Category Archives: human sustainability

Don’t Mistake What I Am Saying About Women …

First off, I just finished doing some work I really do not have a lot of extra time to do, but I did it anyway. Second, I doubt too many male writers would share my experience of having to slack off to go get some items for dinner. It’s cooking right now. Of course there are some: single dads and others.

So hell I sit around and way more often than I should, I feel sorry for myself. I just counted up all the Nebula Award nominated stories and authors since this award began in 1966. I wanted to make the case that “who the story is about” is more important than “who wrote the story.” I discovered that my betters, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Nancy Kress, Connie Willis, Vonda McIntyre, Nina Kiriki Hoffmann, Carol Emshwiller, Lisa Tuttle (who has ethics – she did not want her award, the only person to so-decline to date), Esther Friesner, Ursula Le Guin, and Jane Yolen – had all written stories with female protagonists who received the award.

I only dealt with the short story category. It would drive me insane to deal with all the other categories. And then there’s the Hugos, with which there is some, not a lot, of overlap.

So here’s who these babies are about – by year:

1966 The Harlequin and the Ticktockman
1967 Geology assistant/WWII Vet (“The Secret Place”) and “dead boy’s sister”
1968 Neutered Spacers (Chip Delany)
1969 Dr. Darin (male), monkeys, mentally deficient boy (Kate Wilhelm)
1970 A man (“Passengers” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1971 – no award –
1972 A man (“Good News from the Vatican” by Robert Silverberg – first person narrative)
1973 Janet Evason – this story is “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ about an all-female planet
1974 Moggadeet – an alien who is eaten by his female mate (by “James Tiptree, Jr.” – “Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death”)
1975 Laia Asieo Odo, an elderly woman (aka Odo, in male form, in “The Dispossessed” – by Ursula Le Guin)
1976 Dolf, a man running out of time, who must catch that Zeppelin
1977 A man (“A Crowd of Shadows” by Charles L. Grant – first person narrative)
1978 Jeffty – he’s five. He is always five.
1979 Rob (a guy, a musician)
1980 “An old scientist” and “young female reporter” and giant ants.
1981 Boyd, a male archaologist who discovers his acquaintance Luis is an immortal
1982 An unnamed woman (Lisa Tuttle “The Bone Flute” the only author to refuse the award, due to problems with another author campaigning)
1983 A girl and her dog (Connie Willis)
1984 A young boy who survives a global flood
1985 An old man and a young boy (Williams and John)
1986 Sally Gourley, a truck stop waitress of indeterminate age (by Nancy Kress!)
1987 Pal Tremont, a Korean boy
1988 Gordon Sills (male), Avery Roda (male), love object “Anna” (female)
1989 Sheila, a prostitute rescued from the Biblical Flood, and mother
1990 Male physicist who discovers time travel
1991 Guy who observes that bears have discovered fire
1992 Vietnam guy, Charlie
1993 Three women discuss menstruation (Connie Willis!)
1994 Vietnam guy, first-person narrative
1995 Anli (female) and Derren (male) (Martha Soukup)
1996 The Librarian and Death (Esther Friesner!)
1997 A woman who has the day off for her virtual child’s birthday (Esther Friesner!)
1998 Sister Emily (Jane Yolen!)
1999 Vietnam guy (my dear friend Bruce Holland Rogers – but this theme is starting to look like “Never go full-retard” as stated by fake black guy Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder)
2000 Professional (female) victim (Leslie What)
2001 Investigator of Victim Rights Closure Statements (anti-death penalty story by Terry Bisson)
2002 Maria, African albino women
2003 Mother with a creature for a child (Carol Emshwiller who is better than all)
2004 Female narrator hunting gorillas (Karen Joy Fowler “What I Didn’t See”)
2005 Daughter coming to terms with elderly dying father
2006 A succubus-type of indeterminate gender who lives with a typical middle-aged working woman
2007 An abandoned mistress
2008 17 year old, formerly youngest female resident of Always
2009 Alanna and Ylva (by Nina Kiriki Hoffmann)
2010 “Nameless female survivor” of spacewreck
2011 A man who creates a tiny man
2012 A little boy with a paper tiger
2013 Quy an “older sister”
2014 A narrator of indeterminate gender
2015 Grandma, Eva, a Jackalope wife

Now, nerds and dweebs and geeks – this is who I am. The majority of these winners are either my friends or friendly acquaintances. Some of them have been my teachers and mentors.

I started feeling unholy sorry for myself. Some of my friends, acquaintances, teachers and mentors have unbelievable Publishers Weekly reviews for their work. They have loving retrospectives, and in-depth reviews, story-by-story, of collections of their work. And I saw book after book, whether single, standalone story or collection, with one, two, or three reviews on Amazon. I saw the same b.s. (maybe not the same “quality” as me – but I am “special”) on their work — two star reviews, etc. Judging by Amazon, my dreadful crap has even outsold some of their outstanding work.

So, what I wrote about was this:

To Kiss the Star
Mel Armstrong – 17 – wheelchair-bound, blind, spastic, chosen for spaceflight
The Renascence of Memory
Carol Meyers – 80 – Alzheimer’s patient, former wife, mother, college professor
This Monster
Grendel’s Dam – ageless
Jenny, With the Stars in Her Hair
Jenny Julian – 35 – addicted to extreme cosmetic surgery
The Color of Time
Gia – 21, Nana – 81, Faith – 31
Smiley the Robot
Miss Gia – 85
Everything I Have is Yours
Helene Bacon – 50 – famous film director, Sarah Bacon – 16 – her daughter
Heart of Jade
The Lady – 30 – daughter of 20 Rabbit, the last great king of Copan
Shakespeare in Hell
Emilia Bassano – 35-ish (actually died at age 74) – reputed “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets
The Ruined Gods
Ginger – 28 – a cat woman; Rikki/Roxane/Roksana – 73
The Gods That Men Don’t See
Ginny Baumann – 33 – primatologist
Digger Lady
Vi Elliott – 73 – paleontologist
Incandescent
Paperwhite – a newborn
Her Name is Jacqueline
Lori Johnston – 36 – attorney

The thing is, I might not write very well. I might be crude and maybe not very talented.

Instrumentality of women 600 x 900But I think I am honest. And I listen. So.

Disabled people really will go to the stars, once it is time. Women will continue to use extreme cosmetic surgery to get what they want, although it doesn’t work. There will be a sub-cellular level treatment for Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases – even a reversal of the aging process. People will come to understand that time and space are artifacts of our sensory perceptions. Some day, a robot will fall in love with and care for an old lady, because he knows no better. A woman will one day win the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award as a film director. Some day, a woman will write better than Shakespeare. A woman likely did co-found today’s Mayan community. Some day a woman who lives only a short time will travel faster than the speed of light and save many lives. There probably were early humans here in North America 100,000 years ago. The Mayan howler monkey god is real. Gender reassignment will become much more common and complete. People will so seriously clone for companionship and then – some – the scummy few – will use for organ donation.

There is a hot trade in Altoid mints, intergalactically-speaking.

“Don’t write about your little life,” said Toni Morrison. Open your ears, open your eyes, open your heart –

FREE YOUR MIND

I didn’t know this advice over the years. I know it now, and I’m glad I took it, instinctively. As I say to students, why should we become so upset about abortion, when medical science can and will solve this? Why should we become so angry about the death penalty, when the crimes to which it is the penalty will cease due to evolution?

You think I am wrong? I am an optimist; I am a listener.

Are you?

maui high school robotics room

Grief, Joy and Pride, all Mixed Together-Like

Gee whiz, shouldn’t that headline be “12 Ways Irving, TX High School Failed Ahmed Mohamed”?

Or, “Texas School Officials Apply Racial Profiling to Young Inventor.”

