Monday, September 3, 2012

A Quiet Belief in Sockpuppets

So, it's official, I'll be crashing the Bouchercon Cleveland party next month. And you - if you're around - are invited to a live event Friday night. Snubnose Press is hosting a nasty-ass reading featuring myself, N@B alum Dan O'Shea, N@B-LA host Eric Beetner and vet Josh Stallings, Grift Magazine big-wig John Kenyon and my KC-MO-Bro from another Ho Ryan Sayles. And guess what? you don't have to be registered for Bouchercon to attend. It's a free, public event. It's at a bar - there'll be books, booze and bloodshed.

If you can't be there... there will a few more chances for us to meet face to face this year. Scott and I will be putting together another St. Louis N@B event or two for the caboose of Mayan imagination, and I'll be making a handful of appearances in other towns to promote a couple books - first, the one I'm publishing Noir at the Bar Volume 2 and second my own collection of short fiction. Thanks for all the nice things you've been saying about A F*ckload of Shorts - if more of you do, than I can stop posting reviews under other folks' names - people don't like it when you do that apparently.

Dicks in socks are nothing new
Have you been following the RJ Ellory 'Sockpuppetting' story? UK author Jeremy Duns has published his case (on Twitter of all places) accusing the bestselling author of keeping multiple online identities for the promotion of his own work (many five-star reviews) and, worse, taking a dump on other writers' books (Duns' Twitter feed in sequence can be read here). The Twitters and FaceBooks and Blogosphere has been all agitated 'n shit about similar behavior from Amazonian-wunders like John Locke and Stephen Leather for weeks, but Ellory is the first really 'legit' - as in people-give-a-shit-about-him - author to be exposed for this kinda thing. And, Ellory's copped to it. Folks are upset. Really upset.

Buuuuut - Is this really what passes for scandal these days? It's stupid, low-behavior, but in the end it's just.... petty - not so blackly evil as you'd think from reading the response from the crime community.

My questions:

Why is anybody surprised?

Does anybody think Ellory is the only 'big name' doing this kind of thing?

Can you not picture yourself doing it?

I can. Totally. I don't do it, but hey, I can imagine circumstances in which I could absolutely be tempted to blow off some steam like that. Not proud of it, but the truth is that I can be a real weenie sometimes. I hope it never comes to that, but... there, but for the grace of God, go I.

In a weirdly prescient bit of psychic harmony, my squirrelly little brudda on the otha udder Jimmy Callaway put together (co-wrote and stars in) this here short film about a ventriloquist, The Small Time Vent. He's damn funny, no?

Jimmy also let me drop in at The Criminal Complex to talk about the experience of having my short stories adapted for film. I got to drop load of love on Julian Grant and Kevin Quain. You know, A Fuckload of Scotch Tape isn't the only story to originally appear in Out of the Gutter to be made into a film by Julian. He's also made shorts based on Matt Wallace's Maidenhead, Bruce Stirling's Screw the Pepperoni and he's just done an animated adaptation of Matthew Louis's own The End of Christopher's Gang (also from the Revenge issue).

You know who that is as the voice of Chris? Booked Podcast's Livius Nedin. Bully for Booked. You'll be getting more Booked links soon...


Ben said...

Dude, it really bugs me that Ellory did this. Guy sold ONE MILLION COPIES of his last book. ONE MILLION.

Not a hundred

Not a thousand.

Not ten thousand (which is commercially a success)


and he feels the need to shit on other writers. I understand Stephen Leather is a working stiff who might have got lost somewhere in between his insecurities and his own hype, but Ellory man. He's huge. Nothing can justify that.

Jimmy Callaway said...

You're squirrelly.

Gordon Harries said...

He also attacked the work of at least two fellow authors (It's out there, so I'll just say it: Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride.) and the guy sells. A lot. This isn't some mid-lister in fear of being dropped.

This is a member of a community known for bing generous behaving like a complete dick and refusing to apologize to either Billingham or MacBride. He's been doing this for AT LEAST four years. Lord alone knows what he's said or done to 'lesser' authors.

You can argue that's nothing if you like, but I'm not with you.

jedidiah ayres said...

Ben/Gordon - I wouldn't say it's nothing - I would say it's shameful and embarrassing and just plain petty... but, in the end, it's just some guy behaving like an asshole, and that happens all the time.

I wouldn't enjoy having somebody attack my work, but if I put it out there, I've made it fair game... I think MacBride & Billingham can handle some jerk slagging their work the same way a stand-up comedian can handle a heckler (and they have, as far as I know - good for them). I just think it's showing a bit of a thin-ness of skin across the community that somebody making a buffoon of themselves is causing the level of outrage I'm seeing (I seriously doubt that any of those lousy reviews from behind a mask kept people away from Stuart & Mark's books).

I'm glad Duns exposed him - way to go Jeremy - and it sounds like they've perhaps got some personal history that I don't share, but whew! it's been heated on the nets... and that just surprises me. Yeah, people are assholes, I just thought that was more common knowledge.

Thanks for commenting - you know I appreciate your input, guys

jedidiah ayres said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gordon Harries said...

Aww Jed, you know as well as I do that there's something about the internet that makes people lose their shit.

To be fair, this has been coming since the e-books panel at Harrogate. I'm hoping that it's maybe peaked now.

Believe it or not, part of the intent of the statement that I've been involved with was an attempt to put us back on a more reasoned path.

I do think this is a serious issue but, ultimatley, I think the bigger problem is that the system encorages being gamed like this.

jedidiah ayres said...

