A few links and updates

Our_Lady_of_Fatima_Veiled_for_Ash_Wednesday_-_Washington_DC

Happy Ash Wednesday

A few things I’ve read online recently that are worth sharing:

The Impatient Reader, by David Wilk, of Federator Books, a new digital press. Wilk connects the rise in digital publishing to the faster pace of readers’ lives. He argues that:

Consumers of all kinds of media are impatient. When we find a story, a show, a character we love, we want to experience more of them, and we don’t want to wait for more. Romance publishers and authors have learned their readers will consume new books like candy. Some romance readers read over 300 books a year! That is a reflection of a great deal of commitment to story.

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In a high speed interconnected culture, we don’t think slow to market publishing works very well anymore, even for print publishers, and as e-publishers, we want to be able to fill reader demand as quickly as we possibly can.

I’m sure Wilk’s argument has been made before, but I’ve personally never seen it put so explicitly. Is it true that readers demand books come to market faster these days? Personally, while I agree that digital and audio have allowed me to read in more places than in the past, my reading speed hasn’t changed. Nor am I personally less able to wait for sequels. And I worry, as do so many of us, of the sacrifices in quality that may be necessary to publish with greater speed.

Janet Webb has been doing some great blogging over at Heroes and Heartbreakers. Her post, on the latest installment of  Jo Beverly’s Rogues, exemplifies the virtues of reader patience:

Remember that feeling of anticipation and delight that you felt for the holidays when you were a child? That’s how I feel about finally getting to read the April 1st release of A Shocking Delight, David Kerslake’s own story from Jo Beverley‘s Rogues series—and I’ve been waiting for it for much longer than twelve months.

David Kerslake was first introduced inThe Dragon’s Bride, and also plays an important role in Skylark, as well as popping up in other Rogue stories (Jo Beverley’s website, by the way, is immensely helpful in sorting out just who are all these Rogues and who are they to one another).

A Shocking Delight is the fourteenth book set in the Regency world of the Rogues. The last book of the series, Lady Beware, was published in 2007, so it’s been seven long years since readers have spent time with Nicholas and Lucien and Con and all the other Rogues.

Beverley’s books are terrific on audio, by the way, read by some of the really good narrators like Jenny Sterlin, Simon Prebble, and Jill Tanner.

I wanted to drum up a little signal for an important commentary on the very popular and influential book The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. We don’t have a lot of moral exemplars in bioethics, but I have a short list and Vanessa Gamble is on it. An accomplished scholar and historian of medicine, she led the committee that, in 1997, secured a presidential apology for the treatment of Africa American patients in the Tuskegee Syphilis “experiments” debacle. She’s just written an apt and important reflection on Skloot’s work:

How can I not love a book that has received stellar reviews and become mandatory reading at many colleges? One problem is that it views the history of African Americans in medicine and bioethics exclusively through the lens of exploitation, powerlessness, and victimization. Undeniably, racism is inextricably linked to the development of American medicine and adversely affects African Americans’ health and lives. … The Henrietta Lacks and syphilis study stories are the most widely known episodes in the history of African Americans and American medicine and biomedical research; however, focusing on them exclusively obscures countless instances of accomplishments, agency, and activism. African Americans have protested poor health conditions and established institutions to provide health care and professional opportunities. A young black woman’s rejection by every Chicago nurse training school solely because of her race prompted Dr. Daniel Hale Williams to open the nation’s first black-controlled hospital in 1891. At Johns Hopkins—the same institution where those “immortal” cells were removed—Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician, contributed to advancements in cardiac surgery and taught surgical techniques for thirty years. As a teacher of medical humanities and bioethics, I have an obligation to use Skloot’s book, but I discuss Lacks’s story within the broader context of the history of race and American medicine, something the book does not succeed in doing.

Here’s an interesting piece on ethics and fiction from Cory Doctorow. He explores moral hazard and lifeboat ethics in Tom Godwin’s short story “The Cold Equation”, and in Robert  Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold:

 

Science fiction is supposed to teach us how to think about the future. The intellectual dishonesty in ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ and Farnham’s Freehold are not isolated incidents, though: they’re recurring motifs that persist to this day (just have a look at Sandra Bullock’s struggles with the cold equations of Gravity if you don’t believe me, then watch Jack Bauer torture a terrorist on 24 to see some modern lifeboat rules).

