Thursday News: Harlequin: Whatever You’re Into; more bad science; BEA protest; and a “golden age” for genre readers
New Harlequin Campaign: Whatever You’re Into – Beginning today, Harlequin is launching a new campaign, which will continue through the summer, called “Whatever You’re Into,” which is intended to make good on Harlequin’s promise that they “have a book for every reader.” Now I consider myself a pretty vocal Harlequin cheerleader, and one of the things I’ve always appreciated about the publisher is their ability to make a little fun of genre stereotypes in titling and promoting books. I’ve visited the new site, and, uhm, this campaign is definitely playing close to the line between stereotyping and having a little fun with the stereotypes. Well, you can check it out yourself and see what you think. –Harlequin
I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How. – Given the recent revelations about the state of published research results in various science journals, this article by John Bohannon about how he participated in a scheme to create a bogus study and get it published turned into a very contagious news story about how scientific research demonstrated that chocolate could accelerate weight loss for individuals on low-carb diets. And what’s most interesting is that Bohannon and his colleagues didn’t actually lie about the study. They simply conducted a “study” that exemplified crappy science, which, unfortunately, did not trigger rejection or even skepticism, but was instead accepted for journal publication within 24 hours (no peer review), and with no editing (Bohannon refers to a list of “fake journal publishers”). There are other aspects to this scheme you should check out in the article, because it’s extremely revealing in regard to how unreliable research results are, and why. Bohannon’s piece also gives substance to Richard Horton’s comments about the prevalence of “bad research behaviour” and poor journalistic standards and behavior. In fact, I highly recommend Horton’s entire statement, a PDF linked to in the Collective Evolution piece.
Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result. Our study included 18 different measurements—weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc.—from 15 people. (One subject was dropped.) That study design is a recipe for false positives.
Think of the measurements as lottery tickets. Each one has a small chance of paying off in the form of a “significant” result that we can spin a story around and sell to the media. The more tickets you buy, the more likely you are to win. We didn’t know exactly what would pan out—the headline could have been that chocolate improves sleep or lowers blood pressure—but we knew our chances of getting at least one “statistically significant” result were pretty good. –i09
US, Chinese Authors Protest Major Book Fair, Censorship – As I reported yesterday, BEA invited a large Chinese delegation to the Expo and has planned a number of events to celebrate this “cultural and commercial exchange.” With China’s history of censorship, however, the delegation faced protests from a number of authors, and others involved in fighting Chinese censorship and “intimidation.” It’s an interesting dilemma, because publishers do business in many countries that support problematic practices (including the U.S.!), including countries like China that have a very active culture of reading. There is definitely a paradox in publishing around how books are written, translated, and sold in the global marketplace, and how political forces shape those decisions.
Jonathan Franzen, Xiaolu Guo, Andrew Solomon, Ha Jin and others stood outside the main New York Public Library to demand that China free Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and professor Ilham Tohti from prison, stop restricting other writers and have the confidence to allow free speech.
The authors took a group photo with the crowd holding placards spelling “free expression” in English and Chinese. Organizers said the photo will make its way into China via virtual private network services that let Internet users jump the Great Firewall.
Protest organizer PEN American Center said this week’s BookExpo America features a China delegation of hundreds of people “hand-picked by the Chinese government.” –ABC News
The Golden Age of Science Fiction Is Twenty-Nine – Nancy Jane Moore discusses her personal “golden age” of Science Fiction, namely the age at which she became a dedicated genre reader, enjoying books by LeGuin, Gibson, Cheryh, Russ, Tiptree, and others — books that “[told] a good story while being chock full of ideas,” books that challenged gender norms and reified sexist stereotypes. Books that challenged cultural hegemony and books that recreated indefensible power structures. Genre flaws and faults, but compelling ideas nonetheless.
Reading this made me wonder what a post on every Romance reader’s “golden age” with the genre would look like. We talk a lot about when people discovered the genre, but is that each reader’s highest experience and appreciation of the genre? Or is there a certain year or set of years that serve as the pinnacle of every reader’s engagement with a genre?
I’ve gone back to reading some mainstream and literary fiction in recent years. Why? Because these days many of those books tell great stories—often with speculative elements—and are about more than neuroticism and angst. Such authors as Karen Russell, Michael Chabon, and James McBride write the kind of stories science fiction readers want, even if their books don’t have spaceships on the cover. Literary publishing still gives science fiction no respect, but it’s been stealing from the genre nonetheless.
In an interview on the Coode Street Podcast, Karen Joy Fowler discussed the ongoing question of whether she writes science fiction. Her conclusion? “I don’t know if I write science fiction or fantasy, but I’m writing for science fiction and fantasy readers.” These days there are lots of other writers out there emulating Fowler. –Strange Horizons
Not sure about romance, but I’ve heard it said the Golden Age of Comics is 13.
I think romance probably had the biggest impact on me for the first few years after I discovered it. It was all shiny and new, and could do no wrong. (14-16 maybe.)
Excellent article about the nonsense that is published and perpetuated as “science”- particularly when it comes to nutrition and diet.
I so loved the Trixie Belden series. Not romance novels of course (children’ s mysteries) but the romance is what I kept reading the books for. When were Trix and Jim going to seal the deal with a real date….alas I grew up before that happened. Golden age-8
The Harlequin promotion is a bit silly, but you do get a free e-book out of it!
I miss being able to buy ebooks from Harlequin. The .au site just doesn’t have the same selection and seems so disorganised so I just don’t bother any more.
The Harlequin promotion was fun, although I wish they’d made it more comprehensive. They did successfully identify my series of choice though – Harlequin Blaze.
Too bad I’m at work otherwise I’d download my free ebook! Drats! There’s probably some way to do it on the iphone but I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Too bad they couldn’t link it to a code to download from Amazon or something.
@Demi, it’s a PDF, if that makes any difference.
@Helen: when I was about 8 or 9 I read the Trixie Belden books too. I had a massive crush on Dan and wanted to be Honey! :)
My golden age of romance was 36-39 but it was mainly the books I read then. Most of the authors I read are no longer writing or no longer writing the same type of books. I now prefer reading genre books where the romance is subordinated to a crime story, historical, fantasy, science fiction plot.
@DS: Yep. Same here.
Golden Age of romance for me was in my early twenties…discovered the genre in the 1990’s. A reader on AOL gave me a list with Laura Kinsale and Mary Balogh on it and I actually kept a notebook and wrote down the best romances of each year and the best romances I’d read ever with the h/h name, title, etc. Yep, those were the good ole days. I’m sure I still have it somewhere….
@Keishon: Same here. My golden age of romance reading was in my early to mid 20s and coincided with my 1990s discovery of authors like Putney and Kinsale.
I wish I could recapture the innocent enthusiasm of that time when neither the authors nor I had an online presence and the only marketing I came across was in now-defunct bookstore chains like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks.
My Golden Age of SciFi started at age 11 when I discovered my mum’s Anne McCaffrey collection. She didn’t mind me reading those but she’d blow her top if she found me reading Harlequin.
@Janine: Yes! I miss that, too.