More on Woodrell

As you probably know by now, I am a big fan of Daniel Woodrell. Sarah Weinman pointed me to this interesting interview with Woodrell, who makes the surprising announcement that he plans to take a few years off to concentrate on writing short stories.

For now, Woodrell plans another novel, and then a shift of formats:

"I promised my wife I’m going to take two years or three years
and just write short stories. I really like it when I do find an
occasion to do one. But I respect the form enough to realize to really
get any good at it you’re going to have to focus on it consistently for
a little while. Part of it is I don’t put the same level of expectation
on myself with short stories so I relax and they might could be just as
good. But I’m not pressuring myself. Whereas with novels, I really feel
required…I’m one of these types, I’d hate to publish one that I
thought wasn’t in the league with the one before, that’s all."

Is Fanfic Legal?

Author John Scalzi has irked fanficcers by <gasp> saying that he believes fanfiction is illegal which, of course, it clearly is.

it’s clear that some portion of fanficcers actually seems to believe
that writing fanfic isn’t actually copyright infringement, and that
therefore it "exists in a gray area" or is actually not illegal
via some interpretation of fair use. Some of this belief stems from the
contention that there has not been (to the common knowledge) a
copyright suit specifically dealing with fanfic, probably because a
"Cease & Desist" letter is usually enough to cause the fanficcer to
take down his/her fanfic so no court case is necessary. The thinking
here seems to be that if a suit does not specifically address fanfic, then the legal status of fanfic is in fact indeterminate.

I can’t help but think this is a bit of magical thinking, based on
the idea that fanfic is in itself a legally special class of writing
(possibly under the "we’re doing this for fun" idea), which as far as I
can see it’s not. It’s bound to the same injunctions and restrictions
as any other piece of creative writing. Certainly US copyright law
carves out protections for fair use, parody and criticism, and equally
certainly some fanfic qualifies under a realistic reading of
these protections. But I hazard to guess the vast majority of fanfic
could not be shoehorned into these protections even under the most
liberal of terms.

He backs up his assertion with a lengthy post that quotes an intellectual property attorney and the Chilling Effects Clearing House (a joint project of the Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San
Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington Schools of Law)
on the subject.  What I found especially interesting was a letter sent by JK Rowling’s attorneys to some fanficcers who were writing porno Harry Potter stories.

As you are aware, Ms. Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter books. Ms. Rowling therefore owns the copyright in the Harry Potter books. The sexually explicit content of the fan fiction available at, which is plainly based on characters and other elements of the fictional world
created by Ms. Rowling in the Harry Potter books, is a matter of
serious concern to our client. In addition, our client Warner Bros,
which owns the film and merchandising rights to
the children’s series of Harry Potter books, is concerned to protect
the integrity of its Harry Potter properties. For the avoidance of
doubt, our clients make no complaint about innocent fan fiction written by genuine Harry Potter fans.

She’s okay with fanfic but is ready to go after people who write sexually explicit material using her characters. That should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that writing about Harry and Ron exploring the magical delights of anal sex is "fair use."

When Will Mystery Writers Get Some Guts?

I write hard-boiled mysteries and I write cozies. I read hard-boiled mysteries and I read cozies. There’s a lot to like and dislike in both genres. That said, the more I think about Otto’s latest tirade, the angrier I get. Not so much at him, but at my fellow mystery writers, who are so afraid of speaking out against Otto Penzler that he feels empowered to keep embarrassing mystery writers everywhere with his ignorance.  Here are just some of the incredibly stupid things Otto Penzler has said about cozies and those who write them:

"They may be fun, they may have their charm, but they are not
serious literature and don’t deserve an Edgar." 

"[Malice Domestic] honors books written in the mode of Agatha Christie,
loosely defined as those that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore,
or gratuitous violence. Unstated, but clearly of equal importance, is
that they must contain not a scintilla of style, originality, or depth.
They must have the texture and nuance of an infomercial, lacking only
its philosophical power."

"Cozies are not serious
literature. They don’t deserve to win. Men take [writing] more
seriously as art. Men labor over a book to make it literature. "

"I think noir writers are writing the very best books they know how to write.  I don’t
think [cozy writers] are writers who are stretching. I don’t think they’re
trying to write anything of enduring quality. I think they’re writing
to sell books, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you don’t have
to take it seriously as literature, and I don’t."

This guy is the mystery equivalent of a drunken Mel Gibson, spewing his hateful and ignorant shit, and yet, inexplicably, he’s still treated like some kind of royalty in our field.  Nobody but cozy writers have dared to criticize him.  Why? Cowardice.

It’s time mystery writers stopped bowing and cowering in front of him simply because he established the Mysterious Bookshop and the Mysterious Press.  Face facts, people. He’s a sexist, narrowminded neanderthal…who embarrasses himself and, even worse, our profession every time he spews his offensive, sexist crap. With our silence, we imply that we and the Mystery Writers of America endorse his sexism and hatred.   

How far does this guy have to go before mystery writers finally get the guts to say, loudly and publicly, that Otto Penzler doesn’t speak for mystery writers, the MWA, or the mainstream of our profession. We do not share his sexism or his absurdly narrow view of what constitutes mystery writing.

Otto Hates Cozies…Again

Otto Penzler is at it againtrashing women who write "cozy" mysteries

A lot of people got really
angry with me when I wrote a harsh criticism of the books nominated for
Agatha awards at the Malice Domestic convention, which is devoted to
"traditional" (i.e. cozy) mysteries. I was so upset I had offended
anyone that, gee, I couldn’t sleep for I don’t know how long.

