ITEM: Actually I have no idea if it’s ‘#1’, but scrolling back to check is just too damned laborious.
ITEM: Before we move on to other stuff, any writers reading this blog with a penchant for SF/F may care to note that the mighty Interzone is currently open to e-submissions. You can email your best stories to interzone [at] ttapress [dot] com.
That was a public service announcement.
ITEM: I have recently become the proud recipient of a spam email with the subject line ‘NO COST PASS TO LOCAL PUSSIES’.
On a similar, but slightly more ridiculous note (hard as that may be to credit), on Facebook I was recently pointed at an employment opportunity as a male escort. Their algorithms are really not working very well.
ITEM: Every so often I hear people banging on about how they are proud to be British, and I can’t help but wonder why they feel that way.
Pride is something I’m not that big on any way, but if you are going to feel pride then how about for something you yourself have accomplished, not simply by virtue of an accident of birth.
Say rather that you are glad or grateful to be British, with all the privileges and advantages that accident of birth has conferred when compared to the situation for people in the great majority of other countries.
The people who had the right to feel proud, if any, were those who contributed to the factors that made this country such a good place – the founders of the NHS and the welfare state, the geniuses who drove the industrial revolution, the champions of parliamentary democracy etc.
But none of that is down to our generation. We’re simply the beneficiaries.
And I suspect that history will look back on us as the ones who took it all too much for granted, who sat around on our duffs and gossiped about Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell and all the other fatuous celebrities the media tells us we should be obsessed with, while Call-Me-Dave and his cronies piss all over the shop and sell our heritage off to their friends in the business world for the proverbial mess of pottage.
ITEM: Staying with the political theme, I find that I am divided on the matter of Scottish independence and the forthcoming referendum.
If I was Scottish, then I’m pretty sure that I would vote to dissolve the Union, simply because who ever ends up in charge of an independent Scotland can’t be as bad as the current incumbents at Westminster.
As an Englishman though, I want to keep the Union, because if the Scots leave then it reduces our chances of ever getting rid of the bloody Tories.
ITEM: On Facebook recently, in the wake of the publication of Doctor Sleep, there was a discussion of the stature of Stephen King within the horror genre.
Is he quite simply the greatest that we have ever known?
Personally, I think that there are plenty of misses within King’s oeuvre, and similarly there are plenty of people who have written better books and stories than King’s very best.
But while we might quibble about the particulars, what can’t be denied is how impressive his body of work is, in terms of size, depth, variety, epic scope, significance.
Yes, there are better horror novels than It, Carrie, The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot etc., but I don’t think there are any writers within the horror genre who have produced so many works of such high quality, books that remain true to the material and the writer’s singular vision, but also have a mass appeal.
He is our Dickens.
ITEM: A friend took her mother to see the One Direction film. She booked tickets far in advance, after being repeatedly told how popular it would be and sure to sell out.
In the event, there were only two other people in the cinema for that screening.
Petty I know, but this pleases me immensely.
ITEM: Also on Facebook and elsewhere, much discussion of Goodreads new policy regarding reviews.
I don’t have, or plan to have, a Goodreads account, so this is not a race in which I have a horse, and as a general principle I think it’s right that reviews should be based solely on the content of the book and not the author’s behaviour.
On the other hand, much of the bad behaviour has been down to authors acting out when they’ve received a negative review. With my reviewing hat on I’ve been on the receiving end of this sort of crap, and I’ve seen other reviewers – people simply doing their job, with no malice or bias – get dealt with similarly or worse.
Much of this acting out is, of course, simply anger on the part of people who’ve had no PR training and don’t know how to respond to criticism. But some of it I suspect is quite carefully calculated, with the intention to send the message to other reviewers that dissing their book may prove more trouble than it’s worth. I have no proof of this, but at times it seems like a deliberate strategy to stifle criticism through intimidating reviewers.
Of course such behaviour more often than not blows up in the offender’s face, with writers getting unenviable reputations and a possible knock on effect for sales, an incentive for many to ‘keep their noses clean’. And yet I can’t help feeling that the balance may be shifting against reviewers and, while there are still plenty of ways to get the news out there about unacceptable behaviour on the part of authors, with the change at Goodreads there is one less deterrent in place.
There are no more ivory towers, no author garrets. We live in a time when, thanks to social media, writers are interacting with their readers more than ever before. Some are developing the necessary skills to navigate in these murky waters, and others are proving themselves to be out of their depth. In this newly evolving age of publishing and self-publishing, the author is becoming as much a part of the package as the book, and while oldies like me will bemoan that change to the playing field, we may need to find new concepts of ‘customer service’ to cope.