A mild bug has knocked me out for a day or two, so I’ve decided to send you elsewhere today. I’m too poorly (sympathy please) to think of anything vaguely intelligent. Here, then, are places of stimulation.
First you must visit Pornokitsch and join in with their discussion on blogging and crowds and all sorts of other goodness.
Are we diverse? Yes. (Within being a “genre book blogging community”.)
Are we decentralized? Yes. (Also, hierarchial, factional and a little bit predatory.)
Do we have the means of producing a collective verdict? No.
Are we independent? No. (From external influences? Yes. From internal ones? No.)
The result? At best, genre bloggers, as a collective, form a community of average intelligence. As an assemblage, we’re needy, greedy, argumentative and prone to snap decisions. Our collective economy rewards speed and volume over consideration and compromise.
It’s not really fair to pick on Bellafante and Patterson. Reviewers are still writers trying to pay their bills on a deadline, and with the unenviable assignment of making their opinions seem more important than their reader’s. It’s a hard job, and they deserve respect for their efforts. But the work they do cuts both ways: these judgments say as much about the New York Times and Slate as they do about HBO and George RR Martin.
Until recently the industry including the media ‘revered’ literary writers. In fact, in publicity material from twenty years ago the book trade seems almost embarrassed about its mass market successes. With the advent of the Net Book Agreement (which allows books to be sold at discount prices) and Nielsen Book Scan (which gives accurate, actual sales figures on a weekly basis) there have been aftershocks throughout the literary community that have rocked that attitude.
It turns out that for years the industry hadn’t really known how few books literary authors were selling (or at least not until months and months after the book had been launched). Recently advances have plummeted for all writers but the literary community has taken a larger hit (in the light of the new sales information the only way to justify spending big bucks is if a book is assured big sales).
In effect the industry has called a halt to taking the money it makes from commercial writers and pumping it into underwriting their more literary cousins (while sneering at the mass market in the process).
There, that should keep you going for a while.