Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh Dear Dog

An email I just got, with names and details altered to protect the foolish, out of the goodness of my own heart, (though if you're familiar with the story you may well be able to fit the relevant names to it.):


I represent [Vanity Simpleton] , author of [My Gift to the World], a book about [mumbo jumbo only New Age cranks take seriously] and [a proven hoax], which came out in October. We would love to have a chance to appear on your show. Please let me know if you have any open dates . [Vanity] is also quite the dark poet, with two published anthologies and the release of her first C.D. of dark poetry. This ties in nicely with the movie [current Hollywood schlockbuster related to aforesaid crankery] which comes out in November. [Vanity] has appeared on more than 50 radio shows and gets rave reviews for her interviews. We look forward to reaching a mutually acceptable date for her appearance. [Vanity] is lso [sic] in a wheelchair from a massive stroke and all her books are typed with one hand. Thanks so much.
[Spamela Spamola] publicist


Now, I could simply ignore this spam. Or I could generously respond with some free clues as to why this is not the way to promote a book. Like, the fact that I don't have a fucking "show" for a start, as any publicist worth a dime should fucking know if they'd done their fucking research. Like, the fact that I'm actually a pro writer who just happens to have a blog with the word "show" in the title, dipshit. Like, the fact that this sort of spamming actively antagonizes me in its crass disregard of whether I'm an appropriate recipient or not. Like, the fact that I'm a notoriously mouthy cunt on this blog of a "show", a skeptical attacker of self-delusion and conceited folly, a critic who's on record as believing that cruel mockery is, at times, entirely appropriate when it comes to ignorance and idiocy, especially when it comes to the self-important wankery of wannabe writers (not least because I've been there, done that). Like, the fact that New Age mumbo jumbo and "dark poetry" are really fucking high on my list of Things To Point And Laugh At. Like, the fact that I'm therefore more likely to make a fucking public spectacle of your stupidity than give you a vehicle for self-promotion. Like, the fact that not even bothering to update your spam to account for the fact that it's well past November does you no favours with me, matey-bubbles. Like, the fact that saying you "look forward" to organising the appearance date is an arrant presumption that further pisses me off. Like, the fact that spelling errors and cackhanded formatting in your email is the sort of rank amateurism I'll just regard as the fucking cherry on the fucking cake.


After quickly Googling this [Vanity Simpleton] and finding a story of self-publishing at its worst -- and a fairly high profile one that's covered on Writer Beware! and Making Light to boot -- I'm sorely tempted to invite this person to do an email interview on the Geek Show, should they so desire. Potential questions:

