Category Archives: Books are for Reading

Two Articles About Publishers

One, SF author Charlie Stross discusses publishers’ insistence on locking ebooks with DRM.

The corporate drive for DRM is motivated by the fear of ebook piracy. But aside from piracy, the biggest ebook-related threat to the Big Six is called Amazon.com. Until 2008, ebooks were a tiny market segment, under 1% and easily overlooked; but in 2009 ebook sales began to rise exponentially, and ebooks now account for over 20% of all fiction sales. In some areas ebooks are up to 40% of the market and rising rapidly. (I am not making that last figure up: I’m speaking from my own sales figures.) And Amazon have got 80% of the ebook retail market….

As ebook sales mushroom, the Big Six’s insistence on DRM has proven to be a hideous mistake. Rather than reducing piracy[*], it has locked customers in Amazon’s walled garden, which in turn increases Amazon’s leverage over publishers. And unlike pirated copies (which don’t automatically represent lost sales) Amazon is a direct revenue threat because Amazon are have no qualms about squeezing their suppliers — or trying to poach authors for their “direct” publishing channel by offering initially favourable terms.

Two, Jane at Dear Author talks about how publishers are disconnected from actual readers.

[W]hat publishers believe customers should do and how publishers believe they think doesn’t actually matter. It’s what customers do and what customers believe that should be the guideposts. Aside from how wrongly I think [Hachette CEO Armand] Noury views the reader (and this isn’t a surprise because readers aren’t his customers) readers, even those who are willing to buy new Kindles every new product cycle or new iPads aren’t looking at lending as a financial break. Instead, they are looking at trying to get a return on their dollar spent. Free books or low cost access to books increases discoverability. It isn’t about “helping” the pocket book of the reader. (Digital library lending and library lending, in general, sometimes invokes the corporate citizenship concept and the moral responsibility that publishers and those in the publishing ecosystem may have to support the library and I think that is a separate issue. I want to acknowledge that publishers have the right to make a business decision, even a bad one).

Books are simply one of many entertainment option that readers have at their fingertips. It is foolish to think that readers wouldn’t want immediate access to books as they have immediate access to movies, music, and video games. The big problem that publishers have here is not anticipating the moves of the readers. Publishing does not stand alone in a separate silo. Instead, readers’ expectations toward access and price of content is influenced heavily by other entertainment options. Thus if every other entertainment option that is at a reader’s disposal offers digital downloads, publishing needs to offer digital downloads. If every other entertainment option that is at a reader’s disposal offers some type of subscription access to unlimited content, publishing needs to offer that.

Every mass market entertainment industry has had to re-learn the lessons that previous mass market entertainment industries learned. Book publishers have had more of a grace period because their product wasn’t inherently digital until recently. As soon as music was converted to bits and put on CDs, consumers were able to pull those bits back off the CD. The same thing happened with movies when they went to DVDs. Now that books are available as .mobi and .epub files, publishers have moved into the houses next to the music and movie industries.

The publishers are in a battle for their lives with Amazon, and Amazon is cleverly positioning themselves as fighting for the reader and for the author — see their current royalties offer of 70% of net if you publish your book through their Digital Text Platform. The publishers aren’t used to selling books to readers, they’re used to selling books to retailers, and so don’t necessarily think of readers as someone whom they need to win over. That goes double for people who read books on Kindles or iPads.

I don’t particularly want Amazon to win this war. If they lock up publishing in any meaningful way (which, as Charlie points out, publishers are helping them do by insisting on DRM that means an ebook bought from Amazon can only be read through Amazon), I expect them to do what Wal-Mart and other large retailers have done and start driving up prices and lowering royalties. But if publishers can’t evolve faster, it seems likely that Amazon will come out on top.

cover to Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One Reinforces Some Bad Geek Outlooks

(This is a critical essay about Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and as such contains a lot of spoilers about the book.)

cover to Ready Player One, by Ernest ClineIn 2044, cheap energy has ended and climate change and wars wrack the world. Most people escape reality by spending their time in OASIS, a virtual reality created by a programmer named James Halliday. People shop, go to school, work and play games inside OASIS. When Halliday dies, his wealth and OASIS itself is left to whomever can solve his riddles and find the crystal egg hidden inside OASIS. Since Halliday grew up in the 1980s, all of the puzzles revolve around 1980s geek pop culture. Ready Player One may be set in 2044, but its real roots lie in the 1980s.

