Wednesday, December 7, 2011 and the fall of western women's civilization spawned by Twilight -- Not

There've been a rash of opinion pieces all over the internet bashing the Twilight saga. Some make effective points; most don't, like the latest at It reads like a piece one might pull out of their butt to make a managing editor happy by driving up traffic through angered readers. (Believe me, I'm quite familiar with this kind of crap as a former managing editor--been there, applauded it.)
This particular piece was so thin and inflammatory that it deserved a comment. Here's what I posted:
Bottomline, Neha Gandhi argues this kind of modern myth is bad for US culture, right? We can ignore the fact that other cultures have built entire religions and ethical foundations on similar archetypes, yes?
We should just ignore the fact that billions (yes, with a B) of Indians, Nepalese and other near-Asian peoples over the past 2000+ years have enjoyed the epic Ramayana, whose god Rama and demigod/avatar Hanuman share characteristics similar to Edward Cullen and other male members of his family. Here's Jambavantha (a supporting character in the Ramayana) reminding Hanuman of his powers:
You are as powerful as the wind;
You are intelligent, illustrious & an inventor.
There is nothing in this world that’s too difficult for you;
Whenever stuck, you are the one who can help.
Yeah, the super-intelligent, incredibly strong, psychic immortal Edward, right there -- virtually another avatar of Rama/Hanuman.
And what of Sita, Rama's wife? An "abandoned child" or "orphan child" archetype, she's not unlike Bella in that they share rather thin parental oversight. She's supposed to model all that is the epitome of virtuous femininity as a model wife, although under threat from outside forces she cannot control (like kidnapping by god Ravana).
The Ramayana isn't the only mythic epic with parallels in the Twilight saga. One could make the case that many of our familiar fairy tales, Disney-fied for our modern western consumption, offer very similar archetypal models. But nobody's pointing out that Snow White--who lives unmothered and selflessly for seven little men while waiting for a prince to rescue her from evil--offers a similarly "bad" and eerily similar model of femininity as Bella does in the Twilight saga.'
Heck, no, let's not dig too deep there at the risk of pissing off Disney's lawyers, or hurting access to the actors, director and production companies behind the impending Snow White and the Huntsman.
Myths have been critical to the formation of human culture including its ethos since humans could tell stories. We've survived these many incarnations of the same archetypal models of masculinity and femininity for thousands of years. Yet this op-ed proposes young American women are suddenly going to emulate crappy models of femininity because of one author's myth-like books? Yeah. I don't get it. Weakly argued.
[Comment originally posted at:]

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fan Fiction Story Translation Policy

I've received requests to translate my stories in languages other than English, in which I draft my works.

At this time translations are NOT authorized for the following reasons:

-- English is my primary language; I am not prepared to do a thorough job of auditing translated works for their faithful duplication of the original work.

-- I am not prepared to audit the translators for performance if more than one request is made for a single non-English language.

-- Translators' work is voluntary and uncompensated, and therefore completely at the whim of the translator; I cannot assure that translation work will be completed fully and on a timely basis for readers of my work.

I'm very sorry for the inconvenience this causes my readers whose first language is not English.

Thank you for understanding.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Club: Ulysses, by James Joyce

I'm participating in the 1Book140 book club reading of Ulysses by James Joyce. This is a massive undertaking, in part because the book is so dense and chewy, and in part because there's so much material out there to read about this classic.
[Note: 1book140 is a monthly online book club hosted by Jeff Howe and The Atlantic. The November 2011 selection is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. More about the book club's launch at this link. To join the book club (whether you choose to read Ulysses or not), use this link.]
I expect to write from time to time about Ulysses and the experience of reading it with a virtual book club. If you have any interest in Ulysses or are interested in joining along with the book club, the following resources may be of use to you:
Some additional resources:
Ulysses eBook - Project Gutenberg
Multiple formats available; keep in mind that this work is still under copyright in the EU into 2012. The HTML version does not provide breaks or headings at points where previous Episode ends and a new one begins.
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Ulysses (novel) - Wikipedia entry
Worth reading for the history, context and outlines, overview of Episodes.
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Ulysses in a Nutshell (Shmoop-based summaries and analysis)
Note the links to Intro and each of the Episodes; each Episode has both a summary and an analysis.
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Ulysses audiobook -
Note downloadable versions as well as embedded player; the downloads and player are divided by episode.
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Ulysses audiobook -
Compare and contrast with the version which has near-commercial production values. Also note backstory about LibriVox's production at:
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Twitter tags: Book Club, Ulysses - #occupyulysses Book Club, all - #1book140
It's worth noting that Ulysses was written over a seven-year span. It may not be unreasonable to think it will take as long to fully grasp this work.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Increase readership through improved promotion

Fan fiction authors are frequently concerned about increasing readership of their creative writing. Sometimes they are driven to stroke their ego through traffic; sometimes they'd like more feedback to improve their writing. Writers often want to increase their name recognition, too, in advance of publication of  non-fan original works of fiction.

Whatever the motive, fan fiction authors need to understand the existence of a critical ratio -- the comments per post ratio. Only a small percentage of persons who read a blog post will actually take the time to comment. This percentage is even smaller than the number of visitors; remember that some traffic to any URL is accidental or drive-by and will only skim, not read any content at the URL.

