Blog Archives

At The Risk of Offending: Internet Controversies

Of late, it seems that hardly a week goes by when there isn’t some kind of controversy on the internet. Whether we talk about political gaffes, authors having meltdowns, reviewers calling each other out, authors taking the piss out of other people, publishers doing some really dumb things, fans and geeks laying bare their prejudices and revealing their baser thinkings or whatever else, it all happens with amazing regularity. I’ve seen some really startling controversies of late. And there are two that I want to focus on for this post.

The first of these deals with the controversy surrounding a variant cover that Cartoon Network issued for an upcoming issue of Powerpuff Girls, which are currently being published by IDW Publishing. The cover showed the three sisters in a supposedly sexist and exploitative light, and a comics retailer in the US took incredible exception to it and was quite vocal about it.

The second of these deals with something a bit low key. A fellow blogger posted a really interesting commentary on how a lot of readers today are assigning genders to books and are dividing them by who should and should not be reading those books, creating an even bigger stir in the ocean of sexism and misogyny in the book publishing industry, just to name one of the concerns. Another friend took strong exception to some of the things said in the post, and there was quite an interesting twitter conversation on both sides.

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Publishing and Marketing 09: Reading Women In SFF

This is my 400th post. Naturally, I thought that I would do something a bit different from all the reviews I’ve been doing of late, for almost four months now. Reviews are well and good, but that’s not all that this blog is about. It is also “A Place For The Unrestrained Consumption of Good Fiction”. And this means a lot of things. One of the foremost is talking about good fiction, or just fiction in general beyond the context of a review. And that’s what this post is about. I’ve touched on this topic a little in the past, but with this “anniversary” on hand, I feel it is a good time to talk about it some more.

Over a year and a half ago, a friend pointed out to me that my reviews were all disproportionately of fiction from men. It was an eye-opener. It wasn’t something that I had considered before, and I was startled that such a bias had crept into my current fiction consumption, despite the fact that I consumed a lot of fiction from women growing up. And that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.

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Publishing and Marketing 08: The Black Library Marketing Maze

I’ve been a fan of Black Library for a long time, going on about 11 years now, roughly. It all started with a copy of William King’s third Space Wolf novel, Grey Hunter, and was soon continued on with the first six novels in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Since then, I’ve read a lot of the novels, and the short stories, and the anthologies, in all the different formats that have been put out. I took a long break in the middle, around late 2008 however, and didn’t get back into the swing of things until later 2010, by when there had been some big changes to everything, new series, new authors, new formats even (the Hammer and Bolter eZine). It was an exciting time

Right up until late 2012 that is. For someone just getting back into BL fiction, those two years were well-spent, catching up on a lot of the stuff that had been put out in the intervening years, and during that period. I repeated often last year and the year before that, that BL was enjoying very much a golden year since the Horus Heresy series continued to gain more recognition, with each book going on the New York Times Bestsellers List, with lots of new authors coming in, some truly amazing artwork from a whole new generation of artists and so on and so forth. BL had even embraced digital publishing wholeheartedly and were making some great inroads.

But then, they started dropping the ball with their marketing. Curious, inexplicable decisions were being made. And a lot of it was coming together at the same time. And it baffled me. Still does. Which is why I’m writing this post at this time, and not before. Because by now I’ve seen a lot of the fall-out from all the decisions that they’ve made in the last year or so.

So read on, and enjoy. And if not, I welcome any opinion that differs from mine. Also, authors are welcome. Any time. You can find all previous Publishing and Marketing posts here.

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Publishing and Marketing 07: A Reviewer’s Self-Examination

A few days ago I came across a review of Mark Lawrence’s second Broken Empire novel, King of Thorns (link), which is up for nomination for the David Gemmell Legend Awards in the Legend category. The Legend Award is given to the Best Novel of the previous year. On Twitter and Facebook, I talked about how that review justified all my reasons and fears for not reading further into this series after my experiences with the first novel, Prince of Thorns (review).

My tweets eventually spawned off a discussion about negative reviews, which led into the review that forms the basis and reason for this entire post.  In January last year, reviewer Liz Bourke wrote about Michael J. Sullivan’s first Riyria Revelations novel, Theft of Swords (link). This review was brought to my attention by a friend on Twitter who had taken exception to the way that Liz Bourke took potshots at the author and his editors at Orbit Books.

