Feedbacky love

My good friend, Maria Zannini, this week blogged about a topic I’ve been mulling over for months. Namely, the lack of feedback at her blog. I’m with her on that one. No matter how many times you can get told that it’s not the size of the comments queue that matters, but what you do with your blog (be interesting, post regularly), Blog Envy sets in. So-and-so’s blog generates dozens of comments with each post and all she talks about are her spotted hamsters!! I mean, how difficult can that be??!!

The thing that’s saved me from throwing in the towel on a number of occasions is one thing: my ego. I’ll be honest with you, it’s huge. And, because I have a giant ego, I also suffer from the belief that people out there are actually reading my posts. Of course, this is helped along by all those cute little dots on ClusterMaps. But I can get how someone a lot more normal than myself can look at her categories of posts and say to herself, Okay, why am I doing this again?

M, as you know, I comment occasionally but I always read every single one of your posts. And I have the feeling that a lot of people are the same, so please don’t change (she says, even as she’s aware of how much discomfort her friend goes through every time she sits down in front of a computer). Selfish, much?

On the one hand, it would be nice if more people commented. On the other — think about it — it would mean spending much more time on my blog, replying to everyone and * shock * horror * having to defend my point of view. In trying to be sanguine about everything the Universe throws at me, it occurs to me that sometimes, silence really is golden.

Update on Linux Journal issue

So who’s Carlie Fairchild? She was the purported publisher of Linux Journal who commented on my last post. Well, stalwart readers, we know enough about scams to know to always, but always, look a gift horse in the mouth, so I searched on Carlie’s name and came up with the following from the Linux Journal website (cross-referenced, natch, with other search results, so you can be assured of intertube hygiene):

Carlie Fairchild, based out of Linux Journal headquarters in Houston, Texas, joined Linux Journal in March 1995. As publisher Fairchild sets the publication’s overall direction including editorial, marketing, circulation and advertising sales.

Leading the business development and direction of the company, Carlie focuses on strengthening Linux Journal’s leadership role in high-tech publishing.

Over the past ten years, Carlie has been active in many industry associations, including the Magazine Publisher’s Association (MPA), Linux International, USENIX, and the National Trade Circulation Foundation (NTCFI).

So, the comment from Ms Fairchild was on the up and up. I do apologise to her for even briefly doubting her word but there’s only the careful and the economically deceased in this modern world and I hope she understands.

Having said that, Ms Fairchild proved herself to be an extremely courteous and understanding correspondent. The bit you should know, oh overseas readers of Linux Journal, is the following:

[W]e just honest to goodness don’t appear to have your credit card on file any more to refund it to. When that happens, our subscription fulfillment house issues a check for the refund. But that being said, I’m with you that this just doesn’t work well for anyone outside of the U.S. so I’m now going to raise this issue with them and hope to get the policy changed for the future — there’s got to be a better way to do this. So at any rate, thank you for raising this point. I’m on it. [my emphasis –ksa]

Within minutes of confirming that a Paypal refund would be a fine substitute, the refund amount hit my account. (I did send her a scanned copy of the cheque, so she’d know I was on the up and up as well.)

THANK YOU, MS CARLIE FAIRCHILD OF LINUX JOURNAL MAGAZINE!

So, if you’re in the same boat, I suggest a bit of a song and dance about it and you should get some satisfaction. And let’s hope the policy gets changed before it gets to that point for you.

Now, if only the backward businesses in Malaysia (that also execute the same credit-card-pay/cheque-refund trick) would have even a fraction of Ms Fairchild’s professionalism, then I’d be a happy little camper. (I know, nothing ever pleases me, does it?)

Linux Journal sucks!

I’m a geek girl. I love Linux. I subscribe to Linux magazines (although, due to budget constraints, only one at a time). Having been a Linux Journal subscriber for a little while, I decided that it was time for a change (to the European Linux Magazine), so I cancelled my subscription. Okay, here are the relevant facts:

  • Linux Journal is a US publication
  • I am an overseas subscriber
  • They know I’m an overseas subscriber, because I pay overseas subscription rates
  • I paid for my subscription using a credit card

After I cancelled the subscription, the refund for the period still outstanding came back as a cheque, drawn on a US bank!! As the very nice lady at the local bank told me, cashing a US cheque in Malaysia would be useless because the fees involved would actually exceed the cheque amount (USD16 approximately).

