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[personal profile] chipotle

I haven’t done an update for Claw & Quill in a bit, but I did promise I’d make occasional ones. This will be the last “open” one, though—if you’re interested in seeing future highly-occasional progress reports, you’ll have to ask to be put on the filter. (Those of you who asked last time should already be on it.)

So far the only public information I’ve put up is just the placeholder page, which at the moment describes C&Q with,

The new Claw & Quill intends to be a community site for fantasy and science fiction writing. There will be a bias toward anthropomorphic themes and urban fantasy, but no formal content restriction.

[ profile] poetigress immediately noted that this suggests I’m aiming at an sf/fantasy site that allows furry stuff, rather than an anthropomorphic site where non-furry stuff is allowed. (I’m not even open and I’m controversial! Go me!) While I replied back then in a way that hopefully wasn’t too hand-wavy, her basic point is that shying away from “furry” (even if we go by the less jargony name “anthropomorphic”) because of the baggage associated with it is counterproductive if you want to see the baggage go away, or at least be reduced to a point where it’s a comfortable size for carry-ons.

I’m opening with this little note in part to see what other people think, and also because I think that she’s right. This makes me think about the way Renard’s Menagerie seemed to be targeted—trying to expand beyond the fandom by, for practical purposes, ducking it. This ties in with a comment I recall from Jeff Eddy, Sofawolf’s publisher, on one of my posts a while ago where I suggested that furry ‘zines needed to avoid “inbreeding” by soliciting and advertising outside the fandom:

In soliciting submissions on the mainstream writers’ market sites we have definitely gotten some gems. […] On the other hand, we have also gotten a lot of… not gems. So not gems in some cases, but more often than not just yawn-inspiring. Ultimately I have come to a few conclusions:

  1. The fandom is, on balance, pretty good at what we do. I think the mainstream can come up with a good talking animal sotry, but it seems that most writers have only one of these in them. Not being steeped in the “culture” they tend to view them as oddities and one-offs and never write another.

  2. The fandom is also pretty selective, at least the part of the fandom willing to drop money on a non-adult title. Since the furry market is also (our) main source of income you have to keep that in mind. Any attempt to forge out into the mainstream has to be launched from a position of strength. As such, I found myself turning down stories on the basis of, “This is pretty well done and is probably very innovative to mainstream markets, but here in the talking-animal fandom it’s cliché.”

Assuming that this is all correct—and I think it is—it’s not too surprising that RM folded recently. Of course, Sofawolf has trouble getting enough material from the fandom to keep magazines going, and I confess that’s part of why I’m still a little concerned about trying to position C&Q as “the premiere furry story site”: it seems to me there’s a non-zero risk that being the premiere furry story site is like being the best left-handed pool player in New Jersey. It’s not that it’s a meaningless distinction, but in and of itself it only gets you so far.

Not too surprisingly, things have been a bit slow due to the holidays, but before I got stuck in Christmas mode I did a lot of database design work. While the design work is probably only meaningful to the nerdiest among you, here’s a link to the EER Diagram as it currently exists:

That was created in a currently Windows-only program called MySQL Workbench, which again is more detail than most of you need—but if you do database design work, it’s worth looking into: it generated the SQL necessary to create that database, with proper foreign key constraints, from that diagram.

Beyond the database work, I’ve laid out some other infrastructure; C&Q has its own bug tracking system, version control repository, and other happy geek buzzwords. I’m starting to implement it in CakePHP, a web framework I worked with in my last job and that I mock a lot—but it’s pretty good at what it needs to be. I have very little actual code written yet and I may switch to another framework (possibly CodeIgniter), but the window for that decision is closing.

There’s a lot that isn’t set yet, of course—some of which relates to policy more than implementation. I’ll bat around those things next post (for which you’ll need to be on the C&Q filter, remember), but I’ll leave with another graphic: a mockup idea for the front page.

N.B.: The filter so far consists of [ profile] chipuni, [ profile] graveyardgreg, [ profile] haikujaguar, [ profile] ladyperegrine, and [ profile] poetigress. I may add people in my writing group even if they don’t ask, but I’d really rather have a direct request. (You can do it by comment here, private message, Twitter, email, IM, whatever.)

Date: 2009-01-10 00:34 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd like to be in on it, if possible. Thanks for the consideration. Bonsai-sized writer here.

Date: 2009-01-10 00:46 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm interested in seeing more.

Filter me

Date: 2009-01-10 01:11 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I should probably ask to be on the filter, seeing as this is Relevant To My InterestsTM.


Date: 2009-01-10 01:17 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd like to be on the filter, please.

Date: 2009-01-10 01:43 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would certainly like to be on the filter, if you don't mind.

So I'm curious, actually: what sort of success are you hoping to achieve with C&Q? *Do* you want to be the pre-eminent furry story site? Do you want to be a reasonably well-known sci-fi/fantasy site with a strong furry bias? What kind of community are you hoping to build with the site?

