People who should know better

As the whole Cassie Edwards story pointed out, it is hard to be a plagiarist these days. Anyone with just a little suspicion can use the internet to correctly attribute just about anything, so it is a stupid, stupid, thing to do. The kind of thing you really only expect from people who never had the proper academic grounding, or a good English teacher flunking them for appropriating someone’s words. . .

Then again, if your English teacher was James Twitchell, I expect that flunking his students for plagiarism was not all that high on his priority list. Seems he’s owned up to plagiarizing sections of his book for Simon & Schuster, Shopping for God. (via GalleyCat)

In his own words (we hope):

It’s my responsibility to make sure that the words and ideas are my own and, if not, that they are properly credited. In many cases, I have not done this. […] I have used the words of others and not properly attributed them. I am always in a hurry to get past descriptions to make my points, a hurry that has now rightly resulted in much shame and embarrassment. I have cheated by using pieces of descriptions written by others.

Which is a fine mea culpa, except when you consider he’s been publishing since 1995 and initially blamed the lifting in the latest book on sloppy research even as earlier incidences in prior books came to light. Where have we heard that one before?

Latest videos I have found

Mixed bag today. This one is from the Smart Bitches, and is entitled the “Engineers Guide to Cats.”

Of course, that was nowhere near strange or disturbing enough to live up to some of the stuff I’ve posted before, so I will follow that up with some seriously WTF nightmare fuel. (From the Agony Booth) Bear in mind, you have been warned:

If you survived that, I beg of you, not to watch this (from the same thread as above):

Twinkle twinkle little star

ADDENDUM: Charlie Stross gets in on the act.

God do I love Scalzi’s posts sometimes. Before I get into details, I should point out the origin of this meme in the actions of one asshat extrordinaire, Deborah MacGillivray who engaged in gaming the review system, mobilizing internet stormtroopers to vote down and report negative reviews as abuse and, in the height of insanity, precipitated a pile-on victimizing a single poor reviewer who complained about her tactics, to the tune of collecting personal information, making threats and generally behaving like a stalker a few pages short of a copy of Catcher in the Rye. Punchline? The reviewer so abused had dared to post a three-star review.

Scalzi’s response to this insanity seemed highly appropriate and psychologically healthy. He posted a selection of his own one-star reviews, and provided the following challenge:

[…] [T]o other authors with blogs, LiveJournals and etc: Post your one-star (or otherwise negative) Amazon reviews, if you have them, and you probably do. Oh, go on. Own your one-star reviews, man. And then, you know. Get past them. If you’re lucky, some of them might actually be fun to read.

So, in solidarity with all sane authors who don’t hire a PI or a hitman when someone trashes their baby, I hereby present— free of hand-wringing, teeth gnashing or snarky commentary— a selection of my less than stellar Amazon reviews:

Dragons of the Cuyahoga

It’s a mystery with any real conclusions. It moves from accusations of one group to accusations of another. The conclusion of the book is not supported by any facts in the story. It was merely conclusions that could have been taken any number of ways.

The authors writing left something to be desired. The use of big words added nothing to the story and did nothing but slow me down. It was as if the author was trying to show off his intelligence.

The use of profanity was unnecessary. The use of profanity by characters added nothing to the character development. There was no point to having it in the book.

Finally the book has very little to do with dragons. The first dragon dies in the prologue and the only other dragon in the story adds nothing to the story line. The title of the book is misleading.

Forests of the Night

It’s sad to be excited about a book beacause of all the good reviews here on Amazon, and then to find it is filled with racial stereotypes. I suppose this book is fine for people of European descent, but people of color like myself might be put off by the use racial slurs like “Japs” and “wetbacks” which are used by the main character. Am I supposed to like this character? The dipiction of black people also left me saddened. This book wasn’t written in the 50’s, was it? And here I thought he was going to be using the concept of the moreau as a critique of rasicism as opposed to more of the same old, same old.


This book is not a new concept. Stephen King and Dean Koontz have written about telekinesis and evil organizations attempting to control and experiment upon those with telekinesis before. It’s not a crime not to start out with an original concept: authors do it all the time. But what Krane failed to do was to provide an original slant and original characters. I couldn’t look at any of the characters and think of someone they reminded me of or that one of them might be someone I’d like to meet. They weren’t believable. Especially not Chuck. What teenager talks like that? He was full of annoying anachronisms.

Omega Game

This is one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Very difficult for the reader to keep track of the twenty-odd characters in “The Game.” The characterizations are poor and no reason is given for the reader to care about these people. The plot is so tenuous and obscure that it is an effort to maintain interest. By the time you find out what has been happening and why – you just don’t give a d—. This writer knows very little about writing – at least in this genre – and I will not read anything else he writes. Save your time and money. If I could have rated it lower than one star, I would have.

