Let Them Read Indies

The blogosphere is abuzz with news that ebooks sales are declining and print is surging again. Traditional publishing is safe from the ebook revolution and the self published hordes.

There are just two little problems with this. Traditional publishers seem to have forgotten their other recent victory. They’ve mostly won back the right to set the price they want from Amazon. So they have, increasing ebook prices to match print. Since both Amazon and bookstores still discount print, that means print books are now cheaper than ebooks in many cases. No wonder ebook sales are dropping and print is surging.

The other fact they fail to mention is that indie authors aren’t seeing the same effect, because most haven’t raised their prices. In fact the latest Author Earnings report shows that indies continue to gain ground in the marketplace.

So, I think it’s time.

Traditional publishing wants higher ebook prices?

Clears throat

Speaks in high, noble voice with French Accent

Lethemreadindies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original Image Via Wiki-Commons

P.S. A shout out to all the small presses out there that aren’t jacking up their ebook prices to force readers back into an outdated pricing structure. This isn’t all about trad vs. indie.

The Internet should never let me get bored

Help! I got bored on the internet and it was awful. Awfully awesome, that is.

I found myself searching stock photo sites and downloading the oddest photos I could find, and then turning them into stupid book covers. Now which one should I write the story for? You can comment or vote below.

  1. I fell in love, with a dumbass

dumbass

Finally a romance that all women can relate to. He’s a nice guy, really he is. He’s much better than the last loser by a long shot. The only problem is, he’s a bit immature. He frequently does stupid shit. Let’s face it, he’s a dumbass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Jump! A parkour zombie novel.

parkour zombie

Zombies are strong, relentless and feel no pain. But at least they can’t parkour. Or can they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Karate for Cats

karate for cats

Is you cat tired of being picked on by the other cats? Is he afraid to go out at night because the alley cats always beat him up? Not any more. This six week program will make your cat a lean, mean, meowing machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. A Purr-fect Mate: A Billionaire Cat Romance.

purrfect

All Felicia wants out of life is the perfect mate. But nobody gets her, except for her cat, Tickles. When Tickles goes missing, she is distraught. That is until she runs into a mysterious billionaire, Mr. Kohls, Mr. Tie Kohls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which cover should I write a story for?

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Are Toilets Making Us Taller?

What is like to be a creative person? I get asked that a lot. Here is a small glimpse into what my mind does pretty much 24/7.

This crossed my social media stream:

I am sure a lot of people would see this and be like, Eww, TMI. Click on and forget it.

Others are a little more health conscious or open minded and might at least think it over. Maybe try squatting.

Here is where my mind goes:

So I am tall. At six foot, I already semi-squat on most western toilets. But I guess that’s healthy, so win for me.

But what if western toilets are making people taller? Bear with me here, sitting on a western toilet leads to a variety of health problems, from constipation to colon cancer. The shorter you are, presumably, the more at risk you are. Tall people who semi-squat have less trouble. The result in evolutionary pressure, short people dying off from constipation while taller people live longer.

So perhaps western people are growing taller, not because of nutrition or genetics, but because of the way we poop. It’s something to think about.

Every commercial, every news piece is subjected to this kind of thought process. 24/7. And that my friend is what it’s like to be a writer.

Hipster Potter

A short somewhat random parody.

  1. Hipster Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Editor’s note: Some readers might ask, “why the original U. K. title, the Philosopher’s Stone and not the American Sorcerer’s Stone?” [Hipster editor shakes his head and walks away.]

“Harry,” Hagrid said, “you’re a wizard.”

“Actually I prefer Thaumaturge.”

 

In Ollivander’s shop the pile of wands was growing and growing. Ollivander’s expression grew curious. None of the wands seemed to fit Hipster Potter’s personal style. He would snap his wrist to each one, but all he got were the occasional sparks.

“An interesting case,” Ollivander muttered. “Perhaps…yes, perhaps.”

