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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:42 pm 
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Yes, it was a good general point in the editorial.
But the specific point about a *very very* bad review (not an ordinarily bad review that I have had many of) needs to be addressed, I felt. I think Stephen has misunderstood my two articles 'No Blame' and 'Weirdtongue Palaver' and conflated and decontextualised them with general dictums about authors commenting on reviews. I think this is the first time I've commented on a review of my own work, but I seem to be getting a bad reputation from this one example where I do not even assign blame.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:25 pm 
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Pete wrote:
Good editorial. The best piece of advice I ever saw on writers responding to bad reviews, reader negativity etc, came from Brian Keene. It was something along the lines of 'Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my book. I'm sorry it didn't agree with you, but hopefully you'll like the next one more.'

That's pure class.


Thanks, Pete. I was rather chuffed a while back to see a one-star rating on Goodreads of TQF Year One (which was essentially two of my daft novels stretched across four magazines), because it meant someone had actually read them. I don't think my wife got through more than one of my novels!

Similarly when David Langford reviewed my second novel - Quiet, the Tin Brains Are Hunting! - in SFX. He gave it two stars and said it was silly, but of all the books in the world he spent an evening reading mine, which I thought was rather wonderful.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:33 pm 
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Des wrote:-
But the specific point about a *very very* bad review (not an ordinarily bad review that I have had many of) needs to be addressed


Sorry Des, but I don't think they do need to be addressed, or that there is any problem.

I've both given and received robust reviews, and I don't really see that they do any especial harm. On the contrary, they sometimes have entirely the opposite effect - I had several people tell me that they bought Sally Spedding's first novel when I described it as 'a load of old horror wank', which is why I somewhat moderate my language now when writing negative reviews.

Nonetheless writers are sometimes upset by my comments, and when they respond they are always at pains to tell me that they don't mind criticism, it's just that mine was badly argued/offensive/whatever. And that's how your comment here about 'a very, very bad review' comes across, an attempt at special pleading.

I don't usually read other reviewers when I have the book on hand to review myself, but when all this broke out I checked John Greenwood's review. I can't remember all the details now, but he gave reasons for not liking the book, he didn't cross the line into personal abuse though his language was colourful at points, and there was no reason to suppose he was pursuing a vendetta against you, so as far as I'm concerned it was a perfectly acceptable review. Sure, it was strong criticism, but I took that as only reflecting his strong dislike of the book.

As to whether he should have been reviewing the book in the first place, I'd say that his track record on reviewing people like Justin Isis and Brendan Connell, show that he's sympathetic to writing that's a little bit 'out there'. It's just that you were too far out there, even for him. Regrettable, but those are the breaks. You're going to provoke strong responses from some people, and saying they shouldn't be commenting on your work is unacceptable.

Each reviewer finds their own voice, tone etc, and there isn't any sliding scale where bad reviews are acceptable but not very, very bad (or, presumably, very, very good reviews, and god knows I've seen enough that read so hyperbolically they could have been written by the author's mother - albeit I've never seen a writer complain about them).

On the other hand I've read some of your blog posts on the matter, posts on message boards and facebook, and I'm sorry Des, but it strikes me as a very disappointing way to respond. As an example, in a post on Facebook you said it was wrong of John Greenwood to say the book was poorly edited because of one typo, but surely you must appreciate that he had more in mind than one, solitary typo when making that comment, whether you, or indeed I, agree with him. And like Rolnikov I saw the post where you said you would welcome any reviews, good or bad, and not complain, but not the codicil where 'very, very bad' were excluded from this.

If you genuinely feel that there's a dialogue to be had about 'very, very bad' reviews then I put it to you that the proper way to go about that was to leave the matter for some time, six months or more, allow time for ruffled feelings to settle, rather than to charge in now when, regardless of your intention, this dialogue was bound to be seen as an attack on the TQF review. Whatever the motives, to me the cumulative effect of all this blogging and posting was a passive-aggressive attack on a reviewer whose only flaw seemed to be that he hadn't reacted to a book in a way the author desired.

I am of course biased here. As a reviewer myself who has had grief from writers over the years, my sympathies are almost entirely with John Greenwood, and should you ever get unfair flak from a writer because of your own review activities then in that case I would support you, all else being equal.

Regardless, I think reviewers should be allowed to do their job, free of any hinderance or pressure from writers. Yes, sometimes writers get treated unfairly, but there are also plenty of times when they get overly praised, and in the end I think it all balances out.

And though I will defend John Greenwood's right to review how he sees fit, his opinions are not necessarily my own, and on that score hopefully there'll be a review of "Werdtongue" in the next Black Static.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:55 pm 
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I agree with all that, Pete. I thank you wholeheartedly. I don't think it conflicts a lot with my actions or with words on my two blog posts - other than leaving it for a while before discussing the issue!
However it's gone into a new ball-game now with Stephen putting his portrayal of my Internet actions into a printed book as a major editorial, i.e. beyond the scope of any internet debate of sometimes vituperative nature. And saying something on his Facebook today that I really can't get my head round. des

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:58 pm 
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PS: that typo - there was a generalisation from an accidental typo (portrayed as an infelicity of style) towards a view that the whole book had an infelicity of style.
Which it may have! But not on those grounds.
des

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:40 pm 
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You know, I've been giving this further thought. I'm just an old fogey in Essex with false teeth. I just plough my way through this hobby of mine - no money being made - other than payment by the delight of producing what I produce for myself and for others. Many people similar to me do other thiings - just as single-mindedly - you don't hear about them. But many do nothing but read the paper and watch TV. (Fair enough). Or deal with domestic crises or deal with grown up children's crises, as I do.
I give opinions on what I see, without fear or favour. Sometimes I may be wrong, sometimes I may be right. But my intentions - witnessed by me from within -seem fair enough, as I hope we all do. And what I see in things is what the truth is for me about those things. Like everyone does.
Now, in the last few days, I'm subject to a long public personal attack in a book for what I feel is a serious misinterpretation of what I said. And I notice Stephen has removed me from his friends on Facebook. Shame. But perhaps unnderstandable, from his point of view.
Anyway, less of me. Here is John Updike (a long-term favourite writer of mine) as an alternative to the approach of many reviewers these days. It certainly sits comfortably with me and my three years worth of book reviewing. Hope it creates a diiscussion point. And I still think there is a distinction between a negative review (of which I have had many) and a terribly negative review (with all that I've said about that subject already).
in all sincerity, des

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:12 pm 
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des2 wrote:
“Now, in the last few days, I'm subject to a long public personal attack in a book for what I feel is a serious misinterpretation of what I said.”


