Category Archives: On Literature

Weee, technology!

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Or… not?

Looked up the Republic Commando series by Karen Traviss on Amazon. There’s 1, 3 and 4 for the Kindle, and 2… isn’t? What? Whose bright idea was that?

Seriously, I’m having a hard time giving anyone money when I feel like I’m being ripped off while fat businessmen bathe in champagne and light their cigars with hundred-dollar-bills, laughing at those stupid customers who paid for this decadence… -.-

And here I was thinking that my hoarding books wasn’t necessary anymore… I’m a collector, I hatehateHATE switching editions mid-series. It’s gone as far as me buying books twice because I didn’t pay attention when I bought them the first time around and got different layouts or somesuch nonsense. So now I’m supposed to buy three books for my Kindle and put the fourth one on my shelf anyway? Can someone explain this “business strategy” to me? Because making me buy the books used so I have them all in the same form while not paying myself stupid for the paperbacks doesn’t seem very clever to me…

 

– Ricarda

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Yes, dammit, pay the writer already!

Video

 

I don’t like Ellison as a person, but damn, this needed saying so badly. And loudly. (Sorry for the big video, apparently, WordPress’ Animosity of the Day goes out to properly embedding videos…)

 

Longer posts are coming up again once I managed to shake off the holiday feeling. *sighs* The beds in France are horrible, but I’d kill for that food every single day.

Not literally, of course.

Maybe.

 

 

-Ricarda

Humans suck

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Well, not all of them, and probably even those who do don’t suck all the time, but still. The internet frequently manages to shatter my faith in humanity almost beyond repair T_T

I love being part of a fandom. Fandoms are great. You share something you love with a lot of people (most of whom are awesome), you get to enjoy what you like outside of the original show/book/game/obscure asian film, and you have something to obsess over and discuss in the middle of the night with your best friend who is just as crazy about the show as you are, possibly even crazier.

But then there are the days when I facepalm, headdesk, and do every other possible gesture that expresses an equal amount of embarrassment and “whhhyyy?!”. There are days when I am close to denying every connection I might have to the fandom in question, and pretend I don’t even know what XYZ is. Those are the days when I make the mistake of reading the comments to a fandom-related press release. (Yes, I should know better T_T)

Case in point: An article concerning John Hurt’s role in the next episode of Doctor Who (€dit because d’oh: Of course I mean the 50th anniversary special. Silly me.). Now, if you don’t want to hear, see, read or get signed by a deaf chimpanzee anything about the upcoming series finale, the special, or the series in general, stop reading. Now. I’m serious, go away now, or you will read things you might not want to know. You still here? Okay, I did warn you, don’t blame it on me if your fun gets spoiled.

 

:O

:(

:|

:)

:D

 

Okay, that’s the best I can do. From now on, this is a minefield of possible spoilers.

The article basically states that actor John Hurt (you know, that guy who played Ollivander in the Harry Potter films? Yep, that’s him.) will be in the 50th anniversary special, and he’s going to play the Ninth Doctor. Yes, that’s right. Rumour has it that Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor wasn’t Nine at all, but actually Ten. Which would make David Tennant Eleven, and Matt Smith Twelve. A fact that doesn’t sit well with a lot of fans. Outsiders wouldn’t believe the outrage in the fandom upon this news. Suddenly, the beloved, wonderful show isn’t wonderful at all, canon gets screwed and Steven Moffat is a jerk who has gone mad with power. There is so much hate directed towards him I’m wondering how he can stand going online anymore. People suddenly complain about everything he has ever done with Doctor Who, rant about how he has no right to do all this and that there is a canon to stick to, and even demand he give up his position as a showrunner. All because they don’t like this particular plot twist that might not even happen (after all, this could be a red red herring and not true at all).

Seriously, fandom? -.-

I understand how someone can feel let down by this, even gets a little angry. I mean, come on, I think George Lucas should have left well enough alone and never started “remastering” the original Star Wars trilogy (Han shot first! :P). But they are his films, and he has the right to do with them whatever he wants. Whoever created a piece of art has the right to change it as he pleases whenever the hell he feels like it. No-one can dictate the rules the artist has to stick to (well, unless the artist is paid to deliver a specific piece, but that’s beside the point here). That’s kind of the very definition of art – it comes from the heart and follows no rules.