He came back with a wand unlike any other. It was sleek, smooth, not a bump or imperfection in the wood finish.”

“what is it?” Hipster Potter whispered.

“It’s the latest thing,” Ollivander told him. “the iWand.”

Hipster Potter knew instantly he had found his wand.

Coming soon:

  1. Hipster Potter and the Obscure Chamber only He Knows About.

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the Prisoner of an unfair legal system that failed to do due diligence in investigating Peter Pettigrew’s death.

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the artisanal hand crafted goblet that, of course, doesn’t contain anything a goblet normally would.

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the Non-mainstream Order of the Benu Bird (which the later Phoenix legends were based on).

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the Half-Blood princesymbol(not that we buy the racist concept of blood anyway.)

7. Hipster Potter and the childhood legend you’ve probably never read. (I’ve got an original edition.)

10 signs you just binge read the Game of Thrones

I just finished reading the final book in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. It’s one of those highly immersive series, where you get sucked into the world. It affects how you see the world for weeks after. Here are my top ten signs that you’ve just binge read all five Game of Thrones books.

It’s Songs of Fire and Ice, you stupid TV watching cretins

Maybe it’s a stereotype, but we literary types can be snobs. Like insisting that the book series was really named Songs of Fire and Ice, not Game of Thrones.

Phrases like “mayhaps” and “ever so” have suddenly become part of your vocabulary.

Initially some of the archaic language and made up medieval language bothered me. You might even say I had my smallclothes in a bunch over it. But by book two it starts to roll off your tongue easily and by book five, you find yourself using it in daily life. As in “Mayhaps we will have pizza tonight. That would be ever so tasty.”

You are craving stew served in a trencher, even though you have no clue what a trencher is.

A trenchers were rounds of flat bread that were used as plates and then eaten afterwards, the medieval forerunner of the bread bowl. And yes, that does sound pretty tasty. The less tasty aspect? Trenchers were generally served with stews to soften stale, dried breads. Hardly the grossest thing in the Game of Thrones world, but I personally prefer my bread fresh.

 

Wait, pease porridge is a real thing?

They eat pease porridge frequently in the series. All most of us know about pease porridge is the old children’s rhyme;

pease porridge, hot,

pease porridge cold,

pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.

A common recipe in medieval Europe, pease porridge is a thick stew made from dried peas, not unlike split pea soup. It was often left to congeal overnight and then eaten cold in the morning. In some cases a large pot was left to warm by the edge of the fire as a quick any time meal. More was added to the stew as needed and it was quite possible that some of the ingredients had indeed been in the pot nine days by the time they got eaten.

When your spouse asks you to do a chore you reply, “Valar Dohaeris.”

Valar Morghulis, “All men die” and Valar Dohaeris, “All men must serve” are sayings from old Valyrian. Both are heavy with meaning both in the series and without. Valar Morghulis however is harder to work into everyday conversations.

You call poison control to ask if there is reliable antidote to Tears of Lys.

My day job is working as a nurse. The first indication I had that I had become too entrenched in the world of Game of Thrones came at work. There was a note on a patients chart about contacting poison control. It took several minutes trying to figure out who would try to poison them before I realized it was about an overdose attempt. Oh, right, people don’t generally poison each other in real life.

When you see an eleven year old girl walking down the street, you cross to the other side. (It might be Arya Stark.)

Arya Stark is a pretty bad ass character, until you stop to consider the fact that she’s an eleven year old girl. And she’s killed how many people? Yikes.

All your other fannish friends are saying things like: “I wish I could go to Hogwarts.” “I wish a blue telephone box would materialize right here.” You just look at them and think, “nope, I’m fine with this world, thank you very much.”

Most fans would love to live inside the world of their favorite series. I don’t blame them, but the world of Game of Thrones is way too bloody for that. Life is cheap and characters die unexpectedly throughout the books. If you are a noble, your life is in constant danger. If you are smallfolk it’s even worse. No thanks, I’ll pass.

