And my first review is in...

I can't honestly thank Marn, given the (untrue) nature of the second half of review, but I'll respond to it.


The suggestion to swap chapters 1 and 2? Yeah, I chewed that over, myself, back when I wrote the first three chapters. I'm still chewing it over.


Even asked my readers early on (I started with roughly 50 readers from a prior project I did) what they thought. The unofficial and unscientific poll seems to show my readers generally preferring the current order, but it might go your way in the final edit.


I'll probably waffle with it right up until taking this thing to traditional editors to see about publishing.


Now, the thing I have to take a stance against. You claiming the story treats "minorities" in any way poorly. Opinions and weak parts of the story are one thing, but THIS I find legitimately offends me.


As a minority, I *know* what "treated poorly" looks like. Price does not do that. Well, beyond the usual "clearly bad people doing obviously bad things to people who clearly don't deserve it" that is an unfortunate fact of life in the real world and a focus of portions of this story.


But that's a different sort of thing from narrative fairness. I mean, most of the main characters are either poor, non-white, gay, or some combination of the three. The (supposedly racist and sexist) main character's love interest was Hispanic... then she was murdered by the main villain(ess).


In fact, I'd argue the story as a whole is running quite the opposite trend. Minorities (well, all types of "the disenfranchised or oppressed"- including poor whites and various ideological groups) are statistically far more likely to gain powers. Kind of a bias favoring second class citizens in the narrative.


Yes, I grant Zach is meant to be immature and crude and not entirely likable and... well, not so much 'sexist' as 'thinking with the wrong head', and you don't have to like him. I don't necessarily want you to.


But he never actually *says* or *does* anything sexist (except once, to someone who's an enemy, to deliberately piss her off). He's treated all not-enemy female characters he's dealt with respectfully (while mentally undressing them 'cause he's a perv like that) and done everything in his power to treat everyone (except his enemies, those people suck) nicely.


I'd like you to edit your review to make that clear. As it stands, you're stating as fact things that never happened the text. Which makes the character look like he's doing something wrong and getting away with it, when he's never actually done anything more than *think* something wrong. Which is both not a crime, and generally impossible to punish someone for.


And when did anyone, let alone Laura, ever mirror his opinions? Maybe it's a failure to convey information correctly, but I'm pretty sure that never happened. Aside one other guy in school offering (poor) advice on women that even Zach clearly disagreed with.


As for implying my story was racist... that one, I'm going to take actual offense on. To quote your review:



No, that's not a "fact", and I would like you to retract that statement.


By failing to include the fact that the most troublesome gang for Zach to deal with is the white one, it implies a racial tone to the story borders on slander. You don't have to like the inclusion of gang politics in the story, but your statement implies that there are ONLY black and Hispanic gangs involved, when in fact there are also white and mixed race gangs.


For that matter, the black (and other) gangs were described as "small and lacking real power" in the story. Only Los Fieles (Hispanic) and Lightbringer (white) are described as big enough to push any weight around in the school.


Now, if you want to accuse me of treating *all* the gang members, regardless of their race or affiliation, as stock characters... yeah, that's fair enough... they're more there as fact-of-life/minor-complication (based mainly on my own experiences) than truly fleshed characters... but please don't imply the white ones don't get exactly the same treatment.


Call them 'stock', sure. That's fair and I'll even consider it accurate, if unkind, since not all characters CAN be given complex dynamics in story without hurting story flow. Don't call them 'black and Hispanic'.


racism and sexism cannot be done without somebody seeing it as racist or sexist, especially after the last three years of online politics.


Just try to make sure your clarifications aren't in your posts and are in the story, because you keep insisting out side the story rather than put it in there.


I don't listen to Developer commentary for Lore on LoL or HL2. I read that after the story is over.


It's really not easy to put it in, without being a preachy after school special. I establish the equality more or less in the "hey, look, a lot of people are assholes- and there are assholes of every creed and color" alongside "hey, look, some people are good- and they're good people of every creed and color".


I'd rather trust my readers to see that than pollute the storytelling by cramming "the more you know" messages into it.


Unfortunately, some people, once they see one skin color//whatever, stop paying attention to everything else.


... Actually... next chapter deals with extra special controversial topic! Well, "deals with" is wrong... no magical solutions happen or anything, because my story's not that kind of story. But at least in the sense of "it happens, and it's not funny or okay".


Now I'm curious. I'll give your serial a whirl and post my own review. It will be fair and balanced but I can't promise anything more than that.


Mind waiting for a bit? Like I said, next chapter's pretty heavy. I think it's dealt with in... well, as well as the characters involved *can* deal with it. But I treat it as serious.


And I don't even care about "balanced"- fair is enough for me.


Also, please don't be overly sensitive. My front page says it all. "Ye of delicate sensibilities, turn back now"- and I mean that. I do deal with subjects of racism and racial tension, abuse of all manner, sexuality and more.


And I rarely do it in a "race relations movie" sort of way, where the entire show is about that subject. I usually do it in a "sadly, this is the reality of the world, pity it isn't better" sort of way.


Let me start off by saying that I apologize for any discomfort my review may have caused you. However, as a woman and a member of a few minorities myself, I could not simply review your story without speaking up about the way the narration made me feel. I too understand what being treated poorly feels like. I never meant to imply that Zach is, at his core, racist or sexist, but there were instances in the text that made me highly uncomfortable about the way the narrative as a whole treats minority characters.