This same ratio exists for ANY site on the internet, whether a Facebook page or a Twitter account. It also applies to any works of self-published fiction, fan or otherwise. 

To understand more about this ratio, see this article: Ratio Analysis for Bloggers 2-Comments per Post Ratio

It's also important to understand that even the very best of products, from Apple brand electronics to fast food hamburgers, will not become popular if they are not promoted. By promotion we mean placed in a way that potential customers see them, become aware of and interested in trying the products. Companies use a combination of tools to this end, including advertising and placement of product in key locations; it's no accident that popular cereals, for example, are on the grocery store shelves right at your eye level where you can readily see and reach for them. That's a deliberate effort to make the product available to you.

Yes, you may already have self-promoted your work through your own blog, Twitter or Facebook account. If your readership at those sites is proportionally small, this will not increase traffic or widen interest among new visitors. You'll have to stretch a little more for effective promotion.

In the blog world, promotion can take the form of links at other blog and websites, including actual advertising. It may also take the form of recommendations by key personalities who have popular blog/websites. 

If you are trying to increase readership of your creative writing, whether works of fan or original fiction, you'll want to identify sites which are geared toward promotion of your work. In the Twilight fan fiction fandom community, the following sites are frequently used to promote fanfic:

Another method of promotion is posting about your works at community sites popular in the fandom, like A Different Forest. Submitting appropriate works as requested by other fandom sites may also help, like Perv Pack's Smut Shack or The Lemonade Stand (in these two examples, content is for mature audience and works must be M-rated).

One other option is participation in popular awards as the awards sites will help with promotion of your work. Two examples for the Twilight fan fiction community are:

Authors may also want to consider participation in charitable events like Fandom Gives Back. By contributing a small work of fiction under the event's guidelines, authors may reach a new and wider audience and increase readership of their other earlier and future works.

Take careful note of the most popular works of fiction and their authors. How are those works and writers being promoted? They may offer additional education about effective promotion through a little research into their outreach efforts. You may find that some do not have any presence on Facebook and/or Twitter but only have a fan fiction account. Look carefully at what works to make them popular.

Lastly, it's important to remember that readers want to experience quality works  and will help increase readership by word if they enjoy a particular piece of writing. As an author it's important to remember that if you focus on the quality of the content itself and treat reasoned critiques respectfully in order to improve your work, readers will be more likely to both enjoy and assist in promoting your work. 

There are untold numbers of unsuccessful products pulled from the shelves which didn't make potential customers happy enough to buy the product, in spite of massive ad campaigns. Works of creative writing may be no different than these commercial products.

Writing purely for the sake of increasing traffic isn't enough to actually increase traffic; readers want something worth the investment of their time, whether to stop and read or make the greater effort to comment. Give them real value, something worth their time which piques their interest and entertains them -- or all the promotional efforts in the world won't make a difference.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The inevitable question: Why hang out here?

Any time now somebody is going to ask me the question.

Why the hell are you here in fan fiction?

Or a variant on the question, delivered with a smirk and/or a snort:

Why the hell are you here in Twilight fan fiction, of all places?

Yeah, I know. They won't ask me to my face why an intelligent woman of my age, education, background, and status is hanging out in what looks like a pop cult centered on unrequited teen desires.

But I'll answer their questions, both the open ones and the unspoken ones.

First, fan fiction is a great way to take a plunge into creative writing. One can take short cuts on character development and concentrate on construction of a story arc, development of themes, tone and language usage while extending pre-developed characters. (It's a win-win for published authors whose characters are used as springboards since fan fiction sustains interest in their works.)

For someone like me whose body of writing has been nonfiction for more than eight years, this is a real treat -- a cheat of sorts to help me get the bugs worked out of writing fiction before I concentrate on an actual non-fan fiction novel.

Secondly, fan fiction as a whole is very, VERY open and diverse, extremely liberal. For example, authors and readers alike are willing to explore a spectrum of expression in human sexuality and through a virtually unlimited range of scenarios. Topics from poverty to infertility to global politics are plumbed by authors whose backgrounds are as varied and in many cases highly knowledgeable about the topics they use in their work. This openness is a strong fit with my personal values; it feels like home. I don't have to compromise while exploring creative writing.

Thirdly, with specific regard to Twilight fan fiction -- there is an enormous concentration of creative feminine energy. It boggles the mind how many well-read and creative women offer up their hobby writing for free. There aren't many places where women can congregate in these numbers and work so freely in tandem or collaboratively on creative projects.

Fourthly, the Twilight fan fiction community is extremely supportive in a way that the next largest fan fiction community is not. It's not absolutely clear that this is a result of the overwhelmingly female percentage of participants, but it's hard not to think that this is a factor when the most active proponents of other women's work are women themselves. They've developed networks and social media tools to flack their fiction works, and in some cases the promotional efforts have led directly to print publishing for profit.

Lastly, fan fiction is a really tremendous place to learn not only about writing but getting one's works published. The social networks entwined around fan fiction are linked to book agents, published authors and publishers, so many of whom are willing to share information about getting published.