Enter Wade Watts. He’s a poor teenager who is obsessed with solving Halliday’s riddles. He’s spent his life as a “gunter”, an egg hunter who’s obsessively memorized every movie, TV show, comic, and video game that Halliday was enamored of. He manages to solve Halliday’s first puzzle, which gets his name on the leaderboard and sets off a frantic race for Halliday’s billions.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, is part coming-of-age journey, part mystery. One of the characters explicitly compares Halliday’s quest (and thus the book itself) to the Atari 2600 Swordquest games such as Earthworld1, but the novel’s more literary antecedent is Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, with its reclusive and wealthy businessman who, upon his death, wills his fortune to whomever can solve his word puzzles. The book is full of geek tropes. Beyond the obvious and ever-present references to 1980s nerd media there’s the theme of lone gunters like Wade, who love OASIS and the freedom it (supposedly) provides, versus the evil megacorporation I.O.I., which has hired an untold number of gamers and 1980s scholars in an effort to gain control of OASIS. There are geek conversations like “Who would win if Mechagodzilla fought Ultraman? Wouldn’t that be cool!” turned into actual events in the book.

The cavalcade of 1980s references are used for color and as the key to solving puzzles, but they’re never explored in any depth. It’s as if Cline is saying, “Hey, remember how cool that thing from your childhood was? Yeah, it was really cool.”2 It’s fun to see geek culture references blenderized and re-mixed in the same way that modern culture is blended together online, mashing up TV shows, movies, and memes3, but there’s little more to the references than that.

The book focuses on Wade’s quest to solve Halliday’s puzzle and become owner of OASIS. Along the way he meets other gunters, like his friend Aech and his rival and eventual love interest Art3mis, and they grow apart and together as in any 80s teen film. Ready Player One alternates between action, geek banter among friends, and large info-dumps that slow the book’s pace. It’s at its best when it’s slinging nostalgic references as fast as it can, like how OASIS only costs twenty-five cents for a lifetime account — “it’s the greatest videogame ever created, and it only costs a quarter” as the book tells us.

I’m square in Ready Player One‘s demographic crosshairs, as I’m a geek who grew up in the 1980s playing videogames, watching science fiction movies, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Even now I spend my spare time writing text adventures, a videogame genre that rose to prominence around 1981 and was commercially dead by the decade’s end. Given my history, it’s no surprise that I recognized the riddles that referred to the old D&D module “Tomb of Horrors” and to Zork. It’s also no surprise that I found the book so engaging, at least at first. Unfortunately, by the end I was not nearly as fond of Ready Player One.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy is the uncritical nostalgia that forms the core of the book. It celebrates obsessive geek trivia knowledge, the kind that is like a drunkard’s walk through Wikipedia. James Halliday, who created OASIS, uses his wealth and humanity’s desperation to encourage people to obsess about a decade that is more than half a century gone, and to do so without understanding the context in which that decade’s pop culture was created. As Halliday’s business partner Ogden Morrow said after Halliday’s death, “Jim always wanted everyone to share his obsessions, to love the same things he loved. I think this contest is his way of giving the entire world an incentive to do just that.” The book celebrates that obsessive love, and it is the kind of love that admits no growth and no change, that refuses to let go of the past.

That’s minor next to the book’s big problem: the book’s ending act, to use an 80s metaphor, has several after school special moments crammed in it, complete with giant flashing moral statements. However, those moral statements are simplistic and misguided, and are uneasily wedded to a John Hughes teen coming-of-age story.

Take Wade’s friend Aech. When we first meet Aech we’re told that his avatar was a “tall, broad-shouldered Caucasian male with dark hair and brown eyes”. Given that Aech’s avatar is the only one whose racial characteristics are described, it’s no shock that, when Wade meets Aech outside of OASIS, he turns out to be female, African American, and gay. Aech’s mom taught her to pass4 online as a white male because it made life easier. When she came out to her mom, her mom threw Aech out of the house. Wade’s response to learning this is a more convoluted version of the plaintive cry, “But I don’t see race!”

As we continued to talk, going through the motions of getting to know each other, I realized that we already did know each other, as well as any two people could. We’d known each other for years, in the most intimate way possible. We’d connected on a purely mental level. I understood her, trusted her, and loved her as a dear friend. None of that had changed, or could be changed by anything as inconsequential as her gender, or skin color, or sexual orientation.

