2012 archive

Because Good Books Mean So Much

Because Good Books Mean So Much

Why hello, there. So there was a storm in the city this week. I don’t think I can say much about it that hasn’t been said.1 So instead, here’s what I was doing in the hours before Sandy hit: I was at Books of Wonder, getting a chance to tell Bruce Coville that his books shaped my childhood, changed my life, and meant the world to me.

Many years ago I wrote an overview review of some of his books that meant the most to me as a kid. Shortly after I wrote that blog entry, I went about tracking down some of the ones that I’d lost over the years — specifically the AI Gang trilogy, and upon rereading them, I remembered exactly how much I loved them and how viscerally I identified with Wendy as a kid. (Short! Smart! Loud! Messy! Oversized sweatshirts! Not a morning person!), which was why, out of the 32 Coville novels still on my shelf, I brought those to the signing.

The AI Gang

Anyway. There are two points to this blog entry:

1) The AI Gang trilogy has been out of print for decades, but Mr. Coville let me know he’s just released them as ebooks. They’re pretty cheap and definitely worth a read, if you enjoy stories about how a gang of smart kids saves the world. If you read this blog, that’s very likely up your alley. JUST SAYIN’.

2) Getting to meet a writer whose books I have been reading and loving literally since I learned to read was an amazing, overwhelming experience (he was super, super nice, btw, of course), and one I probably would not have had if not for Books of Wonder, an awesome store that is currently seeking some financial help. For more on how great the store is, here’s Jess’s blog entry. I hope you’ll consider donating.

  1. And if you believe a picture is worth a thousand words, might I suggest this gallery and this gallery?

Oh, we’re still talking about this?

Oh, we're still talking about this?

So looking through the archives of this blog, I’ve been part of the “are women really geeks? is there sexism in geek culture?” discussion since at least 2006. (The answers, by the way, are “some of them,” and “yes,” respectively.) And it’s come up again of late, with regards to the Fake Geek Girl meme and subsequent smackdown by awesome ladies, and then the collegehumor.com Imposter Nerd Girl ads. And sometimes when I’m sitting around eating lunch at work thinking about these things, I get inspired to write long, eloquent, impassioned blog entries about it all that will never happen because lol, worst blogger ever, and because frankly, many other awesomely geeky women I know are already on it, tweeting grumpily, blogging up a storm, and sharing links.1

But I also just haven’t had much to say in this go-round, and the full why of it didn’t occur to me until relatively recently, when I remembered this awesome gifset of Amy Poehler responding to the seemingly-eternal women-in-comedy question: “Ugh, this question is boring.”

I just…. you guys. It’s boring. Are nerdy women really nerds? Yes. Is sexism a thing? Yes. I don’t get what we’re still discussing here.

In your subculture, reappropriating your icons“But the fake geek girl meme isn’t sexist because there are also fake geek guys –” Then why is the image of a girl? In both of these recent cases, no less? Why isn’t it a fake geek (period) meme?

“You can tell she’s a fake geek because she looks like she’s trying too hard –” Yep, because there’s no cultural pressure for women to try to look a certain way AND you can clearly tell people’s intentions by their looks AND lololol yes judging people on looks, that is always an awesome thing to do.

“But it really does only target fake geek girls so it helps the real geek girls –” Right, because deciding one group of women is okay to target is going to reduce sexism, yes, that is a good plan. (Now where’s that sarcasm font I keep hearing about?)

“But there really are fake geeks –” Nope, geek culture is just a lot more mainstream now so yeah, some people are interested in it, but only interested in it a little bit. Deal with it.

“But I don’t know any women who are really geeks — ” Then that’s on you to figure out why you don’t know any and how to change that yourself (hint: maybe the fact that you insist that they don’t exist actually makes them not want to be friends with you?).

“But you should be worrying about things that are more important –” Who says I’m not? Maybe I’m just also over being expected to prove myself when I want to discuss something that interests me. Also, hey, this whole dealing with sexism in my life thing? Pretty important to me.

And why do I have stock answers for all of these objections? Because I have seen these comments a million goddamn times and I am so bored of them.