And now this shouldn’t apply anymore because some condescending pricks don’t like what they get? Being a writer, there is no other answer for me to give than “What the fuck are you douchebags thinking?!” Just because you are fans you think you have the right to expect the creator to be at your beck and call and do exactly what you tell him to do? That’s not how it works, that’s not how it should ever work! Listen up, you may like what you get or not, but that doesn’t give you any right to pressure the creator into making what you think is a “better” and “more logical” decision. The latter one is especially true for Doctor Who. There IS. NO. LOGIC to this show. Whatever canon we think there is is vague at best and most of the time not canon at all. As far as I know, the Doctor never went and announced “I’m the eighth Doctor, don’t you forget!” He doesn’t count at all. I don’t think I ever heard anyone in the show address the “Which regeneration are you? Six or seven?” issue (haven’t seen all the classic episodes, though, so I might be wrong here). So any number we assign to a particular Doctor is purely to keep track of where we are in the Doctor’s life (and that might not even be true, since he could very well have an infinite number of regenerations; we don’t know). So bringing in John Hurt as the real Nine, making the current Doctor Twelve already (and confusing everyone with the whole “fall of the eleventh” thing, which doesn’t make sense anymore if that rumour is true…), is fine, doesn’t go against canon and doesn’t “screw up other writers’ work”, as some people put it. Doctor Who as a show is best summed up by the Doctor’s own words: a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. There is virtually no way to defy canon, because there is no canon (other than the Doctor is a renegade Time Lord traveling time and space… yep, I think that’s about it). Hell, the whole regeneration thing was added on a whim because William Hartnell left the show! Talk about double standards here; apparently, “screwing with what came before you” is fine when it’s done before you were even born…

 

This whole thing kind of scares me a little. I usually think it would be really cool to be somewhat famous, have a fandom and all that stuff. But on days like this, I’m not so sure. You are constantly being judged by those people, not just as a writer, director or whatever you are, but as a human being. By people who never even met you. That’s just lousy behaviour. I’m fine with being judged as a writer based on my writing. I’m not cool with people judging me based on the fact that they don’t like what I write. Sure, there will always be people who are not happy with what I can give them (provided that I ever get published), who will call the book they read crappy and move on. But that’s fine, and that’s the mature thing to do. Move on. Don’t cling to your formerly-favourite-I-hope-it-will-be-again show (or, y’know, whatever) like a child and whine about how bad it is nowadays, don’t insult the writer just because he didn’t write a bunch of episodes tailored to your taste, and don’t think you are in a position to actually demand changes in the show just because you are such a loyal fan. If you don’t like it anymore, stop watching. That’s what I did with a couple of shows, with a couple of book series, and even with a few bands I used to love. I didn’t whine and scream and tell them to do what I like because I’m such a huge fan.

 

Sometimes I wonder if creators like the Moff, J.K. Rowling, George Lucas or Stephen King ever look at their fans and are appalled by what they see: A crowd of manic, rabid hatemongers who worship their own version of the source material, denying even the original creator the right to make even the smallest of changes. I think they do. And that’s really sad, if you think about it.

 

I have a great idea for all those idiots out there: Go and make your own show/book/film, get a fandom and watch it turn against you once you do something different than before. Maybe getting a taste of your own medicine will get that notion of fandom omnipotence out of your thick heads…

 

Yes, this was very rant-y. And I do know I did get kind of abusive towards that part of the fandom. But there are days when I don’t feel polite. This is one of them.

Also, you can’t reason with those people. They only respond with more insults. Might as well get a head start on those.

 

 

-Ricarda (now getting dinner and a glass of wine to calm down a bit)

Things You Shouldn’t Do

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Well, not as in “Never, ever do it or you’ll get your face eaten by a rabid grizzly bear”. Although there are things you should avoid in order to escape that particular fate… like hugging rabid grizzly bears.
Nope, this is just a list of my personal Don’ts when it comes to writing fiction. It’s not so much about style and rules and stuff, but about content. Like, what should NOT happen in your story if you want me to read it.

 
1. Teenage Protagonists Acting Like Adults

I already ranted about this one before, so I’ll keep it short. Basically, when the protagonist is seventeen, I expect them to act like they’re seventeen. Certainly NOT like they are actually thirty-five and just look seventeen to better sell it to the adolescent audience.

