Month: June 2015

Random Musings: The verdict on e-book price fixing

EBook realOne of the big stories in today’s news involves an issue that I have been loosely following for some time: a possible conspiracy by the big publishers to drive e-book prices above Amazon’s desired selling point of $9.99. All of the publishers involved have already reached settlements, but Apple—the alleged instigator of the affair—insisted on bringing the suit to trial. Today, a US judge has ruled against Apple in the matter (Apple is, of course, appealing). Here are some quick links from around the world:The New York Times, Reuters, The Guardian, BBC and CBC.

Yet despite all of these settlements and the ongoing lawsuits, I have yet to see any evidence of practical change. Perhaps that is because I live in Canada, and all of the current legal wrangling is happening down in the States. Or maybe it’s because everything is moving at the glacial pace typically in evidence when large corporations are forced to admit to wrongdoing. In any event, it’s still cheaper for me to pick up a hardcover of the latest bestseller from my local retailer than it is for me to buy the e-book. That’s just plain wrong, but with this latest verdict I’m at least mildly optimistic that we could see a corrective effect in the next few years. Fingers crossed…

Random Musings: American Women Novelists

A few weeks ago, this article about Wikipedia’s classification of American novelists appeared on the New York Times website. The writer, Amanda Filipacchi, is herself an American novelist. She was rightly shocked to find that Wikipedia was in process of moving all female authors to a separate list titled Amercian Women Novelists, while leaving the all-male list still titled American Novelists. I recently took a peek at Canadian Novelists to see if that page was affected as well. Sure enough, Margaret Atwood—one of Canada’s most venerated literary icons—does not appear on that list. She’s been moved to the land of Canadian Women Novelists. Crazy, right?

Shortly after the NYT article stirred the pot, James Gleik posted this piece on the New York Review of Books Blog, which digs into the how and why beneath the hooplah. It’s actually a pretty interesting read if you’re at all curious about the inner workings of Wikipedia, but the crux of the issue rests on the intent of classification. It seems that some editors at Wikipedia are creating categories—of gender, race, culture, orientation, etc.—with the aspirational intent of highlighting areas of “cultural and sociological interest,” while other editors are just compulsively populating these categories because they are obsessed with classification and organization. Thankfully, Wikipedia is taking this fairly seriously, and if you visit the site for American Women Novelists you will see that the page has been red-flagged for discussion (or hopefully you’ll be reading this far enough down the road that it won’t be flagged anymore!).

What remains after the storm, though, is the reality that female authors are frequently treated as “other”. Judging by Wikipedia’s initial gaffe and their subsequent reactions, that perception is still pervasive. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and there shouldn’t be a need for discussion; it should be blindingly obvious.

As Filipacchi said in her NYT article, “It’s probably small, easily fixable things like this that make it harder and slower for women to gain equality in the literary world.” I think that’s an accurate statement, and one that probably deserves a more active response from the reading public.

Author Interview: Dan Harris

I recently read Dan Harris’s Ascension Point with great relish—to the point that I couldn’t help myself from dropping Dan a line or two by e-mail. Our conversations quickly revealed an author who had clearly done his homework in many respects—not just about the writing process, but also in terms of what to do with a book once it has been written. Dan was kind enough to accept my request to interview him, and we ended up having a wide-ranging discussion that covered everything from writing in a foreign country to writing about the distant future. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

First of all, I’d like to begin by congratulating you on your debut novel, Ascension Point, which I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. I must admit to doing a bit of a double-take, though, when I saw that you lived in Brazil. Although I’d be curious to know how you came to find yourself living there, my bigger question really concerns the experience of being an English language writer in that country. What advantages or challenges did you experience in writing to an English market while living elsewhere?

Thank you very much for having me, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed the book.

Interesting first question! I honestly hadn’t considered it before. The slightly dull answer is that for me personally, there are no real advantages or challenges. I can well imagine that for an ‘ex-pat’ who was more firmly embedded in the culture of his new country, who lived and worked every day in a foreign language, the disconnect between that day-to-day, and an ongoing project in his native tongue, could be difficult.

But I’m in a slightly odd situation in that my day job is conducted entirely in English, from my home office, working for the same company I was with while my wife and I were in London. As a result there was a very smooth transition, and I’ve never needed to immerse myself in Brazilian culture to the point where I’d struggle to come back to my ‘English writer mentality’.

Whether I should have immersed myself more is another question, but like most writers I generally prefer to be at home at my desk writing!

Exciting times indeed, and I can’t wait to experience it all for myself! For right now, though, I’m afraid we’ll have to wrap things up. I want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on The Indiscriminate Critic. I’ve had a wonderful time chatting with you, and I wish you much well-deserved success with your Ascension Point sequence.

It’s been an absolute pleasure – thanks for having me.