Monday News: The Hugos in crisis, interview with Hachette Livre CEO, pleasure in reading, and profile of model Rain Dove
Whatever one may think of the current selection of nominees, I think it’s clear that the Hugos are at a crossroads, because the kind of coordinated campaign that occurred this year — and the ideological perspectives championed by its architects — raise serious questions about the award’s purpose and legitimacy.
The Hugo Awards have always been “political,” in the sense that people campaigned for them (even though I guess that was officially frowned upon.) And they were political, in that they were seen as a reflection of who gets recognition for writing science fiction and fantasy. When the nominees are mostly white men, as they have been during most eras except for the mid-1990s and the past five years, it does send a message about whose work is going to be considered valuable. And people have certainly critiqued that in previous years.
But this year’s list of nominees seems to herald the beginning of the Hugos becoming “political” in the sense that each “side” will have its own recommended slate of nominees. People won’t get to spend months chewing over the best things they read in the previous year and grappling with their own consciences about what to nominate — instead, each side will have to decide early on which standard-bearers to double down on. Either that, or we’ll see some other solution. –i09
I quoted the following two answers below, in part because of the comparisons they make, and in part because of the way the logic in Nourry’s answers builds to his statement about the subscription model, which to me is actually less about that model and more about how some traditional publishers continue to view their primary customers as those who read and buy fewer, not more, books.
We now have sufficient hindsight to take stock of the development of e-books. How do you see it?
In the Anglo-Saxon world, it seems to have peaked at around 25% of the market, but with huge disparities between illustrated books, where it is anecdotal, and mainstream literature, where it accounts for 40% or even 50% for romantic fiction. Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is at 50-50. The 25% share has not changed for 18 months in the United States, and it is almost at that level in the United Kingdom. I draw five conclusions from this. The first is that there will not be a massive shift to digital for books, but cohabitation. Two: regrettably, digital has not expanded the market nor reached other sections of the public, it is a substitute. Three: the change in our profession has forced us to acquire new skills and reorganize our production methods and marketing, but it has not affected our fundamentals—talent in finding texts, and preparing and selling them. This explains why 1,000 leading authors signed a petition supporting us in the New York Times last year. Four: digital does not harm the economics of publishing. When you book at the accounts of Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins, you see that they have not suffered much. Five: by increasing authors’ percentages on book sales, their remuneration has been maintained, in contrast to the music business because of the subscription system. It is vital that authors earn as good a living from digital as from print.
How do you explain the fact that e-books have not been successful outside the Anglo-Saxon world?
. . . In France, the e-book will continue to spread, but slowly, and its penetration rate will be much lower than that in the Anglo-Saxon world. That prediction is based on today’s technology and does not take account of current research and any future breakthrough. Will you change your strategy as a result?
No. I used to think that e-books would reach 12% to 15% of the market much sooner in France. At the rate we are going, it will probably take several years. But that does not bother me. We now have an ecosystem that works. This is why I have resisted the subscription system, which is a flawed idea even though it proliferates in the music business. Offering subscriptions at a monthly fee that is lower than the price of one book is absurd. For the consumer, it makes no sense. People who read two or three books a month represent an infinitesimal minority. And there are bookshops. If I seem like a dinosaur, so be it. My colleagues at Penguin Random House say the same thing. –The Bookseller
In 1994, while I was auditing a graduate course in journalism, a professor assigned the class Norman Maclean’s award-winning “Young Men and Fire.” This 1992 masterpiece of literary nonfiction is a taut, terrifying yet poetic account of how, in 1949, 13 young firefighters lost their lives while fighting a conflagration in a remote, steeply sloped part of western Montana. Maclean, probably best known for his 1976 novella “A River Runs Through It” — which was turned into a pleasurable Robert Redford film starring the pleasurable-to-look-at Brad Pitt — is unsparing in his prose and dogged in his reporting, piecing together the elements that led to more than a dozen men suffocating and burning to death. The story, which I’ve read at least four times now, is agonizing to read, making the hairs on my arms stand on end. It is also one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve had. –The New York Times
9. Although she models both mens- and womenswear, she feels more powerful in a dress.
“When I wear womenswear I feel empowered. I know that when I wear a dress and walk down the street it’s a form of activism. Every time I put on a dress it tells people I can do this. I think it makes people rethink things. But, I feel a lot more comfortable in menswear; I like things that are looser fitting. If there’s a zombie apocalypse I want to be able to run away! I just feel like men’s clothing is a bit more practical.
I used to feel like a very ugly woman. I used to get a lot of rejection as a woman and that was hard because I was born with female anatomy and for someone to tell me there’s a wrong way to be me? I’m here. I deserve to wear a dress. I’ve learned to consume those things and they don’t bother me anymore. It bothered me that women were taught they can’t be beautiful just being themselves — it filled me with rage.” –Buzzfeed