elialshadowpine: (Default)
I posted a version of this on FB. I figured it probably deserved to be posted here, too, because I cannot be the only one having these issues. I'm revising it a bit because, well, Facebook isn't exactly meant for long posts... you can do them, but I doubt very many people click the "see more" link, if they even see it (at least, I've missed it more than once).

I think most folks know I have a Nook. I've, er, been a little evangelistic about it in the past. >_> Morgan and I were gifted with our first Nook Color back in 2008 when the rheumatoid arthritis that we both have hit Morgan's hands hard enough that they literally could not hold up a book to read anymore. I have similar problems with my hands, although I can read YA in print (... y'know, unless it's a doorstopper like some of the Harry Potter books), but any adult romance or SFF was right out. My own Nook Color followed suit, and I bought a Nook HD+ last year, which I'm starting to regret having purchased the 3yr warranty for.

However... for the past several months, I have been having issues when trying to purchase e-books. Often, BN.com will not let me log in (I'll put my username and password into the log-in, and it just... won't log me in). That's been happening since September or so, and I was able to get around that by going to the Nook-specific page on BN.com and logging in... but even that doesn't work half the time now. Something else that started in December is that clicking the "Buy Now" button will not bring up the pop up to purchase. I have confirmed this is not an error with my computer, as it has happened under multiple OSes and multiple browsers. I have run into about five unique types of errors, and I have friends who have been experiencing the same. BN support is useless; they have no idea and try to tell me it's my computer. DX

Some months ago, B&N updated so you can use the Google Play store (at least on the Nook HD+, I cannot say for the other devices) which includes the Kindle app. (ETA : I have just been informed this was a temporary glitch and you can no longer add the Kindle App on Nook unless it is rooted. Well, fuck me if I ever have to wipe and reinstall.) I have really avoided buying books from Amazon, because they are the elephant in the living room when it comes to digital book sales. I'll admit I also have an emotional attachment to B&N. My childhood was wretched in a lot of ways but all of my family are huge readers. Monthly trips to B&N or Borders were special, because while we normally made lists of books we wanted to check out and see if the library had (considering that we usually walked out with lists of 20+ books between the 4 of us... it was kinda necessary), but we also always got to pick out one book to take home. More if we chose to spend allowance money. So, I have happy fuzzy warm feelings with B&N.

But... the way they have handled e-books is truly abysmal. I mean, the site issues that mean I can't buy except from my device directly (and even that doesn't always work; I've gotten errors there, too, and if I want more than one book, finger typing the author name and title is annoying.), which is definitely a problem. Add to that, we had a BN membership for years, but they seem to offer less and less. There's I believe a discount on print books bought in stores, and there's free shipping for books bought online, but nothing for digital books. Unless I've missed it, there's nothing to incentivise readers to go into their stores and purchase digital books in store. Some of our favorite restaurants are up by our local B&N, and if they had something like that, we'd totally go in, use the store as a showroom, and buy online. We also almost always get stuff from the Starbucks in the B&N, too. We spent a not insignificant amount of time and money in the store, that they have completely lost. I mean, I understood why they didn't have anything like that when agency pricing was a thing, but now that it's gone, they're still sticking with the same old model. *headdesk*

(Edit for people who don't know what agency pricing is: this was a collusion between the Big 5 NY publishers and Apple to price fix books to prevent Amazon from discounting. If you really want some schadenfreude, look up the case, it's... look, I couldn't write fiction like this because nobody would believe people could be so stupid. All the pubs settled, and there have been many discounts, but Amazon still has an average lower price and more frequent discounts.)

The same old model is not going to work, and it doesn't seem like their stores are doing all that well, either, what with the plans for store closures, and that they are winnowing away books bit by bit. I don't go into a bookstore to buy kitschy knick-knacks, I go in to buy books. You know. These things.

Since I haven't been able to buy books on BN.com reliably for months, I've gone over to Amazon since I can read them with the Kindle app. I was shocked to find on a regular basis that books were $2-4 cheaper. I read a lot of YA, and BN would price them at $9.99-13.99 ... Amazon, $9.99 is the highest I've seen, with exceptions for niche stuff, and often they are lower. I see discounts a lot, and I don't mean necessarily the super-low 99c or $2.99, but $3 or so off the list price. $2-4 savings on a book is a really big deal when I often buy multiple books at a go.

