There is no sort of wrong deed

25 May 2018

There is no sort of wrong deed of which a man can bear the punishment alone; you can’t isolate yourself and say that the evil that is in you shall not spread. Men’s lives are as thoroughly blended with each other as the air they breathe; evil spreads as necessarily as disease.

George Eliot

Condemn the Writer, Not the Writing

25 May 2018

From The National Review:

Recent allegations of sexist misconduct against author Junot Díaz have reignited an old debate: Should we engage the work of artists whose personal conduct or belief systems are reprehensible? At the Washington Post, Sandra Beasly has weighed in on this question; she wonders whether she should “continue to teach the work of people we now suspect of behaving unethically or abusively.” Her answer to the question is nuanced, so I won’t attempt a brief and therefore unsatisfactory summary.

My response, though, is an unequivocal yes: We should read the books of flawed writers who produce great art.

. . . .

Between artists and the art they produce should be erected a large and nearly impenetrable wall. An author’s personal misconduct should not distract us from questions of literary merit — and neither should the sorts of obscenities that appear within the books themselves. When a novelist writes, he creates a voice, the voice of a narrator who does not exist in the real world. Such a voice must be judged on its own; it must be separated from its authorial creator and be given the freedom to explore even the more monstrous aspects of the human experience.

This insight about separating author from narrator seems to have been forgotten in much of the conversation surrounding Díaz. One writer called his books “sexist and regressive,” suggesting that we should refrain from reading that which our culture has deemed verboten. Having read most of Díaz’s fiction, I can confirm that there is certainly a great amount of misogyny depicted. That does not mean that his oeuvre as such encourages sexism, any more than Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn serves as an apologia for slavery, any more than James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room endorses homophobia, or any more than Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon promotes segregation. Twain, Baldwin, and Morrison are masters of their craft, able to depict bigotry and intolerance in all their vile and irrational glory; the same is true of Díaz. We shouldn’t condemn authors for portraying the truth of life’s brutalities.

Feminist literary critic Roxanne Gay reviewed Díaz’s This Is How You Lose Her back in 2012. She got it exactly right: “The influence of [sexism] is plainly apparent throughout This Is How You Lose Her. Women are their bodies and what they can offer men. They are pulled apart for Yunior’s [the protagonist’s] sexual amusement. There’s nothing wrong with that, the fact that Yunior is a misogynist of the highest order . . . that none of the men in this book are very good to women. This is fiction and if people cannot be flawed in fiction there’s no place left for us to be human (emphasis mine).

. . . .

Dickens was a writer who cared deeply about the poor of England but was simultaneously contemptuous of the Indian victims of British imperialism. What are we to do with him? Should we read him because of his sympathy for the poor or dismiss him because of his racism? Neither, I argue; instead we should read him because he is a monumental figure in the history of British writing. And, of course, we can read him even as we keep in mind that he was a complex human, capable at the same time of making abominable moral judgments and of producing lasting works of fiction.

Link to the rest at The National Review

PG will note that he does not always agree with the content of everything he posts about on TPV.

The OP is not the first to raise the question of whether we must expose ourselves to evil in order to gain an understanding of evil. As with many questions of this type, PG believes the answer is yes and no.

In some cases, exposure can be beneficial to our understanding. Reading Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto and the writings of Mao Zedong underpinning Land Reform, The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution may be examples of such beneficial exposure and increases our understanding without negative side-effects.

On the other hand, direct exposure to hard-core and child pornography and snuff films may be examples of exposure that doesn’t really help to increase our understanding of these evils and may have continuing detrimental effects.

 

Christopher Robin – The Movie

25 May 2018

Judge Clears ‘Gone Girl’ Creators in Copyright Dispute

25 May 2018

From Courthouse News Service:

A federal judge dismissed an author’s claim that the popular thriller novel and movie “Gone Girl” is based on her copyrighted screenplay, finding that the stories are considerably different.

“Overall, no ordinary observer could conclude that [Out of the Blue] and Gone Girl are substantially similar. Their common elements are standard in thrillers and at the level of particular expression they tell very ‘different stories,’” U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey wrote in a 33-page opinion issued Monday.

Author Leslie Weller filed a lawsuit in December against “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn, claiming she gave a copy of her screenplay “Out of the Blue” to a script consultant linked to Flynn, who then copied several elements of it.

