the best thing you will see all year
"If you’re going to admit that stories matter,” Wilson told me, “then it matters how we tell them,..."
- Emily WIlson
Terry Pratchett started his career as a crypto-monarchist and ended up the most consistently humane writer of his generation. He never entirely lost his affection for benevolent dictatorship, and made a few classic colonial missteps along the way, but in the end you’d be hard pressed to find a more staunchly feminist, anti-racist, anti-classist, unsentimental and clear-sighted writer of Old White British Fantasy.
The thing I love about Terry’s writing is that he loved - loved - civil society. He loved the correct functioning of the social contract. He loved technology, loved innovation, but also loved nature and the ways of living that work with and through it. He loved Britain, but hated empire (see “Jingo”) - he was a ruralist who hated provincialism, a capitalist who hated wealth, an urbanist who reveled in stories of pollution, crime and decay. He was above all a man who loved systems, of nature, of thought, of tradition and of culture. He believed in the best of humanity and knew that we could be even better if we just thought a little more.
As a writer: how skillful, how prolific, how consistent. The yearly event of a new Discworld book has been a part of my life for more than two decades, and in that barrage of material there have been so few disappointments, so many surprises… to come out with a book as fresh and inspired as “Monstrous Regiment” as the 31st novel in your big fantasy series? Ludicrous. He was just full of treasure. What a thing to have had, what a thing to have lost.
In the end, he set a higher standard, as a writer and as a person. He got better as he learned, and he kept learning, and there was no “too late” or “too hard” or “I can’t be bothered to do the research.” He just did the work. I think in his memory the best thing we can do is to roll up our sleeves and do the same.
This post seems to be making the rounds again so here it is on the word blog
GNU Terry Pratchett
GNU Terry Pratchett
“A Member of the Audience Disapproves,” by Marc Simonetti
Discworld 2013 Calendar October Image
Definitely fullsize this one. I swear that guy right to the left of Granny is PTerry. But the big question is which Phantom is that?
Image from ‘Father Rhine. [An account of a summer tour. With plates.]’, 000799135
- Author: Coulton, G. G. (George Gordon)
- Page: 111
- Year: 1899
- Place: London
- Publisher: J. M. Dent & Co.
Following the link above will take you to the British Library’s integrated catalogue. You will be able to download a PDF of the book this image is taken from, as well as view the pages up close with the ‘itemViewer’. Click on the 'related items’ to search for the electronic version of this work.
I want to make arroz con pollo. Being a YW fan, I couldn't help but wonder: do you have a specific recipe in mind that Kit's mom uses?
Strangely, no. I should look into that. :)
So it’s 2001, and my family drives from fucking California and like three blizzards to get to Ohio for thanksgiving, becuase my grandparents are moving into a nursing home and it’s their last holiday in that house. So its a bit bittersweet but ultimately a good thing.
Since it’s their last holiday there, the family pulls out all the stops when it comes to dinner, all the Russian desserts come out, as does the Lethal Bacon Mashed Potatoes and the horrible candied yams dish because not all expressions of love are good, even if they are sincere. In the spirit of going all-out, Uncle Bobby smokes a Turkey.
Uncle Bobby started cooking as a boy scout by tossing foil-wrapped potatoes into a campfire and has been addicted since, and now has a hand-made smokehouse in the backyard where he makes various cured meats and other delights. He seasons the turkey in the traditional manner, but he and grandpa have a shared passion for a spaicier mesquite-style bird, so Bobby makes a Cornish Game Hen seasoned that way, for them.
Then Bobby has a Brilliant Idea. He realizes that he can stuff the turkey (once it has been smoked) with regular stuffing, and there is still plenty of room for him to put the game hen inside THAT, and stuff the game hen becuase why not? He confers with Mom, and she explains how to cut open the turkey so there’s dramatic reveal as the stuffing and game hen come out. It’s Genius.