When it came time to review the six nominees for the 2006 awards
banquet, I kept looking at them but just didn’t have the stomach for
it. In, how can I say it, "conversations" with two of the women I wrote
about last time, their position is that their books should be taken

[…] I missed the part
where anyone said she wanted to create original and believable
characters, give them words to say in a manner that a reader will
encounter for the first time, provide a rich emotional framework in
which they can deal with their passions and seek redemption, all in a
carefully plotted story that will clutch a reader by the lapels and not
let go until the denouement.

Seeing what apparently motivates so many writers of cozy mysteries,
I guess I’ll skip the Malice Domestic nominees this year. Maybe I’m
becoming cynical.

So, basically, what he’s saying is that, in his narrow view, "cozy" writers have no desire to create rich, interesting characters or tell compelling, thoughtful entertaining stories. And he knows this because a) the stories are non-violent and b) let’s face it, they are mostly written by women. No wonder they’re shit, right? Everybody knows that the only good mystery is a violent, blood-soaked epic written by a man, preferably one who smokes, drinks, and farts a lot in public.

Basically, Otto seems to believe that if a mystery isn’t written by a rugged man in a 12-step program (and his protagonist isn’t in one, too) then the novel is cozy garbage that’s not worth any attention or respect.   It’s certainly not worth an Edgar.

I’ve got news for Otto — I’ve read many "hardboiled" and "gritty" mysteries where the characters were one-note cliches, the plots were dull, and the pacing was listless (some of those have even been Edgar nominees). On the other hand, I’ve also read "cozies" that were filled with rich characters, clever plots, and genuine momentum.

I love hard-boiled fiction — but for him to shrug off an entire, hugely popular genre of mystery fiction (one that’s predominently written by women) simply because the stories aren’t blood-soaked, relentlessly bleak and filled with morose, self-loathing characters is ridiculous, narrow-minded and, let’s be honest here, embarrassingly ignorant.

Otto isn’t doing himself, or the mystery field, any favors when he comes out of his cave to trash "cozies" and the women who write them. We get the point, Otto. There is only one kind of mystery novel that’s worth a damn, and unless women are willing to get tough, they should stay in the kitchen and leave the writing to us menfolk.

Let’s repeal their right to vote, too.


Ron Hogan and MJ Rose both beat me to blogging about a press release flogging a new book written by iUniverse execs that reveals how to get your book published…by iUniverse. How did they fill a book on that topic when I can sum it all up in one sentence:  "send us your manuscript and your credit card number?"  Then again, I’m a professional writer. Ron is impressed by their chutzpah:

The boldness
of the transaction model is actually rather impressive, when you stop
to think about it. Can you think of any other company that charges a
fee just to learn about its services?

Mr. Monk and the Funk

Super prolific novelist James Reasoner says that MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE got him out of a funk. You can’t get much higher praise than that. He says, in part:

maybe my favorite current TV series. MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE
does a fine job of capturing the same things that make the TV show so
appealing: the twisty plots, the colorful characters, the
laugh-out-loud humor. While the plot in this novel is entertaining, its
real strong point is the way Lee has nailed the voices of the
characters, especially Monk. My funk was forgotten as I raced through
this book and had a great time reading it.

Thanks, Jim!

Cat Tales

Emmy-winning writer-producer Ken Levine talks today about the time a cat held him up for a higher salary.

I said as much as we too loved working with Charlie and greatly admired
his many talents, I would hate to stand in the way of his feature
career so I passed on his offer. 

Unbelievably, we somehow managed to find another gray cat that could sit in a chair.


Fanfic Hypocrisy

You gotta love the hypocrisy and idiocy of fanficcers. It seems the "fanfic community" is in an uproar because some fanficcer stole from another fanficcers work. Author John Scalzi sums up the laughably inane situation nicely:

Let’s remember one fundamental thing about fanfic: Almost all of it
is entirely illegal to begin with. It’s the wild and wanton
misappropriation of copyrighted material (I’m sure there is fanfic that
features public domain characters, just not nearly as much as there is
of, say, Harry Potter fanfic). Copyright holders may choose not to see
it, or may even tacitly encourage it from time to time, but the fact of
the matter is that if you’re writing fanfic, you’re already doing
something legally out of bounds. And, really, if you’re already wantonly violating copyright, what’s a little plagiarism to go along with it? Honestly. In for a penny, in for a pound.

I recognize this attitude probably won’t sit well with fanficcers,
but this is really an "honor among thieves" sort of issue, isn’t it? If
you’ve already morally justified intellectual theft so you can play
with Harry and Hermione and Draco and whomever else you want to play
with, I’m not entirely sure how one couldn’t also quite easily justify taking juicy chunks of other people’s text to play with as well.

[…]Out in the real world, I take plagiarism rather very seriously, but
then, out in the real world, I take appropriation of copyright
seriously as well. If fanficcers want me to oblige their outrage about
fanfic plagiarism, I suppose I would have to ask how it is essentially
more serious than the appropriation of copyrighted characters and
settings, and how if I must criticize one why I am not also therefore
obliged to criticize the other.

(Thanks to Jim Winter for the heads-up on this).

That Girl and Charlie’s Angels

The Globe  (the sleazy tabloid, not the Boston paper) reports that Marlo Thomas is returning as THAT GIRL in a sitcom pilot for ABC. In the revival, she plays a grandmother whose 20-year-old grand-daughter is a struggling actress in New York. This reminds me of the disasterous MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW movie  (MARY & RHODA) that ABC did a few years back, which focused on the original sitcom stars’ daughters and their laughless struggles.  The tabloid also reports that all the actresses, from Farrah Fawcett to Tanya Roberts, whot starred in CHARLIES ANGELS are reuniting for an ABC TV movie.