This erases key components of who Aech is. Racism is clearly alive and well given Aech’s mom’s advice to her. In fact, it’s undoubtedly worse in the US of 2044 since times are so bad and unrest leads to greater racial tensions as people fight to keep what little they have. Homosexuality is still contentious, given how Aech’s mom threw her out of the house for being gay and how “fag” is still an insult:

I-r0k flipped [Aech] the bird. “If you two fags already knew about the Swordquest contest, how come I’ve never once heard you mention it?”

Aech’s gender, race and sexuality and how she’s reacted to them are key parts of who she is. They have to be, if she is to be human and not a two-dimensional construct. Ready Player One‘s approach to this is to minimize those aspects of Aech. She’s the only person of color and only homosexual in the entire book, making her stand in for all gay or non-white geeks. And the message the book has for gay or non-white geeks is the same one nerd culture typically broadcasts: pretend to be white, straight and male and we’ll get along just fine.

Then there’s the ongoing theme that what really matters is the real world. At various points in the book Wade sounds vaguely ashamed of how he’s spent his young life, talking about how he’s unhealthily obsessive about Halliday’s quest. Ogden Morrow, Halliday’s former partner, agrees.

But years later, Morrow wrote in his autobiography that he’d left GSS because…he felt that OASIS had evolved into something horrible. “It had become a self-imposed prison for humanity,” he wrote. “A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.”

You’d think that Halliday, who always had problems relating to people and spent the ending years of his life building and playing OASIS, wouldn’t agree, but he does. His parting advice to Wade, after Wade has finished Halliday’s quest, is as subtle as Helen Hunt’s famous scene from Desperate Lives.

“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world….I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”

The problem is, the rest of the novel contradicts that. Early on Wade says that he’s obsessed with 80s pop culture to an unhealthy degree, but it turns out to be exactly what he needs to win the girl and get all the money at the end.

Standing there, under the bleak fluorescents of my tiny one-room apartment, there was no escaping the truth. In real life, I was nothing but an antisocial hermit. A recluse. A pale-skinned pop culture-obsessed geek. An agoraphobic shut-in, with no real friends, family, or genuine human contact. I was just another sad, lost, lonely soul, wasting his life on a glorified videogame.

But not in OASIS. In there, I was the great Parzival. World-famous gunter and international celebrity. People asked for my autograph. I had a fan club. Several, actually…. I was paid to endorse products. People admired and looked up to me.

And Wade doesn’t have any real epiphany that he should make the world better. His girlfriend/geek crush object Art3mis wants to spend money to tackle world hunger, fix the environment, and solve the energy crisis. By the end of the book Wade agrees, kind of sort of, but it never goes beyond that. Wade begins the novel completely broke both in real life and in OASIS, living in a giant maze of stacked trailer homes in Oklahoma City and being unable to go anywhere in OASIS other than the educational world of Ludus. By the end he’s rich, has killer equipment with which to play OASIS, and has even been flown about the post cheap energy world in a private jet. You never get the sense that Wade remembers how bad off the world is, or is driven to make it better. It’s as if Katniss won the Hunger Games and wholeheartedly embraced her new celebrity life, uninterested in making her District’s life better. That kind of leveling up is fine for a CRPG, but it’s heartless in a world as broken as that of Ready Player One. And no matter how much Halliday says that the real world matters, his actions don’t line up with his words. He decided to give all of his money away in an online competition instead of using it to improve the real world. In terms of computer billionaires, he is more Steve Jobs than Bill Gates.

If Ready Player One had stuck with geek in-jokes and references tied to an action plot about Wade leveling up and hacking the Gibson5, it’d be a decent piece of fluff. As it stands, it celebrates the self-referential, inward-looking nature of geek culture while reinforcing some of its more blinkered views of the world and the people in it.

1I played this game when I was young but never made any progress in it. The game gave clues that referenced a page and panel in the included comic book, and we were supposed to find a word in that panel. It wasn’t until I read the Wikipedia article on the games that I realized that I was supposed to look for the words hidden in the background instead of what the characters in the comic book were saying. Don’t I feel dumb.

2I can imagine an alternate universe version of this book that plays with the connection between the latchkey kid generation of the 1980s and their consumption and love of that era’s media, one that deconstructs references to Thundercats and War Games. Ready Player One is not that book, not that it has to be.

3See, for example Doctor Who as a steampunk My Little Pony.

4With all that implies.

5Yes, that’s a 1990s geek reference. I am large, I contain decades.