Except, of course, that my Aunt Sue is attending, Uncle Cliff slouching after her.
So the day of the dinner, tensions are running a bit high, between the marathon cooking, the kids all being trapped indoors due to aforementioned blizzards, and Uncle Cliff deciding that the best way to amuse himself is by hiding from the adults in the basement, getting drunk and rambling about how various ethic groups were destroying America. Being that I had close Muslim friends that were leaving the country becuase of 9/11, I was near tears from this nonsense and ready to fight a man roughly five times my size.
Sue, for some reason, keeps coming down and defending him, or telling us we’re rotten children for ‘attacking’ him, becuase she Must Stand By Her Man, even if her man is a hefty bag of feces with an ugly mustache.
My sister eventually bolts upstairs to tattle and my grandfather limps down to the basement and brandishes his Hip-Bone Cane, hands rock-steady in spite of the Parkinson’s slowly taking over him.
“Firstly Cliff, It may not be my roof much longer but while you are under it you will be civil, or I’ll beat your skull in. Also, dinner’s ready, everyone go wash up.”
We go upstairs and sit down, and do the traditional “Name one thing you’re thankful for” as the bread gets passed around the table, and things calm down a bit. Bobby brings out the Turkey and everyone goes OOH becuase it’s really pretty, them Mom carves it open so that the stuffing spills out dramatically along with the game hen and there’s an appreciative gasp all around becuase it looks cool.
Only Sue KEEPS gasping, in utter horror, before getting up and clasping her hands to her face ala Edvard Munch and shrieks-
“OH MY GOD IT WAS PREGNANT!”
We all stare at Sue. We all look back at the fully-dressed-cooked-and-stuffed birds that in no way had any internal organs in them or ever gave live birth. Then we all looked back at Sue, trying to figure out where to begin but since she’d been trying to justify Cliff’s behavior she was pretty much free-associating conspiracies and scandals now, and just kept going.
“IT WAS PREGNANT MY GOD WE’VE COMMITTED AN ABORTION WE’RE ALL GOING TO HELL FOR THIS, I’M SO SORRY JESUS-” She goes into full pearl-clutching gibbering horror at this point and falls back into her chair like it’s a Victorian fainting couch only it’s a shitty chair from the Eisenhower administration so it collapses and she slams into the floor, sobbing and kicking her feet like a toddler.
Everyone watched for a moment before my Mom sighs heavily and starts carving and serving the turkey while my grandmother mouths “she’s not coming back”.
Cliff, reactions delayed by about six beers, finally notices his wife is on the floor and tries to pick her up, falls on his ass himself. They are assisted by Dad, who is saintly patient man and less immune to this jacknapery at that point. I am stuffing dinner rolls into my face to keep from laughing at this grand spectacle and it’s not working.
“I CAN’T EAT IT, I REFUSE TO PARTAKE IN THIS BARBARISM-” Sue begins but Dad puts on his best Kindly Father voice (he went to seminary school long enough to learn that before getting drafted but that’s another story) and assures Sue that she need not eat, or even be in the room if she wants. She nods, placated by being the center of attention again, and Dad goes in for the kill.
“I wouldn’t want you to go hungry. Can I make you some Eggs?”
“That would be lovely.” Said Sue, joke flying over her head like a boeing 747. I recall watching my grandmother nearly choke to death on the green beans over that, and everyone pointedly trying to avoid talking about anything poultry-related while Sue sat there and ate the most ironic scrambled eggs in the history of mankind.
Shortly thereafter, Cliff threw up in the sink and they went home, and the party got underway properly, with Grandpa raising a toast to Mom and Uncle Bobby “For marrying well, for a change”
“Pregnant Turkey” has been an Ohioan thanksgiving staple since then. I’ll see if I can hit Uncle Bobby up for instructions but if you decide to make it 1. you HAVE to shriek “OH MY GOD IT WAS PREGNANT” when you carve it open, or it’s not authentic and won’t taste as good 2. Share the pictures with me.
