Posts tagged “Writing

Death by Citation


Hello, I’m a Slytherclaw. ^_^

Once upon a time, I attended wizard school.

(Have I told this story before? I feel like I have. Oh well, I’m repeating it for a reason.)

(Also, I’m not putting a link to the school because they don’t deserve it and I don’t want to stir up old crap with them.)

Somehow—and I’m fuzzy on the exact details, because this was in 2007—I ended up becoming friends with one of the instructors (different department than anything I was interested in, so no conflict of interest there), who encouraged me to become a teacher’s assistant. Joining the staff meant that everything beyond what I’d already paid for in tuition was free and they would start paying me after promotion to instructor, which was usually about a year after acceptance to TA status and developing your first class. (In fact, they encouraged you to use the year to develop your class so the two requirements would be completed about the same time.)

I was doing well in my classes (to the point where I had two of my three nominations needed for the dean’s list), my aromatherapy classes were developing apace (yup, plural! I had that much material) under the supervision of my department head (I was in the healing division, which is why one of my lesser used nicknames is “Leuca Bleu”short for my wizarding name, “Melaleuca the Blue”*)…and then I met E.

CUE NIGHTMARE MUSIC!

Jaina Proudmore (of World of Warcraft/Hearthstone fame). Not my usual class, but I figured a female mage wearing blue was probably about the closest I was going to get to a blue wizard of the proper gender.

*Each division within wizard school was assigned a color and healing was blue. My minors were herbalism (green) and divination (yellow).

Now I’m not usually one to accuse someone of using untoward means to get to where they are; but if E was willing to blackmail me (and pretend she didn’t), chances are good that she got elsewhere with foul play, as well.

After all, I was down to the last assignment of my last class, both for promotion to level two and securing that last nomination to the dean’s list. What better way to ensure your student will bow down and kiss your hand then to threaten both their accolades and advancement? Of course, E never overtly said that’s what she was doing; but it didn’t take a genius to figure out her intentions, either.

I don’t remember what exactly we were supposed to do; but I suspect it was a lot like the herbarium I’m doing right now for one of my grad school classes, just with a lot less in the way of requirements, and with the information coming out of our textbooks.

Anyway, I turned it in and waited for my grade…only to be told that she “expects more out of [her] adult students” and could I please add some additional information?

That should’ve flagged. Hard.

Like “I should’ve gone running to D (my friend) and said, ‘HELP! E is trying to hit me with a double standard!'” hard.

Or gone to S (my advisor) at the very least.

But instead, I decided to stick it out and do what she wanted. I got out my favorite aromatherapy book, copied out the appropriate information and wrote at the bottom, “This information provided by [title] by [author].”

Probably not the best citation; but given that all the data was copied out of the same book, not the worst—especially when the worst would be no citation at all.

Oh, how wrong I was!

Probably the wrongest wrong I’ve ever been—and that’s even allowing for my failure to report the double-standard-blackmail bullshit E was trying to pull.

You see, there wasn’t a grand announcement when I joined the staff as a TA.

In fact, there wasn’t any at all, if I can remember correctly.

So when E announced to the staff mailing list that she needed help finding the anti-plagiarism lesson because “one of her students didn’t know better” (or some such) and she’d lost it on the forum (where they kept all their important papers, apparently), she had No. Fucking. CLUE that I was aware the millisecond she not only broadcasted to the entire world that I was a giant cheater (which was a horrendous lie that had dire consequences), but displayed her fucking email address (this was through Yahoo Groups) so the shit could hit the fan rather royally.

And boys howdy did it ever!

Lots of caps?

Oh yeah!

At least three profane words?

I’d be shocked if there weren’t!

Statements wherein you [A] Called E a liar; [B] Told E that if she had a problem with you, she should’ve contacted you privately; [C] Accused E of “dragging your name through the mud” or any combination thereof?

[C] Absolutely; [B] Very good odds; and [A] 50/50 probability.

I don’t know how I ever thought railing against her could have ended well; but rage screams first and asks questions later.

I’m sure the first thing I did was get out of E’s class. “If she’s not my teacher, she can’t hold anything over my head and”…yeah, I don’t know how I thought that would work to get rid of the plagiarism accusation. My thought was just to get away from her, find another class and do well so I could get to “second year” and make the dean’s list.

I was going to say that the second thing I did was use my limited TA powers to kick myself out of the class I was subbing in; but now I feel like maybe I was locked out instead. (I don’t remember the nature of the class, but I think it was an easy-peasy one that any Wiccan or Pagan could teach with even so much as six months in the art under their belts.)