 

2. Love On First Sight and The Love Triangle

Okay, seriously, what’s with all the instant romance in fiction? How often do you see that kind of thing in real life? It might happen, maybe, sometimes, but it seems like every single romantic relationship in the books I read lately has some kind of instaRomance. Even Divergent, which in comparison took forever to introduce the actual romantic relationship, did this. It’s not that noticeable when you read it, it happens later in the book, but looking back, the whole story happened in about… three weeks? And the MCs didn’t spend that much time together. And when they did, the guy mostly yelled at the girl (for good reason, but still). What the hell?

The love triangle scenario makes this even worse. We are just expected to believe that the innocent, average, clumsy heroine suddenly holds the interest of not one, but two flawless hot guys. Said guys would very much like to maim and/or kill their rival, but don’t for the heroines sake, because she likes them both so much (she just doesn’t know whom she likes more). What makes this completely ridiculous is the fact that, no matter what, the girl will always, ALWAYS end up with the dude she first fell in love with, even if #1 runs off (or gets seemingly killed or something) and the girl actually got over him and found another guy who is actually much nicer than the first one. The whole point of The Love Triangle is to show that your first love is also your One True Love, no matter what. Really? How many people actually stick with the first person they dated? God, had I done that, I’d be pretty much screwed. (Well, not in the good way. Or maybe I would, I don’t know, we never did it. Anyways.) The point is, the fact that it always ends like that makes this scenario boring and predictable, so even if it weren’t overused, it would still be a huge turn-off for me.

 

3. The Mary Sue In Disguise

I assume we all know what a Mary Sue is by now (random fact: a male Mary Sue is called a Marty Stu or Gary Stu; I prefer the latter. It rhymes :P). It’s basically a no-no for every fiction writer. Even in fanfiction, where you generally get away with a lot more, Sues are frowned upon. So why on earth are published books full of them? I’m not going to talk about Bella Swan here (although she IS a fine example of Sue-dom). I’m talking about the MCs who don’t seem like the perfect, pretty and skilled Mary Sue, but if you look closer, all her flaws either turn into “endearing quirks” or just plain vanish because the heroine (or hero, but in the books I read, Sues are more often the MCs than Stus are) learned her lesson and got over them. Again, how often does that happen in real life? I mean, yeah, you can get rid of annoying habits, but our real flaws, the facets of our character that make life harder for us, won’t go away that easily. If I were a run-of-the-mill YA heroine, I’d be described as “socially awkward (but in a very cute way, and talking to The Guys That Matter isn’t a problem)”. In real life, I’m more of a hermit crab than anything. I used to be afraid of people! It got better over time, but it’ll never entirely go away. Same goes for that tendency to yell at people and run off fuming when I get into arguments I obviously can’t win, or for my habit of getting all teary and whiny and close to giving up when I screw up, even if it’s just a stupid test at uni (doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s bad).

The Sues in the books don’t seem to have that kind of traits, ever. There is nothing about them that will stay with them all their lives, that will be a constant obstacle and make life harder every single day. When they encounter something that poses a problem, they miraculously find a way to make it go away with very little effort, or they find out they have a hidden skill that just now comes in handy. That. Doesn’t. Happen. So please don’t mock me by making it seem like it does – just not to me. How can I possibly relate to someone who never has to struggle, when I have to all the time?

 

4. The Chosen One

Let me clarify: This is not about actual Chosen Ones, like the Harry Potter kind, or King Arthur. It’s about those characters who aren’t all that important, or charming, or smart, or whatever, but somehow turn out to be the one single person without whom The Rebellion (or any big event, really) couldn’t happen. Sometimes it’s well done, like in The Hunger Games, where Katniss doesn’t even realise what’s going on until someone tells her, and even then, she doesn’t play her role all that well right until the end. And she kind of does set the events in motion with her berry stunt. But then there are the Chosen Ones who clearly aren’t all that important – the author just makes them important to justify their status as protagonist. One example are all the ladies in the Immortal Brotherhood series. Basically, some viking dudes are cursed to be immortal weres (not the good kind), and only love can break the curse. Interesting enough, it’s not the good old “true love”, it’s merely “a woman who loves them even knowing what they are”. So it could be any woman who really loves one of them. And you’d think after a couple centuries, at least a few of them should have found a girl who truly loves them, right? But no, it’s another chosen one scenario: There is only one woman for every guy, and no other will do the trick. Hell, the leader of the group has to wait eight-hundred years for his woman, simply because she won’t reincarnate any sooner (or something like that, we’re just at volume three, but it’s strongly implied).