I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, and I’m not going to: I don’t want to take any chance of being influenced by that author’s or screenwriter’s take on the material. (After I’m done i might have a look, but no sooner.)
Yeah, I’m in trouble now.
You can follow the journey here:
I was watching
the classic 1995 BBC version, which is the gold
standard of filmed P&P for me (I say nothing of Colin Firth and the
Lake, nothing… )
when this thing just jumped out of the bushes and bit me in the butt screaming MOMMY WRITE ME.
The plot? We all know the plot. Except for the deep-space battles with pirate starships.
Oh Goddess what have I gotten myself into this time? …Oh well, too late now. Everybody may as well come along and watch. I’ll start serious work early next week.
(I love that peacock. I paid money for that thing, I loved it so much.)
In proper storybook style, in a disintegrating cardboard box shoved to the very back of a drawer, in a castle where every nook and cranny is still stuffed with the possessions of generations of hoarding owners, a cache of valuable antique coins, some extremely rare, has been discovered.
Scotney Castle in Kent was left to the National Trust in 1970, but only opened to the public in 2007 after the death of Betty Hussey, the last resident of the family that owned the estate since the 18th century. Since then volunteers have been scouring through attics and cellars, and opening hundreds of cupboards and drawers, carefully recording myriad family possessions from medieval documents to 20th-century account books.
The coins are the most exciting discovery so far. Most of the 186 coins are Roman, probably collected by the Victorian owner of Scotney Castle, Edward Hussey, and his son Edwy. Read more.
Someone in a discussion of Mark Reads raised an interesting question in regards to the Ponch Universes in A Wizard's Dilemma - namely would Kit have been able to create a universe that contained a guaranteed cure for caner and brought it back with him?
It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t think it’s workable. Even granting Ponch’s intuitive approach to the situation, for a wizardry (or a wizardly solution) to be effective, you have to define your terms very precisely. Otherwise you start getting all kinds of unwanted side effects and “unexpected consequences.” In this case, “a guaranteed cure for cancer” is way too broad a goal, considering how many kinds of cancer there are and how many causes of them.
Even “a cure for Nita’s mom’s cancer” is dangerously broad. Even if Kit knew, or found out and understood, all the physiological details of that kind of cancer, and said to Ponch, “Okay, find a universe where they’ve cured that”, and Ponch produces it… then you bring that cure back how, exactly? It’s not likely to be some magic serum that you give somebody one shot of and the problem’s sorted. It’s more likely to be a range of treatments that you’re going to have to get someone to administer. Who? The hospital staff? Not sure they’d cooperate. Sneaking in and somehow doing it to her secretly seems like a long shot. And then the hospital people are going to have LOTS of questions about this sudden total remission. Attention is going to be paid. A lot of it. Nita’s family’s life, and her mom’s life, will be changed drastically as a result. For the better? You tell me.
Or, in a broader sense: If the growth of Nita’s mom’s cancer had something to do with some part of her developmental history as a person, physiologically, behaviourally or even emotionally – which seems likely enough – then finding the conditions that would do away with the cancer, and bringing those back from elsewhere and imposing them on her, could possibly do away with her as well. Or turn her into a very different person… one who would no longer be Nita’s mom. It could even push her into another timeline entirely, in which it’s a good question whether Kit’s relationship with Nita, or indeed Nita herself, would exist. That solution strikes me as… a bit too radical.
So no, I don’t think that would have worked out. Consider as well: Given the knowledge that (in the YW-verse) wizardry has been in use on Earth for many thousands of years, and we don’t already have a cure for cancer, the evidence suggests that the problem is too complex for simple resolution: if cancer (in the broad sense) could be cured this way, it would have been, long ago. So plainly any answers to this problem will have to lie elsewhere, or be dealt with case-by-case, and not always successfully, I’m afraid. Even though the docs make it plain that wizardry can sometimes stop death… it can’t always.