So, here is the Stillwater High robotics room in Minnesota.

stillwater hs robotics room

With all the boxes, circuit boards, backpacks, power sources and without a doubt, beeping stuff in there, the mentality that handcuffed and arrested Ahmed Mohamed in Irving, Texas would be calling in the Navy SEALS for support.

Here’s the robotics and engineering room at Maui High School:

maui high school robotics roomSo I’ve been looking at these fantastic projects and schools . . .

And I looked up what STEAM meant:

Adding “art and design” to “science, technology, engineering and math.”

I’m so proud of these students. Not just Ahmed, who is so praiseworthy, but also all the other hard-working, gifted young students learning and building and making. My heart is filled with joy to see how creative their educational experiences are.

By the way – is it possible for them to MAKE these things in isolation? Via some sort of remote, mobile app?

I have news for Peter Diamandis and the educational “Learning Management System” providers I’ve recently been in contact with: Learning isn’t “knowledge transfer.” It occurs by doing. How this can somehow be separated from personal interaction for things we actually make and do — is beyond me. Moving little pictures around on an app or watching someone build a robot is NOT the same as building one.

In order to learn how to write anything coherent that communicates, one must first read many different things, and must also follow all the steps in the writing process. They are more than just “in the absence of anything else, just write.”

But grief: I am not sorry for Ahmed Mohamed and his family. Their troubles have turned into what must certainly be a blessing. The horrible incident in Texas is paying off in plenty of education and awareness for others. I hope many teachers see this and realize the trap of unconscious (or conscious) racism, racial profiling, bias — and just plain being behind the times. I put those pictures of our young bomb-makers to show just how out of touch anyone at that school would be to see Ahmed’s clock project as a bomb. Also to show how irresponsible his engineering teacher was, to not help him present his project to the class — instead of telling him to hide it and not show others.

No, I’m grieving because when I was in third grade, somebody gave a chemistry set to our elementary school. It didn’t have enough supplies or equipment to outfit an entire class. It was really just enough for 2-3 students to use at a time. And of all the kids at the school, they gave the chemistry set to me. They put it in an unused room next to the library, told me to go one period a day and figure out experiments. I was even put in charge of inviting kids to do experiments with me. Of course I asked my friends to come along. I’m sure I left plenty of kids out that I should have asked. I was by myself the day I almost set the school on fire.

The best thing I did out of that set was grow hydroponic vegetables that were in the school office for at least two years. The worst? Almost setting the school on fire by setting parts of my lunch on fire.

Yes, back in the day, they let a 3rd grader play unsupervised with a Bunsen burner.

So, by the time I got to high school, I failed Chemistry. I was assigned a lab partner who referred to me as “Stupid American Girl” and who didn’t get what we were supposed to be doing. He didn’t believe in lab notes. I didn’t know how to stand up to him so I went along with his cockamamie schemes. We failed together.

So it just kind of breaks my heart to see these young women making things and building things.

My option was to paint and write. I did it, and I have made a lot of things.

But for me: I wouldn’t have been able to make something like Ahmed. Not after third grade or so. That was when it became uncool for girls to be interested in things like that. Girls needed to be interested in sewing, cooking, fashion, home decorating. It was suspicious even that I liked to read — not to mention the stuff I *did* read.

Yeah well, so I’m feeling sorry for myself.

I do wish this could have been me.

ahmed-robotics

So, if you are an English teacher, familiarize yourself a little with robotics and engineering courses today. Go visit the robotics club or engineering classroom. Learn to recognize circuit boards, power sources and other commonly-used components. Educate yourself on things like Arduino chips.

Look into 3-D printing. See what can be made in addition to the endlessly-shown dumba** with the 3-D printed rifle. Most recently, it’s been Hershey’s chocolate. One of the experts in it thinks the biggest long-term use will be 3-D printed food.

I think my job is to bridge the gap between the generations. Those who came before, and those who will come after.

Yesterday I got into it with a gender-biased guy who thinks there’s nothing wrong with himself. Many of my friends continue to search for valid reasons why Ahmed was treated so poorly at his Texas high school. I’m sorry to say, there are no good or valid reasons, any more than it was right for my high school chemistry teacher to partner me with a failing student because he was sure I’d fail, too and furthermore it didn’t matter. It wasn’t any more right for one of our high school counselors to tell my friend to go to our local community college and “get her Mrs. degree.”

It’s like some of my recent interchanges with the “Learning Management System” people (Canvas, Blackboard, D2L, Fedora, etc.) Just as Peter Diamandis thinks that mobile technology will somehow make people learn (like … the existence of books makes people learn?) and negate the need for classrooms and teachers, these folks think that the ability to put a handout online, include a powerpoint, and have papers turned in via computer (or mobile device – hey!) constitutes improvement in learning. Without the human connection, testing and feedback: no. It doesn’t.

That’s a woman’s opinion. Because of how school was when I grew up – even with the opportunities I was given – I didn’t get the chance to build these things. And that makes me sad.

 

 

How Will The World End? Is There a Clue From The Easter Island Heads? They Also Have Bodies!

Did you know? The Easter Island heads have giant bodies that are buried below the surface!

AH2B07The end of the world came sooner for the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) people than for the rest of us.

While people remain on the island today, all the trees of this once-tropical paradise are gone, and the secrets of making the giant statues are forgotten. This rare picture shows the size of the head compared to the buried body.

easter island head bodyThere are more mysteries on earth than we can possibly imagine!

I am often inspired by one of my favorite media personalities, Giorgio Tsoukalos. Giorgio’s open mind helps us to see many possibilities that we otherwise would not consider.

Aliens may very well have started the human race down the path of civilization. They may also have been a source of much ancient knowledge that has been forgotten today. From the ancient Mayans to the Easter Island Rapa Nui people to the ancient Greeks and Romans, many have predicted the end of the world or apocalypse.

Hundreds of predictions have not come to pass, but here are some of the threats coming up soon:

“There is an asteroid with our name on it,” British television astrophysicist Brian Cox told the Daily Mail. tv astrophysicist brian coxAn asteroid nearly impacted the earth in 2014. We almost died in a cataclysm similar to the one that destroyed the dinosaurs.

But, we didn’t.

Now, as many as six world-shattering asteroids could be headed our way, with reported impacts predicted for the days between coming between September 21 and 28 … less than a month from now!

The “Blood Moon Prophecy” originated with Rev. Efrain Rodriguez. Additional pastors, including the Revs. Mark Blitz and John Hagee, have told their followings of tens of thousands that the fourth “Blood Moon” this year will herald the arrival of a giant asteroid. This monster-sized rock the size of a city block, is supposed to hit the earth near Puerto Rico, causing a 300-foot tsunami, vaporization of Puerto Rico and surrounding areas, and a magnitude-12 earthquake.

jumbo jet sized asteroid

Asteroids “bigger than a jumbo jet” come close to earth on a monthly basis, according to NASA, which regularly updates the public on near-misses.

And guess what?

By anywhere from 1 to 2 billion years from now, the earth will for certain be burned to a cinder due to the inevitable expansion of our Sun. Some experts now predict that the end may come even sooner than that — as soon as 100 years from now. According to Reuters, children born today may live to see humanity’s end as a result of global warming above 2C.

Just in case …

You can read up on all of these doomsday scenarios and more!

For $15, you can get a bunch of classic disaster novels from StoryBundle, and donate to the Challenger Center for Science Education! Featuring FIRE by Alan Rodgers (there are some nuclear challenges in the book, but mostly a horrible virus that brings the dead back to life — including meat in freezers! — is on the rampage) and great books by Kevin J. Anderson, David Sakmyster, Laura Anne Gilman and more! If you have never heard of StoryBundle, check it out! You can get top-quality, best-selling books for a single low price, you can name your own price as well, and let them know how much of the proceeds you would like to go to the author, to StoryBundle, and to a designated charity!

