The OF Blog: "A bunch of rats, in a gutter, fighting over some piss."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"A bunch of rats, in a gutter, fighting over some piss."

The titular quote, taken from a comment on Twitter by Jonathan McCalmont in response to a link I posted on Twitter this afternoon.  This link to a Westeros discussion on the final The Wheel of Time book, A Memory of Light, normally would have left me with a shrug and a click to another thread if it weren't for direct mentions of myself and a few others.  As it is, I was ready to just mention it briefly in Twitter and leave it at that, if it weren't for McCalmont's comment on some of the reader/blogger reactions crystallizing some of my own ambivalent thoughts on the subject.

It goes back two years to the release of the previous WoT book and the questions of "an embargo" on reviews and so forth.  I blogged about what transpired, including the flack that I caught for giving vague impressions (which probably sounded more laudatory than the decidedly mixed-to-negative opinion I had of the book as a whole), in a few posts back in October 2010.  Although not the sole determining factor in a shift in reviewing philosophy, that mini-tempest certainly accelerated my departure from the rat race of those who appeared to have come to view review copies/galley proofs as some sort of status symbol or some semi-sacred trust that had to be kept with the publishers.  If "reviewing" meant kow-towing to publicist requests/demands, then it would be better to walk away from a potentially incestuous relationship, one fraught with the possibility of feeble paeans to the marketing sheen of a book rather than a substantive look at whether or not the book in question would be remember five years hence. 

That is still my stance 26 months later, although I do on occasion agree to consider books from certain non-Anglophone presses because of my curiosity about what is being produced in Spanish and Portuguese and because there is nothing of the entitlement that seems to permeate Anglo-American presses and certain online venues.  So no, I never was going to receive a review copy of the latest WoT and why should I, seeing how I said in one of the linked posts above that I wouldn't accept it under any terms?  So it is with some bemusement that I learned of discussions where I would explicitly not receive the said book (which will be purchased for me to send soon afterward to someone dear to me overseas), as if this is some sort of punishment.

McCalmont's right.  If such things have to be discussed in terms of who gains access, then it really has become akin to "a bunch of rats, in a gutter, fighting over some piss."  Pardon me while I clean any rat sprayings off of my clothes and resume reading books that I either purchased with my own money or which were sent to me with only the hope that I would consider reviewing them.  The rats can fight for their "access" and "privileges" without me.


John said...

Larry,i voted -

"Yes - in hopes you'll eviscerate it"


Larry Nolen said...

Ha! Well, believe it or not, I won't be going into this grinding an axe. That would betray my sense of reviewing ethics much more than if I played the book blogger (a term that I reject for myself) game of courting publisher attention/approval.

Besides, with daily readership only in the hundreds, I don't think blogs such as mine are high priority targets :P

James said...

Pat mentioned that someone sent him the book via USPS without any note regarding the embargo and someone else mentioned that the books are only sent out via UPS. Now, none of this means anything, I'm sure, but there is a part of me that really just wants it to be a plot against Pat.

There needs to be someone at Tor sitting back in a chair and stroking a cat waiting patiently for Pat to fuck up and post a review early and for the fanboy/blogger communities to explode.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was a bit confused by the gossip column that joke thread devolved into.

I think you're better off leaving this foolishness alone and sticking to the excellent sit you've built up.


Larry Nolen said...

I'm far from a fan of Pat's, but I do think it's probably as simple as he personally knows someone that works for Tor and they sometimes bypass the usual mass-producing of review queues to send certain materials to him first/in a different form. Macmillan is a very large publisher and there being these sorts of miscommunications wouldn't surprise me.

I just think it's ridiculous that there's this sort of fannish clucking that goes on about this. I found it repulsive two years ago and I still find it so today.


I do regret my rather flippant comment early in that post (I knew I wasn't getting a review copy in large part because I made it quite clear I didn't want any such thing that involved silly "embargo" demands. If I really wanted to stir things up rather than just noting my continued disgust with the affair, I'd go into detail laying out who complained the most vociferously and so forth. Instead, I think it's better, after having seen my name referenced there, to just note the silliness of the entire affair and to move on. The squirrels shall get their hands on the book around release day and as fair of a review as possible will be written later in the month. Besides, who's going to trust completely reviews written by "fans" anyway? That is the larger question that looms over all this.

Juan Manuel Pazos said...

I can understand the shiver of anticipation of a fan a couple of weeks before the release of the final book in a long long LONG running series. And the greed to get your hands on it for free and before anyone else. But you're right: are the opinions of these. fans something I can count on to have an idea of the book's merits? They may be if, like you, they don't enjoy the same kind of fiction all the time, or if at least they have a history of being critical about their chosen niche and don't just cheer every single epic fantasy or noir melodrama or naval romance or whatever. I don't write reviews or have a blog, but if I did I'm sure I would want to review whatever book I fancied, be them new releases or old out of print books from second hand shops. Why be a part of the industry's publicity machine if you don't make a living of it?

Larry Nolen said...

My thoughts exactly. It's why I like to review a mixture of things, because I quickly grow bored with the same things. Some books I won't review, however, because I'm "too close" to the scene, as I do some freelance work with a few and a couple of writers I consider to be friends of mine. But then again, those can make for rewarding reads as long as I remember to set aside the friendships for the duration of the reading/review.

That being said, I suspect most early reviews of the new WoT will be laudatory on the release day, followed by more nuanced/mixed and possibly negative reviews later in January. I've reviewed the previous 14 volumes (counting the prequel), so might as well do this, but it's not a book that I've been waiting for with bated breath. Last book that I did that for was The Weird and I had a translation that appeared in it!

Juan Manuel Pazos said...

Bated Breath is overrated anyway. Shiver of Anticipation was much better, particularly the soundtrack ;)

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