Posts Tagged ‘sarah pinborough’

poisonI follow quite a few writers that I like on Twitter and through them I discover other writers that I might not otherwise be aware of. This has become something of a phenomenon for me, finding writers on social media, making their acquaintance and then feeling like you sort of owe it to them to read their work.

Sarah Pinborough (@SarahPinborough) is one of those whom I found via Joe Abercrombie (@LordGrimdark). Having followed her for a while (she makes me laugh every day and she pisses off Steven Leather) I finally found the money and the time to get one of her books and to read it. These things are more difficult than you might think when you’re writing yourself all day every day, looking at another book can become painful, especially if they’re better than you – which Sarah is. Still, I managed it, and I’m glad I did.

In the interests of full disclosure, I quite fancy Ms Pinborough* but I’ll try not to let that get in the way! *Grin*

Poison is part of a series of books by Ms Pinborough (Poison, Charm and Beauty) that re-tell well-known fairy tales but with a twist. Really, it’s more like an un-twist since anyone with a passing interest in fairy stories knows that the original versions of a lot of these tales were pretty goddamn fucking grim and they got cleaned up and Disneyfied over time. Ms Pinborough sets about putting the grim back into Grimm with gay abandon and it works incredibly well.

There’s a nuance here that you simply don’t find in the children’s versions, along with a wonderful way of playing along with and then subverting the kind of stereotypical expectations you have of the story. All the normal ingredients are there and a whole paragraph can tease you along with its typical, traditional, stereotypical nature before suddenly – BAM – subverting it and making you grin and chuckle like a loon.

The evil queen you almost sympathise with, Snow White is so sickeningly saccharine that you almost want her to get her comeuppance. The seven dwarves have an air of the friendzoned nerd boy about them and both Prince Charming and The Huntsman are as much a pair of dicks as the contents of their tights.

Things are further played about with by hints and mentions of other well-known fairy tales, crafting the appearance of a much wider fairytale world beyond the contents of the single book (or even the series). Talk of giants, mentions of Aladdin and genies, some horrible clues as to the final fate of Hansel and Gretel. It’s Shrek, as written by George R R Martin and while an enjoyable read you welcome the fact that it’s set far, far away because then it can’t get you.

There’s no happily ever after here, not really, not truly, not for anyone but it’s all the better for it.

There’s just not as much sex as The Sun claimed and while saucy it’s all a bit coy. Maybe two shades of grey rather than the full fifty.

SPIt’s a great book and it’s fantastic to see publishing houses willing to put out fantasy-type books that aren’t bricks you could clobber a policeman unconscious with. I hope more books of this sort of size, enjoyable reads that don’t overstay their welcome, continue to come out.

Style: 5
Substance: 4
Overall: 4.5

*I’m married, not dead. Besides, what’s not to love about a saucy former English teacher with a foul mouth who can drink you under the table?

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Amanda Palmer. Shit-stirrer.

So, the lovely Amanda Palmer was talking on Twitter the other day about piracy, streaming and so on and actively encouraging people to share and talk about and promote music. This was taken by some as advocacy of piracy and… then the slanging match got started.

The equally lovely Sarah Pinborough – a writer rather than a musician – surprised me by coming out against filesharing and so on, engaging quite strongly in a conversation about piracy and the problems it creates for creators.

Needless to say there’s some disagreement both within the musician community and the writing community about all this with people on all sides and battle lines drawn. By and large tough the kind of circles I move in have come to accept that piracy exists and that its the cost of doing business, a trade for the enormous benefits of the internet.

Those companies in gaming that have embraced the internet and changed their business model have made great strides (Paizo, Evil Hat, Posthuman) while those frozen in an older mode of business have been clumsy and have lost ground (Wizards). So, to say I find the more traditionalist attitude to the internet as badwrong perplexing is an understatement.

However, during the argument,  people linked to studies and gave reasons and, as ever, studies contradicted each other and the sources and sponsors were called into question. However, Sarah is a pretty switched on person, seems to make good use of social media, is delightful, interesting and sweary by turns and someone I had thought was ‘doing it right’ so – perceptions challenged – I had another look at things as they stand today and reconsidered where it is that I am on the nature of the internet and creative endeavour.

  • Whether we think the changes are a Good Thing(TM) or not, they have changed. It’s useless to hope for the ‘good old days’ to come back and in many ways they weren’t that good anyway for a large number of people.
  • Realistically speaking there is no way to protect books, music, games. There will always be a way around it and attempts to lock down content only piss off your legitimate customers and make things more difficult for them.
  • As a creator, you are your brand as much as the stuff you’re creating. A presence and a personal connection with your audience fans is the best and perhaps the only way to make impacting on your living meaningful to them. Keep in mind that the average person can only actually relate directly to 150 others (the Dunbar number or Monkeysphere) so this is always going to be a little illusory but it doesn’t take much to make an impact on someone.
  • The idea of ‘1000 true fans‘ works in some arenas but writing has been devalued a huge amount. A novel is more like an album than a single and with both selling for a  buck its not hard to see that $1,000 per book – once or twice a year – isn’t a goer and even musically $12,0000 once or twice a year is better, but not hugely liveable. Even if you go the hermetic-artist existence.
  • The Long-Tail compensates somewhat for this as you’ll go on making sales at a lower rate over time, potentially for your lifetime. As you build up a body of work this makes creative life more sustainable long term and may be a viable retirement plan in a world where job security has the same mythological status as dragons.
  • One model that does seem to work in mobilising fans and getting money up front is crowdfunding and hostageware. That gets your 1,000 true fans to spend more on your projects, to promote your projects, to be activists for you and your work and all in exchange for a greater closeness to you, the work and a feeling of participation. It’s like old style patronage, but distributed. I don’t know how long this can hold out and how much use it is to new people but if you have an established presence it can equal an income AND you can give away the resulting work should you so choose. One major downside is the degree of entitlement and lack of understanding contributors have for delays or problems.
  • Piracy does help the little guy in getting known. Word of mouth is often all there is and people like to browse, to see something before they buy it. As the death of the UK high street is showing that’s becoming increasingly difficult. You’re not going to find new music or authors in stores. MTV doesn’t play music. The radio plays oldies or the most banal shit going. The music companies haven’t grasped that streaming is the new radio and are crippling services like Spotify and Grooveshark into unsustainable business models compared to the old media. So what other options are there?

So there’s the problems and the state of affairs as I think it stands and I really don’t think there’s anything we can ‘do’ about digital piracy without sacrificing a free and open internet and going the way of China and North Korea. I don’t think that’s very appealing whether its governments or legions of corporate attack lawyers doing the enforcement.

If you want to see how to succeed I think you need to look at the people who make it work. You can’t do the exact same things they do, you’ve got to be your own thing, but there’s pointers there. Look at Warren Ellis,  Amanda Palmer, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Adrianne Curry, Neal Stephenson, Fred Hicks, Notch, Adam Jury, Penny-Arcade (and friends) and hopefully, one day, me. I do suffer the huge disadvantage of being British and regarding self-promotion as terribly gauche narcissism, but we’ll see.

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