So that's it, in a nutshell, the reasons why I allow myself to pigeonholed with those folks. Yeah, we know outsiders look askance at us and point fingers, snigger and refer to us as if we have a third eye in our foreheads. But they don't get it and likely won't; when they cough up money for a published work written by someone who once dabbled in fan fiction, maybe they will clue in.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Say it out loud: it's a crime, it's violence

There's an interesting essay being passed around right now. It's interesting for two reasons. It points out that crimes are regularly committed against women and girls with far greater frequency than numbers reported by law enforcement, and that the crimes and their victims are minimized, swept under the carpet by the label used for these crimes.

But using the label repeatedly reinforces its legitimacy -- that's where the essay goes astray. While the author is a victim herself and is clearly still coming to terms with the crime committed against her, she is locked in the loop forced on her by a culture committing a second crime against her. (Sadly, she even blames herself for crimes against others, even though she may have been but a minor at the time.)

The crime is the denial by our culture that at least one violent act took place against her and others like her deserving our action.

We need to teach our children -- yes, boys, too, as both potential victims and parents/loved ones of victims -- the legal terms for violent criminal acts, and teach them to  use them to effect appropriate action.

If someone touches you against your will, without permission and with intent to threaten or harm, it's battery.

if someone threatens to touch you against your will, without your permission and with intent to harm, it's assault.

If someone forces a sexual act on you against  your will, without permission, it's rape (if intercourse) or sexual assault and quite possibly battery as well.

If someone has a sexual act with a minor, even with the minor's permission, it's rape.

If someone enters your home without permission, especially with force, it's trespassing.

Call it what it is, use the words. Don't give the assailant's and/or rapist's denial any more legitimacy by calling it "not [anything]."

It's particularly important that a community of women who are so very fond of words understand that not only their dreams and aspirations deserve to be enshrined properly in words written and spoken. 

Their nightmares deserve to be called out for what they are, recognized on sight as the monsters they are -- violent acts. 

Tell the truth as it is: these are crimes.

And say it out loud.

[See the work of George Lakoff on framing for a more complete understanding of the nature in which words are used to manipulate behavior.]

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brewing: the sisters are doing it for themselves

I'm still meditating and cogitating over a thesis regarding a quiet revolution in women's emergence. I still can't quite wrap myself around what I want to say and quite possibly have now gathered too much research to make a coherent point.

That said, my thesis' summary could boil down to this:

The sisters are doing it for themselves.

Women are no longer waiting for some prince, either as an individual or as a collective or as some other entity, to address their needs. They are taking matters into their own hands.

No enough romance in your life? Sister, write your own and share it with others.

No enough hot sex in your life? Sister, write about your deepest desires no matter how kinky and share it because you know you are not alone in wanting this. Sex with the men or women who aren't ordinarily in your reach, sex with strangers, sex with multiple partners -- have it all, and safely here in the world of fiction.

Finally, is the man in your life an uncooperative ass? Sister, write about a figurative paper doll of a man you can bend and twist into all the things you want -- and while you're at it, bend him over the couch so another gorgeous well-hung paper doll of a man gives it to him up the backside. Take that, asshole, figuratively speaking.

We are taking care of ourselves and building what we want and need for each other, here in the online world of self-published fiction.

Watch out when we take the next step and fully realize what it is we want.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Brewing: thoughts on paradigmatic shifts in women's emergence

My mental wattage has been preoccupied by some consulting work this week. What little wattage I have left has been kicking around some nebulous thesis about a quiet revolution in women's emergence. I think we are face with a sea change not unlike that between the 1950s and 1960s when birth control and women's rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 dramatically changed women's roles in our western society.

But I can't quite get a handle on what it is I want to say, no doubt for the lack of adequate wattage. I'll just throw these bits out and let them brew for now; perhaps a bit of steeping out in the open will help coalesce my under-powered thinking.

Francis Fukuyama touched on the failure of the impetus behind the 1960s women's movement to fully realize all that women needed to be true equals to male counterparts during the pendulum-like swing of society's expectations liberalizing women's rights. See his work The Great Disruption. While I'm unhappy with the direction that Fukuyama's politics took in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I think  he still makes highly valid points about the swing of movements and opposing reactions.

Article, Look God, No Hands in the most recent issue of Utne Reader hints at an opposing reaction to changes in women's sexuality. One would think that women's masturbatory self-care would be approved by Christian fundamentalists as an alternative to sex out of wedlock, but no -- apparently all sex is supposed to be procreative.

I'm trying to hunt down a news article from an Indian news paper that I'd tripped over last week. The article discusses researchers findings with regard to women's appreciation of same-sex smut. It's the first time I've seen mention of a study of this nature, suggesting there is a trend at work here -- a swing of the pendulum, if you will.

If you see something I might find interesting and relevant to this nebulous thesis, feel free to drop me a comment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Analysis: Fan fiction, declarations of love, happily ever afters and the ultimate zipless fuck

@einfach_mich asked Wednesday morning:

(For the morning crowd) Twitter Poll: Do you have to have declarations of love and HEA in your smut fic? Think hard about what you read.

A little translation here for readers who may find that tweet cryptic: HEA is "Happily Ever After," the happy ending one might find at the end of a work of fiction. "Fic" is short for "fiction" and in this particular case likely refers to fan fiction based on characters based substantively on another popular fictional work.

If I have to explain "smut," I suggest exiting this post.