It’s not the amount, it’s the principle of the thing. If I purchased goods via a credit card, why can’t I be refunded in the same way? A US cheque smacks of nothing more than sheer arrogance. Live outside the country? Cancelling a subscription? Too damned bad!

The upshot of this is that I have a useless cheque and Linux Journal has essentially made a $16 profit off my subscription. If every other overseas subscriber is shafted in the same fashion, it can add up to some serious money and, meanwhile, Linux Journal tells us all to go whistle. I wasn’t aware of this aspect of the magazine before I cancelled, but now I’ll make sure to warn everyone off Linux Journal. It’s bad enough that we have to pay substantially extra to have our copies shipped to us overseas. To have to also put up with such meanspiritedness afterwards is just rubbing it in.

IN OTHER NEWS: I was blogging at Novel Spaces yesterday on Church and the atheist. And I got comments! Wow! Why not join in?

UPDATE: Rikki Kite was kind enough to drop me a line, pointing out that my link to Linux Magazine was wrong and actually points to another, web-only publication. Oops! Sorry, LM! Link has been corrected. I’m also more than happy to invite any other geek girls (and their admirers) out there to Rikki’s blog that highlights women in open source. It’s called ROSE BLOG and is here. Thanks Rikki!

Total-E-Bound release audio books

My UK publisher, Total-E-Bound had a release of a new product line on the weekend. Namely, audio books. This makes a lot of sense. Even without deliberately looking for such information, I’ve noticed in my meanderings around the intertubes that audio books are rising in popularity. I suppose it’s because people are running out of time to just sit down and read a book, and it’s a lot easier to plug in a set of headphones and just listen to one. Most working people in the Western world have MP3 players nowadays, they’re relatively inexpensive to buy, and even cell phones contain enough memory, and software, to play back audio, so it doesn’t require much of additional expenditure to move to listening to books.

For people whose eyesight isn’t that great, audio books are also a terrific solution for them, and TEB’s move also opens up another range of books they can purchase and listen to.

Why am I waxing lyrical about audio books at TEB? Well, because it’s another string to my bow. You see, I narrated all six stories of the initial audio launch. I didn’t realise it until I wrote the last sentence, but this is the second time I’ve been involved in a TEB launch. I was part of their line up of writers when they first opened, and now I’m here again when they’re launching their audio books.

I think it’s important for writers to have a few sources of income because — especially now — income is not guaranteed. And it makes a real change to be involved in some kind of writing, but not from the writing angle. I’ve had to learn an entirely new vocabulary and way of looking at words, which is something I always enjoy doing, and the team at TEB have been very understanding with my ramping up on the knowledge meter, which I’m also utterly grateful for.

I’ll be honest with you. I was really in a bit of a quandry over publicising the fact that I can do narration. If I ever got to the stage where I had a good quality, saleable manuscript that people would buy, would a prospective agent look at my bio and say, “Nah, doing too many things”? Agenting is such a personal thing that it’s difficult trying to second-guess potential rejections. On the other hand, narrating books couldn’t hurt a writer’s budding career, could it?

Well, obviously, I’ve decided that it couldn’t, because here I am telling you about it. As for the releases themselves, they are:

Maggie’s Menage – Lacey Thorn

  • Maggie had spent a lifetime trying to win the love and affection of her father, but nothing seemed to work. Now he was asking her to seduce and marry one of two men that he had selected for her…for the good of the family name and company. But Maggie has other plans. Plans that will leave both men thinking of her as something other than a wife, and leave her father’s plans for marriage in ashes.

    Alex and Patrick were there to investigate Dom Houston and through the carelessness of his assistant managed to get in to see the man himself.

    But it was the blonde haired beauty that commanded their attention from the get go. And when she arrived at their hotel room later in the day,neither was willing to walk away. If Maggie wanted a menage then they were more than willing to give it to her.

    But for two of them it would be more than they could have ever imagined.

Boy Toys – Brynn Paulin

  • Dana’s job title is scientist not babysitter. She’s irritated when her boss slates her to accompany department bad boys, Christopher and Jason,to a meeting in London on her weekend off. Since her job transfer to England, she’s hidden her attraction to the much younger men.Unfortunately, the attraction seems to be growing every day and every night she fantasises about them. Three days virtually alone with themwill be no fantasy and might instead be an embarrassing disaster. But…

    Jason and Christopher have had their eyes on Dana since she joined their department. Through a little finagling they’ve arranged for her to bepart of this trip. They’re sure her project is a spot on compliment to theirs and her presence will be an ideal addition to their bed. Now all they have to do is convince her that the bad boys will make her perfect boy toys. Forever.

