Tag Archives: The Fitness Test

The Fitness Test – Chapter Three

16 Jan

Fitness Test

 

 

http://thefitnesstest.net/2015/01/chapter-three/

 

The Fitness Test is story about privilege, power and being clueless about having those things. Although Lowin would never use the word “racist” and doesn’t even know the word exists, I have modeled her on clueless white feminists who are resoundingly, defiantly racist.

 

The difference is that in Lowin’s world, there is no need to deny racist assumptions and stereotypes. They form the backbone of her whole world, and no one thinks there is anything wrong with that. I was inspired in large part by Karen Straughan’s observation that if our world were truly the teeming pot of woman-hate and misogyny feminists claim it is, being called a misogynist wouldn’t be a bad thing. People would not lose their jobs or reputations over allegations and accusations of misogyny.

 

Misogyny would just be normal.

 

I loved the Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins very carefully sidesteps around issues of race. District 11 is mostly black and it’s the main agricultural district in Panem. That is a fact of the story, but Collins doesn’t make any comment on that. The Fitness Test confronts the issue of race dead-on, and Lowin’s spectacular blindness to race will not be staying intact as the story progresses.

 

Hope you enjoy the third installment of the Fitness Test, and for all those who expressed interest in the Skype call, I will be contacting you this week with details about when that will happen.

 

http://thefitnesstest.net/2015/01/chapter-three/

 

Thank you in advance for your comments and suggestions. I am especially grateful to those who find typos or inconsistent spelling (American vs. Canadian spellings trip me up in particular). There are some problems for people attempting to re-access data they have already paid for, and we are trying to figure out how to adjust the settings so you can access what you have paid for permanently. My apologies for the inconvenience. I’ll fix that as quickly as I can.

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

 

 

The Fitness Test – Chapter Two

9 Jan

Fitness Test

 

I can’t wait for haters to figure out what I’m doing and decide that writing about a topic means I endorse the ideas I am discussing.

 

Janet Bloomfield wrote a novel about Nazis! She obviously supports Nazism! She thinks the Holocaust was great! Yeah, they really are that stupid. Idiots will still have to give me $0.99 though.

 

Someone commented that they hate Lowin.

 

I hate her, too. She’s a cunt, and she will get a lot worse before she gets better. It’s been so much fun to write her though. I just think to myself “what would Jessica Valenti do”, and the answer is right in front of me. I’ve spent almost two years researching selfish, banal, entitled, racist, classist cunts, and I am somewhat of an expert in constructing one.

 

Chapter Two….. now available.

 

 

The Fitness Test

2 Jan

lowin

(Stock photo: just an example)

[Edited to add: in case it is not clear, new chapters will go up every Friday for the next 30 weeks]

This has been a somewhat stressful but nevertheless very interesting past few weeks. I cannot say anything at this moment about the original book I mentioned, other than to say I still have an agent and the book is out with publishers for consideration. When the entire story has reached its conclusion, I will happily tell you the whole tale. For now, I am moving ahead with a new idea that involves a second book I am in the midst of writing.

 

The following idea was inspired by two things: AOL and Andy Weir’s The Martian. Let’s start with AOL. There is a meaningful reason I  am telling you this, so please bear with me.

aol

 

Way back when the internet was just a baby and AOL dominated the whole damn show, a little start-up called Amazon.com was making some important, and frightening inroads in the world of publishing. In order to really monetize the value of their website, Amazon had to learn how to make valid recommendations to their existing customers – recommendations that branched out from books into the vast world of consumer products. AOL was trying to make the same leap, but had some problems running their back room, so they looked around for someone with experience setting up online shopping and decided to hire Amazon to streamline their purchasing and ordering. Amazon agreed, of course, and started merrily collecting vast reams of data about what items customers tended to buy right after they bought a book. Customer buys a book about Asian cooking, orders an electric wok, a rice cooker and a package of Asian spices.

 

Amazon tracked all these customer orders that involved books and created a massive data set that led directly to the creation of their recommendation algorithms, which accounts for about 1/3 of Amazon’s total sales. Amazon went on to utterly destroy AOL, using AOL’s own data, and AOL PAID AMAZON TO DO THAT.

