Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, July 01, 2005

After my own heart.

Hey folks. In lieu of a post half-heartedly composed by your own, loyal Drek, I've decided to give today's post over to reproducing a section of the "Reference Library" from the July/August 2005 issue of Analong Science Fiction and Fact. This section, written by Tom Easton, is dedicated to book reviews. The following review, I think y'all will find interesting:

A sad truth about the publishing industry is that not everyone who wants to be published can possibly get published. Not only do book publishers and magazines receive more submissions than they can possibly publish, but when their staffs start looking through the pile of possibilities delivered by the mail (a.k.a. the "slush" pile), they find that most are utter dreck. If anyone published them, no one would buy them. Well, maybe the author's mother, except that the author of course could be counted on to buy a few copies for Mom, Grandma, Sis, Aunt Betsy, and so on.

So the staff sends out rejection slips- sometimes polite, sometimes less so, but never as frank as the staff dreams of daring to send- by the basketful. And the hopeful wannabe slinks home to hide under the bed.

Well, not really, for there are many outfits out there that take a less critical view of the manuscripts that come their way. Vanity publishers will publish almost anything- for a price. Scam publishers tell their prey that real publishers (See paragraph 1 above) are a conspiracy designed to protect the interests of an elitist in-group and bar the doors of critical and financial success to everyone else. They say, pointing to the vanity press that the suckers are already familiar with, that everyone pays to get published. Then they add that published writers are really pretty bad, certainly much worse than the suckers.

PublishAmerica attacked professional, published science fiction authors, saying that "as a rule of thumb, the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction... [Science fiction authors] have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home." They are "writers who erroneously believe that SciFi, because it is set in a distant future, does not require believable storylines, or that Fantasy, because it is set in conditions that have never existed, does not need believable every-day characters."

PublishAmerica claims to be a real publisher. It does not ask writers to pay to see their books in print. It actually pays them an advance on royalties (just a buck, but the principle is there). Then it prices books high, asks authors for a list of friends and relations to send "Buy me!" pitches to, and tells the writer it's up to him or her to actually peddle the book. Bookstores refuse to carry PublishAmerica products.

Are they truly a "real" publisher? Since one of the distinguishing marks of a real publisher is selectivity (they take the considerable trouble to look at submissions and pick out the ones that they think have a chance to succeed in the market), a number of science fiction and fantasy writers (hereinafter "the crew") got together last year to write the very worst book they possibly could. Every chapter is by a different writer. One chapter is computer-generated garbage. Characters change names, moods, hair colors, races, genders, and motivations even before the hat drops. It is so bad that a blogger later said: "It's so bad it hurts. Your brain tells you to stop reading, but you can't take your eyes off it." It's worse than the infamous Eye of Argon.

Then they submitted it to PublishAmerica.

PublishAmerica, as if it were trying to prove itself as much a scam publisher as anyone had ever called it, promptly issued a contract. The accompanying letter said, "I am happy to inform you that PublishAmerica has decided to give 'Atlanta Nights' the chance it deserves... Welcome to PublishAmerica, and congratulations on what promises to be an exciting time ahead."

The crew promptly started crowing. As soon as PublishAmerica heard, they withdrew the contract, saying that when their editors looked at the manuscript, they saw problems. That is, they did not look at the manuscript before issuing a contract.

But the crew wasn't done. Atlanta Nights, by Travis Tea (say it out loud), is available as a trade paperback from (and as a free download from [Specifically, here. -Drek]), where publication is free (so is the preview). It would make the perfect gift for someone you suspect of never reading the books you give them. It would- nay, will surely- be the basis of a fannish parlor game called "Who wrote this chapter?" And even though I provided a cover blurb ("Unbelievable! Incredible! A real jaw-dropper!"), it is bad, bad, bad- so bad you have to see it to believe it.

Who's in the crew? Here are the names of the guilty: Michael Armstrong, Pierce Askegren, Andrew Burt, James D. Macdonald, Sherwood Smith, Adam-Troy Castro, Judi B. Castro, Mary Catelli, Brenda Clough, Shira Daemon, Sheila Finch, Charles Coleman Finlay, Sean P. Fodera, Peter Heck, M. Turville Heitz, Deanna Hoak, Ken Houghton, Tina Kuzminski, Ted Kuzminski, Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb, Paul Melko, Catherine Mintz, Derryl Murphy, Vera Nazarian, Kevin O'Donnell Jr., Chuck Rothman, Jena Snyder, Allen Steele, Victoria Strauss, Laura J. Underwood, Brook West, Dancia West, Julia West, and Rowan West.

What they did has no chance at all of stoppin the depredations of the scam publishers of the world, but at least they had a great deal of fun in trying. And perhaps the publicity will warn off a few potential victims of the scammers.

Now that just makes me proud.


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