The Nameless Horror

To Charity And Beyond!

There are nearly 50 writers contributing to this, all of whom are on Twitter and Facebook and and all the rest, so I imagine many of you will have seen a billion posts on this today - sorry - but all-proceeds-to-charity antho Off The Record 2: At The Movies is out today. According to Luca it clocks in at nearly 120,000 words so it’s a proper e-brick of a thing for a mere couple of quid, and features stories from a raft of awesome writers including but not limited to Steve Mosby, Will Carver, Claire McGowan, Matt Hilton, Helen Fitzgerald, Stav Sherez, Andrez Bergen and some chancer going under the name Sean Cregan. Every story, so the theme goes, has to be the title of a movie, and there’s some cool ones picked.

We got copies to proof-read a few days ago and the stuff I’ve read so far has been absolutely top notch. There’s some really strong work in there. And mine.

My contribution - which will obviously be THE BEST ONE - is The City Of Lost Children (I was tempted by Surf Nazis Must Die but went all serious instead). The opening paragraph is:

It is 11:05. Jenny stands at the junction near the little row of empty cafés. The big clock on the tower across Evergreen Park tells her it is 11:05, and since neither she nor most of the other kids in the City have a watch, she has come to rely on it. As she does at 11:05 every day, in this place without true days, she stands there and watches the ghosts, hoping with all her heart, as she does at 11:05 every day, that this time she will see her parents.

To read the rest, buy the book. Everything it makes after the distributor’s cut goes to two children’s literacy charities. And it’s good. Relentlessly grim, but good.

Yet, although the literary community – in the broadest sense – is part of this paradigm shift, it is odd, and slightly baffling, how little reference is made to it in poetry, drama or fiction. Jeanette Winterson published The Powerbook in 2000, exploiting emails as a genre. In India, Chetan Bhagat (One Night @ the Call Center) and Aravind Adiga (The White Tiger) have flirted with the socio-economic impact of the new technology on Indian life. Otherwise, I cannot think (perhaps readers can help out here) of a contemporary scene or character whose narrative or development owes much, if anything, to the new technology.

Apparently, Robert McCrum is reading very different books than I am.

And ignoring the here/gone dynamic in online services making mentions dated overnight (MySpace, anyone?).

And quoting Baroness Greenfield on computers, which is a bit like asking a frothing Puritan to give sensible, considered opinion about fornication.

It’s an accident that I’m alive. Every day since this was burned in my eye at age 13 has been, as they say where I come from, lagniappe:

Mrs. Reese’s First Period Reading class. Roll call. Settling noises. I’m drawing Aquaman’s new costume on the marble-textured inside flap of my green folder. I have drawn it four times, when a firecracker goes off behind me and my hair stands on end and my neck feels hot.

Book trailers are, as Chuck points out, mostly failures. This, the second one for his Miriam Black series (the first one at the link above is worth a chuckle-y watch too), is, IMO, very, very good. Completely the way to go. (His choice explained at the link above.)

Helps to have a friend with a gravelly voice, of course.

Again, Really?

I hate linking to him, but Joe Konrath shows just how good at research he is:

The NSPHP [the no-sock puppeting signatories] built a carefully constructed case showing how these writers [Leather, Ellory, Locke] damaged publishing.

Oh, wait. No they didn’t. They simply accused and denounced.

Oh wait. No they didn’t. Leather admitted what he did in public. The case against Ellory was amply demonstrated by Jeremy Duns. Locke was exposed by the man he bought reviews from in the NYT.

But at least they clearly defined “underhanded tactics” and explained in detail how they are illegal and immoral.

Oh, wait. What the trio did wasn’t illegal.

First point: nowhere in the open letter is the word “illegal” used. “Fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large” are the terms used, and fraudulent has a meaning beyond the law. Joe is attacking a straw man.

Second point: Locke I can’t speak for, since he’s American. What Ellory and Leather did is (probably; IANAL) illegal in the UK under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. It is illegal for a business to act as though it is one of its own customers or to actively deceive customers in a way that is likely to affect their purchasing decisions.

And there was no posted debate, no public discussion whatsoever of their actions (in fact, discussion in the comments is discouraged and comments encouraging debate have been removed).

And there was. It was, in fact, hard to avoid it on Twitter at the time. And public discussion after the fact has been rife. Comments encouraging debate - specifically a YouTube clip from 1984 posted by Barry Eisler - were removed by David Hewson (who arranged the site’s hosting) because the sign up site thing wasn’t the place for it; there are plenty of other options.

But surely they have proof that many other authors are doing this as well. I mean, you don’t suddenly post a call to arms unless this is a deeply rooted, widespread problem, right?

Oh, wait. There is no proof. Only assumptions.

Since Locke’s paid-for review guy successfully sold several thousand reviews on Amazon, and since this is far from the first time a writer’s been caught, no, wait, there’s proof.

So the NSPHP judged three authors, convicted them without any trial or allowing the authors any defense…

Locke was exposed in the NYT. Leather exposed himself (fnar) - and was, lest we forget, banned from Amazon’s forums for this sort of business long before any of this came to light. Ellory had the opportunity to respond and did so by apologising. No one’s been locked in a gulag or had their internet access and right to reply revoked.

… and then took the moral high ground by shaming them publicly, denouncing their acts without any attempt to dissect or understand those acts…

No attempt to dissect or understand? I can only assume Joe doesn’t read, oh, any part of the internet. And let me say again, only Ellory was “shamed” on the internet by other writers.

… and then shamelessly begged readers for reviews.

Meaning the last paragraph in the letter? Which encourages people to put up their honest opinions because the more of those there are, the harder it’ll be for fake ones to have an impact? But making it sound like those involved in drafting it were begging for good reviews of their own work?

Class work.

I much prefer debate to name calling.