As a relative newbie to the world of fan fiction, I've had my eyes opened by some of the writing published online. There's an overwhelming demand for fan fiction which is not only well-written, but includes a dose of content focused on sexuality. The most popular content bends and twists characters' emotions and responses to all manner of situations, including relationships of all depths and the sex generated in the course of these relationships. This has been a feature of online fan fiction since it began; the relative anonymity of authors allows writers to submit content that is far more diverse including depth of sexuality than fiction published in print.

Twilight fan fiction is relatively unique in the genre, in terms of interest and demand, and in terms of authors'/readers' gender. The numbers of works posted at (FFn), the largest and oldest fan fiction publishing platform, under the Twilight saga show an interest level rivaling that of the Harry Potter saga. As of today, FFn shows total Twilight works published to date now number 186,943 while the Harry Potter category -- representing a franchise with more than twice the number of books, manifold number of characters and more than twice the number of released movies compared to the Twilight saga -- now contains 542,689 works published since 1999. That's a rough ratio of 35,000 Twilight fanfics per year to 45,000 Harry Potter fanfics per year.

And the last two movies of the Twilight franchise have yet to be released; one can only wonder at the growth potential for Twilight-based fanfics over the next two years.

According to content posted at FFn, Twilight fan fiction appears to be overwhelmingly female in terms of authors and readers; the Harry Potter constituency, in contrast, appears to be more evenly distributed between males and females. This is based on anecdotal evidence. The exact numbers are not readily available as FFn's site structure does not allow for much in the way of data mining. Other fan fiction publishing sites like and also appear to support the gender bias weighting toward females in Twilight fan fiction.

These numbers make the prevalence of M-rated mature content under the Twilight category at FFn rather exceptional among fan fiction communities. And yet the numbers confirm the observations made by Asst. Prof. Sharon Cumberland in her paper, Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture (MIT Communications Forum, 1999). Her thesis:

...the paradox of public access and private/anonymous identity has made it possible for women who have access to the internet to create permissive and transgressive spaces which have been, in the past, the traditional reserve of men's magazines and men's clubs.

Cumberland used fan fiction about the 1998 movie Zorro and the actor playing the lead role, Antonio Banderas, to explore this theory. She concluded,

...This pretty much sums up the slash and het genres, and acts as a metaphor for the phenomenon of women's erotica on fansites: high adventure, far-flung or historical settings, improbable sex, all within the safety of a non-judging, sympathetic, indeed, enthusiastic community. While the significance of this paradox of public access and private/anonymous identity will require much more analysis over time, it is clear that women who have access to the internet have created permissive and transgressive spaces which have been, in the past, the traditional reserve of men's magazines and men's clubs. Fan websites have, in effect, become women's clubs, where erotica can be safely explored without damage to the reputation, the career, or the domestic life. 

Which brings us to my first proposition: online smut written by women would be the ultimate in "zipless fucks." By "zipless fuck" I refer to the phrase coined by author Erica Jong in her 1973 work, Fear of Flying, referring to "a sexual encounter with an anonymous stranger that one will never meet again, and nobody one knows will ever know that it happened." (Wikipedia). In Jong's words,

The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game . The man is not "taking" and the woman is not "giving." No one is attempting to cuckold a husband or humiliate a wife. No one is trying to prove anything or get anything out of anyone. The zipless fuck is the purest thing there is. And it is rarer than the unicorn. And I have never had one.

While Jong's main character, Isadora Wing, appears to vacillate about her expectations from life and her desires, Wing really wants it all. She doesn't want to be denied any of the choices her male counterparts have -- alone/involved, risk-taking/secure, single/married -- when it comes to relationships or to sex. Some may say character Wing feels guilty about the concept of the "zipless fuck," but choosing one means excluding another choice, cutting off her options and leaving her exposed to a notional loss.

In 1973 it would have been very easy even as a feminist of the time to feel some guilt, some loss through the exercise of choice. Choice then was being newly and quite literally shaped by the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court that year, establishing abortion's legality in the U.S. Choosing a "zipless fuck" was easier than ever in terms of dealing with unwanted pregnancy, but exercising a woman's choice of a "zipless fuck" like choosing abortion at that time would mean going against the body of American culture.

During the twenty-five year span after Fear of Flying's publication and before the emergence of fan fiction, casual sex became even more casual during the remainder of the 1970s and early 1980s. The pendulum swung back and hard as herpes and then HIV/AIDS became prevalent, causing sexually active adults to change their sexual behavior with a greater preference for monogamy and increased condom use to reduce exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. The resurgence of conservatism during the late 1990s also increased the public's sensitivity to abortion while promoting a return to more traditional roles for women. A "zipless fuck" seemed less possible and probable at the turn of the millenium.

Now nearly forty years later, choosing a "zipless fuck" is different phenomenon. While women no longer feel the same kinds of societal pressures they felt in 1973 about random sexual encounters, they also have newer and different avenues to explore their sexuality in privacy previously denied them. This brings me to my second proposition: women can now choose a "zipless fuck" either as a writer or a reader in the form of fan fiction, and a safe, STD-free experience at that. No one will know that you had a little dash of slash (homosexual fan fiction)  this morning before you went to work, rode on the train or before bed, and there will be no repercussions in the form of unwanted pregnancy, clumsy contraception or STD tests. Nor will it interfere with your climb up the corporate or social ladder. Women can even order sex toys for masturbation online, delivered anonymously, to increase our enjoyment of this "zipless fuck" -- no obligations save for the credit card bill.

