Book Editing, Part One

Reviewer #2 pointed out four main areas in need of revision in their report.

First, the report states that the work I did three or four years ago is three or four years out of sync with more recently published scholarship. This is absolutely true! Thankfully, the report gives specific advice on how the manuscript can be updated and thereby strengthened. This is not at all difficult to implement.

Second, the report warns against taking a subjective tone in the statement of positionality contained in my introduction. I respectfully disagree, as I believe that my personal identity is an important aspect of my work. I also believe that taking a more personal tone at the beginning of the book will make it more accessible to a wider audience. The formal literature review section could be expanded, however.

Third, this report uses the language of social justice to make misogynistic and homophobic statements. Why are people like this? I have no interest in addressing these statements in the book itself, as that sort of rhetorical violence doesn’t need to be put in print, but I’m looking forward to unpacking them in future posts on this blog.

Fourth, the report points out several typos and inconsistencies in style and citations. This is correct, and this level of editing is something I purposefully refrained from in order to deliver the manuscript in a timely manner. I assume the press will support me with professional copy editing, but I’ll also do my best to double-check everything before I send in the revised manuscript in August.

Fun with Academic Publishing

I have anxiety, and it affected my ability to submit my book manuscript about female comic creators in a very real way. I put it off and put it off and put it off for months, mostly because I was afraid of the reception the manuscript would receive. Blind peer review is notoriously cruel and awful, and people in the field of Comics Studies tend to take the subject way too seriously (the irony of this is not lost on me, by the way). There’s also the fact that the field is extremely male-dominated. This requires a lot of unpacking; but, to make a quick generalization, masculinist modes of scholarship view subjectivity and accessibility as weak and careless, and people who don’t identify as male in a male-dominated field can have a tendency to justify their presence by overcompensating and “leaning in” to masculinist modes of scholarship even more than men do.

So I was afraid of what would happen once I submitted the manuscript; but, as I continued to work on it, I realized that it was actually good and important. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I should submit it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? The initial blind peer review reports for the prospectus were positive, and I already had an advance contract. If the press decided not to go ahead with publication, I would edit the manuscript according to the reader reports and submit it to one of the other publishers that reviewed the prospectus and offered an advance contract.

What happened is that one of the manuscript peer reviewers declined to review the manuscript. The press couldn’t find another person, so my editor sent me the report of the dreaded “Reviewer #2.” If you’re unfamiliar with the “Reviewer #2” phenomenon, it refers to an anonymous peer reviewer who has nothing good to say because they would have written the manuscript differently if they had written it, but they didn’t, and they feel bitter and threatened that someone else did. Their report is generally bracketed by two more helpful (and sane) reports, so they’re “Reviewer #2.”

Reviewer #2 had nothing good to say, of course. They picked out a few typos in a book-length manuscript in order to argue that the whole thing is garbage, said that one brief reference to the work of a controversial scholar means that my own scholarship is unbalanced, and declared that “female” is not a valid ontological category.

I read the report carefully, showed it to a few colleagues, got some quick feedback and advice, and responded to the editor within two hours to say, essentially, “That’s cool, I can work with this!”

I immediately got an automated response from the editor saying that he no longer worked for the publisher, meaning that he sent me the nasty reader report and then quit. Wow.

So now this book is up on Amazon but doesn’t have an editor, and the one reader the press could find to review it said that they’re unwilling to endorse its publication. Oh boy.

This isn’t what I imagined when I tried to think about “the worst thing that could happen.” This is actually worse, and it happened.

I’ve been trying to be more open about my experience of dealing with anxiety, and a lot of people have responded by saying something to the effect of, “But I could never tell! You seem to be doing fine!” I’m not doing fine, actually; it’s just that I don’t generally talk about things like this when they happen, despite the fact that this sort of thing happens all the time in academic publishing. I therefore think I’d like to talk openly and honestly about how broken academic publishing can be sometimes, as well as how anxiety-inducing subjecting yourself to the gauntlet of other people’s egos in the form of anonymous “critique” can be.

But you know what? I believe in this project, and I can, in fact, work with this. Maybe this doesn’t mean much coming from me, but this is a solid first book that deserves to be published! It’s unfortunate that I encountered this small hiccup with the press, but they do good work, and I’m going to stick with them. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to devote myself entirely to getting this book published, and I’m going to put more effort into communicating with the press. Lord help me, I might even call people on the phone.

I think it might be useful to document the process of getting this book published here on this blog, so stay tuned. If nothing else, I have a lot to say about this whole “‘female’ is not a valid ontological category” nonsense.

