Monday, April 24, 2006

Some things from the weekend

Bloody Blogger

Blogger has been completely insane for most of today, refusing to post stuff at all until 8 pm UK time, and then posting about eight copies of Excerpt 16 -- which, enthusiastic for it though you no doubt are, is a bit excessive. However, at last, here are a few things which should not be overlooked.

Link for Kelly Link

Kelly Link is an extremely talented science-fiction/fantasy writer who has won many awards in that field, such as the Nebula, Tiptree, and World Fantasy Awards. Eleven of her stories were included in Kelly's first collection, a book called Stranger Things Happen (which Mrs GOB is buying me for my birthday). And now, folks, you can, if you wish read this stuff online; in more than one format.

There are other books of Kelly's available too. And thanks to Viktor Janis for pointing this out.

Agents to avoid

I assume that anyone smart enough to be reading this blog is smart enough to know that there are agents and agents, and that some of them are to be avoided. But, just in case you need reminding, take note of Writer Beware's list of the 20 worst agents around. (Link from Maud Newton.)

Madness in the UK

The Sunday Telegraph reports that 85 UK universities now offer postgraduate creative-writing courses. Writing is reported to have a 'glamorous new image'. Hmm.

The link to this story came from the Literary Saloon, which asks, in passing, what could be more depressing. Offhand, I can't think of anything. Not in the book world, anyway.

Weird, bizarre and unusual

Weird, Bizarre and Unusual, aka, is the name of a web site operated by Andrew J. Hewett. I'm not quite sure where this one 1s going to or coming from but I sense that there may be a book in it somewhere, somewhen.


Back in February I reported on the case of Kaavya Viswanathan, a very bright young woman who was reported to be working with a book packager and an agent to produce a commercially viable product. I was generally in favour of the idea, though commenter Jeremy Snippet wasn't.

Well, the book came out, and was the predicted success -- 32nd on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list this week. However, the Harvard Crimson has just published an article alleging that several passages in the Viswanathan book are very similar to passages in another novel published in 2001. Oops.

So far it's no comment from everyone on the Viswanathan side. Thanks to Landjimk for the tip-off.

Gerard Jones on the wireless thingy

Gerard Jones, author of the world-famous Ginny Good, is interviewed by Denis Johnson on MobyLives radio. Go to MobyLives and click on the MobyLives Radio logo for 22 April 2006, and with a bit of luck an MP3 player will open up automatically and (provided you have your speakers turned on) start to play.

Gerard tells me that in this interview he sounds giddy and senile, but then, he says, 'I am giddy and senile.' Nah. No such thing. Actually he does very well and has some valuable insights to offer. It's a bit of a fag getting the MP3 thing to operate, but well worth it. Gerard is a one-off and an inspiration to us all.


Anonymous said...

"Deception bordering on fraud" was my verdict on the process by which 19 year-old Kaavya Viswanathan was coached by an agent and book packager during the writing of her novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.

What I didn't realise when I made my comment to Grumpy Old Bookman was just how prescient I was.

This – surely – is plagiarism, no matter how you slice it. Ms Viswanathan may very well be a talent young writer, but on the evidence of her first novel she is not above "drawing on" (ie lifting) another author's work – in this case Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty – in order to reach her goal.

Should her defence be that she didn't do the lifting personally but, rather, accepted "suggestions" put to her by her agent and packager, then she is just as fradulent as if she had doen the dirty herself. The difference in the second case is that she is joined in the dock by her co-conspirators.

At any rate, she should now come clean and admit what she did, or allowed to be done on her behalf. To hide behind a "no comment" will only work until such times as her publishers investigate the case, conclude the bleeding obvious and offer a settlement.

Plagiarism – in spite of the recent High Court verdict involving Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code (in which Brown was exonerated) – is on the increase in publishing.

I have personal knowledge of a case (and I can mention no names at this point) that is representative of what sometimes takes place.

A first-time novelist wrote a book in 2003 which he submitted, through his agent, to a well-known British publisher in the spring of 2004. The novel in question was set in an obscure corner of Europe during the Second World War and turned on the efforts of a young, public-school and Cambridge educated ex-soldier turned spy, to prevent a calamity occuring that could have caused Britain to lose the war.

The novel was rejected three months later on the grounds that, though well-written and interesting, it was "retrospective," and therefore (for some reason) of no interest to the reading public.

Nearly two years later, another novel, with a similar theme and an almost identical cast of characters, set at the same time in the same neglected corner of Europe, appeared from the same publisher written by an established author previously known for his bestsellers in a different genre.

The book has done well and received good reviews.

When pressed, the publisher denied that anything untoward had occured. He claimed to the author of the rejected novel that the published book had been presented "as a completed manuscript" in the summer of 2002. Given that the author himself, in an interview, said that he had "just finished" it in 2004, this was plainly wrong. But the complainant got nowhere and the dispute, for the moment, remains unresolved.

Could it all have been coincidence? Who can say? Did the published author draw directly on the rejected manuscript, or was it "suggested" to him how an interesting plot might be forged out of a certain circumstance and set of characters? Or did he simply awaken one morning with a fully-formed story in his head and rush with all possible speed to his word processor?

Who knows?

Is it possible that Kaavya Viswanathan coincidentally "dreamed up" whole passages previously written by Megan McCafferty? Perhaps. Contrary to the cliché, there is nothing stranger than fiction.

In the meantime, the agent and packager who "assisted" Ms Viswanathan in the preparation of her novel need to answer some very hard questions.

There is little enough integrity left in publishing. We need to conserve what shreds remain.

– Jeremy Snippet

Anonymous said...

The NY Times pretty well leapt to her defense this morning, noting that at her tender age she was impacted by the other books at an even younger tender age and her subconschous/devil made her do it all without realizing they were near exact,word-for word PARAGRAPHS.

Good news for all, she is sorry (no, she regrets this astounding misrouting of brain neurons) for the coincidence, and will include a disclaimer somewhere on the inside, worded in such a way as to be meaningless. In other words,

it never happened.