But this is ultimately about choice; that's the real question about the nature of smut. It's about having options, just as it was in 1973. Women no longer need a declaration of love, commitment and happily ever after to make smut enjoyable. Having the option of a completely uninhibited no-strings-attached sexual encounter or the happily ever after is the real point. It's important that women have the choice. With online fiction women co-create, women ensure that choice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Self-Publishing: How to market children's books

@DavidGaughran asks on behalf of friend  Silvina De Vita who's recently published her first digital children's book,

I don’t have the first clue about how to market children’s books, and I don’t know many authors who write/illustrate books for young children. I presume you are marketing to the parents, but that’s about all I know.

I would really appreciate it if any of you guys could help give some advice to a self-publisher who is just starting out.

In the most basic terms, marketing is about the "4Ps" -- product, price, placement, promotion. The author in question has already determined the first two and possibly part of the third P; she's decided on a children's book (product) to be sold at a set price, with placement partially determined as 

I say partially as the author may decide to move to more or different download venues over time. Price, too, may be flexible over time as more copies are sold.

David's question is really about the fourth P -- promotion. Where does one promote a book for children?

Go where the parents are. And go where mothers are as they will make most buying decisions.

But the product is a digital product; outreach to a completely different constituency is necessary as these will be wired women who are comfortable with purchases of digital products over the internet. Where do these parents hang out?

If I were promoting this book, I'd start with immersion in the BlogHer community. I'd go so far as to consider blogging about the process of writing the book, the decision making process about self-publishing and going digital, asking that community for their feedback about the best approach to marketing. Make a commitment to that community by purchasing ad space from the BlogHer site. It's important that the author embraces the opportunity to communicate directly with her target audience; if she opens herself up to feedback, she must acknowledge hearing from her constituency or risk credibility.

I'd also encourage the author to read Pew Internet & American Life Project studies to identify where the digital parents are and how to reach them. Chances are very good that their research will provide insights about families' internet consumption which will shape promotional outreach.

Parents increasingly use social media to find content they want, and to filter out content they don't want. It's a time saver. What social media do wired parents use? The most obvious resources are Facebook and Twitter. The author should ensure that her book has a dedicated Facebook page, that she has one as an author, and that both the book and the author have Twitter accounts. The author should commit to sending out at least one update a day via each of the social media outlets she chooses, and make a point of connecting with people who are connectors in the target demographic. Is there a parent in the BlogHer community who blogs about children's books? Find them, friend them and follow them and be sure to engage authentically with them.

This is a lot to tackle all at once, but this is an essential difference between the traditional brick-and-mortar print publication process and digital self-publishing. The author will do a lot of work themselves, but they will have more control of their product and personal brand, and they will have a more authentic relationship with their audience.

Caveat here: I'm not a published author. I am, however, familiar with using social media to promote online content -- and I'm a mom who's bought a small fortune in books over more than 25 years.

Good luck! Buena Suerte!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Poll: What are the top 2 things you love/hate about fan fiction?

@einfach_mich takes a Twitter poll tonight, asking:

Tell me the TOP 2 things you HATE about Fan Fic & the TOP 2 things you LOVE about Fan Fic.

Fan fiction as a form of self-published online creative writing has been around for more than a decade; I first read about it at magazine in an article discussing the fan fiction following of Star Trek and the creation of slash themes that extended the original characters. It amused me but didn't capture my interest at the time.

I used to be a hardcore X-Files fan; I'd even hosted view-along chats on AOL as a community host back in the day. But for some reason it never dawned on me that X-Files might have been a relatively solid base for fan fiction.

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has become the largest fan fiction franchise so far, but nothing about HP compelled me to participate.

It wasn't until I read Stephenie Meyers' entire Twilight saga this spring that something clicked; there was something far more compelling about these characters, the archetypal paper dolls that could be twisted into many shapes and positions. After years of nonfiction writing focused primarily on politics and technology, I've finally given free reign to my urge to write creatively by way of Twilight fan fiction.

Give my relatively recent move to fan fiction, here's my answer to the poll --

With regard to fan fiction as a whole:

I hate that the fan fiction community as a whole has not received the amount of credit it deserves for fostering creative writing as a hobby;
I hate that specific fan fiction communities like Harry Potter are spread so thin due to the massive popularity and fail to support their best writers for this reason.

I love that the public has learned to grab a new outlet for creativity and run with it so openly;
I love that the internet has been the catalyst for this phenomenon's rise.

With regard to Twilight fan fiction (TwiFic) specifically:

I hate that the TwiFic community can be so insular, tightly bounding itself around a Dunbar's number of tightly connected contributors;
I hate that so many contributors confuse their contributions with the kind of communications better suited to platforms like blogging;

I love that the TwiFic community is shameless, passionate and widely tolerant in its support of TwiFic contributions of all kinds;
I love that the TwiFic community is conscious of the need for better writing contributions and improved promotion, developing platforms of editors and promotion to support the community.

What about you? Did you take the poll?.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Take Down Notice: when your content has been plagiarized or reprinted without permission

As a website owner and online editor for several state and national sites, I've had to deal with plagiarism and unauthorized appropriation of content.