 

 

Let’s Do This Different

The Hitler Channel (AHC) has been showing documentaries about “The Evolution of Evil.” These cover such perennial favorites as Hitler and Stalin. Both gentlemen rose to power following the breakdown of monarchies in Europe/Russia and the first World War.

evolution of evil nazi brandBoth, interestingly, were young men from relatively impoverished backgrounds — “outsiders” who rose to power in the chaos following the fall of prior Imperial structures. Hitler was a German-speaking Austrian; Stalin a Russian-speaking Georgian. Both were educated in traditional religious schools prior to becoming involved in revolutionary movements.

Russia’s “Man of Steel,” Stalin, had a lot longer run than Germany’s Fuhrer, Hitler.

So in recent months I’ve had a bit of contact with younger people who desire change. Some reminds me of my great time working with Policymic. Others — maybe not so much.

I put my experience working with Policymic in the 100% positive column. I think many of the Policymic former and current writers are doing incredible things and that they want nothing but good for other people. They want, and are working, for positive change. I was really glad to see Laura Donovan writing for Attn:, for example.

I find a number of younger people who seem to be locked into a cycle of complaints, the same type of aggressive online attention-getting we see from many male media personalities, and the same lack of respect for older generations or diverse cultures and values that is typical of the Tsars, Kaisers or “American Titans” of the past.

Like Stalin became Tsar-Plus, worse than any Russian Tsar of prior generations, once his opportunity came. Like Hitler became Kaiser-Plus, worse than Kaiser Wilhelm ever thought of being.

Stalin has been commonly called a brute and a pig. What he was, was murderer to millions. He alone took the former Soviet Union back decades. People wanted freedom and opportunity after Imperial Russia and its abuses. They got the “Man of Steel.”

I now understand in all regards how and why my grandmother was one of the six founding members of the American Communist Party. It was at this time that women had barely achieved the right to vote in America. She was a first-time woman pharmacist in New York (Hell’s Kitchen) and California. She certainly would not have been welcomed by either U.S. established political party at that time; the Communists were the only ones who would have either welcomed, or listened to her.

My Grandma Mary was probably the most humane person I have ever met, and insightful enough about human nature to have easily repelled a serial rapist who broke into her small Fairfax District apartment when she was up in her 80s by saying, “Young man, if you touch me, you’ll get the worst disease you ever heard of!”

Like Stalin, some of these young militants today respect power — what they perceive of it. After watching the AHC documentary, which detailed some of Stalin’s consolidation of power — perhaps they are like Trotsky, who little understood the consequences of his snubbing Stalin. Average people “get” that you get back what you put into something, and the way you treat others is generally how you are yourself, treated in return (i.e. “The Golden Rule”).

These days, most people’s basic needs are met. They also get basic entertainment, comfort, and sexual needs met fairly easily.

Our intellectual and spiritual needs: not so much.

So, it is my hope that as we pass from one era to the next, we do not have the same circumstances as occurred with Hitler and Stalin, where higher-class hereditary monarchs and dictators were replaced by lower-class, non-hereditary, power-mongering ones who made their predecessors look like amateurs in oppression.

If you think you’re “left out” today and want to be the dominant voice of tomorrow, having no respect for those who came before you is hardly the way to make a change and make a difference.

Alan Moore: Neither Racist Nor Misogynist

Alan Moore retired from his public life almost two years ago now – but it was reported on Superversive SF that he’d made this decision — it turns out that he did so after writing thousands of words in response to accusations he was a racist and misogynist.Alan Moore
I loved the work of his that I’d read, from Watchmen to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to V for Vendetta. When I read V, I was not happy that Evey was a) a prostitute; and b) almost-raped. I thought there was something kind of sick going on with Allan Quatermain’s relationship with Mina in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I had a little better understanding of Silk Spectre’s relationship with Eddie Blake (“The Comedian”) in Watchmen. Because I related to Silk Spectre … for a superheroine, she’s a pretty realistic character. And like or dislike, the “relationship” these two have is the way it is a lot of the time.

Since I’m not like the people in their 30s, 40s and 50s Moore refers to as being obsessed with entertainment created for 12 year old boys 50 years ago (comic superheroes), I had no idea that over the past 10-15 years, Alan Moore’s work has gone far beyond his 80s work that I was familiar with.

People seriously accused him of misogyny and racism because of his recent film projects which – after watching a few seconds of available film, plus reviews – obviously are dealing with ideas of life, death and the afterlife.

Here’s one project: Tom Strong (which seems to have run from 1999-2005).

tesla strong

Tesla is Tom Strong’s daughter. Her mother is depicted on the lower left of this cover. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

It’s horrible that Alan Moore would have done this series, which to my knowledge is *exactly* as he states, the only American commercial comic book series depicting an interracial marriage, much less a biracial teen superheroine, and have people accusing him of racism and gender bias.

See, I know something that smart people like “Dr. Batman” and the others who criticized Moore probably also know – but because they are suck-ups who desire the least bit of money that might possibly come their way or so desperately desire a brush with fame, and their evil calculus is such that they think throwing Moore under the bus will help them do that …

Alan Moore didn’t just “include” characters of varied ethnicities in his work. He also included characters with varied gender orientation. Here is another Alan Moore project, dating from 2012. Fashion Beast, about a transgender model and a fashion designer who is beautiful, but believes himself to be a hideous “beast” — and cannot make clothes unless he thinks he’s hideous (reportedly inspired by Christian Dior). This is a project based on an 80s film script Moore wrote, done along with Sex Pistols’ Malcolm McLaren.

fashion beastThe “reporter” who Moore says misrepresented his work and released “spoiler” information in an interview with him in the Independent is affiliated with Publishers Weekly. She just wrote a negative review of another comic that portrays transgender people in a stereotyped way. She wrote it as if Fashion Beast never existed. All of those involved that Moore responds to with thousands of words of sometimes witty, sometimes complex, sometimes biting commentary, themselves wrote and acted as if Tom Strong, Dhalua Strong, Tesla Strong, and Doll Seguin never existed.

Again, with much of what I say, many people do not have the context to understand. Moore’s accusers and critics have one professional among them, Grant Morrison. Igor tells me that Grant Morrison is a good guy and a good writer (a “seminal” comic writer – gotta love that word). Grant has to have known what the odds were and what Alan Moore had to do to publish either of these series, Tom Strong or Fashion Beast.

You can go look for a damn long time to find another character like Tesla Strong. You will not, in a mainstream or even high profile independent comic publication. You will absolutely not find another character like Doll Seguin in Fashion Beast.

So like or dislike these characters, Alan Moore put all of his professional and creative credit out there to do these projects and that is something that none of his critics, including Grant (whom I was making fun of due to his Lex Luthor-appearing persona – well Alan Moore has the other Alastair Crowley-type thing going on. I guess Merlin). Only someone with Alan Moore’s lifetime track record and earned respect could get these projects produced. It’s not something a racist or misogynist would do. And it’s something only a generous man with an expansive worldview and talent to burn would even think to do.

I doubt either of these projects was very commercially successful though it looks like Tom Strong ran a long time. Certainly they are not as commercially successful as the still-in-print work for hire Batman: The Killing Joke, which is all many people know Alan Moore for, because of … well, see his comments about the cultural malaise related to people going over and over the same crap that was originally produced for 12 year-old boys 50 years ago. When I read Moore’s comments about that book, I realized I was reading the words of an honest man.

Yes, I had trouble with Evey being a prostitute in V for Vendetta, and almost being raped. I didn’t like Eddie Blake raping Sally Jupiter. But I saw it was realistic, and that was kind of the point of Watchmen. That they were “superheroes” with the same attitudes and flaws as “real people.” Even Dr. Manhattan – even that giant blue bastard with his “todger” out in everyone’s face.

