Monday, April 4, 2011

The ABM is fired

I've been writing. That is, I have been in the depths of my own brain, with occasional excursions to the Bishops' Wars and to the Fenland Riots, and to the Witch Panic. This is not actually a comfortable or relaxing tour, but it is full of incident.
I can sort of see the end of this book, if I stand on my tiptoes and squint. I'm hoping to have all the holes filled in within a couple of weeks.

So every now and then I stick my head out to see what's up with teh intarwebz, which almost always results in my staying up too late reading FandomWank or something similar. Is it my imagination, or has there been a marked increase in Authors (and Publishers) Behaving Badly over the past few months?
I mean, just on OTF (Other than Fandom) Wank, there's been (the ironically named) Chivalry Bookshelf ripping off its authors; Decadent Publishing getting over-excited over some nasty sockpuppet reviews; First One Publishing wanting $150 to take all your rights; and most recently the J Howett meltdown over a mixed review.
More fun threads on Absolute Write, in the forums, but if I look for them I'll be up all night.

Responding to a negative review is such a poor idea that it's called the Author's Big Mistake, or ABM. (Paul Fussell is credited with inventing the term) Back in the day when print was all, authors and reviewers would carry on feuds slowly, over weeks, through the book review sections and letter columns of newspapers. It was made even more fun by the likelihood that reviewers and authors were likely colleagues, published by the same presses and reviewing in the same newspapers and journals. So an angry author might have the chance for sweet revenge by reviewing his enemy's book (and being paid for the review, too).
Yeah, the fact that everyone knew it was a bad idea didn't stop highly-educated, literate and eloquent people from doing it. Some very classy invective was produced this way--but again, if I look for it I'll be up all night.
Wait, Jane Smith's brill blog How Publishing Really Works has a terrif rundown on the classics here.

The internet has made it possible not only to carry on such a feud without any timelag (and without, alas, most of the eloquence, as eloquence takes time) but for everyone and his dog-that-no-one-knows-you-are-on-the-internet to weigh in and mock and share.
I like snark (I sometime explain that we are an ESL family: the first language is sarcasm) and I'm willing to watch a trainwreck happen in realtime. But the scope of the possible wreckage is more than a little scary.
On the one hand, it's possible to have an ongoing intelligent and thoughtful conversation between writer and reviewer, online.
On the other hand, it's possible for things to explode before one party even realises the fuse has been lit.

I wonder what I'll do when/if I get my first negative review? Hopefully I'll have as much class as the author of Pregnesia does here. Or at least the good sense to bitch privately and offline.
Now, back to the fens!


John Chu said...

I think people have always behaved this badly. Modern technology has just made it easier to show everyone had badly we're behaving.

batgirl said...

True. No longer do we need to subscribe to a dozen literary journals to keep up with feuds. But I do think the new ease of publishing has, um, levelled the field for bad behaviour by startup publishers and self-published authors, allowing them to compete with long-established wankers.

Terri-Lynne said...

I don't get it, myself. I love a good, intelligent debate. Everyone has an opinion, and that's great--it's the name-calling I can do without. The tearing down. The intellectual bullying. I stay very clear of such flame wars. They cater to some of the very worst behaviors in humans, and the anonymity of the computer makes mean people even meaner.

I have enough things sucking away at my time. That stuff? I have no use for.

batgirl said...

I think a prerequisite to a proper flame-war is for the parties involved to believe that nothing (NOTHING!) is more important than being right. Or at least making other people admit that you are right.
In a weird way I admire the single-mindedness of those who can engage in it without getting all tangled up by worry about other people's feelings and opinions of oneself.