 

What’s the point? AOL did not understand what business it was in. AOL thought it was an internet portal, when in fact, it was a data synthesizer, and it made a mission critical mistake and not only gave that data away for free, but paid a competitor to access it.

 

Publishing today does not understand what business it is in. Publishers seem to think they are in the business of selling books, which, when you think about it, means they sell really thin slices of trees to customers who enjoy hallucinating vividly.

 

That is not what business they are in. Publishers are in the business of selling two things: information (non-fiction) and entertainment (fiction). If the information can be entertaining at the same time, all the better. Think of books like Freakonomics, anything by Mary Roach or A.J. Jacobs or Malcolm Gladwell. Infotainment at its finest.

 

Their primary competitors are almost all visual. What competes for customer’s entertainment hours? Television, video games, movies, graphic novels, manga, music videos and YouTube.  If you want to reach the customers who prefer visual formats, you need to format your product in a way that is familiar and pleasing to these customers.

buggy

 

Publishers today appear to be in a frantic race to improve the buggy. They are torn between blockbusters and genre fiction that sells well for the category but breaks no banks. They are missing the fucking point by a long shot. If they cannot find a way to put a motor in the buggy, they will go the same way as the buggy.

 

And they are.

 

The writing is on the wall, writ large for all to see.

 

What is the ratio in  a movie theater audience between people who have read the book, and people who thought the movie sounded pretty good?  40:1? That would be my guess. After opening night when the diehard fans have all weighed in on which was better, the movie or the book, you are left with an audience of non-book reading movie goers who outnumber the readers 40:1.

 

If it’s not 40:1, it’s still pretty damn big.

 

Why do people prefer movies?

 

  • Time: It takes two hours – reading books takes a lot longer
  • Interactivity: It’s a social experience – reading books is solitary
  • Presentation: The grammar is visual and welcoming, not formal and alienating
  • Narration: Movies are almost always told with multiple narrators, from multiple perspectives and time is malleable through the use of dissolves, cuts, flashbacks – we can move around a visual world with ease.

 

Rather than appeal to this group who prefer visual packaging, publishers simply ignore them and write endless editorials about how average people today are illiterate, ignorant imbeciles who reject the intellectual difficulty reading poses. Instead, they all chase the same slice of the market, which is shrinking by the day. College educated customers who do not feel alienated by formal grammatical rules and structures.  It may comfort line editors to see all the verb tenses agree, but it comforts CUSTOMERS to see their own ways of speaking and being reflected on the page, and not just in the fucking dialogue.

 

Publishers are essentially sneering grammar Nazis perfecting a new and better buggy, praying those damn automobile things just go away. They are not going away. And if publishers can’t get their shit sorted out, they too will become extinct, at least in the form we see them now.

 

Publishers sell entertainment. They sell stories. It doesn’t matter what damn format the story comes in: thin slices of trees are just one option. The most common way that stories popularized by publishers are consumed is in movie format. Books made into movies have far more movie ticket buyers than thin slices of tree buyers.

 

All hope is not lost, though. There are writers out there who know how to capitalize on audience preference for visual storytelling: graphic novels and manga comics have exploded for precisely this reason. Publishers seems to grasp the importance of this market and are publishing more and more of these visual books every year. But they need to make the next big leap into altering text-based books to match the desires of the people with money who will spend it, if the product meets their conditions.

 

martian

 

This brings me to Andy Weir’s The Martian. Andy originally published his story, chapter by chapter, on his blog, using feedback from his commenters to correct technical errors and move the story forwards. Eventually, a sufficient number of readers requested a Kindle version of the story be made available and Andy put it up at Amazon for the lowest price Amazon would allow: $0.99. The book sold like crazy, landing Andy both a traditional book deal and a film deal within days of one another. The book is a virtuoso performance of scientific information and entertainment that is well worth your read, although I will bet all the money in the world that far more people will buy movie tickets than will ever buy the book.

 

movies

 

Visual story-telling is preferred.