Best Mates – Ashley Ladd

  • Lovers Alec Russert and Kevin Cosby feel horrible for their best mate,Jennica Chapman, when her current beau dumps her. And yet, they’re gladhe’s out of her life.

    Unfortunately, thirty-six year old Jennica thought this was her lastchance to have a baby, and she’s much more upset about this than losingthe boyfriend. As Alec is feeling his biological clock also, he suggeststo Kevin that they help her out of her predicament.

    But, they’re the ones in for a shock when Jennica tells them they may be too tame for her sexual likes. It turns out that Jennica is a submissive and she loves to be bound and spanked by her master. The shock wears off quickly when Alec and Kevin decide that Jennica will like two Dom masters much better than one.

    Soon they realise their best mate really is their best mate, and that she’s always owned their hearts.

The Wager – Dakota Rebel

  • Menage-a-Trois with a twist, and a vampire bite.

    A weekly game of Billiards between a couple becomes interesting when the stakes get raised to include a pair of friends in the payoff.

    Sadie and Will are vampires who have a wager based on a weekly billiards game they play. Their stakes are always sexual and this week will be no different. But for this week’s wager they decide to include a couple of their friends, Dave and Tony, in the payoff. If Will wins, he gets to watch Sadie have sex with their friends while he gives instructions as to what he wants to see. But if Sadie wins, she wants to instruct their friends on what to do to Will.

Fourplay – Desiree Holt

  • How many is too many, or is it not enough?

    She loved the menage her lover, Michael Collins had introduced her to, but now here they were, spending a week at Duncan MacLaughlin’s cottage in Scotland and Holly Martin wasn’t sure she was ready for the surprise he promised her. No details, just a wide grin.

    The surprise turned out to be Jim Grainger, a friend of Michael and Duncan’s, who was as much into a foursome as the other men. With all that testosterone flowing around her, and three very gorgeous and sexy men to play games with, Holly suddenly realized she loved a sexy numbers game.

Monsoon Fever – Lisabet Sarai

  • Divine temptation lies in wait in an ancient and mysterious land.

    In their first years together, Priscilla and Jonathan enjoyed a marriage based as much on physical passion as on love. However, the travails of business and the tribulations of the Great War have taken their toll. When Jon’s father dies in faraway India, the couple travels to the father’s isolated Assamese tea plantation to settle his affairs. Far from the bustle and distraction of London, left alone to endure the monsoon rains while Jon struggles to complete the final harvest, Priscilla realises how much she misses Jon’s touch.

    Anil Kumar arrives with business documents for Jon to examine. The charismatic native enchants both Priscilla and Jon with his god-like beauty and charm. In separate incidents, each of them succumbs to Anil’s lustful attentions. Will the illicit desires excited by the handsome Indian be the final stroke that destroys their marriage? Or the route to saving it?

So, now you know. Audio books. I does them.

End of Asian civilisation as we know it

Have you heard of the Singapore Taxi Driver’s blog? It’s written by a Stanford graduate who went to Singapore to work in the burgeoning biotech education/industry that Singers seems to have the hots for. Absolute details are sketchy, but it appears that Mingjie Cai ran foul of some governmental politicking and got kicked out of his job. He is now a taxi-driver.

Singapore is aghast. An experienced scientist in a hot field (and a Stanford graduate, no less), working as a…a…taxi driver??!! The thud you may have heard was the sound of every Asian parent in the city-state fainting where they stood.

Then, no sooner do we get over this when I read about the millions (yes, you read that right) of University graduates in China that are not only unemployed but, where they can scrape a position somewhere, earning less money than the (mostly unskilled) migrant workers that move from province to province.

My first thought, upon reading that article was, I wonder if the Chinese are going to give the Indians a run for their money? According to the Asia Times, 6.1 million graduates (most of them postgrads) entered the mainland Chinese job market over the northern summer, with most of them holding majors in computer science, law and accounting. Will we see an Oriental Infosys? Satyam? Wipro? Price Waterhouse?