As some character or another has remarked (probably Tom, it sounds like him…), “This is wizardry, not magic.”
Folks, this is why the box set of the Raven Cycle was canceled.
Maggie, I love you, I love your stories and I completely agree with you BUT
I believe that excluding people from art because of financial issues is the same as not allowing access to education. Money shouldn’t be something to keep one from reading and mind that libraries don’t offer the same books worldwide. Maybe these books are accessible in the US or in the UK but it’s improbable that non anglophone countries will have that book. Artist do what they do (I hope) for the pleasure of producing art, money should be a background. I completely agree on the point that artists deserve to get an income from a work they’ve probably lost half a life on but basing an artwork on money is just… terrible to hear? Shouldn’t art trade in sensations and emotions and education?
Yes, if you have the money to buy books but decide to pirate them, then you have no excuses and are taking advantage of a person’s work. If you can’t afford books but still crave them, I don’t think you should feel bad if you pirate them. Access to art shouldn’t be a privilege and I really don’t feel like suggesting someone not to read a book because they don’t have the money for it.
If this was about anything else, I would agree 110% but when it concerns art I think we should be more elastic on judging someone and pointing fingers at people who don’t have the money to pay for books.
“I believe that excluding people from art because of financial issues is the same as not allowing access to education.”
Well, here’s the thing.
I haven’t had a book come out since 2014 because my regular job is as a high school English teacher, and that takes a lot of time and energy and attention. I work in the public high school system. I get paid by the Ministry of Education.
I love my job. I take pleasure in it. I definitely enable people to access education.
If the school said, “Karen, we love your work, it’s great, but our funding has been cut and we just can’t afford to pay your salary,” should I keep turning up and doing the job anyway? After all, if I really loved teaching, if I really cared about educating kids, I’d still be prepared to do all the planning and teaching and marking without any compensation in the form of filthy money, right?
Come on. I want to teach people. I want to write books. I need to pay my rent. If I couldn’t do it with either of those, I’d have to find work elsewhere. I love both those jobs, and I wouldn’t do either if I didn’t, but I can’t live on love.
I spent the last several years too poor to buy new books.
But guess what? LIBRARIES will buy books FOR me.
If there’s a new book coming out that I want, I put in an acquisition request as soon as I know it’s on its way, and let them know what format I want. (I normally go ebook or digital audiobook, because I struggle to get to a physical library branch and find those easier to read.) Then I put a hold on the book as soon as it’s in the system.
Voila! Within a couple weeks of the new book being released, it’s IN MY HOT LITTLE HANDS. And the author gets paid for it. No piracy required.
Libraries like it when you request new books. They have to spend their acquisition budget somehow.
This article from Kate Elliott is very much worth sharing around to remind everybody of all the many possibilities…
Question for you. Possibly a stupid one, but I can't get the imagery out of my head. Is there, or could there ever be, a circumstance wherein a wizard, in the course of their fight against entropy and the Lone One, must willingly relinquish The Gift in...
Sure. And yeah, it does sound awful, doesn’t it? But it could happen.
There’s already a reference in canon to something similar: where you give up your life – and inherently, all the wizardly power you will use or accrue in it – for one specific working against the Lone One. Nita very nearly goes there in Wizards at War. (Don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention that at this late date.) Ronan also mentions this option at the very beginning of Games Wizards Play.
This particular intervention, the use of the so-called Last Word, isn’t exactly a happy option. But if your allegiance to Life is in place – particularly the part that involves preserving others’ lives, even at the cost of your own – you do what you have to do to preserve it, or them. You are, of course, the final arbiter of whether “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few: or the one.” Your call. At the end of the day, it’s all about Choice…
maggie-stiefvater: I’ve decided to tell you guys a story about piracy. I didn’t think I had much to...
I’ve decided to tell you guys a story about piracy.
I didn’t think I had much to add to the piracy commentary I made yesterday, but after seeing some of the replies to it, I decided it’s time for this story.
