Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Monday News: BAM’s POD experiment, fandoms and empathy, Hugo hosting controversy,...

BAM Espresso Pilot A Success, So Far – Books-A-Million has been conducting a 90-day experiment with the Espresso Ebook Machine, a print-on-demand technology installed in stores in Maine (one of its top-earning stores) and Alabama (its flagship location). The company claims that use is still on the increase, and according to the employees who assist customers with the machines, family history and genealogy are among the most popular projects. Apparently a handwritten copy of Alice in Wonderland (in Carroll’s script) was among the public domain works printed. Apparently BAM will keep these two machines installed for a year before expanding, although if they get more publisher involvement, that timeline could be expedited.

Certain titles are available through partnerships with Google, Lightning Source, HarperCollins, and Hachette, while select content comes from publishers like Random House, W.W. Norton, and Simon & Schuster. Gallagher said she talks with publishers “every day” about making more content available on the EBMs. “We do wish we were doing more volume [on the machines] in copyright situations with books that are available through standard publishers,” she said. “But they haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, and the lion’s share of the business is really from the self-publishing community.” –Publishers Weekly

On Fandom, Parasocial Relationships, and What We Don’t Know – Although this post by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is commentary on another post — Sarah Rees Brennan’s exploration of the way female fan fiction writers can be perceived when they write original fiction  — it’s a pretty interesting argument about whether participation in fantoms, in particular, may create a false belief that one may be able to “read” people in real life the same way one reads fictional characters and situations. I’m very, very, very, very, very, very, very wary of ‘influence’ arguments, but I do think community norms can influence behavior, so I think it’s important to talk about those norms and how individuals are situated relative to them.

Reading Sarah’s post made me wonder if those of us who engage with fiction frequently and passionately and, yes, through fandom, writing stories and daydreaming about characters and diagnosing their motivations—I wonder if that level of engagement could potentially have very real cognitive effects on us, beyond what has already been studied. On the one hand, that kind of engagement might actually make us better at understanding people. But at the same time, I think it quite possibly increases our perceptions of how good we are at doing that, beyond what is actually possible. Regular engagement with fiction—particularly active engagement through fandom—might fool us into thinking, even more than people who are less engaged with fiction, that we really, truly know what other people are thinking or intending and who they are deep down. —

WorldCon 2014 announces Jonathan Ross to host Hugo Awards, controversy follows, Ross withdraws – In the midst of all of SFF conflict over sexism, diversity, and inclusion, LonCon announced that the Hugo Awards ceremony, which will be held in London at WorldCon 2014, would be hosted by British comedian and talk show host Jonathan Ross. Ross has a reputation for offensive and divisive comedy, even though he has also advocated for greater diversity within the BBC. However, Ross quickly stepped down once the widespread online uproar over his selection began.

For the purposes of hosting the Hugo Awards, I can understand why LonCon decided it’d be a good idea to employ Ross (though it should be noted that he is not being paid). Ross is a huge, bona fide celebrity. It’d raise the profile of the Hugos and Worldcon in the UK more than almost anything else would, and would ensure wider newspaper and television coverage. Ross is certainly one of us, as his personal, extensive collection of vintage toys, games and comics should attest. But he’s also a divisive comedian, one whose humour seems to rely too much on belittling others, often on the grounds of gender or sexuality; almost certainly not from some deep-seated prejudice, but more a lazy reliance on obvious sources of humor. –The Wertzone

7 Tips for Keeping Your Man (from the 1950s) – We all need a good laugh on Monday, right? So here you go. A collection of marriage advice from the mid 20th century (you just can’t make this stuff up) — written by men, natch. Why seven tips? For luck, maybe. Including tip # 4, titled, DON’T BE A SEXUAL VAMPIRE OR A FRIGID FRANNY:

Just as the vampire sucks the blood of its victims in their sleep while they are alive, so does the woman vampire suck the life and exhaust the vitality of her male partner—or “victim.”

It is to be borne in mind that it is particularly older girls—girls between thirty and fifty—who are apt to be unreasonable in their demands when they get married; but no age is exempt; sexual vampires may be found among girls of twenty as well as among women of sixty and over. –Mental Floss

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Nemo
    Mar 03, 2014 @ 08:48:04

    Now I’m pretty adverse to influence arguments too, and protective of fandom in general, so maybe I’m bias. I just think that that was a long article to say “Hey, it might have an effect! Also don’t judge people.”

