Next year I'm leading a campaign to get Mary Worth nominated for a Hugo, since it clearly deals in near-future xenopsychology and at least it'll take the wind out of fucking Girl Genius's sails.
(Oh yeah, I'm in Montana now, I LOVE grad school, classes are kick-ass, Missoula is a great town. But I sort of miss Brooklyn.)
I still have nothing useful to contribute to the Amazon/Macmillan kerfuffle. However, it did raise a question in my mind that's more apposite to other situations:
What, if any, are the ways to punish publishers without hurting writers?
Amazon's methods obviously hurt and freaked out a lot of writers, and whether or not Macmillan deserved punishment depends on whether or not you're Amazon - this is a case of "when Godzilla and Gargantua fight, don't be a small human in a vulnerable coastal city." But what about things like Bloomsbury's repeated cover whitewashings, or other instances where publishers behave genuinely egregiously?
The use of consumer choice to replicate interpersonal social control mechanisms like peer pressure and ostracism is an iffy business at best (which is one reason why libertarianism can never really work as advertised, and why my committee at the Coop has a long-running, never-to-be-resolved argument about when it's appropriate to advise members to 'buy green' as opposed to buying used or just not buying at all.) It only works when there are adequate alternatives for the consumer, when the signals sent by changes in buying habits won't be swamped by larger economic fluctuations, when the change demanded isn't contrary to the broader class interests and biases of the folks at the top, etc., etc. Plus, when you accept the metaphor that corporations are people, you also start getting into the Geek Social Fallacies, which leads us to a place where you end up with people arguing that we shouldn't be so mean to Marvel or something and I'm sure none of us want that.
The other chief method of managing corporate behavior, regulation, is currently so under-deployed in American society that we can't even agree that regulations to stop corporations from stealing from and killing people ought to be enforced, so we're sure as shit not going to get consensus on telling publishers to stop being shady (which, depending on the issue, might run into First Amendment weirdness too, since lying may or may not be protected speech depending on the subject at hand.)
Practically speaking, there may be no way to police publisher behavior without causing authors some pain. But are there at least ways to minimize it and still get the message across? In Bloomsbury's case, angry letters have gotten the job done twice, if by getting the job done you mean getting individual covers changed. But this method:
A.) requires the threat of not buying the book and at least a theoretical willingness to follow through, lest the publisher call the complainer's bluff, which again, hurts the writer;
B.) requires constant vigilance, since while the individual covers were changed, the same problem recurred in less than a year, and
C.) runs the risk that the publisher will learn, not to put appropriate covers on their books, but to eschew main characters of color because they're controversial.
So, thoughts? Third ways?
Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Dead skunk in the middle of the road.
Deeeeead skunk, in the middle of the road
Stinkin to high Heaven.
I'm alternating between "Grad school is going to be SO AWESOME!" and "Who am I kidding, I'll never get into grad school and if I do I'll starve to death."
Speaking of awesome, and death, Moby Dick was so, so awesome. Although I suppose that rooting for the whale the whole time makes me sort of not the target audience.
I seem to have sold a story to ChiZine. It's about birds. Again. Still.
The MTA seems to have determined that the best way to handle itself is to alternate periods of pretending to not have a care in the world with periods of total ass-on-fire panic about budget shortfalls during which they propose service cuts that miss the point of having a public, mass transit system so hard and long you'd think that someone invoked Rule 34 on point-missing porn*. Personally I have my doubts about this strategy. However, if it eventually causes The Man to give us congestion pricing just to shut them the goddamn hell up, then I will rescind my doubts, because fucking damn, anything that would maybe slow down the total decimation of the entire biosphere even a little and also reduce the number of people who try to make right turns over the top of me on any given day would awesome. Too.
*oh, baby. Quibble about that slick wet irrelevant detail again! Stick your psychological issues into the debate harder! Harder! Harder!**
**Now that I think about it, this makes slash fiction out of virtually every blog comment thread I've read this week.
When professionals who write a lot in the course of their careers advise others to avoid publications that have been badly tainted by the acts of their (the publications') editors, they (the pros) are:
1.) Being helpful, and elevating the field
2.) Being snobbish, and engaging in conspirations
This entry has to do with:
A.) The Black Matrix discussion