And then there was dealing with the Ruling Council of Wizard School—better known as the Dragon’s Eye.

(I don’t remember the name or title of the woman I dealt with, so let’s call her Morgan le Fay and let’s say she was the Dean of Students.)

This is where the timeline gets tricky, so bear with me.

Let’s imagine E didn’t snap back at me but immediately warned Morgan of my rage. I’m sure I got an email from Morgan saying that there was no reason that I should be upset; that all I had to do was complete the plagiarism assignment, and once I’d proven I knew where I went wrong and was penitent, the Dragon’s Eye would almost assuredly take me off suspension and I could get back to work.

Good thing there were computers between Morgan and I so I wouldn’t have to decide whether to smack her, scream at her, or both.

Naturally, I screamed.

I railed at her for siding with E and her double standards, for allowing E to drag my name through the mud with false accusations (that wasn’t an arbitrary statement earlier—I at least remember that much from this whole fiasco), etcetera. I don’t remember if I dropped my classes myself or if they did it for me, but I know I got out and I slept badly that night; and when I woke up (at 7 or 7:30 that morning—that’s how bad it was), there was a message from Morgan in my Hotmail box saying—among other things, I’m sure—that E wasn’t dragging my name through the mud.

As the kids used to say: that’s so funny, I forgot to laugh.

I don’t remember how it ended, but I know I threatened to report her to her ISP for harassment if she didn’t stop talking to me. (Probably not as much of a threat back then as it is now with cyberbullying laws, but it was my go-to to get people to shut up.)


So this is how my papers look nowadays. Here’s the results section from my term paper with the sentences replaced with word count and the citations left in:

[1 sentence] (TRC, n.d.). [1 sentence] (TRC, n.d.). MedlinePlus [sentence] (n.d.). [2 sentences]

[Part of a sentence], Foster and Duke (2000) [rest of the sentence]. [1 sentence]. WebMD (n.d.) [2 sentences]. Hausen [part of a sentence] (in 1996) [rest of the sentence, plus 1 more].

[Part of a sentence] Tenney (2007) [rest of the sentence]. [Part of a sentence], Lawless (1995) [rest of the sentence]. Ulbricht (2010) [1 sentence + large quote]. Drugs.com (n.d.) [1 sentence].

Naturally, I had a professor say once in undergrad, “You use too many citations.”

Amazing how fast he shut up when I told him this story!

Guess what?

When this

is on the line, there is NO SUCH THING as too many citations!

(I’m switching out of MSCAM and starting MSA in the spring, but this was the only ACHS masters I could find. Thanks, Chris!)


P.S. from the following month: Turns out I told this story in 2016. This version is better.

P.P.S. (062220): Now it seems like the class I was subbing for was on the elements. Like I said, easy!

I also left ACHS for SNHU to resume the grad program I left at the end of 2016. (Feel like I should put that in there, because I’m sure I’ll show this to professors as I go. Seems like I’ve already done it at least once.)


I Latinx You Ought to Jump in a Hole

Everyone rants about “irregardless”, “to/too”, “your/you’re”, “its/it’s”, and “there/their/there”, but what really needs to be happening is bitching about the new non-word “Latinx”. I acknowledge that grammar evolves and changes over time; but unlike English, Spanish and Portuguese have already provided for trans and neutral folk simply by having gendered language. We’re going to focus on Spanish here, though, as I know squat-all about Portuguese1 and there are too many other languages the rest of the way down the Latino food chain.


Try not to have too much fun on your way down.

How the hell are you supposed to pronounce that, anyway? “La-tinks”? “La-tinsh”2? I’m not even sure, because from what I’ve seen, X shows up primarily in Mexican and Central American Spanish and Catalan. Not that it matters whether it shows up in American Spanish, because LATINX IS NOT A WORD!

A group of males is “Latinos”. A group of females is “Latinas”. A mixed-gendered group is also “Latinos”, because a mixed-gendered group of anything always carries the masculine ending.

What if I’m trans?
Estoy pensando en cambiar mi género. | Estoy trabajando en cambiar mi género.
“I’m thinking of changing my gender” or “I’m working on changing my gender”.

How about gender neutral?
Soy neutral en género. | Prefiero no elegir un género.
“I’m gender neutral” or “I prefer not to pick a gender”.

What about being bigender/genderfluid?
“Prefiero no elegir un género” still works, or you could go with, “Mi género cambia con mi estado de ánimo”. (“My gender changes with my mood.”)

What if—
Stop. Just stop. Now you’re just trying to piss me off.

