Monthly Archives: January 2012

Franzen Says Ebooks not for Serious Readers

Literary author Jonathan Franzen says that ebooks aren’t for serious readers.  You can read  his comments here.

As a person who considers himself a serious reader, I take great offense at these remarks.  The medium through which a person chooses to read, whether paper, electronic, or (as in my case) a combination of both, is in no way a reflection of whether that person is a “serious reader”. 

Of course, Mr. Franzen doesn’t define what a “serious reader” is.  Is it someone who places a high priority on reading and buys numerous books every year or month or in some cases every week?  Or perhaps it’s a person who only reads serious Literature?  (Capitalization mine.)  

Aside from the brain-dead connection Mr. Franzen tries to make between paper books and responsible self-government, his remarks show just how out of step he is with vast numbers of readers, both here in America as well as other parts of the world.  Franzen is a darling of the literati, those arbiters of taste and snobbery, most of whom wouldn’t deign to read genre fiction.  At least not in public.  Franzen clearly seems to share this elitist view, despite the fact that his books are available in electronic editions.  He states that paper books provide a level of permanence.  He’s also gone on record saying that “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”  I strongly beg to differ, but good fiction is in the eye of the beholder. 

Still, I doubt Franzen would recognize good fiction if it bit him in the ass. 

Of course, Franzen’s remarks illustrate one of the results of a recent survey by Verso Digital.  Among their findings was that resistance to ereaders is growing, even among avid readers.  If I’m understanding the survey correctly, the resistance is from people who have never been inclined to read on an ereader.  Frankly, I don’t care what format you choose for reading.  Just don’t take a condescending attitude toward those of us who don’t choose the same as you.

Franzen also says that if printed books become obsolete, he’s glad he won’t live long enough to see it.  Given his attitude, I find it hard to disagree with that statement.  In the meantime, I’m going to read some good indie fiction.

On my ereader.

Over the Horizon

Things have been rather hectic for the last couple of weeks as the semester has started up and I’ve assumed new responsibilities in the land of dayjobbery.  My reading rate has slowed down, and I’ve hardly made any progress on my own personal fiction writing.  Blogging has diminished as well,

This week will be the first “normal” week.  I’m hoping to post at least one or two reviews here every month in addition to smaller posts.  I’ve got a a number of eARCs and one or two paper ARCs publishers have sent me, but they’re all fantasy, so those reviews will go up at Adventures Fantastic.  If I start getting any science fiction eARCs/ARCs, the rate of posting here will increase.  As I’m doing with fantasy/historical adventure, I’ll try to review indie published books on a regular basis.

So what’s in store of the next few months?

I’ve got an indie published novel by Mary Sisson that will probably be the next thing reviewed unless I decided to look at some short fiction first.  I’ve also got a couple of novellas in ebook format.  The recent Solaris Rising anthology has been sitting there calling to me for about six weeks; I need to answer the call. 

I’d like to finish Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure series.  I’ve looked at the first two, and have two to go.  Those would be good tie-ins to the John Carter film. Sword and Planet stories are a little tricky.  Are they science fiction, or are they really fantasy in sf drag?  Depends on how you squint at them.  Although I’m trying not to do much of this, I may cross post anything related to John Carter to both blogs.

ConDFW is in a few weeks, and I’ll be attending that.  (Probably cross post the con report, since the con will have both fantasy and science fiction.)  While I’m there, I’m going to try to do some more interviews.  Hopefully I can get my first interview up on this site.  All the previous ones have been posted at Adventures Fantastic

Between what I’ve listed here and all the fantasy I’ve got to review, I have plenty to keep me busy.  Thanks to everyone who follows this blog, and to everyone who has recently starting following, good to have you along.

David Gaughran’s "Transfection"

David Gaughran
various ebook formats, currently free

This is a fast paced little ebook, essentially a short story.  There’s still plenty of story crammed into it for all its brief length.  The plot concerns one Dr. Carl Peters.  He’s a molecular biologist working with genetically modified foods.  When a scare erupts following the announcement that GM foods can cause cancer, he manages to take advantage of the situation and get considerable research funding.  That’s when his troubles really start.  He makes a discovery that costs him, in more ways than one.

 I’ll not go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil the reading experience.  I also don’t want this review to be longer than the ebook. 

Gaughran moves the story along at a fast pace.  He manages to flesh out the character of Peters quite well.  The other characters don’t get a lot of time in the story, so they don’t come across as three dimensional as Peters does.  Still, this is a short story, not a novel, and as such there is sufficient characterization.  Gaughran does a stellar job with Peters’ graduate student Jim Glover, especially in what he doesn’t say about him.  Instead the reader is left inferring certain things about Glover’s character and the situation as a whole rather than being outright told about them.  I found this approach to be highly effective, making the ending more of a shock than it would have been if Gaughran had simply taken the easy way out and told us everything going on behind the scenes.  Instead, we piece together what actually happened based on the actions of one of the characters in the final scene, in particular the final sentence.  That’s not something I’ve seen much of lately, and it was good to read an old fashioned twist in the last line.

There’s enough story here that, if he were so inclined, Gaughran could probably expand this tale into a short novel.  I have no idea if he intends to do so.  The only thing that I really had trouble with was how quickly Peters got funding and how quickly he was fired from the university.  It seemed to me that those things were brushed over a bit too smoothly, and I got the impression Gaughran hasn’t had much experience with either scientific funding agencies or university politics, at least not in the States (he’s an Irishman living in Sweden).  I can tell you from personal experience, neither funding agencies nor university bureaucracies move swiftly.  (I know of one situation in which a university took nearly two years to fire a professor who couldn’t keep his  hands to himself where the female students were concerned.)  Anyway, I digress.

That minor gripe aside, this was a fast paced and enjoyable read.  Gaughran has recently published a historical novel set in South America that I’ll probably be looking at over at Adventures Fantastic later this year.  The price (at least for a while) on this ebook is unbeatable, so check it out.  It provides an introduction to a new author’s work, one I hope to see more of in the future.

Let’s Get Digital
David Gaughran
various ebook formats

In addition to writing fiction, Gaughran has become one of the leading proponents of digital self-publishing.  In addition to running a blog on the subject and commenting at places like The Passive Voice, he has written a how-to book summarizing all he’s learned.  I’ve only read a little so far, so I’m not going to attempt to review it.  Nor am I going to endorse it for the same reason.  I’m not going to endorse a book I haven’t finished, although I will say  what little I’ve read has been worth the time and cost.  I merely mention it here for those of you who are interested in going into indie publishing and aren’t aware of this resource.  In other words, I’m performing a public service by making you aware of the book. 

When Gaughran emailed me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing “Transfection”, promoting this book wasn’t part of the deal. David, I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of doing so.