Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Theakerly thoughts #6: audiobooks on Kindle, author firewalls, Mike Barrett

Thought 1. I’d forgotten how much I liked listening to audiobooks on my Kindle v.3 (the grey ones, now renamed Kindle Keyboards). Unlike an iPod it has little speakers that are fine for speech, and there’s a headphone jack for playing the books out to stereos, speakers and headphones. The older Kindles are even compatible with Audible files, and keep your place in them. Best of all, you can’t do anything else with the device while you’re listening. I have a bad habit of playing an audiobook on, say, the iPad, then wondering what else I could do while listening, and five minutes later turning off the audiobook because I’m reading a newspaper article and not paying the book any attention. You can’t do that with the old Kindles.

Thought 2. Ironic that the staunchest defender of an author who dived into a comment thread to set a reviewer straight is the same fellow who said this last May when explaining why he doesn’t review self-published books:

We don’t know how you’ll react. The erratic behaviour of the author mentioned in [another article] is a strong illustration of why we don’t read self-published authors. We don’t have a firewall between us and the writer. Books from publishing houses that don’t have any self-published books give a level of detachment between what we write and the reaction we’ll get.”

So last year it was all about firewalls and detachment from the author’s reaction, this year “I welcome author’s [sic] comments” and those who don’t are bullies. Perhaps it’s different when the author is relatively famous.

Thought 3. During the all-too-brief time I edited Dark Horizons for the British Fantasy Society, some of my favourite articles were those by Mike Barrett on the history of fantasy and horror publishing. Some of those articles, plus several others, have now been collected in an Alchemy Press collection, Doors to Elsewhere, with an introduction by Ramsey Campbell. The articles were carefully researched, educational and well worth your time. More information here.


  1. I find Thought # 2 interesting.
    Since I started real-time reviewing of books in 2008, I always welcomed Authors' reactions. In fact, in the early days, the reviews almost became publicly interactive with the author!

  2. There is bound to be a spectrum of attitudes to author engagement, to some extent depending on the blogger’s purpose in writing. The kind of blogger who conceives of their reviews as a favour done to the author would certainly welcome the author’s presence on their blog, as an implicit acknowledgement of the favour owed. Also, a blogger who by inclination does not publish negative reviews is less likely to have authors turning up to set them straight and will not be terribly concerned with negotiating those issues.

    Also, we both benefit from being white, male and the recipents of formal education into our twenties. We have privileged voices (even if no one is listening!). Experience suggests that other white male writers are less likely to have a crack at us, and where they do they're more likely to do it in private. When people do moan, it's irritating rather than dangerous, even if they chunter on for years. Were a writer to turn up snarling in your comments, you could be fairly confident that his fans wouldn’t send you rape threats.

    What I'd agree with in Gav's comments from last year is the usefulness of the buffer provided by the bigger publishers. Being able to email reviews to a PR officer, rather than directly to the editor, publisher or the author, means no one has to reply through gritted teeth in the immediate aftermath of reading a stinky review of their own work, which is when the worst things are often said.

  3. I feel it is now a rich dynamic field in literary criticism involving both single critical and mixed critical and authorial voices - especially now with the growing influence of the real-time internet.

  4. I'll take your word for it - I'm not up to date on what's happening in modern literary criticism.