My second thought was sympathy with the parents of these children, who’ve spent (often) their life savings to pay for their child’s education. Throughout Asia, education trumps all (in China, education has been the shining beacon throughout several millennia of history), so to find that your daughter/son cannot get a job even as a nanny because “employers are said to prefer peasant girls with experience instead of English-speaking graduates in business administration” is a heavy and bitter blow indeed.

I blame the Chinese government myself. It’s wanted to have its cake and eat it too. That is, have a tightly-controlled, totalitarian government, ostensibly under communist rule, but still reap the heady delights of neoliberal capitalist economics. Don’t these guys even listen to their own propaganda? I can’t believe, for example, that some individuals — using only publicly available information — were able to insulate themselves from the current economic crisis, but the most populous nation on Earth, with literally millions of geniuses floating about, was happy enough to make hay while the sun shone, and thus completely disregard the rumbling portents regarding their own citizens. (But really, since when did any Asian country care about its own citizens?)

And, really, it’s not as though the Chinese government didn’t see it coming. From Asia Times again:

The oversupply of college graduates started in 1999 when Chinese leaders decided to counter some of the effects of the Asian financial crisis by boosting university enrollments. They had hoped that a generation of well-heeled educated urbanites would boost domestic consumption and help reduce China’s dependence on exports.

Enrollment rose quickly, from 3% of college-age students in the 1980s to 20% today. The trend coincided with a very public effort by Beijing to begin a process of retooling its manufacture-driven economy into a high-knowledge economy.

But even when the economy was booming and creating more jobs, Beijing was struggling to find employment for its growing number of diploma holders [my emphasis –ksa]….

The global financial crisis, with its hiring freezes and credit crunch that choked enterprises’ expansion, made a bad situation only worse.

It may have made a bad situation worse, but it isn’t as though China is a company with shareholders. It’s an entire country that doesn’t need to answer to whiny little investors, can bravely follow long-term strategies and can afford to take the kind of losses that a public company can’t (unless you’re a Wall Street bank, of course, in which case, please continue with business as usual). Still, this flagrant blindness to ten years of increasing reality is unsettling. We’re used to the United States thinking in such a fashion. But China as well? The mind boggles.

Just to add lemon juice and salt to the paper cut, Smug Bastard Yi Weimin, China’s Human Resources & Social Security Minister, allegedly said:

It is high time that young diploma holders lowered their expectations and began to see the potential of many once neglected but well-paid jobs, he told the media. “As a result of the crisis, there will be a change in values for our graduates,” Yi said.

A “change in values”, do you like that? Like the way he shifted the blame from cock-eyed government policy to the individual? For China, in particular, it’s a downright arrogant way of telling the entire population to throw five thousand years of culture out the window. Just like that! :: clicks fingers :: And thus another Asian government screws over its own people.

Taking a personal and meta view of this strange turn of events, this has dire implications for parents such as J and I, trying to chart a future for our children. If an education isn’t good enough to land a solid job any more, what’s left? As the world ages, an obvious employment niche is in elderly care. (When was the last time you met an unemployed nurse?) But that means sheer pragmatism, at a time when our children are thinking of becoming — not nurses or doctors, but — astronauts, robotics engineers, archeologists or research chemists. That’s a whole different kettle of pink slips. I’m happy to support their fantasies but wonder if we’re ever going to get back to a time of clever invention, unbridled optimism and boundless energy. Or if we’ll be doomed, as parents, to see their dreams dashed on the sharp rocks of reality. I know which I think is more likely. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

POSTSCRIPT: Did you see that large syndication button off to the side? Feel free to subscribe. Thank you and have a great weekend!

As the Tera Flops, Part II

What I’m about to describe is an emotive issue for me, so I’ll try to be as careful as possible to obviate those people who are wont to call me hysterical over this issue.

It should come as no surprise that people in professional fields talk, not only to one another, but to those in related fields. And that talk revolves around how their respective industries are going at the present moment. For me, I’m interested in IT. And the buzz around that industry hasn’t been so good.

The kneejerk reaction has been to blame the Indians. (Sorry, was that supposed to be a secret?) After all, you have a lower-cost, high-ish skilled engineering population and the capitalist mirage of outsourcing, although I do agree with a reader from The Register who said that, for example, Western engineering graduates tend — on average — to be quite good, with a few who are completely useless, while Indian engineering graduates tend — on average — to be quite mediocre, with a few excellent ones. (And, for the record, since I agree with that summation, I’ll say that I’ve been working with/managing Indian engineering teams, local and Indian-based, for 9+ years, as well as having spoken to other non-Indian project managers of Indian teams. Yes, we talk about you all the time.) For myself, it’s taken a few years but I’ve changed my mind about how I view Indian engineers.

