This little delight lured me in and took me somewhere completely unexpected. Love is weird. But this story is a gem. – Nathan Crowder, on “Modern Love”
My story, “Modern Love,” is up over at Wily Writers. For the audio fans out there, it is read beautifully by Folly Blaine, so go grab the mp3 or subscribe to the other great stories at WW. It’s also available as text if you’d rather just read it the old-fashioned way.
I was thrilled when “Modern Love” won second place at the Wily Writers/SpecFicNZ short story competition, judged by Nathan Crowder, quoted above. “Modern Love” placed after the absolutely excellent “The Mary-Jane Effect” by AJ Fitzwater, which I highly recommend.
Longstoryshort: Kobo UK have pulled most self-published and many small press titles from their store, including all of my novels and both Plan B anthologies. In a related situation, WHSmith (UK) closed their entire online bookstore for a time and they appear to have removed all ebooks upon reopening. Whitcoulls‘ (NZ) ebookstore is still closed as of writing.
The rest of the story:
In what I am confident is going to be regarded as one of the most bone-headed decisions in a while, Kobo UK has chosen the nuclear option in response to a, frankly, ridiculous move from UK bookseller WH Smith. In what really reads as bad parody, the Daily Mail published a bit of yellow journalism about erotic titles available at WH Smith via Kobo. WH Smith had a shit fit and closed their entire online store then Kobo responded by removing all books published via Draft2Digital, as well as many via Smashwords and their own WritingLife program.*
Books removed include self-published titles as well as titles published through traditional publishers who use the same distribution services. Because Kobo redirects users to their local site based on IP address, it isn’t immediately evident to authors and publishers outside the UK if their books have been removed. I did some investigating using a UK VPN and found that my books have all been taken down in the Kobo UK store.
Here’s a screenshot of the New Zealand Kobo storefront:
Here’s what UK Kobo users will see:
I guess I should count myself as lucky that the freebies that were scraped off the Internet Archive are still there.
This is, obviously, outrageous. Kobo, WHSmith and Whitcoulls should all be ashamed of themselves.
*Much of the details come from David Gaughran’s post here.
For as long as there have been books, we have judged each other by what we read. Indeed, one of the laments in an ebook world is that we no longer have one another’s bookshelves by which to compare ourselves. The closest approximation are social reading sites like Goodreads which let you compare your virtual shelf with those of your friends, always an entertaining exercise.
Of course, the corollary advantage of ebooks is that no one needs to know what you’re reading. It’s safe to read a “guilty pleasure” on the train without fear of nasty looks from your snobby or prudish seatmate. Which, these days, is a necessity.
We seem to me to be living in an age of opprobrium, where one of the final frontiers of acceptable bigotry is in matters of taste. Examples of things it’s fashionable, maybe even required to despise are everywhere. Most recently comes to mind the widely shared live-tweeting of someone’s snark-filled reading of Fifty Shades of Grey (#50ShadesofShade).
The Fifty Shades books are a series I’ve yet to hear anyone admit to have enjoyed, yet obviously many people have as they’ve sold a gazillion copies and the film has just been cast. Clearly, more people like these books than don’t, but it’s painfully uncool to admit it (amusingly, in this case, not because they are smutty, but because they apparently aren’t good smut).
It’s easy to be snarky about books that aren’t to my taste, that I find poorly written or plotted, and that sell by the boatload. And it’s just as easy to justify meanness by pointing to financial success or extolling the virtues of honesty in reviews. But there’s a difference between a well-reasoned, honest negative review and the petty nastiness that seems to permeate conversations about books (and films, music, comics, whatever) that the culture has determined to be Bad™.
To be clear, I’m talking about making fun of art because of its perceived lack of quality, not about calling out aspects of work that is problematic or offensive. This is about statements like “I can’t believe Blank is so popular, a lemur could have written it,” not “It’s a shame Blank has such an insensitive and anthropocentric portrayal of lemurs.”
And of the former, I’ve had enough. I’ve been guilty of this plenty, and justified myself with the knowledge that everyone knows that X-author can’t write and that Y-book is just plain terrible, as if the success of something that isn’t to my taste somehow diminishes everything that is. But it’s just bullshit. It’s tearing something down in order to build yourself up, which ultimately has the opposite of its desired effect. So, I’ve decided to give it up.
I’m not going to stop recommending the things I like, or honestly reviewing the things I didn’t, but I am going to start putting a real effort into not judging other people by their taste in what they choose to read or to write. It’s petty, pointless and rude, and unlike those books we all love to hate, the culture of snark really does diminish us all.
De gustibus non est disputandum.
I have a couple of brand new stories in the upcoming charity anthology Baby Teeth. It’s the brainchild of Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray that’s filled with flash fiction that arose from this reddit post about creepy things kids say and do.
We’re running a crowdfunding campaign to support a print run, and if you’d like to get your hands on a paperback, ebook or audiobook, check out the PledgeMe campaign. Proceeds are going to Duffy Books in Homes, which provides free books to kids.
Note that all dollar amounts are in New Zealand dollars, which are worth less than US or Canadian dollars, so some of these are real bargains. And note also that there’s a special pledge level for non-Kiwi backers if you want a paper copy shipped from down under.