Now I understand that Alan Moore isn’t just creamed all over because of the way they treat comic writers like him. It’s because he really deserves it. And his work grew and grew over the years, like somebody’s is supposed to. He had the balls to do that. And years from now it’s his work that will still be read. And he is not a misogynist or a racist.

 

American Genius

I’ve gotten a lot of insight from Temple Grandin. Toward the end of the filmed version of her life, she (portrayed by Clare Danes) tells a group of all-male, highly skeptical chain-smoking slaughterhouse owners why her humane system, which one comments is “like an airport for cows,” is an improvement over previous brute-force systems. “I – I’m like Edison or Tesla,” Temple says. “I see the way it will work. I can run through it all in my head.”

Temple GrandinAlthough we all eat safely today thanks to Temple’s human animal processing systems, and millions of children with autism and their families have gained inspiration and real-world skills thanks to Temple’s education and advocacy, she’s not an “American Genius” according to National Geographic. No woman or non-white person is. This show irritated me, but not enough to say anything about it until today.

There is a small Tumblr which allows safe, anonymous reports of gender-biased comments to women writers; it’s a fraction of the size of the “Shit People Say to Women Directors” film industry Tumblr which has helped to support the ACLU investigation into hiring practices in Hollywood. So, today the Tumblr about bad comments toward women writers has a 2-year old pandering post* by male internet celebrity writer Chuck Wendig, which pushed a legit Twitter meme started by Chocolat author Joanne Harris into second place. Because most of the readers of this Tumblr are female, fortunately yet more coverage provided to Wendig was *not* as heavily shared as Joanne’s project (4 notes to 19 last time I checked).

*Pandering Post: As my best friend Cathy always said, “When you live in crazyland, crazy seems normal.” So therefore the tradition of white males getting tons of attention by “sponsoring” complaints of females seemed “normal” to me, until about a year ago, I had just plain had enough. I don’t read them, I do not share them. Some exemplars of this genre include Jim Hines’ crusading for anti-sexual harassment policies and of course, Wendig’s extremely lengthy post of who knows how many reasons why women endure gender bias in publishing and how wrong guys who disagree are. Hundreds of comments, most from gushing females. There’s no links here because these “right-doers” (AKA attention whores) don’t need extra boosts. Now that I’m aware of this, I see these *everywhere*. For every legitimate statement by a female entrepreneur, woman in tech, or author, there’s at least 2-3 of these “pandering posts” or videos where a man gets attention for being “cool” and on the woman’s side. The magnitude of attention/”sharing” is always like 10:1 – 10 to the male/1 to any female. These men are nowhere to be found whenever actual work, money or real projects are under consideration.

I want to say Temple Grandin is lucky because she doesn’t care about this stuff. But Temple is acutely sensitive to injustice. Her filmed life story illustrates this over and over, as does her own autobiography. Once she figured out that people were biased against her, she persevered, using her own steady, persistent gifts and talents and plenty of creativity, to accomplish her goals.

As to me, I was born with a sense of injustice … to others. Poor treatment of others always resonated with me. It’s only taken 53 years for me to “get” poor treatment of my self.

So, back to the “American Geniuses.” I wrote about Maria Goeppert Mayer in my first appearance in Analog this past month. Maria is the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. She identified the structure of the atom itself. She worked on the Manhattan Project and many other critical atomic projects, often for free. She wouldn’t have been able to do as she’d done without the support of her husband Joe Mayer, an accomplished chemist. Joe lost at least one position (University of Chicago) for his support of his wife’s research.

As far as this “American Geniuses” show is concerned, Maria holds not a candle to “real geniuses” like Colt and Smith & Wesson, the firearms competitors, or media magnates like Hearst and Pulitzer. Out of the group of “geniuses,” probably only Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (competitors, LOL) and Edison and Tesla quality as actual geniuses who accomplished something positive for others. Maybe Philo Farnsworth. The rest are like Thank You For Smoking’s “Merchants of Death”.

People say Tesla was crazy, he was a monomaniac. Edison, like Temple Grandin, had a disability that made his interactions with others more limited (he was hearing impaired). Temple, of course, has autism and yes she’s like Edison and Tesla — yes she’s a genius! So again, even though she is objectively, verifiably one of the most influential, positive people of the 20th century, there are a fraction of the articles about Temple than there are about someone like Steve Jobs or … Chuck Wendig. No joke. But this 2012 article describes how her work to change slaughterhouses and animal treatment was a “long term project.”

If I may speak for myself, I have never cared about “being famous” or “attention.” I shy from it. I was thrilled to be able to operate the laptop at Comic-Con Thursday. If cameras come around, I will run.

But I know what we are doing is important. Temple would say “nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be” to explain why it was important to design human animal slaughter facilities. She explained her autism to others by saying she “thought in pictures.” She spoke simply and straightforwardly at all times.

So.

The Problem With Books

Everybody who’s rotating around the current publishing industry is smack dab in the middle of the 20 percent and that is the way they like it. Everything they say is devoted to supporting themselves: the same as Edison and J.P. Morgan were stone-committed to direct current before Morgan threw Edison under the bus. Neither saw a problem with DC being able to serve only wealthy urban dwellers, whereas crazed Tesla’s AC could serve everybody.

When I thought about people who exclusively read certain authors, or who only read certain types of books, and are very reluctant to deviate, I would picture Temple in her aunt’s house or college cafeteria, announcing, “I only eat jello and yogurt! I – I only eat jello and yogurt!” Well, these are “Temple-Type Readers,” I would think.

So, there are all those folks who didn’t get to attend a wonderful country boarding school like Temple did. Whose wonderful, humane, brave mothers did not have the privilege of graduating from Harvard. There’s all those folks who don’t have internet platforms, who are not James Altucher, who could write fifty fantastic articles and get less than 5 views on “Medium.” There’s all the people who don’t “know anybody.” There’s people serving time for crimes they didn’t do, or for crimes that should not be crimes at all. There’s people working jobs they hate just to put food on the table, and people who work 2-3 jobs for minimum wage who can’t put food on the table at all.

There are people who’ll never get a vacation. There are people who will never leave their home state. There are people who will quietly work and serve their whole lives long.

I think an awful lot of those people are “American Geniuses” too.

And they deserve books made for them. Books that affirm, instead of deny. Books that uplift, instead of downgrade.

I found my 45+ heroine in a bestseller/not a romance this morning: “Jack” Daniels. She’s a 48-year old pregnant detective trapped by a serial killer. The book opens with a “popular” serial killer who’s been featured in prior books murdering an innocent young woman with impunity and cruelty. He tells her he’ll “make her famous.” Instant best seller.

And people think more of this is the answer. It never crosses their minds that it’s not just like it would never cross Chuck Wendig’s mind that he’s actually being a giant douchebag by writing another of his long “splaining” articles. It’s like the cattle in Temple Grandin’s dip system. You can’t hang things on the walls. They will walk smoothly down the steps into the water. No chains or shadows to alarm them.

 

The Creative Revolution: Part 4 of The Business of Books

Everyone is familiar with the “Industrial Revolution.” In the past 500 years there have been five official “revolutions” that have changed the way people live.

(1600–1740) Financial-agricultural revolution
(1780–1840) Industrial revolution
(1880–1920) Technical revolution (or Second Industrial Revolution)
(1940–1970) Scientific-technical revolution
(1985–2000) Information and telecommunications revolution

We’re going to propose #6 and we are in the middle of it:

(2015-????) Creative revolution

Each of these revolutions was made possible by its predecessor.

This is what our current system defines as the “Value of Books.”

“Free papers!”

So, the result is clearly seen in the revenue earned by writers for their work.

Chart_Q17_150628The Chameleon Writer Market Survey is still open. But as of last week, among the 122 respondents, the pattern of earnings distribution is clear. The survey in fact, is weighted heavily toward working writers who’ve published a number of books.

