Screwed by their own success

Like Biblioasis here in Canada, the UK’s Galley Beggar Press had the eyes, insight, and cahones to publish Ducks, Newburyport and end up on the Booker shortlist. With that sort of success comes a lot of work for a small press. Remember back when Gaspereau could barely get books out when one of their titles ended up winning the Giller Prize? Well, Galley Beggar stepped up and printed the books to fulfill the orders from The Book People right before The Book People collapsed and now they’re on the hook for 40G (pounds!) in printing expenses. Poor bastards. Thankfully, the community is stepping up.

“[This] has turned what should have been the best year of our little company’s life into its worst – and something that might kill it. So we need your help. We hate to ask for charity,” wrote Millar in its appeal. “But at this point, we can’t see a way around.”

Less than an hour after the fundraiser launched, Galley Beggar had raised more than the £15,000 it initially asked for. It subsequently raised the goal to £40,000 with funds quickly exceeding £30,000. Fellow publishers, authors and booksellers are rallying behind the Norwich-based publisher, with donors including the National Centre for Writing and Arts Council England’s literature director Sarah Crown.

Crazy science nerds making up their own languages

For the record, none of use could understand them anyway. ConLangs — constructed languages? Now this is the sort of science class I could use. Language is as fundamental to the mind as gravity is to the body, so who wouldn’t want to create a language (then sell it to a shitty scifi show on cable to be used by a race of humanoids who differ from use mostly by wrinkle variations on the forehead)?

One student, who took 24.917 (ConLangs: How to Construct a Language) this fall, created a language for underwater creatures who speak in shades of color. Another invented a language that combines speech with whistling. Senior Jessica Lang’s new language is for spaceships that speak. “It’s not a super logical premise,” she says, “but it’s a lot of fun facing the constraints. And, I like a lot of the words in ‘spaceship-speak’ because they are just really weird.”

Jessica Lang? Oh, that’s a bit on the nose, don’t you think?

On the Road (to ruin) – on the diminishing returns of the book review

Jack Kerouac’s NYT review for On the Road made him famous overnight. Could that sort of thing ever happen on that sort of scale nowadays with the kids and their digital doodads and virtual hoohas and the social Twits and Faces and whatnot? Nar, says ye olde journo.

Looking back at this culture-shifting review, we might wonder whether such a moment can be replicated in our modern literary and journalistic landscape. The persuasive power of an individual review today is vastly diluted by the fragmentation of the media and the frantic chirping of cable channels, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and text messaging at all hours. Abbreviated attention moves on at an almost mindless speed. A trend rises and vanishes, all but forgotten before it ever sticks. A book and a book review — even if capturing a cultural turning point — today can’t help losing the competition for eyes to Twitter bursts and viral videos. One might wonder what social transitions are never noticed these days in all the noise.

On plagiarism

What’s it like to be plagiarized? Fascinating personal essay on the experience explores all the weird things that go through your head.

A few weeks ago I received an email from an unfamiliar sender. In the subject line was the title of a story I wrote five years ago. Sometimes, when you get published, this happens. Either a reader loves the story, or a reader hates the story, or you’ve won a prize. I have received all three kinds of communication for this particular story, so I braced myself, and opened the email. After some formal greetings, the sender identified himself as a journalist from Nairobi. He wanted to know if I was aware of the recent plagiarism scandal involving a young Nigerian author.

Apparently, the young author had written a wildly successful story that had won a reputable prize and was now shortlisted for a much more prestigious prize. Some people pointed out that the lauded story had more than a passing resemblance to my own. The journalist wanted to know if I had any comments for his article about the scandal. Formal outros ensued and the email ended with two links, one to my story and one to the story of the young writer. I clicked on the last link and read, rather quickly and with a dooming anxiety I will spend this essay exploring, a version of the story I’d written in which some of the sentences were verbatim copies of my own. Sometimes, when your writing goes out into the world, I guess this happens too.

THIS. IS. NOT. A. DRILL.

Okay, people, we’ve been training for this for years. We move forward now as one, Everyone make sure to bring your war cows: The Far Side is returning via the new TheFarSide.com,

“Finally, I also concede I’m a little exhausted. Trying to exert some control over my cartoons has always been an uphill slog, and I’ve sometimes wondered if my absence from the web may have inadvertently fuelled someone’s belief my cartoons were up for grabs. They’re not. But it’s always been inherently awkward to chase down a Far Side–festooned website when the person behind it is often simply a fan,” he wrote. “So I’m hopeful this official website will help temper the impulses of the infringement-inclined. Please, whoever you are, taketh down my cartoons and let this website become your place to stop by for a smile, a laugh, or a good ol’ fashioned recoiling. And I won’t have to release the Krakencow.”

Captured at TheFarSide.com