October 24th, 2004


Back by Popular Demand: Mr. Bitch & Mr. Moan

Okay. Would-be authors take note. It's important that you learn this. All that stuff about commas and dangling participles is optional, but this one you must know. When you have succeeded and become a published author (or, for that matter, have achieved public success at any art), you have always silently agreed to make of yourself a target for the disgruntled, vocal anonyms of the world. You have very little, if any, say in this. But, still, this is how it works. If you'tre lucky, without warning you will be showered with praise, but you'll also be showered with shit and often by people who are nameless and faceless and who lack the decency to even sign their names to what they write. And, as Neil Gaiman instructed me many years ago, the bad reviews almost always carry a hundred times more weight than the good ones, at least in the mind of the author.

Which brings us, unfortunately, to the most recent "review" of Murder of Angels posted to Amazon.com. Ah, but wait. This isn't going to be just another case of Caitlín kvetching because someone obviously lacked the mental faculties to appreciate her brilliant work. No, kiddos. This one I'm offerring up as a caveat to the above statement regarding being shat upon.

You may indeed tell me that my prose is "vapid," that it "is clumsy, straining to be experimental and edgy, with the result that it's jarring, discordant, and trite." That's your perogative. I put the book out there, knowing this would happen, and all my bitching and moaning about my sweat and tears doesn't change a thing. If you think "the sequence of mostly blank pages chronicling one character's fall is less innovative than hackneyed, a technique that many other authors have employed to similar juvenile effect," you have every right to say so, even if you do so at the risk of looking like a putz. We all have an inalienable right to make putzes of ourselves.

But you do not have the right to acuse me of, oh, say, plagiarism, unless you have some damn good evidence upon which to base your claims. That, kiddos, is what we call libel (if you do it verbally, it's merely slander). Consider the following, courtesy the recently spawned anonym "Bookfiend" (reputedly from Georgia):

Also, no one else [reviewing Murder of Angels] has mentioned an aspect that particularly bothers me: the heavy borrowing of lines from songs. While Kiernan seems to expect—and rightly so—that her readers will recognize lyrics from bands such as the Cure and the Sisters of Mercy, to include these segments as part of the story, without attributing them to the bands or even enclosing them in quotation marks, is, unless the definition has changed lately, plagiarism.

Now, rest assured, the folks at Penguin Legal don't let me cross a frelling "t" or dot a lowercase "j" if they think there's even the remotest possibility of getting them or myself (and, by extension, themselves) into hot water with copyright and trademark law (remember Realtor vs. realtor?). If I plagarized in Murder of Angels (which I didn't), then it follows that every time you see a film,and there's a pop song in the background that the film does not immediately pause to identify and list a copyright notice for, you're seeing a filmmaker blatantly engaging in plagiarism. This, of course, is not the case. Usually, the songs' copyrights are listed in the trailers. Here's the deal: under U.S. Copyright Law, I may quote two lines from any song without first getting permission from the song's author. Whether or not I decide to note the songwriter's copyright is at my discretion. If I wish to use more than two lines, we have exited the protective umbrella of "fair use," and I must obtain permission and pay licensing fees and so forth (for example, I had to jump through lots of legalistic hoops to quote from T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land in The Five of Cups).

It's both curious and telling that "Bookfiend" complains about song lyrics, but fails to scold me for using lines of poetry without citing the authors. I suspect that's because he or she has never gotten around to reading Blake or Milton or Lewis Carroll. Also, note that she or he's never reviewed anything but this one novel.

So, yes, you may insult my prose all you please. But you may not engage in libelous (or slanderous) speech upon my person without consequences. This review clearly violates Amazon.com's TOS as they relate to customer "reviews." And that means that it will soon be removed. That's the silver lining to the shitty little black raincloud of anonymous internet criticism. In the past, Amazon has always removed the few "reviews" that I (or my agent) have requested be removed. A shame they can't screen the "reviews" in the first frelling place so that this foolishness doesn't happen.