Firstly, while an English-speaking engineering graduate from a Western country may justifiably feel threatened by the influx of Indian engineers into every English-speaking corner of the world, I don’t. That’s because I’m not an engineering graduate. I cleared that fence two decades ago. Thus, in any given job situation, I’m presuming that I’m competing against people with a similar range of skill sets and past experience and — under those circumstances — I’m quite confident about my own abilities.

The problem is, getting to that competition line (the interview) in the first place. And the people who are stopping me from reaching that point are not the Indians.

It’s a strange quirk of fate that you don’t actually have to know anything about IT in order to work in that industry. Of course, to be a chef in a five-star hotel, you have to have qualifications and experience; and to be a surgeon at a large hospital, you have to have qualifications and experience. But to be an IT manager, you don’t. You can be a carpenter and be an IT manager. An historian. An economist. You can profess your complete ignorance of the difference between OLAP and OLTP and still get a Project Manager position. And, for a segment of us in IT, that’s a bitter pill indeed.

You see, the segment of IT I’m referring to contains those people who spent the necessary years learning about computers, and software, and hardware, and pure mathematics, and nasty things like that. We know reverse Polish notation, fifth normal forms, the difference between pre-test and post-test loops, and the trials and tribulations of the Entity-Relationship Diagram. We got our hands dirty coding various colours of Assembler, know how to solve the Eight Queens problem using recursion, the eccentricities of various languages and operating systems, and can even craft jokes in Fortran-77. Or COBOL, if you’d prefer. Or even Perl.

And this same segment of people have also been keeping abreast of technology since their initial degree, learning about DMZs, Java beans, OOLs, project management techniques, Web 2.0 apps, and so on. So, can you then imagine one such person talking to a peer and coming to the swift realisation that that person, not only wouldn’t recognise a fragment of C++ code if it appeared in printout in front of them, but that they don’t think they need to! Merde! That’s like letting someone who’s never ever julienned carrots by hand into a professional hotel kitchen.

In any other supposed professional industry, if you don’t know the basics, you can’t come in. In IT, it seems it’s enough if you (a) are a superb athlete, (b) were an executive assistant to a manager, or (c) randomly picked a job ad and the hiring manager liked you. Other IT geeks and I have heard all three, as well as many others.

Do you know how frustrating it is to ask an Operations Manager, “why are you co-locating Servers A and B on the same physical machine?” and have him say, “I don’t really know. What are the two servers again? I’ll go ask someone.” Or ask to what degree a database has been normalised, and meet a blank stare. “Normalised? What’s that?”

These are the people that colleagues like myself are losing jobs to. And it would be no more than a blackly comical streak in our lives, except we often have to deal with these people on a frequent basis. And they don’t know what our questions mean, and often do little more than regurgitate information they barely understand, like the Communications Officer on Galaxy Quest. And yet we are expected to treat them as highly competent peers. Bite much? You bet.

I’m so proud of you, darling

As you know, I rarely talk about my private life. That’s mostly because I think such anecdotes are pretty boring to innocent bystanders. But I really did want to make an exception in this particular case, because I’m inordinately proud of our son, The Wast.

He’s a good boy, a 9yo A-/B+ student who’s class monitor. He has a wicked sense of humour and takes his responsibilities seriously. He is of a mind that there are problems he can handle himself, much to my occasional chagrin, and takes everything in life — finances in particular — very seriously.

Recently, we’ve had A Situation with one of his language teachers. (Both The Wast and Little Dinosaur currently learn English, Malay and Chinese. At home, they also get the occasional bout of haphazard Polish.) This language teacher — let’s call her Teach — is obviously inexperienced. Or it could be that she couldn’t score one of the many scholarships in other career areas and so decided to join the teacher’s training college. This career path is a common one, one that is eased for a particular race due to the prevailing policies of the country, making it a shoo-in for them to graduate and be assigned to schools, regardless of their actual level of expertise.