Going through the review and the comments thread, some things become apparent to me as to the intent of the review, the tone it is written in, and what, ultimately, were the reactions. However, what really ended up happening was that it all sparked off some self-examination about negative reviews. And that’s what this post is all about.

So welcome to another Publishing and Marketing blogpost.

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Publishing and Marketing 06: Writers Welcome and Reviewing Etiquette

So right now on Twitter and Facebook, there is an intense debate brewing regarding (as of when I started writing this last night), essentially, the right of authors to step into blogger-space to offer commentary on reviews, whether they are stepping in to correct mistakes in a review, or making narratives clearer by offering their intentions with the choices they made, or whatever else. It all started with a highly condescending blogpost on the Strange Horizons website, by blogger Renay. And that in itself is an extension of a review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series on the Book Smugglers blog. The comments sections on both posts are very illuminating.

Now, before I get into the meat of my argument about the behaviour displayed by the people concerned, I’ll say this outright: this kind of behaviour pisses me off. This is why I sometimes hate being a reviewer because it is people like Renay and Ana at Book Smugglers who outright give reviewers a bad name, whether they realise it or not.

Hence, why this article is titled Writers Welcome and Reviewing Etiquette. So, here’s another Publishing and Marketing post. As always comments are most welcome, whether you are an author or a reviewer or just a reader.

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Publishing and Marketing 05: The Reviewer Crossover

A couple months back I came across this blog post, in which a reviewer/blogger questioned herself regarding her worth as a blogger, and whether what she did mattered worth a damn. It is a very engaging blog post and raises several questions that I’ve asked myself several times since I read the post. Just the core idea of it is enough to spark off a flurry of questions.

As of writing this post, I had a rather brief discussion on Twitter with an author of several years’ standing and a reviewer I’ve been following for a while. The topic of this discussion: shouting in the void that is the internet and making oneself be heard among all the noise that is generated by the tens of thousands of bloggers out there. In an environment where new book blogs are cropping up almost everyday, where Goodreads and Amazon have given rise to an extremely prolific blog-reviewer culture, it is tough to be heard as someone who has something to contribute.

In previous installments of this column, I’ve talked about various things, whether they be publisher marketing strategies or industry controversies, or even spotlighting women in the industry. For this installment, I thought I’d do something a bit different from the usual.

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Publishing and Marketing 03: Women in SFF Part 1

One question that is being asked by many in the wake of the recent SFWA controversy, and all the commentary it has spawned in various places about misogyny and sexism within the publishing industry is: “If I want to read more books by female authors, where do I start?”

Often times, I think it is rather disheartening to hear such a question. Women have been writing books for a long, long time. And for people to not even be aware of that, or for that matter, be able to perform a basic google search about who are the big names right now? Doesn’t speak so well for us as a community. Speaking of the industry in the broadest sense, we are all very close-ranked, and to break out of the apparent restrictions is not easy. Sure its “easy” to get published as a woman, but to receive recognition? That’s an uphill battle.

It all comes down to respect. And when it comes to respect within the publishing industry (or even just in general in daily life), never ever use the word “political correctness”. That’s a dirty word to use, and it betrays a lack of ability to engage, and wilful dismissal of a very serious and ongoing issue that affects us all. Just look at the entire entertainment industry as a whole, whether its novels or comics or movies or even news.

In such a state, it is absolutely essential that we willingly look to broaden our horizons. We should take chances and read outside of our comfort zones, because otherwise we don’t challenge ourselves and we just propagate the “like begets like” scenario and we cannot grow as an individual.

Which is what this editorial, the third in my Publishing and Marketing series, is about: stepping out of your comfort zone. If you’ve never read a book by a female author before, then my suggestions herein are an excellent place to start.

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Publishing & Marketing Column

For the last couple of months I’ve been considering doing a semi-regular column on the publishing industry. Specifically, I’ve been considering the aspect of marketing and getting published. The basis for both is, of course, personal experience in the case of the former and my observations over the last 18 months for the latter.

Here are some thoughts I’ve had about this.

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