20 January 2019

Seven Link Sausages In Search of (An) Author(ity)

If there's an underlying flavor profile to this platter, it's lies as publicity and marketing devices (PDF), which isn't exactly a new topic on this blawg.

  • It couldn't happen to a nicer pile of empty calories, excessive saturated fat and sodium, and arrogant marketing memes: Big Mac is ™ no more, at least in the EU. Mickey D's (notice the trademark disparagement there?) can continue to sell and brand its monstrosities as Big Macs; it just cannot exclude others.
  • Then there's the problem of declining author income. This article at least tries to reach beyond surface impressions, which is a good thing, but it misses badly. To fix a problem, one must have at least some understanding of both proximate and first cause. Arguing over whether Amazon is the proximate cause is all well and good. But it ignores first cause, which — bluntly — is largely the fault of publishers (and everyone else in the economic chain) still living with nineteenth-century class biases, and how that infects the entire process from the way they recruit their staffs to the way authors get paid.
  • And some of that first cause is fed by the continuing foolishness of treating "publishing" as a single industry with a single set of memes, circumstances, and everything else. A couple of side trips into academia should disabuse everyone of that; consider, on the one hand, the problem of authors with human — and even overwhelmingly awful — flaws, and its converse of quasifrancophonic literary theory whose only unifying factor is denying the existence of any author other than the author of the theory under discussion. Then ask yourself if any of that has even the slightest relevance to celebrity memoirs.
  • On the other hand, the FBI at least used to believe in authors and the potential dangers they posed even without being Frank Snepp or Philip Agee. Presuming, that is, that one can correctly identify the author.
  • Or zombie authors authors' estates, very few of which are operated in any fashion consistent with the deceased author's views, interests, intent, or anything else — even when there is a good estate plan. Just ask Franz Kafka.
  • Then there's the issue of how scientists appear in the arts, especially visual media. I've been in high-level research labs and institutions, which is precisely why I proclaim that a certain popular show (and its spinoff) on The All-Seeing Eye must be destroyed: They have nothing to do with either science or scientists, and display almost boundless contempt for those who live a life of the mind. Or, for that matter, their human failings and adaptation of popular memes to those failings (which is almost always a failure to adapt). No, instead the laziness and ignorance of "scientists are either superhuman or socially inept" continues to dominate every production company and especially writers' room.
  • Last for now, and perhaps most annoyingly because I watched Sauron's destruction of The Times as a credible source of journalism up close three decades ago: Sauron currently proposes removing even the formalist (and seldom respected) barrier between ownership and editorial staff. Context matters, asshole: Journalism is not just another business cranking out widgets and attempting to achieve a monopoly while somehow skirting antitrust scrutiny. Bite me.