candy store and are more than willing to use other people's money to fund their retirement. I used that understanding of the Boomers, bolstered by research and statistics, to make an analysis of the electorate as a whole and a prediction of the 2012 elections. And I got it exactly right on the presidency and the House, though was off some on the Senate. When I pointed that out in the thread, one man responded, "Yeah, we really should have seen the election coming, but didn't. As much as I rant and rave, I do still think people are, for the most part, smart enough to do things right. Obviously mistaken."

So, my analysis caused me to make an accurate prediction, while others predicted the election with their hearts instead of their heads. That makes me a libtard retard.

Obviously this isn't a site I should stick around. I don't see them as convincing 70 million people that there's a better way to run a country. They're preaching to themselves, driving away anyone who even slightly disagrees with them, and doing a very bad job of it overall. C'est la vie.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Goodbye Tom Clancy

Yesterday afternoon I heard that Tom Clancy died. He was 66 years old, so fairly young relative to the normal American lifespan.

I first encountered Clancy's writing in the Spring of 1988. I had recently moved to Kuwait and was short of reading material. What was available in-country in English wasn't much to my liking. A man came from the U.S. on a temporary duty assignment. I saw that he carried a paperback book titled The Hunt for Red October. I hadn't heard about it, asked him for some info, and then borrowed it from him. I devoured it in two or three sittings in the evening in the hotel. It helped that the wife and kids were still in the States, waiting on family visas.

Red October was an eye-opener for me. I didn't rush right out and start to write books. But it was such a good book I think it spurred in me the notion "Boy, I'd love to write a book like that." At the same time the research that went into that—of military hardware, personnel, and tactics; of CIA operations; of diplomatic goings-on, both American and Russian—seemed daunting. I didn't know that any of it was correct, but it all seemed realistic. And fascinating.

Without knowing the correct term, I loved how Clancy worked in back story on various characters. We learned more about Jack Ryan's earlier years with each chapter. Toward the end of the book I was a scene where higher-ups in the CIA talked about extracting an agent from Russia, codename "Cardinal". He had passed important information that helped the U.S. deal with the Red October situation, and may have taken an inordinate risk to do so. Reading that scene I realized we had seen that character before. I hunted through the book, reading the first paragraph of a bunch of scenes until I found it. Sure enough we saw who I was sure was Cardinal talking with Russian bigwig and gaining the information that was eventually passed. Enough of his story was given to ID him. I asked the guy I borrowed the book from if he had realized that, and he said no.

Of course, until Cardinal of the Kremlin came out it was just an educated guess on my part. Turned out I was correct. That was skillful how Clancy developed that, and how he had set up the future book in the first book.

Eventually Clancy published Red Storm Rising and Clear and Present Danger, both of which I found as well written and entertaining as the first two. I've picked up a number of his books, mostly from remainders shelves and used book stores, but haven't gotten far in them. The Sum of All Fears is one I started. It looks good, but unfortunately life and other things have gotten in the way.

Clancy's writing has been panned by many. He doesn't write well, they say. He doesn't limit his adjectives and adverbs. He adds scenes dealing with everyday things. Randy Ingermansson, a mid-list novelist who gives writing and publishing advice to us who want to be published writers, has had some blog posts about how Clancy's writing isn't very good. I remember on post where he railed against Clancy for including donut eating in a scene. Ingermansson said it was unnecessary to the story. I haven't read that particular Clancy book. I would just say results speak, and suggest anyone compare the sales figures of Clancy and Ingermansson and see who should be critiquing whose writing.

I will miss Tom Clancy as a writer. The world of books is made poorer at his passing.