I apologise in advance, but this is going to be a rant. As regular readers will know (I hope) I don’t go “off on one” about subjects very often. But this article in the Guardian has really got my goat.
One of the dreams that so many people share is to write a book. I honestly believe that this comes from a deep-rooted compulsion that was instilled in us at an early evolutionary level which compels us to tell stories. That’s why oral traditions from ancient civilisations are still told today, why cave paintings exist and heiroglyphs were invented. We all love to tell stories, to be heard and enjoyed, and to be passed on to others. A story is a little slice of immortality for us finite beings (if you want to go existential about it). And that’s why we write. Our books are our stories, our gift to others, our legacy. As long as a print copy of Greaveburn exists somewhere in the world, someone might read it, and enjoy it, and then pass it on. It’s a positive virus (I’m seriously mixing my metaphors here, apologies).
And, whether this is arrogant or not, I see myself as a professional. I am an author. I write things. Sometimes they’re poo, sometimes they’re ok. But I craft words and that makes me an author none-the-less. Therefore, I will conduct myself in a professional manner. We’ve talked about the quality of some self-published works in previous posts and how people do themselves a disservice with impatience and a non-professional approach. But we who have taught ourselves to be authors have very little guidance and so it can be forgiven. However, what I expect from people who write for a living, is an ounce of decorum.
And so we’re brought to the subject of this most dispicable “sock puppetry”, as it’s been dubbed. I won’t go over the content of the article as I’ve linked it above and I’ll let you come to your own interpretation of it. But I’ve seen this happen elsewhere and my heckles are officially up. Goodreads is a fantastic platform. The forums, the reviews, the ability to find books that you might like. A great idea. But what it also allows you to do is to review your own work…without even needing a pseudonym. Who came up with that? Just today I’ve been scanning through some potential reading material and caught a few authors (who shall remain nameless, but you know who you are) not only reviewing their own work, but rating it as well. With five stars!
Now, as an aside, you will note that Not Before Bed has a review from myself stating that it is, indeed, the new edition with new stories. However, that review has no bearing on the star rating. It’s for information only, and doesn’t affect the stats. I made sure.
Readers, writers, friends, we have a decision to make. What do we do about this blatant deception? Without sounding anti-establishment or revolutionary, the larger companies will do absolutely nothing to jeapordise their cash flow. They’ll never get rid of an author’s listing as long as it’s bringing in the green. But we have power online. You’ve seen it happen with memes and virals and petitions and forums. We can do something about this.
I in no way want to sway any of you. What you think about this “sock puppetry” is your own opinion. This is mine. This is what I’d like to see, but not what I expect from you. I can’t imagine that any of us would go and buy these people’s books, now, anyway. So there’s the statement made already. And the fact that the authors involved in the Guardian have apologised is surely enough. But others are still out there, schemeing and engineering their ratings for the sake of cheap appreciation.
And (IMHO as the kids say) but I say we douse these sods with negative ratings. Show the world that we, as readers, have integrity and won’t be lied to. What I DON’T want to see are derogatory or negative comments. Don’t lower yourselves. We’re not Trolls, or virtual rioters and looters, but people with opinions that count. We can make a statement with a silent but glaring one star rating to show our distaste. Then we leave, knowing that millions of others will see and understand what we’ve done, and why. We go back to the authors who deserve our adoration and respect because they work hard, and write well, and tell us stories that live and breathe.
What I will say is keep your eye out, folks. Let’s make sure we maintain the high values that Literature has always stood for.
As always, thanks for reading.
As you can see, my little blog has had a make-over. I’ve retro-fitted the whole thing with a slightly Steampunky edge in a homage to the recent acceptance of Greaveburn to Inspired Quill (IQ) publishing. In the true Steampunk tradition, I’ll no doubt be tinkering away at it for quite some time but the rivets and stanchions are there for now.
Speaking of Steampunk and Greaveburn, I’ve recently bought tickets to the Asylum Weekend Convention 2012 in Lincoln’s historic city. A whole weekend of ‘punkery with loads of great exhibitions, entertainments and of course the fabled Bazaar Eclectica where ‘punks fence their wares. I’ve been in touch with Tinker, the convention’s organiser, and he’s been kind enough to offer me a spot in the exhibition area. So there’ll be me (in my neo-victorian gear, by Jove!) and copies of Greaveburn for sale and even signing if you’re that way inclined.
But there’s more…the enthusiastic and very helpful Tinker has also offered me a spot on a panel, potentially alongside the likes of Robert Rankin, Toby Frost, Sam Stone and others! Of course, I accepted, but I’m PETRIFIFED.
It strikes me that the good thing about going nowhere with my writing is that I always know what to do. All of a sudden I’m very far from home with no map and the nagging sensation that I’m going to make an ass out of myself! Still…I’m excited enough that I’ve completely forgone sleep since signing to IQ.
In other news…I’ve re-released Not Before Bed in print (only from the american Amazon, I’m afraid) but it’s also now available for your Kindle (all over the globe). I know, the sensibility isn’t very Steampunk but than again neither is Not Before Bed. I think those short stories deserved one last flourish of attention before I pass it into the hands of fate entirely. While my Horror writing has served me well with some great publications that I’m very proud of and practice with submissions etc. I think I’ve moved on, now. Not Before Bed was an earlier me, one who was still finding his feet. Greaveburn is the next step in the journey, not away from those much-loved old stories and everything they taught me, but moving a little down the road to where there are whole new set of things to learn.
And I can’t wait to start!
Thanks for reading.