Two missionaries knock on your door. You demand, “Can your god protect us when the cold winds blow and snows are ten feet deep, when the others come and the dead walk? I think not. Winter is coming.”

Just a few short weeks ago you thought all those fanboys and fangirls complaining about the slow progress on book six were being whiny brats. Now you feel their pain. Come on, George, hurry up already!

Most importantly though, if you binge read the saga you will have the satisfaction of knowing what a great bunch of books they are. Enjoy.

Action/Adventure tropes I no longer believe now that I am in my forties

One of the benefits of being older is being wiser, or so they say. But it’s starting to ruin action movies for me. As you get older and gain some life experience, some of the common tropes in action movies start to seem more and more unrealistic as I get older.

1. Cutting brake lines

We’ve all seen it. The bad guy pulls out a knife, lays down next to the hero’s car and cuts the brake line. Cue dramatic music. The main character is doomed. Doomed.

black-and-white-car-vehicle-vintage

The problem:

There are three problems with this trope. Without brake fluid your brakes are weak, soft. But they do work. I’ve had my brakes go out more than once. It’s a frightening experience, but you can stop your car, eventually.

The second problem is that the driver will probably notice. If they don’t notice the big pool of brake fluid under their car for some reason, they will probably notice that their brakes are soft when they pull out. And then they will drive, very slowly, to the nearest garage. Or stop and call AAA.

Finally, even if they don’t notice until they are on the highway, driving fast and they can’t stop in time, not all car accidents are fatal. You might roll your car, but if you’re wearing your seatbelt you may well walk away.

Cutting someone’s brake line is a terrible thing to do. Driving without brakes is incredibly dangerous. But it’s not something a professional assassin is going to rely on to kill someone.

2. Tranquilizer Darts

darts-dart-board-bull-s-eye-game-70459

I work in mental health, just so you know. As such, I am one of the few people who can honestly and legally say, I’ve held people down and sedated them against their will, more times than I can count. When someone is psychotic and out of control, it’s about the only thing you can do. So I know how sedatives work in real life.

It’s not like in the movies, let me tell you. IM medication hits the bloodstream in as little as five to fifteen minutes. It can take much longer to reach peak effect.

What about those wildlife shows you see? They shoot a tranquilizer dart into a lion’s backside and it passes out, right? Actually they shoot the dart and the lion runs away. They follow at a safe distance until the medication kicks in. They eliminate that part in editing.

Another important factor is the level of safety involved. For hospital staff in the United States trying to sedate violent patients, we have to error on the side of caution when it comes to dosing. Giving a lethal overdose would be a very bad thing. Veterinarians can be a little more generous, since most people and governments value animal lives as less than they would a human, but there is still a strong element of caution involved. Criminals, as in the movies, theoretically have no such limits.

But there are still two problems. This doesn’t solve the instant effect dilemma. Medications simply don’t work that way. A sedative, no matter how strong, isn’t going to instantly knock some down from a shot. An IV anesthetic might, but have you ever seen them shoot someone in the vein? I haven’t. I doubt such a thing is possible. The second problem is that you almost never see criminals screw up and kill someone they are trying to sedate. The main characters never wakes up strapped to a chair and demands, “where is…” only to hear, “oh, we gave her too much and now she’s dead.”

(The one exception to this rule? Practical Magic. The whole plot of the movie revolves around the two women accidentally overdosing the abusive boyfriend with belladonna. Also, in that movie the effect is far from instant.)

3. ex-marines/special forces/cops

Marines, special forces, police, professional athletes, and martial arts experts are amazing people. They have conditioned their bodies to extreme stresses. I have no problem believing that such people can do incredible things. My problem is with the “ex” part of the equation.

Again it’s something I’ve seen a lot working in mental health. “Look out, I used to be a green beret.” I’ve heard this implied threat many times. If we don’t give into this person’s demands, they can really hurt us because they’ve trained in martial arts/ been a marine/ trained in the special forces, etc.