Also, I know I'm a conspiracy-minded nutjob, but I find it extremely suspicious that Bookfiend (who could, by its own implicit admission, be anyone in the world — even me) chose to post this review right after my comments about Mr. John Philpott. There's a certain similarity to both reviews, and they harp on more or less all the same things (dialogue, for example, and the passage containing unorthodox formatting at the end of Chapter Five). Likely as not I'm wrong, but it's an interesting coincidence. No one else has complained about either that I've seen.

Anyway, I spent last night practising various meditation techniques to prevent Bookfiend from ruining my Saturday night. If you think it's ridiculous that I let crap like this get to me, I refer you back to paragraph one of this entry.

As for yesterday, despite not having slept much at all the night before, I managed to revise everything I'd written on Friday and write 1,247 additional words, completing Part IV of the prologue. The ms. currently stands at 48 pp., or 9,995 words (which is about twice as long as any previous prologue I've done, I think). Oh, and yesterday I engaged in some formatting that would have given Mr. Bookfiend the screaming heebie-jeebies. I'm really pleased with where this book is going, but now I have to set the prologue aside until Wednesday and spend Monday and Tuesday on a thing for Marvel Comics. When I know if anything's going to come of it, I'll let you know. But then it's right back to Daughter of Hounds. At this point, I'm loathe to pause. I actually want to be writing this book (and how often does that happen for me?).

Back in July, the fact that I've been working myself ragged and letting the attendant stress tear me apart was rather forcibly brought to my attention. I called my agent and told her that I had to slow down, and we renegotiated the contract for Daughter of Hounds, giving me much more time to complete the book. My publisher wasn't terribly happy, as they'd like a book a year, but I finally had to admit that my health and sanity comes first. Lately, however, I've been backsliding. I was entirely too frazzeled yesterday to spend all the hours I spent writing. I'd not eaten much. I was running on caffeine and desire (a poor mix). When I'd finished Part IV, I took a hot bath, got out and promptly frelling fainted in the kitchen. This is only the third time in my life that I've fainted. Fortunately, the fall didn't do me any serious harm, just a banged-up elbow. When I could walk, Spooky and Jennifer helped me to the sofa, and I slept until about 7 p.m. I felt like ass all night long. I am taking this as a not so gentle reminder from my body that I have to watch the stress and slow the frell down.

Last night, after the fainting and napping, we watched some crap on TV, and then I played a little Morrowind. First time in weeks. Nar'eth the Dunmer left her abode in Balmora and journeyed far north to Solsthiem. I thought there might be some action up there, because everyone in Vvardenfell seems so damned terrified of the place. But I walked from Fort Frostmoth north and then northeast and then north again until I reached the sea. Then, I headed west until I encountered the barrier of a vast glacier, which I skirted and headed south, back to Fort Frostmouth, where I took a ship back to Khuul. Other than a few wolves and bears (including snow wolves and snow bears and grizzly bears, oh my) and one cranky mage (whom I killed), I encountered nothing ominous, in my entire circumnavigtion of the island. I saw no sign of the fabled werewolves, and I even violated a tomb looking for them. But, hey, it was a calm way to pass an hour or so. Afterwards, I went to bed and began reading Alastair Reynolds' novella "Diamond Dogs" (thanks, Bill), which promises to be quite wonderful. I took an Ambien, to be sure that I'd get back to sleep after that nap. When I woke up at six a.m., suddenly wide awake, I took another half Ambien and slept untl ten. I had a huge breakfast of leftover spaghetti and feel much, much better this morning. I'm taking the day off (though I want to be writing — how weird is that?), and a little later, Spooky and I are going to the Dekalb Farmer's Market to buy pumpkins from which to carve jack-o'-lanterns. At 3 p.m., I'll be watching Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, of course. I preordered the DVD yesterday (more on that later).

Oh, make sure you read the latest chapter of The Adventures of Boschen and Nesuko. To quote the series' creator, the unflappable Setsuled (known to us Nebari as Leh'agvoi), "Not a whole lot happens in it, but I made a special effort to make Nesuko sexy. So go see!." He's not kidding. I think I have a serious thing for Nesuko. I can't decide if it's the ears or the teeth.
  • Current Music
    Dream Academy, "Life in a Northern Town"