Continuing the Franchise

Now that the Harry Potter movies are over, I expect that there are movie executives scrambling around, trying to discover the next big thing. Since young adult books are still popular, I expect that’ll be their focus — perhaps the Hunger Games trilogy or Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series will garner a huge audience.

I have a humble suggestion: why not re-work the Harry Potter series? After all, with a few tweaks I think you could bring in a whole new audience. To that end, I give you a scene from

RICHIE DAWKINS AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

INT. SHACK BY THE OCEAN – NIGHT

The room in this broken-down shack is dominated by KEMPTID, a giant of a man with an umbrella. He is talking with RICHIE, a young eleven-year-old with round glasses and dark hair.

          KEMPTID
     Y’see, Richie, yer’ a wizard.

          RICHIE
     I’m a what?

          KEMPTID
     A wizard, o’ course, and a thumpin’ good’un, I’d say, once yeh’ve trained up a bit.

          RICHIE
     That makes no logical sense.

          KEMPTID
     What d’yeh mean?

          RICHIE
     Look, there isn’t any such thing as magic. The universe can be perfectly explained by the natural laws of science.

          KEMPTID
          (taken aback)
     But, but yer parents–

          RICHIE
     They died in a car crash.

          KEMPTID
     No. He Who Must Not be Named, a dark wizard, killed ’em!

          RICHIE
     Really? That’s more plausible than a car crash? There are a little over two thousand car-related deaths per annum in the UK. Do the math.

          KEMPTID
     But…but…all th’ letters, Richie! And I c’n do magic with my umbrella!

          RICHIE
     Any stage magician worth his salt could do the same. Your anti-scientific flim-flammery will find no toehold with me, sir. Now shove off. I’ve got a perfectly mundane life as a friendless orphan to live.

I’m not sure how to spin this out into eight movies, though. Perhaps I should have taken the approach that Eliezer Yudkowsky took for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Talking Science to Romance Novel Writers

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to give a talk on science and technology to the Nashville Romance Writers of America chapter. Yes, yes, laugh all you want, but romance novels often touch on other genres. I met writers whose books had strong science fiction or suspense elements, and you can bet that they’re interested in science and technology.

I focused my talk on recent technologies and trends that are affecting how we relate to each other. I started with how our sense of privacy is evolving. We’re more willing to share details of our lives than before, and online tools like Twitter and Facebook both encourage that behavior and spread what we say to a much wider audience. Heck, thanks to this blog you know more about my views on parenting than some people who see me multiple hours a day. Much of what we share is innocuous, like what we’re having for lunch, but over time you can learn a lot about someone who’s sharing openly on line.

Now mix that trend with gamification, in which the trappings of games are added to non-game activities. Gamified applications are encouraging us to share even more information online. Foursquare is an excellent example of this. Foursquare lets you use your mobile phone to check into locations like the Five Guys near me. As you check in to places, you earn badges. If you check in at a place more than anyone else, you become the mayor, which encourages other people to check in more there to dethrone you. Being mayor and having badges doesn’t actually net you anything but it doesn’t matter — the net effect is that you’re driven to broadcast your movements to the whole world because the app is exploiting the same psychological quirks that make us pour money into casinos. Ian Bogost has called this trend exploitationware with reason; here, we’re being exploited to share more than we might otherwise do.

Now imagine what happens when two people meet cute. After they get home, do they look up the other person’s profile on Facebook? Do they peruse their Twitter stream? See where they’ve been checking in on Foursquare? All of this raises near endless possibilities for personality-driven conflict and misunderstandings, which serve as fuel for romance novels.

Even when we’re not sharing information with others, our technology is doing that for us. We’ve long been trackable via our cell phones, but to get that information you had to talk to the cell phone company. Now our phones are quietly recording where we’ve been and storing them on the phone. Want to know where your boyfriend or girlfriend have been? You might only need five minutes alone with their phone to find out.

Right now a lot of what we share is manually entered. We upload and tag pictures, identifying the subjects. We write about our day and what we ate. Data mining and improved computer processing power will automate much of that, with the knock-on effect of taking some control out of our hands. Facebook has a giant database of people’s pictures that we’ve given to them and labelled with the name of the people in the pictures. Facebook now uses that information to try to identify people’s faces in new pictures. You don’t have to upload a picture of you drunk at a party; instead, a friend may do so and Facebook will automatically tag it and add it to your feed. Google Goggles draws on Google’s vast database of indexed web pages and pictures to identify items you take a picture of. Researchers are working on apps that, when you take a picture with your smartphone, uses information from your phone and the phones around you to figure out where you are, what you’re doing, and who’s in the photo.

