Archive for the ‘Rant Alert’ Category

I Call Bullshit

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Surfacing from mad revisions for this:

I got an email today from a fairly large site that does book related stuff. They are very very large and are supposed to provide author services. The email included this:

[A woman’s first name] was able to get 100,000 new readers for her book in those 6 months. Now she has over 80 reviews on Amazon and her book is doing well.

Blah blah blah. Send us money.

Right. Someone who has 100,000 NEW READERS
1. Made a list
2. Has a lot more than 80 Amazon reviews.

I really hate when companies look at authors, see dollar signs and decide to fleece the stupid ones.

Because that statement is a LIE.


Technology Woes . . . My Sob Story

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

So, a couple of days ago my 2011 model iMac began misbehaving in a worrisome way. I got the soonest Genius Bar appointment possible and it was still too late. Yesterday it basically died. Yesterday was the same day my replacement phone arrived and with the dead iMac, my phone backup was unavailable. Because of our internet situation here (only recently resolved mostly) I never dared back up to iCloud. Not possible. So… I backed up the phone to my Macbook and for some reason it would only encrypt the backup but without ever asking me to give it a password. NEVER HAPPENED. And it wanted this nonexistent password in order to restore my backup to the new phone.

The workaround is a backup to iCloud. So, OK. Our internet is OK enough to risk it.  I started at 7:00PM and at 4:30 this morning it was still going. And at 5:30 it just quit. No error message. No nothing. Just “Your backup could not be completed” or else, no message at all. So I took it to work and tried a backup to a Windows machine. Same thing. Encrypted backup. NO opportunity to give a password. I tried iCloud again. Nope.

Finally, the nice lady at Apple wondered if I had enough space in iCloud. Well, I had no idea how big the phone backup is. Apple doesn’t tell you.

Long story short, the answer is no. Apple just swallows a “you don’t have enough space” error message and misses the upsell opportunity too.

Then I got the extra storage and that took two hours for the phone to believe I had it, and THEN the backup succeeded.

THEN the restore was stuck on “1 hour remaining” for three hours.

I went to my other office where they have super duper internet and started over with the restore and it took 20 minutes. TWENTY MINUTES!!!!!


This was nothing but a series of error conditions that Apple should be trapping. I have suspicions about the backup though. And since I will be back on the phone with them tomorrow to explain my resolution and complain a bit, I’ll relay the possibility that iPhone encrypted backup process  doesn’t work when the drive is already encrypted.


Anyway, My Demon Warlord is going well. I’m doing the final paper read-through so the dead iMac could be worse.


Why Social Media is Failing Creative Women

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Today someone on one of the author loops complained about a Facebook page that was serving up pirated books. The FB site links were all links so I went to a tool that tells you where the link will land you, so I wouldn’t have to actually click and land somewhere bad, and the site, Hot ebook download DOT com, was registered to a gentleman in Kiev with nameservers that ended in .RU. (A nameserver is responsible for resolving your domain name to the correct IP address as assigned through your webhost.) Two things are generally true, not every site that ends in .ru (Russia) is automatically bad, and an awful lot of malware comes from servers in the .ru domain.

Now, I highly doubt there are any actual books being served at the end of those links. I happen to strongly believe that anyone who clicks on those links gets malware, their credit card information collected, or a file with malware in it. Or all three. So this probably isn’t really piracy. But I’m not going to check and besides, I have an entirely different issue to talk about.

It bugs the heck out of me that FB seems to have nothing in place to prevent a page that is almost certainly serving up malware, or, possibly less dire in fact, but completely dire to lots of authors, pirating books and other copyrighted content. And the author was having a hard time figuring out how to report this to FB. Many of you are probably familiar with my position on piracy, which is mostly I don’t care too much, or, perhaps more accurately, I feel it’s not worth my time, and might actually be against my interests, to go around DMCA-ing every suspected site that has pirated my work. But sites serving up malware I do have a problem with.

The fact that the source is FB? Oh, the bitter taste of irony. At the same time, FB makes it harder and harder for authors to pay them money. (Boosting a post with a book cover in it? HAH! That’s three days of trying to make FB understand their own policy about book covers being exempt from the “text to picture” ratio. Want to advertise your book? Another circle of hell for the same reason.)

