Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

For the Australians (Which Means if You're Sick of This Shit, You Can Look Away)

Every now and then, I come across a comment like this, where someone says, essentially, "I am new to the local fiction scene, but I'm finding the stuff I'm buying sucks."

We're talking: packaging, fiction, art, whatever. They think it sucks. It's a new reader. They come in. They say it... and then usually, someone in the scene, corrects them. Or attempts too, anyway.

I find that interesting, because, right or wrong about their opinion, I don't think we should going round correcting them. I don't think we should go, "Yes, sir, right away, ma'am," either, but I think they should be given a bit more voice. After all, if they represent a potential new audience, and if you follow the theory that only a small percentage of people speaking represent a larger opinion, then they got to represent more who have come in, bought a thing for the scene, found it bad, and didn't come back.

Maybe you disagree with that. That's cool. It isn't like it is something I have empirical evidence for. You could argue that when people are happy with a product, they say nothing. Fair enough. But, it seems to me, that there is also developing a body of criticism around the small press scene here that is not overly positive. This relates more to short fiction than novels, but it doesn't mean that there isn't criticism about novels out there, because there is (I don't have the link, but Martin Lewis (ninebelow) in the last NYRSF took on Less than Human and Orbital Burn, both of them winners of the Aurealis, and both of them, in his opinion, substandard). These reviews, by the way, run from being really, really stupid, such as the SF crowsnest reviews of Ticonderoga, which are essentially some scrawled opinions by a writer to drunk to bother with anything that gets in the way of finding a new drink, to actually being given more time and depth such as on Strange Horizons and ASif.

So, what I'm thinking is, eventually, the local scene is going to have start paying attention to this. Paying attention in terms of design. In terms of content. In terms of whatever. How we react... well, who knows? But maybe there is coming a time when the voices that intersect between buyers and critical ones, maybe they deserve a bit more of a listen. Or maybe we just keep ignoring them.

But, I find it interesting to note that a response recently is to tell new readers that they are not reading the best of an author's given work. Regardless of how you mean it, to tell someone who doesn't like something that they just paid money for what was not the "best"... well, it doesn't come off well, to my mind. It sounds as if the local scene is knowingly publishing the substandard stuff, and that's not going to win us new readers. It's just not. If they read a piece a work, they think it sucks, and then the response is, "Well, it's not their best work, no," by the people in the scene, then really, what kind of message is that sending?

"We got submitted some work that we didn't like as much as [the author's] other work, and we know we really can't defend it, and it's subpar, but we kinda like it, but really, you ought to check out their other work, it's really good. You should read some of that."

Yeah, let me get my credit card.

That keys into a larger problem, on the author side, of money and exposure, and under selling, and over selling work, but I don't want to get into that here, except to say that if you have a scene that can't afford the best of an author, or isn't desirable for him/her... Well you see how it all joins together, yes? Food for thought, I reckon.
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