December 8, 2011 | Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: author, authors, automaton, books, clockwork, cogs, Craig Hallam, gears, gothic, horror, indie author, neo-victorian, short stories, speculative fiction, Steampunk, writer, writing | 4 Comments »
Recently on Twitter, I had a rant (if that’s possible in 140 characters). It was regarding my three cardinal rules of Vampirism; rules that, for me, should never be broken no matter what. They are:
1. Vampires go cripsy in the sunlight.
2. There is NO cure.
3. They’re hungry and you’re what’s for dinner, not their BFF.
A follower replied with a good counter argument, the fact that the most famous vampire in the world breaks one of those rules. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the eponymous character does indeed walk around in the daylight. I argued the toss, of course, and pointed out several factors which exempted Dracula from that rule but I wont discuss them here. Maybe a later post, if anyone’s interested.
But the debate brought up a good question. How far can a writer remove their characters from the existing tropes before it becomes TOO removed?
Let’s stick with the Vampires for this one.
As far as I’m concerned, this is a Vampire. Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are creepy, scary and will nosh on your neck as soon as look at you. Vampires are supposed to be scary. And I’ll admit that these films are responsible for much of feelings toward the Vampire trope. When Lee clutches his hands to his face against the sunlight and turns into something resembling the contents of a men’s Working Club ashtray, it hit me as petrifyingly cool. But their source material, the original Dracula novel, breaks the Rules. Bram Stoker took the myths/legends/folk tales and warped them to the benefit of his book. Dracula is seen on several occasions throughout the day. Also, he isn’t killed by a wooden stake (which Stoker states as the weapon of choice) but by knives.
Now let’s think about Stephanie Meyer. I personally don’t rate the Twilight saga very highly. Sorry. But I’m firmly in Team Stoker. It isn’t the romantic element. Dracula is a gothic romance itself (especially if you watch the Gary Oldman movie version). Anne Rice’s awesome Interview series is more sex than scare and I still love those first few books (lost interest after that, mind). But Meyer breaks my cardinal sins twice. Edward Cullen not only shines like a fairy in sunlight, but manages to be an utter nonce in the blood-sucking department too. Bella should be lunch. A thousand times over.
But now I’m going to argue against myself. Is Meyer’s vampiric interpretation any worse that Stoker’s? He makes vamps able to walk in the daylight, she makes them sparkly. Is there such a difference other than aesthetically?
Not really. But those two novels split readers into opposing camps.
Since I’m obviously incapable of answering this one myself, the question goes to you. How far can a writer take something away from the original material before it becomes a bastardisation, or a renewal of tired tropes? Are we bending the rules to keep it fresh or ignoring them completely? I can think of examples which do both. Let’s see what you lot think…
Thanks for reading
Inspiration is one of those abstract concepts that baffles me, especially since I spend most of my time waiting for it to happen (A bit like when I was 16 and waiting for The Sex to spontaneously occur despite braces and a terribly unfashionable haircut). But inspiration does hit on occasion and I think that ‘hit’ might be the perfect verb. When I get it, it’s like a slap on the forehead or a kick to the shin, and there’s a pseudo-guilt that goes along with it; that horrible “why didnt I think of it before?! Gah!”. There are excercises, tips and tricks handed around by every writer who ever lived, from freewrites and brainstorming to word association and websites with randomised stimuli. But how does it work?
Of all the theories I’ve heard on the nature of our most ellusive and hard-sought commodity, I think Terry Pratchett has the randomness down the best. Here’s an excerpt from Sourcery:
Little particles of inspiration sleet through the universe all the time travelling through the densest matter in the same way that a neutrino passes through a candyfloss haystack, and most of them miss. Even worse, most of the ones that hit the exact cerebral target hit the wrong one. For example, the weird dream about a lead doughnut on a mile-high gantry, which in the right mind would have been the catalyst for the invention of repressed-gravitational electricity generation (a cheap and inexhaustible and totally non-polluting form of power which the world in question had been seeking for centuries, and for the lack of which it was plunged into a terrible and pointless war) was in fact had by a small and bewildered duck.
By another stroke of bad luck, the sight of a herd of white horses galloping through a field of wild hyacinths would have led a struggling composer to write the famous Flying God Suite, bringing succour and balm to the souls of millions, had he not been at home in bed with shingles. The inspiration therefore fell to a nearby frog, who was not in much of a position to make a startling contribution to the field of tone poetry.
Many civilisations have recognised this shocking waste and tried various methods to prevent it, most of them involving enjoyable but illegal attempts to tune the mind into the right wavelength by the use of exotic herbage or yeast products. It never works properly.
Good old Terry. What a bloody genius he is.
Someone said that all the best ideas are taken. I have to disagree. I think the problem is that modern writers like us simply have a lot of source material to call on. It’s easy to be inspired by Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker, and even more by modern writers such as Stephanie Meyer or Charlaine Harris. But the problem is you can only be inspired in so many ways by the same material.
And so for modern writers having a problem with inspiration, I think we need to get back to basics. On a recent camping trip, I was waiting for some ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ style ideas when I realised that it wasn’t the fields or the incessant lowing of cattle that would create an inspired thought. It was the freedom. Freedom from the Office, the keyboard, and the soul-sucking glow of the laptop screen. Sitting on the floor of my tent, watching the drizzle, my mind was able to wander. A mind is so much more open when there are fewer distractions. So my advice is this: Put down your favourite book, turn off the computer, and get your boots on. Slip your favourite notebook in your pocket and pick a direction to walk in, be it to the roof of your apartment block or a forest. If you get away from the crowds, there’s more chance of an Inspiration Particle singling you out.
Happy Writing and thanks for reading.
August 15, 2011 | Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: authors, Bram Stoker, camping, Charlaine Harris, countryside, inspiration, Mary Shelley, Stephanie Meyer, Terry Pratchett, writers, writing | Leave A Comment »