And now I get to the meat of this post.

Social Media has a hugely flawed view of the world. They’re so male-oriented that they have absolutely no ability to grok that women have a fundamentally different experience of social media, and the world, than men. And yes, the same is true for many many other classifications (Color, ethnicity, non-cis, not heterosexual and so on.) It’s why we see policies that actively endanger women and a big old “Huh?”  when women complain. Real Name policies endanger women. Until these companies understand WHY that is, it’s not possible for the policy to be crafted in a way that reduces the danger. There’s a flip side to everything. Not having Real Names can also endanger women. Understand what’s going on, and there’s a chance you might have a more effective policy instead of one that serves the few with real harm to many.

Instead of these companies thinking about what it means for them to offer a service to everyone when their model of the world is so deeply inaccurate, we keep hearing the equivalent of “It doesn’t happen to men, so it’s not real.” There are a lot of white people who think there’s not a problem with racism and policing, and they think that because they do not inhabit the world where dark skin gets you different treatment. At least recognize that blindness like this exists and that right now this minute, you, all of us, have these blind spots. All of us. No exceptions.

FB requires that a Fan Page be linked to a personal profile.

Per the FB TOS, people are supposed to have one and only one personal profile.

If you happen to be an artist or other creative, you live a life with (at least) two facets. A public one and one that is private. That private facet is associated with things like employers, potential employers, significant others, ex-significant others, and minor children. The public one is associated with people who like your work and are or want to be fans of your work. Social Media sites that insist on public links between a public life and a private one put women at risk. I’m quite sure there are people at risk in different ways.  I have direct experience with how women are at risk, so that is what I focus on here. It doesn’t mean no one else has a similar problem. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

Note that I am saying PUBLIC links.

As an author, I need to have a firewall between me and Carolyn Jewel, Author. I need to protect private aspects, including minor children, from the public me. And I must do this for my safety and theirs. No social media sites accommodate this need. I really don’t want to rehash all the ways in which women are punished or endangered for things that have no similar effect on men. Here’s a few, though: Having strong opinions, liking and wanting to have sex, being smart, being right, being a parent, the ability to get pregnant, the potential need not to be pregnant, being attractive, being pregnant, not being attractive enough, talking….

On my personal FB page, I get bombarded by friend requests from male profiles who immediately text me things like “You have a beautiful smile” blah blah blah. In fact, you cannot see my smile since the picture is my cat. And he cannot smile. Besides, that’s a totally creepy thing to say right off the bat between real people, but I believe just about all of those requests are fake profiles trying to get actual profiles to like them so they can be used to engage in click-fraud. I sometimes have three or four a day.

So, an author must link her Fan Page to her IRL personal page, where there may be links to employers, minor family members, and others with no way to protect themselves from weirdos. And fans, I will represent to you, often friend a personal profile rather than the Fan Page. Because Fan Pages are limited in the way they can interact with profiles, and fans know that and seek out the personal profile instead. In a perfect world, that would be totally awesome. But it’s not a perfect world, so it’s not awesome at all.

Think about that. These fake profiles are targeting female profiles but women live in what amounts to a trinary social world. The question isn’t just “Is this friend request real (YN)” but “Is this friend request real and if I accept it, will it be dangerous to me (YND).” Authors and other creatives, decline such requests at the risk of declining actual or potential fans. This is not a calculus male creatives (in the main) have to solve.  They can just accept all such friend requests because they do not, in the main, live in a world where a fake friend request represents potential harm.

I’m willing to bet that men get fake friend requests from women whose pictures feature large boobs, who would just love to date them. These profiles might be after their money, and also similarly fake, but they’re almost certainly not potential stalkers.

As an author, my choice is a personal profile that has NO links to family or my real life friends, or I accept the risk of having strangers conflate Carolyn Jewel with Carolyn Jewel, Author. When, actually, they’re not the same thing. That risk is, in our current culture, one that comes with dangers that are not present, in the main, for male authors.