Most physical skills, and all conditioning, are use it or lose it. You might have been a marine fifteen years ago. Today you are a burned out alcoholic. My security team is conditioned right now. Want to guess who is going to win?

Where I see this a lot is in action novels and thrillers. We are told that the main character used to be an Army Ranger. It’s years later and they are civilians. And yet when the Zombie apocalypse starts, they strap on a backpack and head for woods, killing zeds with a survival knife the entire way. Never once showing their age or lack of conditioning.

A veteran or retired cop is going to have certain instincts that a civilian won’t. That should give them some edge in an apocalypse scenario. But there will be significant lag time before they have the conditioning back. And if you have a character that (cliche warning) had to leave the force due to an injury, they aren’t ever going to be a hundred percent.

4. Drugs and Alcohol take a toll on the body

This another action novel cliche. It often goes hand in hand with number 3. The ex-cop with a drinking problem. Or the brilliant mind that somehow needs drugs to cope. (see Sherlock Holmes or House for example.)

Substance abuse takes a toll on the body. Over years it becomes worse. The average alcoholic or drug abuser can pull it together a) for a short time or b) after a period of detox. I’ve yet to read the zombie novel where the grizzled old vet shook and sweated his way through the first few days while DT’s racked his body.

Stimulants might improve concentration in the short term, but long term use of most drugs is going to be detrimental to mental and emotional functioning. Real life Sherlock’s might think they are being brilliant under the influence of their favorite substance, but reality generally finds otherwise.

Showing a character drowning his/her sorrows in booze, or using some other drug, is an easy way to show that they’ve had a rough life, or that they struggle with inner demons. It’s also cliche. But what is worse, is that too many writers forget about the issue once the action is underway. Life doesn’t work that way. Drugs and alcohol take a toll on your health. Addicts will tell you they must struggle constantly to stay clean and sober. If your character has a drug problem, they will as well.

A rare exception: In 100 days in Deadland one of the characters, a vet, struggles with PTSD throughout the series.

5. Suicidal henchmen

The villain in Mystery Men declares that he was so evil he’d kill his own men. The Governor in the Walking dead guns down dozens of his own citizens. It is an easy way to show how your villain lacks basic compassion. It is overused and often suspect.

In the above examples I question the strategic wisdom of the villains. Even if you don’t value human life, manpower is a limited resource. When cornered by themselves later they might regret sacrificing that manpower too quickly.

But my real question is, what’s in it for the henchmen?

Survival is a base instinct. It’s incredibly hard to overcome. And yet so many pulp fiction and action novels have henchmen throwing themselves against the hero with suicidal devotion to their boss.

What prompts such loyalty? This is almost never explained. The henchmen are just throw away automatons. We aren’t meant to worry about their motivations or feelings. But life doesn’t work that way. Writer Kurt Vonnegut said, “every character wants something, even if it’s only a glass of water.”

Henchmen must follow this rule. They want something. They serve the villain for some reason. The villain might have a soft side we don’t see. They might be part of some group or religion. They might think the villain will eventually share his/her wealth/power. But there has to be something.

And even when we get that something, will it override their survival instinct and all common sense? When they see that the hero completely outclasses them, will they keep fighting?

 

So there are my five action tropes that I no longer believe now that I am older. What about you? Are their action tropes that drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments.

 

Ten Music Parodies that are Better than the Original

I have to tip my hat to pop musicians. They are good at what they do. What they do is write catchy tunes that get stuck in your head for days at a time.

What pop musicians seemed to less good at is writing songs with depth, positive messages or, in some cases, showing a bit of common sense.

Thankfully parodies have come into their own. In the eighties, when I was a teen, we would stay up late listening to Doctor Demento on the radio to get our parody fix. Later on I would lurk at the back of the filk room at science fiction conventions. Now parodies abound on youtube, with high production qualities, great videos and often, better lyrics than the original.