Look. I get it. People identify as nerds and are very protective of that identity. It makes people feel special (I am guilty of this as well) and there’s still enough nerd mockery around that it also makes people feel defensive. But this whole debate is tired. Yes, we’re going to have to keep being angry and keep pushing back until women are no longer depicted as cartoonish villains trying to get cooties all all the best toys, but ultimately? The people who keep insisting that women aren’t real geeks and/or that there’s no sexism in geek culture are so incredibly, obviously wrong that I’m sad we still have to justify their ideas by replying at all. Anyone with half a brain has realized that welcoming new people into a subculture is about a million times more fun and satisfying than alienating people from it. And that the defensive, frightened dudes who don’t want to share their toys aren’t just jerks. They’re also incredibly boring.

  1. For example: here, here, here, and here.

Overheard

The scene: as I’m leaving my BFF’s apartment, I see a just-barely-toddler aged kid playing on the railing of the ramp next to the entrance stairs. Two 20-something dudes were exiting behind me.

Dude #1: Whoa, bro. Look at that little guy.

Dude #2: You go, baby. The whole world’s your junglegym.

Dude #1: That kid’s like a baby parkour champion.

Dude #2: Baby Parkour should be our new tumblr.

Wiscon 36: #ClassChange panel notes

Wiscon 36: #ClassChange panel notes

“I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and all I got was this chip on my shoulder”: Uplift, Downsizing, and Other Changes of Class

So it turns out I’m really bad at taking notes. Basically I jotted down bits and pieces that interested me, and a bunch of quotes with no attributions. I don’t know what I thought this would accomplish. But here’s what I wrote down. This is in no way a complete record of what was discussed, and I’m sorry for all the gaps, because it was an amazing discussion.

Moderator: Alexis Lothian
Panelists: Julie Hayes, Kiini Salaam, Fred Schepartz, Vanessa Vega

A big question is about identity: is it something that doesn’t shift at all?

Here, Kiini described the idea of growing up with a lower class background but middle class norms and expectations (such as expectations of going to college). (This was fascinating to me, because it actually describes my own experience growing up, but it’s not something I’ve ever heard articulated before.)

Three kinds of capital are articulated:

  • Social — your network, who you know, what connections you have
  • Cultural — reading (being literate, encouraged/read to by parents, etc)
  • Economic — my notes just say “duh” as a description of this

You’re defined by class if you’re at the bottom or the top of the hierarchy. The problem with being at the bottom is not having any choices; the problem at the top is being extremely out of touch.

The idea of authenticity and people denying the privileges they do have as a way to feel or seem more authentic. Vanessa describes the frustration of seeing people (especially artists) decide to “make it on their own” when they still have a safety net, and what it’s like watching that as someone who doesn’t have that net at all. There’s a grandiose notion that being poor is artistic.

Quote: “Economic capital provides access.”

What can’t you escape when you change class?

  • When you’re moving down, you’re used to having things, growing up middle class leaves you racking up debt.
  • Skills: there are poor person skills (self-sufficiency, resourcefulness) and rich person skills that come down to your understanding of the world.

Quote: “The most dangerous part of class is the mental mindset.” (Kiini)

Quote: “Class is really a weapon.”
Class is used to destroy a community, and that community is then described as “low class.”

Quote: “My experiences of poverty are extremely privileged experiences of poverty.” (Alexis) (This was another thing I identified with but had never heard articulated before.)

Quote (on growing up having moved up a class): “I always feel like I’m less than.” (Julie) (Another on the “my experiences” list.)

Quote: “Having a British accent in the U.S. is like having white privilege cubed.” (Alexis, who got a laugh in response)

Audience questions:

Q: How much of the current class struggles are based on bootstrap ideology?
A: “America’s new favorite pastime is judging.” (Julie)

Q: What about internal vs. external experiences of class?
A: “Class is about relationships.” — between you and your community, you and money, you and other people.
“You must have boots to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” (I think this was an audience member, but I’m not positive.)
“Class is a construct. Constructed by those who have, to keep the rest of us from having.” (Definitely from the audience.)

So those are my notes, such as they are. I’m extremely grateful that this panel existed and glad I was at it, because, as I noted a few times above, there was a lot of stuff there that I experienced and identified with.1 I think class, more than anything else, was my entry point into awareness and caring, and my attempts to be an ally against oppression.2 But basically: class isn’t something that’s talked about a lot in this country, and hearing other people validate my experiences was incredibly valuable to me.