And here is where the reality of being a woman creative really, really matters and why social media companies are failing us so deeply.

Every women author I know knows of another woman who has had a stranger send them an unwanted picture of his penis. I was at a signing once when a man physically gave the author next to me a picture of his penis. Trust me, men, this is scary and creepy. Who wants to walk back to their car, alone, after an encounter like that?

I’ve gotten emails to my writing email address from unhinged men who tell me they want to know me (and/or love me) and will I date them, and by the way, they know the name of my son. One of them also tried several times to get my agent to give up my personal contact information. I get emails from men in prison and have had at least two from men on death row. They know about me because Romance novels end up in prisons. I don’t mind that. I really don’t. I want more people to read Romance! But I have to worry about men with issues who get out of prison and start contacting my agent. There is always, always, an unsettling and creepy undertone to these communications.

This is the world women live in. It’s real. It happens. And almost none of it happens to men.

What women have seen over the last year and more is companies like FB and Twitter—anywhere, really, where woman are supposed to have an equal chance to participate in conversations— aid and abet harassers by doing… nothing. They have built their vision of “Social” on a world that does not exist for more than half the people they want participating in their environment.

For them, the world is fair (Land of Opportunity) and a meritocracy (tech companies) when really it’s not fair, equal, or a meritocracy unless you’re a straight white male. Asking for recognition of that fact and for policies that do not harm people who cannot operate  in the Opportunity Meritocracy should not be met with the equivalent of ‘I don’t see it, therefore it never happens.’

It means think about the world for people who do not look like you. Devise policies that protect and that allow all of us to separate public from private. If Twitter, Google, Facebook and more want Real Names, then they must accept that this comes with the duty not to endanger people. Their software and algorithms make them money. I would prefer that I not pay a disproportionate price for that.


I didn’t think I’d have to explain this in more detail, but it seems I do. The solution is not my ability to block requests. That’s not relevant to the problem I’m pointing out. The problem is that in the real world, fans want to interact with an author’s personal profile and, frequently, they prefer the personal profile over the Fan Page. But the FB tos says a person gets one and only one personal profile.  This means the author’s personal profile ALSO acts as a means to interact with fans. And that personal profile has, well, personal, non-author related stuff on it. (Assuming the author is also using FB in a personal capacity.)

My point is that male authors can accept fake clicks without worrying much about being harassed or stalked or getting pestered with chat requests about whether you’re interested in a date etc, or sent pictures of penises you’re not interested in seeing. The threats that women endure in social spaces DO NOT HAPPEN to male authors. Please don’t make me talk about Gamergate.

Social Media has utterly failed to understand this. Society in general does not recognize this as a problem. But it is.

Also, as to my calling out the tech industry, my regular readers know I work in tech. I’m a SQL Server DBA. For non-tech people, this is a highly specialized, technical job that is, by definition, in tech. I understand quite well, because I have direct and relevant  experience with it, what happens to women in tech — because I am a woman in tech.




Saturday, October 18th, 2014

This post is an author’s tale of how she confronted a reviewer who did not like her book, an article published in The Guardian, and so given legitimacy.

This post was written by a man who felt his ex should continue interacting with him even though she did not want to.

I see little difference between what’s behind these two articles. In one, an author can’t get past someone’s bad review. Despite all evidence that the reviewer did not wish to be known, this author tracked down the reviewer and made contact. On multiple occasions.

In the other, a woman no longer wished to see her ex, and he writes and publishes an article in which he details why he should get what he wants.

In both, we have the words of the person who pursued a relationship despite clear evidence the other person did not wish, want, or invite the contact.

Both people have written a long justification of actions that violated the peace and privacy of another person.

Both of the people who were contacted against their will, repeatedly, were women. I don’t think that’s an accident.

People like the authors of these articles terrify me.


The Flush Pile – An Author’s Perspective

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Some of you may know the current situation with Ellora’s Cave. If not, this post at Dear Author should get you to the information you need.

The TL;DR is that several authors who write for Ellora’s Cave have said they are not being paid money due them. The rumblings began at least a year ago. Recently, EC laid off all of its freelance staff. Jane at Dear Author recently wrote a post in which she discussed the ongoing situation at EC. The owner of EC has now sued Jane for defamation. Do head over to DA if you want to know more about this situation.