If you put all of this together, you’re much closer to what the science fiction writer Charlie Stross called the lifelog. Imagine recording every word you say and everything you see. Computers translate your speech to text, identify who you’re looking at and what you’re seeing, and index it. Voila, you’ve got a searchable database of your entire life.

Now imagine that information being broadcast. Companies will offer incentives for viewing their products, let alone using them. Social apps will want us sharing our information with our friends and will use the trappings of games to encourage that behavior. The judicial system will use what we record in courts, and employers will want to watch what we do during work hours. A future Google will aggregate all of this information and make much better statistical predictions about how people really behave. Partners can check up on each other. You think we have boundary issues now with Facebook and Twitter? Just you wait.

All of that is going to make how we relate to each other different in weird and somewhat unpredictable ways. And as I said earlier, that’s key to romance novels: how do two people learn about one another and eventually come to fall in love. Now they’ll just do it under the unblinking eye of everyone’s cameras.

Bad Analogies Can Be as Addictive as Chocolate

Did you know that reading romance novels can be as addictive as pornography? And that reading romance novels can destroy marriages?

That utter silliness is being peddled in an article by Kimberly Sayer-Giles. The article prominently quotes Dr. Juli Slattery, the Family Psychologist for Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family is James Dobson’s organization fighting for “traditional marriages,” which evidently are under attack not only from gays but also from romance novels.

The romance novel weblog SBTB has a good takedown of the article as a whole, but I was fascinated by the article’s use of science.

“There is a neurochemical element with men and visual porn, but an emotional element with women and these novels,” [Dr. Slattery] wrote.

Men are very visual, and viewing pornography produces a euphoric drug in the body. This drug is the reason pornography becomes addictive. When the natural high wears off, a man will crash and feel depressed (as happens with any drug) and crave another hit.

Women are more stimulated by romance than sex, so when they read romantic stories (and they don’t have to be explicit to work) they can experience the same addicting chemical release as men do…..

Pornography addiction counselor Vickie Burress said reading romance novels or viewing pornography may eventually lead to an affair for some women.

“Women involved in pornography have a hard time keeping their family together,” she said.

That’s a whole bunch of bad logic spackled over with a thin, cracking patina of terrible science. This is like equating sex and chocolate. Having sex releases endorphins, a euphoric drug in the body. Eating chocolate can also release endorphins. People who have affairs, some of whom eat chocolate, may ruin their marriage. The implication is clear: eating chocolate will make it hard to keep your marriage together.

I eagerly await the next article from Kimberly Sayer-Giles equating romance novels and snuff films.

Eugie Foster Won a Nebula!

My friend Eugie won a well-deserved Nebula1 for her novelette Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast. If you’ve not read it, Apex Magazine reprinted it online for free. You can also listen to an audiobook version of it courtesy of the Escape Pod podcast.

1The Nebula Awards are given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and are voted on only by members of SFWA. In short, Eugie’s story was selected by a jury of her peers.

Let’s Argue About Fanfic Like It’s 1999!

It’s spring, when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love and authors post rants about fanfic. Diana Gabaldon is the latest author to denounce fanfic and those who write it in a manner reminiscent of Anne Rice at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, many of her arguments are so shaky and problematic that a building inspector would have her entire logical edifice torn down for not meeting code.

OK, my position on fan-fic is pretty clear: I think it’s immoral, I _know_ it’s illegal, and it makes me want to barf whenever I’ve inadvertently encountered some of it involving my characters.

It’s fair for authors to say, “You know what, I don’t like fanfic, and I don’t want any of it written with my characters.” Most fanfic authors respect that; I believe all of them should. Diana is on shaky ground with her statement about how she knows fanfic’s illegal. She’s a US citizen writing and living in the US, so she should be familiar with the fair use doctrine in US copyright law. Mounting a fair use defense is akin to building a house on shifting sands, but nevertheless, much of fanfic is likely to reside on those sands.

That first paragraph may be reasonable, but even there you can hear the faint sound of squealing wheels as the train prepares to leap the rails. By the fourth paragraph she’s analogized fanfic writers to burglars and made the completely incorrect statement, “And you can’t use someone’s copyrighted characters for your own purposes, no matter what those purposes are,” which means my making up Phineas and Ferb stories for Eli is right out.

