Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Notes on a George Zebroski speech about the ills of publishing

Posted by Trent Walters at 5:07 PM
These notes are part of a long essay on publishing problems. They may or may not reflect others' opinions. Zebrowski claims to have the data demonstrating everything he says, which will be published on the CSSF website. After the speech, I asked if the information might get him into hot water with publishers. He said the data is old, so it shouldn't come as a surprise or be controversial. Because this is important, please accept my apologies if I mis-transcribe. I didn't inject myself into the notes, intentionally.

(The speech was proposed as a counterpoint to Lou Anders' enthusiasm about the future of publishing; however, Anders' and Zebrowski's speeches were most intriguing in light of John Ordover's statements, later more frequently referred to--perhaps being even more thought-provoking, controversial, if at times dubious.)


Gunn on George Zebrowski -- writer, occasional agent, editor

GZ's speech:

Writers’ working condition -- Bambi meets Godzilla -- adapt or get squashed -- refusal to revert right

Deprive authors of book sales, withholding royalties, etc.

Royalties (in big publishing) -- fictional -- tells nothing -- writers can’t afford to find out records that might not even exist anymore. [Publishers?] fail to comply.

--Blacklist of authors -- his uncorrected proof published was as is, even though he corrected on time
--Bookstores paid to display books prominently
--Writers can be misled of what’s in warehouse
--Might promise contract -- deny author of finding out what publishers must show
--Problems are endemic, full housekeeping would ruin
--Fate of book is decided long before published
--Horse-race fixing
--Writers not given actual print runs and sales
--Publisher can make profit even if author hasn’t earned out advance
--Writers’ organization not keeping publishers accountable
--Why not? Fear of writers knowing truth
--Contracts are a labyrinth
--An editor said: Merits of book don’t determine book’s success
--Warehouses -- errors programmed into system
--Many writers are paid next to nothing.
--Checks delayed and their amount cannot be verified
--Mentions Harvard plagiarist & how she was made to be famous by publishers even though she had no track record to think she would be a good author

SF Matters & Why It Should Survive

--Don’t need to be rich to write
--Pragmatic -- get to admit what will not do: Be bad first, be good later
--live for merits
--Blish said: Is the work about anything? If don’t answer this, the work trivializes SF
--Campbell's critical stance: change spooks readers in a good way
--SF w/o thought not worthy of title of SF
--Weinbaum: SF can criticize social, political, etc. Won’t fit into formulaic commercial writing.
--Importance of critical SF -- ways out of human maze -- hopes and fears
--Nothing easily worked out in SF
--Quickly written = quickly get $
--Lem quote: SF is a jail unless connects itself to science
--SF has been declining in science
--Pretentious? You bet. [This was in reference to lofty goals of SF, suggesting that lofty goals are not a problem but should be desired.]
--[The genre's love of] an amorphous definition of SF is laziness.
--SF novel stuffed with novelties can be too much like fantasy.
--Asimov’s definition best: “Remove future, etc. and substitute ‘change’ and can still be SF.”
--Pointless adventures and games.
--SF maps out human repairs or avoids poor futures
--SF writers as editors created genre: Editors today don’t edit.
--Gaugin on Van Gogh: Owes to no one. Has something to say. [Goals of the SF writer]
--Contracts are minimum conditions b/n parties though used as maximum conditions
--Will be posted on CSSF site -- also going into hands of Eliot Spitzer.

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