Here are a few things we should get clear before I go on:
1) This is a U.S. centered discussion. Not because I value my non U.S. readers any less, but because I am published with a U.S. publisher first, who then sells my rights elsewhere. This means that the fate of my books, good or bad, is largely decided on U.S. turf, through U.S. sales to readers and libraries.
2) This is not a conversation about whether or not artists deserve to get money for art, or whether or not you think I in particular, as a flawed human, deserve money. It is only about how piracy affects a book’s fate at the publishing house.
3) It is also not a conversation about book prices, or publishing costs, or what is a fair price for art, though it is worthwhile to remember that every copy of a blockbuster sold means that the publishing house can publish new and niche voices. Publishing can’t afford to publish the new and midlist voices without the James Pattersons selling well.
It is only about two statements that I saw go by:
1) piracy doesn’t hurt publishing.
2) someone who pirates the book was never going to buy it anyway, so it’s not a lost sale.
Now, with those statements in mind, here’s the story.
It’s the story of a novel called The Raven King, the fourth installment in a planned four book series. All three of its predecessors hit the bestseller list. Book three, however, faltered in strange ways. The print copies sold just as well as before, landing it on the list, but the e-copies dropped precipitously.
Now, series are a strange and dangerous thing in publishing. They’re usually games of diminishing returns, for logical reasons: folks buy the first book, like it, maybe buy the second, lose interest. The number of folks who try the first will always be more than the number of folks who make it to the third or fourth. Sometimes this change in numbers is so extreme that publishers cancel the rest of the series, which you may have experienced as a reader — beginning a series only to have the release date of the next book get pushed off and pushed off again before it merely dies quietly in a corner somewhere by the flies.
So I expected to see a sales drop in book three, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, but as my readers are historically evenly split across the formats, I expected it to see the cut balanced across both formats. This was absolutely not true. Where were all the e-readers going? Articles online had headlines like PEOPLE NO LONGER ENJOY READING EBOOKS IT SEEMS.
There was another new phenomenon with Blue Lily, Lily Blue, too — one that started before it was published. Like many novels, it was available to early reviewers and booksellers in advanced form (ARCs: advanced reader copies). Traditionally these have been cheaply printed paperback versions of the book. Recently, e-ARCs have become common, available on locked sites from publishers.
BLLB’s e-arc escaped the site, made it to the internet, and began circulating busily among fans long before the book had even hit shelves. Piracy is a thing authors have been told to live with, it’s not hurting you, it’s like the mites in your pillow, and so I didn’t think too hard about it until I got that royalty statement with BLLB’s e-sales cut in half.
Strange, I thought. Particularly as it seemed on the internet and at my booming real-life book tours that interest in the Raven Cycle in general was growing, not shrinking. Meanwhile, floating about in the forums and on Tumblr as a creator, it was not difficult to see fans sharing the pdfs of the books back and forth. For awhile, I paid for a service that went through piracy sites and took down illegal pdfs, but it was pointless. There were too many. And as long as even one was left up, that was all that was needed for sharing.
I asked my publisher to make sure there were no e-ARCs available of book four, the Raven King, explaining that I felt piracy was a real issue with this series in a way it hadn’t been for any of my others. They replied with the old adage that piracy didn’t really do anything, but yes, they’d make sure there was no e-ARCs if that made me happy.
Then they told me that they were cutting the print run of The Raven King to less than half of the print run for Blue Lily, Lily Blue. No hard feelings, understand, they told me, it’s just that the sales for Blue Lily didn’t justify printing any more copies. The series was in decline, they were so proud of me, it had 19 starred reviews from pro journals and was the most starred YA series ever written, but that just didn’t equal sales. They still loved me.
This, my friends, is a real world consequence.
This is also where people usually step in and say, but that’s not piracy’s fault. You just said series naturally declined, and you just were a victim of bad marketing or bad covers or readers just actually don’t like you that much.