Here are my top ten parodies that are better than the original.

 

  1. Word Crimes

 

Weird Al is the master of parody, so it’s not surprising that he tops this list.

However catchy the original tune is, it’s lyrics are more than a little problematic. Even the title Blurred Lines, is about the supposedly blurry lines of sexual consent. Nothing like a creepy rape vibe to kill a songs appeal.

Weird Al’s rendition, Word Crimes skewers the internet’s poor grammar and spelling.

 

  1. A Brief History of Robin Thicke’s 2013 summer hit “Blurred Lines”

?list=PLPU-SleOZ3Z88j0Fgk2ofyE8QT5Myqx-C

The puppet combo of Glove and Boots gives you a thorough run down of Robin Thicke’s legal woes over the copyright suit, all set to the tune of his song.

  1. All about the Base (no rebels)

In Meghan Trainor’s defense, I like the message behind her song, all about the bass. But I can’t help like this nerdy star wars parody a little more.

 

  1. Talk Nerdy to Me

Talk Sexy to Me gets a nerdy make over in this catchy parody with nods to almost all corners of geekdom.

 

  1. Roll a D6

Who would want to go out and party “like a G6” when they can stay home and play Dungeons and Dragons?

 

  1. Sorted this Way

For the record, I do really like Born this Way by Lady Gaga. It’s one of the best pop anthems of the last few years with a powerful message about self acceptance. It’s so great in fact, that its strong enough to share the limelight with a couple of witty, geeky parodies, like this Harry Potter video.

 

  1. Form this Way

Or this Minecraft video.

 

  1. Do you wanna go to Starbucks

I am probably the last person alive who hasn’t seen Frozen. The music, however, is inescapable. It’s been turned into some great parodies, but this one about coffee is the nearest and dearest to my heart.

 

  1. All about those Books

Another great Meghan Trainor parody, advocating reading. What’s not to love?

 

  1. I’m Nerdy and I Know it

Sexy and I Know It was 2011’s inescapable pop sensation. The song makes fun of the beach body builder culture, but it was ripe material for someone to come along and make fun of it. Thankfully someone did.

 

Honorable mention:

It’s not a parody but if you’ve watched any of the guild, you’ve probably seen Game On:

If you haven’t watched the Guild yet, what are you waiting for? It’s one of the geekiest, funniest shows out there. It started as youtube channel and can still be found on the site, as well as Netflix and elsewhere online.

 

Books Everyone Talks About but Almost No One Reads

There are books that everyone has heard of, are frequently discussed in various circles and yet almost no one has ever actually read. Here is my list.

1. The Bible


When I was a young person, the Lutheran church gave every kid, upon reaching a certain age, a copy of the Bible. Being an avid reader even then, I plowed through it from start to finish. Chapter upon chapter of so and so begat so and so. All the disjointed stories of the old testament, the list of rules in Leviticus that make almost no sense to the modern reader, you name it. I only recall a fraction of it now, but I read it once upon a time.

It is not my intention to get into a religious debate. But there is something that has always bothered me about a lot of fundamentalists. If you believe this one book is the actual written word of God, shouldn’t you read it? But in many churches, this is not how it’s done. Instead “Bible Study” is largely learning a few choice phrases out of context and very little actual reading of whole books in context.

And yes, I know, a lot of people have read the Bible. Still it belongs on this list because the number of people who have read it pales to the number of people who claim it as the holy testament of their religion.

2. The Big Book


Sometimes called the blue book or even the big blue book (not the one you find car prices in) because the dominant cover is a light blue. Written in 1939 by Bill W. one of the founders of AA, the Big Book is a long rambling testament, laying out the twelve steps, peppered with lots and lots of anecdotes about people who have been helped by them.

As AA has grown to become the predominant treatment for addictions of all kinds, the Big Book has undergone many editions and printings. It is handed out in meetings, sold in bookstores and passed from hand to hand by many people.