  1. Someday I might write a massive personal post here about my own experiences jumping from a tiny, rural, working class town to attending Brandeis to living in New York. …actually, knowing me, I probably won’t write this, but I do think about it a lot and those changes very much shaped me.
  2. It’s odd, because you’d think feminism would be that key for me, but I don’t remember a time before I knew what feminism was, why it was important, or before I actively identified as a feminist. Thanks, awesome family! But class was not something on my radar until college, and then I had no vocabulary to articulate my experiences; learning what the hell happened opened me up not only to that, but to other people’s experiences as well, so…

Wiscon 36

Wiscon 36

Once upon a time, six-ish years ago when I was but a wee terrible blogger, I began lurking in feminist SF/F communities, because I could barely believe that such things existed. And as I was lurking about, I heard about this thing called WisCon. It was a whole, real life, actual convention, just for feminist science fiction. I fell in love with the idea. I read tons of blog entries about it and decided that someday, finances allowing, I would go.

And I did.

Last year. I just never mentioned it here.

Worst blogger ever.

But I also went this year! And have just returned! And it was great! And oh man, am I tired.

I took notes at most of the panels I was at, and, assuming my notes are at all coherent, will attempt to turn them into blog posts soonish.1 For now, here are scattered, overall thoughts about the con:

1. The people are awesome. I’m super lucky in that one of my best friends lives in Madison, and she was happy to put up me and a couple of our other besties throughout the con (both years!). But I also met tons of people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I kept in touch through the year mostly by way of twitter, and when we got to the con on Friday, running into people was like coming back to summer camp and seeing the whole summer crew after a year of boring school. But better, because unlike summer camp, no one tried to tell me coffee was just for grown ups.2

And what’s great is that going to WisCon is like finding my people. There’s a core of shared interest among basically everyone there, so even if you don’t all have the same exact interests, it’s still refreshing to be around people who won’t bat an eyelash at how excited you are over whatever it is that you love. I wear my nerdy fangirl tendencies on my sleeve3 and it’s lovely to be surrounded by others who do, too.

2. The quiet room. I fell in love with it. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a dim room with nothing going on, where you can sit quietly and recharge if, say, you’re coming off of a night with only four hours of sleep, your day began at 6:30 AM, and won’t end until 1 in the morning. Or if you’re an introvert who’s been surrounded by people for a couple of days and you need a break. (Or, in my case, both.) I spent a few hours chilling out in the quiet room through the course of the weekend, and am deeply grateful it existed. I don’t have any real con experiences to compare WisCon to, but I get the impression WisCon organizers go out of their way to make the con as accessible as possible, and it shows.

3. I wish I had a time turner. Seriously, you guys, I can’t even convey how agonizing the choice between “But It’s Not For Girls,” “Geek Girls and the Problem of Self Objectification,” and “Feminism and the YA Explosion,” was. The programming is vast and varied, with different tracks that suit different people’s interests. There was tons of programming on class and race (both within science fiction and generally), panels on comic books and novels, academic discussions and readings, and tons more. There were a lot of things that sounded fascinating that I couldn’t get to due to conflicts with other things that sounded fascinating.

And now I feel like I should conclude this blog entry, but here’s the thing: I just got home from an awesome con. I need to go to bed. More (hopefully) soon.

  1. My track record on writing the blog posts I say I will is wretched, however. Just sayin’.
  2. Also, there was booze. At the con, I mean, not camp.
  3. omg I met Corbin Bleu again recently!!1!one

Yesterday was rough.

I was on a crosstown bus, fiddling with my iPod, when I looked up and saw someone reading the Daily News and noticed the back cover. Giant text: EXIT SANDMAN. And a photo of Mariano Rivera on the ground, clutching his leg.

A few hours later, I checked twitter and saw several tweets in a row, all saying, “Did Adam Yauch really just die?” My sister gave me my first Beastie Boys’ album when I was in ninth grade. For awhile, the tagline I had on this blog was “Fifty cups of coffee and you know it’s on.”

Yesterday was rough for New York.

On Female Characters: This Isn’t Highlander. There Can Be More Than One.

On Female Characters: This Isn’t Highlander. There Can Be More Than One.

So if there’s one thing I’ve focused on a lot in my six years of occasionally blogging, it’s female characters. Because aside from my own writing, I’m a huge consumer of media, I’m a feminist, and I care a lot about the way women are represented across media. So: female characters. I think about them a lot. And thus, non-shockingly, of the roughly seven billionty blogs that I read regularly, a fair amount discuss female characters.