Hold that thought.
I was intent on proving that piracy had affected the Raven Cycle, and so I began to work with one of my brothers on a plan. It was impossible to take down every illegal pdf; I’d already seen that. So we were going to do the opposite. We created a pdf of the Raven King. It was the same length as the real book, but it was just the first four chapters over and over again. At the end, my brother wrote a small note about the ways piracy hurt your favorite books. I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold the fort for long — real versions would slowly get passed around by hand through forum messaging — but I told my brother: I want to hold the fort for one week. Enough to prove that a point. Enough to show everyone that this is no longer 2004. This is the smart phone generation, and a pirated book sometimes is a lost sale.
Then, on midnight of my book release, my brother put it up everywhere on every pirate site. He uploaded dozens and dozens and dozens of these pdfs of The Raven King. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one of his pdfs. We sailed those epub seas with our own flag shredding the sky.
The effects were instant. The forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asked if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book.
And we sold out of the first printing in two days.
I was on tour for it, and the bookstores I went to didn’t have enough copies to sell to people coming, because online orders had emptied the warehouse. My publisher scrambled to print more, and then print more again. Print sales and e-sales became once more evenly matched.
Then the pdfs hit the forums and e-sales sagged and it was business as usual, but it didn’t matter: I’d proven the point. Piracy has consequences.
That’s the end of the story, but there’s an epilogue. I’m now writing three more books set in that world, books that I’m absolutely delighted to be able to write. They’re an absolute blast. My publisher bought this trilogy because the numbers on the previous series supported them buying more books in that world. But the numbers almost didn’t. Because even as I knew I had more readers than ever, on paper, the Raven Cycle was petering out.
The Ronan trilogy nearly didn’t exist because of piracy. And already I can see in the tags how Tumblr users are talking about how they intend to pirate book one of the new trilogy for any number of reasons, because I am terrible or because they would ‘rather die than pay for a book’. As an author, I can’t stop that. But pirating book one means that publishing cancels book two. This ain’t 2004 anymore. A pirated copy isn’t ‘good advertising’ or ‘great word of mouth’ or ‘not really a lost sale.’
That’s my long piracy story.
This is worth reading for about a hundred reasons. Including the brilliant publishing-day exploit.
In 1997, nine year old me was in the school library looking for a book to read. I hear a dull thump behind me, and turn around to find SYWTBAW had fallen off the shelf. I was instantly hooked. Moving forward 20 years, and 29 year old me has just...
You’re completely welcome. :) And the news that (as for a surprising number of other people) the books continue to hold up over time is always good to hear.
…It’s also surprising how many people have had these “The book came for me” moments that seem to parallel Nita’s experience. Don’t ask me what to make of that. I just work here. :)
Are there like… any other parents on Vulcan? Like are Sarek and Amanda single-handedly raising every single child they encounter? Every child who sets foot on the planet now belongs to them? Like they meet some other Vulcan’s kid and go “hello, I’m your parent now” and then just take off with them? Is that what happened?
Sarek at the mall: “Sir, madam, I do not know your name, but but I see your son/daughter seems unfulfilled by your bond, constraining his/her philosophical development. As our offspring’s relationship with us is demonstrably superior, would it not be logical for you to surrender custody?”
Other Vulcan: “Your reasoning is cogent and flawless. Live long and prosper, son/daughter. I shall use the funds that were to pay for your schooling to purchase many plush robes in which I will ponder existence more comfortably.”
Vulcan child: “An excellent plan. Thank you for begetting me.”
I know it’s been a while but the funniest part of this for me is still “Sarek at the mall”
Crossing the streams here a bit and imagining Mark Lenard strolling through some Vulcan city followed by a vast horde of Vulcan children of all ages. And looking a bit like an extremely bemused Jedi master. (I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him sigh in carefully-suppressed exasperation in person. I can just hear it now.) :)