Chart_Q2_150629Within this group, the earnings do correlate. The writers who had published more books all fell in the top four earning categories of $24,999 and above. The respondent who made more than $200,000 was individually recruited to complete the survey, as were a number of indy-published or self-published writers.

These results are a bit “better” than the data collected by the UK Authors Licensing and Collecting Society in 2014, or information on the collapse of writer earnings identified by the Authors Guild and currently being used in support of advocacy for fair writer contracts. The Authors Guild is actively advocating for major trade publishers to offer 50% e-book royalties, instead of the industry-standard 25%. As a number of independent publishers including Zumaya Publications‘ Elizabeth Burton, have pointed out over the course of these articles, independent publishers have been offering similar terms to writers for years (Zumaya was founded in 2001 and has a number of successful imprints and authors). The Book View Cafe “split” as an author cooperative is 95/5 – 95% to the author, 5% to the cooperative, retained as reserve and operations funds.

This article is going to be a bit different than the first three in the series (Value to the Reader, Writer Attitudes About Book Quality,  and Why Don’t More People Read?).

“Why Don’t More People Read?” was about who really reads and buys books currently — as much as can be determined. We’ve previously made the point using observable data (again, as much as can be determined) that the present systems are not reliably serving the current market of approximately 20 percent of North American adults who regularly buy and read books (some 70 million people). As other advisers have pointed out, we initially looked at rapidly rising college graduation rates, particularly among women and diverse populations, and predicted that some 140 million Americans, Mexicans and Canadians were potential book-buyers and readers. But the truth is: nearly 100 percent of adults are literate in the U.S. and Canada. Mexico’s literacy rate was 93% in 2013. Among young Mexicans (15-24), the rate is 98.5%. So, the potential market for books in North America really is just about everybody who is literate, i.e. the entire adult population, in North America. In addition, the book as a creative format is, as we’ve previously pointed out, foundational to other forms of communication. The delivery format does matter, as is shown in Pew’s ongoing research: younger readers not only read more, and more often, than older age groups, they prefer paper books. Here is a new link, regarding younger Americans and library use. While e-books are an important new publication platform, it is unlikely that they will ever replace paper books in their present form.

Yes, we are talking among ourselves about a different way of combining tech and the paper book. But we are crazy.

So, the current system of publishing, which includes self-publishing which is dependent on retailers (Amazon) which have brilliantly devised a system to acquire limitless content at no upfront cost, solving one of the problems of bringing products to market at scale, but offering no ability to control quality or expand markets (as seen in the leveling-off of e-book sales) – and let me explain this in plain English:

Unless Amazon fixes its approach, it will be stuck with its current Kindle customer base and ongoing declines in paper book sales since those customers are falling away. The independent booksellers that survived the seismic changes in the industry in the past 20 years are strong and new bookstores are beginning to open. Amazon is not the only e-book seller and their competitors are offering books on devices that have legs, are continuously upgraded, and really are good for more than one thing. And the traditional bookstore is not the only way to sell books.

Bound to Happen

It really was bound to happen, I realized this past weekend at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference. We told attendees, “Chameleon is the only company of its kind right now, but five years from now, there will be a lot more.” We said, “If established publishers want to make it, they’ll adopt more of our methodology.” There isn’t much chance of business growth and success if a business is trying to make a product using flawed methodology and is siloed from its market customers all along the supply chain — a market it knows little about, and which is self-limited based in false assumptions (“Books compete with movies, TV and games,” and “Nobody reads any longer.”) Even when successes are noted, they are evaluated based in superficialities: i.e. the success of the Twilight books led to other books that were superficially similar, and even the later success of 50 Shades of Gray, based on the more “wholesome” Twilight books — like people don’t get what the underlying basic elements were (entertainment, absorbtion and a heroic fantasy for YOUNG FEMALE READERS – told actively and at a fast pace).

Metrics and Bookscan

The only metric used in the trade publishing industry outside of Amazon’s own internal metrics, used within its customer base, is Nielsen Bookscan. When we first started Chameleon and I explained to some of our initial founding group (including Silicon Valley pioneers) that established publishers were very slow in determining how many books they’d sold, and that they didn’t have very strong control over the pipeline; i.e. they pretty much had no idea who was buying any given title, how, why and where, they thought I was making stuff up. “Authors sure don’t know,” I said, “they receive their royalty statements very late and they’re hardly reliable.” At the same time, I explained, authors are also now being asked to take the lion’s share of marketing their books, when they don’t even know who’s buying them until months later and even then, they just see an aggregate number, not ‘who’s buying what, where or when’.”

“That’s not possible,” one person said.

I explained that publishers greatly relied upon a third-party service, Nielsen Bookscan, in making purchasing decisions. Right now, AC Nielsen is stating they cover 80 percent of paper book sales. Any US-based author with an Amazon Author Central account can track their Bookscan sales on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. There are probably 1,000 internet articles and posts, most denigrating Bookscan, and a few extolling its virtues — this is a post of ONE right now that’s going to contextualize it in the larger scale of industry and commerce.

AC Nielsen is a good company and produces incredible market research in general, and fantastic insight in retail market trends and potentials. Bookscan could not be characterized as a good, future or long-term sustainable BI product. Launched in 2001, it’s a POS system (business acronyms are funny, huh? In this context it means “Point of Sale”) that offers little insight beyond the basic purchase and sales volume among the current customer base.

In contrast, Nielsen offers rich data and insights for general retail, and to a lesser extent, manufacturing and services industries.

growth in retail spend

This is just one of their insights.

Most of the growth in retail spending over the next decade will be from multicultural consumers. Books are a retail product.

 

 

Why Using Bookscan is a Recipe for Failure

We’ve used cookies, organic/natural foods and Uber to try to communicate what needs to happen. Now: bicycles.

bicycleAfter an historical record high of 15.2 million bicycles sold in the U.S. in 1973, bicycles suffered a long decline in the 80s and 90s. Everybody was driving, and even kids started skateboarding more and riding bicycles less. Sales started to rebound during the early 2000s, but the industry slumped during the recession.

Now, bicycles are making a comeback, with almost 2 million more bicycles sold in 2014 than the previous year. The National Bicycle Dealers Association reported that 18 million bicycles were sold in the U.S. in 2014.  The growth rate is found in cool, new (“retro”) bicycles, bicycles for specific enthusiasts, and basic meat-and-potatoes bicycles used for fitness and transportation.

If bicycle manufacturers and dealers were only looking at partial records covering the numbers of bicycles sold during any given period, including “down” periods like the recession, and determining their future purchases by doing more similar models, then … they would not be at that 18 million bicycles sold figure.

“Nobody rides bicycles any longer.”

“Young people don’t ride bikes.”

HELLO. If you assume this, no — of course you’re not going to make money designing, manufacturing and selling new bicycles to new riders.

Detroit, Japan, Munich and Seoul have “noticed” that millennials are not buying new cars at the rate of prior generations. I’ve heard lots of reasons or rationales for this; let’s just say the major auto manufacturers are not deciding what types of new cars to make or how to handle their brand development and customer relations based on who bought how many of a certain model and make last year. A reasonable percentage of the new bicycle sales are to people, mostly young, under 30 and urban dwellers, who do not own a car.

That is a megatrend. We have near 100 percent literacy in North America and in Canada, more than 50 percent of young people attend and graduate from college, and the U.S. will achieve that rate within the next decade. More young women than men already attend and graduate with college degrees. These are megatrends.

58 percent of current regular book-buyers and readers are women — and the current system can’t even serve them very well, much less other, more diverse, younger groups of potential book buyers and readers.

What Would a World Look Like That Valued Creativity as Much as Tech?

As we tell people, we can only “fix books.” We can’t do anything about other related industries. We can’t fix the art world, the music world, or film or TV. GoldieBlox is already doing engineering from the ground-up based in toys (and books). It’s books we know about and we want to work with books and readers.