I just find it hard to believe that there should be no-one else in the entire world suitable for the job. That’s just so totally unlikely…

 

Well, that turned out way wordier than I intended oO

Also, sad news: Otfried Preußler is dead :´( He wrote some of my favourite books from when I was little…

 

*achem* Right. Now, for some lighter mood at the end: random randomness!^^

 

Underrated fantasy WHAT

Well, I was going for “novels”, but apparently, a bazillion others before me had a different idea…

 

And I still find it incredibly funny when a TV show references Myspace as THE hottest website where everyone has to be^^

 

 

-Ricarda

 

 

€dit: Also, I would so watch this XD

Dear Amazon critics:

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Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against you. You helped me a lot over the past years, and many books I bought on ‘recommendation’ from the comments were really good, some great even.

There is just one little thing that bothers me.

If you don’t like an author’s style or choice of words or even grammar and spelling and feel the need to point that out, fine, go ahead, it’s always good to know what’s hiding behind the cover. But, for the love of all that’s written, pleasepleaseplease check if it’s a translation you read or the original. Because you see, I can handle fair criticism, even if you’re nitpicking on my spelling or grammar, but what really ticks me off is people whining about bad choice of words, unruly commas and weirdly structured sentences who did not even read the original text and blame it solely on the author.

Granted, the really weird style is often coming from the author – but that’s mostly an issue in lit fic. In common light fiction (fantasy, romance, sci-fi, comedies, you name it, I have it), such ‘mistakes’ often happen during translation. Most of the time, such books are translated by people who get paid way too little for their work. I took part in a workshop on literature translation, and I know how hard it is to do it right. But if you get paid a couple hundred bucks for fifty pages of prose, you don’t go over every sentence three or four times. You translate, you proofread, you hand it in – next job, please, I’ve got a family to feed. That way, the style is not the best, there are mistakes that could be avoided by careful spell checking, and if you think twice you can find a better way to say something most of the time. Which you don’t, for the aforementioned reasons.

So, again, dear critics: Please don’t blame it all on the author. As I said, most of us can handle criticism (*coughs* JohnAsht *coughs*), as long as it’s fair and politely worded. But I think I’m not alone here when I say that authors don’t want to be blamed for whatever sloppy work a translator did. Just… recognise the work they put into a translation, even if they did it in a hurry to pay the next phone bill. There are even examples where a translation did the author a favour, so to speak. Two examples here to clarify. 1. Bad translation: The Lord of the Rings, as translated by Wolfgang Krege. Krege didn’t exactly do a lousy job, but something about his choice of words is… off, and his style doesn’t really fit the story. 2. Good translation: Twilight, as translated by Karsten Kredel. I read the original, and compared to the German text it’s awful. I recommend Reasoning with Vampires (see link on the right) to see just how awful it is. The German translation, however, eliminated most of these mistakes and actually improved the text; grammar, style and spelling, at least.

Again, dear critics, just keep in mind that however bad a text might seem, it might just be that not everything is the author’s fault. Don’t blame it all on us, will you?

 

Sincerely,

Ricarda

My problems with YA literature

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See, I don’t exactly dislike YA books. In fact, I read them frequently – Twilight, The Hunger Games, Guardians of Time, and most recently the first part of the Delirium trilogy, to name a few (just started the last one, so no spoilers, please). Some of them are great, some are outstanding examples of badly crafted modern literature, but what they have in common is that I genuinely enjoyed reading them.

What they also have in common is their teenage protagonists. And this is where the problems start.

I’m not gonna rant about how dangerous Bella’s and Edward’s relationship model is, or how Katniss is a tiny bit too passive to be a real ‘hero’, even in terms of literature. I have issues with something else entirely: the characters themselves. Let’s make a list to keep it simple. They all

-are teenagers

-are ‘rebels’ or ‘fighters’ in some way or another

-act way too mature for their age to convince even me

Let’s face it. I’m twenty-three. Of all the books I pick up at the bookstore or put on my wish list on Amazon, ninety percent either combine all three of the above listed ‘problems’ or are written for an educated audience between about thirty and sixty. For the record, there’s nothing wrong with either. What I miss is an in-between.

