Friday News: Ursula Le Guin’s NBA speech, Google Contributor, Mark Twain’s frontier humor, and a NaNoWriMo pep talk
Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.) –Parker Higgins
The contribution — which is handled through a user’s Google account, using whatever payment method they have chosen for the service — doesn’t go to all of the participating websites, but is only triggered when that user visits a specific site (the service is working with U.S. sites only for now). That way, a Google spokesperson said that readers or users can support only the websites and publishers whose sites they visit frequently. –Gigaom
If the West lent itself to myth making, to the transposition of fact and fiction, it also proved fertile ground for humor. Western comedy grew out of an omnipresent feature of frontier life: its hardness. As Daniel Boone knew, there was no shortage of ways for a man to die in the West. He could die slowly from starvation or exposure, or suddenly, from an encounter with a Shawnee brave or a bear or a bobcat. He could also tangle with his fellow frontiersmen, often the greatest threat of all. The backwoods were full of brutal men. They picked fights with each other on the slimmest pretexts, solely for the pleasure of hurting and humiliating their opponents.
These macho rituals generated their own special language. A Tennessee trapper or a Mississippi boatman might thump his chest and claim that he was a snapping turtle, or that he was endowed with a bear’s claws and the Devil’s tail. The boasts were meant to make the man as fearsome as the landscape he inhabited. They were also self-consciously silly, exaggerated to the point of absurdity. They converted the cruelty of frontier life into a source of cathartic laughter. In a society of strangers, Westerners could gather around the campfire and enjoy a fleeting sense of community as they spun the unfunny facts of their surroundings into surreal comic fictions. These “tall tales” became the basis for America’s first folk art: a set of oral traditions known as frontier humor. The yarns often featured a gristly frontiersman, engaging in fantastical feats of violence and speaking strange, gorgeous slang. –Lapham’s Quarterly
And while the goal of the program isn’t necessarily to turn its members into professional authors, a number of participants have managed to parlay their NaNoWriMo efforts into published books—and even into full-time writing careers. PW spoke with a handful of these writers, including Wool (Simon & Schuster, 2013) author Hugh Howey and Cinder (Square Fish, 2013) author Marissa Meyer, about how the wildly popular (and wildly demanding) program helped to launch their publishing journey. –Publishers Weekly