This makes me happy: a lot of other people care, too! And it’s interesting. Reading other people’s thoughts have helped me sharpen and figure out my own, become a more active watcher/reader, and has given me recommendations that have led me to new shows/movies/books that I’ve loved. I’ve also had some interesting discussions when I’ve disagreed, but generally, I come away with a lot to think about. My opinion is: analyzing female characters = super cool.

Except for this one thing that I keep seeing with depressing frequency: explaining why one female character is awesome by talking about the flaws in another lady from the same genre. Or in other words, writing as if two female characters (often both generally pretty good characters, who are flawed in different ways) are in a competition to prove one of them is more awesome than the other.

Why? Why must we do that?

(Note: I’m not linking to specific posts from here because I’m talking about trends I’ve seen, not trying to call out anyone in particular.)

Vote KnopeThe first time I started to write this blog post (it’s gone through four drafts now) it was in response to a whole rash of articles I’d run into about how great Parks & Recreation is (and it is!). And specifically how great Leslie Knope is (omg SHE IS). And how that’s great, because Liz Lemon over on 30 Rock is a mess. Wait, what?

They’re both the central characters of NBC, Thursday-night comedies. And Tina Fey and Amy Poehler both were on SNL, and are friends in real life. People are used to talking about them as a unit. But unless you’re comparing specific facets of the two shows, why frame it as one character being better than the other? For that matter, if you aren’t talking about both shows to begin with, why detour into it just for that purpose?

I’ve also seen Community’s Britta Perry thrown into this mix occasionally. And here’s the thing: one of my closest friends really identifies with Britta. Another of my closest friends really identifies with Leslie.1 But I actually think it’s super awesome that there are two very different female characters, both hilarious, so that two very different (but both hilarious) friends of mine have characters they can identify with.2

And just to drive home the point, here’s a video of Amy Poehler being awesome and refusing to fall into the sexist trap of pitting characters, shows, or her actual person against Tina Fey, because they are friends and they are both funny:


[Description: a video in which Amy Poehler calls an interviewer out for referring to her and Tina Fey both being in an Emmy race as a catfight, repeatedly asks him to stop trying to get her to say mean things about her friend, and generally refuses to play his sexist reindeer games. Did I mention she is great?]

This is not an isolated issue of 30 Rock vs. Parks and Rec issue, though. I ranted about it on twitter a couple of months ago, when I ran into a cool blog post about how great Jane Foster of Thor is. And while Thor didn’t do much for me as a movie, I do like that Jane was a scientist devoted to her research above all. What distressed me was that someone immediately commented to argue that actually, no, the better female character from a superhero last summer was Peggy Carter of Captain America. Which again, why? Because they’re both women in superhero flicks? The characters have even less to do with each other than Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope, but the comment was definitely a case of “this character is better than that character.”

Ellen RipleyAnd then, more recently, I ran into the same thing again, in an article about how great Ellen Ripley is. And you know what? Ellen Ripley is pretty great! The Alien franchise is pretty great! But the article took a long detour through explaining how much Sarah Connor sucks. But, um. Sarah Connor doesn’t suck. And even if you think she does, her sucking doesn’t make Ripley a better character. The fact that they are both women from lady-led genre franchises does not mean that if you like one, you can’t like the other.3

Look, I am down with criticizing the Terminator franchise. And superhero movies. And 30 Rock, which I generally enjoy, but which also sometimes makes me go, “Yiiiiiikes,” and wince. I think critique is generally a good and important thing, yes, even when it’s critiquing a thing I enjoy. But critique can also fall into nasty narratives of its own: in this case, acting as if women have to be in competition.

They aren’t. They don’t have to be. Instead of talking about which awesome action heroine, or which hilarious sitcom lady, or which superhero’s ladyfriend is greatest… well, why not enjoy how many of those characters there are? Instead of fighting over who gets one slice of pie, let’s enjoy the fact that the pie is getting bigger. Pieces may have slightly different flavors, and some may still be undercooked or not to your taste, but the pie as a whole can still be delicious and filling. And wow that metaphor got overextended.

