Quick Hits, 4/25/06
Feel like I’m running about like a madman today, which I suspect has something to do with an orthodontist appointment this morning (for Athena, not for me, and yes, everything’s fine with her mouth; we’re juts making sure it’s big enough for her grown up teeth). So some quick hits:
* Lori Jareo? She’s so last Friday. The hot writing scandal today involves Kaavya Viswanathan, the Harvard undergrad who got half a million for her novel — which on closer examination appears to have rich, meaty chunks of plagiarism in it. This caused Ms. Viswanathan to issue an apology suggesting that some near-word-for-word rips from author Megan McCafferty’s work were “unintentional and unconscious.”
Bah. Look, people. Cutting and pasting paragraphs from someone else’s book into your own and then swapping out a few words here and there as a freshening agent is not something you can blame on your subconscious, on Ambien or on alcoholic blackouts. You will remember doing it.
Having said that, I find it difficult to work up a real head of steam about this one. A teenager plucking choice passages from someone else’s work to give her own work additional resonance? That’s what happens on MySpace 13,000 times a day. Speaking from experience (believe me), teenagers are generally not terribly resonant communicators, even the clever ones, so they model and ape the words and poses of the writers they admire. I spent a large chunk of my 19th year trying to be a junior HL Mencken, and yes, it was just as painful to read as it sounds. Now, I didn’t plagiarize ol’ Henry, but then, I also didn’t have half a million dollars worth of pressure hanging over my head, either.
I’m trying to roll with the snark here, but I just keep feeling sorry for this girl instead. She could probably have used a good editor who understood that teenage writers — even the ones what go to Harvard — are special cases and need to be handled with a gentle combination of encouragement and suspicion; the former because the writer is being asked to do so much, and the latter because the writer is being asked to do so much. I have no opposition to young writers being published — when I was 19 I wanted to be published, so why would I begrudge anyone else — but were I an editor of a novelist that young I think the first thing I would do when I got the manuscript would be to quietly wash it through Turnitin.com, and then be ready to deal with the handholding that would follow if something popped up.
* Wanna make yourself feel like a fool? Stress out like monkey in a trash compactor about an article deadline at the end of the month, and then learn the deadline is at the end of next month. Man, I want hit myself with a hammer for that one. On the other hand, if you ever need an expert on LEGO brand toys, baby, I’m your man.
* The state legislatures of Illinois and California are reportedly considering drawing up articles of impeachment against President Bush; apparently they can do so under some obscure parliamentary rule of Congress. I think this is a tremendously bad idea. Leaving aside the issue of whether Bush should be impeached or not (you can see my thoughts on that subject here, if you would like), if the states get into the whole impeachment act, there’s not a single president between now and the end of the United States who will not get impeached by some damn state legislature during the course of his or her term. There are fifty of them and only one of him. And anyway, state legislatures are where high school senior class treasurers go to die. Think about your high school senior class treasurer. You want him having a significant role in national politics? I didn’t think so. I’m hoping this thing gets nipped in the bud.
* Arrived via UPS today: Chris Roberson’s latest, Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, which is his take on the thrilling pulp science fiction stories of yore. It comes out next week, for those of you with money burning holes in your pocket. I’m a fan of his Chris’ last novel, Here, There & Everywhere, and he wrote a kick-ass story for the Subterranean Magazine issue I edited, so you can imagine I’m looking forward to cracking this one open. I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done. In the meantime, here’s Chris’ Paragaea site, which in addition to info about the book contains a complete prequel novel for your enjoyment.
* Asked in one of the comment threads:
I have noticed that you don’t run any ads on the Whatever. You are popular enough that you could probably bring in some significant revenues this way… Any reason why you have held off on this?
Yeah: I just don’t want ads on the Whatever.
There’s no major philosophical reason for this; I’m not opposed to people making money writing blogs (I do it myself). And I certainly don’t think ill of people who put ads on their sites. I just prefer not to do it here. I do suppose it’s true that I could make a tidy sum from ads at this point, but you know, I’m not exactly hurting for cash these days. If I were to lose income in a significant way and needed a way to replace it, then I might consider putting ads here, and not feel too bad about it. Baby needs shoes and all that. But at the moment I can afford not to do it. So I don’t.
Which is not to say I don’t do any sort of promotion here on the Whatever. This site is of course an advertisement for myself; I’m not shy about letting you all know when something of mine is out and about. I also cheerfully promote others; I promoted Chris Roberson in this very entry, because he’s a friend of mine and because I expect Paragaea to be a lot of fun, and therefore something worth sharing; two entries previous to this I promoted Hal Duncan’s book Vellum because I thought it was a really excellent read. Tomorrow I’ll post a note from Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press announcing a nice little deal he has on one of his books (not one of mine), because he’s one of my publishers and I don’t mind doing him a favor. But in each case, it’s not trivial that this promotion comes from me personally rather than from ad server; I’m fairly transparent in my motives and in my intent, and I try make sure it’s not all pimping, all the time.
I have given thought to creating a different site, with different content, that could run ads. I own the domains Mencken.com and Schadenfreude.us; both of those, I think, have a number of delightful high-traffic possibilities, some of which I plan on pursuing at some point in the reasonably near future. But I expect that Whatever will remain ad-free. I like it that way, and that’s a good enough reason there.
* Final thing: Those of you wondering when my next novel will hit the stores, wonder no longer; according to Amazon, The Android’s Dream will hit the stores on October 31, 2006. I think having a book with an official release date of Halloween is super cool.