The quintessential symbol of what the Big Book has become was a recent TMZ photo of actress Lindsay Lohan entering a nightclub clutching the Big Book, as though it were a talisman to prevent relapse. Perhaps her recovery would have gone better if she had stayed home and actually read the damn thing.

I work in mental health and our unit always has a half dozen copies of the big book floating around. One night I got curious enough to crack the Big Book and see what it’s all about. And I have to say, I tend to agree with the non-readers on this one. It’s long. It rambles. The twelve steps are pretty well known by now, and explained more concisely in other books. The Big Book remains important as a testament to the history of the movement.

3. The Constitution


The Constitution of the United States of America is not really a book. I include it in this list because it shares so much in common with the first two books on the list. It’s often held up as a symbolic emblem by people who haven’t read it and are often arguing against it.

I won’t open an ugly can of worms by discussing politics here. However, in my school days every student had to read the Constitution and at least attempt to understand it. Judging from the state of politics today, I doubt many people have done either.

4. Atlas Shrugged


Love it or hate it, Ayn Rand’s objectivist manifesto, Atlas Shrugged in one of the most important works of the twentieth century. A large chunk of the Neo-libertarian Republicans in politics today swear by Ayn Rand’s philosophical world view.

If you want to appear intellectual and hip among that crowd, you must have a passing familiarity with Atlas Shrugged. But if you try to engage such people in debate you will find that it often ends at a passing familiarity.

Honestly I am not a fan of either the philosophy or the book. Judging the book solely on its literary merits, it’s long, dense and stilted. The characters are flat and spend most of their time espousing Ayn Rand’s philosophy rather than interacting with each other. I tend to agree with reviewer Dorothy Parker, who said, “This is not a novel tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” And all the pseudo-intellectuals that quote Ayn Rand should be forced to read her entire collection for themselves.

5. Anything by James Joyce


“For this, O Dearly Beloved, is the genuine Christinne: body, and soul and blood and ouns. Slow music, please. Shut your eyes, Gents. One moment. A little trouble about those white corpuscles. Silence, all.”

James Joyce is the great grandmaster of the modern novel. Stream of consciousness? He practically invented it. He revolutionized novel structure. He wrote in his own Irish accent and voice, and in doing so championed a new literary form. His work is some of the most scrutinized and studied in all of literature.

The literary snobs of the world will sneer their contempt at anyone who suggests that they would prefer to read something, well, a little more readable than most Joyce. Which probably explains why literary aficionados everywhere tend to agree with the snobs, mutter an apology for not having “gotten around” to Joyce and quickly change the subject.

6. War and Peace


Tolstoy’s great masterpiece about the Napoleonic invasion of Russia is a giant of a book. Everyone knows its a masterpiece and one of those books you ought to read. But they never seem to get around to it, put off by the size of the book or the long Russian names.

It’s too bad, because it really is one of my favourites. How I finally got around the size of the book was to realize, it’s not any longer than many of the fantasy series I read regularly. If you have read all seven of the Harry Potter books you’ve devoured more pages than War and Peace. So grab a copy and get cracking.

7. The Communist Manifesto


Karl Marx’s short little book, The Communist Manifesto belongs on this list because it’s influence far out reaches it readership. It has spawned revolutions, been the primary influence on numerous communist, socialist and marxist governments. But how many people have actually read the manifesto?

8. The Tao Te Ching


The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese classic, penned by the sage Lao Tsu. The book is second to only the Bible in terms of the numbers of language it’s been translated into. It has been enormously influential in the east. It has been seeping into western thought since it’s translation in the mid eighteen hundreds.

Carl Jung was influenced by the Tao Te Ching. Many of the new agers, from Wayne Dyer to The Secret, will quote freely from the Tao Te Ching.

But reading the book is another story. It’s an ancient spiritual text and it tends to be dense and obscure at times, not what you would call light reading. Which explains why so many people talk about it, own it, but few have actually read it.