The point is: this isn’t Highlander. There can be more than one awesome female character at a time.4 Not all of them are to everyone’s taste, and denigrating one does not make another seem more awesome. But it does fall into the sexist tropes of thinking of all women as being in competition, and that one representation of women is enough. Neither of those things is true. Let’s please not write as if they are.

  1. It would be nice at this point if I could say I identify as Liz to make this triad complete, but I don’t. Actually, I don’t identify with any of the above. Hmm.
  2. I can only imagine and empathize with how frustrating it must be for non-white, non-straight, non-cis folks to find characters to identify with that strongly. The increasing representation of women is good. But there are a lot of ways it hasn’t even begun to expand yet.
  3. Completely unrelated detour: my sister and I refer to this as “Birds vs. Monkey,” a line gleefully shouted in the midst of the movie Rio. It’s a useful phrase for when fans of Media Property X seem to be locked in a battle to the death with fans of Media Property Y, as if it’s physically impossible to like both X and Y. You see this a lot among boyband fans.
  4. And it would be great if there were more than one awesome female characters per franchise… well, we’re getting there.

My Much Belated Post on the Big Sur Writing Workshop

My Much Belated Post on the Big Sur Writing Workshop

Despite the fact that I have a writing tag on this blog, and the fact that a good 90% of my free time is spent writing something in some form or another, I get weirdly self-conscious posting about, you know, writing. But a couple of weeks ago, I attended the Big Sur Writing Workshop (which focuses on children’s and YA writing), and I wanted to get this out before the memories vanish, a) because it was a cool experience; and b) because not a heck of a lot of information showed up when I googled, so hey, wayward searchers, here you go. A month late, but what can you do? There’s a reason this isn’t called Becky Allen’s Timely Blog of Frequent Updates.

What happened was, way back in November or so, I saw a link to the writing workshop on kidlit.com, and had a moment of, “Hey, that looks cool, someday when I have a finished manuscript, a few days of PTO left for the year, and enough advance warning to set aside the money, I should think about going to that.” Then I did a doubletake, because 1) I was only about 25,000 words from the end of my major rewrite of my WIP; 2) I was pretty sure I’d have at least five days off rolling over to the 2012, plus all of that year’s PTO; 3) the application wasn’t due until February, which was plenty of time to save, plan, request dates off, and finish the darned rewrite. Which… whoa. I emailed a bunch of my friends asking if I would be totally crazy to apply, because it seemed like a pretty huge step. You know, the one between “I am writing this novel type thing for fun in my free time,” and “I’m actually polishing this in an attempt to get it published.” And my wonderful, supportive friends said, essentially, “Apply or we’ll beat you up,” and so I did.

During the brief orientation, Andrea Brown summed up the weekend like this: It’s bootcamp for people who are writing for kids and teens. Everyone is assigned to two critique groups, each led by an awesome member of the awesome faculty, and sorted roughly by genre (I was working on YA high fantasy, and the other pieces in my group ranged from YA and MG urban fantasy to mystery to scifi). The groups meet twice each, with time to work on revisions between them. (Okay, a lot of that “time to work on revisions” could also be called “time you would normally use for sleeping,” but hey. Bootcamp.) Aside from crit groups and working time, there are additional panel-type sessions, some over meals. These included agents discussing queries; editors doing a Q&A that covered, er, covers, as well as e-books and the future of publishing; a general Q&A with agents (which also delved into e-books and the future of publishing, come to think of it); and a fascinating panel on book-to-film/TV rights.

So, what did I get out of it? This is my list. Your results may vary, consult an expert, this is not an infomercial, etc.

1) I got over some of my “ack am I good enough what am I doing why do I think I’m good enough (etc etc)” anxiety. Because the thing is, while I’ve been writing for fun for just about as long as I can remember, I’ve never taken a single creative writing class, I’ve never been part of an official crit group, and I have yet to actually, y’know, submit anything. My ability to judge my own writing has always been all over the place; some days I am ridiculously, supremely overconfident, and other days I’m convinced I’ve been fooling everyone who supports me, and especially fooling myself, because why did I ever think I could do this? So after a weekend spent letting strangers read my stuff for basically the first time ever, I feel like I’ve got a bit more of a grip on things and a more realistic sense of where I am, writing-wise.

2) I got to meet awesome people. I am not exactly known for my excellent social skills when dealing with crowds of strangers, but it turns out talking to other writers is easy. When in doubt, say, “So, what are you writing?” Works like a charm, every time.

