Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Cloudy and cold
Tenth Day of Christmas
Not a good dream last night, which means October will be rough. Oh, well. Maybe I can figure it out in time to make it smoother.
Yesterday, I was basically a waste of food. I got a lot done administratively, but not creatively. I felt about as creative as wilted lettuce. I managed to get in some MOBY DICK rehearsal, but the writing did not go well.
Which means I have to make up for it today.
I was so frustrated yesterday with reading. I’m so tired of dipshit, dumbed-down protagonists who can’t handle more than a half a glass of wine — white, no less! — without getting “sleepy”, put people’s lives in danger because they’re “too tired” to make a simple phone call, don’t learn from their mistakes, and, live in narrow-minded towns where you wish a serial killer would come in and wipe out a good portion of the population.
I want strong, intelligent, sassy, resourceful protagonists with a solid learning curve. I want to see diverse communities that are actually working together to build a better world. There’s plenty of drama in that, and plenty of obstacles.
By narrowing the formula, making it more and more restrictive, the big publishers are giving their readers permission to laugh AT protagonists instead of WITH them, and to say it’s “normal” to live in communities full of beastly people who hate anyone different. Basically, publishers are encouraging everything the Narcissistic Sociopath stands for, and telling people it’s okay to be narrow-minded and hateful.
People learn more from fiction than nonfiction. If we want a better world, it has to first start appearing in our fiction.
Simon & Schuster gave that disgusting, hateful What’s-His-Face a quarter of a million dollar book contract. Now, saying that S&S “shouldn’t” publish him is a form of censorship. If we are going to have free speech, that extends to speech with which we disagree. What we can do — unless we’re paid reviewers — is to refuse to purchase the book, if we want to send a message to the publisher. I won’t buy the book — I’ve heard what that creep has to say, and I both disagree and have no intention of lining his wallet.
I don’t know why anyone is surprised that S&S gave him a contract. Years ago, when I worked in publishing, in the industry, the nickname was “Shyster & Shyster”. That’s how they were referred to at book events or in the bar. They were known for having less than stellar contracts and treating their staff worse than other companies. Again, that was years ago; I think all staffs in publishing houses are suffering now.
Corporations can’t create art, which is why we need a renaissance of small publishers. Not necessarily self/indie publishers, unless those authors have the craft or are willing to pay the money for actual, talented editors (some do, and some put out excellent work). But small, old-school publishers who love books and give individual attention to every release on their list. Books need a chance to grow an audience, not rely on “pre-sales”. It wasn’t until I worked in a library until I realized how much all these “lists” are manipulated. Books need to grown an audience over time.
Do you even remember last week’s bestseller list? Can you recite it from memory? When was the last time you LIKED, really LIKED something that got a lot of buzz? I thought ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE and GIRL ON A TRAIN were well done and interesting. But the majority of books on the majority of lists haven’t resonated with me in the last several years. In fact, several of them have been beyond disappointing, they lack so much craft you wonder how they got their in the first place.
So how do you find good books? People whose opinions you trust. Readers tend to congregate with other readers. Librarians who actually read. I was shocked, once I worked in a library, when some of my colleagues claimed not to have “time” to read. Part of the job, people, especially with so many hours cut back. Reliable review publications who PAY THEIR REVIEWERS and where the reviews show a sense of craft, skill, and good writing, not just a book report. Preferably written by people who have an understanding of good writing and good storytelling. An actual, critical review is a honed skill. Everyone has an opinion and a right to their opinion. But an actual REVIEW, that is useful on more than one level, goes far beyond that.
A publication which charges authors for reviews can’t be trusted. Before you take a review seriously, find out if the review was bought, or if it’s an honest review.
At least one review publication has stated they will not review books put out by S&S in 2017. That is their right. They get to choose to whom they give space. Is it the fault of the other authors in the stable that S&S offered the contract? Of course not. I don’t get to tell my publishers and editors who else to publish. I’m an employee.
If the situation is so intolerable I can’t stand it, I get to leave, if I choose. But I don’t get to dictate who they do and don’t publish.
The way to put pressure on the publisher is not to buy the book.
Some people will do that by not buying ANYTHING by the publisher. I think it’s more effective if you simply refuse to put your money on the particular volume that you don’t like. Encourage them to publish books by ethical, insightful authors who do their research. Buy fiction that makes the world a better place. Reject the hatemongers.
I have to admit that I put a book back on the shelf the other day that I considered buying. It was non-fiction; I was not particularly familiar with the author or the author’s credentials. The publisher was S&S. I put the book back because I don’t trust that S&S will have done any fact-checking. Until I know more about the author, and whether the author actually deals in facts and reliable sources, I’m not going to shell out for the book.
That is MY choice. I get to practice conscientious consumerism — which, once I get the GDR file rewritten and up, you will see is one of my resolutions for this year.
If the knee-jerk response is that a publisher “can’t” publish something — well, eventually, someone will say they “can’t” publish something YOU agree with, too. It has to be a level playing field. Freedom of speech, whether you agree or not. When you don’t agree, come up with a reasoned argument backed by facts and evidence, and also practice conscientious consumerism. Free speech is different than incitement and hate mongering. Incitement and hate mongering are the abuse of free speech “Free” speech comes with responsibility, and the knowledge that words have weight and power, so you must choose your words wisely and practice your freedom responsibly. “Free” has far more layers than “I can do and say anything I want”. It also has consequences. The speaker/writer must take responsibility instead of simply stating, “I can say whatever I want.” It’s a sticky wicket — if you support the First Amendment, you must support the right of those with whom you disagree to have their say. Where that becomes hate speech/incitement is an ever-changing line. If you silence someone else, then someone will try to silence you in turn. What you can do is not support hate speech and refuse to be incited.
I will not purchase that book. If I am paid by a legitimate publication to review it, I will read it and give my honest opinion on it. Since I rarely review non-fiction for the publications for whom I work, I doubt that will happen. However, without reading the book, I also cannot engage in reasoned debate about it once it comes out. If it becomes a central issue in my writing or personal life, I will have to read it. But I sure as heck won’t spend my hard-earned money on it. I will use the resources of the library — the sanctuary where ALL diverse reading is encouraged without judgment. If the book does not become a debate central to my work and life, I will ignore it and concentrate on publications that are.
There are plenty of things I WANT to read that are relevant to my life.
On a happier note, “The Ghost of Lockesley Hall” got a five star review yesterday, which was very much appreciated. The things the reviewer criticized and wanted more of were all valid, and things that I felt, too, and the fact that the piece merited five stars anyway was gratifying.
I got a late start today. I better get going, or I’ll never catch up.
I started, this morning, a wonderful book: GOLD WEB by Vicky Delany. Grabbed me from the first paragraph, as a book should. I’m a big fan of her Constable Molly Smith books. If you haven’t read that series, I highly recommend it. This is not part of it — this is an historical mystery in the Klondike. But it’s damn good.