Sunday, 10 July 2011

At a time when all my Romantic Novelist friends are in Caerleon and, if their Twitter feeds are to be believed, partying really quite hard, quite a few newspapers have reported on an article in the the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care which claims that:
a huge number of the issues that we see in our clinics and therapy rooms are influenced by romantic fiction.
The "we" in this quotation is supposedly a reference to therapists in Family Planning Clinics, GP Surgeries and similar places where medical professionals work with patients. But as far as I can tell the author, Susan Quilliam, has no professional qualifications at all. She has a website on which she describes herself as a "relationship psychologist", but there are no rules about who may call themselves a "psychologist", and indeed Quilliam's description of this function hardly inspires the reader with confidence:
At the moment, I not only write agony aunt columns and books; I also comment for newspapers; broadcast on radio and TV; consult on advertising campaigns; and advise on medico-sexual projects.
So it appears that the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Healthcare, an offshoot of the widely-respected BMJ, has accepted an article by an amateur with a nose for self-publicity, and splashed it to the media, for what end?

The key paragraph in Quilliam's tosh is perhaps the one that says:
If a woman learns from her 100 novels a year that romantic feeling is the most important thing, then what follows from that might be to suspend her rationality in favour of romanticism. And that might well mean not using protection with a new man because she wants to be swept up by the moment as a heroine would. It might also mean allowing that same man, a few months down the line, to persuade her to give up contraception because “we love each other”. It might mean terminating a pregnancy (or continuing with one) against all her moral codes because that same man asks her to. It might mean panicking totally if sexual desire takes a nose dive after pregnancy or because of strain – after all, such failure never happens to a heroine. It might mean – in the wake of such panic – judging that if romance has died then so has love, and that rather than working at her relationship she should be hitching her star to a new romance.
I was sorely tempted to write a piece in which a romantic hero did demonstrate all the "correct" attitudes, but I haven't for two good reasons. The first is that such an essay would miss the whole point of Romantic Fiction, which is surely escapism. And the second is that Catherine Bennett has written a brilliant article in The Observer which uses all the best gags anyway.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

In my 12 June post I said of the whole Kindle Store business, "suddenly self-publishing has become a little less desperate". Others have been more enthusiastic. Madame Guillotine has declared that she is "still highly enamoured with Kindle publishing and am now determined to only publish e-books from now on". And of course it has its attractions. The dozen of copies of LAC,o:tBB I've sold in the last three weeks is a dozen more than I would have sold without it. People have actually read it and said nice things about it (but nobody has yet posted a review - what, dear reader, are you waiting for?)

But. Big but. I can't really consider myself a "proper" published author.

I cannot submit LAC,o:tBB to the Man Booker committee. I am not eligible to join the Romantic Novelists' Association (except as a "New Writer", of course). So I am in something of a literary half-world.

And then, in a recent article in theguardian, Cory Doctorow argues that I perhaps shouldn't count myself as "self-published"; indeed I am not really published at all. Doctorow's argument starts from a statement by the Senior Editor at Tor Books, Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
A publisher makes a work public, it connects a work and an audience.
Taking this statement at face value, particularly the second clause, Doctorow suggests that "publication" on the Internet has become separate from the traditional functions of a traditional publisher: that is, many or all of selecting; editing; typesetting; printing; and distribution. Some of these no longer happen at all (printing, most obviously), and some can be done by the author (typesetting is built in to all the formatting done to create an uploadable file). Distribution is done by the Kindle Store. So what is left? Doctorow says:
The internet has created a large number of new kinds of publishers who act to connect works and audiences. These essentially group intosearch engines, then bloggers, curators, and tweeters, and finally suggestion algorithms (such as Amazon's "people who bought this also bought…" recommendations; Reddit's human voting system; Netflix's suggestion system).
He adds:
"Publishers" are everywhere, as general purpose as Google and as specialised as the obscure blog that manages to show a link to the three people in the world who care about it. Anyone with a future in a creative industry is going to have to make peace with this fact.
It's an interesting argument, and I'm not going to suggest that the author of one of the Internet's most read blogs is wrong, but I'm still not sure how it can get me nominated for a Booker, or into the RNA Winter Party.