It's theft of intellectual property (IP), plain and simple, when someone uses your copyrighted original works without asking in advance for permission. (This includes unauthorized reprinting of translated versions of your content.)

Laws here in the U.S. protect your works; the first and most effective step in deal with such IP theft is asking the offender to take the content down. If they don't, then ask the service hosting them to do so.

Important caveat at this point: I am not a lawyer; in no way am I giving you legal advice. You should definitely consult an attorney if the IP theft is costing you money or cutting into your livelihood and hurting your personal or business brand. 

I am providing here, though, typical examples of Take Down Notices I have used in the past to successfully curtail IP thievery. Feel free to cut and paste for your personal use, consulting attorneys who specialized in IP theft as appropriate for your situation. (Examples after the jump, click on article title for more.)

One more important point: always indicate in your works that your content is copyrighted. It's just good practice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Analysis: And yet more on Meyers' Twilight and secondary female characters

Good gravy, I'm still stewing on Derdriu oFaolain's campfire at regarding Twilight saga author Stephenie Meyer's treatment of secondary female characters, probably have yet another blog post in me on this.

There's so much in this series that cries out to be unpacked. The characters and story arcs are flawed, but hell, so are humans and their history past and future.


"La Petite Morte"

Upthread in the campfire at ADF there's a discussion of the two different reasons Edward gives for not wanting to have sex with Bella -- social norms and fear of hurting her -- offered individually at different times in the saga. The norms we grok readily given Meyers' mythology of vampire as frozen; once transformed, it's difficult for vampires to change their opinions and attitudes. 

The excuse of avoiding harm though, is a hint at an issue being dealt with at a much deeper level. Remember the old idiom, "la petite mort" or "little death," used as a metaphor or reference to human orgasm? If human sex generates a "little death," what does sex with an undead vampire yield? It must be a wholly different level of death, right? This nebulous threat of something more than injury hovers unarticulated in Eclipse and early BD.


Mother Nature's face and the primary directive

The more I think about Rosalie, the more I see a snapshot of our raw genomic forces at work. The primary directive underlying ALL genomes on this planet is to survive and replicate, rinse, repeat. We humans, like all other animal and plant life forms, are engineered by response to environment and resources and our demands on each other. The more pleasing fruit in terms of appearance and taste is plucked and eaten, its seed dispersed as a reward for its success. The most pleasing animal form -- ostensibly parallel to the form's success given the surrounding ecosystem -- is the one most likely to mate and reproduce.

Rosalie is the culmination of successful genomic expression. Her human family has a wealth of resources. She is beautiful, reflecting both her health and resources, and can attract an equally fit mate. She is the essence of Mother Nature at work -- and in this respect, Edward is right, Rosalie is very shallow. This is all she really is, the unfettered natural force of the primary directive to survive and reproduce, frozen and unrequited once Rosalie is transformed.

It's a stark beauty, how the force of nature works without much conscious intelligence. The beauty and power of this force is such that it bleeds through as an archetypal character in Meyers' saga. It can't be restrained, it needs no additional depth; it simply is.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~ O ~ o ~ O ~ o ~

Gads, how many more layers are there to this onion? This topic is keeping me awake.

Analysis, Redux: More Stephenie Meyers' treatment of Twilight Saga's secondary female characters

Jeebus, @DerdriuF, you really uncorked this.

So I'm already six layers deep and I remember a particularly important maxim from ethno-psychologist Clarissa Pinkola-Estes' "Women Who Run with the Wolves" --

A good mother knows when to bring death.

Pinkola-Estes uses the example of a wolf mother who must kill a sickly pup in order to preserve the health and well-being of the rest of her otherwise healthy litter. A pup which is suffering will cause all the other pups harm; the kindness and blessing of real motherhood is in bringing a merciful death.

Rosalie becomes the avenging angel; I think of J. Robert Oppenheimer's quote of the Bhagavad Gita, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." She brings the ultimate power of motherhood here, putting to death her vicious fiance and his evil cohort in direct retribution for killing her human procreative powers through their rape and abandonment of Rosalie unto her own death. She ends the waste that these sick pups represent.

But this exercise of the negative power of motherhood demands a positive counterbalance. This may be the unconscious reason why her baby-hunger remains so rabid in her vampiric life.

The wolf mother, having put down the sick pup, still has a litter to nurture, and Rosalie still demands hers.

This may also partially explain her terseness during the family vote on Bella's transformation. This dark side of motherhood is something we do not wish on any human being lightly. It's not just the taking of human reproductive choice from Bella, but the possibility that Bella might only be a bringer of death, a destroyer of worlds once transformed.

[cross-posted from]

Analysis: Stephenie Meyers' treatment of Twilight Saga's secondary female characters

Posting at, Derdriu oFaolain tackles Twilight saga author Stephenie Meyer's treatment of secondary female characters.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Twilight canon (strange, no?) and something's been bothering me - Stephenie Meyer's treatment of her secondary female characters. We've all debated Bella's behavior (Is she too traditional? Is she too passive? etc. etc.), but I'd like to talk about some of Twilight's other lovely ladies.

There's SO much to discuss here, but I'd like to point out Meyer's obsession with fertility. In canon, so much of a woman's happiness is wrapped up in reproduction. Now, I'm not saying this isn't true for many real women, but it's such a pervasive theme in these books, that it does make one wonder.