I am an author who was with a publishing company that was heading toward bankruptcy. (Dorchester Publishing) This post is about what the experience was like for me. My situation ended up with a silver lining, but the outcome I had was never certain, just as it is not certain for any of the EC authors who are wondering if they’ll ever get paid or if they are going to lose their books.

If you have books with a publisher in the Flush Pile, here’s what’s quite likely:
1. No, you are never going to be paid money owed to you.
2. Yes, you could well lose your books. Gone.

Every publishing contract I’ve ever signed has had a bankruptcy clause. The clause means nothing. Zero. Zlich. It might as well not be there. If your publisher declares bankruptcy, your book is an asset of the company to be liquidated and turned into cash to pay to creditors. Authors are dead last on the list of creditors.

At Dorchester, authors talked amongst themselves. Advances and royalties due to authors were paid slowly. Some of use waited months for advances to be paid. More and more often, authors just weren’t paid. Foreign rights got sold and authors were never told. Those monies never appeared on royalty statements. I was surprised, for example, to find that one of my books had a Dutch translation. Toward the end, I also learned about other translations I was never told about and never paid for. One of them did not even have a signed contract despite being on sale. As royalties continued to be paid in haphazard fashion, there were consolidations and reductions in books, imprints and staff, and sales of rights to backlist titles of prominent authors to other publishers. (Marjorie M. Liu’s titles were sold to Avon, for example.)

None of this is legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. But if you’re an EC author, I do have some non-legal advice. In fact, I have advice for ALL authors with traditional contracts.

In 2010, my agent, who did not represent me at the time of my Dorchester contracts, was working hard to get reversions for me. I wanted them anyway, because the books were out of print and/or I was not being paid the money due to me. Dorchester had not filed for bankruptcy, but there was wide speculation that they could not recover from their difficulties and a filing was felt by some to be inevitable. I was advised that it was possible that rights reversions made within the year prior to a bankruptcy filing could be deemed fraudulent and any reversions negated. I was horrified to learn there was case law to that effect.

Even before the non-payment issue was a severe problem, it was clear to me that at long last, there was a good reason (ie, self-publishing) for an author to vigorously pursue reversions for all books that met the criteria of the out of print clauses. I’d read all those clauses and had begun that process with all my titles well before this. And by the way, I was roundly ignored everywhere except for Harper-Collins, who noted the request and put it on their schedule for a decision 6 months later. Literally. The meeting was in 6 months. Let that sink in.

My reversions from Dorchester came through at the end of 2010. Other publishers were an even harder nut to crack. St. Martin’s Press was spectacularly uncooperative. Hachette — I don’t even have words. And I have loads of hind-sight advice about what reversion clauses should say.

Eventually, quite late in the game, and months after I had my Dorchester reversions, Amazon bought the Dorchester backlist. Authors were given the option of a reversion or publishing with their Romance or Horror imprint. I don’t recall if Amazon agreed to pay outstanding royalties to those authors or not. By then, I was thousands and thousands of dollars ahead of the money Dorchester owed me, and more than happy with my own outcome.

My Advice to Authors with A Publisher in the Flush Pile

My advice is going to sound harsh. But, assume you will never be paid. The risk of waiting to see if your publisher rights their ship is the complete loss of your rights in your books. This is your career and you must not fail to take steps to protect your back list and front list.

You should take steps now to get your rights back. Read the reversion clause of your contract(s) and for all books where you meet the criteria follow the requirements for requesting a reversion and get it in now. Right now. If you have titles for which you have not been paid, then request a reversion on the grounds of non-payment. Get a lawyer to help you, if you can afford it. This is your professional writing career on the line, and this is not the time to be nice.

If you elect to wait it out, then make sure you understand the nature of the risk you’re taking. It cannot be that you hope everything works out. You must be sure that you can accept the worst case outcome — you lose control of your books and will never recoup your losses and never make another penny from those titles. The books will disappear from the market and you lose all benefit that accrues to your author brand when you have multiple titles on sale to the public.

