Thursday, January 28, 2010

questions re: Evil

Last night, INTERN went out to hear a panel discussion about the impact e-books are going to have on readers and writers. More than once over the course of the evening, a panelist or a member of the (publishing industry-heavy) audience used the word “evil” to describe either themselves, their publisher, or another publisher (e.g. “OK, so I’m a publicist at one of the big evil publishers and…”)

As she sat there, INTERN started thinking about how weird this was.

For one thing, the word “evil” gets bandied around a lot. Consider the following not-so-uncommon formulas:

“Evil” = Big 6 publishing conglomerate+Risk-Aversive and Market-Driven/racism*2

“Evil” = self-absorbed nutcase + print-on-demand technology*shockingly terrible cover design.

“Evil” = Agents who reject anybody for any reason(wrath of millions)

“Evil” = Publishers who print “those awful books people actually buy” + people who buy those books, thereby encouraging publishers to publish more of them

“Evil” = The publishing industry in general/those people on the subway who evangelize about The Obvious Merits of Self-Publishing*0.5

“Evil” = (Those cliquey indie presses who only publish obscure bearded guys)(those other totally cliquey publishers who only publish people with, like, agents)

“Evil” = (“Those slatternly peasants in publicity/marketing aren’t doing enough to promote my book”)/(“Those slatterns in publicity/marketing are such slatterns for even attempting to commercialize my book!”)

“Evil” = Technology That Threatens to Rip Our Beloved Hardcovers From Our Very Breasts, Yea Verily

And on and on.

When INTERN really thinks about it, there are few aspects of publishing that she has not heard pronounced evil.

So what’s going on?

Is publishing a total Orgy of Iniquity, or does everyone just like to talk smack?

INTERN wants to believe that everyone (readers, writers, and people in different aspects of publishing) are basically good people trying to do good things. But that doesn’t seem to jive with this whole “evil” mentality.

Wiser readers: Please educate! INTERN is going to start making a Good/Evil list.


  1. The overuse of the word evil seems like a combination of guilt and pomposity.

    PS: love the use of the word slattern.

  2. I've yet to see much discussion on publishing blogs about how book illustration can change with e-readers. Rather than just animated novelties (which no serious readers want) is anyone hoping for a resurgence in good illustration in books? Just look at the work Sam Weber did recently for Lord of the Flies. Can content like that be a redeeming quality of e-readers? Or is it all going to be evil? :)

  3. I vote for smack talkin'. Evil will soon become one of those words (like "FAIL") that is used so much it loses its potency. At least in regards to publishing, it seems.

  4. Time to start a campaign to make "evil" mean the same as "wicked" = industry saved!

  5. It's obviously reclamation at work. "Evil" is a pejorative term leveled at the publishing industry for various and spurious reasons, and so they seek to take the sting out of it by using it as a humourous and affectionate term for themselves.

  6. When people said "evil" did they wiggle their 2 fingers on each hand for air quotes? Because "evil" is a little melodramatic.

  7. Evil is such a tainted word it's pretty much a compliment these days. There is the alternative, The Man, for such smack talk for which I approve. Its like Dude, can be used for adjective, verb and noun.

  8. I think it at the very least indicates that people in publishing understand they're getting something fundamental wrong. But all those things? No.

  9. "It's like Dude, can be used for adjective, verb and noun."

    Those publishers have Eviled me for the last time!!

  10. I guess it all depends on your perspective. I tend to think e-readers are evil (well, maybe just really really bad) because they are putting my local bookstore out of business (end of March) and my husband and I might lose our jobs because of them. But I have an e-reader, which I use occasionally--I can't use it at home because it depresses my husband too who knows. Publishing isn't evil right now, just plain depressing.

  11. I'm not certain that evil really applies. Corporations have no souls, after all. Oh, wait, that means only small publishing companies have souls and might be good or evil, depending on your definition.
    Joan of Arc please step up and lead the way to a new publishing era, but don't be surprised if you get burnt at the stake in the process (by those who think you're evil, too)!

  12. Let's play and see how many words we can make from evil:

    On that note, I will mention that I will NEVER own an e-reader. I love, LOVE tactile books. I happen to think they are beautiful. But I'm a romantic.
    I dont, however, think that it is evil to own one, (or publish e-books, if that's what the people want)...if the person who owns one BUYS their books ethically. If they download them (illegally) free/ pirate them, then I think they are scabby, festering sores on the ass of evil.

