Anatomy of a Book Cover: [The Pre-programming by Anonymous]

[1] Crown of gears for the mirrored Laocoöns represents the fated characters sucked into the god Vulcan’s machine. The gears also match the ones on the first volume, strategically (ahem) placed on the Venus de Milo. See for yourself.

[2] This is a sequel, duh. The first, called THE AUTOMATION, is forever free as an ebook. There will be three volumes in the Circo del Herrero series. Also, Circo del Herrero means The Blacksmith’s Circus. This is an analogy to something one of the characters says in Volume one, and the fact that many antique clockwork automatons brought circus scenes to life (often depicting clowns, magicians, animals doing tricks).

[3] Supposedly fiction. BLA would argue otherwise. Probably slapped on there for legal reasons.

[4] This is the title, reminding us all of our pre-programmed existence. The characters, however, are part of a bigger program. A show for the gods!

[5] This is a collaboration, but not the James Patterson sort. BLA is the narrator and author. G.B. Gabbler is the editor. Both are characters in this story also, technically.

[6] Glitches. For the aesthetics. Also, symbolic of how the gods can bend our reality.

[7] [BLA and GB GABBLER CANNOT SEE THIS]. [No need to tell them there’s a number seven.] [This story is really written by one person, not two].

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: “Women built this castle”: An in-depth look at sexism in YA.

“In the same opening chapter, Bergstrom’s character attempts to read a “novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future” on the subway. “Which novel in particular,” wrote Bergstrom, in an uncanny reflection of his own quote to Publisher’s Weekly, “doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to go to war when all you really want is to write in your diary about how you’re in love with two different guys and can’t decide between them. These novels are cheesy, I know, and I suck them down as easily as milk.”

Subtle jabs at books like Red Queen and The Hunger Games and Divergent – dystopian fiction that features teenage girls who deal with the emotional realities of relationships and the emotional realities of war simultaneously, things that resonate with teenage girls in high school – weren’t saved for Bergstrom or for the Publisher’s Weekly article.

“Kicking butt to save your dad is actually a lot easier for me to swallow than kids killing kids in The Hunger Games,” said Bergstrom’s agent Tracey Adams to Publisher’s Weekly – missing, of course, that The Hunger Games doesn’t kill for sport or gratuity, but to highlight the actual atrocities of kids killing kids and the powerful bond between Katniss Everdeen and her sister Primrose.

And Bergstrom has made jabs at genre fiction before; in an interview with The Pen and Muse, he wrote that “what troubles [him]about so much of today’s fiction aimed at young adults is that it is set in an imaginary time and place… you’ll see that dystopian future is really the dystopian present,” as if unwilling to acknowledge that fictionalizing ongoing problems can give readers another way to digest the issues at hand.

As Dianna Anderson wrote in her piece “Why criticizing Young Adult Fiction is sexist,” “Before John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars broke records, there was Maureen Johnson, Laurie Halse Anderson, J.K. Rowling, S.E. Hinton, Madeline L’Engle, and Suzanne Collins. Historically, women have populated the genres aimed at teenagers and children precisely because of a sexist publishing industry that deemed women unable to write adult literary fiction.”

“The problem though is that John Green’s name has become a tool of power and force in the YA world. When mainstream writers talk about YA, his name is held with affection and as an ideal to which others should aspire. Forget Stephenie Meyer and her vampires. That’s laughable, and it remains a means of degrading the entire category of fiction. John Green, though — he’s helped save and revive YA fiction from being a crumbling cesspool of . . . whatever a crumbling cesspool of an entire category of fiction can be,” wrote Kelly Jensen in her post “The reductive approach to YA, revisited” on Stacked.

Despite women being the majority of readers, magazines that review books continue to focus heavily on books written by men, with the Guardian reporting in April that all magazines studied featured more men than women. The New York Times book review, the most fairly distributed of the magazines, still featured a hundred more men than they featured women. And while there are more women writers than men in the publishing industry, Sara Sheridan points out on Huffington Post that not only do men get more coverage, they make more money, with women earn 77.5% of what men earn. (That study does not showcase the difference between what women of color and white women earn, or queer women and cisgender or heterosexual women earn, though other studies prove that women of color make even less.)

Bergstrom chose a narrative that raised his own book by putting down others in the women-dominated industry, of making his leading lady different by having her conform to patriarchal ideas of beauty and behavior. Smith chose a narrative that made him the victim despite admittance of his own faults, chose words that attacked others rather than admit his own mistakes.