I do like the mock-up design, though I have quibbles with things like font and color. ;)


Date: 2009-01-10 02:17 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Fonts and colors aren't set yet, by any stretch; I'm mostly trying to get a workable grid-based layout in place because it's going to be helpful for coding even at this early stage. Prose will almost certainly be displayed with a serif font, but controls may be sans serif. I've been using dark red as an accent color for C&Q but that's subject to change, when and if the project gets a unifying graphic theme more advanced than "don't look like you've been hit with the ugly stick."

As for the other questions, those will probably be other posts/discussions down the road. The basic answers to the three you proposed are "yes," "yes," and "literate" respectively, but there's some room for expanding each answer there. :)

Date: 2009-01-10 01:47 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Renard's Magazine folded? How sad. I think I'm going to set my sights on your endeavor more than anything now.

Date: 2009-01-10 01:50 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Please add me to the list of folks you're keeping updated about all this.

From: [identity profile]
(menaces you with a buchner funnel and flask)

Date: 2009-01-10 02:16 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This part's probably obvious, but I'm interested both in providing feedback (when you get to that point) and editing/proofreading. The placeholder site says something about it.

Date: 2009-01-10 02:50 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So how can I use this site to make money?

Oh wait, my practical side is showing. -_-

No, actually, I'm confused because C&Q was originally going to be a webzine, wasn't it? Do you still plan to keep that feel, or is it now just a story archive that allows commentary/critique/rating?

Date: 2009-01-10 03:48 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
C&Q was a webzine initially, yes. What I've been talking about off and on for the past two years is not. Whether it's "just" a story archive will depend on a lot of factors, not the least of which will be how one chooses to look at it. I don't think it's going to have the same feel as other archive sites, however.

While there are a lot of theoretical answers (and some I have in mind), I really don't want to get into "will this make me money" yet. In future posts on the filter, I'll be batting around these issues and more, but--as tragically Web 2.0 as it may sound--getting an infrastructure in place is more important at this stage.

Date: 2009-01-10 13:35 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I understand the infrastructure need. I look forward to seeing it develop.

Date: 2009-01-10 14:58 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
See, that's a concern of mine but then I realize trying to use furry/anthropomorphic writing to make money is like attempting to take a homebrew tabletop RPG setting and get it successfully published. It's a longshot on odds which constantly and consistently are unpredictable. Whether or not the content is GOOD isn't so much important as whether the spark catches.

Oh, please put me on the list. I can even promise to send you content at some point in the distant future. NOT supporting a venture like this seems . . . counterproductive.

Date: 2009-01-10 15:18 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There's no reason you can't make money writing anthro stuff. I do.

Date: 2009-01-10 15:25 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And I know someone who made money off the tabletop material, too. I don't expect it to happen *boom* immediately for me, is all. Or even in a short term. I haven't had decent luck with the slushpiles.

Date: 2009-01-10 15:25 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sooth. Few successes happen overnight. :)

Date: 2009-01-10 15:30 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh believe me, I'm aware of that. My creative writing instructors and a couple authors have assured me it will come in time. I'm biding my time, and spending my writing time trying to get better at it. Which leads back into why I'm interested . . .

. . . it helps to get actual feedback from anywhere other than forums, and especially from editors.

Date: 2009-01-10 18:12 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Supposing that editors comment in C&Q, yes. I'm not entirely sure what the carrot is for them in the scenario; they have enough slush to read. :)

Date: 2009-01-10 09:18 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm interested in following this. I might already be on whatever filter you have, but I can't remember for certain.

Date: 2009-01-10 11:50 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love reading about stuff like this. Could I be added to the filter?

Date: 2009-01-10 17:44 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm very glad to read this. Not because you agree with me -- though I like to be agreed with as much as the next person! -- but because I'm glad to see that you're thinking about these issues. I really do think that either poor choices in this area, or not thinking it through, was a factor in RM's short run (although as I've said on my LJ, that's pure speculation on my part).

I agree with the quotes from Jeff Eddy as well. I've never talked to him about this sort of thing, but it looks like we've independently come to the same conclusions.

I still believe -- and it's always possible this may be a misplaced faith, but we'll see -- that if we can continue to promote quality within the fandom, we will be in a much better position to have works cross over from being strictly fandom to appealing to both fandom and mainstream audiences. But if we're not promoting and publishing and recognizing good work among ourselves, there's no chance of having enough foundation to then go out and be ambassadors to the larger genre community.

Definitely looking forward to seeing C&Q develop...

Date: 2009-01-10 23:09 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I should like to be added as well. I'm starting to write again, and eventually a place to deposit some of the nuggets would be handy.

Date: 2009-01-11 01:58 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hey Watts! I'd like to be on that filter, if that's okay. :)

Date: 2009-01-11 03:57 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for keeping me in this filter.

Have you tried the mockup on different-sized screens? What happens if the set of stories is larger than the illustration on the left? In particular, is there a large area of blank white space under the illustration -- or does the column of stories expand below that illustration? (I'm not sure which is worse...)

Date: 2009-01-11 11:47 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd like to be on the filter, too... being curious ;-)

Date: 2009-01-12 09:16 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd like to be in the filter, please.

Date: 2009-01-13 10:23 (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I would love to be kept in the loop on this.


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