Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tuesday's toast

Madame illuminates

Madame Arcati has had several posts recently about the April Ashley book debacle (mentioned here on Tuesday last, in a brief discussion of plagiarism).

April says that she often asked for sight of Douglas Thompson's manuscript but he never obliged. Now the poor fellow has to suffer the wrath of his wife.

Madame is also smart enough (I wasn't, as usual) to work out that Robin Tamblyn is a lady, albeit one who thinks she's really a gay man. And they discuss self-publishing.

Kevin Spacey is, of course, the source of all Robin Tamblyn's inspiration, and Madame also discusses what Sir Elton and David said to Kevin, and what Kevin said back. And... some parts of it have been withheld. Hmm....

Creative Commons

The Creative Commons blog is very active at the moment, what with news of a US Judge who is going to be interviewed on Second Life, and also advance notice of a documentary about free culture and copyright.

Gowers report

Speaking of copyright, the Gowers report on Intellectual Property is due out in the UK this week. Gowers is cagey, in advance of publication, about what it says, but hints that he may not adopt the usual 'let's give all file-sharers 30 years in the clink' approach. He might even say something sensible and useful, who knows?

Meanwhile, in Personal Computer World, in an article which does not appear to be available online, Guy Kewney is rightly rude about DRM evangelists. 'They are misers, hoarders, and unashamed exploiters of the ideas of anybody unable to match their lawyers. And fortunately,' he adds, 'their day is ending. The internet cannot be unwoven, and a new reality is emerging.'

By the way, in looking for the Kewney article online, I came across the Darknet site, which covers 'Hollywood's war against the digital generation'. And, if you scroll down, you can even buy a 72-page comic book about copyright issues.

Indie verdict

The Independent is rude about the UK book trade (link from Publishers Lunch):
Any honest observer of the book business in Britain will spend much of any year sunk in head-shaking gloom about its condescension to readers, its timid addiction to every passing fad, and its urge to throw good money after feather-light ephemera. Come Christmas, and the chain-store displays wear these marks of shame as badges of pride.
Crumbs. But any book they mention in their Christmas roundup can be ordered from the Indie bookshop -- at a 10% discount.

Flim flam with figures

Publishers Lunch draws attention to the strange case of a well known (if financially weak) US publisher being bought by an Irish company which itself has a mountain of debt.

Luke Johnson, who wrote the article, once ran a publishing company himself. I quoted his opinion of the industry in my essay On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile. He found that publishing was 'a painful experience.' Generally, he said, publishing is a 'terrible business… a barely rational industry.'

Now he turns his attention, in the Sunday Telegraph, to the purchase of Houghton Mifflin by Riverdeep. This seems to be less than barely rational.

Both companies have had years of reported net losses - but no one seems to care; both have had endless refinancings, while private equity firms book huge cash profits in record time. Lucrative fees ($91m on this deal alone) are charged by the advisers; and there is 'a financing structure built on mountains of debt, all at stratospheric multiples, with no hope of ever paying off the principal through operations. Quite what justifies the doubling in Houghton Mifflin's valuation since 2002 is beyond me.... Free cashflow after capital expenditure and pre-publication costs (but before interest) was a paltry $22m.'

You get the idea. If you have a head for figures, read the whole article. And this is the industry, friends, in which you are hoping to make a living.


There's Paul Wilson, and there's F. Paul Wilson. I don't think they're the same, but they're both prolific and both sell a lot.

Paul Wilson is a man who is keen on calm, meditation, and all like that. Publishers Lunch says that his agent (Al Zuckerman) has just sold a book called The Quiet to Tarcher.

F. Paul Wilson, on the other hand, writes horror, scifi, and all sorts of related stuff, and he's an osteopath too, the idle fellow.

What confused me is that they both have the same agent, Dr Al. Or at any rate he sold F. Paul's The Keep.

Science and the arts...