Despite a huge chunk of both Smith’s fans and YA readers being female, some argued that Smith’s words and writing weren’t something to be worried about because girls weren’t his target audience. This is foolish for a few reasons: characters (girls or otherwise) should be fleshed out as a part of good writing, regardless of who the target audience is; and because a target audience happens to be of one gender doesn’t mean that representation of the other gender should lack. Some are also quick to point out the issues in YA that reflect poorly on and put pressure on boys, as if claims like that mean that sexism doesn’t exist. But sexism against women creates archetypes and tropes that put constructs on boys. To talk about that pressure without tracing back where it came from is to ignore the institute of sexism as a whole.

“But when men write girls—any kind of girls,” wrote Jensen, “they’re seen as special. As empathetic. As doing new, creative, amazing things.”

YA might be a girls’ world, but at the end of the day, it is men who are more frequently rewarded for writing in it – and women who are left to fight that what they’re writing is worth something.”

[Via]

 

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

[On Fake stories, Fake Authors, Fake Presses for the Fake Industry:]

‘“I’ve always had a severe distaste for all the mindless biographical drivel that serves to prop up this or that writer,” Pearson admits in an interview in a publication called Cow Eye Express, part of the auxiliary Web material associated with the novel. “So much effort goes into credentialing the creator that we lose sight of the creation itself, with the consequence being that we tend to read authors instead of their works. In fact, we’d probably prefer to read a crap book by well-known writer than a great book by a writer who may happen to be obscure,” the unknown writer asserts.

 

Hmm. Somewhere I have heard of an author as reclusive as J.D. Salinger (who has no further need to defend his privacy). No, not the Italian Elena Ferrante (also a pseudonymous invention), but an American. Rather than face what he (assuming the gender itself is not fictional) calls “a false and destructive system” that is nonetheless “a reality of our world,” Pearson notes that his response is to “manufacture disposable authorial personae for every book,” making each one earn its own way rather than piggybacking on whatever reputation a previous title may have earned its author.

That sounds like an honorable approach, as Pearson’s interviewer notes. Will it work? “Probably not,” Pearson concedes. “The reading public, and especially professional reviewers, tend to be pretty dismissive of new authors.” He allows that “skeptical” or “indifferent” might be a better characterization than “dismissive,” for unknowns lack the benefit of the doubt reflexively ceded to well-known authors. While Pearson recognizes that he may be consigned to “an utterly disjointed and fruitless literary career” as a result, there is an upside: He will not be forced to participate in a “dishonest system that I don’t believe in.”

Terrific, this seems promising enough to look into! We have an unknown author published by an unknown press with a huge chip on his shoulder about the state of our literary culture. What could be more interesting—albeit common—than that? But wait a minute, this is metafiction, fiction layered atop the fiction to orient our view of Cow Country itself. The interview is a fabricated story in a fabricated publication. Could someone be dropping clues like a row of bread crumbs, designed to stir in readers the thought that Pearson’s views are remarkably in line with those popularly believed to be held by a certain chimerical, widely known but seldom glimpsed author?

It is hard not to see some validity in Pearson’s assertions about unknown writers facing an uphill battle, given the silence that has so far greeted Cow Country. Certainly its publishing route is a factor as well, for widely recognized houses and imprints and independents such as Knopf, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Norton, and Graywolf, and a handful of others, do have an advantage when it comes to gaining the attention of reviewers and review-section editors.

To return, finally, to the question of the book’s sensibility and Pearson and Pynchon, my highly subjective but very strong impression is that the two authors are closer than kissing cousins, they are joined at the hip. The off-kilter sensibility one sees in the work of both would not be, in the words of the college accreditors, easily “replicable” by another, in my opinion. Encountering Cow Country was like going to a thrift shop and finding designer clothing with the labels cut off.

If I am in error, to the person hiding behind Pearson I would say, To be taken for Pynchon is no small compliment but an enormous one, and your mimetic abilities in emulation of his sensibility are admirable. To Pynchon, I would say, Don’t fret, and issue a reminder that imitation is the highest form of flattery, no?’

Read the rest.


[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

Tweets of the Week: Free as a Bird

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

THE AUTOMATION got a review in Tales of the Talisman Vol. 10 issue 4:

Check out “Tales of the Talisman” Vol. 10, issue 4 for a book review of THE AUTOMATION. 

Click to order on Amazon.

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[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellow B&N | Amazon | Etc.