Back to the money. An analysis of the 2013 and 2014 annual reports of the major trade publishers shows they are investing as little as 2.7 percent of revenue to a maximum of 7 percent of revenue on the people who make the basic product that is sold: the writer. Combine this with other barriers to a successful, reliable way to deliver value to the market customer (readers) and it isn’t a growth industry (as is presently seen – flatline projected by every industry analyst out there).

It’s Blockbuster Video, Xerox, Blackberry, MySpace, Polaroid, IBM. It’s Sears.

Are people still watching videos? (Yes, online and via numerous other channels). Are people still using digital copying technology? (Yes – eventually they’ll even be using 3-D printers). Are people still using smartphones? (Uh, yes … with touchscreens). Are people still using social media? (Uh …). Are people still taking photos? (Yes). Are people still using a dizzying array of office and business technology? (Yes). Are people still buying tires, appliances and clothing? (Yes).

“Nobody reads any longer.”

“Young people don’t read.”

“Minorities don’t read.”

“Boys won’t read books about girls.”

“Books with green covers don’t sell.”

“Books with minorities on the cover don’t sell.”

  • When You Make Things Using a System That Disconnects the People Who Make the Product From the Customer Whenever and Wherever Possible …
  • When You Seldom if Ever Talk to Your Market Customer About Their Needs
  • When Your Product Development and Selection is Ceded to Outside Entities Whose Interests are Not Your Own (Agents)
  • When Your Core Means of Product Manufacture and Development (Writer) is Siloed and Isolated from Every Conceivable Part of the Pipeline
  • When You Are At War With Your Vendors
  • When You Can’t Even Price Known Products Reliably in Response to Current Customer Needs
  • When You Cannot Identify Basic Product Elements Desired by Customers
  • When You Think You Can Get Your Raw Materials For Free or Close To It
  • When You Do Not Value Your People, Without Whom Nothing May Be Made or Sold Successfully
  • When You Think It’s an Accident That a Book is Successful and Do Not Learn From Your Failures
  • When You Do Not Love, Respect and Value All Business Partners
  • When the Engine of Manufacture (Writers) are Asked to Work for Years on a Volunteer or Part-time Basis in the Hope of Someday, Making Some Money
  • When There is Little to No Connection Between Formal Education and Industry Work or Performance

“Nobody reads any longer.”

“Young people do not read books.”

Yes, they do. And they deserve products made for a world in which just about everybody can read and will have some need and desire to do so, not a world in which only a few could read, and fewer still had access, means, time and motive.

Chameleon isn’t offering the “deal” that the Authors Guild is advocating for — 50% e-book royalties. Chameleon will be splitting all earnings 50-50 with authors, all platforms, all editions. It is the company’s responsibility to make this work. It is not the author’s responsibility to undertake all corporate operations (i.e. “self-publishing”).

Famously, Hillary Clinton’s book took the title of an African proverb, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.”

Everyone who’s ever worked in a successful enterprise, who’s ever launched a new product, who has ever innovated, knows it takes a team to do this. We can watch old videos of how Nikola Tesla had the right idea about alternating current, but Thomas Edison didn’t see things that way, and the two warred until finally, alternating current successfully won out. As an individual, Tesla tore up his agreements with Westinghouse in order to see his idea become reality. Tesla sacrificed his own financial future and ended up dying penniless … but I’m typing on the internet today because of what he did, not because of what my theoretical 6th cousin (Edison) did.

It Was Bound to Happen

I have given up my so-called “writing career” to do this. It was bound to happen, that someone who declared “creative writing” as a major and “creative writing” as a minor upon going to college for the first time, and ended up with bachelors’ degrees in art and literature, would then work for a nonprofit organization and change everyone’s minds about what was best to do to improve the lives of homeless and very low-income families. It was bound to happen that I would then become a college teacher and writer and be on the front lines facing classes of students forced to take English in order to transfer or graduate for 18 years. It was bound to happen that those classes would be diverse, full of all types of students, ages, backgrounds and interests. It was bound to happen that I would “market test” books with these students and see what engaged them and what did not. It was bound to happen that I’d be part of a dialog with fellow writers, of course, far behind them in ability, skill and talent, but even so, able to listen and be part of the group — and hear the same refrains over and over again of their barriers in just being able to do their work.

  • Publisher XXX dropped the last book of my series but I’m still hearing from readers who want to read it.
  • Publisher ZZZ was going to publish Book Y, which is so cool because ____________ , and they said they didn’t want it because ______________ (spurious reason).

“Why are we sitting around taking this when there’s something we can do about it?” I said. Book View Cafe. No, I’m not responsible; I’m just the one who said that.

It was bound to happen that I’d be involved in Wildside Press and Alan Rodgers Books, that my first collection and novel would be among the very first print on demand books, and that I’d also be in on the ground floor with the first Kindle books, and other early e-book services like Fictionwise. It was bound to happen that I’d do 3 years in the barrel writing for McGraw-Hill.

It was bound to happen that I’d be working for Beyond Shelter and be the person who would have to a) raise all the funds; and b) make sure the actual projects worked and delivered the promised results. It was bound to happen that I’d be the “fixer” who helped women get businesses off the ground in South and Central Los Angeles. That I would work to get employment, business development, housing development and social services projects off the ground with hundreds of families.

It was bound to happen that I would decide “All the social services in the world won’t be beneficial if families don’t have decent jobs and economic opportunity” and leave the nonprofit world to try to make that a reality by using the same process I did to make all these projects in the inner city work by doing business consulting and development.

It was bound to happen that I’d get a strong picture of how successful, new businesses worked in a huge range of sectors, the kind of operations structures worked, the kind of business ethics that were successful, and the kind of revenue, cash flow, R & D and other structures were workable on a broad scale.

It was bound to happen that I would get the gumption to write the book of my life, to finally put it all together, and to finally realized, “I’ve done it. After all these years, I really wrote a good book – my way, the only and best way I can.”

I know people will like it, I thought.

It was bound to happen that the agent to whom I had been faithful for over a decade, but who’d never done too much (in fairness – she didn’t exactly have the hardworking, fully-producing writer seeking to meet the needs of her customers … acquiring editors) would blow me off and I’d then seek to activate my carefully nurtured and stewarded list of top agents, each of whom had indicated, “Anything you write, Amy, just send it — we will always look at your work!”

Uh, no.

It was bound to happen that this would start the engine. That I would then do the type of competitor analysis I’d developed at Beyond Shelter, which enabled the organization to go from under $500,000 raised in corporate and foundation support to over $2 million, and much more, counting government partners. I would then do the type of comps I’d done for over 100 different businesses, in numerous sectors. I would know what BI software was and how it was used, what CRM software was, and how it was used. I would know how any number of new, innovative and successful products were developed and launched. For example, I would know that in 2000, there were only 6 free-range beef operations in the US and Canada, and now – there are more than 2,000. I would know that five years ago, natural and organic products had only 2-3 percent of the shelf space in grocery stores, and now, they have more than 20 percent.

We’re not going to “share” what our comps have told us in depth, but we can share that what we’ve learned is the way that we have developed our business plan, and helped us to set our initial goals, because we are approaching the end of “Proof of Concept” and getting toward launch.

This business is based in the following benchmarks:

  • Average 10,000 copies per frontlist title sold – by whatever means – to the market customers for whom the book has value
  • Basic pricing, consistent throughout editions and formats
  • Long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with author-partners (this is why it’s like “job interview” not single-title purchase).
  • Creative and production teams:  editors, designers, authors, artists, marketing and sales professionals

Now – by all means continue reading the “Author Earnings Report” for your facts considering it may possibly cover 15% of the current book-buying and reading market and is always at least a quarter behind. It’s kind of like an in-depth study of who’s buying bikes at Sears.

We’ll be sticking with Pew, Library Journal and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If you want to be involved, please visit Chameleon Publishing and sign up for the newsletter, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook (see floating social links).