3) I got a solid reminder that this is an industry, and that people who write books are not some kind of magic fantasy species, and the people who work in publishing are, in fact, actual human beings. In fact, they seem to be generally nice, passionate, awesome ones. And while this entire point may make you go “duh,” because, um, duh, but I suspect that I’m secretly not alone in needing that reminder. Even though the internet has gone a long way towards demystifying the whole how-a-book-becomes-a-book process, it has also made it very easy to stop thinking of the people involved as people and instead think of them as mystical guardians of some sort, and to look at people who’ve been published as special chosen ones rather than as writers who worked hard. But interacting with actual humans goes a long way towards overcoming that, and makes the whole thing seem like an actual attainable goal rather than an impossible dream.

4) And finally, of course, there’s what it’s done for my novel. Which… whoa. Because here’s the thing: I have amazingly creative, analytical, brilliant friends who’ve been brainstorming and beta reading and cheering me on for years, and I honestly don’t think that I would have finished my rough draft, let alone my revised draft, without them. But by virtue of being my friends, and being involved with the process, they’re also somewhat invested in it. Having a group of people with fresh eyes, who don’t know me or where I’m coming from or what I think I’m writing about, look at my first two chapters was eye-opening.

It was enough to make me look at my own novel in a whole different way. The “But why?”s and “I don’t quite get it”s were intimidating, but but also answered a whole lot of questions I never thought to ask. And it wasn’t just a matter of sorting out what’s on the page from what’s in my head: it was about figuring out why what’s on the page was there. Figuring out how to make people connect with it in new ways. Figuring out which pieces work and which don’t. And by thinking about those things in the first two chapters, I also ended up with a bunch of revelations about the novel as a whole. That, of course, is the good news.

The bad news is that by suddenly seeing my novel in a different way, by asking whys that hadn’t occurred to me before, by seeing ways that shift in focus and a different perspective could make the whole darned thing stronger, I now have to put in the work. Restructure, rewrite, revise. Will draft #3 be a ground-up rewrite (again)? A revision with a strong basis in what I’ve already got? A matter of shifting some scenes and simplifying some needless complications? I don’t know yet. It’s been a month and I’m still trying to work it all out. I just know there’s a lot left for me to do.

But that’s the thing: the bad news is actually good news. I’m writing this novel because I love writing, and I love this story — and I love what it’s evolving into. So while I may groan about all the work I have to do, it’s work I love doing. And that’s pretty awesome.

So back to the greater point: the writing conference. Was it worth it? Definitely. It was fun, it was invigorating, and it’s given me a heck of a lot to think about. It was an incredibly intense weekend, and I’m so glad I went.

My Curmudgeonly Rant About Ereaders

My Curmudgeonly Rant About Ereaders

Sometimes, I am very much my father’s daughter. You see, at our family Chanukah party last month, my dad and I got into an argument (the type that’s probably better described as a friendly bickerment) about cell phones. Dad had just gotten a new phone, and when he purchased it, he had the nice Verizon employee switch off all potential web browsing, email, general internet, and even text messaging options.

My dad wants a phone. He wants to be able to call people and have them call him. That’s all he wants.

All of which is fine and dandy. Not what the bickerment was about. That came in when he insisted that my shiny black iPhone is not a phone, it’s a computer. Which, on the one hand, is true. It’s a teeny, tiny computer that I carry around in my purse, which happens to send and receive phone calls.

And so we spent half an hour arguing: “It lets me call people! That makes it a phone!” “All a phone does is send phone calls! That’s why they call them phone calls!” “You don’t get to define the word just because you don’t want to pay for a smartphone!” “I don’t want to pay for a computer plan when I just want a telephone!” “But it is a telephone!” “It is not!”

We eventually reached a consensus of, “You’re wrong,” “Your FACE is wrong,” and I stormed off to talk to more reasonable cousins, like the pre-teens who won’t talk to you unless you can quote Monty Python sketches with them.

All of which is to say, I suspect my feelings about ereader tablets are irrational and unfair, but god damn it, ereaders are for READING BOOKS, not watching movies.