Weller argued both stories focus on the central theme of “how well one person can really know another person.”

. . . .

Judge Blakely wrote that Weller failed to “connect the dots.”

“She describes a chain of professional relationships—most of which have no relation to Gone Girl—and invites speculation that some unidentified intermediary, for some reason, showed Flynn—who was by then two years into her work on the novel—an unproduced screenplay by a writer whom [her agency] did not represent,” the ruling states.

The judge also found that “numerous and significant differences” between the stories “weigh against finding substantial similarity.”

Link to the rest at Courthouse News Service

Here’s a copy of the court’s decision:

.

 



Why are middle-aged women invisible on book covers?

25 May 2018

From The Guardian:

Here’s a challenge for you: find a book jacket that features an image of a woman over 40.

My own hunt – as yet unsuccessful – was prompted by the actor and novelist Barbara Ewing, whose novel about a drama-school reunion, The Actresses, has just been reissued. Ewing says she cried when she first saw the cover of the 1997 edition – although it focuses on women over 50, the jacket image was a close up of a young woman’s face. This time around, she and publisher Head of Zeus have gone for an elegant photograph of a silver-haired woman that measures up perfectly to the book’s protagonists. But Ewing says bookshops aren’t interested.

It seems the book world doesn’t think readers want to see women of a certain age on their novels – even if that is precisely what the books are about. Take a look at some literary novels about older women – Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child, Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, Carol Shields’ Unless – and you’ll see a lighthouse, two children wearing fairy wings, a young couple in a car and a child standing on her head.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG says this is yet another reason for becoming an indie author.

GDPR Privacy Notification

24 May 2018

This is a GDPR notification.

As you may be aware, on 25 May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation EU (2016)/679 (GDPR) comes into force in all EU member states. The GDPR applies to ‘personal data’ meaning any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified by reference to an identifier. It requires that personal data be processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner, and that personal data be collected for specified and legitimate purposes.

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Little League

24 May 2018

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.

Yogi Berra

The Opening of Detroit: Become Human

24 May 2018

From i09:

The concerns at the heart of Detroit: Become Human are readily apparent almost from the very start: the existential crisis faced by androids that look and behave like people but are treated like things. But its lofty ambitions get hamstrung at the very start by some incredibly heavy-handed moments of shlock.

. . . .

The studio tends to put the player in control of small, everyday interactions, the idea being that you more fully inhabit a character and invest in the drama as a result.

. . . .

Detroit starts out with a series of vignettes that cycle through three main android characters, opening with high-stakes drama first. Players first meet Connor (Bryan Dechart), a special police operative tasked with tracking down deviants, androids who go off protocol and pose a danger to humans. The first sequence is a hostage negotiation where a distraught android threatens to kill a little girl he once took care of. It’s a good primer for the gameplay that follows because it’s heavy-handed to a fault and borrows heavily from familiar tropes in cop-drama movies and TV shows.

From there, we meet Markus (Jesse Williams), who starts off as the assistant to an ailing artist but then becomes a leader in the android resistance movement. Finally, there’s Kara (Valorie Curry), who works as a housekeeper/babysitter but breaks her programming to go on the run with her young charge.

We’re supposed to care for these almost-humans but we meet them as overly familiar symbols first. Connor is the android hunting down his own kind, with an initial hostage crisis that leave another android dead. What’s supposed to feel like moral ambiguity instead comes across as cold and unfeeling pragmatism.

Markus gets yelled at by a preacher, only to be then beaten by a crowd of anti-android protestors. If that wasn’t enough, when he gets on public transit to go back home, he has to sit on the back of the bus, in a segregated android compartment.

. . . .

Real-world tech-ethics controversies get copy-pasted into Detroit’s fiction in eye-rollingly facile ways, like sponsored content that says hetero men prefer sex with androids, news reports on exodus from flooding coastal cities, and articles that report androids may be listening into owners’ conversations and harvesting data for advertisers. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like most people in the world of Detroit actually cares about these matters. They’re just there for the player to find so the game’s creators can check off a box on a ‘Deep Commentary’ checklist.

. . . .

Detroit mostly stumbles through an odd dance of performative philosophizing and none of the characters feel lived in enough for you to care about what happens to them next. They’re cypher vessels made to hold trite observations about human nature.