 

What Many White People Do Not Get About What Blacks and Others Say re: Law, Police, Safety

So, first off, I am a white woman and a survivor of violent crime (sexual assault). I am survivor of a number of years of individual terrorization. I know internet crime/harassment. I know ID theft.

If you’re an “average person” and these things happen, there is very little the legal system can do for you. You have to help yourself. This is what white people who don’t share my “special snowflake” aspects of life do not understand. For every graphic that shows how much more violence there is in the black community, the flip side of that is, if you’re black and accused of a crime, your chances of being incarcerated are FAR higher than if you’re white. Guilt or innocence regardless. A black person would have to be very out of touch to think they’d get “justice” and would share the legal privileges our system still grants the occasional white criminal, especially white women. What many white people do not understand is that it’s easier for white people to do crimes (including nonviolent crimes) and get away with it. The stats, and reality, back this up. Example? It’s not isolated. He’s just the most famous who did eventually get caught: Bernard Madoff. A black man doing as Madoff did unmonitored? Probably not possible, especially not for more than a decade. Most serial killers are white males and they go around devastating others for years before they are stopped even with today’s methods and technology. There were at one time over 10,000 unprocessed rape kits in the city of Los Angeles alone. The crimes stretched back 10-15 years … not even investigated, much less perp apprehended and prosecuted. ONE of those was a black man raping and killing young black women in South L.A. Most of the rest of that massive amount of kits representing death, destruction and dismay: unsung rapists, plenty of white victims.

So, from the perspective of people who say, “Young women, any color, take steps to protect yourself so someone doesn’t rape you or kill you” … this is true and necessary. From the perspective of those who suggest the victims of the terrorist attack at the Emanuel A.M.E. church could still be alive if they’d been armed – in a horrible sense, this is true. If someone at the church had had a weapon, it’s likely that the killer would have chosen a different site of attack since his goal was to slaughter as many as possible, terrorize and start a race war. Do we want to live in a world where everybody’s packing because everybody is in a constant state of “hypervigilance”?

Well.

People didn’t have too much trouble “getting” that our country was under threat after 9-11. Most of the plotted attacks since then have been thwarted by individuals taking action. Law enforcement can only step in when they have help.

In this case of the murders at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, the very best in that community were gunned down. The intent was to fuel more violence. The killer’s friends and probably his family knew he was plotting violence and talking about killing black people. He had a web page and it’s the same story as Columbine, the “Batman” shooter James Holmes and all the rest. People knew – they did nothing to stop him. The FBI studies show that for every one who manages to do their killing, as many as ten are stopped. They are stopped by family and friends, teachers, co-workers and associates — people who know there is something wrong and who step up to take action.

I know how tired black people must be. How devastated they are, how sickened they are by this. They read at the highest rate of any ethnic/racial group in this nation, yet there is the stereotype of ignorant, “illiterate” black person. Rap and hiphop are today’s poetry; the artists are called illiterate thugs and only “thug” statements are publicized … they earn their living off white kids that want to get a taste of the “thuglife.” With all the destruction, drugs in the inner city, lack of opportunity and doors slammed left and right, black people have temples of light and goodness and love and hope like the Emanuel A.M.E. Church and this kid goes in there, is welcomed by them, and then turns and guns down every precious light and life in the place. It is immediately seized upon by any/all who want to exploit the tragedy.

I can only say so many times, “There but for the Grace of God go YOU white people.” It’s that simple. It isn’t black people coming for you. It is the fact you do not realize your lives are in the same situation as your fellow Americans who are black.

If something bad happens to you, chances are, the courts will not help you. Law enforcement can only do what they can do. The only help you have is the same help the members of that church had the other day. He is up above. He loves us all.

I think it is about time we started to love ourselves enough to step up and say “enough!” To listen to others for a change. To have some common, simple human respect. To take a realistic look and see what racism, other forms of bias, and self-entitlement truly cost us.

They cost us lots of money. They cost us untold opportunity. The other day they cost us nine precious lives. They keep us from being fully-human.

Thank You Librarian Cynthia Hurd

I don’t know if others had the same feelings as I did learning about the mass killings in Charleston this past week. When I heard it was a church, I thought “Oh, Lord, no.” I realized it had to have been a prayer meeting before reading any news reports. When I learned who was gunned down and what church it was, I thought, “What a devastating blow to all that is good.”

Poet Bill Mohr said it’s racism and says we should talk about it.

Yeah, it’s racism. What’s to say? When a mass killer slaughters black people who welcomed him into their church and says he wanted to start a race war, there’s no argument. Racism. The Beltway Sniper appeared to be gunning for white people from a distance and he took a young 17 year old boy with him. That was racism, too. Racism destroys. The Charleston killer’s family and friends bear responsibility and guilt because they were certainly aware this young man was talking about doing something outside the realm of humanity and did nothing to stop him. They are responsible the same as the Beltway Sniper John Allen Muhammad coached and mentored Lee Boyd Malvo to destroy others’ lives as well as his own.

Everybody wants to take the situation and turn it to their own purposes. Gun control advocates want to take others’ guns away, as if that will bring back the lives lost. Second Amendment advocates say that if the pastors had been packing, the killer, not they, would be 6 feet under right now.

librarian cynthia hurd

When I saw this picture and news story about one of the victims in Charleston, librarian Cynthia Hurd, I thought, “I know this lady.” My eyes filled with tears.

I’m crying as I type this. I will probably never be able to look at these pictures or think about her and the others without weeping.

I am a white woman. I was once a little white girl with not a very happy life and not too many people to turn to. And I was so, so lucky that I lived in a town that, like Charleston, had a wonderful library with wonderful people like Cynthia working in it. Cynthia “spent her life helping people, particularly helping them become educated,” her friend and library spokesperson Jamie Thomas said.

If I just look at what happened, a violent, at-best confused young man with nothing good going on in his life went into a place where everything good was gathered, and lashed out and destroyed it. Faith, hope, love, community … books, reading, education.

What people don’t realize, but which I saw manifested in these wonderful pictures of Cynthia Hurd and in the words of love, gratitude and thanks written by the families and parents who’d visited her library, is that no guns or bullets can take away what Cynthia did, how she lived and the many lives she touched.

Cynthia’s brother Malcolm said, “She was not a victim. She was a Christian. She was a soldier. She was a warrior. She was with her maker when she took her last breath. God bless our sister and this community.”

She was a librarian. It’s the commonly-held perception that black people do not read, or read less than, others. That’s not true. African-Americans have the highest rate of readership, almost 80 percent. She was the ultimate librarian, according to her brother. “She was always in someone’s business,” he said. “When she told a story, it went on and on and on because she included the research and all the footnotes.”

What I hear African-Americans saying is totally true. It hurts to say it, but if it were a “white” church with similar leaders gunned down, there would be hours and hours of eulogies and tributes. There would perhaps be a film in the works about Pastor Pinckney, who was also a state representative, or about Sharonda Singleton, speech therapist, coach and athlete. As it stands, Library Journal made a tribute to Cynthia Hurd, and the library where she worked will be named in honor of her memory.

I don’t have the power to do what I want to do for Cynthia. I didn’t “know her” but I absolutely did know her. She was everything her brother said and more. And – yes – there is a higher power. May these precious lives not be lost in vain.

About Marketing, Value, James Patterson and PewDiePie

PewDiePie bookPewDiePie is racking up the pre-orders for his October book.

At Saddleback a while back, I actually introduced a whole class to PewDiePie. We watched about 3 videos where he destroyed videogame characters making funny comments. My favorite was the same as he said his was — the “dad” on the bicycle with the kid in the child seat. We watched him thrash, trash, and dismember this guy and the kid over and over.

