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WednesdaySomething Not Safe for Ghost31 comments · 354 views
23 comments · 247 views
I wanted to refer to my reblog of "Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Supervillains" in a PM to Causal Quill. But it looks like I never wrote it. Did I never post this before?
is an awesome blog post by PJ Eby, author, self-improvement guru, & LessWrongian, on his blog, DirtSimple.org . I can't improve on it; I'll just quote part of it:
In the movies, the villains typically:
- Have a vision and goals, for how they'd like things to be in the future
- Believe that they deserve -- and are capable of obtaining -- everything they want in life
- Proactively seek the fulfillment of their goals, and persistently work towards achieving them
- Are willing to plan and prepare for years, then execute that plan in a well-disciplined manner, having anticipated as many issues as possible, with well-thought out contingency plans
- Are very willing to delegate most tasks to their staff of loyal, highly-motivated employees... who they somehow managed to recruit, train, and persuade to follow along with their shared vision.
Meanwhile, the heroes tend to:
- Be reactive, rather then proactive -- they wait until something bad happens, then try to solve the problem afterwards
- Be reactionary, rather than progressive -- they try to put things back the way they were, instead of changing them for the better
- Rarely promote a shared vision, preferring to work alone or with only a partner or two... who they don't trust with anything really important!
- Rarely anticipate the possible failure modes of their plans, to the extent that they plan anything at all!
- Use their talents and abilities rarely, for emergencies only, instead of keeping them in top condition or proactively using them to improve things
- Not believe they personally deserve anything good out of life, or that things will ever get better for them
... I didn't really think all that much about it, until this past week. It just seemed like an amusing, cynical observation about Hollywood: that movies are designed to make people feel better about their crappy lives, by allowing them to subconsciously identify with the "good" guys.
But that was only because I didn't realize just how much this applied to me.
Or that on the inside, I was still trying to be the hero.
And that it was perhaps the single biggest source of pain in my entire life!
What's good about being special? "I'm better than everyone." What's good about that?
- If I'm a hero, I won't get hurt
- If I'm a hero, it's okay that I'm alone or have few friends
- If I'm a hero, it's okay that people look down on me, because that's just my secret identity
- If I'm a hero, I'm strong on the inside, even if I seem weak on the outside
- If I'm a hero, it's okay for me to strike at those who hurt others, the way they hurt me
All in all, the superhero fantasy was more attractive to my 7-year-old self (the approximate age where these thoughts originated) than I'd ever realized. And consciously, it had never even occurred to me that they were anything but idle daydreams and escape fantasies.
I had no way of knowing that, when I adopted this superhero ideal, the following personality traits would come along with it:
- If you're a hero, you're just strong and successful and equipped... automatically -- you don't have to practice or work out or really do anything at all to become successful (Impatience with details and implementation)
- If you're a hero, you should never use your powers (talents and abilities) for any personal gain... unless it's an emergency. (Procrastination, not to mention failure to pursue non-work goals)
- If you're a hero, it's your job to right wrongs... not to make good things. (Perfectionism!)
- If you're a hero, it's your job to do the impossible, or at least the extraordinary... so leave the ordinary things to ordinary people (More perfectionism, not to mention elitism!)
- If you're a hero, you have to rely on yourself... so don't share your secrets with anyone, or expect anyone to be able to help you with your problems... frankly, it's laughable that they'd be able to understand your issues, let alone help. (Arrogance, closed-mindedness, and other a**holery)
- If you're a hero, everything is serious business. Deadly serious. All the frickin' time. You can enjoy other people being happy, but don't expect to have any free time that can't be interrupted for something more important. (Recipe for struggle, suffering, and general life imbalance.)
The post goes into more depth on how this subverted his attempts at self-improvement. I don't know if his course or books or whatever it is he's flogging are good, but I think this post is brilliant.
SundayI don't want to know...26 comments · 317 views
SundayFifty shades of marketing27 comments · 255 views
My question about "story views" reminded me...
"Fifty Shades of Grey" was a spectacularly popular Twilight fan-fiction; it had over two million downloads online. The publishing giant Vintage Press saw that number and realized they had a hit on their hands. They filed off the Twilight serial numbers, put it in print, marketed it like hell, and now it's sold 60 million copies, satisfying a huge but previously unrealized market for bad BDSM chick-lit-porn.
Part of that is true.
Though the Twilight fandom was very large, it was still too small, I thought, for one story to have two million reads. A little searching and I found the original quote was "over two million hits". It was reported by Anne Jamison, author of "fic: Why Fan-Fiction is Taking Over the World". I emailed her and asked where that number came from. She replied,
The "millions" numbers I had were not public; I had them from screenshots from various writers. The counts were from fanfiction.net which, for the Twilight fandom, remained the biggest hub--most if not all stories that were also posted at Twilighted.net and TWCS were also posted on ff.net. Ff.net tallies reads but doesn't--unlike Wattpad or AO3--make them public.