Link to the rest at i09

Ode to whiteness: British poetry scene fails diversity test

24 May 2018

From The Guardian:

The British poetry world is “failing to meet even the most basic measurements of inclusivity”, according to a new report which highlights the “systemic exclusion” of poets and critics of colour from UK and Irish poetry magazines.

Collecting data from 29 magazines and websites including PN Review, Poetry Review, the Guardian and Oxford Poetry, the study found that between 2012 and 2018, 9% of almost 20,000 published poems were by poets of colour. Of the 1,819 poems, 502 were published in a single magazine, Modern Poetry in Translation; if this is taken out of the equation, only 7% of poems were by poets of colour. The study, conducted by poetry reviewer and blogger Dave Coates for Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critics, points out that in contrast, at the 2011 census, 12.9% of the UK population identified as black and minority ethnic (BME).

When the study analysed the race of poetry critics, it found an even starker divide: of almost 3,000 articles written over the period, just 5% were by critics of colour. While around 46% of poems and articles published were by female or non-binary poets and critics, the study found that male critics were twice as likely to review other men than women – a figure that rose to three times as likely at the Guardian, four times at PN Review, and five times at Modern Poetry in Translation.

. . . .

Parmar said the report had already had an impact, with newspapers including the Guardian and the TLS committing to commissioning more critics of colour. She pointed to the effect of a 2005 report which found that less than 1% of poets published by a major press in the UK were black or Asian; following the launch of diversity mentoring scheme The Complete Works, that figure now stands at almost 10%.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Perhaps PG is from the wrong generation, but he instinctively finds race-based decision-making to be repellant.

Particularly during an era in which the access to readers has been thrown wide open via ebooks and self-publishing (plus anybody can put up a website regardless of any identity consideration other than whether their name is on a credit card), considering what lineage an author claims or what sexual orientation the author espouses instead of what words the author has placed on an electronic or paper page hearkens back to the “one drop of negro blood” and apartheid-era rules for PG.

Explicit or defacto quotas based on race, gender or any other characteristic other than whether an author writes in a manner which is pleasing to this or that audience will invariably devolve into rent-seeking for an increasing number of self-defined groups that, in one way or another, have managed to persuade parts of the general public that, historically, others like them have suffered from discrimination.

PG suggests once you start down a road of reparations for an historic wrong, you raise a perpetual question of how large such reparations are, how long they must be paid and to whom they should be paid.

Must every manuscript or book include a description of groups subject to historic wrongs to which the author belongs? Or do we make an automatic assumption that if the author doesn’t affirmatively claim membership in one or more of such groups, the author is a member of a currently disfavored group?

Selling Out: Going Wide or Going Exclusive to Amazon

24 May 2018

From The Book Designer:

When most new publishers think of selling ebooks, the first place they think of is Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.

This makes sense — after all, Amazon represents somewhere between sixty and eighty percent of the world English market for ebooks. Who wouldn’t want to have their book sold in the biggest storefront of all?

Amazon has created a program — KDP Select — that rewards publishers for offering their titles exclusively through the Kindle Store. A lot of publishers — and not just new ones — decide to put all of their eggs in the Amazon basket. They make some compelling arguments for why they do so.

I don’t — do so, that is. With almost all of the books that I publish, I sell wide — that is, at as many retail and distribution outlets as possible, in addition to the ‘Zon.

. . . .

Before we discuss the relative merits of selling wide or sticking exclusively to Amazon, we need to look at what the KDP Select exclusive program actually entails.

First of all, it’s a fully voluntary, opt-in program — just because you’re selling on Amazon doesn’t mean that they get exclusive rights to sell your ebook. You have to enroll each title — just because you’ve got one ebook exclusively at the Kindle Store doesn’t mean you can’t sell another on the iBooks Store, the Nook Store, Kobo, Google Play, and hundreds of other retail sites.

. . . .

Once you’ve signed up, whether at publication time or after, the title is locked in for a term of 90 days. In order to have the title remain enrolled, you have to keep that box checked — which it will until you go in there and change something.

In order to remove your title, on the other hand, you have to uncheck the box, and then wait until the term expires.

. . . .

By the way, just in case I haven’t made it clear, unless you sign up your book for KDP Select, you get no benefit at all out of selling exclusively on Amazon.

. . . .

Back when I first started selling ebooks, eight years ago, there were some nice benefits to enrolling in KDP Select. Although Amazon has added and subtracted over the years, there still are.