That’s my list. What books would you add?

The Hipster’s Bookshelf: Ten books that were (blank) before (blank) was cool

“I was into that before it was cool.” The phrase has become a cliche among hipsters. So with that in mind, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here are ten books for the Hipster’s bookshelf, books that were (blank) before (blank) was cool.

 

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

dystopian before dystopian was cool.

Before Suzanne Collins created a YA craze with the Hunger Games, adult writers were playing around with dystopian societies. Keep a copy of the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood around, so when teens come over you can inform them that you were reading dystopian novels before dystopia was cool.

 

    1. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Vampires before vampires were cool.

Some particularly clueless teens actually think Stephenie Meyer came up with the idea of vampires. Or at least, she made them popular. Clueless people of my generation know  that it was Anne Rice that made vampires famous. The truth is that vampires have been cool for a long time. Even Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel Dracula, is not the first vampire novel, but it’s close enough and its the novel that made the genre what it is today.

 

    1. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

YA before YA was cool.

Before Harry Potter came along and made YA cool, there was the Narnia books. Like the Harry Potter books, Narnia has the feel of YA but enough depth for adult readers to enjoy as well.

 

    1. Bertram Cope’s year

LGBT before LGBT was cool

Back in 1918, long before there was an LGBT genre, movement or anything resembling gay pride, there was Bertram Cope. One of the first gay novels ever written, Bertram Cope’s Year tells the story of a graduate student who is wooed by a procession of women and one older man, but he’s emotionally attached to his friend and housemate. The writing style is quite different from what modern readers expect but it’s a good story and a must have book if you are going to insist that you read gay literature before gay literature was cool, or even a thing.

 

    1. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne

Steampunk before steampunk was cool

Steampunk is the latest craze in both fashion and writing. It blends Victorian sensibilities and style, steam powered technology and science fiction premises. But they were writing science fiction as far back as the Victorian age and there are some classic sci-fi gems that are literal steampunk. Check out most of Jules Verne, but especially Twenty Thousand Leagues under the sea.

 

    1. The Delta of Venus by Anais Nin

Erotica before erotica was cool

The kindle has led to an explosion of erotica. Thanks to ereaders lack of a cover, you can read the raunchiest titles on the bus with no one the wiser. And it’s clear that many people are. But before erotica became a big ticket genre, a few intrepid writers were already braving those waters. So why not pick up Anais Nin’s classic collection, the Delta of Venus.

 

    1. The Story of O

BDSM before BDSM was cool

Before Fifty Shades of Gray shocked and titillated a nation, Anne Rice was shocking and titillating the nation with The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. And before that came the Story of O, which shocked and titilated the Nation of France way back in the 1950s. The Story of O tells of a woman’s journey into sexual slavery.

Warning: It’s a journey that’s not for the faint of heart.

Another warning: while the Story of O comes before Fifty Shades, any claims that it is better written or a better portrayal of BDSM are dubious at best. Read at your own risk.

What it is the hipster answer to Fifty Shades.

 

    1. Lord of the Rings

Epic fantasy before Epic fantasy was cool

Before everyone was obsessed with Game of Thrones, before all the movie nerds were obsessed with Peter Jackson’s movie version, the Lord of the Ring was the original epic fantasy series. Gain extra hipster brownie points with a nice hardbound edition of the Silmarillion next to your Lord of the Rings box set. Just remember to dismiss everything after the Silmarillion as drek his son Christopher scraped together from Tolkien’s notes in a vain attempt to capitalize on his father’s fame. (which for the most part, they are.)

 

    1. The Iliad

Action/adventure before action/adventure was cool

We think of action and adventure novels as new things, but they aren’t. In fact to find the before it was cool action novel, we have to go back into ancient history. Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey show that even in ancient times, people loved a good action story. Keep a copy of one or both on your shelf to maintain proper hipster cred.

 

    1. The Hymns of Inanna by Enheduana

It’s just… before anything was anything.

