Here’s an interesting New York Times piece about Amazon’s efforts to crack down on book reviews that are fake or those it deems as somehow inappropriate, which apparently include those penned by the author’s family members and other authors.
Giving raves to family members is no longer acceptable. Neither is writers’ reviewing other writers. But showering five stars on a book you admittedly have not read is fine.
After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon is cracking down. Writers say thousands of reviews have been deleted from the shopping site in recent months.
Amazon has not said how many reviews it has killed, nor has it offered any public explanation. So its sweeping but hazy purge has generated an uproar about what it means to review in an era when everyone is an author and everyone is a reviewer.
A quick example from my own experience here: A few months I wrote an Amazon review for a book written by a friend of mine. I had actually read the book, but you could certainly argue that I was a less-than-objective reviewer because the author is someone I know personally. I chose to deal with that by disclosing in the review itself that I knew the writer. I figured that potential readers, knowing that, could, if they chose, take my review with an extra grain of salt.
The biggest surprise to me, reading this story, was that some people seem to take reviews as serious, objective, authoritative commentary. They almost never are, on Amazon or anywhere else.
I don’t know why you’d ever take any review by someone you don’t know as anything other than a statement of personal opinion — subject the possibility, if not likelihood, that the reviewer has bad taste, is dishonest, is not that bright or is in some other way a less-than-perfect guide. Amazon’s reviews are useful mostly because there are so many of them, the wisdom of the crowd can give you some clues about the quality of the book.
Giving Mom’s Book Five Stars? Amazon May Cull Your Review
You know that feeling you get when you see something really cute and you just want to pinch it or squeeze it because it’s so cute? Turns out there’s a word for that feeling in Filipino: gigil.
London design student Pei-Ying Lin has created a graphic that explores these different terms, their meanings, and their relationship to emotions that English speakers, at least, already have words for. Here’s an interactive image that shows some of his work.
For more details:
Post at So Bad So Good.
Full project at Pei-Ying Lin’s website.
A group of Kansas citizens has formed a militia to prepare for a possible zombie apocalypse:
“Can a natural person change into this monster that many fear?” Alfredo Carbajal, the militia’s main spokesman, said in an interview. “The possibilities are yes, it can happen. We have seen incidents that are very close to it, and we are thinking it is more possible than people think.”
Carbajal and other true believers aren’t so much scared of movie zombies. The apocalypse they see coming is a pandemic spread by a virus that creates zombie-like symptoms.
Last month, the Discovery Channel featured the Kansas militia in a documentary that concluded that such a Zombie Apocalypse — or Zompoc — was possible. The program featured scientists who speculated some evolving virus is bound to jump to humans on our overcrowded planet.
Remind me to stay out of Kansas if I’m sick. More at the The Kansas City Star’s story on the militia.
This very cool looking duffel bag from Anchor Division is made of high-quality materials, including heavy waxed canvas, boot leather from Redwing, Minn. — the kind of bag that you could take to hell and back. It also has a couple of neat tricks.
But why is it called the smuggler’s duffel? Sewn into the lining is an invisible zipper with access to a large hidden pocket. It also has a “false floor” that can be moved for secret storage underneath. Hey, it doesn’t even need to be a secret; it makes a great way to separate your dirty and clean laundry on a weekend trip!
Some business advice for aspiring writers with an entrepreneurial bent:
But it’s important to remember that when corporations that used to push artists away are now trying to pull them in, they’re are doing so for a reason. Their main gates may have fallen and all are now welcome inside, but the unchosen will always be the stepchildren of the anointed real writers inside the sanctum sanctorum. Don’t kid yourself.
The bottom line is that the Corps are hedging their bets. At long last they are recognizing that they need to own long tail bandwidth. So they are appealing to outsider artists to get it. The thing is though that they don’t want to pay “slush” artists upfront, rather pennies on the dollar down the road. And some even have the audacity to get artists to pay them just to hand over their work.
Instead of trying to buy instant credibility and/or half hearted editorial/publicity/marketing services from big publishing, use that money and find one of the scores of highly skilled editors/publicists/marketers who’ve been jettisoned from that old machine. Pay them for their expertise, keep your copyright, and build your own long tail business.
io9.com has a list of 10 comic book characters who are cooler than Batman. It’s been about 20 years since I read actual comic books on anything like a semi-regular basis, so I guess it’s not surprising that I’ve never heard of most of these. (Except Dr. Strange, who I always liked. He is cool.)
Others on the list include the fake ninja Whisper, Adele Blanc-Sec and Spider Jerusalem. Extra geek points for you if you recognize any of those (I didn’t).
I stumbled on this cool project over at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novelists blog this morning: The Skill List project, by James Alan Gardner. It’s a collection of posts about critical writing skills for any fiction writer (but especially those who write science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction).
Gardner outlines the main idea in this post:
I recently re-read Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. It’s one of a set of books I read every now and then to raise my sights and make me more ambitious in my work; although Tharp is a choreographer, the book is a great source of inspiration for writers and for anyone else who wants to keep the creative juices flowing.
One of Tharp’s many pieces of advice is to analyze your own skill set. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you rely on too heavily? Where are you lagging and how do you elevate your game?
This got me thinking: what are the skills involved in writing and selling fiction (particularly science fiction and fantasy)? Is it possible to make a list? And whether or not it’s possible, am I impulsive enough to try?
He’s got several interesting posts up Update – courtesy of Gardner’s comment below and his website, here’s a complete list of the posts: Note: This list may be incomplete. I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of these posts on the site, so I’ve pieced them together in chronological order based on following links in the posts to previous installments. If you have additions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll update this post appropriately.