 

Why did Andy succeed with this venture? Let’s go back to my original list:

 

  • Time: Reading one chapter at a time was a small, weekly investment
  • Interactivity: Readers commented and chatted with each other via his blog
  • Presentation: Extremely technical scientific jargon was simplified and distilled so that non-scientifically literate people could understand it with ease
  • Narration: The book includes multiple narrators in multiple locations and uses dramatic irony (when you know something the characters don’t) to great effect.

 

Andy was able to create a product that successfully competed with television and other forms of serial story-telling, and add all the other features that make visual storytelling so compelling into his text based product. Kindle now offers a serial story-telling option for publishing on Amazon, because this tool is so engaging and attractive to modern audiences, who, contrary to traditional publishers assumptions are not illiterate, ignorant or stupid.   I would argue that modern consumers of stories are more sophisticated than book readers, because they demand information in a format that offers more than simply words on a page.

 

Modern consumers of stories want to participate in the story in a way that can be experienced viscerally and immediately.

 

Andy showed one way that authors can meet the demands of this new, sophisticated audience. I am reminded of my International Strategy professor who had two famous maxims he reminded us of every single class:

  1. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate

  2. Don’t bring dead kittens

     

The first one is self-explanatory, and a huge part of the reason I am taking this action. I’m attempting to negotiate the outcome I want, and if it fails, I will have no one to blame but myself. Fair enough. I am a firm believer in meritocracy and capitalism and I think properly functioning markets do what they are intended to do: allow the cream to rise. Am I cream? I’ll find out soon enough.

 

The second one has to do with solutions. Identifying flaws and analyzing problems is not what MBA students are trained to do: we are trained to bring solutions. A brilliant summary of problems and challenges with no solutions is more commonly known as whining. That is what undergraduate business majors are trained to do. Note the problems and then let the better trained work out the solutions.

 

Andy created his own solution, but here are a few other solutions publishers (and authors) should be considering – back to that list again.

Time

An average movie takes just over two hours to watch. A long movie is three hours. Anything longer than three hours and you need to split that into two movies because chugging a large iced tea and sitting for three hours generally surpasses human bladder capacity.

The average reader reads between 250 – 300 wpm. If you are competing for that two to three hour window of time (and you are), then your book can run from 30 000 words (2 hrs at 250 wpm) to 54 000 (3 hrs at 300 wpm). The industry standard is 250 words per page, so you are looking at a book that runs from 120 pages to 216 pages max.

 

Traditional publishing wants a minimum of 60 000 words to consider a book a novel and the upper limit can be huge. Where do these numbers come from? Who the fuck cares? They don’t work anymore. There are tons of great books out there that are under 216 pgs, but what publishers don’t seem to get is that the short read is likely part of what made them popular!

reading

 

You have two hours on a plane. Which book do you choose? The 120 pg one or the 560 page one?  Which one will successfully compete with the in-flight entertainment?

 

Interactivity

You don’t need a blog to create interaction with readers, although I would guess that it helps a lot, and I would highly recommend it. The Amazon review section allows for some reader feedback and perhaps that is sufficient, but some sort of social media interaction should be standard for meeting the needs of sophisticated readers who want to influence how the story develops. Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram – who cares? Just give readers a platform to comment and interact either with you, or with each other.

 

Presentation

Forget about the “rules” for writing novels. Fuck grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, narration – don’t ever read a “how to write” book ever. However you speak, spell, use commas (if you use them at all) or what narrative voice you choose, conforming those mannerisms to what the Eggheads In Charge have decreed as “correct” means you lose the most vital thing you can possibly have in the cacophony of voices all trying to be heard:  you lose your authenticity. If your normal speaking and writing voice doesn’t give a shit about present or past tense (most of us don’t, in actual fact), don’t try to hammer your writing into a voice that isn’t really yours. Fuck the Grammar Police! Your story will attract those who are like you, and when they see their own ways of speaking and talking and being, reflected on the page, you will automatically create a connection with your readers. Copy editors are a very distinct group of people: mostly white, with Masters Degrees in Creative Writing and a low tolerance for Rebels Without a Comma. Fuck them all.  You do you. The grammarians will hate your book but who cares? Grammarians are not representative of most people. We are going after the average person who really doesn’t give a fuck how a semi-colon is used.