    Is reading a cause of effect of empathy? What if people who are empathetic read more? Why is reading not considered just another form of communication? Which, by definition, allows us to understand each other.

    I read a lot of bad fanfiction in my youth (a lot of bad books too) and I can raise my hand and say they were damaging. Wrong ideas about femininity, relationships, friendships, and the world that I internalized. Except as I grew up I also read a lot of awesome fanfiction and books and they have done the exact opposite.

    I’m rereading Rurouni Kenshin (best manga/anime ever!) and the other day I had to make myself a cup of tea and cry because I just realized the main character is a CHILD SOLIDER. Fanfiction also drew me into that world deeper and proceeded to knock me over with the gut wrenching details of what being a fourteen year old assassin would be like. I realized none of this when I watched it as a preteen. I can’t really imagine how this could have a negative effect on my life, but I can see the positive effects. Perhaps the next time a sea of faceless victims appears on the news I’ll realize that they are all individuals with just as much pain and sorrow and destruction as the characters of those stories. Instead of changing the channel and watching ‘Say yes to the dress.’

    Also, I would argue, the great books (and fanfictions) are simply extensions of people. We always talk about how this or that reaction wasn’t realistic or didn’t feel authentic. Part of that is truth is stranger than fiction and part of that is that we know when the emotions behind actions aren’t fully realized or the author themselves doesn’t understand the emotions.

    Let me draw your attention to my favorite book ever: The Woman Who Walked into Doors. The main character is an abused woman, but she is so fleshed out and thoroughly explored that I understand her actions. I see how she has integrated her husband’s personality into her self image and identity, how she herself has abusive tendencies, how her environment has formed her, and not once does she become a hero or victim. It’s not a Lifetime movie, there is not real victory. She’s a person, not an emotional chess piece.

    So, is this book bad for letting me think that I might understand abused women? Or is it good that it’s removing “Why didn’t you just leave him?” from my accusatory vocabulary?

    I would also like to raise the fact that people can assume they know everything about you without books. See all cultural and religious wars ever.

    Maybe I just didn’t fully grasp the argument, but I’m still trying to see how reading and empathizing with fictional characters can harm my ability to empathize with real people. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? If someone runs out of a funeral my first thought would be how inconsiderate they are to interrupt MY time of grieving. Reading about others grieving however might lead me to believe that they too are overcome with sadness and need to leave. If I have no exposure to that way of grieving how am I to know? Without books, don’t we all just assume everyone’s motivation are the same as our own? I agree with the sentiment of the article, but pulling fiction into it just seems to weaken the argument.

    And if I assume that I’m better at empathizing how is that any different that the millions of others who never read a day in their life, but think they know everything? Books, if anything, teach us that we don’t know crap.

    Sorry for the long, random rant.

  2. Amanda
    Mar 03, 2014 @ 10:24:13

    With those rules a woman might have kept a man but it doesn’t seem like that man would have been worth keeping.

  3. Mzcue
    Mar 03, 2014 @ 12:26:26

    Re: “it’s a pretty interesting argument about whether participation in fantoms, in particular, may create a false belief that one may be able to “read” people in real life the same way one reads fictional characters and situations.”

    It’s been pretty well established that people already vastly overrate their ability to “read” people. I remember learning years ago about experiments in which subjects were recruited for psychological experiments under the guise of being asked to count acts of aggression in play groups videotaped for study purposes. Half the subjects were told that they were watching troubled students, the others were told that they were watching normal students. Of course, they watched the same video, but those anticipating trouble tallied many times more aggression.

    Plus, we now know that human perception leans heavily on templates to interpret experience. Survival depends on speed in many instances, so we have the habit of working from cues instead of thoughtful observation. (Beady eyes? Untrustworthy!, etc.)

    In addition, we now know about witness unreliability, as well as the unawareness people have of the impact of their own confirmation bias, and so on.

    Romance is firmly grounded in the tradition of morality tales, after all. A diet of exclusively what we think people should be like, and sequences of events that unfold the way we would prefer, is probably not a good idea. But the same could be said about broadcast and film entertainment, obsessive video gaming, and so on.

    Immersing oneself in any kind of fiction probably reinforces the illusion of one’s own keen insight. All the more reason for teaching critical thinking not only to those in school, but as a skill that requires life-long maintenance.

  4. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Lacuna linkity
    Mar 11, 2014 @ 07:55:01

    […] and publishing news from Dear […]

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