The Situation involves verbal abuse. It appears that Teach is not very good at controlling the class. As a result, the boys in particular tend to play up. This is exacerbated by the fact that, after perusing The Wast’s worksheets and exams, it’s obvious to me that she isn’t even a very good teacher. (And I say this as an ex-teacher, ex-lecturer, and ex-corporate trainer.)

The inexperience and counter-productive attitude of Teach manifests itself by reducing herself to the level of her charges and verbally abusing the children, literally making them cry, and then taunting them afterwards.

After almost a year of such behaviour that was related to me by The Wast, and which skirted the boundaries of proper behaviour (I’ll admit it, I thought she had only herself to blame for reducing the classroom to an absolute battlefield, and that she deserved every bit of backtalk she got), it finally went too far when it was related to me that she told one of her misbehaving students in class (after making him cry) to, “Go to hell!”.

The Wast and I had this conversation over the dinner table.

Me: And what do you think about that? I know that Wong was misbehaving, but do you think the teacher had the right to say that to him?
The Wast: No.
Me: Do you think something should be done about it? Bearing in mind that she is the teacher?
TW: Yes, I think something should be done about it.
Me: Right now, I’m thinking that I’d like to write a letter to the Principal and Vice-Principal, pointing out that this is unacceptable behaviour.
TW: Okay.
Me: The problem is, I’d have to put down in the letter exactly who it was who told me about it.
TW: (silence)
Me: And, if the letters go the Principal and Vice-Principal, you could be called up by them and asked to repeat what you’ve just told me.
TW: To the Principal?
Me: (nodding) Could be. Now, bearing in mind that the teacher has never had to correct you, and that you personally have never had any problem with her, are you prepared for that? After all, Wong isn’t my child. Because it doesn’t affect us as a family, I could just ignore it.
TW: (after a pause) No, do it. If the Principal calls me into his office, I’m prepared to tell them what she said.
Me: Are you sure? You want me to write the letter?
TW: Yes I’m sure.

After dinner, I had The Wast stand behind me while I typed out what I wanted to say so he could see exactly what kind of trouble he’d be getting into! The next morning, as I handed him the two envelopes, I asked him one more time if he wanted to see this through.

Me: Wong may not even thank you for this. He might not even know we’ve said or done anything. Do you understand?
TW: Yes.
Me: And are you still happy to take this to the office?
TW: Yes.

As he was waiting for the school bus to arrive, I told The Wast that there comes a time when we have to stand up for what is right, even if it’s on behalf of someone else, and even if we don’t get thanked for it. He nodded and said he understood, although I really doubt that he’ll thank me for the pithy sermon when he gets older.

(UPDATE: Two days later, the school called in all the teachers to explain proper classroom behaviour and to remind them that the words they use in the classroom can be used outside the classroom and will give the school a bad reputation. That’s not quite the spin I would’ve put on it, but this is Asia, where the #1 activity is always saving face. We’ll see if it works.)

It’s obvious to me, especially in the world as it’s currently morphing, that standing up for what is right is the equivalent of painting a giant red bullseye on your chest. I keep telling myself that I won’t ever do it again. Never speak up for a situation I feel is grossly unfair, especially when there’s no chance the victim/s will even know who I am or what I’ve done. “It just isn’t worth it,” I keep telling J. “And don’t we have enough problems to cope with, without giving ourselves more? Why should I put myself in a position where I could be persecuted, just for telling the bloody truth?”

In all honesty, I still don’t know if I’ve done the right thing with The Wast. The reality is that a strong ethical streak is enough to land you in jail in most countries of the world, democracies or otherwise. In the extreme balance of contraries (shifty-but-survives versus stalwart-but-suffering), I’m still not sure that I’d want my children to grow up fearless and strongly principled. That way, literally, lies death, as the corpses of humanitarians, principled journalists, activists, and others of their ilk, assassinated by righteous, bleating governments of every stripe, readily attest.

I suppose, in order to balance his streak of morality, the next lesson The Wast needs to learn is how to keep his mouth shut, and I’m the worst person to teach him that one. But, in the meantime, I’m so proud of him I could burst.

Hint fiction fails & fun

So Robert Swartwood had a call out for Hint Fiction for an anthology he was putting together. What is Hint Fiction you ask? The longer essay about it is here, but it’s essentially a story in 25 words or less, excluding title.