I’m done trying to correct people on this one—it’s just too damn tiring and too easy to hit the block button. If you’re going to continue to purposefully remain ignorant, that hole is waiting.


1Yes, I’ve tried Duolingo. Last I knew, the reader for Portuguese had an incredible case of word vomit. x_x (Which is a shame, because I’m shortly to get a Brazilian cousin-in-law.)

2X has an sh sound in Catalan, which is where the suggestion of “La-tinsh” comes from.

 

Sorry this lacks my usual venom—my heart just wasn’t in it this time.


Fanfic Makes Us

I've never read Seanan McGuire's work (until this thread, anyway), but this tweet essay is fantastic, so I thought I'd take advantage of my sudden, inexplicable popularity to share this with the wider world.

I don't know where the paragraph breaks would be, so I'm breaking it off by tweet, except for where a sentence runs across two.


All right, y'all: we're going to take a moment to talk about my last retweet. Specifically Sarah saying "Every time I talk about writing fanfiction, I get hatemail." I am not tagging her in because I don't want to dogpile her mentions.

Buckle in. It's going to be long one.

 

I started writing fiction, so far as anyone can tell based on excavation of my old papers (Mom kept everything), around the age of six. In these stories, I went off to Ponyland to play with the Ponies and hang out with Megan. Everyone loved me, naturally. I got to ride unicorns.

Most of the kids I knew were making up the same stories; I was precocious only in that I was already writing them down. The boy three houses over had a very close relationship with the Care Bears. His sister was the best mechanic the Transformers had ever known.

Was most of it self-insert wish-fulfillment? Well, yeah. FUCK, YEAH. We were kids. We were learning how to make up stories, and the best stories were the ones that had a place for us in their centers.

As we got older, most of the boys I knew stopped telling—or at least stopped sharing—those stories. They had discovered that the majority of media centered boys exactly like them, which meant they could move from self-insertion to projection without a hiccup.

(Projection is also an important step in learning how to make believe. If you can't BE the main character, you can let them be your avatar, carrying your essence into the story. Here's the thing, though: it takes time to learn to "ride" avatars that you can't recognize.)

Everyone who grows up on a diet of Western media learns, on some level, to accept The Default as their avatar, because we historically haven't had much choice. Want to be the hero, instead of the love interest, the scrappy sidekick, or the villain? Embrace The Default.

Bit by bit, the number of girls* who would admit to making up their own stories also dropped off. The rest of us, well. We learned that "I had an adventure…" made people laugh at you. We started writing avatars. (*Parts of this thread are very binary, because they are based on my childhood experiences, and I grew up, as many of us did, in a very gender binary world. I am fascinated to see how these experiences with story change as we move into a more fluid and accepting world.)

Only writing avatars also got us laughed at, when people found out about it, got us accused of Mary Sue wish-fulfillment bullshit. We stopped making up original female characters. Many of us stopped making up characters at all.

If we used only existing characters as our avatars, we didn't get laughed at as much. If we used only existing MALE characters—characters we had all been trained to view as The Default, capable of anything, not just of being The Girl—well.

Suddenly we could write ANYTHING WE WANTED. Suddenly we were GODS OF THE FICTIONAL WORLD, and we could finally start telling the stories the shows and books didn't want to give us.

I honestly think that the reason so many fanfic writers are women/girls is a toxic combination of social stigma ("ew, fanfic is a GIRLY thing, ew, it's all PORN, and most of it is GAY PORN") and seeking a way to empathize with The Default.

So you have generations—literal, multiple GENERATIONS—of female authors growing up steeped in fanfic. Making our own stories from high school on, if not before. Trying to find our way to a schema of story that actually fits us.

(You also have generations of queer authors, trans authors, and gender-nonconforming authors, all going on their own journeys. My sexuality definitely influenced my attraction to fanfic, because finally, I wasn't being judged for it.)

This means that you have, again, GENERATIONS of female authors who have gone through the most rigorous writing school in existence, going pro and starting to publish.

Yes: THE most rigorous. FIGHT ME. Fanfic taught me pacing. Taught me dialog. Taught me scene, and structure, and what to do when a deadline attacks. Fanfic taught me to take critique, to be edited, to collaborate, to write to spec. FANFIC MADE ME.

An MFA takes three years. My path from fanfic newbie to published author took me more than a decade.

It's not a structured school. There aren't classes, or finals; you don't get a degree. How fast you learn is tied to how fast you listen, and you can stop whenever you find the place that makes you happy. "Going pro" is not the brass ring for every fanfic author.