Shipping Isn’t Morality

(from the Tumblr blog Shipping Isn’t Morality)
https://shipping-isnt-morality.tumblr.com/post/183726148328/yknow-its-been-a-while-since-i-made-this

When I say “abuse is the fault of the abuser,” I don’t mean in just a pure metaphysical, “everyone’s responsible for their own actions” kind of way. I mean that abusers start with their abusive behavior, and then fill in whatever behavior and excuses they have to to justify it to themselves and their victims. Maybe it’s media. Maybe it’s substance abuse. Maybe it’s past abuse that they suffered. Maybe it’s some psychology mumbo-jumbo about projecting past trauma onto you. Maybe it’s mental illness. Maybe it’s anything. […]

Abusers choose to hurt you. They know that their actions will hurt you, and they choose to do it anyways.

Everything after that is an excuse.

This is a good post in the ongoing pushback against fandom purity discourse and respectability politics. I ended up reading through almost two dozen pages of this blog last week, and it was an enlightening experience. This person also runs an anti-fandom receipt blog (that posts screenshots of harassment, rape threats, and so on), and I admire that they’re so good-natured despite having seen and experienced so much garbage.

I also found another good chain [here] about how, basically, “if I was eight years younger and wandering into fandom for the first time, I can guarantee that the culture right now would’ve fucked me up and ground me down and taken away all my healthy outlets.”

I still haven’t found much of anything that addresses some of the particular problems I’ve experienced in the Legend of Zelda fandom, which are much more intersectional than most of the issues I see discussed on fandom positivity blogs. I will keep looking, but it’s been a journey.

I should qualify all of this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the idea that fandom has to be therapeutic or serve some purpose in order to be valid. There’s another good chain [here] that highlights the misogyny and homophobia of the assumption that female and queer fantasies need to be “productive” in order to be allowed to exist.

I’m glad that smart people are out there doing the work of unpacking the absurdity of insisting on sexual purity in subcultural queer spaces, because even the act of reading these conversations is exhausting to me personally. I briefly considered starting a fandom discourse blog myself, but then I thought about it for two seconds and realized how time-consuming and emotionally draining it would be. Something I’ve noticed about the pro-fandom blogs I encounter on Tumblr is that they devote an extraordinary amount of care and attention to research and maintaining ethical standards. That’s admirable, of course, but this level of effort also feels a bit strange and uncomfortable. Like, how did we get to a place where this level of background reading and moral self-reflection is necessary to make the point that it’s not okay to send death threats because of fandom ship wars?

Fanfiction, Numbers, and a Very Small Window

So I recently found a short essay…

Ten Simple Ways To Get More Attention For Your Fanwork

https://melannen.dreamwidth.org/354977.html

This is all reasonable, at least in my experience, but the truth is that fandom engagement seems to have dropped off for most writers during the past two years. Almost no one posts or links to their fanfic on Tumblr anymore, but what I do see are posts with massive numbers of notes about how painful it is to be ignored by your fandom, possible reasons why no one leaves kudos anymore, and so on.

There’s a pervasive idea that you can build your own audience if you’re consistent and good at what you do, but the most popular thing I ever wrote was a steaming heap of garbage that I posted on Fanfiction.net back when Fanfiction.net was still mainstream in, like, 2009. I think a lot about how maybe I missed a window of opportunity, and how maybe I just wasn’t born in the right year. Like, maybe if I were a little older, maybe I would have been able to “make it” before social media blew up and collapsed in on itself. Or maybe, if I were younger, I would have had access to the resources and platforms that could have helped me develop my skills and community when I was still a student.

I’m afraid that the real truth is that some people are never going to make it, and maybe I’m just one of those people, unfortunately. Even worse, maybe my entire generation is never going to make it.

I think all of this is definitely worth worrying about, and not just from the perspective of a writer. Over the past four years, I’ve seen so many incredibly talented fanfic authors just up and disappear after expressing frustration with not getting any feedback, and it kills me. I wanted them to keep writing for very selfish reasons – I wanted them to finish a story they were serializing, or I really enjoyed reading their work and would have read anything they posted in any fandom. I hope they stopped sharing fanfic because they became professional writers, but I’m afraid that a lot of people probably give up and quit.

I have immense respect for professionally published authors, as well as people who are capable of doing the social media hustle, but I also desperately want to see the re-emergence of a healthy fanfic culture on more subcultural platforms like Tumblr.

Memorizing Ocarina of Time

It’s been a difficult semester; so, instead of taking another stab at Nier Automatica or finishing Gris, I started playing Ocarina of Time again.

