Monday, March 30, 2015

Collecting My Thoughts

So, the announcement that Jane Litte of Dear Author was also author Jen Frederick came across my feed pretty quickly last week. Reaction was mixed.  There have been a lot of posts about it include Wendy the Superlibrarian and Olivia Waite and the Passive Voice and this post from Book Thingo which rounds up a goodly list of the posts as well as has some great reflections.
First, I think using pseudonyms is fine.  People have day jobs, lives, kids, they may wish to keep separate.  All cool.  Using multiple pseudonyms with a level of separation between them, also can make sense.  Often authors writing under multiple names out themselves after a bit, both because it becomes unwieldy and because the idea isn't (usually) to trick readers or fellow writers, but to say, the person who writes these things writes gritty mysteries, and this person writes literary, or this person writes romantic suspense, and this person writes young adult.  I have met people using one name for erotica and another for children's books.  They tend not to out themselves for somewhat obvious reasons. So basically I can envision scenarios where you would want to make the reasons for the separate pen names clear, and those where you would expect little to no crossover in your audience and not want to advertise the relationship between those names. 
In this scenario, there was obviously huge overlap in the audience.  Again, I get why Jane wanted to keep her blogger self separate from her author self in order to prevent the appearance that she was using one to launch the other.  But, it does fundamentally change the appearance of things.  There are plenty of author/bloggers and reviewer/author/bloggers.  But just like FTC requirements ask for bloggers to disclose if they got a book for free, you want to know where you are.  Are you at a site run by a blogger/author or run by a blogger/reader? 
And, as the Bookthingo post points out, this points to the limited number of places that readers have to go to for broad discussion of the business of romance books.  One of the reasons so many people were upset at the lawsuit over a Dear Author blog post about goings on at a publisher was that Dear Author is one of the places people go to for such information.  (It got picked up more widely only after the lawsuit.) Another big place for such news is Smart Bitches, who, well, knew about this already.  (Yes, I realize that not all the reviewers at Dear Author knew, and likely, many of the crew at Smart Bitches didn't yet either). This discussion about things that people wish had happened differently is overall (I'm sure there are pockets where it is not) about where the problems lie. 
So. Is the world broken? No.  Are some people understandably hurt or concerned? Yes. And, as Olivia's post pointed out, the biggest loss is to readers, who have lost what they thought was a reader focused site.  There are still plenty of reader focused sites.  But Dear Author was a giant site, that got that way over time, and so it may take time for some of these other sites to get to the size or breadth (assuming that is even their goal).
Also, while I haven't talked much here about the lawsuit, I think the idea that a publisher would spend it's money suing a blogger (even if it's a blogger/author) who posts concerns about their business drawn from multiple sources is a best an interesting financial choice and at worst an attempt to quell free speech.  That this news reveal was forced as a result of that does nothing to change my opinion on that.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Three Interesting Things

RWA board members get the happy job of notifying finalists today.  So, I have fingers crossed for folks waiting on that call.
1. A FOIA request for complaints to Amtrak led to a surprising level of retractions.
2. Belgium has decided to eliminate prison sentences under a year.
3. Someone has come up with a cat for each Myers Briggs type.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Widening the Scope

A while back, I was telling someone about something I was reading and she asked, in all sincerity, how did I decide what to read.  Now, it was in some ways a hard question, because I've been reading for so long and with such consistency, that I am now so plugged into things that can be read that often my biggest problem is that I have too much to read.  But librarians, booksellers, internet blogs, etailers with recommendations, recommendations from friends on line and in real life are all part of my decision making process.  Of course, it can then become easy to just keep reading the same things.  To get a good stable of authors and just keep reading their stuff.  And none of these things are bad.  But, if you do that, then you keep reading the same kinds of books. 
One of the things the folks behind things like #weneeddiversebooks and #weneeddiverseromance are trying to do is make people who aren't even aware of some of the additional book choices available to them be more aware.  And once you start reading some of those things, it expands out.  You become aware of even more authors that might not have made it across your radar before, the recommendation algorithms shift to add new suggestions for you and then next thing you know, you have even more author choices (and yet, sadly, not more time to read them). 
I read something back around the 2008 election, that while social media was, of course, helping folks stay in touch with friends and family who has moved away, but a lot of people were hanging in some sort of homogenous group (in this case politically) such that many thought certain candidates winning were a foregone conclusion because they spent all day talking with people who were all planning to vote for the same candidate.  It's easy to do this with books and other media choices.  But, if you want to widen out, add to your choices and possibly discover additional auto-read authors, it's not that hard.  The first steps in widening your choices will lead to huge changes in your general awareness of what's out there. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Sara Zarr has an interesting ponderance on her long relationship with the internet
2. This book looking at some misinformation in how we view sexual arousal sounds fascinating.
3. And a warning to those of you who follow me on the Twitter, DABWAHA has begun and I have feelings about several of the nominated books, so weird tweeting may occur.  (Actually, there's probably always weird tweeting, but you know.)

Monday, March 16, 2015

7 Things It is Not

There were several flare ups in book world recently, where an author said something problematic, was called on it, and then things happened.  I'm not going to link to either because part of what I want to discuss is the reaction, but, suffice it to say someone made a joke about slavery that was both not funny and not clearly a joke, and someone made a comment about how difficult it is to understand women when one is a man. 
In the interest of disclosure I will say that my social media friends overlap more clearly with one of these authors than the other, so I may have a better understanding of the response.
In both cases the internet rose up in indignation.
And then in a separate issue an op ed addressing a blog post that suggested for people to give up reading straight white men for a bit, looped in the We Need Diverse Books campaign, implying that they were part of this "attack" on white male authors which is incorrect and problematic on so many levels. 
1. It is not impossible for people to write things that you enjoy and also be flawed people. It is not impossible for people to be super nice and also be flawed people.
2. It is not impossible for people to have been attacked unfairly once before, and for them to now do something that is problematic.
3. It is not mean to say to people: This thing you said is hurtful.  You may not have realized that, but there are hurt people now. 
4. It does not shut down people's ability to admit flaws if others address the hurtful things they have done or said.
5. It does not absolve you if you say, I am working on this thing.  But saying: I have seen this flaw in myself and am working on it, it still a helpful thing.
6.The reality is that many people who are authors have a platform and a place of privilege.  And the reality is that as much as we as authors, writers, and people work to be more aware, there are going to be stumbles. We have to be able to talk about these and address these.  Addressing them is not attacking people.  It is not saying the people who have made mistakes are terrible and should never be spoken of again.  It is not saying that people are never allowed to admit flaws.  The discussion is not the problem.  The discussion is in fact what all the people claiming they want better gender representation and better racial representation, have asked for.  Missteps will happen, but this isn't like a fart or something we brush under the rug and never speak of again.  We not only help our friends by allowing and encouraging discussions like this, but we make help make the space the safe welcoming one for everyone, marginalized or not, privileged or not, by showing that these things will not go unacknowledged. 
7. And I can't believe this even needs to be said, but calls for diversity are not calls against white people or males.  Yes, one person wrote a post suggesting people trying not reading white males for a period of time.  First, that is neither anti-white, nor anti-male.  That was a suggestion for people who might be finding their shelves a little full of a certain kind of author.  Second, this derailing to try and say that this is reverse sexism or reverse racism.  Third, yes or course we all want to live in the world where people choose their books based entirely on what they want to read.  But, you may really want to read a story today about an ancient Korean demon hunter or a Brooklyn cupcake maker.  But to make that choice, you have to know that both of those books exist. 
And as I was writing this, someone sent out this Storify (about another different but similar issue) that addressed many of the same things, so I'll just leave this here.