Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Critical Birds of a Feather: Kookaburras

Reached by telephone, Hansen [Dr. James Hansen, NASA Climatologist] sounds annoyed as he says, “There are bigger fish to fry than Freeman Dyson,” who “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” In an e-mail message, he adds that his own concern about global warming is not based only on models, and that while he respects the “open-mindedness” of Dyson, “if he is going to wander into something with major consequences for humanity and other life on the planet, then he should first do his homework — which he obviously has not done on global warming.”

Global warming is a Rorschach test on the foibles of human reason and of projection. The handful of kooks aren't right. The consensus is. This the outsider is right business is the stuff of novels but rarely is in real life. Dyson and the whackjobs on FOX play the victim when the truth is they're just flat wrong. See Occam's Razor. ex parsimoniae. End of story.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Bonfire is a Pyre

Not only were many of the 500 quarter-finalists in the ABNA contest hopelessly flawed by bad grammar, wordiness, editing problems and cliched scenarios such as "a writer finds his muse while reeling from rejection letters;" a plethora of prologues, which violated the rules, and now some of the poor rejected masses got a corrected email saying their pitch eliminated their entries after the first one declared they made it into the 2000 and would get reviews soon. Oh Brother, where art thou?

Amazon sent them a $5 gift card for the mistake. Talk about a sad comedy of errors. Pathetic.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Amazon's Bonfire of the Vanities

For the second year in a row Amazon.com sifted through some 10,000 entries for their Breakthough Novel "Award" contest. Amazon is a vanity press in addition to online only bookseller and hopeful these reams of losers will buy their vanity press product at Createspace that entrants were required to join in order to participate.

What slush contests like this do is illustrate that the goal of any novelist is a commercial contract. That's the carrot: $25K and a contract with Penguin. That's a bargain for Penguin. How they get there is another matter. Entrants write a 300-word pitch and an excerpt of 5000 words. Nebulous Amazon editors, whoever the hell they are, determine if the pitch works or not. If it does, those writers go into a group of 2000. Then Vine reviewers, a special group of amateur reader reviewers, randomly chosen, some who are also in the contest, are shipped 40 excerpts to read, also random. Yeah, that's bright. Talk about a crap shoot. So last night they announced the 500 winners and posted the excerpts on the Web site, including the two random reviews that helped determine the book's future in the contest. Final decisions came from the same unnamed group of Amazon employees. Later on an expert judging panel comes into play, but they have no hand in this phase. This is all about amateurs picking amateurs, many of which are perennial contestants with the same books.

As if by magic, many of the losers in last years' affair randomly made it through. Uh huh. Yeah, as if there was no memory of the same books. Consider this gent who made it all the way to the final three last year and then Penguin decided his bizarre entry wasn't fit to publish. It wasn't and still isn't, yet here it is.

I'm confused after reading this excerpt, but since the writing is so clear I have faith that the author will pull this plot together and help it make sense later in the book. I just don't "get" how it all works - how a family gets to try a potential child out, and how the child gets to decide if they live or not. Regardless, it is a highly original concept and I'd be interested to read more.

Yeah. I was confused too when I read the same excerpt, which the author flogged for the last two months on the forums. Just think of all the possible decent manuscripts rejected while "glowing" reviews like this moved the author on? The number of other examples of this flawed decision process are the majority of the 500 winners from what I could tell surfing through. That and Vine reviewers also being dubbed by Vine reviewers. Ahem. Little conflict of interest scarecrow? I said this during the first Gather.com contest. In vanity world, crap floats.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Andy Revkin Drinks the Kool-Aid

NYT science reporter Revkin on a so-called exaggeration of Al Gore."While climate scientists foresee more intense droughts and storms, there is still uncertainty, and significant disagreement, over whether recent patterns can be attributed to global warming."

Right. It's either that or the Tooth Fairy. That's a tough one. There's been a huge flap over this and with the wingnut Glenn Beck vilifying climate modeler and T. Texas professor Dr. Michael Tobis, in a breathtaking case of creative defamation that headlined on Beck's show on FOX. It's bad news personified. And totally false at its core. I'll not repeat it here, but as I told Tobis, this is the skeptic media modus operandi. I'm sorry to see Revkin co-opted in this way in another example false equivalency comparing Al Gore's so-called exaggerations to the falsehoods of George Will.


Friday, March 06, 2009

The Ole Vanity/POD Shuffle

There's a statistical claim going around the net about the dismal performance, 70 percent, of new novels published every year by so-called traditional publishers not selling more than 500 copies. It's blatantly false.

First, there aren't 195,000 novels published every year as the statement claims.

According to Bowker.com for 2007, There were 50,071 new fiction titles introduced in the U.S. last year, up 17% from 2006, and the number of new titles in the category in 2007 was almost twice what it was as recently as 2002.

What is alarming is this: "While traditional book publishing was basically flat last year, there was a staggering rise in the reported number of “On Demand” and short-run books to 134,773, pushing the grand total for projected 2007 U.S. book output to 411,422 books. To maintain the continuity of statistics, Bowker is excluding this output from its traditional reporting and has begun tracking the On Demand industry segment separately."

Yeah Boy, Howdy. The claim made on these Web sites is bogus and seems to originate from a post by an author, sans source at this New Zealand Web siteHow many books do first-time authors sell? Over 195,000 new novels are published by traditional publishers in the U.S. every year. Of those, 70% sell fewer than 500 copies. Yikes..

Yikes indeed. Only 84 titles from iUniverse, now a part of Authorhouse sell 500 copies. This is a marriage of that pitiful and predictable fact and total books sold in 2005. Lies. Damned lies. And statistics.

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