  • The email purporting to be from a publicist came from an address containing your real name, which kinda makes it look like you've fabricated your own representation. I don't think that's what you've done, but you do realise how fucking bad that looks, right? Right?
  • The reason I don't actually suspect you of duplicity here: the name given does appear to be a real person --not someone known primarily as a professional publicist, mind, but someone who runs a) an ezine with a sideline offering $10-a-pop press releases to writers who wish to publicise their successes, b) a "writing school" offering instruction to wannabe writers, and c) a vanity press charging $529.00 for a website and publication of your work... as a fucking e-book. So how much money have you paid this publicist? How much money has this person reamed out of you over the years?
  • I see that this person defended you when it came to light that the prologue of your first book plagiarised wholesale from the first chapter of a best-selling author of heroic fantasy so high-profile in the field that he now has an award named after him. We'll delve into that plagiarism with other questions, but for now: Is this what won your trust? Was it the fact that where everyone else was lining up to condemn you, this individual was all supportive and nice?
  • Given that their work as a publicist includes spamming people like me, and that this strategy is profoundly counter-productive, given that the only type of interview I'm likely to give will be tantamount to a public exposé/excoriation, are you perhaps inclined to revise your opinion of that person's value to you? Or are you really as fucking stupid as you appear?
  • Regarding that plagiarism, can you tell my readers how you paid $400 a month to a known con man for him to ghostwrite the book that you then paid more money for a vanity press to publish, not realising that this scammer had royally shafted you by copying a whole chapter from another writer's work and simply changing the names (well, most of them)?
  • When this came to light, did you actually think about the situation you'd got yourself in and wise up? Or did you a) initially claim the work was all yours, b) confess that you'd employed a ghostwriter and blame him for the plagiarism, proclaiming your "poor victim" status, c) begin threatening your critics with lawsuits in an attempt to extort silence, even pissing off Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware! by using her name in the process, because she supported your claim to have been rooked, d) ALL OF THE ABOVE?
  • What did you think when your publisher, claiming to subscribe to the Wiccan belief-system, threatened to use witchcraft in order to give one critic nightmares? Do you actually believe such a magical atttack is possible, and if so, do you actually believe it's ethical? Isn't it at odds with the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do what ye will"? Or are you down with black magic, you being a practitioner of "dark poetry" and all?
  • Did it ever occur to you that the work-for-hire relationship this ghostwriter had with you made him essentially your employee, and that as his employer you were the person ultimately responsible for ensuring the novel you published did not infringe copyright, the person ultimately accountable if it did?
  • So you're now employing as a publicist this person who supported you when the shit hit the fan. Their work as a publicist is risibly unprofessional, and their online presence reeks of cynical exploitation. Have you ever heard the expression, "once bitten, twice shy"?
  • You characterise your talent as a gift from God. What the fuck makes you think you have any fucking talent at all? Seriously, you had to pay to publish your first book, which you had to pay a ghostwriter to help you with; how does a God-given inability to write your own work to a professionally publishable standard qualify as a "talent"?
  • On your own website, in your bio, you recite a litany of suffering which includes being raised by a black witch, being given over to foster care, running away from abuse, multiple miscarriages, a stillbirth, bankruptcy, and a stroke that left you in a wheelchair. While this sad story does soften my cold hard heart enough to cut you some slack in your folly, it strikes me that this victim narrative helps explain that folly as rooted in profound psychological damage. In all seriousness, is it possible that all of this played an important role in your falling prey to the vanity press con?
  • No, really. Don't just dismiss the question. That sort of shit leaves a mark. Are you sure you're not, to all intents and purposes, so fucked up by your past history, so driven by the need to vindicate your existence, so willing to swallow the smoke-and-mirrors illusions -- actively reaching indeed for the mirage of Importance -- that you're an easy mark for these con men offering you the chance to be a Real Live Author?
  • Do you understand how these harsh and hurtful questions are focused on trying to puncture what I see as ignorance, idiocy or just plain insanity, not just for the sake of cruel fun on my part, but because you seem bent on offering yourself up for exploitation by charlatans I abhor with every fibre of my being, and maybe -- just maybe -- this sort of savagely unsympathetic lashing can crack the shell of self-delusion you've built around yourself?
  • Have you considered the possibility that you are not really engaged in the craft of writing at all, not as a process of figuration, as an exploration of self and environment that will result in a work of value to a reader, not even as a therapeutic process through which you might grow as an individual, but rather as some sort of desperate inward-spiraling quest for validation that serves only to reify and reinforce the very insecurities it should be tackling; and that those who are offering to assist you along this path -- and rook you of as much money as they can while doing so -- are absolutely and without doubt, without question, the very last people you should be listening to?
  • Oh, and lastly, what are you working on at the moment?
What do you think? I know I'd be kinda curious to hear the responses, and I'm finding it hard to resist the urge to offer a spot on my "show." They did ask for it, after all. Any other questions I should fire at a vanity press victim?



Anonymous ubik said...


11:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're being very generous in giving her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to her supposed ailments and upbringing. If she floats, she's for burning, I say.

Bear in mind that I am, of course, quite evil.

11:44 pm  
Blogger Lisa Spangenberg said...

No, really, you don't want to interview or anything else--she's like the kid who got sent home with letters from kindergarten: "Does not play well with others."

Also? Nutbar. The trail of tears is on more than one writing forum. We're talking someone who's found her drug of choice, and it's attention.

1:21 am  
Blogger Victoria Strauss said...

Oh, gawd. I know exactly who you're talking about. [[pounds head on desk]] Believe it or not, I've been spammed by this "publicist" also, for the very same book.

8:00 pm  
Anonymous Barno said...

Makes me wonder what you could rustle up if you took interest in another self-published literary celebrity - Robert Stanek :D

7:18 pm  

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