“Fails” usually refer to one person accusing others of failing in some regard, but I decided to turn it around a bit and refer to my own “fail”s; that is, the two entries of mine which failed to make the anthology cut. I know it’s not usual for people to tell of failures but, to be honest, I’m now so enamoured of hint fiction that I thought, what the hell. Even if mine weren’t quite what Robert was looking for, at least you’ll have some examples to get your own brain juices flowing. And, who knows, with the way the world’s going, you may even win the Nobel Prize for Literature for it! Onto my two entries.

(I’ve edited the first one). In the field of fantasy:

CONFRONTING THE DEMON

They said it was unkillable. It cried near the end, as if human, but I didn’t hesitate. Now if only that scratch would heal.

and romance:

A LOVE STORY

His words are feathers, his kisses are promises. So long, so lonely. No longer. Oh, an SMS? “Leanne”? Don’t know that name.

I’d like to extend my heartiest congratulations to those whose entries will be included in the collection. I’d also like to thank Robert, who said he’d get the rejections out by mid-October and — dammit! — he did. I admire someone who keeps his word. It was a tough comp and, from Robert’s rejection email, 2,400+ stories were submitted. I don’t care how short they are, that’s still a lot of submissions to get through, so well done.

All the best, Robert, and thanks for the opportunity. And for you, stalwart reader, why not have a go at some hint fiction yourself? How much can you pack into 25 words? If you’re working, why not get inspiration from a billboard or advertisement you pass on your way to work? If you’re a student, why not suggest making a classroom project from it? And, most of all, have some fun! Have a great weekend and I’ll catch y’all next week.

Over @ Novel Spaces

Greetings and felicitations, stalwart readers. (I’ve read that “gentle reader” is a cliché that will make prospective agents reading up on you and deciding if you’re going to be a Dream Client or one from a Clive Barker nightmare throw up a little in their mouths, so have decided to change it to “stalwart”. Actually, you need to be a bit stalwart to continue reading my blog, imo, so maybe that’s (finally) a change we can believe in! Happy sigh.)

Short one today because I posted at Novel Spaces on Vandana Singh, her wonderful story, “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet” (I can’t quite get used to the American standard of capitalising the beginning of every word in a title), and speculative fiction. Comments are bare — alas and alack — so any nuggets of wisdom from you would be verily appreciated.

Can you tell I’m on a Blackadder binge at the moment?

I’ve won a literature prize!

Well, not yet obviously. And, obviously also, it’s the Nobel Prize for Literature. Can I tell you how incredibly proud and humbled I’m going to be? It’s not for any of my writing so far, you see. I mean, while it’s okay and seems to get good enough ratings on Fictionwise, writing mostly science-fiction romance really isn’t in the same boat as, say, “Nadirs” or “The Clown“.

However, you have to admit that the potential is there. For a start, I’m not American. When it comes to the Nobel Literature Prize, it helps if you have as little contact with North America as possible. So, just by sheer dint of being born in the right place at the right time (Asia, I love you!), I’m already in the running. I like the Nobel prizes for that. If you hold the right position at a particular time, kablooey! You’re in!

Secondly, I can string sentences together. Okay, so I haven’t written the next “Billards at Half-Past Nine“, but I could. And, once I win the Nobel Prize, I’ll consider it — not so much as an award for my published accomplishments but — as a one-million dollar payment to motivate me to do better. After all, isn’t that what everyone wants? Not recognition for skills, experience and accomplishments, but money up front?

Thirdly, even if I don’t have the frighteningly simple and elegant style of an Heinrich Böll, the truth of the matter is, I really don’t have to string sentences together in any coherent order anyway. (Whew! That’s a load off my mind.) I mean, if politicians can win the Nobel Peace Prize after murdering hundreds of thousands of people, and economists can win the Economics Prize for coming to the conclusion that production favours — get this — economies of scale (duh!), then what’s standing in my way? Actual talent? Oh, I don’t think so.

In fact, I have an even better idea. Judging by how the Nobel panel currently make their decisions, I think that Every Single Participant in NaNoWriMo should get the Nobel Prize for Literature. (I know, I know, it’s the leftist in me that seeks to spread the good cheer.) There are literally thousands of untapped stories ready to burst out of their human shells during NaNoWriMo month, and who knows how many future classics will emerge from the 2009 entries? So, just to motivate those writers to do better, I think the Nobel panel should put its bank balance where its collective mind obviously is and award for sheer potential.

Come on, people. It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. After all, isn’t everyone more interested in spin than substance?