For the most part, the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian scribes are nameless writers. They copied down dictation; older oral myths, declarations from the king and day to day practical lists (of the clay tablets found so far, a surprising number are inventories or records of business transactions).  The Hymns of Inanna, written in the third millennium B.C. are unique. The author, a high priestess Enheduana, recorded her name for posterity and wrote in her own personal voice. That makes the Hymns the first piece of writing in the modern sense of the word. Diane Wolkensteins 1983 translation by the same name make a great addition to the hipster bookshelf, because it’s essential the first anything before anything was cool.

What books would you add to the list? Respond in the comments.

Six Books that Prove Book Banners don’t Read

My last post, banned books I have loved, featured ten books that are often banned or challenged by conservatives. I told the story in that post of another book I was reading when book banning first entered my life. It was far more suggestive and sexual than what the ones they were seeking to ban, causing me to opine that conservatives must not read much.

So here is my list of books that to my knowledge have never been challenged or banned, but if conservatives actually read they might be.
1. The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert

This is the book I was reading when my school was trying to ban Romeo and Juliet from the library. What I am going to say about the Heaven Makers is true of hundreds, if not thousands, of other books. There is sex in it. Not a lot, but as much as Romeo and Juliet, or a dozen other books that have been banned for sexual content. Conservatives don’t seem to get themselves into a book banning fever over sex in the average genre novel.

The point is that the classics often get attacked for relatively minor things that abounded in genre writing.
2. Billy Budd, by Herman Melville

While a Texas school board went after Moby Dick for head scratchingly vague reasons, no one seems to notice that his other great work, Billy Budd is about a homosexual encounter. The language is veiled, but the subtext is there.

Maybe subtext is okay because the conservatives can ignore it. Or maybe they see that as the proper place for any LGBT discussion, in the shadows. Either way it makes no sense to go after Moby Dick but not Billy Budd.

3. Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Left Hand of Darkness is frequently challenged for, among other things, presenting the concept of a hermaphroditic race that can become male or female depending on their potential mate. Darkover Landfall does the exact same thing, with Chieiri, with not a peep from conservatives.
4. Odd Girl Out

Again what I have to say about Odd Girl Out could easily be said of anything Ann Bannon, or many of her contemporaries, wrote. Bannon was noted for saying that there was one rule about writing gay novels in the days before stonewall, you could say anything as long as it had an unhappy ending. Unhappy endings aside, Bannon’s work gives us a glimpse into what gay life was like in the fifties.

Odd Girl Out was published in 1957. In 1975 Annie on my Mind was published, and immediately banned for violating the unspoken rule about unhappy endings. My point is that conservatives seem to object to specific LGBT titles that come to their attention, while entire genres of books fly under their radar.
5. The Moon Under Her Feet by Clysta Kinstler

Conservatives get up in arms over the Davinci Code, especially Dan Brown’s suggestion that Jesus might have been married to Mary Magdalene and they might have had children. Little do they realize, that was not Brown’s creation but a long standing, if heretical, belief in many gnostic sects. And someone already wrote the book. The Moon Under Her Feet retells the entire story of Jesus through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. It was published in 1991, beating Brown to the punch by more than twelve years.

6. Every fantasy book ever written

Conservatives want to ban Harry Potter because of stuff and reasons. Magic is treated as normal. There are battles of good and evil. Demons and spirits appear.

You know what, there’s a whole genre of that sort of thing. I can’t even begin to list them. If you don’t like this sort of stuff, fine. If you want to keep your kids away from its evil influence, don’t let them near any library, bookstore or pile of books larger than two, because it’s everywhere. For that matter, don’t let them read the bible either. There’s magic in it, stories of angels and miracles, battles of good and evil.

I guess my conclusion is this, I disagree with banning books on principle. I don’t, however, object to people having strongly held beliefs that are different then mine. But could you please be a little more consistent about those beliefs?