What really struck me today though was Amazon's also-bought. I have heard good things about it from indie authors but I haven't really used it as a reader, not since I was a teen looking for new SFF. I went to pick up one book... and ended up picking up seven or eight, multiple by indie authors, because they popped up on the also-boughts (all steampunk, with the exception of a gothic romance set in Victorian England, which is close enough). BN's also-bought is... well. Flipping awful. I've had their also-bought pop up with books that aren't even in the same genre. (And I don't mean science fiction instead of fantasy, I mean stuff like religious non fiction when the book I was looking at was an urban fantasy demon hunter novel. WTF??)

I feel almost like I'm doing something "wrong" by "betraying" BN, but I know that's ridiculous. I've stuck with it a long way, probably longer than most people, and... well, WTF am I supposed to do if their site is so screwed up that I can't actually buy the book. I'm not going rah-rah Amazon, because I do have concerns about monopolies, but at the same time, their customer experience is a hell of a lot better than I can say for B&N right now. And I save money on books, which means I can buy... more books... wait, what is this "savings account" that you speak of? >_>

Much <3 to anyone who managed to read through this novel of a post... lol (and yeah, I know, I know, it took me this long to figure it out...)
elialshadowpine: ([misc] not innocent)
Since the internet has been abuzz with rants and raves about this particular book... well. Initially, I was going to be the Cool Kid and not read it, but I gave in. ;) As always, I has thoughts!

(For those who have been living under a rock, Fifty Shades of Grey is a barely rewritten Twilight/Edward alternate universe fanfic in which Bella (Ana) is just graduating college and Edward (Christian) is a multimillionaire businessman. The book is about their romance and involves a lot of sex and BDSM. It's very clearly smut. The author, E. L. James published it through a small press which I believe is an author co-op and somehow, it sold like hotcakes. James now has a contract with Random House and a movie deal is in the works, though I have no idea how they're going to make this into anything less than an NC-17 rated movie.)

Let me get this out of the way first: The book is a hot mess. I have read significantly better prose in crit groups, and this is some of the worst writing I've encountered. I'm not surprised that the "publisher" was actually an author co-op, because it's pretty obvious between grammar errors, bad formatting, horrible punctuation, and writing that just plain doesn't make sense, that no editor touched this thing.

However, having read it, I'm not surprised it's popular. Let's face it: Many readers are not as discerning as writers are (which makes sense; we work hard at our skill and thus we see errors more easily), and I've honestly lost track of the number of times I've heard a reader say they care more about the story; good writing is just a bonus. On top of that, the story follows a well-worn wish fulfillment fantasy: that of the hot, wealthy businessman with loads of issues who falls in love with the girl next door and can only be healed by the power of true love. Look at pretty much every Harlequin Presents romance in existence; these books are not uncommon. The big difference with Fifty Shades is that it became popular outside of romance circles.

(Also I must add here: Not all romances follow this trope. There are plenty of well-written romances with strong heroines and non-asshole heroes. Considering I write romance, I don't really want to hear crap about the genre, thanks. ;)

But that's not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the BDSM aspects. And for this I'm continuing under a cut with WARNING for frank talk about sex, BDSM, consent, coercion/sexual assault, and related stuffs; also includes some discussion of victim-blaming )
elialshadowpine: ([misc] muse hunter)
I love urban fantasy. I have for years. I started out with Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde series, then discovered Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake books, and longed for more. For a long while, it just didn't exist. Annnnnd then it boomed.

Unfortunately, there's a pattern in urban fantasy that I have a huge problem with and has been turning me off the genre more and more. And that's the treatment of women in urban fantasy. You would think this wouldn't be an issue. After all, most urban fantasy these days features a tough, competent, kickass heroine. What could go wrong? Well, a lot of things.

Most prevalent is the overwhelming tendency to completely defang women. Hear me out. Most modern urban fantasy has a heavy romantic subplot and borrows heavily from romance tropes. Being a writer myself, I follow a lot of writing circles, and I can't tell you how many times I have heard someone say, "I have this awesome heroine, but she's so capable, she does everything! And I need to make the hero sexy! And nobody will find the hero sexy if the heroine can do better than him!"

Ignoring the obvious solution of having the hero and heroine have completely different and complementary strengths, far too many writers go for the TSTL solution. If I had a penny for every time I saw a heroine do something completely out of character... *sigh*

Like, oh, storming off for no good reason and doing something utterly stupid that nobody competent in their field would do. Usually because, well, the hero suggested it, and thus he must be wrong. And if there was a good reason for the heroine to disagree, great! But that's often not it at all. It's a matter of cutting off her nose to spite her face. It's a plot device to put the heroine in a position where the hero has to come to the rescue and save her from her own stupidity -- and frankly, this is just insulting. And it's common. Ridiculously common. And it's lazy writing.