The current list of benefits includes:

  • Making your title available through the KindleUnlimited (KU) subscription service
  • Offering promotions:
    • Free
    • Countdown
  • Increased royalties in some non-US markets

That’s about it.

. . . .

KindleUnlimited

This is Amazon’s ebook subscription service — a “Netflix for ebooks” setup.

The reader can “borrow” up to ten KindleUnlimited titles at a time, all for the low, low price of $9.99/month. For folks who read in bulk — the folks who are our bread and butter — this is a very nifty deal.

From the publisher point of view, here’s how it works:

  1. Amazon estimates the number of “pages” based on the wordcount of your book. (They call this count the title’s Kindle Estimated Normal Pages or KENP.)
  2. When a reader checks out the book, Amazon keeps track of the highest-numbered page that the reader has reached. — You can keep track of “page reads” on your KDP sales reports.
  3. Each month, Amazon announces how much money all of the KU-enrolled books will share. (It’s usually a bit over $20 million.)
  4. That war chest gets divided by the total number of KENP “read” during the month — that’s the share each KENP earns that month.
  5. Amazon multiplies your total number of KENP for all titles that month by the share, and adds that to your royalties.

. . . .

Because the total amount of money that Amazon splits for a particular month is fixed, this has made it particularly vulnerable to scamming, and particularly maddening for the honest publisher — your only recourse in order to earn more is to raise the total number of pages read, which means either marketing the heck out of every title you’ve got enrolled in the program (which you were hopefully doing already), offering more titles (possibly pulling them off of other retailers to qualify them for KU), or offering longer books. But as more and more and longer and longer titles go up on KU, the value of each KENP share goes down.

. . . .

There are two types of promotions — Free and Countdown. In either case, you can offer the title for up to five days in a 90-day enrollment period, though during that period you can only offer one or the other of these promotions — not both.

Also, you can only offer them (at the moment) on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (the US and British sites). These won’t help you on Amazon’s sites in Canada, Australia, or India, for example.

. . . .

The countdown promo is fun; it offers you one or more promotional price over the period of the promo — and keeps a countdown timer going that announces just how much time readers have before the price goes up. This is a classic marketing ploy to take advantage of customers’ fear of missing out (the famous FOMO effect).

One other nice thing about the countdown promo: it’s the only way you can get a full 70% royalty for a title priced (temporarily) under $2.99.

. . . .

The Benefits of Going Wide

Back in 2014, when Amazon instituted the new KENP system for calculating KU earnings, I had about 50% of my titles enrolled in KDP Select — most of them short stories that earned incredibly well per borrow, and that served as “loss leaders” that lost me, in fact, nothing. Folks would read a short story by one of my authors (earning us both a royalty), then read one of the longer works, netting us more. Nice.

This lovely symbiosis disappeared with the KENP setup and its emphasis on longer KU titles.

Since then, I’ve stopped enrolling titles in the program, and over the past year I’ve slowly been letting the enrolled titles lapse. At this point I have just one KDP Select title.

The rest of my titles — about eighty by twenty authors — are offered wide. That is, they’re available on Amazon, but also on Apple, Kobo, B&N, Google, Overdrive, ScribD and many, many more.

. . . .

Unlike the KDP Select program, the three benefits here are really simple:

  1. I can earn more money.
  2. I can please more of my readers.
  3. I’m not encouraging monopolistic behavior.

. . . .

Most “wide” indie and self-publishers report that sales on Amazon represent 60%–85% of their ebook revenue. Myself, last year, I earned 62% of my ebook royalties through Kindle sales. In my most Amazon-slanted years I’ve earned about 80% of my ebook income from Jeff Bezos’s company.

That’s a lot.

However, I do wish to point out that that leaves 20%–38% of my income that wasn’t earned through Kindle sales.

I’d also like to point out that, while Amazon holds all but a monopoly on US ebook sales, outside the country it is a far, far less dominant market. The more my sales have gone international, the more I rely on channels like Kobo and Apple, and on distributors like Smashwords, PublishDrive, and Draft2Digital.

Link to the rest by David Kudler at The Book Designer

PG excerpted more than he usually does from the OP because he suspects Mr. Kudler operates in a different manner than a lot of indie authors do.

That said, PG thinks it’s a good idea not to run any business on autopilot, so he will be interested in the comments of others about the decision between Amazon with additional benefits vs. using everyone.

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