Why DRM sucks

I am a writer, that means I make money off of my intellectual property.

This does not mean I like digital rights management in any way, shape, or form. Here is an object lesson why. I don’t even blame Microsoft for giving the finger to all their former MSN Music customers, because tying rights to a user’s hardware is an inherently untenable model. With any DRM scheme, you are telling the end user “buy content, buy content, buy content” at the same time saying, “but we’ll have to shitcan all the content when the hardware changes, we sell the company, or go bankrupt.” Do we want a world where a publisher can go under and people have legitimately owned content that just expires? Of course, the bean counters like the idea of the user buying it all over again, but how many users will tolerate that? Who’s willing to gamble their entire library on the chance that Kindle 2.0 won’t be backward compatible?

The economic goal here is not to squeeze the end user, it’s to make sure the content creator gets paid enough to continue creating the content. Metallica and Haraln Ellison may bitch and moan about their audience “stealing” their work, but unless they’re at the point they’re selling stuff out of their trunk, the end user ain’t who’s signing their checks, and books and CDs ain’t what they’re selling. They (and I, and most creative types) are selling the right to publish our creation to some other entity. As long as that entity makes money on the transaction, they will continue to buy Metallica’s songs and Mr. Ellison’s books. Royalties are just a mechanism of profit-sharing that’s essentially arbitrary— most writers get an advance against those royalties that’s negotiated as high as possible to get as much money as possible up front. So, ideally, you get paid a lump that hits a sweet spot that exceeds all the future royalties by just enough not to eat into the publisher’s profits so much they don’t want to buy the next book. DRM exists as an attempt to preserve the current economic model, not to serve the ultimate goal of that model. The goal is to make money on content, not to force people to pay for content, a subtle, but profound difference.

Frankly, if a publisher of mine can figure out how to turn a larger profit on my books by giving them away, assuming I share in that profit somehow, I’m ok with that.

The internet is a stupid place

I just caught two rather synchronous internet implosions in rather quick succession. Both are object lessons in how the internet doesn’t care what you really meant. The one implosion happened from a post on Tess Gerritsen’s blog that inspired a incredulous response on the Dear Author blog. Which is sort of where it should have ended, but the internet said “flame on” and it ended with a lot of ill will and hurt feelings. The other implosion is a little less sad, and more WTF. Apparently, feminists do not appreciateOpen Source Boobs” while Scalzi stands back and protects his personal space.

It strikes me that the victims both of these situations could have benefited from internalizing the following maxim: “The Internet has no context.” People will be offended, they will respond, and rarely, if ever, will you get a chance to explain the joke before it gets blown all out of proportion.

The NY Times covers election issues of substance

And then they cover this. (via Scalzi)

You know, I’m enough of a geek to actually be interested in fonts in and of themselves. But tying them into campaign coverage gives me a hefty dose of WTF.

And I give the irregular-weekly asshat award to Seymour Chwast who managed to turn font aesthetics into a partisan smackdown:

Optima is one of the worst pre-computer typefaces ever designed. It was created to satisfy everybody’s needs. A straightforward, no-nonsense, no-embellishment face, it comes in regular and bold but little character can be found in either weight.

Optima is not inappropriate for use by Senator McCain.

First lines

I wrote an earlier post about starting a story off, and today (via Lynn Viehl’s blog) I discovered the One Sentence website that “is about telling your story, briefly. Insignificant stories, everyday stories, or turning-point-in-your-life stories, boiled down to their bare essentials.” In other words, one sentence long short stories. The site is like literary crack, but I think it offers more than extreme ADD story fixes. Most all the sentences published share an interesting thing in common, they would make excellent hooks for a longer work. Now, don’t go swiping anyone’s sentence without permission, but if you look at the site, it seems that thinking in terms of “story in one sentence” is an excellent way to begin. Go there and see if you wouldn’t be interested in continuing reading if these had a second sentence. . . or a hundredth.

Google knows where you live

Well, I might be behind the curve here, but I didn’t realize how deeply Google had been stepping up to contribute to ultimate universal omniscience. Last I paid attention to their “street view” feature it was still in beta, then today I was playing around with it and noticed they got most of Cleveland mapped out. Above is the house where I spent a good part of my adolescence, below is the house I owned before my current residence. While my current house is visible in the satellite view at high enough resolution to see a red Ford F150, it hasn’t made it into the street view yet. While this is great as a writer (the last chase scene I wrote was done with the help of the overhead satellite imagery) it is sort of creepy having the world as first-person shooter. . .