This is PewDiePie’s thing. He is the #1 YouTube celebrity and he makes funny videos. He started out with funny commentary about ultra-violent video games. Now he’s branched into other stuff, including “fan fiction” (PewDiePie-style).

Doing a PewDiePie book is a “no brainer.” It’s “#1 seller” status on Amazon doesn’t mean much right now. It’s #1 in a pretty small category (“Teen and Young Adult Internet Books”). Will PewDiePie make true #1 when this book comes out? Heck I don’t know. Maybe. My guess is that most of his copies sold will be the paper, physical books. His fans want an actual object they can put their hands on. Chances that they’ll be die-hard Kindle users aren’t good since the demographics don’t match. Right now it can be seen that people who are pre-ordering the book are also buying PewDiePie sweatshirts, not other books.

idontcare_tee_green-2_1024x1024So, the takeaway is that young people who play videogames, watch PewDiePie’s YouTubes and buy his branded stuff will probably also buy his book. In a paper version. PewDiePie is known for his funny sayings, i.e. verbal wit.

Does this mean this is all they’ll ever buy and read?

Aw hell no.

There’s already an established market for this book: PewDiePie fans. PewDiePie has already developed this market himself. Razorbill (Penguin), the publisher, is taking advantage of this. To make money.

So, let’s look at another PewDiePie product: one of his t-shirts. This is from the very video I (and quite a few students – definitely not all) thought was so funny, and it’s the very character I agreed with PewDiePie, was the funniest to dismember in the videogame. People who haven’t seen the videogame review won’t get it.

So, PewDiePie’s shirts, hats, pajama pants, games and now his book have value: to his fans.

This is a whole market of millions of young people that lots of people have noticed now, thanks to PewDiePie’s YouTube dominance: something he is responsible for, not a whole lot of other people. PewDiePie’s videos did not start out as the most professional, but it’s obvious from his website and channel that now, he does have some help in a lot of different areas. PewDiePie gets his audience tastes and he interacts with them every day.

In the more traditional book area, there are some who stand out in terms of “getting” audience tastes and providing a product (books) accordingly.

First is Lee Child (as profiled in Forbes last year). Lee Child left the internet in 1996. His brand is something developed over more than three decades of writing and publishing books.

Another is James Patterson, whose background is in advertising. Patterson’s face most recently has been all over the internet as part of a $90 course “James Patterson Teaches Writing” modeled after less high-production value courses taught through Udemy and other similar online platforms. The “MasterClass” concept also offers acting taught by Dustin Hoffmann and tennis taught by Serena Williams. Patterson’s Maximum Ride series does exactly what we’ve been talking about – and it’s a mark of his power and skill that he’s managed to make this work so well.

Every time I mention this series, I get slammed. My point is that Maximum Ride is a teenaged girl. She can fly. Her friends can do other amazing things. The nearest I can come to describing the books is like “wholesome superheroes who care about each other” who have amazing adventures. Few chapters are over 500 words long. The books’ readership encompasses a much higher number of young males than most others in its sector. Max is, as I said, a young female. This flies directly in the face of the commonly-held wisdom in much of the publishing industry that “young boys won’t read about girls” and “young boys won’t read at all.” The friends in the books are equally comprised of males and females and they act like kids do when they do things together, just the way kids … well … actually do — even if their adventures are high-tech, “unrealistic” and super-hero-ey. The Maximum Ride books do engage reluctant readers. And the trouble is, a lot of times these readers read these books and then stop. Because they can’t find too much else that fits their experience with these books. They get lost in the shuffle of editorial taste, teacher taste, librarian taste, parent taste. The “formula” of the books alone is something Patterson could develop and sell. Among the thousands of others out there who might write something similar: they’re not making it through the system and process.

One reader comment about the Maximum Ride series is: “I highly recommend this book for adults, young adults, even preteens…. I talked so much about this, and obviously enjoyed it so much, that my 10‐year‐old (girl) is reading (and loving) it now, my 15–year‐old (boy) wants to read it next, and even my husband has expressed interest in it.”

As an individual corporate entity, James Patterson is doing every single thing we talk about. He’s supporting libraries and programs for young readers. He is actively developing book series to engage young readers. He’s coaching writers through an affordable online course.  He’s supporting independent bookstores with cash grants totaling $1 million.

So right now, 20% of North American adults regularly buy and read books. Some of them are not being best-served by the majority of books that are out there. Many are die-hard readers who’ve already read a lot of their favorites (fiction and non-fiction) and are on the daily lookout for more. Some are more specialized readers, who are particular fans of a certain genre or type of book. There are even a few single-author readers. I’m pretty sure James Patterson and Lee Child will have some readers who fit in this category.

Then there’s everyone else. Some of these, who aren’t regular book-buyers and readers, will be PewDiePie’s fans.

When a reader comes to a book, of any type, that really engages them, their reaction is profound. James Patterson knows this. He is an ad guy and an entertainer who’s about making the most accessible products he can — from his perspective. He knows that people have to be able to access the product, which is why he’s providing funds for libraries and reading programs, and for independent bookstores. He knows that the physical process of going to a bookstore and touching a book — opening it, reading here and there, browsing back and forth — isn’t easily replaced by all of the online systems and their ever-growing sophistication. He knows that branding has to be consistent, which is why all of his books have similar appearances across series. His name is usually prominent because he knows: he’s the brand. He knows that while e-books have grown rapidly in recent years, their sales have leveled off.

So, James Patterson always did have his eye on the future, and he knows that today’s young readers in school are the adult readers of tomorrow. He knows what our culture will lose if we lose reading and writing.

If we go only to PewDiePie videos, games, and PewDiePie’s small, pithy, humorous book that’s really just an additional sale to the t-shirts and other goodies. If we go to less than that.

There’s no evidence that a vast amount of time, care, talent and skill did not go into all of Patterson’s numerous lines and products. As many should be aware, he does not write all of his books. He employs and credits numerous other writers to develop the products. He’s the “Disney” of individual writing corporations and he’s the executive producer of the “studio.” James has noticed that 56% of current regular book-buyers and readers are women ages 45 and older, so in addition to creating the Maximum Ride series that offers a chance for some escapist heroism for younger readers (male and female), he’s created the Women’s Murder Club series with female heroines who are older than age 25, have jobs, different backgrounds and histories and families — divorced, single, happily married, with and without children.

There is this example. There is James Patterson. This powerful, brilliant man who has probably kept more people reading and enticed more readers than anybody else over the past 15-20 years.

Sure, one reason we are doing Chameleon is … I wrote a YA book series with multiple points of view and a non-human protagonist (it was written long-enough ago that there were two male, one female human protagonists – 3 male if Humphree were counted). I was turned down by editorial board at a major children’s publisher because it had “multiple points of view.” The top-selling books for that publisher at that time had “multiple points of view.” I’m very open with people about my inability to sell any story in top professional markets with a female protagonist over age 25. I got a universal “no read” for the book of my life, featuring a single mom over age 25 and her relationship with her daughter and potential life partner, in a big fantasy context.

So, the response of people who are like the “experts” over at a certain blog I was reading this past week would be “Well you just suck! That’s why a major publisher turned you down! That’s why agents turned you down!” That’s the answer everyone gets when they experience publishing problems. It isn’t that there’s something wrong with the “system,” it’s there’s something wrong with them, with their work. PewDiePie can make “dumb”-seeming videos and put them on YouTube because he plays videogames, he’s hilarious, and he knows what his fans would like. Day by day, it grew. Well, the thing is, what PewDiePie is doing is of its moment (and so are a lot of books) but chances are that someone would find the videos funny and be buying his merchandise of today 20 years from now, much less 50 years or 100 years — they aren’t too good.

Well – maybe it’s more like “They can only afford to do PewDiePie because they know he’s good for x-number of copies.” And maybe it’s because — there’s only one James Patterson, with his particular combination of business sense, people knowledge, and commitment to our society and culture and reading.