But for all the sites, read or hit counts are for every time someone clicks on the story--so if they click through the front page to get to chapter 37, that's 2 reads.
Fan-fiction is published one chapter at a time. "Fifty Shades of Grey" has 26 chapters, but when it was originally published on fanfiction.net as "Master of the Universe", it had over 100 chapters. More digging by gwern showed that the story had over 40,000 reviews when it was on chapter 70. It had 37,000 reviews when it reached 2 million hits. So let's say it had 65 chapters when it reached 2 million hits on fanfiction.net.
fanfiction.net adds 1 hit every time any page of the story is reloaded. If you go to chapter 1 and read all the way through to chapter 120 in one sitting, that's 120 hits. If you log in, see it updated, go to chapter 1, and then go from there to the new chapter, that's at least 239 hits to read the book. If you refresh the page, that's another hit. (I verified this myself by refreshing one chapter of one story of mine 3 times on fanfiction.net, checking the stats before and after.) If you read half of one chapter one day, and log in again and finish it the next, that's at least 2 hits. If you leave it in an open tab on your computer, that's 1 hit every time you open your browser. If you reread the story, the hits double. If you click on the story each day to see if it's updated, hits go way up.
Two million hits on a 65-chapter story means a theoretical maximum of 2,000,000 / 65 = 30,769 readers had read it on fanfiction.net when that "two million" figure was reported. More likely, given re-readings, users who always go in through chapter 1, users who quit halfway through, browser refreshes, etc., perhaps 10,000 readers finished it on fanfiction.net, and let's say another 10,000 on other sites. That's about as many readers as finished My Roommate is a Vampire.
What actually happened was that a fanfiction that had been read by at most a few tens of thousands of people was reported on in a way that misled publishers into thinking that it had millions of readers, when really, it just had a lot of chapters. So they put a major marketing campaign behind it, and sold tens of millions of copies.
But was Fifty Shades of Grey really what people wanted? Or would the same thing have happened with almost any book they'd marketed as heavily?
18 comments · 190 views
The site upgrade is pretty awesome; I'm still discovering big changes. But I'm confused by the new meaning of "story views". I saw my stats page says I have 242,137 story views, and I thought, Awesome! A little while ago I had only 100,000!
Then I realized that was impossible.
Exhibit A: Terein. 1 story. 1 chapter. 188 views of that chapter. Yet his/her stats page says 381 story views.
I had never heard of Terein until just now, when I went looking for someone with just 1 story with just 1 chapter, and as I was typing out his/her username just now, I got a pop-up notification saying "Terein posted a new thread in The Writer's Group."
Exhibit B: Web of Hope. Might be reading this. 3 stories, 6 chapters between them, 1242 views across those 6 chapters. Stats pages says 2059 story views.
Story views--what do they MEAN?
By the time Celestia had resolved all the pending petty disputes between neighboring farmers, and some even pettier disputes between great nobles, the sun's rays slanted low into the great hall. There was only one case left, and no way of putting it off any longer.
Celestia sighed. "Bring her in," she called.
The guest, or prisoner, was escorted down the red-and-gold carpet, one very serious-looking guard on each side, eyeing her as if they expected her to bolt for the side door at any moment. Sometimes one's own propaganda caught up with oneself that way. But if the guards were hoping for excitement, the prospects seemed dim. With her head sunk toward the floor so that her white mane fell over one eye, and looking naked (half the ponies in the room were naked, but only she seemed self-conscious of it) without her cape and hat, the bedraggled sky-blue unicorn looked neither great nor powerful. She shuffled to stand in front of the dais and look mournfully up, not quite meeting Celestia's eye.
"So," Celestia said, "I meet the Great and Powerful Trixie at last."
Trixie blushed with shame and looked down again.
"Trixie. We are very cross with you." Celestia only ever used the royal "we" to indicate that she also spoke for Luna. "Do you understand why?"
The magician said, in a small, repentant voice, "Because I am a selfish and arrogant pony."
Celestia's lip curled in a bitter smile. "Then I should be cross with half the ponies in this room. No, Trixie. Try again."
Trixie risked a look up, and a look of worry crept into her face, which was more convincing than the repentance. "Because," she said experimentally, "of the damage that the Ursa did to Ponyville?"
"Closer." Celestia leaned forward in her throne. "Trixie, can you tell me what our rule of Equestria depends on?"
Trixie's legs bent backwards even as she bowed her head forwards, as if her rear half were thinking about bolting and leaving the front to fend for itself. "Power?"
Celestia shook her head. "No, Trixie. Not power." She calmly watched Trixie squirm and waited for an answer.
"That's very flattering of you to say so, but no."
"Ancient mystical rocks?" Trixie guessed with a weak grin.