When I referred to "stock" gang members, I was referring specifically to the Hispanic gang, Los Fieles, and the gang members Zach interacts with in Chapter Seven. A villainous gang of Hispanics struck me as...a bit of a racist trope, I suppose. And some of the gang members Zach encounters in Chapter Seven are referred to only as "two different clusters of blacks". The white gang is glossed over as "skinheads". Granted, Zach does interact with a black gang member in that chapter, but that black gang member is never given a name, or a personality beyond offering Zach drugs. And, like I said in my review, Zach judging Ferne to be "some kind of Asian mix, if only from her figure" just did not sit well with me. I'm not saying that some of your white characters don't get the same treatment from Zach, but I am saying that he doesn't exactly feel the need to state their race every time he notices something about a white character.


Also, to respond to your question of when Laura mirrors Zach's opinions of women: in her Chapter 6 interlude, she thinks to herself that Erica would "tease" Zach by wearing "some of her sluttiest outfits when visiting" him. I totally understand that none of the characters ever act on these thoughts or express them out loud, but the fact is, as you've said yourself, Zach is mentally undressing just about every female character he comes across instead of thinking of them with respect. That made Zach a protagonist I couldn't get behind, and was a detriment to my reading experience. I never said that he was "getting away" with anything, but it did make me uncomfortable to stick with him as a narrator, as he's the sort of person I wouldn't even hang around in real life. It's also kind of strange that he's looking at other women like this when the wound of his girlfriend's rape and subsequent death should still be fresh in his mind.


Speaking of Erica, Zach's girlfriend, you mention in your post above that she is Hispanic. I actually didn't pick that up from the story - I admit I must have missed it - but it also seems like a non-issue, because she is dead before she is even brought up for the first time in Chapter One. She is more of a plot device than a character, a driving force for Zach and part of his "origin story" as a superhero. Indeed, the news about her is what triggers him into getting superpowers. I felt it a little insensitive that she was treated in this way, and that her rape and murder were continually brought up in order to emphasize Zach's pain, as though the torture of Erica was only salt in his own wounds. This is an issue that, unfortunately, most mainstream superhero stories tend to suffer from.


Just because your protagonists belong to minorities doesn't mean the narration treats them well - look at books like Eleanor and Park, for example, which features a half-Korean protagonist and still exoticifies him and presents Korean characters to the reader in exceedingly racist ways. As another commenter said, your clarifications about the way your story is supposed to be read should be present in the story itself, and not in your posts about the story. I actually think that it's possible to include instances of racism or sexism in your writing without sounding like an after-school special, but it does have to be done with a lot of sensitivity, and the reader should come away from it feeling as though the racism or sexism was condemned in some manner. Reviews, thus, are a good way to learn what your readers may or may not be comfortable with, and to take those opinions into account when moving forwards.


Once again, I'm sorry if my review caused you distress, but my only intention was to make my deliver my honest opinion, and hopefully help you determine where there was room for improvement. I wish you and your serial only the best as you continue to write it.


I don't feel 'uncomfortable'- there are few things in this world that make me feel uncomfortable. Angry, annoyed, disgusted, sure... but uncomfortable? Nah. I'm saving all of that for when I first hear "you're going to be a grandpa!"


The problem is, I feel you have functionally slandered my story. Discomfort has nothing to do with it.


And the villainous gang of Hispanics MAY be a bit of a trope... I'll grant that... but don't forget there are also villainous gangs of other ethnicities, as well as non-ethnic villainous gangs dealt with in the story.


Simple facts of life, at least in these United States- gangs are criminal organizations that usually orient themselves around race. I will NOT ignore this fact to protect easily upset people from being upset. That's what the "ye of delicate sensibilities, turn back now" is for. Your review only has problems with me doing this for the Hispanic gang- no problem with me treating the White gang exactly the same way.


Between the two of us, THAT sounds legitimately racist to me.


"Slutty" is the clearest way to describe. Have you never used off color comments between friends? I, and lots of others, do it all the time. Actually, my girlfriend regularly calls me a slut... so did one of my ex boyfriends. Heh. (We broke up for unrelated reasons.) I can change it to something like 'trashy' if you prefer?


And my narration treats races as interchangeable. I'll grant the gangs don't see enough action to be called people- but that's true of every gang. I don't want you to take down your review. I don't want you to necessarily like the story. I made it clear my story was not for those of delicate sensibilities (which you apparently are)...


What I'm asking is for you to remove the parts that are slander from your post. Acknowledge that I treat ALL gangs, of EVERY race, with equal lack of fleshing out. And make it clear that Zach never does anything wrong to anyone except people he dislikes because he thinks they're assholes, regardless of their background. Don't post a review that implies I treat any one race or gender any different than any other race or gender- I do not.


You can DISLIKE how I treat them. That's fine. But don't dishonestly portray me as treating one as better than another when I very clearly do not.


Fun fact- I roll dice, weighted by demographics, to determine every last character. Laura and Zach are white, because dice. Genders, too, no less. AND sexualities. Zach had a 50% chance of having a vagina (she still woulda been a perv and swooning over Alex hard since I rolled the character as firmly hetero camp'). Her motives over avenging Erica would have been somewhat different. Glad it didn't turn out that way, but there for the flip of a coin.


Erica's Hispanic because dice- didn't roll for her gender, granted. Kitten's a shapeshifter, so her actual everything remains unknown- but I know what dice I rolled. Ferne- dice, Alex- dice, save for gender.


I've changed my review, and I think it further clarifies the points I am trying to make about Price, as well as clearing up some wording that you seemed to take offense to. My reviews tend to get a little colloquial sometimes, so I think a lot of what you took as me saying as "fact" was just a misunderstanding. Hope what I was trying to say makes more sense now! Again, my apologies for any hard feelings you may have, and best of luck to you as you continue your writing journey.


For the record, I just read the review and to me it all reads as the reviewer's opinion. Fair comment, in other words.



I'm closing this thread. If you have further questions, our contact information is available in the "info & submissions" section.


Chris


Edit: I was posting while @Marn was editing, apparently. Both versions of the review seemed fair comment, to me.