In the current environment, every title you control is a title that can be earning you money right now every month. This is NOT a “I don’t know if my book is good enough situation.” A publisher bought your book. Therefore, that book can be making you money right now and you only have to worry about the vendor paying you.

This is also not a situation where you need to find another publisher. That might have been true in 2009 but it’s not true now. An author with reverted backlist can decide whether she wants to self-publish on her own or find another publisher or something in between.

My Advice to Authors With Traditional Publishers or Considering The Traditional Route

For future contracts, negotiate the fuck out of your reversion clause. If the publisher is making you both money, that is awesome. But the minute you’re not both making money or you’re below a mutually satisfactory threshold, then you should be able to ask for and timely receive a reversion. There is no nice girl here. This is your business and you should be in control of its operations. Therefore, you need to stand firm on reversion clauses.

Do not assume a publisher has an interest in your book selling well. They should, but they don’t. Their interest is in seeing which books unexpectedly hit. That’s it. If it’s not you, you’re screwed.

I have 5 books still with traditional publishers and I know for a fact that if those books were in my control, I would be making more money and more effectively controlling my author brand and, therefore, my writing career. That was not the reality of publishing prior to 2010, but it’s the reality now.


Everyone is not Men

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Someone tweeted this image because they found it funny. Yeah, I guess on the face of it, it is funny. But there’s a huge problem with this. What’s the problem? The way this prose diminishes women.

Image - Text Below



a real highlight win for us. Do I really hate Tom Brady? I really don’t know Tom Brady, but who wouldn’t hate him? Look at his life. Actually, look at his wife. Every man in America hates Tom Brady, and he should be proud of that.

The text is from Play Like You Mean It: Passion, Laughs, and Leadership in the World’s Most Beautiful Game, written by Rex Ryan, with Don Yeager listed as a contributor. It’s about American football.

I’ll step through the problems.

1. Premise: We should all hate football player Tom Brady. Note that the language is “Who wouldn’t hate him? Look at his life.”

Now up to here, yes, this is amusing enough. Tom Brady is a talented football player. A genuine sports star. And, the language is inclusive. Every sports fan, male or female, can agree that Tom Brady has an enviable life playing a sport he loves for a lot of money.

2. Why should we really hate Tom Brady? Because of his wife.

But, but, wait! Aren’t there a lot of female sports fans who would hate not Tom, but Tom’s wife? Because allow me to point out that Tom Brady is kind of hot. And he went and married a model. Instead of me.

3. “Every man in America hates Tom Brady.” Because of his wife.

And so, in the blink of an eye, we go from a true everyone to everyone = men.

Boom. 51% of the population just disappeared. All the football fans who happen to be women just got erased.

“Everyone” hates Tom Brady because he married a beautiful woman.

Well. No. Actually.

Language like this needs to be challenged. This passage could have been written to retain the amusing suggestion that straight men envy Tom Brady living out the NFL quarterback dream and marrying a model without removing women from “everyone.”

Everyone isn’t just straight men.

Everyone means all the people who aren’t Tom Brady and, presumably, his wife.

When you write a passage in which women exist only as objects to be married by a man, you silently perpetuate a great harm.

This needs to stop.


Women Used the Internet to Speak and George Will Can’t Stand It

Friday, June 20th, 2014

George Will, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, wrote an Op-ed in which he said, basically, being a rape survivor is a “coveted status” and now ALL the women want to have been raped. And in order to achieve this, they are lying liars about their “assaults.”

Oddly enough, women did not take kindly to that. The outcry and objections were plentiful.

In a recent interview Will doubled down. In that interview, he repeated his his assertions about woman rushing to lie about being raped and then essentially called his critics rude and hysterical. Why, in this environment, think of all the young men who won’t be able to go to medical school and law school!!

So, ladies, calm down. Stop saying you were “raped” when really, you just got drunk and deserved it, or you dressed slutty and deserved it, or you studied late at the library and walked home alone so you deserved it, or your boyfriend, husband, acquaintance wanted to have sex but you didn’t– too bad!!–he was just taking what was his right to have anyway (yes once means yes all the time!)

