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des
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 10:38 am:   

Just gathered these passages to start this thread:

Just imagine a leviathan website of a library with thousands of books *without* authors' names - plots described, covers shown, lucky numbers given in a raffle, and you push a button get a book, then you write about it anonymously on the site after reading it. So serendipity will be working *some* of the time, but you will also be benefiting from an increasing bank of readers' comments to choose other books. Give and take. Some of the time, you will be depending on luck, at other times on the burgeoning bank of readers's comments. And it will grow exponentially. Authors - with a great clarion call (greater than anything before in a normal book market with authors named from outset) - will emerge after, say, 5 years, take a bow or take their brickbats or don't emerge at all. Working on this idea now...

(later)
Started refining this.

Titles of novels (without named authors) advertised on website. The actual books themselves don't have author's name shown.

Strict membership in accordance with credit card details etc., some books purchased at random (from the separately accessible `random'
website), some according to comments made by members (on the separately accessible `comment' website). Financial incentives within the pricing of the books for various aspects of these
purchases (yet to be worked out) i.e. for using which version of the website and for making comments etc.

Authors are contracted to reveal themselves after a set period, to great deserved acclaim (or not). Second edition of their book (if there is one) will bear their name.


(later)

Following my half-serious Borgesian publishing house described above, someone elsewhere has added this interesting idea:

"Could this be a model for a democratic publishing house? What if the texts available for purchase were initially e-books? The most popular / acclaimed books would make it into print... the users of the website thereby
performing the role of agent...?
The reader gets a book out of it, the publisher gets an idea of what titles will do well in print, the writer gets readers... Hmmmm..."

Hmm, indeed.

Any more Hmmms about this Utopian Synergy of Nemonymity ?

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des
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 11:45 am:   

Someone from elsewhere kindly left this message for me hoping I might find it:

"Not quite the same, but perhaps related: have any of you come across book crossing? The idea is that you read a book then leave it somewhere for someone else to find. The book has a label in it, with a note about what book crossing is, and the web address so you can post an update on that book's progress and see where it's already been and what people have already thought.
They're conventional books, of course - with titles and authors on the covers - but there's something about the serendipity of it all that I
think connects with your ideas..."
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des
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2004 - 12:36 pm:   

Two other comments about the Synergy Library from separate elsewheres:

"As to anonymity in general, well having an author's name on the book ensures that when I nip down to the bookshop to buy the latest novel by Geoff Ryman I don't come home with something by John Grisham instead. Nothing Des has said convinces me that I should support a system which exposes me to that sort of risk."


"But what happens if a reader keeps having bum experiences and gets put off reading?"
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des
Posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 10:31 am:   

The Synergy Library has today evoked some comments from another Else:

"The solution is simple. 12 just men and true. Picked up off the streets. Strapped to chairs. Forced to read a novel simultaneously. Electrodes to gauge reactions while reading. Reactions added up, median taken, made public. If more than one is tickled to death or frightened to death, we know we have a good humour/horror story there. If all 12 fall asleep within ten minutes, the writer can be offered for scientific research - or cooked to feed other struggling writers...."

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des
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 01:42 am:   

Bits from me elsewhere:-
**********

With regard to reviews more specifically, I go back to my idea of a committee of reviewers who are listed by name, and they are responsible for all the reviews published in any particular outlet - combining the benefits of accountability and anonymity. Thus preventing (just as one hypothetical example), the situation where a writer has only one story published and only one review, that review being writen by someone who does not understand the story or has other personal reasons for slating the story...

***********
Well, it's a general safeguard system and it would be up to the overall editor how he reported the steering committee. He would no doubt collate bad as well as good comments.

***********
Well, the right way is not always the easiest way. You have a lot of good points. But how do you avoid any arts award/review system generally defaulting (via elements of fallibility) towards personal influence rather than an objective viewing of the 'sculpture'?

***************
As a side issue (which was stirred by comments about who keeps the mag under the committee system and the time that would be needed in passing it round) - I have a question: one where I genuinely don't know the answer.
How common is it for several copies of a mag or book to be sent to several separate reviewers, but only a few of the reviewers actually run a review (the rest of the copies just vanishing into a black hole)?

**********
My point (returning in glissando to my 'committee' idea) is that I'd rather send out, say, 4 review copies to one Reviewing outfit where I know it will be reviewed by their Committee than sending out 4 review copies to various different outfits that may turn into black holes. (This thought was stirred by earlier points as to whom the review copy belonged to and the timescale needing to pass a single copy around).
And, btw, I never, at any stage, dreamed that the collator of comments from the committee of reviewers would exclude bad comments (that would be self-defeating to my idea).

*************
So, there's a shortage of reviewers? I didn't know that. Perhaps obtaining a free copy plus simply being asked to report back their views to the Committee's collator will encourage more to come forward.