They have something to teach us, all right: that stories about how we can’t afford to hew to our values in time of crisis are a handy addition to every authoritarian’s playbook, a fine friend of plutocrats, and they reek of self-serving bullshit every time they’re deployed.

I think Doctorow poked a couple of sacred cows here, if the comments are anything to go by. I haven’t read either but the short story is now on my list.

It’s not too late to join Sunita and some of the rest of us suckers in reading a big fat book for March. It’s The Goldfinch for me.

 

There’s a new open access feminist philosophy journal coming: Feminist Philosophy Quarterly. Very much needed, very exciting.

I’m in a relaxed phase in terms of monitoring student distraction, but I do think sharing empirical evidence might help to cut down on this scourge of the modern day classroom:

And the evidence of that keeps accumulating, like the Kuznekoff and Titsworth study referenced here and described in detail in the January issue of The Teaching Professor. Using an intriguing study design, here’s what they found: “. . . students who use their mobile phones during class lectures tend to write down less information, recall less information, and perform worse on a multiple-choice test than those students who abstain from using their mobile phones during class.” (p. 251).

I don’t know if one gets to plan cultural shifts, but someone thinks The Internet is Ready for a New Cultural Shift. Many of us (me, for sure) can identify with this bit:

We’re sick of checking our email forty seven times a day. We’re sick of of all the endless crap we see online, the never-ending content blizzard. We’re sick of spending most of our free time staring into our phones. Our lives are being devoured by all these billions of carnivorous Web 2.0 pixels, and we’ve grown weary of it.

Ready to join? There’s surely no irony then in asking you to follow #thenewquiet hashtag on Twitter.

Molly O’Keefe shared her thoughts about writing an interracial romance. O’Keefe admits the obvious: “I believe the criticism that the romance genre is whitewashed is  painfully accurate.” and then shares that “It wasn’t until I was in the first round of edits that I realized I wrote an interracial romance.” To some readers, this comes a little close to the old “I don’t see color” line.  I’m sure the folks at LitM and elsewhere will have something to add, but I liked a couple of the comments, like this one from author Jeannie Lin:

Here’s some food for thought as to how race is or isn’t a part of an IR romance. Hubby and I are what you would consider an interracial couple. Hubby thinks race doesn’t figure into our relationship at all. I think it most certainly does. A POC can never forget his/her race and the issues (and pleasures too–it’s not all “issues”) that come with it, big or small. Is it in my face every moment of every day? Of course not. But it’s always in my skin, so to speak.

I’m looking forward to O’Keefe’s book, because as a fellow white woman, I feel she’ll do a good job of capturing the way POC experience looks from my perspective, and if I have to read about strange people I don’t want to have to do it in a strange way.

(That was a joke. I’m not sure if I’ll read it but I’ve read and really liked another of her books and have a couple on my TBR.)

On notebooks: several Tweeps (you know who you are) tried to entice me to spend too much money on notebooks and pens. I am proud to report I only succumbed to spending too much money on a notebook. But what a notebook! I love my Noteletts 4×6 ruled green notebook!  Perfect size, sturdy, and paper doesn’t bleed through when I use my admittedly inferior Precise V5 pen.

Almost as shocking to me as my love of Sons of Anarchy, I am 8 eps in to Friday Night Lights and really enjoying it. I have a post in the works. Ana of  Things Mean A Lot has a great post on the show, which pushed me over the edge and into the abyss (I still think Taylor Kitsch is a terrible actor with all the charisma of a piece of cardboard, though).

I am working on two other posts, one on Claire and Frank” marriage in Outlander, and one on what some people might mean by shame when they talk about it in the context of reading fiction.

I’m on break this week and next so hopefully I will actually get some of them done.

Thanks for reading!

13 responses

  1. That IRR post is from November, and I don’t see much point in linking to it now on LITM. For all I know, she’s learned that “color-blind” in this context is a SUPER problematic term and has since moved on from her post’s argument.

    It does, however, serve as another cautionary tale against ‘splaining, something I’m always worried about doing as a straight, white, cis woman blogging about marginalized experiences I don’t share. We need to keep ourselves in check and resist writing as though we’re some sort of authority. If you’re not worried that you might be ‘splaining, you’re probably doing it.

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    • oh, and here I thought for once I was on the cutting edge. I wouldn’t have linked to it if I knew it was 4 months old! Wonder why tweeps brought it up this morning? Well, it;s my fault for not doing due freshness diligence.