Most of the time I choose the YA books, because it’s still easier for me to step into their protagonists’ shoes and identify with them. I’m not that old yet, neither physically nor mentally. And most of the time, the books are saved by a story that would work for either a teen or a twentysomething or whateverthehellyouare. So, where in the name of all the dead trees on my bookshelf are the stories with protagonists who already reached legal drinking age? Very few protagonists (especially the girls) ever reach their eighteenth birthday in the book itself, and even fewer turn twenty at some point. Actually, in Breaking Dawn, Bella is thrilled that she was turned into a vampire just before her nineteenth birthday and could be “eighteen forever”. Seriously; in the stages of human development, “young adult” is roughly defined as “people between twenty and forty”. If we are generous here, it could be from twenty to thirty as well. But when was the last time you read something with a thirty-two year old protagonist who didn’t suffocate from a truckload of issues? I mean, the teens have enough problems as it is, but many writers make it seem like it only gets worse after you turn twenty, ending with your life falling apart around the age of fifty, prompting you to either kill yourself or set off on a journey to find you new self. Yeah, right.

Which brings me to the next problem: Each and every one of these teenagers is portrayed as insanely mature and “wise beyond their years”. This is actually spelled out in Twilight, and more or less directly shown in The Hunger Games (somewhat justified, but still) and Delirium. As I said, I only just started the latter, but a few chapters in I already have the distinct feeling that Lena will be exactly that: mature enough to make life-changing decisions, intelligent enough to question everything she ever learned just because she met a boy (that would be like me turning into a devout Muslima within a month because I fell for some crazy fundamentalist; just sayin’, these huge changes in character happen in so little time it’s ridiculous). What I’m trying to say is that, in this case, Lena, the protagonist, learned that The Government Knows Best for almost eighteen years. She apparently believes in the system and is willing to follow the rules because she thinks they are there for a reason. Still, for reasons yet to be revealed, she already has doubts about this system.

Where the fuck did those come from? It’s not like she’s part of some resistance group or anything; some family member seems to be (or have been), but she has no contact with him. Basically, it’s like she was struck by inspiration that prompted her to start questioning everything around her just because. I think we are supposed to believe this is because she is actually way more mature than she initially lets on, and is politically and socially educated enough to express doubts based on genuine reasons.

I feel like I was just whacked over the head by the author.

We grow up in certain societies. We learn certain things and believe in a certain system. For me, this would be a democratic government making choices based on what the populace demands. I know there are other systems, other ways of living your life, but I am unashamed to say that I think this democratic way is one of the best, if not the best. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt this until someone proves me wrong. So why does Lena?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this would be way more believable if she was at least five years older, better ten. When did she have the time to develop a political conscience like this? During lunch break? Hell, I just started to develop some interest in politics a few years ago, and so did quite a few of my friends. Lena’s thoughts and doubts just don’t seem justified to me.

Same goes for the ‘rebel’/’fighter’ thing I mentioned above. They fight for something, a worthy cause – fine by me. They are seventeen and risk their lives for something they just learned about a few months ago – screw you, author! That’s just not believable. How many people actually do that, or would, hypothetically? If I am supposed to fight for something, risking my health, my life or those of people I love in the process, I need to genuinely believe in the cause. But how does spending a couple of weeks with a handsome guy or in a hidden rebel base make me believe in something I’ve never even heard of before?

Right. It probably doesn’t. So please, for your sanity and your readers’, give me a reason to believe this rebel-with-a-cause crap. Show me how the hero’s life was negatively affected by the system. Show me how the heroine’s dream was brutally crushed by arbitrary actions of the government. Show me something that might cause the protagonist to join the rebellion. I believed Katniss could become a rebel because of her experiences in District 12 and the arena. I did not believe Bella fighting for the love and the life of a dude she met mere months before; seriously, look it up, it’s just a few weeks between Edward’s Sparkling Confession of Love in Twilight and the point when Bella freely admits that her life is worth nothing without Edward (paraphrased, but that’s the gist of it).

These are just a few examples of something that occurs quite frequently. Thus my question to the authors: If you want a mature protagonist who acts like a grown-up – why the fuck don’t you write one? I’m pretty sure that teenagers won’t mind if the hero or heroine is a couple years older than they are. Many older readers don’t mind if they are younger. “Young adult” doesn’t mean everyone has to be young while acting like an adult. If you need the former, write a teen, but if you want the latter, write a fucking adult. It’s that simple. Now go on and try it. You can do it. I believe in you.

 

 

-Ricarda