But.

A [considerable] number of us started writing fanfic because we wanted to live the stories that we loved, and then discovered that we loved telling stories. We wanted to do it always and forever and maybe…maybe we wanted to tell OUR OWN STORIES.

Maybe we wanted to CHANGE THE DEFAULT.

Can you imagine?

The audacity!

Graduates of a school that doesn't cost money, with a "student body" made of mostly women, CHANGING THE DEFAULT.

Because here's where I'm going to pivot a little, and tell you a filthy, filthy secret: men write fanfic too. They just call it "homage," or "public domain," or "licensed work," and get on with their bad selves.

FUZZY NATION? Fanfic.

WICKED? Fanfic.

Every X-Men comic written since Claremont stopped? Fanfic.

Your beloved HAMILTON? Real-person fanfic. Songfic, even.

When men write fanfic, there is a tendency for the media to report on it as "transformative" and "transgressive" and "a new take on a classic story."

When women do it, the same media goes "hee hee hee she wrote about dicks."

Am I blaming the men who tell the stories? Fuck, no. But when the conversation is always framed as "HE makes LITERATURE, SHE writes TRASH," that is the schema people seize upon. That is the narrative we live.

The Default, now, is that a man who writes fanfic is uplifting and transforming, showing us the pearl within the oyster, whereas all the woman wants to show us is the "pearl" in the "oyster," in the Victorian sense.

AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE VICTORIAN SENSE. But this is just an updated version of the "men write erotica, women write pornography" conversation that's been going on since I was a wee small Seanan sneaking my stepdad's Playboys.

Women who admit they wrote (or still write) fanfic get shit upon, over and over again, because we keep saying, and allowing the media to say, that fanfic is trash, and that by extension, we who write it are garbage people.

It gets used as a "gotcha." I have experienced it directly, the interviewer who drops their voice, leans in conspiratorially close, and asks if the rumors that I used to write…those stories…are true.

They always look so damn shocked when I respond with a cheerful, "Oh, yeah, my agent initially contacted me because she really enjoyed my BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER Faith/Buffy porn!"

[Cue Dayanara rolling her eyes on Seanan's behalf]

I am supposed to be ashamed of my past. I am supposed to repudiate the school where I learned to hold an audience; I am supposed to bury the bodies of all the girls who made me.

I refuse.

Fanfic is a natural human interaction with story. Children do it before they know its name. People who swear they would never do it all the time, retelling fairy tales and Shakespearean dramas and family anecdotes in new lights and new settings. FANFIC WILL NEVER DIE.

We need to acknowledge that fact: we need to accept that fanfic is never going away, and that it would suck a sack of wasps through a funnel if it did, because we need it. We need to center old stories in new ways, to update The Default, and yeah, to see some vampire peen.

So if you know someone who wrinkles their nose at fanfic, or who would tell a former fanfic author that their original fiction is somehow worth less because of their roots, or who is just generally an impacted asshole with legs, remember:

They are wrong.

Fanfic is beautiful.

Writing fanfic teaches you important storytelling skills.

I have a funnel and access to wasps.

 

Thank you for coming to today's episode of Seanan Gets Mad About Shit.


And thank you for accepting my choice to repost this.

Now I must go…my fingers hurt from the copypasta. 😛


Aside

Quick Follow-up

Heard back from the President of Grape, who smirkingly claimed I was “threatening” him.

What?

Since when is, “I know we can solve this quickly and easily and don’t have to get copyright attorneys involved” threatening?

Just to ensure we’re all on the same page, I said (in part):

Please tell me that you care enough about your site that I don’t have to file a lawsuit against you. I don’t want to spend the time and money on something that should be solved by a simple email.

“Please tell me” is a request; a simple desire to know that your users are…I don’t want to say “overzealous” because that might be misconstrued, but you get the idea. The next line is just a suggestion that the whole situation should be able to be solved quickly and painlessly, without getting out the big guns on either side. But this guy is too busy smirking like Martin Shkreli to realize that.

 

You know how when you accuse someone of raising their voice, they say, “that’s not yelling”, then raise their volume and say, “THIS IS YELLING!“? Here’s me actually yelling…er..threatening:

I was asking nicely, not threatening. But if you can’t tell the difference, it’s no wonder you permit copyright violations.

I’ve changed my mind about the lawsuit—I don’t want to see your smug face in court. I’d be too tempted to beat the stupid out of you and infantile minds like yours are not worth going to jail over.