Excellent topic.

There's a lot of layers to this onion. It's not as simple as it seems. (I confess to having thought about this issue for some time now, bear with me as I brain dump.)

Layer 1: Meyers' personal background

She's a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attended Brigham Young University and says openly that she's "strait-laced." This is a person who is not going to range too widely from the traditional roles of womanhood in our western culture; she's probably pushed her comfort level with Bella's and Rosalie's human characters as it is. Writers are most comfortable when they write what they know, and this is what Meyers knows best -- traditionally proscribed female roles which are shaped by their reproductive status.

Layer 2: Meyers' unconscious

The use of vampires and werewolves/shape-shifters offers Meyers a convenient device to range more widely than the strictures of her chosen culture because these characters are non-humans. Humans in her world simply aren't permitted to go much farther than the bounds of the faith and society in which she lives. Meyers is said to have dreamed up the characters and plot of Twilight, which suggests her unconscious wanted to stretch the roles of humans, devising the non-human/superhuman/transhuman roles to do so more freely.

I note that Meyers has received less strident protests about her work than J.K. Rowling did about her Harry Potter series. Note, though, that wizards are still human, just endowed with knowledge that is not common to average humans -- rather like the eating of Eden's apple, the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Vampires aren't human and therefore didn't eat that fruit, having attributes which are innate to their kind and embedded in their genes according to Meyers' mythology. The werewolves/shape-shifters of Meyers' mythology also possess attributes that are embedded in Quileute cultural and religious framework as well as their genes, as if they were Creator-granted. Somewhere deep in the group consciousness of our society, we've agreed in this divide between humans with too much knowledge/power and Creator-granted attributes. Perhaps Meyers' unconscious has tapped into and gives expression to this divide.

Which of course shapes her secondary female characters -- they wrestle with conflicts between their inherent human/Creator-granted attributes and the loss of the same (ex. childbearing and its loss, a la Rosalie, memory and its loss a la Alice, motherhood and its loss a la Esme).

Layer 3: The feminine unconscious and energy centers

As in Layer 2, Meyers may have tapped into our collective group unconscious wherein we agree that non-humans can do what humans cannot in terms of exploration.

But our collective unconscious as women may also be expressed in Meyers' secondary characters. Eastern cultures, particularly in India and ayurvedic medicine, focus on energy centers called chakras. Women's reproductive health is in the second chakra; disturbances to this energy center can affect the following mental and emotional issues:

  • Balanced drives in the outer world toward sex, money and relationships;
  • Capacity to co-create with others;
  • Fertility and generativity
  • Relationship dynamics including: dependency vs. independence, giving and taking, defined boundaries vs. poor boundaries, assertiveness vs. passivity

[source: Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Christian Northrup M.D.]

We can see that each of the secondary characters has relationship issues directly related to the kind of reproductive damage, and that each of them must tackle these relationship issues in order to heal (not cure) the damage to their second chakra.

Alice is a special case in that the damage to her second chakra is not direct and not seen as big a challenge as the damage to her sixth and seventh chakras evinced in memory loss.

We see in these secondary characters a range of responses to damaged second chakras:

  • Esme sublimates and compensates by assuming a matriarchal role of vampire-mother;
  • Rosalie becomes a secondary childbearer by protecting Bella and Renesmee;
  • Leah comes to terms with the limitations of her fertility as she comes to terms with the limitations of her relations with the members of her family and tribe.

One key correlation in Eastern medicine is the link between creativity and women's reproductive health. Each of these secondary female characters in some way has had their inherent creativity threatened through damage to their second chakra. Meyers unconsciously finds ways for these women to develop alternative centers of creativity (ex. Rosalie's mechanical skills, Alice's manipulation of her powers of foresight*, Esme's interior decorating).

Layer 4: The role of women over time

Most of the secondary characters presents a critical issue in women's roles in our society.

  • Esme becomes a vampire roughly about the time women win the right to vote for the first time;
  • Alice's memory is wiped and her identity lost at a time when women are beginning to be seen as something other than chattel;
  • Rosalie is raped at a time when even a fiance is perceived as being within his rights to do whatever he wants without repercussion;
  • Renee is a free spirit born of the 1960s, making choices for herself independent of others, but with repercussions on others.

Bella is both blessed and cursed with the learnings and rights acquired by women over time; she is our proxy as we wrestle with the mixed blessings we share as women in contemporary culture. Meyers uses Bella to work out some of these issues when not fully addressed by the challenges the secondary characters have faced (ex. Bella negotiating compromise between her contemporary perceptions of marriage and person autonomy and Edward's traditional legacy perceptions of marriage and men's roles in the same).

Layer 5: The universal attribute shared by women

Let's face it: what makes women different from men is that we bear children. Meyers is using this universal attribute in a range of approaches to hit a broad spectrum of women where they live. We're fertile, we're infertile, we've had a child, we've lost a child, we've had our fertility stolen from us or had a difficult pregnancy or even faced the issue of terminating one -- each of us who identify with one of these statuses will be able to relate in some way to one of the female characters in the Twilight saga.

Whether Meyers has done so consciously is an interesting question, but the results are still the same.