*************
BTW, my Committee idea ... is quite serious - and should not be mixed up with my Synergy Library idea which is still in a state of brainstorming.

***********
Well, I'm serious inasmuch as I think it's workable. The only model would be a working one. A prototype. Until then, anyone can only nibble at its edges. If I had more time (and money!), I'd try it. But interesting, meanwhile, to speculate on what sounds to me to be a sensible idea.
I think the collating of reviews is quite different from editing stories. The former is more akin to journalism. A story is a discrete art form. A publisher suggesting changes may be a dangerous thing, when the author may actually feel obliged to make those changes (so as to get the story published there) and the changes may be to the detriment of the story. It would be like cutting a bit out of a Turner painting. The story, if not acceptable by a particular publisher, should, I feel, be rejected as it may do better elsewhere untouched.

**************
I didn't suggest that the committee would be anonymous. And it would mean more review copies available, not less. Perhaps rather than a collation, separate independently written reviews of the same work should be printed together, using the review copies that would have vanished into a black hole elsewhere, i.e establishing a protocol that review copies are returned or passed along if a review is not done.
Whatever the pros and cons of my various ideas, I think the *systems* of reviewing need a good shake-up. If you disagree, well, I'll keep quiet and go back to publishing/writing raher than mentally road-testing new ideas.

**************
This is the wording of my original proposition from above (which has since been amenable to change as a result of your comments) - and the stars are new:
"With regard to reviews more specifically, I go back to my idea of a committee of reviewers **who are listed by name**, and they are responsible for all the reviews published in any particular outlet - combining the benefits of accountability and anonymity."
Accountability becausse they are named, anonymity because only the collator knows who said which bits of any collated review.
Seems eminently sensible.
And will use up (subject to any new protocol or reviewing culture that is gradually engendered) all the previously wasted review copies which will then be owned by a worthy bunch of reviewers who plug away diligently as part of this committee.
Also helps to smooth out the Russian Roulette of current general reviewing procedures, whereby (for example) a novice writer is landed with a single reviewer who doesn't understand the story or was in a bad mood the day he reviewed it or....

*******
The above system will also encourage *braver* reviews, I'd say, as well as all the other advantages I've already mentioned.

The only disadvantage - as far as I can see - is that individual reviewers will not have their own specific reviews with their by-lines. Or you could have a committee review alongside a specific review from a guest reviewer outside of the committee. A committee member in one outlet may be a specific reviewer in another outlet alongside a different committee. The permutations are endless. Everyone is happy. No wasted review copies. And a breadth of brave and well-considered reviews.
If you get a bad or good review under this system, you *know* you probably deserve it!

***********
It [getting accustomed to a named reviewer's tastes] works particularly well with critics who write a weekly review column etc. like Peter Ackroyd or the late Alexander Walker used to do.
Equally, a regular committee (which may have several reviews in one issue of an outlet) may get its own 'dependability of taste' through regularity better than a named reviewer who may only review, say, twice a year.

*************
....the committee will have or should have a consistencey of *dependability*: the various ingredients of taste into an alchemy that one knows is the business.

**************
I'm trying not to be prescriptive. Traditional methods are prescriptive. A new idea initially embraces all possibilities. As I said at the very beginning, one has the right to question traditional methods of anything, and, at the end of the day, once questioned, tradition may still indeed continue. Or is *likely* to continue, either because tradition is simply the best possible method or because of its vested interests, or both.

**********
Dependent on any outlet's way of doing it, any committee could be *intentionally* or *accidentally* made up of a cross-section of people, some expert in different fields of the art being reviewed, having different ages, outlooks, tastes, agendas...
And they could take it in turns being the collator.
Any person or organisation *being* reviewed could be given the right to see the original raw material from individual reviewers that constituted the final published collation...
These possibilities (and others I've not yet thought of) on the menu for any outlet running a committee. None prescriptive, but merely available.
Anyone got any ideas for the generic name for such a review committee?
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des
Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2004 - 02:12 am:   

For the above discussion in full (& perhaps continuing):
http://tinyurl.com/35j8p
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JV
Posted on Monday, March 01, 2004 - 12:21 pm:   

BTW--it is perhaps now appropriate to reveal that although every story in all of your Nemos was submitted to you by the writers whose bylines you've eventually revealed, all of the stories were actually written by Lucius Shepard.
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Brendan
Posted on Monday, March 01, 2004 - 12:54 pm:   

Shhh Jeff. No one is supposed to know.
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des
Posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2004 - 04:01 am:   

Indeed, JV, and so it all fits in - every name on every book is a pseudonym of LS, the latter being a universal force that marshals the compartments of the Collective Unconscious into manageable fiction-bites.

Surely, this LS-Archetype couldn't have been better named with such a loosely disguised variant of 'Shepherd'.
des

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