Responding to Various Outrages
Outrage the First: Supermodel Tyra Banks has signed a multi-book deal to write a YA series, the first of which will be called Modelland.
The outrage: It’s not fair that these celebrities wander along and decide to “write” a book, usually with huge advances, when real writers work for years to try to break in, and those that do are lucky to get a $5000 advance.
My response: She’s a celebrity. People will buy her book, whether it’s good or not. Of course she’s going to get an obscene advance. If you believe it’s easier to first become a celebrity and then score a book deal, I suggest you try that career path. But don’t blame publishers for acquiring things that will sell. If you must be outraged, blame the readers who keep buying celebrity books.
Outrage the Second: Author Neil Gaiman was paid $45,000 for a four-hour speaking engagement at a Stillwater library.
The outrage: What a waste of money! No author is worth $11,250 an hour, especially a science-fiction/fantasy author! Think of all the things that money could have been used for!
My response: Have you heard Gaiman speak? Also, the money was earmarked for speaking fees, and so couldn’t have been used for anything else anyway. Also, I need to up my speaking rates. (Gaiman’s response is here, and like most of what he writes, is very worth reading.)
Outrage the Third: Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin hate fanfiction!
The outrage: They’re attacking/shutting out/insulting their fans. They don’t understand fanfiction. They’re wrong on the Internet!
My response: Some authors say they don’t “get” fanfic. Me, I don’t get our need to rehash this squabble every six months. Look, the MZB incident has multiple, sometimes contradictory details, Lori Jareo was an idiot, and I’ve got books to write. Moving on…
Outrage the Fourth: Facebook has changed their policies again, eroding yet another chunk from your online privacy.
The outrage: Everyone’s information is shared/marketed by default, and they’re forcing you to actively opt out. They’ve gone from caring about users to caring about advertisers and business partners.
My response: Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us at least six times over the past five years, and– Right! Shame on you anyway. Why are we still shocked and outraged when big companies turn out to be primarily interested in making money?
Outrage the Fifth: Michigan author Jim C. Hines has the most dandelion-filled lawn on his block!
My response: Bite me.
May 13, 2010 @ 10:06 am
Well, I suppose if life gives you lemons you are supposed to make lemonade…. so if it gives you dandelions you are supposed to make dandelion wine? 🙂
Jim C. Hines
May 13, 2010 @ 10:10 am
When life gives me lemons, I hang out on my porch and throw lemons at people.
May 13, 2010 @ 10:22 am
I think I’m going to be first in line for Tyra’s book. That is, first in line to boycott it. I’m sorry, but you’re talking about a book whose title seems to define something that will lead to unhealthily skinny teenage girls.
I must admit though, my response to Outrage the Fifth would be exactly the same thing. Of course, that’s my response to a lot.
Jim C. Hines
May 13, 2010 @ 10:24 am
I’m not going to judge by the title, though I admit there’s a good chance it’s going to be something I wouldn’t want to read or promote. But right now, there’s not enough info for me to make that call.
May 13, 2010 @ 10:27 am
I’m evil that way. I judge books at the bookstores by their titles on whether or not I’m willing to pick it up. Then I look at their cover and decide if I’m willing to read the back of the book. And then I decide if I’m going to buy it. That’s the method that put Goblin Quest on my shelf.
Jim C. Hines
May 13, 2010 @ 10:30 am
“That’s the method that put Goblin Quest on my shelf.”
Who am I to argue with this obviously effective technique?
FWIW, that’s pretty much the norm. Title and cover art are major factors in selling books, especially by newer/unknown authors.
May 13, 2010 @ 12:17 pm
Man, I like dandelions. They give lawns extra colour.
May 13, 2010 @ 3:05 pm
We did have the most dandelion filled backyard on our block, then my son and I went on the rampage with a weed whacker.
That was absolute carnage and a whole lot of fun. Dandelions are nice and juicy when they are over 2 feet tall. When my kid was massacring his way through and I was watching from a bit away, I could see the guts flying everywhere (and still had it landing on me 10 feet away).
May 13, 2010 @ 3:44 pm
Thanks for putting write in quotes in that first outrage.
May 14, 2010 @ 7:09 am
About outrage the fifth, I’m torn.
I think fan fiction is inevitable, whether you like it or not. I think an author has every right to distance themselves from interpretations of their own characters, whether on a matter of principle or (as I think you mentioned somewhere, Jim) to minimize the risk of being seen to “steal” an idea.
Personally, I don’t think fan fiction should be published in any for-profit way. I’m all for the sharing of it on fan websites, but selling it seems a bit odd and possibly unfair on the original author. The case you linked, Jim, is something I’m having trouble forming an opinion on, but at the end of the day I think MZB was right to distance herself.
I don’t think authors should discourage it, though. No matter what or whom they’re writing about, the fact they’re even writing and thinking is a good thing! It’s practice and in a way it’s a great way to begin writing as you have the characters there already, along with the setting. You can focus on dialogue and other areas of your story without having to constantly worry about what a character is like.
Jim C. Hines
May 14, 2010 @ 8:27 am
Publishing fanfic for profit is a definite no-no. (One example would be the Lori Jareo case I linked above. Lucas stomped her pretty hard.) As I understand it, the fanfiction community tries to police itself and does a pretty good job. But sometimes it only takes one person to make a big ol’ mess of things.
May 14, 2010 @ 8:31 am
I agree completely Jim. On one website/forum I browse, there’s a strong writing community (it’s actually where I heard about you, SFFWorld) but any and all fanfiction is banned because it can be such a huge problem.
May 16, 2010 @ 11:43 am
Readers don’t buy celebrity children’s books. Non-readers buy them as “gifts” for young readers, because these non-readers have never heard of any actual authors.
May 16, 2010 @ 1:17 pm
I don’t hate fanfic, but I’ve never understood it. If you’ve got the urge to write and create, why not dream up your own worlds? Heck, if you love Star Wars so much (just as an example), why not create a somewhat similar universe, making sure all the names are changed?
May 18, 2010 @ 8:58 am
“If you’ve got the urge to write and create, why not dream up your own worlds?”
Because for some writers, perhaps many, it’s not the worldbuilding that’s the key thing – it’s the urge to *tell the story*. You can find an account of how T. H. White came to write his Malory fanfic _The Once And Future King_ in the introduction to _The Book of Merlyn_: he fell into reading _The Morte d’Arthur_ and he got the urge to tell the story, and he did – rather than dreaming up his own worlds as he had done in other novels, he proved as other writers have before and since, that there’s masses of Story yet in the old mine of the Matter of Britain.
If you’ve never felt the urge to tell the story building up inside you like a lurching heavy whirlwind, well, I can tell you from my own experience, it exists. Stories come from our experience – the things we see, the non-things we think about. And this includes, as it always has and always will, the stories other people tell. When I tell a story set in Star Wars universe (just as an example) it’s fanfic. But that’s a matter of legal copyright, which checks my ability to sell it as a profit. It has nothing to do with the story…