Basically, you made it up so you could join the survivor’s club and get your free “I’m a survivor” pin that gets you first in line at the ER AND the mental health clinic.

The internet, Will tells us, in a YouTube video, why, it gives people a voice and they can say whatever the hell they want! Loudly! And rudely! They can lie with impunity!

They can even be ignorant as hell.

It’s not like women’s voices have been systematically suppressed and erased and harassed out of the newsroom or anything. After all, the number of female syndicated columnists equals the number of male syndicated columnists. Am I right? And it’s not like no one on the internet or anywhere else is telling women to shut up and threatening them (with rape!) if they don’t.

Those statistics about rape don’t make sense to Will. He can’t fathom a world where the victim of an assault would choose not to report it to the police yet admit to a pollster that she was assaulted. He can’t fathom a world where there are 400,000 untested rapekits.(Hey, if there’s no rapekit test result, there was no rape!)

:::Excuse me, if you’re transgender, why are you even listening to this conversation? Non-white? Tell your story somewhere else.:::

He has a problem with Colleges that don’t turn these “assaults” over to the criminal justice system where the accused will get full due process.

There’s no disconnect between pointing out that and leaping directly to, therefore, women are lying liars and men won’t get to go to graduate school. His point is that women get to say whatever they want about being assaulted and schools don’t turn such claims over to the police and so the accused never face charges.

:::I really don’t see the point in talking about “surivors” who get no justice. We all know men are the real victims here.:::

On average, an estimated 211,200 rapes and sexual assaults went unreported to police each year between 2006 and 2010. Although serious violent crime was generally less likely to go unreported to the police than simple assault, a higher percentage of rape or sexual assault (65 percent) than simple assault (56 percent) victimizations went unreported over the five-year period.
Bureau of Justice Statisics

From the same report:

During the five-year period, nearly three-quarters of all violent victimizations occurring at school were not reported to police. Of the more than 450,000 unreported violent crimes at school on average each year, half were not reported because they were dealt with in some other way, such as reported to school staff or other officials, or were considered to be a private or personal matter. A fifth thought the crime was not important enough to report.

Again, ladies, you don’t really live a world where you see, time and again, women held to impossible standards of purity while “boys will be boys!” You aren’t at greatest risk of being killed or assaulted by a man you know. Come on. It’s not like you have to warn each other about the office or campus creep. You don’t need to be afraid to leave an abusive partner.

Only about 2% of all rape and related sex charges are determined to be false, the same percentage as for other felonies (FBI). So while they do happen, and they are very problematic when they do, people claim that allegations are false far more frequently than they are and far more frequently than for other crimes. Put another way, we are much more likely to disbelieve a woman if she says she was raped than if she says she was robbed, but for no good reason. [Here]

Lookit, if you didn’t have boobs and a vagina, there wouldn’t be a problem, that’s all Will is saying. Well, that and who gives a fuck about rape when so many men are falsely accused.


FU GitHub

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition:

I wrote this post a while back. April 2nd, I think. It’s about how, as I see my son heading to what looks like a tech career, I would be tempted to tell my daughter (if I had one) NOT to go into tech.

And then, not long after, I posted this — in the same month.

In light of the Julie Horvath mess, and in light of the juxtaposition of those two things, I stand by my trepidation.

As a woman in tech, and hell, just a woman in the USA, it’s obscene that any company could declare itself free of gender discrimination or harassers or any other of the endemic facts of gender bias.

“Hey, we asked around and all the guys said, Nope, we don’t do that and all the girls nodded. We tots rock.”

Here’s the truth:
1. 97% of the guys thought that was true.
2. 3% of the guys said it was true, knew it wasn’t, and believe woman get what’s coming to them.
3. 50% of the guys suspect it’s not true, but their female colleagues seem fine with the culture, so it must not be a problem!
4. 90% of the woman know there’s a problem and have learned the hard way that HR doesn’t do shit and if they want to keep their job or the hope of a good recommendation if they leave, they need not to say anything.
5. 10% of the women are too new to understand what’s happening and don’t know yet they’re underpaid by 20% because of their gender.