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      • Wicked Lil Pixie had a post today that I think must be a commentary on the colourblind post which I saw linked to on Twitter this week. Wicked Lil Pixie’s post high light’s the point that authors could actually speak to real people about their lived experience – they’re out there visible on the web and IRL for authors to find. http://wickedlilpixie.com/2014/03/05/interracial-relationships-the-new-buzz-in-romance/

        I also thought her point that the only people who would talk to her on twitter were IRL people of colour living in inter-racial relationships not the colourblind authors highlights just about everything that is wrong in the approach.

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  2. Ha! Fair enough re: Kitsch, but I wonder if Tim Riggins will eventually grow on you 😛 Really looking forward to your thoughts on the series. And I’m curious about Sons of Anarchy – I’ve heard lots of good things from trusted sources.

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    • I hope Riggins grows on me because he seems to be a major character for the long term. But I thank you for turning me on to the series. It’s great.

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  3. A post! Yay! You might be able to find “The Cold Equations” online somewhere – it’s been repeatedly anthologized. I would advise against FARNHAM’S FREEHOLD. Despite a relatively high tolerance for Heinlein, I returned that book to the bookstore unfinished because it just made me ill.

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    • I don’t plan to read the Heinlein. Natalie also warned me off it on twitter, and in fairness, Doctorow alludes to its awfulness in his post.

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  4. Well this post is chock full of interesting ideas and tidbits – thank you! – and congratulations on post-achievement.

    I can’t wait to hear your take on Outlander’s overshadowed, ill-fated marriage (Claire and Frank), and continue to brace myself as the momentum and hype build towards the forthcoming tv series. One thing I think is very interesting is that the next book in the series is also forthcoming, and yet seems itself quite overshadowed by the movie version of Book 1. I’m not sure how epic adventure authors who are notoriously slow to produce the next book (Gabaldon, Martin) fit into the new math of impatient readers and binge consumption of series narratives in books and on television. Perhaps such illustrious content-producers are grandfathered in with license to make readers wait, as is the incomparable Jo Beverley. But how different would things be if Gabaldon was releasing the beginning of her Outlander series now, with readers accustomed to getting the next installment in a matter of months, not years? On the other hand, she’s also an interesting example of an author who satiates (perhaps?) her reader’s appetite for “more, please, now” with a steady stream of excerpts released online, and she’s been doing that since the early 90s, when many authors didn’t have any direct online contact with fans & readers.

    And I quite agree about Janet’s awesome JoBev analyses and curation – her wonderful posts are delicious reading for a fellow Malloren (and Rogues) fan.

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    • thank you for connecting those dots. And yes, I agree! I watch Game of Thrones but haven’t read the books. I know the series is catching up to the author and it won’t be pretty if they come to a head. I’m excited to try the Starz Outlander series, but I won’t watch it unless it’s actually good. Good recent book adaptations like GoT and Hunger Games have me more optimistic than I might have been in the past, but who knows.

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  5. That impatient reader link is really interesting. I think he’s right about a lot of readers, but I’m dubious about the long-term value of catering to that desire for more more more now now now. Binge-watching or reading a series released slowly years ago is different from reading something hastily produced for a binge-style release. (I actually don’t enjoy binge consumption–it highlights tics and weaknesses and makes the content less enjoyable to me). I like to believe quality will win in the end, and I don’t think most people produce their best quality of writing at a 6-8 novel(la)s a year pace. But I’m afraid hardly anyone cares and I’m wrong about the long term. Oh well, there are old books and grandfathered slow producers! I just read a fabulous, much-lauded book by someone who hadn’t published a novel for 35 years. That’s not a model for commercial fiction, certainly–but it found a happy audience. (Same with Donna Tartt).

    I’m looking forward to your shame post. It’s such a complex topic and term, and I think an ethical-philosophy informed take on it would be useful.

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    • I completely agree that in catering to an apparent consumer desire for more and faster, creators are often sacrificing quality. Fink claims that the slower production process of the past was not consumer centered, that it catered to the needs of non-consumers: brick and mortar book sellers and the historical-but-unjustified practices of publishers. But it meet reader needs, too, for all of the reasons you mention.

      This is not to say that there aren’t many features of digital publishing that do help meet consumer need. Especially for things like backlists, unusual and formerly unpublishable stories, and a convenient format we can carry around with us all day.

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