Celestia shook her head in a disappointed fashion. "No, Trixie. Trust. Our rule depends on trust. I sit here on a throne in Canterlot, and govern counties so far away it takes days for news to travel back and forth. How do I know the ponies in all those far-off places are acting as they should?"
Celestia smiled. "Now you've got it! And, more importantly, why do the ponies in those far-off places obey the commands of a princess most of them have never seen—who might, so far as they know, not exist at all? Why do they not come stomping down to the castle in a mob, and make angry demands, or scheme silently against me in their distant secret places?"
"I'm... supposed to say trust, aren't I?"
Celestia snorted. "You think it's the guards, the army, and my terrible sharp horn. But it isn't, Trixie. It's trust. Trust makes Equestria go round." She stood up off her throne and took one step forward, towering over the much-smaller pony at the bottom of the steps, whose knees were beginning to tremble. "And when you lie to ponies, and you pretend to be something you aren't, it isn't a little thing of no consequence, Trixie. It teaches ponies not to trust. That makes it an attack on the foundations of Equestria. That makes it a threat to our peace."
"I didn't mean it like that!" Trixie protested. "I... I just wanted ponies to respect me!" Trixie glanced round her at the guards and the spectators, but found only stony faces.
Celestia let out a disdainful bray. To the shock of everypony, she stomped down the steps of the dias and stared directly into Trixie's face, their horns almost touching. "You wanted respect!" she spat. "You wanted admiration! What a despicable reason to deceive ponies!"
The guards standing beside Trixie backed away a few steps, giving up any pretense of guarding Celestia from Trixie, and glanced at each other nervously. Celestia paced slowly around Trixie, from her head to her tail and back again, never looking at the unicorn mare. "Do you understand what could have happened if you'd gotten away with it? More lies, more lies to cover up those lies, more respect. More unearned trust. More ponies depending on you to do things you can't, like those foals rushing out to find an Ursa because they were so sure you could fight it off."
The crowd of onlookers had fallen absolutely silent, staring open-mouthed at their princess. The guards looked to the old chamberlain, who had served the Princess since before they were born, and he looked back and shook his head as if to say, No, I've never seen her like this either.
Celestia's heavy hoofsteps echoed loudly as she began pacing faster. "You were building your own cage out of lies. If not for this Ponyville fiasco you might have gone on for years, building it bigger and stronger until you couldn't have gotten out of it if you'd wanted to. You don't know how lucky you are that you were caught so soon!" She came to a stop back in front of Trixie and glared at her, sides heaving, and now it was Celestia who was trembling.
"I'm sorry!" Trixie bawled. "I'm so, so sorry, I—"
Celestia spun around and looked away. "Escort her from my palace," she said, without looking back.
The guards snapped out of their daze, and saluted Celestia's hindquarters. They escorted Trixie out, and then the stunned audience gradually trickled out, until only Celestia, still staring into the back corner of the room and breathing heavily, and her guards remained.
"Get me Shining Armour," she called.
The captain of the guard galloped in minutes later and drew up before her, blowing his dark-blue mane out of his eyes with every breath as he huffed from running. "Your majesty?"
She set off immediately toward the private section of the palace, and he fell into step beside her. "Your shield," she said. "Have you managed to teach Purslane how to cast it?"
"He's working on it," the captain replied.
"I take it that means no?"
"Well," he said apologetically, "what with the wedding in a few days..."
Celestia came to an abrupt halt and turned towards the captain. "I apologize for keeping you somewhat in the dark about this. I did not wish to start a panic. But it is high time for somepony to start panicking. Allow me to explain. Are you familiar with vamponies?"
The captain pursed his lips, and said diplomatically, "I was under the impression they did not exist."
"They do not. They are merely symbolic representations of something too terrible to speak of in stories. Imagine, Shining, a being which drained you not of blood, but of love. A being which left you alive, but with no feelings for your fellow pony. All the feelings you had for your Cadence, for your parents, for your sister, would be gone, fodder in the belly of a monster to feed it for a day or two. You would live the rest of your days in uncaring selfishness, nothing more than a pony-shaped machine."
A shadow passed over the captain's face. "That would be a fate worse than death."
"Indeed," Celestia agreed.
He inhaled slowly. "We will not fear," he said. "We have faith in you."
Celestia looked him in the eye, and he looked back, his honest face full of admiration and trust.
"Teach Purslane the shield," she said.
She left the captain and hurried to the second-floor sitting room at the front of the palace. The sky was turning red as the sun sank toward the horizon. Celestia stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the courtyard. She smiled at the crowd of ponies, and a cheer went up. Many of them had travelled days just so they could say that one day they had watched the Princess raise and lower the sun. The pages standing at the corners of the balcony raised their trumpets and sounded them, and she aimed her horn toward the sun. It began to glow gold with magical energy, turning white as it grew more brilliant. She took a deep breath, screwed up her face in a look of intense concentration, and once again pretended to lower the sun.