A brief weekly recap of recent headlines about books and book news from around the web. Just click on the article title to go directly to the publication shown.
How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future
The New Yorker Magazine
THIS WEEK IN FICTION: SHIRLEY JACKSON
Happy “Not Sure of Your Birthday” Mr. Shakespeare!
Shakespeare fans around the globe are preparing to celebrate the bard’s 450th birthday today. We love to party as much as the next person, but the real story is that no one knows when his birthday was. He died 450 years ago today, April 23, 1616, and it is presumed he was born on the same date 52 years prior. But what matters the date of your birthday when your creative contributions to the world are so timeless?
“This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow;
a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more:
it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
In Our Humble Opinion
This past week we were treated to a repeating daily headline from BuzzFeed that “diversity is not enough” for the publishing industry. Apparently that publication has someone with the SEO savvy to get the same articles in your face day after day on various news feeds. The subheading under the article title was “The publishing industry looks a lot like these best-selling teenage dystopias: white and full of people destroying each other to survive.” It was written by a freelance contributor, a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and composer.
The article, so called, was basically a rant about how the publishing industry is too white and needs to make space for “more than diversity.” The writer proposes that publishing cede to any non-white writers, presumably himself included, who should happen to put pen to paper. No need for quality, vetting, literary merit or even basic business value. Publishers should, according to the contributor, open their doors to pretty much anyone as long as they have the right ethnic background.
The Buzzfeed contributor is entitled to his opinion, even if it is misguided. The publishing industry is in a turmoil and has yet to see it’s way clear to new business models fully adapted to the rapidly changing digital world. There is an unfortunate emphasis on publishing established authors to avoid risk, and the industry is already bending to the myopic demands of youth to provide “characters I can relate to.” That is a considerable change from the traditional literary paradigm of expanding one’s horizons through reading diverse literature. Still, publishing is a business, not a social model. It exists for profit, not to further social equality. Anyone who dislikes that model is free to do it differently themselves.
Vitriolic race-baiting does not seem a good way to try to force additional change in an already beleaguered publishing industry. In fact, advocating the replacement of one canon for another based on race doesn’t seem appropriate for any aspect of society. If we are ever to get past racial problems, many of which have been inflamed to extremes by politicians and activists in the past decade, it’s high time to put color and race out of the equation. Perhaps this Buzzfeed contributor has a personal axe to grind over a rejected submission, but trying to play the race card through a mean spirited rant is simply not only inappropriate, but just plain rude and crude.