...come together. More or less. The JoongAng Daily (oh yes, we read everything here) reports that a successful writer has been appointed as digital storytelling professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, known as Kaist. His job is to teach science students how to write.

Some of the science students are finding it hard going at first. 'I did not know,' says the novelist/prof, 'that [the students] would agonize over the meaning of "refer to the materials," which is what I told the class to do for the next session. They seemed to think that solving a quantum mechanics problem would be easier. They would stare blankly at each other and ask me back, "Does that mean we should read the 1,000-page novel in two days, or not?'"

However, the dean of Kaist has high hopes. He expects a Nobel prize winner for literature within the next ten years. Oh, and an Academy Award winner too. (Link from my son Jon.)

One liners -- or thereabouts

In the Guardian, Patrick Ness says exactly what I said last week, namely that some examples of UK book design are shocking and disgraceful, and that the Americans, by and large, do it much better. (Link from booktrade.info.)

A correspondent says that, if Eeyore was a blogger, he would sound like me. Is this a compliment? Or is it a matter for handbags at dawn?

The police are going to launch a new enquiry into the death of Stuart Lubbock in or around Michael Barrymore's swimming pool. (The death, that is, not the enquiry.) Presumably this won't do the sales of Lubbock's father's book any harm.

Tonto Press offers a free ebook of Christmas short stories.

The Guardian blog has a thoroughly sensible post by Kathryn Hughes about literary prizes. (Link from booktrade.info.)

UK blogger Police Constable David Copperfield (not, just in case you were wondering, his real name) has a hit on his hands with Wasting Police Time, an expose of how mismanagement, bureaucracy and idiocy are strangling the police and allowing criminals a free ride. (Link from booktrade.info again.)

The Sunday Times says that the stage production of Rebecca, starring Nigel Havers, which I found so woeful, cannot go into the West End because a German producer owns the rights to stage a musical production of Du Maurier's famous novel. I think this is an excuse, but I look forward to Mrs Danvers doing a tap dance. Or maybe she will use a pole?

If you are interested in 'dark fantastic fiction', Abaddon books may be the place for you.

The Jerusalem Post has an interview with Gore Vidal (which I think I found through Maud Newton). In it, he suggests that writers should feel free to revise their works, even after publication. He gives Tennessee Williams as an example. Not sure I agree.

Iain Hollingshead won the 2006 Award for Bad Sex in Fiction. (Link from my son Jon.)

The Kore Press (established 1993) is 'a community of literary activists devoted to bringing forth a diversity of voices through works that meet the highest artistic standards.' Women's writing only, and writing 'that deepens awareness and advances progressive social change.' It's probably not worth sending in your hospital romance.

Speaking of romance, Tim Ward has written a new book about how men relate to women. Savage Breast, subtitled One Man's Search for the Goddess, is described as 'an honest and raw look at one man's growing awareness of his own deeply buried misogyny, his frustrated longing for women, and at the same time his desperate fear of women and love.' He seems like a nice boy, doesn't he? (Copyright Larry Grayson.)

Victoria Strauss reports that in Syracuse, New York, Martha Ivery -- vanity publisher, fee-charging literary agent, and woman of many aliases -- was sentenced to 65 months in Federal prison, plus 3 years' probation. The Writer Beware team had been tracking this lady since 1998, and provided evidence to the FBI. (Link from Publishers Lunch.) The report is in two parts, 1 December and 4 December.

The UK Booksellers Association has a newish blog, authored by Martyn Daniels. The emphasis is heavily on the impact of digitisation, and as such it can do little but good, in my opinion.


Anonymous said...

You have to admire Hollingshead's determination to win the "Bad Sex" award every year, but surely the competition must be intense.

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Anonymous said...

Madame Arcati wasn't at all "smart enough to work out that Robin Tamblyn is a lady". Tamblyn has been "outed" on Madame's blog by some well-informed insider. The outed outer, that's fair game, isn't it ? ;-)

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