But wait! She’s just getting started! She compares fanfic writers to someone trying to seduce her husband, and later analogizes fanfic writers to a stalkerish middle-aged man who tells a mom how he fantasizes about having sex with her twenty-one-year-old daughter. She manages to conflate real-world stalking with people writing porn about imaginary people.

Then she goes a step further, giving a blanket condemnation of fanfic because so much of it is terrible, and a lot of it is porn. “A terrible lot of fan-fic is outright cringe-worthy and ought to be suppressed on purely aesthetic grounds,” she says, later claiming that the amount of pornographic fanfic “constitutes an aesthetic argument” against all fanfic. Is a type of artistic expression only allowed if the majority of it is good? It puts the fanfic author in the place of Abraham, asking Gabaldon, “Suppose you find fifty good examples of fanfic. Will you really sweep it all away then? What about forty-five? Or forty?”

A lot of people have pointed out that Gabaldon’s house is entirely made of glass. She has admitted that the hero of her Outlander series was inspired by a character from Doctor Who. Later books in the series feature plenty of sex, some of it with real historical people — at one point, the King of France rapes one of Gabaldon’s characters. Given that, the saddle of her high horse is resting on the floor.

I find fanfic and other transformative works fascinating. People are not passive consumers of entertainment. We are not empty glasses waiting to be filled. We are active in a dialog among fans and creators, taking creative works and riffing on them. From the kid making up stories about adventures with the Transformers to the Doctor Who fan imagining what it would be like to travel with the Doctor, we weave these stories into our own imaginative play. Authors and creators can opt out of that, asking that there be no public expression of this imaginative play, but I believe that doing so makes our overall cultural experience poorer. It is their right, and I support them exercising that right, but I’d rather they not.

To Diana’s credit, she’s listening to the angry conversations stirred up by her post. This evening she posted that she’s reassessing her take on fanfic writers’ motivations. She evidently had never considered that fanfic writers might be doing it out of love for the original work. I hope she also reconsiders her position on fanfic, or at least is willing not to conflate its writers with stalkers and burglars.

Oh, Authors, Why Must You Be Crazy on the Internet?

If I linked to every incident of an author being crazy on the Internet over a bad review, I’d be here all day, but this one is a perfect shining diamond of such crazy. It’s the platonic ideal of an author going insane over a bad review, and will be studied by future cockroach scholars as they comb through our lost civilization trying to understand why we spent so much time on the Internet being stupid.

At Amazon, L.B. Taylor gave a bad review of “Electra Galaxy’s Mr. Intersellar Feller”, an SF romance by Candace Sams. The first comment, by “Niteflyr One”, accuses Taylor of hating the author. Niteflyr One, of course, is the author Candace Sams.

What’s that? A sock puppet right out of the gate? That’s a classic move, the Queen’s Gambit of authors responding to bad reviews. But it gets better! She claims her response was just a social experiment! (“Here’s a run-through of the events of this experiment, for that’s what all this was ‘really’ about.”) The lurkers support her in email! (“For some time now, I’ve been getting messages from more equitable reviewers, agents and editors that this person (Taylor) was ‘known’ in the industry for having some very angry, almost hateful opinions…”) Godwin’s law in action! (“I’d liken their collective attitude to Gestapo tactics, but I don’t think anyone who left comments on the list on behalf of Taylor would know what I was talking about, let alone be able to spell it.”) I don’t actually mind the bad review! (“For those of you who don’t know…I was a police officer for almost ten years. I’ve been called things in languages from all over the world. Taylor and her webspinners hardly bother me.”) All of you people responding negatively are in on it and are out to get me! (“She responded just as I thought one of these nasty little reviewers would…she ran, hid and called out her little army of nothing-better-to-do malcontents.”)

And that’s only one comment! She ran through the whole Kubler-Rossian spectrum of wankery in one sitting.

What’s icing on the cake is her awesome claims. Thrill! to her claim that editors are responsible for the bad books, not authors. (I blame Joss Whedon fans for this defense.) Exclaim! when you realize that she points to Harriet Klausner as a model reviewer, the same Harriet Klausner whose reviews are typically nothing more than plot summaries that may or may not get the plot points right. Marvel! that she thinks that people who post bad reviews on Amazon then buy it in ebook format to sell illegally. Swoon! as she sneers how a sneer is the weapon of the weak.

But none of that can hold a candle to her calling in the Internet FBI. Seriously!

Candace Sams gives up around page 18, but who knows? Maybe she’ll be back!