 

Narration

Again, fuck the rules here. It doesn’t matter if your story is told in first person, second person, third person or any combination of these voices. Moses did not come down from Mount Sinai with tablets inscribed thou shalt select one narrative voice and use it consistently. This is a rule some uptight editor with a pencil up his ass decided on, and you are free to turn your back on this rule and use whatever goddamn voice you like. You can even insert your own authorial voice from time to time, commenting on what your characters are doing and if you think that sounds like crazy bad advice, consider that Jane fucking Austen used authorial voice and she is generally considered one of the finest novelists to ever have lived. The pencil up the ass guy was apparently born after her, or he would have ripped those lines out of Pride and Prejudice and we would all be the worse off for it.

 

Visual mediums almost always have multiple narrators. Points of view change swiftly. We can read cuts and edits and dissolves and fades and every other trick of cinema and still know where we are in space and time and there is no reason not to embrace this in text-based story-telling. The publishers may not like it because Different! Strange! New! Eeeeek! But an audience accustomed to visual storytelling is totally, absolutely, 100% comfortable with it.

 

So here I am 2300 words into this long scribe and about to get to the point. Are you still with me? Did my words and all the nice pictures successfully compete with whatever else might have be on offer for your time today?

 

Good. I’m on the right track then.

 

I am publishing my second novel, called The Fitness Test in serial format on a Pay Per View blog. Relax, it’s only $0.99 per chapter or you can buy all 30 chapters up front for $14.99. If you think the book sucks, you’re only out $0.99. I will publish a new chapter every Friday, and I will be taking all your comments and observations into account as I start revising the book. I will be publishing under Janet Bloomfield to shield my first book from my many harassers.

 

Let me tell you first about the story. I originally planned it from the perspective of the father, but my 12 year daughter, who is an avid reader of YA fiction, encouraged me to flip it, and tell the story from the perspective of the 16 year old daughter. It worked surprisingly well to make her the main character, and it turns out that blogging for these past two years has made me somewhat of an expert on who she is.

domes

 

16 year old Lowin Sorrow lives in a domed city in post-apocalyptic North America where the citizens literally believe the Darwinian maxim that only the strongest survive. When her father uncovers corruption at the highest levels of government, Lowin’s life is blown apart and she discovers a world outside the domed city where survival has very little to do with fitness and everything to do with who, and what you know.

 

Here is a visual representation of what the book is about:

gattaca

plus

 

blade runner

 

plus

 

manchurian

 

plus

 

gone girl

 

plus

 

hunger games

 

Lowin is an entitled, narcissistic, self-absorbed, vain, cruel and utterly clueless young woman who can take any situation and make it about herself. She can simultaneously see herself as the most privileged person in her world, and at the same time, bemoan how cruel and unfair life is to her. Lowin is always the victim. She is incapable of seeing the world from any vantage point but her own.

 

After two years of blogging, I now realize that Lowin is a feminist. She would never use that word, but she embodies all of the vanity, cruelty, stupidity and obliviousness of modern feminists. She is Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti, Zerlina Maxwell, Anita Sarkeesian and Amanda Hess all rolled into one, given the power of life and death.

 

She is a horrible person.

 

And she is going to do some horrible things.

 

volunteer

 

I am looking now for volunteers to help me to construct a particular physical space. I would like to put out a call to engineers, architects, search and rescue specialists, firefighters, police officers, soldiers, hobbyists and any other interested parties to join me in a Skype chat where we can discuss a physical space I need. Ideally, I would like this to be a graphic chapter, where the environment is represented visually as in graphic novels, but given that this may take considerable time to put together, I am perfectly willing to craft the space using words.

 

I know all the key things that need to happen in this chapter. I have chapters 1 through 7 ready to go, and chapters 9 through 17, and all the others are planned out in detail.

 

If you are interested in the Skype chat, email me at Janet@AVoiceForMen.com with the subject line SKYPE CHAT.

 

kittens

 

Let’s see what we can negotiate. And how many kittens we can keep alive.

 

http://www.thefitnesstest.net

 

Lots of love,

 

JB

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