Fuck you, GitHub.


The Enjoyment Ratio: T-Shirts vs. Books

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Forget the stupid coffee. Now it’s Books versus T-Shirts!

15.00 for a t-shirt (Because I am NOT paying $25.00 for a t-shirt–I wait for a Woot-off.)

Wear it once a week for 1 year (assuming 12 hours of wear-time per day) = 624 hours of enjoyment!

My T-shirt costs me $0.02 per hour of enjoyment. Admittedly, some T-shirts last a LOT longer than a year. I still have and wear T-shirts I bought when I was in college.

I can read a 100,000 word novel in 8 hours, more or less, assuming I am captivated enough to finish it.

Let’s compare that to T-shirt enjoyment at $0.02 per hour

The comparable Book price should be …..


You’re welcome.



Author Fascism

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

[Comments temporarily closed for this post.]

I didn’t pay much attention when Ann Rice went off on a high profile rant about anonymous reviewers. That’s been done, and I’m kind of tired of it.

But Rice gets big press and the petition she signed suddenly became high profile.

The gist of it is this: Authors get hurt by people who post reviews that are mean, personal, not about the book, threatening, and/or vile.

The solution requested by the signatories is that Amazon require reviewers to post under their real names. And now there are authors who are continuing the campaign.

Part of me wants to go off on a rant about this, and maybe that will be another post. But actually, this is a serious matter.

I am appalled that authors would suggest this is an appropriate solution.

Here’s the Rant after all

We cannot carve out spaces that look like this:

Novel writing space: Write whatever you want, however distasteful to some sensibilities. Pen names OK! Registration of copyright under a corporation OK!

Review writing space: [Rules defined by authors.] Must review under your real name.

Let’s try an experiment.

Jane Doe has a full time job teaching 4th grade. She also writes erotic novels in her spare time. She writes under a pen name because she feels it’s important for her day job and her writing to stay separate. She might lose her job, otherwise. Her students might Google her, find out what she writes, see covers inappropriate for their age, and perhaps even find an excerpt, and that would not be good. At all. For any reason.

Jane Doe has a full time job teaching 4th grade. She also reads and reviews erotic novels in her spare time. She posts her reviews under a pen name because she feels it’s important for her day job and her writing to stay separate. She might lose her job, otherwise. Her students might Google her, find out what she reads, see covers inappropriate for their age, and perhaps even find an excerpt, and that would not be good. At all. For any reason.

Explain to me why Jane Doe author can be anonymous but not Jane Doe reviewer?

Anonymous speech makes it easy for an asshole to be an asshole.

Anonymous speech makes it possible for people to speak out against moral wrongs.

Anonymous speech exposed criminal wrong-doing by a sitting President of the United States of America.

To argue that we should do away with anonymous speech is to argue that it’s better for wrongdoers to get a pass than it is to allow speech that some may find offensive.

If reviews must be accompanied by a real name, then there are reviewers who will no longer be able to post reviews for reasons that have nothing to do with mean, hateful, or threatening content in a review.

Perhaps the reviewer has a sensitive job but enjoys reading and reviewing sexually explicit books.

Perhaps the reviewer has a violent ex and is attempting to establish an online presence that her ex does not know about.

Perhaps the reviewer used to read and review Dino-Porn but now feels that she must leave Dino Porn behind because she has undergone a moral change and wishes to live a life free of Dino-Porn.

Perhaps the reviewer’s home address, phone number, and names of her children were posted to a website by an author.

Perhaps the reviewer has been threatened by an author.

That Solution is Not the Problem You Were Looking for

Every one of these arguments has a corresponding flip side.

Taking away anonymity of reviews would have far more devastating consequences than seeking a solution that deals with reviews that are out of bounds — supposing we can or should arrive at such a definition. I don’t believe we should, by the way.

It’s far harder to seek a targeted solution that deals with the actual problem– assuming there is such a problem– than it is to seek a solution that affects 100 percent of reviewers.

If you go around proposing jackbooted solutions to speech you don’t like, you run the risk of some wag inventing the phrase Author Fascism.