The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening

I wrote about my annual narrative pleasures of 2019 at Ambling Along the Aqueduct. The Good Place, Russian Doll, and Bojack Horseman are great – check out what I had to say about them.

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“Your Face” Review at Locus Magazine

Karen Burnham reviews my short story “Your Face” at Locus Magazine. She says “It gets right to the emotional core” of the subject–great to hear!  Read more here.

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Rachel Swirsky 2019 Award Eligibility Post

Check out my three new short stories from this year!

 

Oh! Abigail! Oh. It’s good—it’s so good to see you.

Mom. Hi.

I feel like I could reach out and touch your face. Your face! It’s so good to see your face.” 

In “Your Face”, a mother visits an artificial simulation of her dead daughter, trying to figure out how much of her is real. It was published in Clarkesworld Magazine in August, and is available in both audio and text format. 

 

You are floating. No, not floating—numb. No, not numb—nothing.

You are nothing? No. Wait.

 

You don’t know who you are, or what’s going on, but you know for sure you don’t want to be talking to the man onscreen who says he’s your father.  I wrote Compassionate Simulation” with my friend P.H. Lee. It was published in Uncanny Magazine’s July/August issue. (CN: abuse)

 

“The problem with my dachshund is that he pees.

Constantly. Unrelentingly. On rugs and furniture and laps.

He looks up at you with those large, dark eyes, and attempts to communicate innocence. I know better. He’s a malicious bladder loosener. He knows that he’s a tiny dog in an enormous, chaotic world.”

Global warming has taken its toll on Appalachia: a depressed economy, outbreaks of tropical fevers, and worse. Returning to her declining hometown, a college dropout has only one friend left–her dachshund. Who pees. A lot. “The Problem With My Dachshund” was published in the December 2019 issue of Guernica.

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Check Out “The Problem with My Dachshund” on Guernica!

Global warming has taken its toll on Appalachia: a depressed economy, outbreaks of tropical fevers, and worse. Returning to her declining hometown, a college dropout has only one friend left–her dachshund. Who pees. A lot. “The Problem With My Dachshund” was published in the December 2019 issue of Guernica. 
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Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

“Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.
She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

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A Haiku for Friday, December 13th

Unmoored, I’m a stone
pitching through bottomless dark
from nothing, toward–
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Pete (aka Petrichor)

Pretty sure we’re getting asked for snacks here.

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A Haiku for Monday, December 5th

Soon, the cold solstice
will spin us back toward the sun.
Until then, I nest.
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Three of My Poems Are Up on BigCityLit

It’s been a while since I’ve had poems accepted by a literary magazine, so I’m really happy that BigCityLit accepted three poems from the sequence, “This Poem Is A Metaphor For Bridge.” Here’s on the of them:

11

Before you have a chance
to sing a word,
the music stops,
its final note
a pebble dropped
from high above the trees.

The ripple spreads itself
along the path you use
to steer your herd towards home.
Forget the wood you’ve chopped.
Alone, you’ll never build
the necessary fire,

and in this metaphor
you are alone. So place
that sharpened stone
before the altar,
watch the light approach,
and tell us what you see.

What you perceive
is pointless obfuscation.

If you’d like to read the other two, you can find them here.

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Online Piracy Is Not Destroying Cartoonists’ Incomes

(This is a slightly modified thread I wrote on Twitter yesterday).

Piracy.

Here’s the thing: Piracy is not taking money out of our wallets. Getting rid of pirated comics won’t cause readers to spend more money buying comics.

To illustrate why, let me talk about when I was a teen.

I’m Gen X. When I was a teen, I bought a new album every week or two. Everyone once in a while, I saw a concert.

And I had a collection of ten times as many albums as I bought. Mostly on cassettes tapes, illegally recorded from my friend’s albums.

Or they were recorded from someone else’s illegal taped copy, which may itself have been recorded from another illegal copy.

Let’s say that I spent $15 a month back then on music (about $35 in today’s dollars). If all those illegal tapes weren’t available, you know how much I would have been spending on music?

About $15 a month.

Because my music budget wasn’t very elastic.

I had my allowance. I had what I earned working part-time at the grocery store. And I had expenses other than entertainment.

My music budget was determined by how much I could afford to spend on music, not by how much music I listened to.

When cartoonists say “they’d be buying more comics if piracy didn’t exist,” they’re imagining that readers’ comic budgets are determined by how many comics they read.

But that’s wrong. People’s comic budgets are determined by how much they can reasonably spend on comics.

So when I see cartoonists, or really any creator, looking at 1000 people reading a pirated copy of their comic and seemingly thinking “that would have been 1000 sales for me if piracy didn’t exist” – well, no, that’s not how it works.

People have finite budgets for entertainment.

Getting rid of piracy, even if that were possible, wouldn’t change how much most people spend on entertainment.

Incidentally, in the 80s, I didn’t know a single teen who didn’t have illegal tapes of music. Some people had many, some just a few, but NO ONE had none.

How many Gen-Xers huffing about damn kids these days expecting media for free, honestly never had illegal tapes?

Or, for people a decade or so younger, never copied a game or an album from a friend’s digital files?

Or, for kids in this century, have never borrowed a friend’s Netflix password?

Entertainment budgets are finite. Therefore, there’s only two ways people will buy more comics.

First, when comic readers’ incomes grow, their entertainment budgets grow, and they buy more.

Second, if comics get cheaper, readers could buy more comics with the same entertainment budget.

Piracy is not reducing our incomes. Getting rid of piracy won’t make people’s comic-buying budgets any larger. It would only mean people would be reading fewer comics.

(And also, fewer kids will get addicted to reading comics in the first place. Yay!)

Most people spend more on non-pirated media as their budgets grow.

(That’s why middle-aged people buy more non-pirated media than teens; we’re not more moral, we just have more money.)

So kids pirating comics now, is good for cartoonists twenty years from now.

Comics’ problem isn’t piracy. (And it’s not diversity.)

It’s that comics today provide much less bang for the buck than in the past (comic prices have gone up WAY faster than inflation). It’s that the big 2’s products are impenetrable to newbies. It’s that the comics distribution system is amazingly badly designed.1

Middle grade & YA graphic novels are growing much faster than the rest of the comics industry. You know why? It’s not that we do better work. And it’s not that we’re not pirated.

It’s that the book industry doesn’t rely on the Marvel/DC mess, and has better distribution.

P.S. I used to use pirated copies of PhotoShop to make comics. Now I pay for PhotoShop, because I can. I’m pretty sure 1000s of other cartoonists, including some of the ones angry about piracy, did the same.

  1. For those who hate video links, Here’s a long essay – Shut The Fuck Up, Marvel by spacetwinks – going into that in more detail. []
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