You responded to John Greenwood’s review with dozens of blog, forum and Facebook comments.

I’ve responded once, and it wasn’t a personal attack, it was a rebuttal of your suggestion that reviewers should refrain from giving books bad reviews. Your behaviour is only really discussed in the editorial in the context of explaining why we are no longer interested in reviewing any of your books.

As far as misinterpretation goes, Paul Fussell has said on that score that “a writer [is] supposed to be adept in matters of lucid address and explanation, and if he's failed there, he's failed everywhere.”

des2 wrote:
“And I notice Stephen has removed me from his friends on Facebook. Shame. But perhaps unnderstandable, from his point of view.”


There’s a limit to how often you can accuse someone – whether obliquely or directly - of being unethical and malicious and expect to remain their friend.

des2 wrote:
“Anyway, less of me. Here is John Updike (a long-term favourite writer of mine) as an alternative to the approach of many reviewers these days.”


John Greenwood’s review of your book seems entirely in keeping with all Updike’s “rules”, except the fifth – understandably, since he hasn’t read any of your other works.

des2 wrote:
“And I still think there is a distinction between a negative review (of which I have had many) and a terribly negative review (with all that I've said about that subject already).”


This point has been answered many times over. You’re simply unable to believe that an honest reviewer honestly didn’t like your book.

John has been similarly robust in his reviews of books by several other writers, as have I. John’s review of your book is in fact quite gentle compared to some of the others in this issue! The only thing that sets his review of your book apart from the others is that you have chosen to make - and are still making - such a public fuss about it.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:20 pm 
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Ah well, it must be me then. I happily withdraw. (Not that I agree with most of what is said above, but nothing will bring two sides together so wide apart in seeing th same situation. The background evidence is too wide-spread for even an exerienced judge to make a decision on it, no doubt.)

I hoped the John Updike quote would create a discussion here in general. Perhaps that can happen now,

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:33 pm 
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des2 wrote:
I hoped the John Updike quote would create a discussion here in general. Perhaps that can happen now,


And in furtherance of that, I fel this is the most interesting part:

"To these concrete five might be added a vaguer sixth, having to do with maintaining a chemical purity in the reaction between product and appraiser. Do not accept for review a book you are predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like. Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an idealogical battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never (John Aldridge, Norman Podhoretz) try to put the author “in his place,” making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end."

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 2:53 pm 
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BTW, I must return to the specific matter for a moment because I'm really mystified suddenly why Stephen bothered to do a big editorial about me. A sort of sledgehammer to crack a nut! :)
I've just checked - only about three people have read my Blog that is being criticised by Stephen as an 'attack' since it was linked from Stephen's site after the Editorial was published. I don't think anyone is interested really and they're probably scratching their heads a bit at the editorial. I don't think many people read my blog, anyway, and were unaware of the controversy until Stephen blazed away with it a few days ago as an editorial. That's irrespective of whether one agrees with the editoril or not.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:08 pm 
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des2 wrote:
Ah well, it must be me then. I happily withdraw.


3....2....1....

des2 wrote:
And in furtherance of that, I fel this is the most interesting part:...


Image

des2 wrote:
BTW, I must return to the specific matter for a moment...


Image

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:11 pm 
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You had a seriesof Ha of Ha jokes the other day, Stephen. My sides are splitting. False teeth flown out. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 3:31 pm 
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Actually, there is, subjectively, a serious side to this issue and, objectively, a funny side. But I wonder if it's worth indulging in either side, when only about 12 people are following its ins and outs.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:38 pm 
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Rolnikov wrote:
John’s review of your book is in fact quite gentle compared to some of the others in this issue!


Re-reading this, I find that statement actually quite mind-boggling. If it's true, I'm glad I'm taking a stand.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:06 am 
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In Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #39 we have six more stories of Thornton Excelsior from the magnificent Rhys Hughes, mutant ultraviolence from Mike Sauve, a science fiction tale from our dear friend Douglas Thompson, and our very first interview, with Matthew Hughes. Ben Ludlam illustrates a Thornton adventure, and there are lots of reviews, from Jacob Edwards, Douglas Ogurek and me. The Christmassy cover art is from Howard Watts.

The 38-page review section includes books by Matthew Hughes and E.C. Tubb, audio adventures for Dick Barton and Doctor Who, and comics featuring Atomic Robo, Conan the Barbarian, Frank Miller's Holy Terror, Ian Churchill’s Marineman, the Incredible Change-Bots, Stan Nicholls' Orcs, Rascal Raccoon, and many more. We also look at Borderlands, Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, Melancholia, Paranormal Activity 3, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

In the editorial, “Agendas, Plaudits and Plans”, I talk about my favourite things of 2011, our plans for 2012, the introduction of a new Theaker rule, and – at last! – I reveal the secrets of my hidden agenda.

As ever it's completely free to download, and even the gorgeous paperback version is only a few quid. Links here.

Happy new year everyone!

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