It's one thing if, hey, the heroine runs into odds that she can't beat, or an enemy that's stronger than her, or gets outwitted by someone equally as capable. But that's not what's happening. These are situations the author is forcing the heroine into by making her act out of character for the purpose of giving the hero a moment to shine. Why not put the characters in situations where both their skills are needed? But, that wouldn't allow the heroine to be the damsel in distress, now would it?

One of the other major issues in urban fantasy in regards to women is how the heroines relate to other women. In a genre that is so focused on strong female characters, it is pretty shocking how few heroines actually have relationships with other women. Often, other women are not friends and allies, but the enemy. Often, the heroine looks down on other women. And you see the same trope over and over again -- the leather-clad dark and tortured gun-toting heroine whose strength is all physical or perhaps supernatural.

This is really just the whole "girl in the boy's club" thing rearing its head. Femininity is derided while masculinity is put on a pedestal. Rarely do we see women who enjoy feminine things, and when we do, it's usually a slight touch rather than an integral part of the character. Even Anita Blake, with her stuffed penguin collection, dismisses and derides other women. It's been a long time since I read the books, admittedly, and I haven't read the recent ones, but of the early series, all the characters that I recall her being close to were male.

(Mind, the problem is not that masculine-leaning heroines exist. The problem is that they are the sole archetype that we see commonly in urban fantasy heroines.[1])

Very few urban fantasies actually pass the Bechdel test (two women, who talk to each other, about something other than a man). For a genre that is supposedly woman-focused, that's just sad. Where are all the relationships between women? Most of us have friends who are women, mothers, sisters, aunts, etc. Where are they?

So what's the solution here? It comes down to writers being aware of the social implications their fiction will have. Because words have meanings, and stories have power. If they didn't have power, Piers Anthony's Mode books wouldn't have helped me when I was a suicidal teen, and Mercedes Lackey's books wouldn't have helped me come to terms with my bisexuality.

When even supposedly strong heroines are undermined at every turn and cannot succeed without the aid of a man, the underlying message is that of Well, if $awesomecharacter can't do it, why should I believe I can? Women are already at a disadvantage in society, with all the negative messages lobbed at us. We should be able to read fiction that empowers us, not reinforces that we are nothing without a man.

I am not saying that heroines should be all-powerful, because that would be boring. But if you're writing about a top-notch FBI agent, you don't have her forget basic gun safety. You don't have her barging into trouble without thinking about it. You don't have her so distracted by the hero's good looks that she misses the villain's move and gets trapped (and yes, I have read this). It sends a very negative message.

So how do you get around it when you need the heroine to screw up somewhere? Well, make it a believable screw-up, not something that a rookie would do (unless your character is a rookie, but most of the heroines I've seen in urban fantasy are purported to be some of the best at what they do). Or, hey, maybe she doesn't have all the information, makes a decision on what she knows, and then finds out that she was missing a vital piece of the puzzle.

But you know what I'd love to see more of? I'd love to see more heroines who get themselves out of that pickle, rather than heroines who have to be rescued by the hero. But, how do I manage an alpha hero and heroine and their power struggle without having one or the other knuckle under? Not everything has to be a power struggle, although they can be fun to write. The best alpha heroes I've read have been adept in their own field but respected the heroine in hers and listened to her opinions. But what if they're both experts in the same field? Well, hey, they're probably going to argue -- but the automatic reaction shouldn't be for the heroine to be the one who's wrong. Mix it up a little. Or hey! Maybe they're both wrong.

There's a lot of focus on alpha heroes in urban fantasy and a need to make them sexy. You know what? The sexiest heroes I've read aren't the ones who are always rescuing the artificially created dumbass heroine -- they're the ones who respect the heroine, her abilities, her strengths, and love her for who she is. The ones who aren't threatened by a strong woman. The ones who know when it's appropriate to take a backseat. The ones who know when it's time to stand their ground, and when it's time to say, "Hey, you know more about this than I do", or "I don't agree, but let's compromise." It's not an all or nothing situation.

I'd love to see more women who have relationships with other women, too. I'd also like to see a greater breadth of heroines -- heroines of color, heroines with disabilities, queer heroines, etc! Or hey, maybe not the heroine but a lady friend who is one of the above, or someone deeply involved in the story. I'd love to see more focus on this, because the lone uber!heroine surrounded by a sausage-fest is getting old.

This is something that writers have the power to change. Let's change it.


[1] I know there are exceptions to this. Please do not focus on them. This is a widespread issue, and the fact that there are exceptions does not negate that the overwhelming majority of urban fantasy heroines fits only one archetype.

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elialshadowpine: (Default)
Nonny Blackthorne

January 2017

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