Ocarina of Time
is a beautiful and perfect game, but some of its dungeons are quite difficult, and there are the infamous one hundred Gold Skulltulas to collect. I therefore haven’t ever played the game without a walkthrough, meaning that the experience can sometimes feel a little like homework.

What I’m trying to do this time around is to train myself to memorize the game so that I’m able to get 100% completion without a walkthrough. This involves playing two save files simultaneously, the first with a walkthrough and the second entirely from memory a few days later.

Back when people were still posting garbage hot takes about “walking simulators,” I often heard the opinion that playing a video game shouldn’t be like walking through a museum. I actually really enjoy walking through museums, and I’d like to be able to walk through Ocarina of Time like a museum. I think it’s very relaxing, not necessarily to know exactly where you’re going or what you’re going to see, but rather to have confidence that you’re not going to get lost or stuck or miss something important.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

I don’t think Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! cured my depression; but, if any game could, it would be this one. It’s so positive and utopian, and the pokémon interaction mechanics healed my soul.

It took me 37 hours to finish the game, which brought me to a grand total of having caught 107 pokémon. I’m pretty sure I could get all 152 if I spent another 10 hours working at it, but I feel satisfied with what I have now.

What I appreciate about this game is how simple it is. Pokémon Sun and Moon featured a lot of needlessly complex gameplay systems geared toward professional “trainers” seeking to maximize their competitive potential. Even though it wasn’t necessary to engage with all of these systems, I found their presence overwhelming in the sense that there is A LOT of information that the player constantly has to keep in mind or actively filter out while playing. I’m therefore grateful that Let’s Go, Eevee! did most of the filtering for me, bringing it down to roughly Animal Crossing levels of manageable.

I also like the new pokémon capture system, which is an adaptation and improvement on that of Pokémon Go. On one hand, the simple motion controls mean that it’s difficult to play Let’s Go, Eevee! on public transportation. On the other hand, you no longer have to go through a twelve-step process to catch a damn Pidgey. The new experience-gaining and leveling system works well too.

The main problem with the game is that you can really only gain experience by catching wild pokémon, a process that requires pokéballs, which require in-game currency. Since you can only get a significant amount of currency by battling other trainers, and since each trainer will only battle you once, there’s a limited amount of money in the game, meaning that you can only do so much level grinding. Since your resources are limited, you’re kind of stuck with the first five pokémon you choose to develop (plus Eevee or Pikachu). This never becomes a serious problem while you’re making your way through the story, but it also means that there isn’t much room for experimentation or exploration of the game systems.

It’s worth saying that the graphics are gorgeous and the music is delightful. I’m more or less using my Switch as a handheld console these days, and it’s everything I ever wanted a handheld console to be. I’m looking forward to Pokémon Sword and Shield, and while I wait I am very much enjoying the memes.

That “Abandoned Mall” Feeling

After the porn ban, Tumblr users have ditched the platform as promised
https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/14/18266013/tumblr-porn-ban-lost-users-down-traffic

Tumblr’s global traffic in December clocked in at 521 million, but it had dropped to 370 million by February, web analytics firm SimilarWeb tells The Verge. Statista reports a similar trend in the number of unique visitors. By January 2019, only over 437 million visited Tumblr, compared to a high of 642 million visitors in July 2018.

Tumblr loses almost a third of its users after banning porn
https://sea.mashable.com/tech/2777/tumblr-loses-almost-a-third-of-its-users-after-banning-porn

But NSFW posts were the lifeblood of Tumblr communities, and when that left the site, many of the users fled with it. PinkNews reports that traffic fell from 521 million monthly page views in December to 437 million in January, according to SimilarWeb analytics. By the end of February, Tumblr only received 369 million page views. That comes out to 151 million fewer page views, or a 29 percent drop.

Tumblr has lost 30 percent of web traffic since December
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19393500

This doesn’t surprise me at all. I run a reasonably popular non-porn, submissions-based blog and immediately after the ban was implemented, our numbers tanked. Submissions dropped from 25-35 per day to around 10-20, while the number of notes (likes+reblogs+replies) per post has dropped from 600-800 to 200-400. Unfortunately, we still see about the same total number of spambots and fake blogs in our notes. So at least from my own anecdotal experience, the ban did nothing except drive away human users.
That last post reflects my own experience. I used to get around 600 to 800 notes a day in 2018, while now I’m only getting about 350. Then again, I don’t really post anything these days, so that could be a factor as well. I was actually looking forward to Tumblr quieting down a bit, but the trolls haven’t left yet. Because of the relative silence, their mindless barking seems to echo even further, unfortunately. I’ve been putting more effort into customizing Twitter to be a less chaotic experience, but it’s still difficult to express a healthy and multifaceted personality on that trashsite.