I have an ereader that I very much like. It’s a black and white Nook. It’s started to go a little wonky with age, but I plan to use it until it falls apart, because it’s more or less perfect for my own, personal reading habits. It’s great for subway reading: it fits into my purse, I only need one hand to hold it (and that same hand can turn pages, or, I guess, “turn pages” since actually it’s hitting a button); it’s light enough to carry around everywhere I go1; it holds roughly a million bajillion books, so if I finish one while I’m out, I’ve got plenty more loaded up to read; I can buy books from my couch (dangerous!) including finding a lot of things I have trouble finding in stores; and all the public domain books I want are easily found and free (did I just download the entire Sherlock Holmes canon? Why yes, yes I did).

Now, I realize that absolutely all of that is true of all color, tablet, 3G, and other various ereaders that are out there. In fact, there’s nothing my elderly Nook can do that they can’t. Which is kind of the point.

I bought my Nook to read books on. It’s black and white, which means it’s eink rather than LCD, and thus easier on my eyes for long periods of time. I mostly use it on the subway, so I wouldn’t be able to do internet-related stuff on it anyway. And if I’m not on the subway and want to do internet related stuff, I have my laptop for that, or if I’m out and about, my iPhone.2 And when I’m using it at home, if I want to watch a movie… well, I probably want to have a movie on WHILE I’m reading my book, which I couldn’t do if my book and movie were playing on the same device. Besides which, I have a TV which has cable, a DVD player, and Netflix streaming hooked up, which makes for a much better movie-watching experience than something I’d have to hold on to or prop up. 3

So basically what I’m saying is: for all of those bell and whistle features, I’ve got something else that’s more effective. I don’t need and am not interested in a tablet, and if I was, instead of getting a hybrid ereader-tablet-thingy, I’d go whole hog and buy an iPad, probably. Which seems to be the crux of the matter: iPads are great for many things, but they aren’t really ereaders. Yes, they can be used for reading electronic books, but they’re designed for all kinds of other things and they also happen to let you read books. The Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire and others like ‘em seem to be chasing that market, which is only tangentially related to reading, hoping to catch on by being significantly less expensive. And that may well be a winning strategy! I am not a business person, and clearly am not the market for those devices, so what do I know?

Well. I know that I don’t want a tablet that also happens to let me read books. I want an ereader: a device designed for reading books, that doesn’t have to do anything else, damn it.

(Dad is still wrong about my iPhone, though.)

  1. This is why, even though a friend loaned me a copy of Reamde, I broke down and bought the ebook. Neal Stephenson does not fit conveniently in my purse, as I learned from reading Cryptonomicon shortly after moving to the city. The paperback got almost too tattered to read and fell apart by the time I finished.
  2. Sorry, Dad, I mean pocket computer.
  3. And wow, typing that up certainly gave me a moment of realizing how incredibly privileged I am to live somewhere all this is available, and to be able to take advantage of it.

Moving Day, Again

Moving Day, Again

You know how some people get wanderlust, and just have to move, or find a new job, or make a massive life change every few years to stem off boredom? I’m not generally one of them. Except with this blog, which is now on its third home. Whew.

“But Becky!” you might cry. “Isn’t moving your blog without bothering to set up some form of redirect pretty much the worst way to build up or maintain an audience of actual readers?”

To which I would say, “Thank you for being so concerned! But no. The worst way to do that, I suspect, is actually to only update twice in one year.” Then I would probably pause and think about it, and say, “Oops.”

So if you’ve found me somehow, hello! Nearly all of my old, old, old blog entries have made the leap, except for some that were so embarrassingly earnest that I winced upon rereading and decided the internet didn’t really need to see them any more.

As for what happens now, well, if I were the sort of person who made a lot of New Years resolutions, I’d almost definitely have resolved to blog more. But I’ve had various online journals since roughly 1998, and history indicates pretty strongly that I’m not cut out to be a regular blogger. I’m okay with that, but it’s why I wanted to downsize from a blog that was a whole domain, to this little personal site. Rebecca-Allen.net still exists for my online professional life, but this new space feels much smaller and cozier, like a return to my old Geocities collective of web projects, albeit with less Sailor Moon fanfiction.

So anyhoo: if you’re reading the RSS feed, click on over! I’ve got a lovely new template up and running and relentlessly tweaked. We’ll see how long it lasts before I decide I hate it.

And to get things started on the right foot, here is a picture of my cat:

Lily and the umbrella