    ~lola @sharp pen/dull sword

  13. It's a writer-conjugation thing:

    I am noble.
    You are commercial.
    They are evil.

    Same thing with the reason our queries were rejected:

    They are unprofessional and untalented.
    You are close, but not good enough.
    I was robbed.

  14. An aspect of eReading that disturbs me, that I don't see mentioned too often, is the complete and utter loss of proprietary rights. When I buy a book, I get to loan it to friends, sell it to a used book store for $1, buy it back later for $5, donate it to the library, erect a shrine to it, etc. Your average e-Book can only be read, and that depresses me.

    As for the publishers, it'd be neat if there were a better forum for the distribution of good but not necessarily sellable books, but that's not what publishing companies constitutionally do - they publish sellable books and sell them. Expecting anything different may just be another form of evil.

  15. I'm not sure #2 is off base....we all know who that is.

  16. Calling the grass on the other side of the fence evil is evil.

    Creative jealousy is genuinely evil. So is creative courtesy when it's disingenuous.

    Letting people cut in line is evil; but letting a few cars into a line of traffic isn't? Letting a friend, acquaintance, family member, associate into the publishing racket without the same screening standards that are applied to the collective is evil too.

    The collective is evil because it fosters redundancy and repetitive derivatives.

    Speaking of screening standards, variable standards for new voices or fresh perspectives is evil when the realized quality of a story is below standard otherwise.

  17. Oh, dear... Why so much negativity? :)

    Still pondering the e-Book business...

  18. If evil is the norm, then wouldn't the good then become evil by default?

    But yeah, this post proves that no one's ever happy. Excellent observations.

    And to the "evil"mongerers: *World's smallest violin.*
    Shades of gray, people! Few things in life are all evil.

  19. Is calling one's self "Evil" with tongue-in-cheek somewhere along the same lines as oozing false modesty?

    Hmmmm . . . .

  20. Apparently, the world has been overrun with evil. How tragic. I choose to overlook the evil and see it as a rather nice place to keep living. (I saw that as if living on some other planet were an option.)

    I like your use of the word slattern. :)

  21. OK, so what about GOOD? What does it mean to be good?
    Are GOOD people those who follows the rules, don't make ways, obedient, meek, stick with the approved, leave a sickly sweet essence in their wake instead of a hearty fart?

    Are GOOD things those that please, nurture, soothe, coddle, and wrap us in a cloud of bliss we curl up into and refuse to peek beyond?

    I'm proud to be evil. I like being part of the evil industry that uses written words to make information concrete, even in electronic format.

    I prefer being evil to "sick".

  22. I've come to believe that people as individuals tend to be pretty decent, but humanity taken as a collective is pretty bad.

  23. Let's face it. The only Evil anyone should care about is Evil Knievel. Because jumping over a bunch of buses on a dirt bike is just plain effing cool.

    (And yes, I know I misspelled his name.)

  24. I wonder if fifteenth century Europe thought Gutenberg was evil?

  25. Great one, Jannette -
    I'll bet they did!

  26. Oooooh....that would be an interesting thing to look into, Janette! Gutenburg totally put a whole lot of monks out of business.

  27. working illustratorSaturday, January 30, 2010

    These people, who have an itching suspicion that they and all they do is increasingly irrelevant in the face of technology, film and television, are attempting to magnify themselves by claiming words of cosmic import.

    Instead of being proud of owning a niche market for the smart, they want to be big! big! big! ... which they aren't, compared to their counterparts in more culturally predominant media.

    Calling themselves evil is an attempt to throw off an inferiority complex. The more insistent their irony is, the more sincerely they demonstrate their unease.

  28. Actually working in marketing how the book gets publicised (this is hugely generalized) has to be all about how we think we can sell the most copies. Easy with a bestseller and well known author but some smaller authors are package completely the wrong way because of the suits upstairs. We all know this but they make the call not us.

    Sorry for the long post just wanted to defend my fellow peasant marketing and promotions people :)

    Kate xx

  29. I don't know about evil, but I love all the math. (And yes, I'm geeky that way.)