~ o ~ O ~ o ~ O ~ o ~ O ~ o ~

I'm sure if I sat down and talked this analysis through with a few more Twi-hards that I'd see another couple layers to this onion. Ultimately I can't fault Meyers' treatment of secondary characters. Given her background, it's rather incredible she was able to find a way to create characters deep enough, archetypal enough to tackle a plethora of women's issues. She overcame some pretty tight boundaries by way of her feminine creativity to do so.

# # #

* Damn, I realized after I hit publish that Alice not only expresses her feminine power in the alternate to reproduction through creative use of her foresight, but through her nurturing of both her mate Jasper and her enabling Edward (her collaborative application of foresight magnifies the impact of his mind reading skills).

Postscript --

And yet one more layer exists: every one of the female vampires and werewolves/shape-shifters has procreative ability. It's just not valued enough by Meyers to mention in any depth, or viewed negatively. All the female vampires can make more vampires - Victoria obviously does, Maria did, but this is cast in a negative light. Meyers appears to be wrestling internally with the fundamental question of dead/undead since she believes that vampires are genetically reproducible, but not alive in the sense that the spread of their genetic material is seen as creative. Leah as the lone female werewolf retains procreative powers, but she must give up phasing to restore them, and in reproduction will give birth to Quileute with the same shape-shifting potential. Again, this must not be valued as its not explored and fleshed out fully.

[cross-posted from]

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dear Anne: The Why of Twilight's Appeal

Anne Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles, asks today,

"How many of you are Stephanie (sic) Meyer fans? Tell me, if you will what you liked about the Twilight Series. I haven't read the books, but admire Ms. Meyer's achievement. I am curious. Why do you feel that the books satisfy?"

My response is simply too long to paste to her Facebook fan page. I've given this question a lot of thought since I picked up the Twilight saga and began reading it in April this year. I couldn't explain initially why I felt compelled to read and read the series and all of the other online pieces Stephenie Meyers wrote which accompany these books.

Stephenie Meyers' Twilight saga has great appeal to me because of the universality of the topics she writes about -- both at a superficial level and a deeper level -- and because of the archetypal natures of the characters she employs. She also uses the heroic story arc whether she's consciously aware of this or not; the hero's/heroine's journey is in itself an archetype. The language she uses is broadly accessible, too.

In a way, the Twilight saga is like George Lucas' Star Wars trilogies. It replaces the near-magical nature of advanced technology with near-technological magic; note in Meyers' Breaking Dawn the discussions of genetic science involved in the differences between vampires, werewolves and humans, which may not be far fetched considering we have already altered the genomics of animals to make chimeras and entered an age of transhuman nature.

Movie goers accepted the near-magical technology of Star Wars at the time the first movie was released; perhaps they'd already embraced Arthur C. Clarke's premise that any sufficiently advanced technology is nearly indistinguishable from magic. A generation later after Star Wars: A New Hope, young adults accept the idea that other life forms which are nearly similar and nearly compatible with humans can exist in tandem; Meyers removes many magical elements by eliminating or voiding the accumulated popular mythology of vampirism and lycanthropy, making it far easier to accept the potential reality of her non-human characters.

And like Star Wars, the heroic story arc challenges the heroes/heroines and asks them to tackle the nature of good and evil and grapple with moral choices. Twilight's arc asks them in the course of responding to their challenges to exercise individual agency rather than submit to group norms of accepted behavior -- and for this generation which is battered and buffeted by social media to conform en masse, learning how to individuate and accept themselves as individuals is extremely important.

For young adults there is still a crying need to tackle the issues of identity, belonging, love and intimacy, maturation and transformation, relationships with one's friends/partners/families/communities and the essential role that one's sexuality plays in reaching adult understanding of these issues. Some of these issues are not resolved when one reaches a fixed biological or chronological adulthood; they are challenges which we continue to face as part of our essential humanity throughout our lifetime.

We even face these challenges vicariously as we help our children and grandchildren tackle these issues; Meyers reflects this ongoing challenge through the modeling of parental behavior on the part of Renee Dwyer, Charlie Swan, Billy Black, and Carlisle and Esme Cullen. She offers us a range of parental responses to evaluate as readers, so that the reader can freely make their own choices about the nature of role models.

And it is the broad range of characters both human and non-human -- many of which are archetypal -- which makes the exploration of human challenges so appealing, so safe for readers. Readers can talk about bloodlust, at a remove from the more personal and socially "dangerous" topic of lust; they are given the tools to explore the nature of young love and the urgency of its desires without having to get too close. They can explore the range of responses to lust, from Edward Cullen's monk-like denial to Bella Swan's naive passion, and everything in between manifested by other human and non-human cohorts.

Lastly, Meyers has done a tremendous job with creating characters through which archetypes can express themselves succinctly. She is fully into their heads, clearly differentiating Bella's voice and experience of events from that of Jacob, continuing with both Edward and Rosalie in her outtakes published at her website. Her unfinished work, Midnight Sun (regretfully leaked before completion and likely lost to her readers as a finished tome), is a real masterpiece of character exploration. Her Edward is truly the darkest of angels before love transforms him; it is her own ability to embrace and accept her own characters with love and respect in spite of their tremendous frailties and their challenges that makes her work so captivating. We all of us want to be loved and accepted for what we are as individuals, no matter how dark or angsty we may be -- and even when we are feeling other than entirely human.