“Copyright violations” is a touchy subject in this circumstance, especially since no one is actively using my work, and it would be more than mine (more about that in a minute). I don’t know if I would actually try to punch him in court since I’m a bit of a goody-goody, but he at least promoted himself to the rank of “I want to reach through the computer and strangle you”, so there is that.

 

As for “not my copyright”? No paper trail means no proof that the near-casting agreement ever existed. (Probably why I was angling so hard for a contract—besides the fact that I [naively] thought back then that contracts can hold people to their word.) Which means Disney would happily take me down for copyright violations. And if I go down, I’ll take President Grape’s smirking ass with me.

P.S.: You’re well aware that the books in question would essentially be fanfiction, right? They’d be books that tied into my debut novel, which is based on a tenuous agreement I had with Marvel pre-Disney. If I go down for copyright violations, everyone associated the least little bit with me goes down with me. I’d like to see you smirk your way out of it in front of Disney’s attorneys, but I imagine they wouldn’t allow me access to a television while in jail.

 

In the words of Katniss, if we burn, you burn with us.


Related: Book Murder

 

Belated P.S.: as I was emptying my email trash, I discovered a quick note back: “Copyright isn’t what you think it is—duplicate titles are allowed. Maybe you’re thinking of trademarks?” Maybe you’re so fucking dense that you missed “not even my copyright” and “I’m going to enjoy watching you squirm when Disney fries your ass alongside mine.”


Book Murder

or: How My Decision was Made for Me


When I’m debating whether to get rid of a potential book (or two), I generally like to make the decision for myself. But sometimes things get so out of hand that you have no choice but to let it go.

 

There are quite a few book cataloging sites out there, with Goodreads probably being the most famous. One I haven’t heard of until a few months ago (I’m going to call it “Grape” out of laziness) when someone on one of the Not Always sites told me about it. (I wish I could remember who it was, because it probably would’ve saved a lot of the drama I’m about to share!) It seemed pretty easy to join Grape and get my stuff listed, so I did, and was loosely involved in the site until yesterday.

When this person (let’s call her “Amanda”) found out about my work, she (helpfully) made a page for my debut novel, then made pages for two books I hadn’t written yet—Emmeline and Elizabeth.

It didn’t bother me at first. There was always the chance I’d write them myself, or pay for a ghostwriter to do them as I mentioned in Prequels, Sequels and Problems.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t a good idea. It’s one thing to make pages for books I’m fairly certain I’ll write (Dark and Dirty Games is an excellent example); it’s another to make pages for books that I’ve publicly stated are low on my priority list, as it’s not likely they’ll ever be written.

After poking around in Grape’s FAQ section and its help pages, I decided to ask for help in the forums.

Big mistake!

To summarize the responses, the pages can’t be deleted, and it’s not permissible to ask Amanda to delete them, either.1

“But it’s my work and my intellectual property! I’m the one that has control over it, not Amanda!”

“It doesn’t matter if they’re your books,” the users argued. “Amanda posted the pages, they’re her work, you have no rights to them and no right to contact her and ask her to remove them.” (One user said that Grape isn’t a bibliography, it’s a catalog of books belonging to people on the site. But that makes no sense, because how can you claim to own a book that’s never been written?)2

While I’m sure copyright law doesn’t protect books I haven’t written, I do know that you can contact sites and ask them to take down pictures and information they have of yours—that’s why services that clean up your web presence exist! Which means that the whole “you can’t contact Amanda” premise is bullshit.

You’re right—I can’t contact Amanda, but I can contact “Lambda”, who I believe owns the site!

 

I told Lambda what was going on, argued that I should have control over my intellectual property, and asked her nicely to remove the pages, as I didn’t want to file a lawsuit over something that could be solved with a simple email.

Her response? [*crickets*]

While I would’ve preferred a short response along the lines of “sorry for all the problems—the pages are deleted”, not getting one means I don’t have to worry about my anxiety being triggered. (Not to mention not having money for an attorney, should it go that far.)

 

As for the dead books? Why should I write something with so much negativity attached to it?

(I was going to go into detail about the ideas I had for the dead books, but I don’t have the energy anymore. I’m just glad this is all—pretty much—over.)

=====

1I honestly don’t care about Grape’s etiquette—if Amanda wasn’t listed as a private user (thereby rendering her unreachable), I would’ve contacted her and saved myself a headache or seven.

2One user actually had the gall to say, “No one is going to read your books after you threw a hissy fit like this!”
“Ooo, big fucking threat! No one reads my books anyway!”
(They might not read my books, but I noticed an uptick in visitors on my site! HA!)