That's it exactly, Gordon... The system invites it - doesn't make it any less wrong - but I would have thought it would make it less surprising.

Gordon Harries said...

I'm not suprised by the fact that it happens. At all.

I'm am taken aback by the fact that someone of RJ Ellory's sales record did this (at least here in the UK, I understand that he's not had a breakout over there) and he did it across about half a decade. I just can't imagine the justification.

Unknown said...

Generally speaking, I think what Ellory did is wrong, but I also understand that it comes from that insecure place that all writers have. The first time strangers read my work, I got mixed responses––from measured praise to dismissive "mehs" to line-by-line word-by-word criticism of everything down to the story's title.

I think the problem is that we rip our hair out trying to create something, we know we didn't cheap out and gloss over the work, and we feel that it is the best it can possibly be, but still there are people out there who don't seem to get it. Or worse, there are people who rip you apart and make it sound almost personal. In this age of the Internet, it is very easy for people to gangbang your work with anonymous criticism. Not surprisingly, there would be the temptation to become just as anonymous and fire back at the critics.

Still, I can't respect Ellory anonymously ripping into other authors' work. If he doesn't like it he should have the balls to openly criticize it the way Stephen King does when it comes to James Patterson and Stephanie Myer.

jedidiah ayres said...

I'll say, I'd be surprised if Ellory were the ONLY 'big name' doing that kind of thing. I'd be really surprised because, like Dyer said - we're insecure, and it feels like a safe way to take cheap shots that might make us feel better - that's why I was saying I could totally IMAGINE myself being tempted to do things like that.

Imagine that George Costanza, the character from Seinfeld were a successful writer and pulled this kind of stunt - he'd be ever more endeared to us. Not because it's not reprehensible (it is), but it's so easy to imagine our own lesser impulses winning out - we'd understand his actions, and enjoy vicariously indulging our worst impulses... Of course we also like to see a deserved comeuppance, and I guess that's where we're at now.

But I'd be really surprised. Shocked, actually, if this were an isolated event up in the rarified air of best-sellers.

And I do wonder how much different the reaction would have been if his comments had been made under his own name.

Unknown said...

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, got caught doing something similar last year, using false identities to attack critics online. Adams isn't a bestselling novelist, but like you said Jed, it's doubtful that Ellory is the only well-known figure doing it.

Personally, I'm more bothered by the proliferation of bestselling authors becoming lazy and hiring so-called co-authors who are actually doing the bulk of the work, i.e. James Patterson, who has his co-authors sign a confidentiality agreement to keep them from divulging how much of the work is actually theirs.

It's true that Alexandre Dumas and Alistair McLean did something similar, but something about it just rubs me the wrong way.

Greg Bardsley said...

I'm with Jed ... Things can get ruthless on the 'nets, and that includes reviews and snotty comments between authors, etc. I am betting there are a TON of authors faking reviews, paying for reviews and slinging arrows at perceived rivals. .. There is a lot of "smallness" out there amongts authors, and this is nothing new.

Chris said...

I think the reason there's been such outrage is OF COURSE we've all been tempted, but by and large, we don't. No way Ellory's the only major name who has. And I've no interest in a witch-hunt; I've already talked to folks asking if totally acceptable behavior crosses the line. That ain't cool.

Honestly, talking up your own stuff under fake names doesn't bother me. And a lousy review is allowed as well. But ten of 'em to tank a book-rank is the review equivalent of hacking a site, and is a clear no-go for me. You're fucking with people's livelihoods.

A pledge ain't gonna fix it. If you'll cheat, you'll lie on a pledge and then cheat just the same. Besides, I ain't gonna tell other writers how to behave. Best I can do is be clear about how I will. And honestly, I'm not sure why folks would believe me anyway.

jedidiah ayres said...

BTW. Greg - Thanks for your five star review. I'll have your cash soon

Chris - I'm still waiting on yours... c'mon, man, a little quid pro quo here... don't make me fuck with your livelihood

Peter Rozovsky said...

I just heard that Russia and China are threatening to veto any UN call for military action again Roger Ellory, insisting that “a peaceful solution” is still possible.

Part of me says the guy’s a douchebag for trashing other writers and using an alias to do so. Another part of me says that a world that takes Amazon reviews, Wikipedia, and Twitter seriously as sources of knowledge deserves what it gets.

I’ll see you in Cleveland. And by the way, you should read that excellent Peter' Rozovsky’s blog. He deserves five stars for his terrific site and also because he’s a hell of a nice guy.
Sock Puppets Beyond Borders
"Because Amazon Reviews Are More Fun Away From Your Own Name."

jedidiah ayres said...

I think you can say both, Peter.

I also seem to recall someone once said "Fuck Peter Rozovsky."

See you in Cleveland.

Peter Rozovsky said...

P.S. My small connection to this affair is that Ellory was on one of my panels at last year's Bouchercon, and we've hung out at several conventions. I suppose one is always surprised when something like this happens to somebody one knows.

My other surprise is that the guy is damn good, and he sells well. He doesn't need to do this.

jedidiah ayres said...

I really enjoyed A Quiet Vendetta - the only one of his books I've thusfar tried, and I fully intend to try another based on the strength of that one.

If we restricted ourselves to enjoying art made by artists we appreciate personally - the world would be an even dimmer, more depressing place. I hear Beethoven was a dick.

Peter Rozovsky said...

And Homer was probably a schmuck, too, though I think Bach was a hard-working family man. And, hell, wasn't Jack Kerouac a Richard Nixon fan by the time he died?

Unknown said...